San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Astronaut Chang Will Vote Yes on CAFTA

The battle over the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) continued this week with shots fired by legislators, opinion leaders and Catholics on both sides.

The Patriotic Movement for No on CAFTA encouraged its followers to campaign during the annual Aug. 2 pilgrimage to the eastern Central Valley city of Cartago in honor of Costa Rica’s patron saint.

Former Production Minister Alfredo Volio, coordinator of the Citizens’ Alliance for Yes on CAFTA, responded in a statement, “The (pilgrimage) is an act of faith… it’s not a place… for proselytism.”

The debate has also taken center stage in the Legislative Assembly, where representatives are discussing some of 13 bills that would help implement the terms of the trade pact. The Assembly is set to discuss a bill that would protect the developer of a new seed variety’s exclusive right to sell that variety for up to 25 years (TT,May 11). But legislators from the Citizen Action Party (PAC) are refusing to attend legislative sessions to discuss the bill if their presence would complete the 38-member quorum required to do business.

A poll conducted by the firm Unimer for La Nación, published Wednesday, found that 53% of eligible voters would definitely go to the polls if the Oct. 7 referendum on CAFTA were held today. Some 52% of those voters would approve the treaty, compared to 42% who would vote down the pact. Others remain undecided.

U.S.-Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang is among those who plan to vote in favor of CAFTA.

The popular rocket scientist broke his silence Wednesday at a National University (UNA) event, according to a report in the daily La Nación. Chang served on the Commission of Notables created by former President Abel Pacheco to study CAFTA, and recently stated he would not reveal which way he would vote so as not to influence voters, whom he said should make up their owns minds after researching the pros and cons.


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