San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘A Country is Like a House, You Have to Renovate It’

Flory Arce, 53, welcomed us into her spotless, ornately furnished home in the northern suburb of Tibás on a sunny Thursday morning. This divorced mother of seven and grandmother of two cheerfully showed us around, stopping to point out the most impressive find yet from her antique-dealing hobby: a rich mahogany bed from the late 1800’s whose two-metertall rounded headboard towers over her.

She rescued this treasure from an old house in nearby Santo Domingo de Heredia and now sleeps in it every night.

Arce has lived in Tibás her whole life, though she loves to get out and about the country and also travels abroad every chance she gets. Her oldest children, ages 34, 33 and 27, are professionals who have moved out of the house while the youngest four, ages 25, 18, 14 and 12, are studying and remain at home. The true queen bee of this brood, Arce stays involved in all their lives and also helps care for her five-year-old grandson Sebastián, who stayed nearby and occasionally called for her attention while we spoke.

TT: Will you vote for or against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) in the upcoming referendum?

FA: I’m going to vote yes because I’m in favor of CAFTA.

How do you think the outcome will affect you personally?

If it is passed, we will all benefit. Because in Costa Rica we don’t have true competition, we have to subject ourselves to whatever the country offers at the time.

An example, perhaps trite, is the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). ICE is the only company currently offering telephone service and it’s dreadful. They set the prices and we have no alternative. If another company came to Costa Rica, we’d be able to choose and we could pick the company that suits us best and get better services and maybe lower prices.

If CAFTA passes, what kind of Costa Rica will we have in 10 years?

We’d have more jobs available, more tourism; it would benefit all of us a lot.

A country is like a house – it has to be renovated. If you paint a house or buy a new piece of furniture, it looks pretty, different.

And if a new company comes to a country people get excited by the new things for sale. CAFTA favors all of us.

What is the single most important reason to support CAFTA?

Because it’s good for our country, and for our children and grandchildren who will benefit. I also see that many intelligent people in this country are in favor of it. Those that oppose it are professors and the masses of students, but they’re going to have to realize that, in reality, CAFTA’s going to work for us.

Why has CAFTA attracted so much attention here and abroad?

Well, if (the Legislative Assembly) had approved it in the first place, it would be a done deal. But now some people say yes and others say no. Those that oppose it do so because it doesn’t suit them since it breaks up monopolies and they could lose their jobs.


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