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Brazil faux pas sparks heated debate in Legislative Assembly

September 30, 2016

Foreign Minister Manuel González Sanz told the Legislative Assembly on Thursday that Costa Rica’s decision to walk out of the United Nations (U.N.) session before Brazilian President Michel Temer’s speech was made two days earlier.

González said the Costa Rican entourage in New York had evaluated the list of speeches scheduled for the last day of sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and that “President Luis Guillermo Solís said at the meeting that he was not interested in hearing Brazil’s speech,” González told lawmakers.

The minister noted that it is not mandatory for a president to attend a full session “and stay there for eight or nine hours listening to all the scheduled speeches.”

González said that the Costa Rican delegation left the session before the Brazilian president took the stand; therefore, their action cannot be considered a snub. He noted that their decision was “absolutely sovereign and independent,” adding that it had no relation to a walkout staged by other countries that also left the room before Temer’s speech.

The country delegations that walked off in protest — Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, all members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) — left the U.N. General Assembly at the same time members of the Costa Rican entourage were leaving.

Social Christian Unity Party legislator Luis Vázquez asked González if he considered that a coincidence. “Of course I do. I have no reason to lie, but we didn’t leave holding each other’s hands,” the minister responded.

Tense moments

Minister González’s hearing was interrupted for a few minutes by complaints from lawmakers from the ruling Citizen Action Party (PAC) about questions from National Liberation Party (PLN) legislator Rolando González.

The legislator asked the minister several times about reports that Costa Rica’s ambassador to Brazil, Jairo Valverde, supposedly submitted to San José regarding the current political situation in that country.

The minister said the reports exist, but he first needed to prepare the information before handing it to the Assembly. He said that he had to follow the ministry’s procedures to handle such documents.

The PLN legislator however kept asking the minister to hand over the reports, igniting vocal protests from various PAC legislators.

González then asked the minister if the government considered Temer’s appointment a coup. The minister said Costa Rica was not in a position to judge that situation and noted that under Brazilian laws impeachment is a valid legal procedure.

The question angered PAC legislators Franklin Corella and Marco Vinicio Redondo, who engaged in a heated exchange with González. They even demanded the Assembly’s directorate suspend the session, but González claimed that the ruling party was only trying to censor him.

Acting Legislative President José Alfaro warned the lawmakers that the session was only paused until “calm and respect return to the room.”

The minister resumed the hearing by saying the administration of President Solís is not trying to downplay the U.N. situation. He noted, however, that he believes the incident had been blown out of proportion.

Normal relations

González’s hearing started at 3 p.m. He started by telling lawmakers that the country’s action at the U.N. did not violate any of Costa Rica’s foreign policies.

He also said that the country is not at all interested in joining ALBA “or any other similar group, such as Petrocaribe.”

The Foreign Minister said that the walkout had nothing to do with the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff, and that Costa Rica is more concerned about repressive actions against the Brazilian people following Rousseff’s exit.

González said he doesn’t believe Costa Rica’s relations with Brazil have been undermined or damaged.

He told legislators, as an example, that Brazil’s Foreign Minister José Serra approached and talked to President Solís in Cartagena last Monday during the signing of the peace deal in Colombia.

González also noted that upon Temer’s return to Brazil, he told various media outlets that the walkout “was meaningless.”

Minister González’s hearing ended at 5:30 p.m.

See a video of Costa Rica and other countries walking out of the U.N. General Assembly before Temer’s speech:

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