Monday, May 07, 2007

U.S. to partially forgive Costa Rican debt

Costa Rican Juanita Zeledon uses a special camera and laptop to take photos of the root systems of plants at La Selva Biological Station on the edge of Braullio Carrillo National Park north-east of San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday May 7, 2007. The U.S. and Costa Rican governments announced negotiations for $ 12.6 milion dollars of debt to be forgiven in return for Costa Rica's conservation of the environment under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert) (Inside Costa Rica) - The United States could soon cancel about $12.6 million of the almost $100 million dollars in debt owed to it by Costa Rica. The debt cancellation is in exchange for environmental protection spending programs, said the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry yesterday.

The plan is for Costa Rica to spend the money towards programs that protect forestlands.

Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, first proposed the idea to United States president, George W. Bush, during a visit to the White House last December. The U.S. president expressed interest and Treasury Department later deemed Costa Rica to be eligible to join the other countries qualifying for debt forgiveness under the U.S. Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA).

In addition, the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International has pledged to cancel $2.5 million in debt allowing Costa Rica to choose to invest in environmental projects.

The deadline for the debt cancellation is September 30, by which time Costa Rica has to announce its decision in which projects to invest, said the U.S. Embassy.

Attending the ceremony were Finance Minister Guillermo Zúñiga, Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, The Nature Conservancy Costa Rican program director Zdenka Piskulich and Manuel Ramírez, of Conservation International.

U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Mark Langdale, said that he is confident that Costa Rica will meet the deadline and that all the parties will do everything necessary to make the opportunity a reality.

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