San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Trade-Pact Opponents Turn Up the Heat

Union leaders and other social-sectorrepresentatives in Costa Rica are promisingto step up their opposition to theCentral American Free-Trade Agreementwith the United States (CAFTA).On the premise that the country’s citizensneed more time to learn about thepotential dangers of the pact, thesegroups hope to delay the LegislativeAssembly’s consideration of the pact – orprevent it altogether.“The people continue to be… manipulatedby those who favor (CAFTA),” saidAlbino Vargas, secretary general of theNational Association of Public and PrivateEmployees (ANEP).He told The Tico Times this week that“the more time passes before the agreementis sent to the assembly,” the moreopportunities ANEP and other groups willhave to provide information to the publicabout CAFTA’s disadvantages.A meeting of nearly 1,000 ecological,religious, feminist, agricultural, academicand union leaders, among others, tookplace late yesterday in the Melico SalazarTheater in downtown San José. Participants,expected to include ex-PresidentRodrigo Carazo (1978-1982), planned todiscuss “how we will do the work of mobilizingpeople,” though no anti-CAFTAmarch isplanned for this week, Vargas said.Treaty opponents argue the agreementinfringes upon Costa Rica’s sovereigntyand will cost jobs by phasing out themonopoly of the Costa Rican ElectricityInstitute (ICE) and National InsuranceInstitute (INS).The meeting will likely yield an anti-CAFTA declaration to be given to legislatorsand may be used as a model for apossible Central America-wide anti-CAFTA meeting in the future,according toVargas.In addition, Citizen Action Party (PAC)pre-candidate for President, Ottón Solís,who opposes the treaty and is asking for itsrenegotiation, and other Central Americanlegislators will meet today in Costa Ricawith Daniel Britto, advisor to U.S.Democratic Congressman Raúl Grijalba,according to the news wire service EFE.

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