Central Standard Time) UTC/GMT -6 hours
Capital City San José
Currency Costa Rican colón CRC
National Day 15 Sep
Costa Rica’s new Ambassador J. Enrique Castillo arrived in London in January with his wife Olga. Their two children remain in Costa Rica pursuing their various careers. The Ambassador and his wife have found themselves consumed by London: “This city is a world in itself. Everyday we discover new things. It’s a wonderful place and we are delighted to be here.”
Ambassador Castillo’s multifaceted demeanour and talents are well known across Costa Rica and abroad: he’s an attorney, sociologist, politician, university professor, diplomat and writer. He confesses that throughout his life, he’s “always been very driven,” inspiring him to pursue two academic careers in Law and Sociology. Accordingly, he explains that “politics and the international environment seemed to be a natural fit where he could use both skills.” He served as a judge during the early years of his legal practice in San José (1971-72), and has been partner of the prestigious firm Facio & Cañas since 1980, through which he developed his distinguished career as a brilliant trial lawyer and consultant.
Ambassador Castillo was Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Costa Rica for 33 years, retiring in 2002, even becoming the country’s Minister of Justice (1994-95). One of his finest accomplishments came in 1983, when he founded the University of Costa Rica’s Postgraduate Law Programme (the only university in the country at the time), and served as its first Director-General. “I am fundamentally proud of this, although it hasn’t had much recognition, but it changed the way Law was taught in the country.” Soon after came “the start of [his] diplomatic life” as he was posted as Ambassador to France (1986-1990).
Other prominent posts followed including a role as Costa Rica’s Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS) (2007-11), when he defended his country at the OAS in Washington after Nicaragua invaded its territory. “A particularly memorable moment, but I know that it had strong repercussions in all the Americas. My intention was to defend my country as loyally as I could.”
Prior to his arrival in London, Ambassador Castillo was Costa Rica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (2011-14). During this time, his key tasks included succeeding in attaining and preparing for Costa Rica’s Presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The country also held the Presidency of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in the first semester of 2013, leading a process to approve SICA reforms for the next ten years. So successful in this role, Ambassador Castillo was given the ‘Peacemaker’ award (one of multiple awards) by the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2013, in recognition of outstanding contributions to achieving and promoting peace.
What are Ambassador Castillo’s main plans and priorities as Ambassador in the UK? “Costa Rica has a good relationship with the UK, but there’s still much to be done to increase and deepen relations, particularly in areas of foreign investment, cultural exchange and education. He’s keen to encourage British investment in Costa Rica’s infrastructure: “There are opportunities for British companies here, especially to take advantage of Costa Rica’s position with a network of free trade agreements with many areas of the world, including South America, the US and China, among others. If British companies establish themselves in Costa Rica, they will have access to these markets.” He continues: “We have many students at UK universities as well as many professionals working for British corporations. We must take this relationship to the next level and ensure the British know more about Costa Rica.”
Ambassador Castillo acknowledges that Costa Rica is not without some challenges: “As a small country, we must protect our interests, develop our economy and improve the social conditions for our people, but we have to do this with limited resources.” He continues: “on the upside, we have a good position on the global stage with our policies on human rights, sustainable development, democracy and disarmament.”
Never one to sit still, the Ambassador exercises religiously each day, and is the author of a number of books, including some fiction titles. But his real passion is music: “Music is a need for me – I listen to it first thing every morning and last thing at night, and all day between.” With such extraordinary accomplishments to his name, it appears we will be hearing much more about Costa Rica in the coming months.