President Barack Obama met with his Costa Rican counter-part, President Luis Guillermo Solís, at the White House Monday to finalize a deal that will send millions in military aid to the Central American country.
In a bid to help curb organized crime and human trafficking, Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, agreed to provide around $30 million in military supplies to Costa Rica, which includes two cargo planes, two large patrol boats and two smaller interceptor boats, air surveillance equipment and biometric software to help identify illegal immigrants in the field.
The agreement also provides supplies for law enforcement, including three armored vehicles, the construction of virtual shooting ranges and communication equipment for the guards at Corcovado National Park.
In addition to the equipment, the U.S. will provide Costa Rica with extensive Coast Guard training and maintenance packages for the boats.
Solis called the aid from the U.S. government “the biggest assistance granted in the last 30 years" and lauded it as a sign of goodwill between the two countries.
The assistance is part of what Biden referred to in a Monday opinion piece for Univision as a “two-track approach” aimed at dealing with illegal immigration into the U.S. The first track being expedited processing for immigrants in immediate danger, and the second being long-term solutions to combat the root causes of illegal immigration.
“Together, we’ve developed a comprehensive plan that is rooted in our commitment to improving security—the indispensable foundation for all other progress,” Biden wrote. “And we’re going to keep working to eradicate the transnational criminal networks that drive drug smuggling, human trafficking and financial crime.”
Last month, Costa Rica announced that it would offer temporary refuge to people fleeing from the violence-plagued Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – a decision spurred by U.S. efforts to stem illegal entries along its southern border with Mexico.
As part of the program, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will pre-screen people seeking protection and transfer them to Costa Rica for processing before resettlement in the U.S. or another country.
Obama also agreed to expand the Central American Minors program, which allows parents living legally in the U.S. to request refugee status for their children who are still living in one of the three designated Central American countries.