An Uneventful Visit

President Obama recently decided to visit two countries in the Central American region: Mexico and Costa Rica. The expectations of the Right were great but were shot to pieces, leaving only a crude agenda comprised of projects and plans that will take a long time to materialize, if they ever do. Since support for participation in global forums and energy planning is neither forthcoming nor secure, the outcome of Obama’s visit was merely to praise the country in front of the international media.

Obama showed himself to be a good guest, a punctual husband. The food menu meanwhile turned out to be a metaphor for the results of the visit: Nothing stayed hot or near the burner; there were mixed ingredients, both local and foreign; each dish on the table was previously prepared, but the adornment had to be mingled with the cold dishes that arrived via Obama and his hostess, Mrs. Laura [Chinchilla].

The difference is that while salmon, pickles, tomato tart and “pejivalle”* cream are meant to be served cold, the agenda of projects, topics and ideas that were discussed over the course of the 22 hours Obama spent in the country involved issues that require cooking over a slow flame. That was clearly not part of the plan for this particular tour.

This has been anticipated ever since Obama announced his wish to visit Costa Rica and to meet with the Central American heads of state. All attended without a defined agenda, only open hands and eager hearts. They presented their requests, only to return to their offices with their tails between their legs.

Costa Rica, the host, came away with the best deal, and not in the form of money. The point was made clear by Obama — and accepted obsequiously by Chinchilla — that the country’s relationship with the United States was not one based on donations. The slogan of the trip was “prosperity,” which basically translates to economy. Although this formed the focus of the discussions, there was no mention of anything fruitful for the near future. The development of natural gas enterprises and the push for Costa Rica to enter into high-level global forums were the actions deemed necessary to begin this economic process. Nobody believed that more concrete steps would be taken before Chinchilla handed over the presidential sash.

As far as gas is concerned, there are no guarantees; the United States has rules for the export of its natural gas. Furthermore, it is somewhat extravagant for a middle-income country such as Costa Rica to aspire to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), well known as a club of rich countries. Among its 34 member countries, not even Brazil, with its substantial regional and global power, has been accepted as a member.

Chancellor Enrique Castillo said it resignedly: Obama is willing to help us at the right moment, but it is not clear when the right moment will be.

Entry into the OECD would go hand-in-hand with the rise of Costa Rica’s political influence, something that Obama endorsed in general terms. He expressed it using sentences loaded with praise for the country, far more than were the necessary minimum required on an official visit. In the diplomatic field then, there were gains. His praise and dithyrambs were reproduced in the international media.

Flattery and proposals to jointly advance with such development aside, the topic of security was consciously relegated to that of a dish of secondary importance, albeit one that remained on the menu. “The stronger the economies and the institutions for individuals seeking legitimate careers, the less powerful those narcotrafficking organizations are going to be,” said Obama, after affirming that the war on drugs will continue unchanged.

After 22 hours, Obama boarded his flight energetically, waving goodbye with his right hand. His objective was fulfilled: Greetings, pictures and illusory hopes had been placed on the table — hopes that went beyond even the original false expectations.

*Editor’s note: In English, this is a species of palm native to the tropics of South and Central America called peach-palm.

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