Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís met with U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs John Feeley Monday morning as part of a three-nation trip by the State Department official. Feeley said his visit was to touch base with the Costa Rican president and shore up relations between the allies.
Solís and Feeley spoke about Costa Rica’s shared interests with the United States along with Costa Rica’s relationship with Nicaragua, the unaccompanied child migrant crisis and regional security during their brief meeting at Casa Presidencial.
“Costa Rica, thanks to its history, thanks to the effort of the Costa Rican people, does not suffer from some of the problems like its friends in Central America, in the Northern Triangle. We see Costa Rica as an excellent partner not only in anti-organized crime efforts but in economic, environmental, and, most importantly, in the international arena,” especially in its support for human rights, Feeley said during a joint press conference.
Feeley said that his visit was to shore up partnerships between the two nations and not ideology. The diplomat admitted that while the U.S. in years past was more concerned with Latin American leaders’ adherence to capitalism, his visit Monday was more about working with countries like Costa Rica to develop an agenda for the region based on greater security, prosperity and democracy.
“It used to be like that in the past but we’ve evolved,” Feeley said.
Solís said that during a recent trip to New York, he spoke with other Central American leaders who had expressed their concern about the drop-off in media coverage for a humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied migrants. According to Solís, Feeley said the U.S. was working on improving conditions at immigration processing areas.
Since September, U.S. border officials have seen a flood of child migrants begin to slow. In May, officials apprehended more than 10,500 unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern U.S. border, and about the same number in June. That figure fell by about half in July, and was down to about 3,100 in August. Most of the children were fleeing poverty and violence in the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Feeley also congratulated Costa Rican Justice Minister Cristina Ramírez on the government’s efforts to reform its overcrowded prison system. The diplomat said that Costa Rica’s “progressive” efforts to reform and reinsert its prisoners into society should be the basis of any correctional system. Feeley said the U.S. Embassy in San José has been working for two years with the Justice Ministry on prison reform.
“This is an example of how a small country like Costa Rica can help us,” Feeley said.
Solís said he has no current plans to make a formal state visit to the United States. The president already has made two trips to the U.S. since taking office on May 8. He mentioned that future trips to encourage foreign investment may look beyond New York and Silicon Valley to Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.
Solís said he would welcome a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama during his term. President Laura Chinchilla (2010-2014) hosted Obama’s most recent visit to Costa Rica in 2012.
After meeting with Solís on Monday, Feeley traveled to Panama before moving on to Belize to close his trip.
AFP contributed to this report.