Costa Rica Gets It
Andres Oppenheimer writes today about a response given by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias at the recent Summit of the Americas that didn't receive a lot of attention - compared to clowns like Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa.
Oscar Arias responded to Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa's "blame the USA" screed in a closed-door session. Here's some of what Arias said:
In his speech, whose written version is entitled ''We must have done something wrong,'' Arias started out saying, ``I have the impression that each time Caribbean and Latin American countries meet with the president of the United States, it's to . . . blame the United States for our past, present and future problems. I don't think this is entirely fair.''
He continued: ``We cannot forget that Latin America had universities before the United States created Harvard, and William & Mary, which were the first universities in that country. We cannot forget that in this hemisphere, like elsewhere in the world, until 1750, all of us in the Americas were more or less the same: We were all poor.
``When the Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain, other countries joined that train, including Germany, France, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But the industrial revolution passed over Latin America like a comet, and we didn't even notice. We certainly lost an opportunity.
``Fifty years ago, Mexico was richer than Portugal. In 1950, a country like Brazil had a per capita income that was higher than that of South Korea. Sixty years ago, Honduras had a bigger per capita income than Singapore. . . . We in Latin America must have done something wrong .
''What did we do wrong?'' Arias asked. Among other things, he listed the fact that Latin America have an average schooling of only seven years, that the region has one of the world's lowest tax collection rates, and that it spends an absurd $50 billion a year on weapons and other military expenditures. ''That's nobody else's fault but our own,'' he said.
''So I ask myself: who is our enemy?'' Arias went on. ``Our enemy, President Correa, is that inequality that you rightly refer to. It's the lack of education. It's illiteracy. It's the fact that we don't spend on our people's health.''
This part, however, I'm not too crazy about:
Noting that the 21st century is likely to be the Asian -- rather than Latin American -- century, and that China has lifted 500 million people out of poverty since it opened its economy three decades ago, Arias concluded: ''While we continue debating about ideologies, and about which ``isms'' are the best, whether capitalism, socialism, communism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, etc., Asians have found an ''ism'' that is much more realistic for the XXI Century: pragmatism.''
I guess Arias was just trying to make a point on how other parts of the world have adapted faster and better than Latin America, but the only "ism" that's proven to work is capitalism, plain and simple. Let's see how far China's "pragamatism" takes them.
Anyway, I thought I'd point this article out because while I am very critical of many Latin American leaders for their lack of integrity, USA-bashing, castro-supporting and corruption, there are some that get it, and it's always good to point it out. Bravo, Mr. Arias. Perhaps that's why you usually don't hear much from/about Costa Rica. They keep their noses clean and don't cause any trouble. Good for them.