Two of Latin America’s most popular presidents of the last decade visited Costa Rica this week to discuss security and bilateral business opportunities with President Laura Chinchilla. On Monday, former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and Chinchilla discussed security, while she and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva talked Tuesday about commercial developments. Both Uribe and da Silva completed presidential terms in 2010.
Uribe and Chinchilla met Monday to discuss advancements in security and methods to reduce drug trafficking. During Uribe’s eight years in office, Colombia’s national security improved exponentially. Drug production plummeted, police forces doubled and the national murder rate was cut from 68 per 1,000 residents to 32 per 1,000 residents.
The former president credited the implementation of a business tax to be a primary reason for the reduction in crime during his administration.
“In Colombia, we knew that it was necessary to increase security resources, so we established a new tax for the wealthiest sectors of the country,” Uribe said. “Those that paid the tax were guaranteed that they would be allowed to observe the application of that tax.”
The amount of national police forces doubled from 70,000 to 140,000 during Uribe’s administration.
“The tax didn’t only increase security, but it also increased education, health, social well-being and the economy,” he said. “Those that paid the tax were rewarded by improvements in the national economy.”
Uribe’s visit coincided with the recent shelving of the Costa Rican sociedades anónimas (S.A.) tax in the Legislative Assembly. The bill would require each national business, or S.A., to pay a $300 annual tax. An estimated $72 million of the funds collected from the tax would be used to improve national security.
The tax passed a first vote in the Legislative Assembly in early August, but stalled during the second voting session the following week. The bill is expected to be voted on again in the Assembly in October.
According to Security Minister Mario Zamora, police have only 266 patrol vehicles for the entire country.
“Our police do what they can with very small resources,” Chinchilla said. “The successes of Colombia, under the great leadership of President Uribe, demonstrate how the creation of more resources brought Colombia to much higher levels of security and brought the nation into a new era.”
On Tuesday afternoon, da Silva, popularly known as “Lula,” arrived in Costa Rica. Lula, who served as president of Brazil from 2003-2010, was one of the most popular presidents in Brazilian history and is widely considered to have been the architect of Brazil’s economic rise in the last decade.
Lula met with Chinchilla on Tuesday night at the Casa Presidencial to discuss improving business ventures and investment between the two countries, though he said the primary reason for his visit was to speak with Costa Rican businessmen about specific projects. Lula currently represents the Citizens Institute of Brazil, which was created to improve economic development and social development in Latin America.
“I came to Costa Rica to participate in a debate with Costa Rican entrepreneurs and discuss economic integration in Latin America,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, Lula met with Costa Rican ex-President Oscar Arias and his brother Rodrigo at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú, west of San José. He later met with Nick Riesbieth, president of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration.
The Brazilian company OAS is one of seven companies bidding to construct a 27-kilometer road that connects Bajos de Chilamate and Vuelta de Kooper in the Limón province on the Caribbean coast. Brazilian company Eletrobras has also expressed interest in constructing a hydroelectric dam on the Reventazón River in the Limón province.
“Brazil is a very large country and Costa Rica is a small country with sophisticated industry and a high level of education,” Lula said. “There are plenty of opportunities to explore our potential together.”