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Cablegate: Costa Rica: President Pacheco and Commission Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SAN JOSE 002202

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

WHA/CEN
EB FOR WCRAFT, BMANOGUE
E FOR DEDWARDS
WHA FOR WMIELE
WHA/EPSC FOR KURS, LGUMBINER
H FOR JHAGAN
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR RVARGO, NMOORJANI, AMALITO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECPS ECON PREL PGOV SOCI CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: PRESIDENT PACHECO AND COMMISSION OF
EMINENT PERSONS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE (CORRECTED COPY)

REF: SAN JOSE 02181

1. (U) Summary. On September 20, 2005, after meeting with
his cabinet and the five-member Commission of Eminent
Persons, President Pacheco held a press conference to discuss
the Commission's report on the United States-Central
American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).
The President was accompanied on the stage by the Commission
members, Foreign Trade Minister Manuel Gonzalez, and Vice
President Lineth Saborio. Each member of the Commission
briefly made comments on aspects of CAFTA-DR that were
neutral-to-positive, and consistent in the theme that the
complementary agenda and implementing legislation are very
important to the success of CAFTA-DR. President Pacheco did
not state when he would send CAFTA-DR to the Legislative
Assembly to start the ratification process. He did say that
he would meet with various administration advisers throughout
the week and would again discuss this topic with government
councils and his cabinet on September 27, 2005 to determine
next steps. End Summary.

2. (U) A consistent message from all five members of the
Commission was that their report must be taken as a whole and
in context. Franklin Chang, Chair of the Commission,
explained to the press the methodology that the Commission
used to complete its report, which is available on-line in
Spanish at www.casapres.go.cr. Chang stated that the
Commission met 34 times in the past 60 days and talked to 30
different persons about specific aspects of the agreement.
He noted the Commission members were not trade experts and do
not pretend to be. He also stressed the report was
unanimous. He stated that the most important part of the
report deals with telecommunications.

3. (U) The other four members of the Commission, Alvaro
Antillon, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) official,
Father Guido Villalta, the Roman Catholic Church's
representative, Gabriel Macaya, ex-provost of the University
of Costa Rica, and Dr. Rodrigo Gamez, President of the Costa
Rican Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) all expressed the
need for implementation of a robust complementary agenda to
take advantage of the benefits that CAFTA-DR may bring and to
ensure that all Costa Ricans realize these benefits.

4. (U) Antillon was the only member to specifically discuss
details of the agreement, effectively and methodically
explaining away three common myths. First, he explained that
under the Vienna convention, both treaties and agreements
bind countries with equal force. Second, he said that the
constitutional court will review all aspects of the
agreement, including questions about sovereignty, so it is
unnecessary now to speculate if any parts of the agreement
violate the constitution. Third, he explained that any party
could withdraw from the agreement with six months notice per
article 22.7.

5. (U) Father Villalta stated that profound changes in the
social, political, and infrastructure systems will be
required. He further stated that CAFTA-DR will not decrease
poverty or increase employment unless these changes are made.
Sensitivity to ensuring the well-being of all was also a
consistent theme. Gamez referred to the reality of Costa
Rica's situation -- that the U.S. is Costa Rica's largest
trading partner, and that the GOCR must find ways of taking
advantage of its geographic proximity to the world's largest
market.

6. (U) Minister Gonzalez said Costa Rica had lost its sense
of urgency and that it needs to focus on its priorities. He
cited the need to balance Costa Rica's increased integration
into the world economy with maintaining the solidarity and
well-being of its citizens, but stated that Costa Rica must
move forward on CAFTA-DR. Gonzalez cautioned that not all of
the many changes that Costa Rica should make can be
incorporated into the complementary agenda, but that a
long-term strategy was necessary to ensure a better future
for all Costa Ricans.

7. (U) When the press specifically asked President Pacheco
when he would send CAFTA-DR to the Assembly, he first
deferred the question to Vice President Saborio who stated
that they plan to meet with various advisers this week and to
discuss next steps at the next cabinet meeting on September
27, 2005. She gave a spirited defense for the linkage of
CAFTA-DR to fiscal reform. When pressed again on the same
issue, President Pacheco stated that his position has not
changed -- it is his responsibility to send CAFTA-DR to the
Assembly and he will do that, declining to say when. Many
times throughout the press conference, President Pacheco,
Saborio, and Gonzalez stated that fiscal reform is still an
Administration priority and is needed to help pay for a
robust complementary agenda.

--------
COMMENTS
--------

8. (SBU) While the Commission members (with the exception
of Antillon) offered no specifics, their tone could be
characterized as neutral-to-positive. At this point the only
thing that is clear is that President Pacheco will discuss
this issue further with other GOCR officials next Tuesday,
September 27, 2005, and may make further comments at that
time. CAFTA-DR remains in the President's hands, and he is
still reluctant to act. (Note: We are reviewing the text of
the Commission,s report and will provide feedback septel.
End Note.)
FRISBIE

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