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Viewing cable 05SANJOSE2215, STUDENTS, LABOR UNIONS STAGE ANTI-CAFTA MARCHES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05SANJOSE2215 2005-09-22 21:09 2011-03-03 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2697430.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2697496.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697489.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697532.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697535.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2701964.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/Relacionados/Investigacion2701965.aspx
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 002215 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN MELISSA KOPOLOW 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB ETRD CS
SUBJECT: STUDENTS, LABOR UNIONS STAGE ANTI-CAFTA MARCHES 
 
REF: A. SAN JOSE 944 
 
     B. SAN JOSE 2181 
     C. SAN JOSE 1153 
 
1. Summary: Labor unions and student groups took to the 
streets of San Jose on Tuesday, September 20, to protest the 
U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement 
(CAFTA-DR), as President Pacheco's "Commission of Eminent 
Persons" made the findings of its study on the agreement 
public.  While no official numbers have been released, 
Embassy contacts indicated approximately 1,500 people 
participated in the combined protests.  Both groups joined in 
mid-march, but separated again when the labor marchers 
insisted on proceeding to the Presidential House, while the 
students opted to remain in a busy, high visibility traffic 
circle.  A smaller group of students returned in the evening 
intent on disrupting traffic; in doing so, this small group 
of about 60 made the biggest tangible impact on the city. 
While these marches were likely only the first of many 
anticipated over coming months, the relatively small turnout 
and obvious divisions among the protesters combined with 
continued public support for CAFTA-DR may indicate that 
Pacheco's fears of a national shutdown may be unjustified. 
End summary. 
 
UNITED IN PURPOSE, DIVIDED IN PLAN 
---------------------------------- 
2. Ever since Costa Rica signed CAFTA-DR, labor leaders have 
promised widespread strikes should President Pacheco present 
the agreement to the Legislative Assembly for ratification. 
Union leaders upped the ante in April, promising widespread 
civil disobedience and stating that they would not recognize 
the February 2006 general elections if pro-CAFTA-DR candidate 
Oscar Arias won (Ref A).  More recently, student groups, 
principally at the University of Costa Rica, have joined the 
anti-CAFTA-DR camp under the rubric of a broader 
anti-globalization ideology.  With Pacheco's options for 
stalling the agreement dwindling and legislative presentation 
apparently imminent, labor and student unions took to the 
streets on Tuesday even as Pacheco and his Commission of 
Eminent Persons made public the results of their two-month 
study on the trade deal. (Ref B.) 
 
3. Given that most observers in Costa Rica anticipated that 
the Commission's findings would serve as political cover for 
President Pacheco's eventual movement on the agreement, the 
protest groups planned their demonstrations to coincide with 
the public release of the report.  In a display of previous 
coordination, the two groups, which began their protests 
separately, united in a major traffic intersection near the 
University of Costa Rica.  The solidarity would not last, 
however, as labor organizers insisted on marching to the 
Presidential House, while student leaders preferred to remain 
in front of the university.  Both groups continued their 
protests separately until disbanding in the early afternoon. 
The marchers were generally well-behaved, and there were no 
reports of violence or vandalism. 
 
LOCATION, LOCATION...AND TIMING 
----------------------------------------- 
4. In the evening news, however, a group of approximately 60 
students staged another protest in one of San Jose's busiest 
traffic interchanges.  The students timed the protest for 
maximum impact: during evening rush hour in the midst of rain 
showers.  Thus, despite being much smaller in number, this 
group caused havoc and long delays on several major 
thoroughfares, in the process stealing some thunder from the 
morning's larger demonstrations.  Police allowed the 
protesters to remain in the roundabout until they surrendered 
to the rain at 8:00 PM after committing some mild vandalism 
against several vehicles. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
5. President Pacheco has long delayed presenting CAFTA-DR to 
the Legislative Assembly for fear that labor leaders would be 
able to make good on their threat to shut down the country 
through strikes.  While the events of September 20 were only 
the opening round in the anticipated fight, the relatively 
small impact of these latest protests, viewed especially 
alongside the disastrous protest attempts in May (Ref C) and 
increasing support for the treaty in public opinion surveys, 
ought to mitigate Pacheco's fears of crippling protests. 
FRISBIE