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Costa Rican president prepares to host Joe Biden

On Sept. 22, 1987, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias addressed a joint session of the U.S. congress to push a peace plan for war-ravaged Central America. ''The relationship between our two countries has been a model friendship,'' Arias proclaimed. ``There is not a single economic crisis in our history in which you have failed to extend to us a helping hand.''

A little more than 11 years later, Arias is back as president, and will receive Vice President Joe Biden to discuss just how the Unites States might once again extend a helping hand as Central America grapples with the impact of the global financial crisis.

Arias also appeared to be taking a little credit for President Barack Obama administration's decision to make Costa Rica the second of only two stops for Biden in Latin America.

''I don't think that speech has been forgotten,'' Arias told reporters shortly after Biden's visit was announced. ``I imagine that it is funny for him to visit me now that I am president for a second time.''

The comment did not pass unnoticed here, where Arias is facing an increasingly contentious relationship with the national press.

Costa Rica's lead daily La Nación, in an only-slightly veiled dig at Arias, called for ``prudence in how the visit is described and defined.''

''It is something that should be divested of personal or vain considerations, and considered in the dimension of U.S. relations. It is up to President Arias to be particularly careful in this respect,'' the daily said.

Biden is scheduled to arrive in Costa Rica on Sunday and meet the following day with leaders from throughout Central America in the first visit by a White House official to Central America since Obama took office.

Arias is trying to capitalize on the moment to cast himself as a regional leader, recalling his work during his first administration in mediating a peace plan for the civil war-ravaged isthmus, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

''I believe that yes, we can be a spokesman. That's how it was 20 years ago, and we can do it now,'' Arias said.

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