The Ambassadors REVIEW
Striving for Developed Status:
Costa Rica and the United States’ 21
Anne Slaughter Andrew
United States Ambassador to Costa Rica
ifty years ago, Costa Rica, like most of its Latin neighbors, was a developing
country struggling for political stability and economic development. Today,
we find Latin America as a whole, more stable, prosperous and democratic,
with Costa Rica recognized as one of the most stable democracies in the Americas.
Evaluated country by country, however, Costa Rica and the rest of Central
America, and its Southern neighbors are less homogenous today, both economically and
recently reported that Latin America’s diversity today
defies generalizations: from Brazil, with one of the largest economies in the world and a
global political player with membership in the G-20 among other organizations; to
Nicaragua, the second poorest economy in the hemisphere, after Haiti.
In calibrating US foreign policy engagement and investment, though, generaliza-
tions or categories can provide a helpful focus. Costa Rica is typically categorized
geographically with its Central American neighbors, with US foreign policy engagement
focused on combating illicit drug and other contraband trafficking in Central America
under the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) and on advancing a
robust regional Central American trading zone under the US Central America-Dominican
Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).
This article considers another category for focusing and framing US foreign policy
engagement with Costa Rica. Costa Rica, along with a group of other Latin American
countries such as Uruguay, Chile, and Panama, comprise a category of Latin American
countries that are beyond the basics of a developing country, but are not yet—or just
recently—graduated into the ranks of developed countries.
These countries, like Costa Rica, have certain assets that have fostered their
success, including: an emphasis on investing in education and producing higher levels of
literacy; a well-educated and more globally connected leadership in government and civil
society; a more stable, democratic political system; or a more diversified economy with
structural support for entrepreneurialism.
Such “developing-but-not-yet-developed” countries, however, lag in key resources
necessary to achieve their goals of becoming developed countries. For example, there may
be insufficient governmental expertise in specialized, sophisticated governmental
functions; e.g., having expertise with complex transactions—like concessions—or with
complex legal procedures such as money laundering cases. Other challenges typically
include: a low tax burden and inadequate political will or capacity to implement necessary