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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Secretary of State making first LatAm trip, arrives in Costa Rica today

The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, will visit Costa Rica on his first trip to Latin America, during which he will address the causes of irregular migration with senior Central American and Mexican officials, the US government says.

“I’m traveling to Costa Rica from June 1-2. We’ll discuss building a more democratic, prosperous, and secure hemisphere for all,” the Secretary of State tweeted. “I look forward to deepening our cooperation on shared priorities, including combatting COVID-19, promoting economic growth, and tackling climate change.”

>During his stay in San José, President Joe Biden’s top diplomat will hold meetings with leaders from Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, as well as representatives of the Costa Rican government and civil society, the State Department said.

Blinken will participate in a meeting of senior officials of the Central American Integration System (SICA), to which Mexico will join. SICA is made up of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and the Dominican Republic.

“Together, they will advance a collaborative approach to addressing the root causes of migration, including improving democratic governance, security, and economic opportunity for the people of Central America,” a State Department communication reads.

Venezuela ‘an important issue’

Acting Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung said the “horrific humanitarian disaster caused by the [Nicolás] Maduro regime” in Venezuela will be “an important topic” of the talks given its impact on the region.

Venezuela, governed by Maduro since 2013, is experiencing a social and economic debacle that, according to the UN, has caused 5.6 million people to leave the country.

Blinken also plans separate bilateral meetings, which were not specified.

A meeting with a delegate from Daniel Ortega’s government in Nicaragua, highly questioned by Washington for human rights abuses and corruption, is not scheduled for now, Chung said during a press conference call.

“The United States has been very concerned about the situation in Nicaragua, the oppression of people, of freedom of press, of civil society and human rights defenders,” she said.

She stressed that the Biden government will continue to work to encourage free and fair elections in November, in which Ortega, in power since 2007, has not ruled out running for a fourth term.

‘Robust relationship’ with Costa Rica

Blinken will also review the “very robust and multifaceted relationship” between the United States and Costa Rica, Chung stressed.

“It will be an honor to receive the Secretary of State of the United States in our country. An important opportunity to discuss priority cooperation issues for our region,” President Carlos Alvarado tweeted.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Rodolfo Solano said the visit confirms the “extraordinary state” of the bilateral relationship, which he described as “strategic and purposeful.”

This week, Blinken congratulated Costa Rica for complying with the different requirements necessary for access to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), becoming the fourth Latin American nation to join after Mexico, Colombia. and Chile.

The transit of drugs through Costa Rica to the United States, and the influx of Venezuelan and Nicaraguan migrants to the country will also be analyzed, Chung said.

‘Heartbreaking reasons’

This is the first trip to Latin America for Blinken, who already held virtual meetings with Mexico in context of the pandemic.

Blinken said at the time that Biden was committed to addressing the “heartbreaking reasons” why people are risking their lives to flee to the United States, and he strongly discouraged the journey.

Blinken’s visit to Costa Rica will take place before US Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Guatemala and Mexico, scheduled for June 7-8.

In preparation for her arrival, the deputy director of the CIA, David Cohen, is in Mexico, reported the Mexican Foreign Ministry. Earlier, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had mentioned at a press conference the visit to the country of the CIA director, William Burns.

Harris was commissioned by Biden to address the growing influx of undocumented migrants to the US-Mexico border.

More than 178,000 people without papers crossed in April, 3% more than in March, the highest single-month number recorded in two decades, according to US figures. Of these, 44% were from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Biden asked Congress for $861 million next year to address the causes that drive irregular immigration from Central America, within the framework of his $4 billion plan for the region.

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