Costa Rica may have another referendum on two patent bills, thanks to a recent decision by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) allowing environmental groups that oppose the laws to collect signatures.
More than 133,000 signatures must be collected within nine months to hold a referendum on the bills, which are required in some form for Costa Rica to enter the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).
The decision is a blow to the executive branch and the 38 legislators who support CAFTA and are working to pass nine bills that would put Costa Rica in compliance with the treaty. The deadline for the bills, which include the two patent proposals, is Feb. 29.
Legislators can continue discussing the patent bills until the required signatures are collected and elections officials announce, no earlier than July 7, whether the referendum can go forward. Some 5% of registered voters, or 133,545 people, must sign a petition for the referendum, which could be held Oct. 7 at the earliest, a year after voters approved CAFTA in a nationwide referendum.
Since that vote, legislators have been working on 11 bills that would put Costa Rica in compliance with the treaty.With just two of those bills approved, President Oscar Arias and pro-CAFTA legislators have worried publicly about meeting the deadline.
The president has not yet said whether he will ask for an extension from the treaty’s other signers.