San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Elections Tribunal Will Consider Two Requests

The Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) announced Monday that it will ponder two strategies to ensure fairness in the debate leading up to the referendum on the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

The Tribunal agreed to consider televising the vote count after the Oct. 7 referendum on CAFTA. The Tribunal also promised to consider spending part of its free weekly time on television and radio to explain arguments for and against the controversial pact.

Under the Law of Radio and Television, all channels must give elections officials one half hour of broadcast time each week during electoral periods.

After the referendum, the vote count could be broadcast live through a public television signal, a closed circuit or an Internet site, said TSE interim president Luis Antonio Sobrado.

The two steps being considered by the Tribunal echo requests presented last week by Eugenio Trejos (TT, July 13), a leader in the nationwide movement to defeat CAFTA, and ex-legislator José Miguel Corrales, whose petition to the Tribunal helped bring about the referendum. The TSE rejected Trejos and Corrales’ other requests, some appealing decisions elections officials had already made.

Trejos said he is pleased about the news. As for his other requests, he said: “We will analyze with social, civil and political organizations the (Tribunal’s) solution. In the next few days we will define our position.”

Among his various demands, Trejos said he felt most strongly about a request that the government’s CAFTA implementation agenda be suspended until after the referendum takes place.

Trade agreement supporter Mayi Antillón, a legislator with the National Liberation Party that brought pro-CAFTA President Oscar Arias to power, had not heard the Tribunal’s announcement, but said,“The important thing is that all parties respect the resolutions of the Supreme Elections Tribunal in order to strengthen our country’s institutions.”

In related news, the Tribunal announced it will organize forums, together with the Latin American Faculty of Social Studies, in the capital of every province, to inform the citizenry about the referendum. In September, elections officials will launch an information campaign in the press, encouraging the public to vote.

Sobrado this week urged media outlets to objectively cover the CAFTA debate and referendum. Starting today, media outlets must report to the Tribunal every Friday the amount collected for advertisements on CAFTA. (No person or business can spend more than about ¢4.2 million ($8,153) on advertising).


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