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Costa Rica: Opposition Gains Strength as Pro-CAFTA Forces Caught in Manipulation Scheme

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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 08:43 PM
Original message
Costa Rica: Opposition Gains Strength as Pro-CAFTA Forces Caught in Manipulation Scheme
Opposition Gains Strength as Pro-CAFTA Forces Caught in Manipulation Scheme

Laura Carlsen
October 2, 2007


An internal memo leaked to the press shows the lengths to which the Costa Rican government and pro-business forces will go to secure ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

The memo recommends, among other things, inventing labor leaders to serve as pro-CAFTA figureheads, launching a publicity blitz (Costa Rican press reports that the proponents have already spent $500 million dollars on publicity compared to anti-CAFTA expenditures of $30 million), and conducting a smear campaign against the opposition.

The memo also recommends threatening local government officials with a cut-off of funds and an end to future political aspirations: "... any mayor who doesn't win his canton will not get a penny from the government in the next 3 years."
The memo was written by Vice President Kevin Casas to President Oscar Arias. The resulting public outrage forced Casas to resign in an attempt at damage control.

The core of the proposed strategy is a fear campaign that, according to the memo, would stimulate four kinds of fear: fear of loss of jobs, fear of attack on democratic institutions ("make NO the equivalent of violence and anti-democracy"), fear of foreign influence ("insist on the connection of NO with Fidel, Chvez, and Ortega"), and fear of the impact of rejection of CAFTA on the government (financial instability, lack of governance). The memo calls for uniting big business behind the agreement, while presenting a public face conformed of civil society members.

In its Oct. 1 edition, the Wall Street Journal followed the advice of point number three and issued a dire warning that a NO victory would be a triumph for Venezuela's Hugo Chvez.

Fear campaigns have become the latest, and often very effective, forms of manipulating democracy at the urns. The suggestions contained in the CAFTA memo follow the model developed by U.S. political strategists like Dick Morris, who consulted on Felipe Caldern's fear-based smear campaign for the Mexican presidency and pushed for CAFTA's passage in the U.S. Congress in 2005.

Public exposure of the fear campaign did not keep a desperate President Arias from resorting to hyperbole. According to a Reuters dispatch, he recently referred to a NO vote on CAFTA as " collective suicide."

.....

Opposition to the agreement received a shot in the arm following the memo leak.

Since massive public education efforts began, the margin in favor of ratifying the agreement began to shrink and following the memo polls reveal a much faster reversal of the previous comfortable lead for CAFTA proponents. Experts now say that with mere days before the referendum, the vote appears to be a "technical tie."

NO supporters led a huge demonstration to close their campaign on Sept. 30. Press reports estimated over 100,000 people in the streets of San Jos calling to reject CAFTA. Some dressed as skeletons, others wore George Bush masks. Many emphasized the impact on job loss in small and medium-sized industries, and social welfare programs.

The remarkable coalition of public employees, farmers, small business owners, intellectuals, and assorted citizens has already changed Costa Rican politics regardless of the outcome of the referendum vote. The capacity for mobilization and unity, and public awareness of competing economic models and their impact on society have increased significantly.

.....



Hang tough, Costa Rica!


Costa Ricans to Make a Historic Decision


San Jose, Oct 5 (Prensa Latina) In two days, Costa Ricans will make a historic decision by rejecting or approving the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, a debate that has involved people from all walks of life in the country.

The active campaigns unleashed by advocates of and opponents to the FTA with the US have arisen passion among most of 4.4 million Costa Ricans as never before.

Those who oppose the accord describe the FTA as a surreptitious reform of the Constitution and the end of the "Charitable State," whose guarantees mitigate poverty in the country.

Juan Manuel Villasuso, of the Patriotic Movement, said on Thursday that over the past few months, Costa Rican society has been able to understand all the implications behind the FTA.

According to Eugenio Trejos, rector of Costa Rica's Technological School, competition among transnational companies threatens the supportive scheme of public electricity, telephone and water services, whose prices are lower for Central America.

.....


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NYC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 09:06 PM
Response to Original message
1. Keep us up to date if you can.
Thanks.
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 09:18 PM
Response to Original message
2. 'The ability of citizens to chart their own course will affect nations around the world.'
More from Opposition Gains Strength as Pro-CAFTA Forces Caught in Manipulation Scheme:


.....

The opposition claims that what's at stake is the future of Costa Rica's public welfare model.

Statistics bear out their contentions. In a region wracked by violence and poverty, Costa Rica's model has worked surprisingly well at ensuring peace and raising overall standards of living over the past decades.

While other Central American nations spent money and lives on civil wars and fighting off foreign intervention, Costa Rica abolished its army and invested public funds in social programs to guarantee a basic standard of living for the entire population. Later when other countries clamored to create duty-free manufacturing zones, privatize state industries, and liberalize trade, Costa Rica maintained control of strategic public services.

The results are impressive. In the period of rapid economic integration between 1990 and 2003, the four other Central American countries saw an increase in malnutrition from 17% to 20% of the population, adding 2.4 million people to hunger counts.1 In Costa Rica, only 6% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, compared to 19% in El Salvador, 20% in Nicaragua, 29% in Honduras, and a tragic 49% in Guatemala.

Costa Rica consistently comes out at the top on all regional social indices. Take a close look at the table belowilliteracy, hunger, food security, per capita incomeshow far more positive results under the more state-controlled model of Costa Rican development. Clearly, other factors come to bear on the differences, but all signs indicate that Costa Rica has been doing something right.

.....

The Central American Free Trade Agreement prescribes radical and irrevocable changes to the Costa Rican economy, society, and political structure. An even cursory look at the effects of the model in other developing countries suggests that the course is risky at best, and likely harmful to the country's most vulnerable families and overall standard of living. Meanwhile, international indicators reveal that the current model has functioned remarkably well and existing trade agreements cover the export needs of the nation.

There's a simple folk-saying: "If it's not broken, don't fix it." Adopting an economic model designed to benefit the economically powerful is not a good way to allocate the abundant natural and human resources of Costa Rica. Locking future generations into a set of laws they did not make and cannot change is unfair and unwise.

Organizations of public employees, farmers, teachers, students, and others have fixed their attention on Costa Rica's referendum. Already Costa Ricans have flexed the muscles of a strong grassroots democracy by actually voting on what are usually behind-the-scenes negotiations. They have taken on the task of learning what the agreement says and what it means. The ability of citizens to chart their own course will affect nations around the world.
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w4rma Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 09:19 PM
Response to Original message
3. $500 million dollars ... (nt)
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natrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 09:21 PM
Response to Original message
4. thats cool --when scumbag big dog pimped nafta through here no one noticed
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emsimon33 Donating Member (904 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-06-07 01:21 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. He sold us down the river and few people seem to care
This is one of the things that frightens me about Hillary!
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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-08-07 11:40 AM
Response to Reply #7
20. Hillary voted against CAFTA n/t
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BrklynLiberal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 10:29 PM
Response to Original message
5. K&R
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girl gone mad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-06-07 12:57 AM
Response to Original message
6. Nafta, cafta..
they all hafta go!
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-06-07 07:37 PM
Response to Original message
8. Meanwhile, Bush Adm. threatens Costa Ricans with loss of US trade benefits if they reject CAFTA.
U.S. warns Costa Rica against rejecting CAFTA, Thu Oct 4, 2007


By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Costa Rica could lose valuable access to the U.S. market if the country rejects a free trade agreement with the United States when voters go to the polls on Sunday, a top U.S. official said.
The United States respects Costa Rica's sovereign right to decide whether to join the pact, "but, I hope whatever decision is made is based on the facts," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement on Thursday.

.....

The warning came as Costa Rica prepared to vote Sunday on whether to join the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which the U.S. Congress narrowly approved in 2005. Some Costa Rican opponents of the pact have argued it could be renegotiated and improved if voters reject it.

About 100,000 Costa Ricans turned out last Sunday to protest the pact, a huge number in a country of 4 million.

The deal locks in Costa Rica's current duty-free access to the U.S. market under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), and phases out many trade barriers facing U.S. manufacturers, farmers and service industry companies in Costa Rica.
The referendum has split the nation, with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and some businesses saying CAFTA will bring investment and jobs. Opponents says it will mean a flood of cheap farm imports and limit the country's sovereignty by taking investment disputes to international arbitration.

Other CAFTA countries -- El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic -- have already ratified the agreement. Only Costa Rica has let its voters decide.

.....



And we know the Bush Gang can't have THAT.


Schwab also took issue with a recent letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that said Costa Rica would not lose current U.S. trade benefits if the pact is rejected.




Costa Rica trade perks not conditional: Democrats, October 5, 2007


By Doug Palmer
Reuters
Friday, October 5, 2007


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democrats sought to reassure Costa Rican voters on Friday their country would not lose U.S. trade benefits if they rejected a free-trade agreement with Washington, following a Bush administration warning they could be at risk.
"Congress is constitutionally responsible for regulating international commerce. As such, we reiterate our longstanding position that preference programs should not be conditioned on a country entering into a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States," two senior Democrats in the House of Representatives said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and Rep. Sander Levin, chairman of the Ways and Means' trade subcommittee, also said the Bush administration had no power to revoke Costa Rica's benefits if the pact were turned down.

The joint statement came just before Costa Rican voters will decide on Sunday whether to join the U.S.-Central American Free Agreement along with four of their neighbors and the Dominican Republic.

It followed a warning by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab on Thursday that some of Costa Rican's trade benefits were at risk if the treaty was rejected.

.....

In her statement on Thursday, Schwab argued Costa Rica could not be sure Congress would renew those trade benefits if the trade pact was rejected.
"The fact is, the United States has never faced a situation where one of our trading partners rejects a reciprocal trade agreement with the United States, but continues to seek unilateral trade preferences," Schwab said.
Schwab also said the United States was unlikely to renegotiate the pact with Costa Rica if it was not approved.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Democrat whose remarks during a recent trip to Costa Rica partly prompted Schwab's statement, urged President George W. Bush in a letter on Friday to make clear Costa Rica would not face U.S. retaliation if the pact were rejected.

"For an official of the United States to warn the people of Costa Rica of possible retaliation of any kind for exercising their rights in an election is unworthy of the democratic traditions our countries share. This is particularly disheartening since CAFTA is just as controversial in the United States as it is in Costa Rica," Sanders said.

.....





Butt out, Ms. Schwab.


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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 05:53 PM
Response to Original message
9. Update Sunday, October 7:
Costa Rica votes on free trade with US

Sunday October 7, 2007


SAN JOSE (AFP) Hundreds of thousands of Costa Ricans voted Sunday on whether to accept or reject a free-trade agreement with the United States, that would open local markets to US products but also boost Costa Rican exports to the United States.

Public opinion surveys indicating the measure was headed for defeat.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement, which also includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, will not be re-negotiated if Costa Rica rejects the measure, US officials said.
Costa Rica, population four million, is the only country to hold a referendum on the deal. The other countries have already ratified the agreement.

Widespread opposition to the agreement over the past three years forced President Oscar Arias to call a plebiscite on the measure.
The latest opinion polls ahead of the vote showed 55 percent support for a "no" against 43 percent that support the measure.

A "no" vote would be a snub to Washington, and a political blow to Arias, the 1987 Nobel peace prize winner who scraped to power a year and a half ago in a narrow victory over a leading opponent of free trade, the center-left economist Otton Solis.

Arias said that he was recording two speeches for when the results were in: one in case the measure was defeated, the second if it won. "I'm not a magician to know at that time how this will end," Arias told reporters.
He acknowledged a rejection of the free-trade deal would make his presidency "more difficult, but not impossible."

Observers from the Organization of American States said the vote Sunday took place in an "orderly fashion."

.....

Voting stations opened at 6:00 am and were scheduled to close at 6:00 pm (2400 GMT), with results expected within hours. Some 2.6 million people are eligible to vote.


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ulysses Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 05:56 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. many, many kudos to the people of Costa Rica,
no matter how it turns out.
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 07:16 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. Wall Street will be displeased at the "peasant revolt" in Costa Rica.
Democracy is only good whenever they vote the "right way." :sarcasm:
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burrowowl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 07:11 PM
Response to Original message
11. Go Ticas and Ticos!
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 07:55 PM
Response to Original message
13. Vote that count? Sounds like Costa Rica is ready for a little chat with Diebold. n/t
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 10:37 PM
Response to Original message
14. Funny how the latest Costa Rican polling indicated 55% "NO" vs 43% in support of CAFTA.....
The latest opinion polls showed 55 percent support for a "no" against 43 percent that support the measure.




Have the Bush threats *worked*??

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Costa Ricans looked likely to support a free trade deal with the United States in a referendum on Sunday, results showed after ballots from nearly 74 percent of polling stations were counted.

Almost 52 percent of voters backed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, while 48 percent voted against it, according to the official results.

If confirmed, a 'yes' vote would be a boost for Washington's standing in Latin America, which has suffered in recent years after leftist leaders took power in countries like Brazil and Venezuela.



Hmmmmm. 52-48. That rings a bell somehow.


Has Diebold struck again??
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 10:44 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Do they use e-voting down there? Or is this Mexico-style ballot stuffing/ballot burning? n/t
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-07-07 10:49 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. Goddamn it!
Anybody know what kind of voting equipment is used in Costa Rica? Paper ballots? Machines?

This smells just like 2004. I was so hopeful that the US was going to get its imperialist, globalized ass kicked by this wonderful, democratic country.

Maybe the remaining 26 percent of uncounted ballots will turn things around. I've got to assume these totals are from more urbanized areas since they're more likely to have the technology to register results faster. I'm hoping the people in the more rural areas understand what kind of devil's bargain it is when dealing on US' terms these days.

The US wants the whole world to become one big Maquiladora where workers make about $25 a week. Fucking capitalist heaven for the greedy piggies; hell on earth for everybody else.


wp
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-08-07 08:56 AM
Response to Original message
17. Opposition refuses to concede: cites investigations of possible fraud and constitutional violations
Tico Times, Costa Rica

Tico Times Staff
October 8, 2007


President Oscar Arias and other supporters of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) declared victory last night as results rolled in from a popular referendum, showing a likely win for the yes vote.

Nationwide, with 95% of votes counted, 51.6% of voters chose in favor of the controversial trade pact, while 48.4% voted against it. About 60% of eligible voters turned out yesterday, exceeding the necessary 40% necessary for the vote to be binding.

.....

At the no headquarters, leader Eugenio Trejos scarcely mentioned the results, instead assuring supporters that every vote would be scrutinized and recounted.

Amid angry chants of fraud from the fringes of the crowd, Trejos urged patience, and calm, and called for supporters to look to their community organizations, or cmites patriticas, to voice their frustrations.

Ottn Sols, another no leader, said he was impressed with the outcome and the turn out, and refused to concede, citing investigations of possible fraud and constitutional violations.

Everything is on hold for now, he said.

.....




This feels just like the US elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004. It is sickening.
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Cetacea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-08-07 09:12 AM
Response to Original message
18. 51 to 49 percent? Just like Ohio.
Despite polls indicating overwhelming opposition....

I believe that this treaty will give US companies access to land rights.

This is tragic, as Costa Rica is one of the most protected countries environmentally.
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Cetacea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-08-07 11:38 AM
Response to Original message
19. Kick (nt).
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seafan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-09-07 10:29 PM
Response to Original message
21. Opponents of CAFTA say party will not vote for the laws, citing they are "harmful to the country."
Would that Ms. Pelosi would get a clue...


Tico Times

October 9, 2007


As groups supporting the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) yesterday celebrated its victory in Sunday's nationwide referendum, the government extended an olive branch to its opponents.

Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias sent a letter to the leaders of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), opponents of CAFTA who have promised to stall legislation needed to implement the agreement. Addressed to PAC faction head Elizabeth Fonseca, the letter says the government of President Oscar Arias wants to build bridges... in benefit of all Costa Ricans.

Fonseca accepted the Arias brothers' invitation to meet Wednesday and discuss the CAFTA implementation agenda as well as consensus projects to improve education, security and benefits for small businesses.

Fonseca told the press that the 13 CAFTA implementation laws go beyond what the treaty requires, and that PAC legislators will pass motions to lesson their impact. Even then the party will not vote for the laws, considering them harmful to the country.

The five legislative factions that support CAFTA are working with the Executive Branch on a strategy to pass the 13 laws before Feb. 29, the deadline for Costa Rica to comply with the treaty.

.....



This is not over. Not by a long shot.

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nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-09-07 10:31 PM
Response to Original message
22. I suspect costa rica will lead the fight against
globalization

hell that scandal might even prevent arias's party from retaining power
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