Costa Rica’s newly appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom received a warm welcome at the Credential ceremony held in London on 13th March 2019. His Excellency Mr. Rafael Ortiz Fábrega was appointed to the role in October 2018. Earlier that day the Ambassador presented the letters of credence to Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Fábrega studied at the University of Costa Rica and Havard Law School. He began his professional career as an attorney before moving into politics. In 2014 he was appointed Congressman of the Parliamentary Group of the Social Christian Unity Party. He hjas qualifications and experience in law, politics, and negotiation.

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The Ambassador’s aim for his new role is to continue to develop and strengthen the longstanding ties between the UK and Costa Rica, which have been nurtured since the nation of Costa Rica first gained its independence from Spain in 1821.

In his speech, Ambassador Fábrega noted Costa Rica’s gratitude for the support it has been shown by the UK over the years. As far back as 1856, the UK supplied military equipment which helped Costa Rica to fight and quash a planned invasion by some members of the American Union slave states. Without this assistance, the outcome might have been very different.

In the 20th century, many young people took the opportunity to gain further education at universities in the UK. Students trained in medicine, engineering, and other professions, and were able to employ their skills in developing an improving services back in Costa Rica. The country is now recognised as offering some of the best education facilities in central and South America.

Today Costa Rica is a thriving nation, with a stable economy which has seen growth for over 25 years. It has a population of 4.9 million, while the capital and largest city, San Jose, has a population of 339, 581 people. GDP per capita in Costa Rica is 11,728 USD. In recent years it has frequently been named the happiest country in the world, an enviable accolade for any nation.

Costa Rica’s young president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada is working to transform the country further still. He earned a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree at the University of Costa Rica and later with a Chevening scholarship he studied at the University of Sussex, gaining a Masters degree in Development Studies.

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President Quesada has a progressive agenda, which includes enhancements to human rights and gender equality. There is considerable emphasis on protecting the environment and creating sustainable industry and agriculture in Costa Rica. In fact, Costa Rica is now seen as a global leader in terms of environmental policies. Significant progress has already been made in safeguarding the environment. Over 98% of electricity is generated using emission-free methods. Deforestation was first reduced and has in recent years been reversed – something no other country in the world has achieved to date. Costa Rica has announced a goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021. In addition to working towards carbon-neutrality, Costa Rica has ambitious goals for improving life for its citizens in other ways, such as by reducing inequality and offering greater social inclusion. It already has one of the lowest rates of poverty in central and South America, largely thanks to its political stability and continued growth.

Costa Rica is a peaceful country. So much so, it took the decision in 1948 to abolish its military and use the money saved to invest in healthcare, education and other public services to improve the lives of Costa Rican citizens.

Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and boasts beautiful beaches on both sides of the country. Tourism is becoming increasingly important to the Costa Rican economy, currently contributing around 7% of total GDP and creating approximately 13% of the country’s employment (direct and indirect). Ecotourism has seen particularly strong growth in recent years, and over 80% of visitors to Costa Rica go there because of the ecotourism activities on offer.

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There are now over 30 national parks in Costa Rica, thanks to a policy that dates back to the 1960s that involved setting pockets of land aside for conservation. Today, around 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected, helping to preserve the biodiversity of the country. Despite its relatively small landmass, Costa Rica has a wealth of wildlife, and is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Spider monkeys, coati, basilisk lizards, and three-toed sloths are among the native species which can be found in the national parks, as well as many exotic bird species. Both marine and freshwater turtles are native to the area. There are many fascinating geographical features in the country, including Poas Volcano, the biggest active crater volcano in the world, with a stunning blue lake in the crater.

Trade plays a vital role in the economy of Costa Rica and the country has benefited from a liberalisation of trade and an outward-looking approach in its foreign relations. The tropical climate and highly fertile soil are ideal for growing crops such as pineapples, bananas, oranges, avocados and papayas. The country is also known for its first-class coffee and chocolate, which are exported for consumption all over the world.

Sustainable methods of agriculture are becoming more and more widespread. Methods such as crop rotation are being practised more commonly and this is proving popular with farmers, who can see the benefits of a premium produce market.

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Costa Rican growers are proud to work with several major UK companies which import bananas, pineapples and other fruits for sale to British consumers. In 2017 the value of goods exported from Costa Rica to the UK totalled £244 million, while services exported from Costa Rica to the UK amounted to £57 million. It is hoped that in the future trading relations will flourish further still and that the UK will continue to import some of Costa Rica’s finest produce. And Costa Rica will, of course, continue to import both goods and services from the UK.

The Costa Rican government is also embarking on some major projects which will enhance the infrastructure of the country. These include the introduction of a modern urban train system. This will be made possible by UK investment in the infrastructure projects.

The Duke of York’s Palace Programme has played an important role in promoting the work of scientists and entrepreneurs in Costa Rica. The London Stock Exchange is currently exploring ways to finance the work of leading scientist, Dr. Christian Marin-Muller who is heading up research into a vaccine against and potential cure for pancreatic cancer. The successful continuation of this research could result in lives being saved all around the world. Dr. Christian is also a founder of CR Biomed which promotes investment in the biotechnology industry in Costa Rica. These types of projects are enabling Costa Rica to build a brighter future for generations to come, with more opportunities and sustainable economic growth.

Costa Rica is also proud of its cultural ties with the UK. There is ongoing collaborative working with many UK cultural institutions, including the British Library. Jorge Aguilar, Costa Rica’s Minister Counsellor is actively involved in deepening the cultural connections between the two countries, and he himself is proud to sing in the London Symphony Chorus.

With so many benefits for both countries, relations between the UK and Costa Rica look set to go from strength to strength. The UK looks forward to working with His Excellency Mr. Rafael Ortiz Fábrega for many years to come.