On February 6, Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, served as discussant for an event hosted by the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC featuring Costa Rica’s ambassador to the US Roman Macaya Hayes. In the Q&A discussion, Macaya and Shifter covered a wide range of topics, such as Costa Rica’s elections and its regional implications, US-Costa Rican relations, and the challenges of regional integration.
Ambassador Macaya highlighted that Costa Ricans’ faith in the democratic system has shown no drastic change:
“Once the polls closed, everyone was very calm, very relaxed waiting for the count to be completed. There were no self-proclamations. No victory announcements. Everyone waited for our supreme electoral tribunal to release the results. Once they were released, those that were not favored by the results, accepted the results. [They] conceded the election [and] congratulated the winners that would move on to the second round. That is very Costa Rican and has not been lost.”
When asked about the challenges of regional integration in Central America, he pointed out two factors:
“If trade barriers were decreased and we had better logistics throughout Central America, it would certainly enhance probably all economies. But, politics gets in the way. We’ve been negotiating a custom union for decades now. There’s always some political issue that doesn’t allow us to conclude [it].”
Finally, Ambassador Macaya explained why China’s relationship is different with Costa Rica than other Latin American countries:
“A lot of the investment of China in Latin America is in countries that are rich in natural resources. Our natural resources are in biodiversity. We’re not going to touch the forest because that’s what attracts eco-tourism. [Costa Rica is] a service-oriented economy. It changes the way China engages with us versus other countries that are much more oriented in the export of raw materials.”
Following the Ambassador’s remarks, Michael Shifter moderated an open discussion with the audience in which public infrastructure, civic youth engagement, the absence of a military, and gender equality were discussed.
Watch the recording of this event here: