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Government Cancels CAFTA Event

Accused of trying to divide the country, the government cancelled an event this week to celebrate the signing of the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

Legislators and other prominent government officials were to be invited to the event, scheduled for Wednesday at the Mélico Salazar Theater in San José.

“Some sectors have told us that this ceremony could be misinterpreted, giving the impression that we were trying to revive divisions that split Costa Ricans during the referendum campaign,” Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias said in a statement. “Nothing could be more wrong.”

President Oscar Arias will sign CAFTA, approved Oct. 7 in a national referendum, after the weekly Cabinet meeting next Wednesday.

The law will then be published in the official government newspaper La Gaceta, although it will not go into effect until the legislature passes 11 laws required to implement it. A fragile coalition of 38 pro-CAFTA legislators is now working to pass the 11 implementation laws before the Feb. 29 deadline, though Costa Rica can request an extension from the other signing countries.

Legislators have given initial approval to just one of the CAFTA laws, intended to regulate the relationship between foreign businesses and their representatives in Costa Rica.

Pro-CAFTA legislators sought to apply a new fast-track procedure this week to limit debate on perhaps the most controversial CAFTA law: a proposal to open the state telecommunications monopoly, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), to competition.



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