January 5, 2001

Costa Rica approves Cuban consulate

                  SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Costa Rica announced Friday it has approved
                  Cuba's request to open a consulate here, signaling a further strengthening of
                  relations with the communist island nearly 40 years after the two countries broke

                  Juan Carlos Hernandez, the new Cuban consul, is scheduled to arrive Sunday to
                  begin working on the office, although an exact date for its opening had not been

                  Costa Rica cut diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, when the Central
                  American country joined an economic embargo against the government of Cuban
                  President Fidel Castro.

                  However, ties between the two countries began to warm in 1998, when Costa
                  Rica established an interests office in Havana to deal with immigration. An
                  estimated 15,000 Cubans live in Costa Rica.

                  In addition to dealing with immigration issues, Costa Rican Chancellor Roberto
                  Rojas also said the consulate will help with growing business ties between the
                  two countries and Costa Rica's desire to attract more tourism like that of Cuba --
                  especially tourists from Europe.

                  Costa Rica is the latest in a number of Latin American and other nations that
                  have strengthened ties with Cuba over the past decade, following the collapse of
                  the Soviet Union and a growing tendency to view international relations in
                  economic rather than ideological terms.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.