The movement against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) has a new rhyme-spitting poster boy, and he’s not pulling any lyrical punches.
His name is Nito Man, and he’s a 24-year-old, sunglasses-donning, Spanglish-speaking Che Guevara fan from the southern Pacific port town Golfito who swings around a machete while he raps about the “Tratado de Libre Chorizo.”
CAFTA activists have already created songs, artwork, theater and even a musical protesting the pact, so the appearance of a rap song – complete with accompanying video – slamming the agreement probably isn’t a shocker. However, the machete-wielding rapper apparently heightened the government’s ongoing concerns about violence at the anti-CAFTA march planned for Monday.
The song aired on Costa Rican radio waves and the video spread across the Internet this week just as CAFTA opponents geared up for the street protest. The video, posted on youtube.com, added new fuel to the discussion about the potential for violence among CAFTA protestors – thanks to the fact that Nito Man is shown “rapeando” to images of protestors lighting things on fire and armed revolutionary figures in action.
“If I have to die, I’ll die for my country,” he raps, alluding to Costa Rican hero Juan Santamaría, who died while ousting U.S. filibusters in the mid-1800s.
Broad Front party legislator José Merino, whom Nito Man commends in the song for his position against CAFTA, defends the rap as “valid artistic expression” and free speech.
Merino said that if Nito Man’s rap is a crime, “you’d have to put all of the U.S. rappers in prison.”
The release of the four-minute rap came just days after Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias expressed his concerns about alleged calls to violence by the Alternative Student Movement, an anti-CAFTA group made up of university students.
“I hope it will be a peaceful march,” Arias, the President’s brother and spokesman, said in a press conference Feb. 14. “The information we have is that lately, a group has been circulating calls to students to participate in acts of violence.”
Nito Man, whose real name is Fernando González, told The Tico Times he has no intention of inciting violence.
“We want a peaceful march,” said the Golfito resident, who works in a jewelry store with his father. González said he’ll be performing Monday morning as part of the protest in western San José’s La Sabana Park.
Social Security System (Caja) union leader Luis Chavarría said the “main column” of the march will begin at La Sabana park and head east downtown to the Legislative Assembly building. He said other marches are scheduled to begin at the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro, east of San José, and other parts of the capital and will all meet up at the assembly.
The Ombudsman’s Office said in a statement Wednesday it plans to send 35 observers out to watch for human rights violations. Badge-wearing observers will take complaints of violations against protestors as well as citizens whose rights, to get work or access medical services for example, are violated by the protests.
Protests are expected to draw students from other public universities, including Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, north of San José, employees of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) and other state institutions, environmentalists, farmers and perhaps even a few priests.
This week, 15 clerics from the northwest province of Guanacaste came out against CAFTA, the second such group of religious leaders to come out against the U.S. trade pact after a group of Alajuela priests did so earlier this month. The priests from the Tilarán Diocesis called for a popular referendum on CAFTA, and pointed to poverty in rural Mexico as proof that that country’s free-trade agreement with the United States has failed.
The declarations come after the Vatican and Catholic Church leaders in Costa Rica have tried to remain neutral on the free-trade agreement throughout the CAFTA debate (TT, June 23, 2006).