Today my Girlfriends father asked me to watch the inauguration of the new Costa Rican national stadium with him, which included a futbol match between Costa Rica and China. I had heard all about this stadium for the past month on the radio, TV, and billboards. It has been the buzz in and around San Jose for the past month at least. Shakira is to perform at the stadium next week for another inaugural event.
Earlier today I decided to open up Wikipedia and Google news to read a little bit about the stadium. Besides the fact that it cost 100 million US dollars to build, and holds 35 thousand people, I also found out that the Chinese gave it as a gift to Costa Rica. That’s right, according to the Tico Times; it was a gift with no strings attached. That was a little hard to believe, which spawned more curiosity.
Costa Rica was the first country in Central America to open diplomatic relations with China. This just happened a few years ago. Prior to this Taiwan had been extremely influential in Central America along with the US. When Costa Rica recognized China it also cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China surely influenced this decision, knowing that they now have an ally in the US’s back yard. More importantly they have dealt another blow to Taiwans influence and sovereignty. Taiwan has done several favors for Costa Rica including the construction of one of Costa Rica’s most important bridges “Puente de Amistad” which means the bridge of friendship. Ever since former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias cut off relations with Taiwan in favor of China, the bridge has been known as Puente de la Apuñalada (Back stab Bridge) by opponents to Costa Rica’s current government.
Of course I agreed to watch the game and event with my girlfriends father. After doing my research I wanted to see what he knew of the politics of the stadium. First I asked him “so was this stadium a gift from the Chinese?” “Yes.” He simply answered. His wife Fulvia was in the room as well. Next I stated, “Surely there will be a price to pay, nothing is for free.” He then answered, “The Gringos aren’t what they used to be, the Chinese are faster and more efficient.” I’m not sure if he was referring to their ability to give fast handouts, or the speed at which the Chinese laborers arrived in Costa Rica and constructed the stadium.
Later that day in a software store in Alajuela a young Costa Rican working the cash register asked me if I was going to watch the inauguration of the stadium. I told him that yes I was planning to. I then asked him what he thought of the gift from the Chinese, he stated that times are changing and he was glad to see that Costa Rica was on the side of the Chinese, because they are the future.
Chinese senior legislator Chen Changzhi attended the inauguration. China also brought a whole crew for a cultural presentation, along with musicians and fireworks. After the inauguration I went back to Google news for updates and found that China also signed an agreement today to gift Costa Rica with a 30 million dollar police-training center.
What happened to the US state department? What is going on with Taiwans foreign ministry? The cashier is right, times are changing, but is the US just going to lie down and die? I would hope for a softer landing. The US influence in Latin America is at an all time low. Costa Rica is “The Democracy of the region” Maybe this is business as usual; perhaps I was just caught off guard. One thing is for certain, in this war of influence, Costa Rica appears to have the most to gain.
Chinese in Costa Rica. Do Costa Ricans like the Chinese? Does China have influence in Costa Rica? Why did Costa Rica choose China over Taiwan?