Orlando Rodríguez smirks as a photographer takes his picture before this interview, and his female co-workers at the Puntarenas Pharmacy, on a downtown street corner in the central Pacific port town, giggle behind him.
The shelves around him are lined with all manner of medicines, and the pharmacy itself is spotless, cool and clean. Rodríguez has a sense of humor as sharp as his wit. He is 60, but looks half that, and acts even younger – belying his knowledge of Costa Rican politics. He is married with three children.
Asked to opine on the controversial Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), the pharmacy attendant quips, “But what is CAFTA? Does anybody really know?”
TT: Will you vote for or against CAFTA in the upcoming referendum?
OR: I am not certain yet, but I could possibly vote against it.
How do you think the outcome will affect you personally?
Truthfully, I don’t believe it will really affect me – but that isn’t the issue at hand here. The issue is that none of the parties involved in the debate have sat down to answer that question for the Costa Rican people. All they do is throw trash back and forth at each other. How can anyone make a good decision in that kind of environment?
If CAFTA passes, what kind of Costa Rica will we have in 10 years?
We will be one more star on the U.S. flag. The United States has never made a deal where they don’t gain twice what they’ve invested. Look at what happened with the banana companies. They came, and for a while they treated people well.
Then they left, and all we have is African palms. There are places in Costa Rica where you can lift a rock, and water springs forth. The United Statess will come looking for that, too. Then when they leave, what will we have left?
What is the single most important reason to oppose CAFTA?
I want to live a quiet life in my house. I don’t go to a neighbor’s house and try to hurt him, do I? That is what CAFTA will do to us if the North Americans come.
Why has CAFTA attracted so much attention here and abroad?
Our political parties like to make noise. This is a business decision, and they will make money from this.