In their first votes as a Legislative Assembly, legislators Monday sent a message that the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) will be the top order of business, and a majority wants it ratified.
While protestors outside denounced the agreement, inside the 57 new legislators took their seats and elected a leadership that consists of all pro-CAFTA legislators.
National Liberation Party (PLN) legislator Francisco Antonio Pacheco was elected legislative president, while Libertarian Movement legislator Evita Arguedas was elected vice-president of the assembly.
In addition, Liberation legislators were elected as first secretary and substitute secretaries. National Restoration legislator Guyón Massey, who also supports CAFTA, was elected second secretary.
To win the legislative leadership with a 29-vote majority, the 25 Liberation legislators needed the help of some or all of the six Libertarian Movement legislators.
“It is an agreement (between the two parties) that contemplates an understanding that goes beyond the election today, above all looking at CAFTA,” said political analyst Constantino Urcuyo. “But it isn’t a firm marriage. It could break if there is disagreement regarding fiscal reform.”
The agreement made it impossible for the Citizen Action Party (PAC), which is the second largest congressional group, comprising 17 legislators who call for the renegotiation of CAFTA, to win any positions in the legislative leadership.
Costa Rica is the only CAFTA signatory country that has not ratified the controversial agreement. The agreement is expected to have the support of 37 legislators, between Liberation, the Libertarians, Guyón, the Social Christian Unity Party’s five legislators and José Manuel Echandi of the National Union Party. This means it is just one vote shy of the two-thirds majority some claim the agreement needs, but well above the 29-vote simple majority.
Incoming President Oscar Arias (Liberation) has said he hopes CAFTA will be ratified within six months of taking office.