Costa Rica hosted two representatives this week from the Organization of American States (OAS), the first international group to organize a preliminary factfinding mission on the debate over the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
OAS officials Paul Durand and Betilde Muñoz arrived in Costa Rica Tuesday night and will leave today. They were scheduled to meet this week with officials at the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), representatives of political parties, anti- and pro-CAFTA leaders and church leaders. The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, has told elections officials that he will help monitor the Oct. 7 referendum on CAFTA.
The Tribunal published a series of rules last week for international electoral missions monitoring the referendum. Elections officials expect about 150 international missions, including the United Nations Development Program, the European Union and the CarterCenter. The missions can monitor activity at the voting booths, as well as the preliminary vote count.
In other CAFTA news:
_ A monitoring system by the Tribunal reveals a pro-CAFTA bias in the national press. The Tribunal hired the firm Videotechnical Control of Costa Rica to monitor news and opinion reports in the press between July 22 and Oct. 6. The firm is counting the number of pro-CAFTA, anti-CAFTA and neutral reports on six radio stations, five television channels and in nine newspapers, not including The Tico Times. The data, made public this week, shows that for almost all media sources, neutral news reports outnumber reports with a pro-CAFTA bias, which outnumber reports with an anti-CAFTA bias. This does not include opinion analysis.
_ Some 56% of Costa Ricans support CAFTA while 36% oppose the treaty, according to a poll conducted by the firm Unimer for the daily La Nación, which surveyed about 1,200 people in late August.
_ CAFTA debates organized by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) are broadcast Thursdays at 7 p.m. on public television Channel 13 and available on www.youtube.com.