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Cablegate: Gocr Rejects Complaint of Ambassador's "Interference" In

VZCZCXYZ0013
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0045 0251435
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251435Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9364
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000045

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PDA and H

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CS ETRD OPDC PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: GOCR REJECTS COMPLAINT OF AMBASSADOR'S "INTERFERENCE" IN
CAFTA CAMPAIGN

REF: 07 SAN JOSE 1820

1. (SBU) The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and the Foreign
Ministry have quietly closed the book on the complaint filed by
anti-CAFTA union leaders in August 2007 alleging that Ambassador
Langdale "interfered" in the CAFTA ratification referendum (reftel).
The complaint was generated by the Ambassador's pre-referendum
"listening tour" around Costa Rica, and also prompted a letter from
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) to the Secretary.

2. (U) On September 10, 2007, the TSE effectively dismissed the
matter by passing it to the MFA for action, suggesting in its ruling
that the Ambassador had not violated any law or diplomatic norm. On
November 14, the MFA concurred, reporting back to the TSE (in a
letter that was not made public) that:

-- it was not the MFA's role (but the TSE's) to rule on
election-related matters;

-- the entire complaint was a moot point, anyway, since the October
7 CAFTA referendum was over;

-- the TSE was correct in interpreting the law to permit the
Ambassador to exercise his right to free speech, like any other
resident in Costa Rica, and

-- the complaint was unfounded since it was filed at the beginning
of the Ambassador's travels around Costa Rica and before the
referendum and thus "presumed" the Ambassador's "interference"
before the fact.

3. (SBU) During the Ambassador's farewell call on January 7, FonMin
Bruno Stagno made a point of noting that the Ambassador had not
violated any norms of diplomatic conduct. He seemed pleased to have the case closed.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The complaint against the Ambassador, as TSE staff had privately hinted to us last August, went nowhere. The
issue has generated absolutely zero media or political follow-up
attention. The TSE and the MFA had to follow the proper procedure
in exchanging letters, but along the way they actually built more
arguments against the complaint filed by the CAFTA opponents. (We
especially like the MFA's fourth point above about presumed
interference before the fact. Once in a while finely-honed Tico
legalism works in our favor.) Stagno's meeting with the Ambassador
apparently shook free the November 14 response from the MFA, which we had been pursuing for weeks. We finally received a copy on January 10 (and have forwarded same to WHA/CEN). We are pleased this incident was finally closed as Ambassador Langdale departed post.

BRENNAN

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