Higgins praises high participation of women in Costa Rican politics
President meets Laura Chinchilla on final leg of Latin American tour
President Michael D Higgins and Costa Rica’s president Laura Chinchilla speaking to reporters after their meeting yesterday. Photograph: Simon Carswell/The Irish Times
President Michael D Higgins has praised Costa Rica for the high proportion of women in political office in his first public comments since arriving in the Central American state on his tour of Latin America.
Mr Higgins said that Costa Rica could be proud that 39 per cent of the country’s parliament comprised women. He was speaking today at a lunch hosted by the country’s president Laura Chinchilla.
This compares with the 15 per cent of women in Dáil Eireann.
It was very apt that the first ambassadors exchanged between Ireland, the Irish ambassador in Mexico Sonya Hyland, and Costa Rica, Ambassador Saborio de Rocafort, were women, he said.
The Irish President arrived in Costa Rica on Saturday evening on the final leg of his 12-day tour of Latin America, which has included stops in Mexico and El Salvador.
During the private meeting between the Irish and Costa Rican presidents, Mr Higgins and Ms Chinchilla discussed climate change and development, disarmament, human rights and “the delivery of real and inclusive growth for our two peoples,” he told reporters afterwards.
Ms Chinchilla spoke about the “strong bond” between the two countries on “peace, human rights, environmentalism and sustainable development” and how they wanted to grow this relationship.
She described the recent agreement between an association of Central American countries and the European Union as a “great tool” to expand trade between Ireland and Costa Rica.
Mr Higgins said that the agreement would have the opportunity for meaningful “ethical connections, which have economic and societal benefits. Ireland and Costa Rica had “many more things in common than separate us”. He joked about the “mutual experience of frequent rainfall” in the two countries.
“In Ireland we take great pride in knowing that some familiar family names here in Costa Rica such as Amores and Cartín may have their roots in familiar Irish surnames such as Moore, Carthy or McCarthy; reminding us of the rich heritage our two countries share,” he said.
Mr Higgins noted that while Ireland would not be at the World Cup in Brazil next year, he congratulated Costa Rica for qualifying for the tournament. He assured his Costa Rican audience of his “moral support next summer”.
One of the areas of focus during the President’s visit to Costa Rica is environmental matters because of the country’s leading role in climate change and sustainable development.
“We know that human actions such as deforestation, resource extraction and pollution have exerted devastating pressures on our fragile environment,” Mr Higgins said. “It is the most marginalised sections of society that are most vulnerable to the effects of these pressures.”
Costa Rica has reversed one of the highest rates of deforestation by increasing the amount of forest cover from 21 per cent in 1987 to 52 per cent in 2005.
Later today Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello will meet representatives from Irish fruit company Fyffes, which imports fruit from Costa Rica.
Mr Higgins will deliver his keynote speech of his four-day visit to Costa Rica at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is based in Costa Rica, tomorrow tomorrow.