San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

CAFTA Gains Two Small Victories

Two votes this week brought Costa Rica closer to entering a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Lawmakers scheduled extra sessions to discuss bills required to implement the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) also handed a victory to the treaty’s supporters by finding only minor problems with the most controversial CAFTA bill.

That bill opens the telecommunications sector to competition, taking away a state monopoly from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE).

The Sala IV found nothing wrong with the bill’s substance, or the unprecedented fast-track method used to pass it Feb 13.

Still, justices identified two procedural glitches, forcing lawmakers to redo the vote after further debate.

In another victory for CAFTA, the Citizen Action Party (PAC), which opposes the treaty and has filibustered the bills, compromised this week on a schedule for debate. For the next two weeks, lawmakers will discuss CAFTA bills during three mornings and three afternoons.

During a fourth morning, they will debate consensus bills to help shantytown dwellers and small producers and promote public concession projects.

Lawmakers have passed five of the 12 CAFTA bills, which must take effect by Oct. 1.


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