The president of Costa Rica announced Wednesday [Mar 18, 2009] that he is re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba more than 47 years after one of his predecessors severed them.

"The time has arrived for direct and open dialogue, for official and normal relations that should permit us to tackle our agreements and our disagreements, talking with ourselves openly and with sincerity," President Oscar Arias said in a written statement.

"Today, it makes no sense to play the official coldness when we have opened channels of cooperation in diverse areas, when we have consular relations and commercial relations with Havana of some importance, and even direct flights between our capitals."

Arias, the winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize, added: "If we have been able to turn the page with regimes as profoundly different to our reality as occurred with the USSR or, more recently, with the Republic of China, how would we not do it with a country that is geographically and culturally much nearer to Costa Rica?"

He said that, in coming weeks, the governments of both countries will exchange ambassadors.

Until then, "as the oldest democracy in Latin America, as the little republic of peace, we extend our hand to the Cuban people and we send by sea and by air an olive branch to begin anew the good work of building friendship."

The rupture occurred in 1961, a few months after then-President Fidel Castro declared Cuba a socialist state. On September 10 of that year, then-President Mario Echandi signaled the end of diplomatic relations by signing Executive Decree Number 2, said Arias.

The United States, which made the same move on January 3, 1961, has not restored diplomatic relations with the communist country.

"Today, since the world is diametrically different from what it was in those days, we must be capable of adjusting to the new realities," Arias said.

"It is a step I adopt convinced that times change, and Costa Rica has to change with them," he said.



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