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(506) 223-1327              Published Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 200        E-mail us   
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Arias will try negotiations
Despite positive vote, treaty faces more obstacles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A litany of congratulatory messages rained on Costa Rican officials from both inside and outside the country Tuesday, but they may be premature.

The president and his brother, the minister of the Presidencia, invited opponents of the free trade treaty to a meeting Wednesday. And key leaders have said they will show up.

But the key opposition figures were in private meetings all day Monday at the campaigns Zapote headquarters.

They were discussing possible strategies to reverse the public approval of the trade treaty that came Sunday by claiming voter fraud and problems at the polls.

Rolando Araya, a former presidential candidate and leader of a world Socialists organization, even claimed that workers for the Sí campaign bought votes by going door-to-door in San José offering each voter 20,000 colons, some $38.50.

The opponents have a long list of complaints from the polls that have been and will be submitted to the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. The tribunal will have to resolve these complaints before certifying the results of the elections. This may take weeks despite the rapid initial reports of the voting via Internet.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his brother Rodrigo Arias Sánchez have the support in the Asamblea Legislativa to pass 13 crucial pieces of legislation related to the treaty. Without the changes in Costa Rican law embodied in the 13 bills the treaty cannot take effect.

Rodrigo Arias said that he had invited opposition legislative deputies from the Partido Acción Ciudadana to Casa Presidencial about midday Wednesday. Later he said he wants to meet with the single deputies representing Frente Amplio and Accesibilidad sin Exclusión. Both men oppose the treaty, too.

The advantage in making some kind of a deal with opposition deputies would be to avoid a lengthy showdown in the legislative chambers. The advantage to the opposition leaders would be to prolong the discussions because the treaty will be void if the complementary bills are not approved by the end of February.
treaty backers signatures
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Treaty backers are joining history with their signatures on a banner supporting free trade.

The tribunal now says that 98 percent of the vote had been reported and that 51.6 percent of the votes went to support the treaty. The no side got 48.4 percent. Some 1.6 million Costa Ricans voted.

In reaction Monday the Cámara Nacional de Turismo praised passage of the treaty as a tool for national development. So did the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, which also urged opponents to go to the table for discussions. 

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez also applauded passage in a message, and he was joined by the U.S. Embassy here. The U.S. Trade Representative's Office also joined the chorus and added that "We look forward to working with the government of Costa Rica as it completes the necessary steps to implement the agreement, so that the CAFTA-DR can enter into force for Costa Rica as soon as possible."   CAFTA-DR is the short term for the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

One negative note was sounded by the left wing Public Citizen in the United States, which said "The depth of public opposition to North American Free Trade Agreement -style pacts was demonstrated Sunday by Costa Rica's massive 'no' vote to CAFTA despite an intensive campaign led by the country's president, months of deceptive radio and television advertising in favor of the pact, and a threatening statement issued Saturday by the White House."

Public Citizen says it is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. The organization has been a principal agitator against trade treaties.


Health officials concerned by spread of tropical diseases to the north
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Animal diseases are advancing globally, and countries will have to invest more in surveillance and control measures, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday, citing West Nile Virus, Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever and other plagues that have crossed from tropical to temperate zones.

"No country can claim to be a safe haven with respect to animal diseases," warned Joseph Domenech, the organization's chief veterinary officer.

"Transboundary animal diseases that were originally confined to tropical countries are on the rise around the globe. They do not spare temperate zones including Europe, the United States and Australia," he added.

Globalization, the movement of people and goods, tourism, urbanization and probably also climate change are favouring the spread of animal viruses around the planet, the organization said.

"The increased mobility of viruses and their carriers is a new threat that countries and the international community should take seriously. Early detection of viruses together with surveillance and control measures are needed as effective defence measures," Domenech said, calling for strong political support
and funding for animal health and more adequate veterinary services.

The agency raised concern about the spread of the non-contagious bluetongue virus, which affects cattle, goats, deer and sheep. First discovered in South Africa, it has spread to many countries for reasons that remain unclear, the organization said.

"We never expected that the bluetongue virus could affect European countries at such high latitudes," said Stephane de la Rocque, an animal health officer. "The virus is already endemic in Corsica and Sardinia but could also persist in northern European countries."

Other examples of human and animal disease agents that were previously mainly found in tropical regions and that have spread internationally include: West Nile Virus, transmitted by mosquitos and sometimes affecting also humans; leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease that spreads through the bite of infected sand flies; and tick-borne Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever, the organization said.

African swine fever has recently reached Georgia and Armenia and poses a threat to neighbouring countries, it noted.

Mosquitos that can transmit major human diseases such as yellow fever, dengue and chickunguya have already reached European countries.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 200

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Our readers' opinions
Country got a dividend
on its educational system


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was expecting a victory, because negativity sells, for the NO vote but was pleasantly surprised with the YES vote on Sunday to ratify the free trade treaty agreement with the U.S.A. Costa Rica is known for many things. One is a citizenry that invests in its education. I think the good people of Costa Rica just received a dividend payment.
Ron Guell
New Orleans

Mutual trade with the U.S.
should help the poor

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read the letter of Steven A. Roman and thought — how wonderful that the country has spoken and Mr. Roman is less than elated. Without CAFTA, the country would have no opportunity to learn if his opinion is correct or not. If it is correct, which I doubt, the country has the opportunity to say “no more” to CAFTA.

I am and was in favor of CAFTA. This (CAFTA) is not an “Americanization” of Costa Rica by people looking for a cheaper Costa Rica without a regard to its people, culture and history. The vote was by citizens of Costa Rica. This is simply mutual trade with one of the currently largest consumers in the world — nothing more and nothing less. Simply put, it should help the poor in the country with new opportunities.  

And to the surprise of Mr. Roman, I speak Spanish, have a high respect for the customs, culture and people of my adopted country. I am also integrated into the society and am saddened that the “no” sector will not join hands with the rest of the country and positively move forward with the opportunity Costa Rica decided to accept.
James Goodman
Sabana Sur

How come Canadian dollar
is so strong post-NAFTA?


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am responding to the letter sent by reader Steven A. Roman. In his letter he points out many aspects that may occur due to CAFTA. He takes his examples from what he sees in Mexico and Canada after NAFTA was signed. While I admit that these are all possibilities that could happen, there is a fundamental difference between the countries in NAFTA and CAFTA. Costa Rica and the other countries of CAFTA really do not have a choice.

The ego of Costa Ricans seem to have grown and a lot of the "No" side believe renegotiation is a possibility. Why would the U.S. want to negotiate? First of all, Costa Rica has signed the deal and going back on that would only hurt Costa Rica on the world stage. The EU has stated that if Costa Rica goes back on its word with the U.S., it will reduce the amount it imports from Costa Rica.

Secondly, CAFTA has been accepted by all other countries in Central America. Why should Costa Rica get preferential treatment? There is no particular product or service that Costa Rica has that the U.S. would deem essential. Costa Rica has no economic or political step up on the U.S. to even give the U.S. pause for concern. Costa Rica needs the U.S., not vice versa.

Opponents to CAFTA point out that Mexico's agriculture sector has suffered due to NAFTA. They show high unemployment numbers in the agricultural sector but fail to mention the numbers before NAFTA which were also high. I would like to know where these numbers came from as the numbers shown here show lower unemployment in Mexico since 1980.

Steven also states that the Canada economy has been hurt by NAFTA and purchasing power has decreased. Obviously Steven has not been paying attention to the news as for the first time in 30 years the Canadian dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar. The Canadian governments have had budget surpluses over the past 12 years due to a strong economy.

Opponents to free trade like Steven have the best interests of Costa Rica in their heart but, unfortunately, Costa Rica has no alternatives to this deal. With the CARICOM trade pact running out next year, Costa Rica would have been left scrambling to negotiate with a lot of countries that don’t have the purchasing the U.S. has. 

Companies that are vital to the Costa Rican economy were ready to leave if the vote was no. Sandimar, and Dole had bought pieces of land outside of Costa Rica, and they had no reservations in leaving. Whether or not you like it, the world revolves around money and without foreign investment and free trade Costa Rica would go from being the leader in Central America to middle of the pack.

On a personal note I find it a few things funny. If you would have asked a Costa Rican five years ago what they would like to see improved in their country, some of the top things would have been the service of the ICE, more jobs, and improved CAJA system. CAFTA provides all of these things. University students have been some of the most vocal opponents of CAFTA, but where would all of these educated people work if businesses start pulling out of Costa Rica? The educated would start leaving because if there are no jobs for them here, I highly doubt they will go pick coffee.

Dealing with the U.S. is never easy or fair, but with CAFTA Costa Rica has a chance to stay ahead of other Central American countries economically. You would think that some people on the “No” side might have questioned whether it is wise to support a side that was funded by Hugo Chavez and cheered on by Manuel Ortega. Look at their countries, Venezuela is blessed with oil but yet the gap between the rich and poor in the country is huge. Nicaragua would only benefit from a “No” victory.

I hope the “No” side doesn’t stall the process too much longer because it will only hurt the economy and society of Costa Rica. You can see in the U.S. how one issue can divide a country and impact the economy. The U.S. has not been stable since the Iraq War began. CAFTA has divided the country, and now a decision was reached by a democratic vote. For the “No” side to say they do not recognize the result is to insult the citizens of Costa Rica by spitting on their vote.

K. Westmoreland
Heredia
Now we have opportunity
to test trade treaty


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to the opinion written by Steven Roman, I will agree that there are mixed opinions about the success of NAFTA, but I can't for the life of me see how free trade is a bad thing, especially for Costa Rica. 

If you recall, there was quite a bit of resistance in the United States over CAFTA.  Why? Because the countries of Central America would have such an incredible advantage because we will be able to deliver goods and services at a lower price.  That’s right WE can take advantage of U.S. consumerism.  GREAT!

Had we not ratified CAFTA here, you could be 100 percent certain that many jobs would go to our lower wage neighbors because there relative cost would be even lower still without U.S. imposed import tariffs, at least now we have a chance to compete on price.  I personally know five companies that would have packed up and moved across the border.  I personally would have considered a move to Panamá to be able to stay in business.

How you or anyone else can say that you think competition (telecommunications or otherwise) will create higher prices baffles me.  It begs the question “where did you take your economics 101 class?” The pharmaceutical companies that you speak of have every right to the patents that they own and the products they create.  What incentive would there be for them to spend money on R&D if they just had to give it away at the end?  In addition, I fail to see how new companies coming here in the pharmaceutical sector could raise the price of all medications?

Yes, I agree that certain public sector items may become private little by little.  That is a good thing.  When was the last time a public entity was more efficient than a private one?   The public sector will certainly not be eliminated.  Was it eliminated in Canada or Mexico?  Not last I visited.

But let's step back and look at the most important part of CAFTA:  We have a chance to try to do well by it.  We can try instead of just quitting and not wanting to work at it.

If it doesn’t work, we can simply give six months notice and bow out gracefully.  We are not obligated to stand by it for ever.  But if “no” had won, we never would have had a chance, and we would never know what could have been. 

Dan Chaput
Escazú

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 200


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Immigration glitch prompts hunger strike by wife here
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 38-year-old Costa Rican woman has done what hundreds of her countrymen do when they think that the state has been heavy handed. She filed what is known as an amparo or request for help with the Sala IV constitutional court. But then the woman, Rashida Jenny Torres, took another step. She camped out Monday in front of the building housing the Corte Suprema de Justicia and announced she is embarking on a hunger strike.

Ms. Torres said that her husband was turned back to Argentina last Tuesday when he arrived from there at Juan Santamaría airport. The circumstances are unclear, but the husband, Marcos Derman, 31, is married to a Costa Rican, so he has the right to seek residency. He was in Argentina visiting a son.

Ms. Torres said that immigration officials made the decision because her husband did not have a return ticket to Argentina.  Sometimes officials follow the letter of the law and require those entering as tourists to have proof that they will be moving on at the expiration of their tourist visa. Frequently North Americans purchase a bus ticket online, and this usually is sufficient for immigration officials.

A complicating factor is that Ms. Torres and her husband are Muslims, and she suggested that this may have something to do with his rejection. The woman said that the husband, who is back in Argentina, was at the point of seeking residency based on his marriage to her.
immigration protester
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Rashida Jenny Torres at the Corte Suprema




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World Court finds against Nicaragua in territorial dispute
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations International Court of Justice Monday awarded Honduras sovereignty over four cays in the Caribbean Sea and delineated its maritime boundary with Nicaragua as part of a ruling on the long-running border dispute between the two Central American countries.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately welcomed the judgement, issued by the court in The Hague, and voiced trust that the two nations would now implement the decision in full. Costa Rica also has a case involving use of the Río San Juan pending before the court.

The 17-member court ruled unanimously that Honduras has sovereignty over Bobel Cay, Savanna Cay, Port Royal Cay and South Cay. Also known as a key, a cay is a small, low-lying island or reef.

A majority of the court’s judges then ruled on the starting point and outline of the single maritime boundary separating the territorial sea, continental shelf and
  exclusive economic zone of the two countries.

Announcing their decision, the judges said the starting point had been fixed three nautical miles out to sea from the point where a 1962 commission identified as the end of the land boundary in the mouth of the Río Coco.

The shifting deposits left by the Río Coco means the exact site of the river mouth remains uncertain, the court said, instructing Nicaragua and Honduras to take part in negotiations to agree on the course of a line between the endpoint of the land boundary and the start of the maritime boundary three miles out to sea.

Today’s ruling was issued after Nicaragua brought proceedings against Honduras in 1999, saying that diplomatic negotiations over the disputed boundary had failed.

Sometimes known as the World Court, the International Court of Justice adjudicates disputes between states, and its judgements are binding and cannot be appealed.


Grecia cable firm employees
plant trees to protect spring


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employees of the Panduit Corp, the cable manufacturer in La Argentina de Grecia, have planted 120 small trees to protect a water source on the company property.

The company said that the activity was part of an occupational security and environment week. In addition to the tree plantings, employees engaged in discussons about global warming, recycling and accident prevention, said a news release.

Some 819 persons work at the Grecia site. The company is worldwide. The location in Grecia manafactures more than 5 million patch cords for computers each year. The company specializes in electronic connectivity, including networks with fiber optic cables.

The water source is tapped by residents of the rural area of Alajuela. The trees are of the type that will not be harvested for timber so that future generations will have a supply of water, said William Ernest, plant manager.
reforestatino workers
Panduit photo
Katia Zamora, a Panduit employee, plants one of 120 young trees that will protect a nearby water source.


Curridabat teacher faces allegation of displaying porno to first-grade students
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Curridabat first grade English teacher is accused of using a cell telephone to show his students pornographic photos of naked men and individuals engaged in sexual relations.

The man, identified by the last names of Valverde Mora, is 32 years old. He was detained Friday by agents from several sections of the Judicial Investigating Organization, the agency said. The allegation is distributing pornography to minors.

The students related what had happened in their class to
 their parents, who contacted authorities, said the agency. The students said that the man walked from desk to desk showing the students what was on the screen of his video-equipped cell phone. The man also is accused of using vulgar words in the class, the agency said.

Investigators searched the man's home in San Pedro de Montes de Oca and confiscated computer gear, a cell phone, CDs and other materials, they said.

A judge ordered the man held for three months while the investigation continues, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.


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