Guido Cambronero, who runs the GP Market and Liquor Store in western San José, has been waiting all day for someone to ask him how he feels about free trade.
At least, that’s how it seems as the energetic 53-year-old springs out from behind the counter to take a smoke break and explain why he thinks the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) would hurt small businesses such as his own.
Cambronero, who travels 50 minutes from the mountain town of Puriscal to get to work each day, lives with partner Geovana Noguera, a homemaker, and has three children, José David, 22, Laura, 18, and Yerlin, 15.
TT:Will you vote for or against CAFTA in the upcoming referendum?
GC: I’m going to vote no. Here, CAFTA is an issue for everybody, every day… very intelligent people say that elsewhere, in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, it has been bad. In Mexico, before the (North American) Free-Trade Agreement, there were 3 million (Mexicans) in the United States, and now there are 13 million because poverty has increased. So CAFTA won’t help.
How do you think the outcome will affect you personally?
Diay, if powerful, strong companies come with a huge quantity of products, they can offer a more comfortable price. Big businesses kill the little ones.
If CAFTA passes, what kind of Costa Rica will we have in 10 years?
I have no idea. But I’ve heard that in other countries it’s worse now than before the agreement… so it will be worse than now.
What is the single most important reason to oppose CAFTA?
If we’ve lived 100 years without this agreement, why aren’t we going to keep living the same way without it? You can’t risk a change if you’re not sure what’s coming. If it’s approved, we don’t know what could happen.
Why has CAFTA attracted so much attention here and abroad?
The reason everybody talks about it in the street and in businesses and on buses is that (some people) want to approve something that in other countries has caused damage. They say that in Honduras they import 95% of products from the United States… that means that Honduras’ money is going to the United States. Here, exactly the same thing will happen, because not everything that’s produced here is grade A, and the United States receives grade A. (We’ll) send 100 products and they’ll accept 20.