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Viewing cable 05SANJOSE2727, CAFTA SUPPORTERS RALLY FOR LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05SANJOSE2727 2005-11-25 20:08 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.

252008Z Nov 05
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 002727 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN JASON MACK 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV ETRD ELAB CS
SUBJECT: CAFTA SUPPORTERS RALLY FOR LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL 
 
REF: SAN JOSE 2689 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
1.  Several thousand workers, business owners and merchants 
marched on Costa Rica's Legislative Assembly on November 24, 
to encourage the GOCR to ratify without further delay the 
U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement 
(CAFTA-DR).  The march was widely seen as a rebuttal to last 
week's anti-CAFTA-DR protest organized by union and student 
leaders (see reftel).  In head-to-head terms, the 
pro-CAFTA-DR drew a larger crowd, but ultimately may have 
played into the hands of anti-CAFTA-DR leaders who have long 
promised to initiate a "referendum on the streets."  End 
summary. 
 
2.  On November 24, several thousand pro-CAFTA-DR marchers 
joined business and trade leaders on the streets of San Jose 
to encourage swift legislative approval of the trade 
agreement.  The rally on the 24th was widely portrayed as a 
rebuttal to the large anti-CAFTA-DR demonstration held on 
November 17.  Using its now-familiar graphical analysis of 
protester density per square meter, the influential daily 
newspaper La Nacion estimated that 20,500 people participated 
in the pro-CAFTA-DR rally.  While estimates from other 
sources varied, La Nacion's estimate was significantly higher 
than their own calculation of 16,000 participants in last 
week's demonstration.  Fortunately, both events were peaceful 
and carried out with little or no confrontation with law 
enforcement officers.  Both demonstrations did, however, 
negatively impact daily life in San Jose, as downtown 
streets, which are congested on the best of days, were 
completely shut down on consecutive Thursday mornings. 
 
3.  Borrowing their route from last week's demonstration, the 
pro-CAFTA-DR crowd converged on the Legislative Assembly, 
where lawmakers are set to begin debating ratification of the 
trade accord.  Upon arrival at the legislative complex, a 
delegation of seven business leaders presented an action 
request to key lawmakers, including Gerardo Gonzales, 
President of the Legislative Assembly.  Gonzales was later 
quoted as saying that the event was a "signal" rather than 
pressure on the Legislative Assembly, to quickly ratify the 
agreement. 
 
4.  Several notable CAFTA-DR supporters participated in the 
march, among them libertarian presidential candidate and 
steadfast CAFTA-DR proponent Otto Guevara, several 
legislative aspirants, and the leaders of Costa Rica's 
business community and chambers of commerce. 
 
5.  Albino Vargas, Secretary General of the Association of 
Public and Private Employees (ANEP) and outspoken critic of 
CAFTA-DR, said he was encouraged by the event.  Vargas was 
quoted as saying that, considering the economic power of the 
pro-CAFTA-DR business community and the amount of money it 
has invested in support of the agreement, there should have 
been an "unimaginable" number of rally participants.  Vargas 
predicted that as the debate progresses, opposition to 
CAFTA-DR will increase. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
6.  While organizers expressed their satisfaction with the 
pro-CAFTA-DR march, they appeared unaware that by organizing 
such an event they have ceded the terms of the debate to 
anti-CAFTA-DR forces.  Albino Vargas, who organized last 
week's highly successful anti-CAFTA-DR demonstration, has 
long promised a "referendum on the streets" to determine 
CAFTA-DR's fate in Costa Rica.  By staging their 
counter-demonstration, CAFTA-DR supporters fulfilled Vargas's 
promise.  Public opinion surveys indicate that more than 60 
percent of Costa Ricans support implementing CAFTA-DR.  In 
addition, a clear majority of legislative deputies have 
indicated their intentions to vote for the agreement; dueling 
demonstrations with successively larger participation could 
merely serve to make the national debate appear closer than 
it actually is, and allow anti-CAFTA-DR activists to continue 
to grab headlines. 
 
7.  Further, CAFTA-DR proponents also run the risk of one day 
being unable to top the opposition's numbers.  Such a 
situation would convey, correctly or not, that the 
pro-CAFTA-DR movement had lost steam.  Given that they had so 
little to gain and so much to lose, most observers concluded 
that the pro-CAFTA-DR movement made a serious tactical error 
with the demonstration. 
LANGDALE