WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, entered the following statement into the Congressional Record this week to recognize Costa Rica’s strategic role as a democratic partner in the Western Hemisphere:
“Mr. President: I rise today to recognize the productive partnership between the United States and Costa Rica. I recently had the chance to meet with President Guillermo Solis and I can attest that this is a bilateral relationship strengthened by Costa Rica’s unwavering support for democracy and human rights, comprehensive economic relations, and a deep-rooted commitment to security and the environment. Since 1851, the United States has enjoyed formal diplomatic relations with Costa Rica, one of Latin America’s most enduring democracies, and the close cooperation between our two countries is an example of how international engagement consistently advances U.S. national interests and national security.
“In recent years, Costa Rica has become of the United States’ most strategic security partners in Central America. In 2016, in response to the challenges of increasing cocaine trafficking in the region, President Solis’ administration developed a security strategy that sets aggressive goals to expand its capacity to control Costa Rica’s sovereign air space and maritime territory. Last year, Costa Rica seized more than 24,000 kilos of cocaine that were ultimately bound to the United States. Despite a difficult fiscal situation, Costa Rica is projected to increase its investment in security by 20 percent in 2017. I commend the Obama Administration’s decision to donate two Island-class cutters to the Costa Rican Coast Guard, which will greatly boost Costa Rica’s capacity to combat the narcotics trade. This also serves as a reminder of the strategic value of State Department’s security cooperation at a time when the Trump Administration is proposing shortsighted cuts to our foreign assistance budget.
“Additionally, I want to call attention to Costa Rica’s collaboration with the United States in addressing the humanitarian challenges related to individuals fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Between 2013 and 2016, the number of migrants from these three countries that have requested asylum in Costa Rica more than quadrupled, a dramatic increase that reflects the urgency of the situation in Central America. In a clear demonstration of President Solis’ leadership on these issues, Costa Rica and the United States signed an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish a relocation and processing facility in Costa Rica for up to 200 at-risk migrants at a time from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This critical screening provides immediate protection for those most vulnerable and opens opportunities for these individuals to be relocated to third countries.
“Our joint agreement with UNHCR is but one example of U.S. and Costa Rican collaboration at multilateral fora. Costa Rica has consistently voted with the United States at the United Nations on critical issues related to Syria, North Korea and Ukraine. In the past year, Costa Rica has also used its voice and vote at the Organization of American States to express concern about the growing challenges to democracy and human rights in Venezuela.
“Furthermore, in August 2016, Costa Rica’s commitment to human rights was on display when it became the first country to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance – an important step toward a more just and egalitarian society within the Americas. The convention reinforces international standards on all forms of discrimination, reaffirms the commitment of member states of the OAS to the complete and unconditional eradication of racism, and takes a step forward in the legal definition of contemporary forms of racism.
“As a champion of environmental stewardship, Costa Rica has made great strides to develop renewable energy. Costa Rica recently set an ambitious carbon neutrality goal for 2021 and is well positioned to achieve this important objective. The country recently ran 75 days straight on renewable power and, with continued foreign investment and U.S. diplomatic assistance, Costa Rica is on its way to becoming a carbon neutral nation. I am hopeful that our diplomatic mission to Costa Rica will continue to support the country’s interest in being a leader in the fight against climate change. Helping Costa Rica realize innovations in its power sector helps foster a broader strategic partnership with an important neighbor in our hemisphere.
“At a moment characterized by the Trump Administration’s isolationist rhetoric. it is critically important to recognize that the United States is safer when we cooperate with other countries in the region to fight the battle against organized crime and illegal drug trafficking. At the same time, Costa Rica’s cooperation with the United Nations to support orderly and lawful migration, its collaboration with its neighbors in the region, and its efforts to promote human rights regionally are worthy of our commendation. Costa Rica is a true partner of the United States and it is imperative that we continue to strengthen and expand the cooperation between our two countries to promote a more security, prosperity, and stability in Central America and across the hemisphere.”