Eduardo Mejías, 54, took a break from working in his junkyard in Liberia, the capital of the northwestern province of Guanacaste, to have a coffee and chat about the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
As a businessman who imports most of his goods from the United States, you might think Mejías would be an enthusiastic supporter of CAFTA. Indeed, he will vote for CAFTA in the referendum this October.
But he doesn’t think the treaty will make much difference in the life of average Costa Ricans as long as their government stays the same.Mejías has a master’s degree in theology. He lives with his wife Maurine, a nurse, on their farm in Río Naranjo, east of Liberia. They have two children, Roy, 23, and Christina, 20. (Mejías also happens to be this reporter’s uncle.)
TT:Will you vote for or against CAFTA in the upcoming referendum?
EM: I’m going to vote in favor of CAFTA. It seems to me that it will open a wider market to Costa Rica, both for exporting and importing… for example, the farmers that are here have their pineapples. If they’re charged a tax (to enter the United States), that tax will be eliminated.
How do you think the outcome will affect you personally?
I don’t think that it’s going to affect me… it could be that it will benefit the country, but not the Tico… if they took the taxes off of cars, that would benefit the person who buys the car. But if the government continues to charge taxes on the cars here in the country, then (CAFTA) doesn’t benefit the person who buys the car. It benefits the government… the state has turned into a monster. Everything’s for the state, while the people die of hunger.
If CAFTA passes, what kind of Costa Rica will we have in 10 years?
I suspect CAFTA will neither benefit nor cause damage to the country. In any case, you know what will happen? The Tico continues to suffer the same consequences if it passes, and if it doesn’t pass, the result will be the same… nothing is going to fall apart because of CAFTA.
What is the single most important reason to support CAFTA?
It’s good for the country. But for me, that a better economy will benefit me, it’s not going to help because the government is going to take my money with taxes.
Why has CAFTA attracted so much attention here and abroad?
I think because the country is free and democratic, there’s freedom of expression for everyone. It has more movement, more uproar… there are other countries that don’t talk a lot about the matter.