San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Alternative Trade Summit Causes Ripple Effect

Recent promises from members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) to lobby against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) ruffled feathers in Costa Rica.

At a meeting last week in Tintorero, Venezuela, leaders including Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage expressed their support for Costa Rican movements against the controversial trade pact, now up for ratification by national referendum in Costa Rica (see separate story). According to the daily Al Día, union leaders and leftist political activists from throughout Latin America also agreed to support the campaign against CAFTA and “create alternatives to free-trade agreements under the principles of solidarity and fair trade.”

The lone Costa Rican participant in the summit was legislator and vigorous CAFTA opponent José Merino of the Broad Front.

Back in the Legislative Assembly, Mayi Antillón, the newly re-elected faction head of the leading National Liberation Party (PLN), used part of her annual Labor Day address on the assembly floor to suggest that Merino and members of the anti-CAFTA Citizen Action Party (PAC), whom she called “ALBA proponents,” ask themselves why Ortega and Nicaragua, where the U.S. trade pact was ratified in 2005, have not pulled out.

The entire PAC faction shot back a penned response the following day explaining that the party does not endorse ALBA, and asking Antillón to back up her facts.

“You, Mrs. Legislator, are obligated to demonstrate which legislator from our party has promoted ALBA, and if you can’t, you have the moral obligation… to retract your statement,” the letter read.

Meanwhile, Merino denied that ALBA members intend to meddle in Costa Rican affairs. Upon his return, he said on the floor of the Legislative Assembly the expressions of support at the conference do not imply foreigners will intervene in the campaign.

“No one is intervening – that’s a lie! – in the internal affairs of Costa Rica,” he told his fellow lawmakers. “And there was no interventionist statement in those meetings regarding our internal affairs.”

President Oscar Arias told wire service ACAN-EFE he sees no problem with Costa Rica approaching ALBA, but said Costa Rica should not have to turn its back on other free-trade agreements in order to do so.


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