(Photo: REUTERS/Henry Romero)
President Barack Obama spent about 24 hours in Costa Rica this weekend, leaving many wondering about the purpose of his visit, which concluded without any commitment, agreement or joint-declaration.
It was Obama's first-ever visit to Costa Rica, and his motorcade was cheered by people lining the streets as he arrived in San Jose on Friday afternoon.
In the next 24 hours, Obama took part in a bilateral meeting, held a joint press conference with Costa Rican President Chincilla and had a working dinner.
"Costa Rica shows the benefits of trade that is free and fair," Obama said at the press conference. "Over the last few years, under the Central America Free Trade Agreement, our trade with Costa Rica has doubled, creating more jobs for people in both of our countries. Our partnerships are creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including young people and women. As I told President Chinchilla, the United States will continue to be your partner as Costa Rica modernizes its economy so that you're attracting more investment and creating even more trade and more jobs."
For some in the Costa Rican government, Obama's visit was about a special recognition of their country. Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said the U.S. President's visit puts Costa Rica in a "better position to become a modernized country on the path to progress," according to The Christian Science Monitor.
An analyst for Teletica Channel 7 News, Nuria Marín, called Obama's visit an acknowledgement of his country's "regional protagonism" and its "return to the geopolitical map" because Obama helped "strengthen Costa Rica's brand name for attracting more U.S. tourism and investment."
"The U.S. recognizes our fates are tied up with your success," Obama told entrepreneurs and other leaders in San Jose. "If you are doing well, we will do better. And if we're doing well, we think your situation improves."
However, nothing substantial came out of Obama's visit, no joint declaration or agreement.
Luis Guillermo Solís, a 2014 presidential hopeful and analyst, found Obama's visit mysterious. "This has been one of the most mysterious presidential visits I have witnessed in the last two decades," he was quoted as saying. "Nothing seemed to make sense about the objectives of Obama's visit."
Some are saying Obama merely sought to respond to criticism that he neglected the region during his first presidential term. Obama was heavily supported by Hispanic population in the 2012 election.
Obama said Saturday that the United States needed to deepen economic ties with the Americas to create more jobs. "One of the best ways to grow our economy is to sell more goods and services made in America to the rest of the world," he said in his radio and Internet address. "That includes our neighbors to the south."
But what led Obama to visit Costa Rica was perhaps that it was a politically safe country to visit as he was returning from Mexico, Nicaraguan political analyst Arturo Cruz said to The Christian Science Monitor. "It's difficult to go wrong with Costa Rica – It's a democracy with a vibrant economy and a friendly government that will always be friendly to the US," Cruz was quoted as saying. "Costa Rica is like vanilla ice cream; it's a safe bet. How can you go wrong with vanilla ice cream?"