A long-anticipated summary of the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) came out Monday, yet barely made a ripple thanks to a scandal over a memo written by Vice-President Kevin Casas (see separate story).
The summary was prepared by the State of the Nation program, an organization made up of representatives of the public and private sector that publishes an annual report on Costa Rica.
The 23-page CAFTA summary was inserted in the daily La Nación and is also available – in Spanish – as a PDF file on the State of the Nation’s Web site, www.estadonacion.or.cr.
In clear, concise language that is unusual for a public and technical report, the document breaks down the enormous trade treaty into four categories – general and administrative considerations, market access for goods, market access for services, and other topics – and digests each one with several sub-categories.
Each sub-category, for example, trade in telecommunications services, breaks down into four parts: a quick summary, definitions of important technical terms, a detailed summary of the topic and a box with “points of discussion.”
The points of discussion, the report says, are the points that both the “yes” and the “no” sides on the referendum have brought up during the course of the debate. The report, however, does not attempt to flesh out the arguments on each side and weigh all the different claims.
The summary does not include texts by the pro- and anti-CAFTA camps, as originally planned, because each side claimed that the other was making false statements, and the two sides could not agree on the makeup of a panel to judge these accusations (TT, Aug. 31).
Throughout the document, technical terms such as “free trade,” “multilateral,” “ratify” and “tariff ” are defined and explained.
This CAFTA summary, designed to inform Costa Ricans as they decide how to vote in the referendum on the treaty Oct. 7, has been expected since April, when the Supreme Elections Tribunal asked the State of the Nation program to prepare it (TT, June 15).
In other CAFTA news:
_ Voters can call the toll-free number 120 to figure out which voting booth to go to Oct. 7, the Tribunal announced Monday. The service is available 24-7 and accessible from anywhere in the country.
_ The Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) is moving its weekly CAFTA debates to Thursdays at 8 p.m. – one hour later than in past weeks. Agriculture is the topic of next week’s debate, which will be broadcast on public television Channel 13.
_ Elections officials will begin distributing material for the 5,000 voting booths Monday. Tools at each booth include ballot paper, a red pen for officials, a black pen for voters, a padrón of registered voters and an electoral code.
_ Students held a show of support for CAFTA at the National University (UNA) in Heredia, north of San José, late last week. Cristina Barteles, a member of the Student Federation of the NationalUniversity claims she was slapped at the demonstration by another student who opposed CAFTA. National Liberation Party (PLN) members held a press conference with pro-CAFTA students to showcase the event.
_ Anti-CAFTA figurehead Eugenio Trejos is taking a three-week earned vacation from his position as rector of the Technology Institute of Costa Rica (TEC), according to a press statement from the institute. Trejos will likely use this time to step up his campaign against CAFTA. He will return to his post after the Oct. 7 referendum.
_ President Oscar Arias has ignored calls for a one-on-one debate on CAFTA by Citizen Action Party (PAC) leader Ottón Solís. Solís challenged Arias in the 2002 election and lost by a tiny margin.
–Peter Krupa and Gillian Gillers