DURING the last year, The Tico Times has reported the opinions of trade experts, proponents and opponents of the Central America Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States.
This week, we went out on the street and sought the opinions of average Costa Ricans – the people who will be most affected by the approval or rejection of CAFTA.
We asked nine Ticos about their views, expectations and concerns surrounding the trade pact, which representatives of Central America and the United States expect to sign next month.
Antonio Araya, bus driver, San José-Tres Ríos
“IT will be harmful for the country in many ways. The poor will be the ones who suffer the most. It will create more problems. It will favor the rich. If most people are doing bad, that will affect me directly.”
Ronald Dotti, sales manager, Bansbach Music Supply Store
“I think it won’t affect us. Things will stay the same. We import our products from the United States and Asia. Maybe what we import from the United States will be cheaper. If there’s more money in Costa Rica, it will benefit us. That would help everyone. The free-trade agreement could benefit commerce.”
Wilmer Cortés, police officer in San José
“FOR us, as long as the Public Security Ministry continues to operate just as it does now, we will be fine. If it benefits the country, maybe it will benefit us with newer and better equipment with which to do our jobs. From what I’ve heard, there are good parts and bad parts. As a citizen, I think it will benefit me.”
Dr. Mauricio Robert, gynecologist and obstetrician at Clínica Sta. Rita “
I AM in favor. From the point of view of a doctor, we’re very interested in the opening of the insurance market. We believe the monopoly of the National Insurance Institute (INS) has created an obstacle for us. It’s tedious and bureaucratic.
Other companies will create additional options that will force INS to compete. This will benefit doctors and patients.”
Carla Uritecho, computer systems engineer
“THE opening of telecommunications services could help the country develop. However, the issue of health care [stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights for patented drugs] could be very detrimental. In insurance, I think competition is good. Right now, we have a closed and bureaucratic market. The situation with vegetables [gradual liberalization] is not a problem either. This will benefit the consumer. But the problem of access to medications worries me. Right now we buy generic drugs, which are cheap and effective. After it’s approved we might end up paying more for medicines.”
Secretary Norma Chacón (left) and her sister Mildred Chacón, a retired secretary
Mildred: “The government says it will create many jobs, but that’s what the government says. I feel the country’s population is not informed.”
Norma: “The people who know about the issue say it’s bad. This leaves me with doubts. Opening [the insurance and telecommunications markets] – I’m not really sure how it can benefit us.
Mildred: “They need to explain it, so people know what it’s about. There’s something hidden and secret about it. We have the right to find out what it’s about. I wonder if it will be good for the country.”
Norma: “Like I said, I can’t help but wonder why all these people that know about the issue are against it. Even if people complain, the decision to approve the treaty has already been taken. It’s like what happened with the Costa Rican Electricity and Telecom Institute (ICE) Combo.”
Esteban Vega, ninth grade student, MaristaHigh School in Alajuela
“MORE than a treaty, it’s pressure from the United States. Costa Rica won’t sign it because it wanted to, but because the United States wants it to. It will benefit me because the price of many products will drop because of competition. Everything will be more competitive, so people will have to be better prepared when they look for jobs. We’ll have to be prepared for what comes.
More job opportunities will be created. But those opportunities won’t be within everyone’s reach.”