While US President George Bush continues to advocate for the Central American Free Trade Agreements commonly called "CAFTA" opponents to the free trade agreements are calling into question the results of the recent vote in Costa Rica to approve ratification of CAFTA in their country.
Riding the tide of victory from the recent Costa Rica’ popular vote to approve CAFTA, President Bush is taking his case to Congress to approve three more CAFTA trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru. If these agreements were to be approved by congress, this would push the total number of free trade agreements during the Bush presidency to a total of 14.
While the Bush administration rejoices in the apparent victory in Costa Rica, opponents see the narrow margin 50 percent in favor and 47.6 opposed as a call to question the results of the October 7th vote. Citing this narrow margin for ratification as well as last minute interventions lead by the United States in favor of ratification, opponents including the NO Campaign of Costa Rica are leading the force for a vote recount which was set to begin this Tuesday.
Opponents believe the last minute intervention on behalf of the United States that stated the October 7th vote would be the final answer to the question of ratification of CAFTA in Costa Rica and that there would be no further negotiations if the referendum was voted down spread fear among the Costa Rican population that trade between the United States and Costa Rica would be curtailed if ratification was not achieved.
In response to the narrow ratification of CAFA, The STOP CAFTA Collation is calling for protests on the national level to either delay or suspend the ratification process until the October 7 th vote can be fully investigated and their issues involving the United States public opinion campaign be addressed.
The opposition to CAFTA may see this election result as a defeat. Even so, the efforts that brought CAFTA to a vote by the Costa Rican people was a victory in itself in that it demonstrated how public opinion on government policy can affect change by allowing the people to decide themselves on ratification of trade agreements. As the first country in Latin America to bring this decision to the level of the people, Costa Rica has opened the door to fair democracy and the empowerment of the people to contribute to the decisions that affect them directly.
Perhaps the three remaining countries Columbia, Panama and Peru will take the lessons learned during this process and allow their people to decide on ratification of CAFTA in their perspective countries. Perhaps also, those who have already ratified CAFTA, will use the example in Costa Rica to demand their governments reexamine their own trade agreements and allow the people to decide if revisions to those existing treaties are in the best interest of the people.