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Cablegate: Media Coverage of Cafta Campaign And

VZCZCXYZ0007
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1823/01 2782320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 052320Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9004

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 001823

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR WHA/PD-TPICKREL, WHA FO, WHA/CEN AND H

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD PGOV PREL KPAO CS
SUBJECT: MEDIA COVERAGE OF CAFTA CAMPAIGN AND
CONGRESSIONAL VISIT TO COSTA RICA

1. SUMMARY: Over the past two months, the
Ambassador's visits to Costa Rican businesses
affected by international trade generated
significant media coverage and a variety of
reactions, including a complaint filed by anti-
CAFTA union leaders to the Supreme Election
Tribunal (TSE), septel. Meanwhile, Partido de
Accion Ciudadana (PAC) leader and anti-CAFTA
activist Otton Solis invited U.S. Senator
Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Congressman Michael
Michaud (D-ME) to Costa Rica to support the "no"
campaign, also generating media reaction. Given
the importance and sensitivity of CAFTA in Costa
Rica, and the interest in Washington, we provide
extensive excerpts below. END SUMMARY

==============================
COVERAGE OF AMBASSADORQS TRIPS
==============================

2. Following the AmbassadorQs visits to farmers
and small businesses in the Central Valley,
populist daily Diario Extra (cir. 150,000) ran
an article on 7/27 entitled "Chayote Producers
are with CAFTA" which quoted the farmers as
stressing "If CAFTA is not approved and CBI
disappears, we would be out of the market, since
we won't be able to export our product to the
U.S." Workers at a local metal industry told
Diario Extra: "We hope the country makes the
right decision so we can keep growing."

3. Central Valley textile workers whose plant
currently sends 70% of its production to the
United States told Diario Extra on 8/31
(following an Ambassadorial visit), "Without the
U.S. market we would be able to sell only 30% of
our production and this would mean reducing our
personnel and production."

4. Based on the AmbassadorQs visit to a cannery
in Puntarenas, English-language Pacific zone
weekly The Beach Times reported on 9/17 that
"[Sardimar] the biggest employer in the port
city of Puntarenas warned Q it would be moving
operations to another Central American country
if the free trade agreement with the U.S. were
not approved."

===================
AMBASSADORQS QUOTES
===================

5. While avoiding any mention of how Costa
Ricans should vote in the CAFTA referendum, the
Ambassador used his visits to highlight the
benefits of trade. In a Diario Extra interview
on 7/27 he said: "Farmers know how important
CAFTA is for their businesses, market access and
future success. The referendum is the way to
maintain that access for future generations.
U.S. market access gives jobs and opportunities
that improve Costa Rican lives."

6. He told the Beach Times on 9/14, "The Embassy
does not have a position on the referendum
except that it's a process for Costa Rica to
decide whether or not to enter the group of
countries that will continue their access to the
U.S. [market]. History shows that the countries
that have approved free-trade agreements have
had more success, like Chile. The countries that
close their borders do not have success, like
Cuba."

===========================
QUOTES ABOUT THE AMBASSADOR
===========================

7. Some media outlets cast the Ambassador as a
vocal proponent of the "Si" campaign. La Prensa
Libre's (conservative daily; cir. 56,000)
headline in on 8/09 read "U.S. Ambassador
promotes CAFTA in enterprises." The article
went on to say "During his visits to
enterprises, Ambassador Langdale . . . talked
with workers about what could happen if CAFTA is
not approved. Langdale said he is not part of
the Yes campaign since that is a campaign for
Costa Ricans, not for him. Traveling around
Costa Rica to get to know people and the country

is part of an ambassadorQs job."

8. When asked by weekly (and strongly anti-
CAFTA) Semanario Universidad (cir. 6,000) on
8/09, Costa RicaQs Production Minister said
"what he [the Ambassador] is doing is a follow-
up of one of his country policies. It is
something normal." Nevertheless, CAFTA critic
Jose Merino of the Frente Amplio Party accused
the Ambassador of interfering in Costa Rican
internal affairs and characterized him as
directing the "Yes" campaign instead of
President Arias.

======================
U.S. LEGISLATORS VISIT
======================

9. Invited by anti-CAFTA activist Solis, U.S.
Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Congressman
Michael Michaud (D-ME) made a private visit to
Costa Rica September 21-24. They joined Solis
for a press conference on 9/23 and gave a number
of interviews. In an lengthy story by Semanario
Universidad on 9/27, Sanders said, "The U.S.
government and the Ambassador have to respect
sovereignty and understand that political
decisions are made by and for each country's
people. It is not a U.S. Ambassador's job in
Costa Rica to interfere in a political campaign
and this is something I will discuss when I
return to the U.S." Michaud indicated "I am
really upset with Ambassador Langdale and
President Arias because they said there will be
reprisals from the U.S. if CAFTA is not
approved. We are not taking CBI away since
Democrats are now controlling the U.S.
Congress."

10. La Nacion (most influential center-right
daily; cir. 125,000) reported on 09/24 that the
visiting U.S. legislators said: "U.S. and Costa
Rican trade relations wonQt be affected. More
than a half of the U.S. Congress is against
CAFTA and has demonstrated a willingness to
improve other trade agreements. . . they
consider . . . harmful." Sanders stressed that
Costa Rica will continue benefiting from CBI
since it is a law, and its existence depends
only on the U.S. Congress. "Neither Republicans
or Democrats have any intention of eliminating
this law." He and Michaud asserted that if
CAFTA were rejected by Costa Rica, there would
be a real possibility of negotiating a US-Costa
Rica bilateral trade agreement.

11. In a follow-up on 9/27, La Nacion
continued: "Sanders has a long background
opposing any trade agreement creating employment
in other countries because those jobs mean
Americans will loose job opportunities. . .
Sanders also voted twice to take the U.S. out of
WTO. . . Michaud has indicated that CAFTA
promises the U.S. the loss of more. Both
Congressmen have solid American union support."

12. In Diario Extra and La Prensa Libre on
9/24, Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz
noted "Michaud and Sanders voted against a CBI
extension . . . Their only interest is to defend
American jobs for electoral purposes, and that
is why they are against CAFTA." Ruiz also
indicated CBI would likely expire, given WTO
opposition to such unilateral benefits. On
9/25, La Nacion, Diario Extra and La Prensa
Libre quoted members of the pro-CAFTA PUSC,
Libertarian and PUN Parties criticizing the U.S.
legislatorsQ visit. "(The) PAC (party) brought
wolves in sheep clothing . . . Those are people
who have always voted against Latin America,
against all trade schemes."

13. On 9/28-9/29, La Nacion, Diario Extra, La
Prensa Libre, The Tico Times (English language
weekly; cir. 45,000), and AM Costa Rica
published articles quoting Ruiz, Costa Rican
Ambassador to Washington Tomas Duenas, and
Minister of the Presidency Rodrigo Arias calling
for an explanation from Solis for bringing
Sanders and Michaud to Costa Rica. "Those people
are not interested in Costa Rica's welfare or in

renegotiating CAFTA . . . Otton Solis is friend
of Costa Rica's enemies." Also in La Prensa
Libre on 9/28, President Oscar Arias said
"[Sanders and Michaud] came to Costa Rica to
defend U.S. unions and workers. They do not want
American enterprises coming to Costa Rica to
invest and generate job sources for Costa
Ricans."

==================
REID/PELOSI LETTER
==================

14. On 9/28, Otton Solis released a letter sent
by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Ambassador
Duenas, indicating that CBI would not be in
danger if Costa Rica voted against CAFTA in the
referendum. In Diario Extra on 9/29, Ambassador
Duenas and Minister Ruiz stated "despite (these)
good wishes, no one can guarantee preferential
access of Costa Ricans products to the U.S.
market."

15. Following the release of statements by
DUSTR John Veroneau and Jim McCrery (R-LA), La
Nacion reported on 9/29, "no country benefiting
from CBI should assume these benefits are
eternal. This is a unilateral preferential
program that could be modified or eliminated by
Congress at any time, and it could also be
revoked by the U.S. President. The U.S. won't
consider a separate trade agreement with Costa
Rica if CAFTA is not approved by the
referendum."

16. La Prensa Libre continued on 10/02, quoting
former Foreign Trade Minister Alberto Trejos:
"despite the fact that most CBI benefits do not
have a specific expiration date, benefits under
CBTPA expire next year. . .it is clear that CBI
is at risk and it is dangerous that the exchange
of goods and services with our main trade
partner depends . . . on such a fragile
possibility. . . Right now CBI does not have WTO
permission, and even though no country has asked
for a panel to take it away from us, I still
insist it is fragile."

==============
SANCHEZ LETTER
==============

17. On October 3, PAC held a press conference
to interview Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) by phone.
Earlier, PAC had released SanchezQs letter to
the Secretary, which asked for assurance that
the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica did not use time
or resources to influence in the referendum
results. During the interview, Sanchez asserted
that unilateral CBI benefits are permanent.
When asked by La Nacion if the U.S. executive
branch has the authority to exclude any country
from receiving those benefits, she continued, "I
do not have that information in front of me but
if power is based on our executive branch, I
cannot ensure he wonQt use it in the way he
wants." Sanchez also recognized that trade
preferences for Costa Rica depend on WTO. "The
U.S. or our Congress can do all that is within
our reach, but the truth is that other WTO
countries have also voice and vote to affect
free trade agreements and preferences policies."

LANGDALE

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