The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, Arnoldo Andre Tinoco, highlighted in an interview with the voice of america that migration from countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela “is exhausting the systems.”
The diplomat announced that the United States is one of the nations that is looking for solutions to mitigate the migratory weight that falls on Costa Rica.
Below is the interview with the Costa Rican Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations.
VOA: Minister, thank you very much for speaking with the Voice of America. What is your migration strategy in Costa Rica, taking into account that it is precisely affecting the entire Central American region and the entire continent?
Tinoco: Indeed, the issue of migration is one of the great international challenges we face. Costa Rica has a different characteristic from other countries, in the sense that it is a host country and receives migration from neighboring countries.
We have two strong migrant groups right now. On the one hand, those that Panama gives us on the southern border, which are accompanied to the northern border. There we are talking about 160,000 people per year; very vulnerable, they are families or women or children who travel through the country to continue their journey north. Sometimes they stay a few days, weeks or months in the country to see if they can accumulate some reserves or financial resources to continue their march, because in Nicaragua they are charged for the passage, that is a group.
The other is those who migrate to stay in the country. There we are talking that recently in recent years we have some 200,000 refugee applications in process, with little administrative capacity to process them. There is a waiting time of more than eight years since the request for the examination of the file is submitted.
Sometimes they receive temporary work permits, and 85% of them come from Nicaragua. The other percentage is distributed among Venezuelans, partially from Venezuela and Colombia, who continue their march towards Costa Rica; some Haitians and also Cubans.
The matter is going beyond the limits of reasonableness, it is exhausting the systems. The country has to invest large sums in education, social security, integration and security of these populations. And for this we are turning to the international community, making a call for non-reimbursable financial support to resolve this issue, since we consider it unfair that the country has to borrow more to pay interest to solve a problem whose cause or origin is not Costa Rica. So we have created a short, medium and long term plan. We already have a working table with United States authorities that have shown interest in supporting us in solving this challenge and we have been working on it for just these months.
VOA: And what is that alliance for Biden’s economic prosperity, and how does Costa Rica benefit?
Tinoco: Within the framework of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, in the middle of the year, we signed the Declaration of Los Angeles on migration matters, in which we commit to start a complementary temporary residence program, which is called, but subject to obtaining international resources of financial support, because we cannot do it alone.
VOA: What does the Alliance for Development in Democracy consist of and how does it differ from the mechanism of the Central American integration system?
Tinoco: The Central American Integration System (SICA) is formally constituted by eight states from north to south: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and the Dominican Republic. It is a system from decades ago, from the (years) 60, mature, with many agencies and formal, which has just been reactivated thanks to the appointment of a general secretary.
Meanwhile, an informal alliance has been developed, without bureaucracy, called the Alliance for Development in Democracy, initiated by Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic as countries that believe in the rule of law, in democracy, in the protection of human rights and countries that believe that the development of their populations should be based on those principles.
Ecuador has now formally joined it within the framework of this General Assembly. The idea is to agree on policies, foreign policies as well, develop common programs and present themselves to the international community as a group of small countries that believe in those values and principles. The United States, Canada, Spain and some other countries have shown interest in cooperating. It is an alliance that has been very well received by the international community.
Panama leads the political part; Costa Rica, the cooperation part. The Dominican Republic deals with investment and trade issues and Ecuador has assumed the coordination of environmental protection issues and the fight against climate change.
VOA: You mentioned that your speech was already criticized by Nicaragua. What is precisely the position regarding Nicaragua to the situation of political prisoners and what do you also think about Venezuela?
Tinoco: I already told you that Costa Rica is a direct victim of the Nicaraguan situation, in that part of its population migrates and seeks refuge in our territory and in our social structures.
The relationship between Costa Rica and Nicaragua must be differentiated on two levels; one at the border level as a neighboring country, which is where both are interested, of course, in an orderly and safe border flow in customs matters, phytosanitary control, drug trafficking control, etc. We do this coordination well with the Nicaraguan authorities.
However, at the level of international organizations and joint resolutions, Costa Rica has joined in expressing its grave concern over the systematic violation of various human rights. Among them, serious problems stand out with regard to political prisoners, where there are more than 180 prisoners of this nature, many times even prevented from receiving visits for more than a year and, it seems, in very bad conditions, and there is a serious concern there .
The other is the suppression of freedom of expression and the press, because it is no longer possible to operate from Nicaragua. Virtually all Nicaraguan media outlets are operating from Costa Rica.
To this should be added the cancellation of the legal status of more than 1,200 non-governmental organizations, NGOs, whose capacity to act has been cancelled. Many of them have also moved to operate from Costa Rica.
This is not to mention the presence of the Russian army on Nicaraguan soil and 50 Russian tanks that Nicaragua had acquired without an external threat. Costa Rica does not have weapons, it does not have an army, it cannot pose a threat to Nicaragua.
So, this accumulation of factors naturally causes instability in the region, since it moves away from the very founding principles of SICA, of the Central American Integration System. And it is there where Costa Rica raises its voice to draw attention, both within the OAS and now in the United Nations, to the situation that is occurring there, since it is directly affecting the population.
In Venezuela (there is) an equally tragic situation. We have more than 6 million people who have emigrated from Venezuela, that is greater than the number of any armed conflict. They have been located in neighboring countries: Ecuador has many, Colombia has as many, Peru as many, and as many migrate north.
In the Costa Rican case, previous governments joined, together with more than 50 countries, the recognition of the provisional permanent representative, Juan Guaidó, as representative of Venezuela, which led the OAS to accredit an ambassador from the government of Juan Guaidó, while In the United Nations there is an ambassador of the Nicolás Maduro regime.
Costa Rica does not have an embassy or consular relationship in Caracas, nor vice versa. This presents a great challenge for Venezuelans on our soil and Costa Ricans on Nicaraguan (Venezuelan) soil. In the necessary processing of your documentation. It is an equally difficult situation.
It is now coming to the General Assembly in October of the OAS in Peru and we are going to see what resolutions are generated at the level of international organizations. We are going to wait for that position to re-evaluate the situation.
VOA: What do you think about the situation of press freedom in Costa Rica?
Tinoco: Costa Rica is proud to have a system of absolute freedom of the press and expression, respecting it as one of the fundamental rights, both constitutional and inter-American instruments.
VOA: About climate change, how are the loads in the region? And what is the position of Costa Rica and the future plans that the country has to combat the negative effects?
Tinoco: It is a very important topic. Precisely due to a climatic phenomenon, President Rodrigo Chávez has not been able to attend this General Assembly. Heavy rains came over the national territory, causing landslides in the mountains and outflows of the rivers from their channels. One of them affected a bus and ten people lost their lives. As a result of this, President Chávez was unable to attend. It is a clear example of the effects of climate change.
Costa Rica, concerned about this, of course, has signed and promotes at the United Nations level all the initiatives that tend to fight climate change, especially in this administration, with an emphasis on the oceans.
Our territory is ten times larger in our seas than in our territory. We have Caribbean or Atlantic and Pacific coast. In the Pacific, together with Panama, Colombia and Ecuador, Costa Rica has signed and is promoting a special zone of biodiversity reserve that we have called CMAR, the tropical eastern Pacific maritime corridor, which runs from Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands, moored with the island of Malpelo in Colombia, Coiba in Panama and the island of Coco in Costa Rica, generating an area of 500,000 square kilometers as a protection, research and special attention area in the Pacific.
In addition to this, we are actively participating in the negotiation of the BBNJ Convention for marine resources of the seabed in the high seas. And, of course, we will also participate in the convention to mitigate the problem of plastic in the oceans. Moreover, we are proposing to the members of the United Nations and I did so in the speech to work together on a new declaration of peace for the ocean that we intend to lead and coordinate to make the problem of water pollution visible.