San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica lawmakers to amend troublesome CAFTA bill

Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias called on lawmakers yesterday to approve as quickly as possible the last bill required to implement the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

The bill, intended to strengthen intellectual property rights, was struck down by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) because lawmakers had not consulted the indigenous community on a clause that would affect them.

A congressional committee yesterday voted to delete the problematic clause and pass the bill again. The entire process could take six weeks to three months, said Oscar Núñez, faction head for the National Liberation Party (PLN). The timeline depends on whether the anti-CAFTA Citizen Action Party (PAC) again challenges the bill´s constitutionality before the Sala IV.

Either way, Costa Rica will miss an Oct. 1 deadline for entering the pact, an extension already granted by CAFTA partners from an original February deadline. President Oscar Arias will ask for another extension in a meeting Wednesday in New York City with U.S. President George W. Bush and other Central American presidents.

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