Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Search

 

Cablegate: Cafta Ratification Advances in Costa Rica

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #2617/01 3212050
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 172050Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6679

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 002617

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN

SIPDIS

FOR UNITED STATES TRADE REPRESENTATIVE - A.MALITO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON PGOV KIPR CS
SUBJECT: CAFTA RATIFICATION ADVANCES IN COSTA RICA

REF: SAN JOSE 1792

1. (U) Summary. Although President Arias has made it a top
priority, Costa Rican efforts to ratify and implement CAFTA-DR have
proceeded at a slow pace, but are picking up speed. After more than
five months of committee deliberations, the President of the
legislative assembly (the Asamblea), with the backing of two-thirds
of the body, has finally given the committee a deadline of midnight
December 12 for reporting the ratification bill out of committee.
If this deadline is met (as we anticipate), then full Asamblea
debate will begin after the holiday recess in January, with the
first of two required plenary votes expected by mid-February. If
there are no glitches, this timetable could lead to the second (and
ratifying) vote in April, following mandatory review by the Supreme
Court in March. Ratification is just the first step, however.
Twelve of thirteen bills necessary to implement the treaty have been
introduced, but only three have been reported out of committee and
are ready for debate by the full Asamblea. End Summary.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

--------------------------------------
COMMITTEE ACTION ON CAFTA RATIFICATION
--------------------------------------

2. (U) For more than five months Costa Rica's Asamblea has held
committee hearings on whether to ratify CAFTA-DR, taking testimony
from dozens of proponents and opponents. On October 11, the
legislature's international relations committee completed its
hearings in San Jose. After a one-day blitzkrieg of public fora
around the country on October 14, the committee turned its attention
to procedural motions and interpretive clauses intended to clarify
legislative intent. The committee has considered approximately 200
procedural motions, most of which were stalling tactics by
opponents. So far 70 interpretive clauses intended to clarify
legislative intent have been introduced in committee.

3. (U) Because of the delays, on October 31, the President of the
Asamblea, with the backing of two-thirds of the body, set a deadline
of midnight December 12, 2006, for the committee to vote upon its
recommendation. Under legislative rules, any interpretive motions
not acted upon by the deadline will be forwarded to the full body
for consideration later. Post believes a majority of the committee
will recommend ratification on December 12.

--------------------------------------------
THE ASAMBLEA RATIFICATION PROCESS AND TIMING
--------------------------------------------

4. (U) According to legislative and executive branch sources, the
full 57-member Asamblea (Plenary) is expected to begin deliberations
in January 2007 with the first of two required plenary votes
anticipated by mid-February. Disagreement remains regarding the
number of votes necessary to ratify the treaty. While many experts
believe a simple majority is sufficient, because some provisions of
the treaty require changes that opponents contend conflict with the
constitutional protection afforded to parastatal monopolies, the
Arias administration believes a two-thirds majority (38 votes) is
politically necessary to avoid a Supreme Court challenge and to
silence critics. The administration remains confident they have 38
votes.

5. (U) If the treaty is voted favorably, it will automatically be
submitted to the Supreme Court's "Sala IV" chamber for up to 30 days
for constitutional and procedural review. Following Supreme Court
review, the treaty would be returned to the Asamblea for a second
plenary debate and vote which should take only a few days. If there
are no glitches, post's best guess at this point is that CAFTA-DR
probably will be ratified in Costa Rica in April 2007.

6. (U) One potential glitch is the next round of public protests,
which may take place around the time of the committee vote (in
mid-December) or the first plenary vote (mid-February). GOCR
sources, pleased that the anti-CAFTA protests fell flat in October,
have admitted to us that broader protests, (e.g., bringing in taxi
drivers who could block streets, especially in San Jose), or more
intense protests (e.g., making more use of university students)
could be problematic. Another potential glitch is in the Asamblea
itself, where opposition parties, led by Otton Solis and the PAC
party, could flood the plenary debate with motions as a stalling
tactic. Based on media interviews since November 12, the PAC seems
to have chosen the plenary as its next battleground. The third
potential glitch is the Supreme Court, where opponents could bring a
number of challenges to the treaty.

-----------------
ENTRY INTO FORCE
-----------------

7. (U) Ratification is only the first step in bringing CAFTA-DR
into force in Costa Rica, however. The United States Trade
Representative (USTR) has identified 13 areas of Costa Rican law
that must be amended to bring the country's laws into compliance
with the treaty before it can enter into force. Twelve of the
necessary thirteen bills have been introduced in the Asamblea. Of
those, three relatively non-controversial bills have passed out of
committee and await action in the Plenary.

8. (U) Under Costa Rica's unusual legislative procedure, from
December 1 until April 30 the executive branch controls the
legislative agenda. This week the Arias administration announced
its first set of priorities for legislative action. Three of the
thirteen required CAFTA implementation bills appear on the priority
list: Priority #3 - Opening of the insurance market; Priority #7 -
intellectual property rights (IPR) reforms (the third of three
required); and Priority #11 - opening of the telecommunications
market. These three bills are considered the most difficult and
controversial part of the implementation agenda

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) One political commentator described the CAFTA process to
us as a championship bout between evenly matched boxers. There will be many rounds, and (probably) no knockout by either side. The
illustration may be apt. The Arias administration got off to a slow
start, but has been gaining ground. As the legislative process
continues, the government will have to take more punches -- in our
view, more likely in the Asamblea than in the Supreme Court or in
"the streets". With sufficiently focused and determined politicalQleadership, post believes the Arias administration is up to the challenge of getting CAFTA ratified.

10. (SBU) The real challenge will be the race to pass all of the
legislation necessary implementing legislation before the Feb. 29,Q08 deadline. If the Asamblea ratifies the agreement in April, the
GOCR will have approximately 300 days to pass necessary legislation.
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic have all taken an average of 450 days (ranging from 396-478 days; in the case of the DR 438 days and counting) after ratification to bring
the CAFTA into force. The question remains whether the GOCR follows that pattern or emulates Nicaragua's example (which took only 173 days) of not rearguing the substance of commitments already included in the agreement.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
 
 
 
World Headlines

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.