Fight against CAFTA still on in Costa Rica

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The Costa Rican “no” campaign that came so close to defeating the Oct. 7 referendum on the Central American Free Trade Agreement refuses to give up the struggle. Had it not been for gross fraud by Costa Rica’s ruling class, augmented by intimidation from the U.S., CAFTA would have been trounced. All the polls said so just days before the vote. So did the 150,000 people marching against CAFTA on Sept. 30, the largest protest in Costa Rican history.

But CAFTA did pass: 51.6 percent vs. 48.4 percent. A notably narrow margin when you consider the illegal, unethical depth of the “yes” campaign. All the multinational corporate money, the mainstream media, politicians and the power of the Arias government was arrayed against the “no” campaign. A full account is in “CAFTA Referendum in Costa Rica: Dirty Tricks and Repression Mount as Vote Nears,” www.socialism.com/fsarticles/vol28no5/28511CAFTA.html. Their tactics included bribery, blackmail and fear.

The day before the vote, the Bush Administration issued a statement saying it would not extend trade preferences to the country if voters rejected the treaty. So add extortion to the list.

Right after the vote, the “no” forces, which included leftist, liberal/reformist and pro-capitalist political tendencies, started to split – between those who advocated swallowing the results for the sake of “public peace” and deals to be made, and those who wanted to reject the results and keep fighting.

It’s a battle still worth conducting. For CAFTA to take effect, 13 additional treaties and laws have to be approved by March 2008. The “no” movement intends to keep this from happening, through street protest, education and possibly a general strike. At a meeting they held on Oct. 13, 600 experienced activists from the Left and neighborhood Comités Patrióticos made some critical decisions. After a full and democratic debate, the group voted to continue to organize against implementation of CAFTA and to reject the crooked election results.

Since then the “no” forces have sent a letter to the U.S. Congress calling for the abrogation of CAFTA because of the Bush and Arias administrations’ gross deceit and manipulation of the illegitimate and fraudulent ratification process.

They also organized protests throughout the country on Nov. 7. In San José where the Legislative Assembly (Congress) meets, hundreds of police brutally clubbed peaceful demonstrators. Clearly, the government is trying to bludgeon opposition into silence. And clearly the Costa Rican working class and its allies need continued international support to carry on this crucial battle, which is far from over.

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