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Costa Rica re-establishes diplomatic relations with Cuba

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Wednesday announced his government will re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba almost 50 years after severing ties.

“Ours should be a diplomacy capable of opening pathways and building bridges, capable of seeking rapprochement and practicing what we preach,” Arias said in a statement, announcing his decision to sign an executive decree to reestablish diplomacy with Cuba.

“It is a step I take convinced that times change, and Costa Rica has to change with them," he said.

The move comes as part of what appears to be a total turnaround for the last remaining cold shoulders toward Cuba in Central America. Salvadoran President-elect Mauricio Funes has suggested that El Salvador — the only other Central American nation without ties to Cuba — will make amends with Havana once he is sworn in, according to the Associated Press.

Costa Rica’s reaching out also follows U.S. President Barack Obama’s loosening of restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ right to travel to Cuba, which some observers say could signal a further thawing of long-frozen ties between Washington and the communist island nation.

Former Costa Rican president Mario Echandi on Sept. 10, 1961, issued an executive decree cutting off diplomatic relations with the Cuba.

Official distancing “no longer makes sense,” Arias said, particularly following Costa Rica’s recent rapprochement with China. “How can we not do it with a country that is geographical and culturally much closer to Costa Rica?”