What Does “Costa Rica, S.A.” Claim?

March 17, 2006

The documentary “Costa Rica, S.A.” – the Spanish equivalent of “Costa Rica, Inc.” – is an hour and 40 minutes long and has aired five times on the public University of Costa Rica (UCR)-sponsored TV Channel 15, with the most recent presentation taking place last week. Apparently influenced by the style of U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, director and UCR professor Pablo Ortega illustrates “what they don’t tell you about CAFTA” using humorous and sometimes jarring film, news and cartoon clips, sound effects, excerpts from the agreement and commentary from economists, business owners, union members and others.

The film takes a detailed look at some of the commonly heard arguments against CAFTA, including how the agreement would affect Costa Rica’s sovereignty, employment, social services, pharmaceutical prices and the environment. It also examines what it claims were the pressure tactics employed by the United States on Costa Rica, along with the other signatory countries – Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Following is a summary of some of its principal arguments:

*The documentary argues that CAFTA is a “false” free-trade agreement, citing its length and complicated provisions, and  stating that U.S. agricultural subsidies under the 2002 Farm Bill create an uneven playing field for Costa Rican producers.

*The film maintains that CAFTA would make Costa Rica “part of the international production of arms” and includes provisions for the trade of weapons. Former Foreign Trade Vice-Minister Amparo Pacheco denied this in a letter distributed by pro-CAFTA group Por Costa Rica. She stated the only change the pact would make is to eliminate import taxes on permitted firearms such as pistols and revolvers.

The film argues that the agreement threatens Costa Rican sovereignty and even its marine territory. Former Trade Minister Alberto Trejos told The Tico Times that if any agreement contradicted Costa Rica’s Constitution or territorial rights, the Constitution itself would not allow it to take effect.

It criticizes the “secrecy” with which the negotiations were conducted. Amparo Pacheco’s letter states that the negotiators presented 10 documents to the public regarding the process and held 289 meetings with 900 businesses and other groups. However, the actual negotiations were indeed closed to the press.

The film’s humor continues through the final credits, which assure the viewer that “No neoliberals were harmed in the making of this film.”

Kattia Bonilla of Channel 15 told The Tico Times the film will be broadcast again, though no dates have been set. People interested in buying a copy of the documentary can bring a VHS tape and ¢9,000, or a DVD and ¢10,000, to Channel 15, in the GeneralStudiesBuilding at the UCR campus in San Pedro (207-4147).

 

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