By Leland Baxter-Neal
Tico Times Staff
The organizers of a visit by the Dalai Lama to Costa Rica claimed yesterday that President Oscar Arias asked them to “uninvite” the exiled Tibetan leader because of conflicts with China.
Arias' spokeswoman Mishelle Mitchel, however, “categorically” denied the allegations.
The Arias administration is planning to receive the president of China, Hu Jintao, later this year in his first visit here since the two nations began diplomatic relations last year. The Chinese government has called the Dalai Lama a terrorist, and accused him of attempting to destabilize China.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, preaches non-violence and calls for greater autonomy for his homeland of Tibet, which China controls and claims as its own.
At a press conference yesterday, President Arias said he asked the Dalai Lama to postpone his visit because he would be out of the country on a trip to Europe and wanted to be here to greet the leader.
The Dalai Lama was originally coming to Costa Rica to take part in a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, which include both himself and President Arias, organized here by the President's Oscar Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. That meeting was called off earlier this year.
The Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association then continued to plan for a visit from the Dalai Lama Sept. 10 to 12, scheduling a meeting between him and Tibetan Buddhists in Costa Rica, as well as a talk open to the public.
According to Maritza Pacheco, head of the cultural association, Oscar Arias' office called the association earlier this month to ask them to cancel the invite because, among other reasons, “Hu Jintao wasn't going to come if His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) came.”
“This was not an official visit. We had not asked the government for anything. It was all being managed as a private visit,” Pacheco said. “As a country we are losing our sovereignty if we cannot decide who visits us.”
Last night, however, Arias' spokeswoman Mitchell said she could not officially confirm any call from the president's office, and insisted the president's letter, which he made public yesterday, asked only to postpone the trip and had nothing to do with Jintao's visit.