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Viewing cable 08SANJOSE5, ANOTHER CAFTA REFERENDUM GAMBIT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08SANJOSE5 2008-01-03 22:10 2011-03-02 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-02/Investigacion.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0005/01 0032212
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 032212Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9317
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO PRIORITY 1575
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000005 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA, WHA/CEN, WHA/EPSC AND EEB; PASS TO 
USTR:AMALITO, DOLIVER 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: CS ETRD PGOV PINR PREL SENV
SUBJECT: ANOTHER CAFTA REFERENDUM GAMBIT 
 
REF: A. A) 2007 SAN JOSE 2070 AND PREVIOUS 
 
     B. B) SAN JOSE-WHA/CEN EMAIL OF 12/31/07 
 
1.  (SBU) SUMMARY:   The Supreme Election Tribunal (TSE) 
accepted a petition to collect signatures for another 
CAFTA-related referendum, this one to ratify the UPOV (Union 
for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) Convention and 
to approve related legislation.  The Convention and 
legislation must be approved as part of the GOCR,s overall 
CAFTA implementation package.  GOCR officials criticized the 
move as a politically-motivated delaying tactic, and 
reiterated the GOCR,s commitment to complete the full slate 
of implementing legislation by the March 1 EIF deadline.  The 
three environmental NGOs which filed the petition plan to 
collect the required 133,545 signatures as quickly as 
possible, but their efforts may be moot.  The TSE also 
announced that the next referendum cannot be convoked before 
July 7, 2008, which should give the GOCR more than enough 
time to complete the implementing legislation before then. 
Broader anti-CAFTA groups see the UPOV referendum as one more 
way to kill CAFTA, and the opposition PAC party may use the 
TSE ruling to justify further delaying tactics.  With 
 
SIPDIS 
sufficient discipline and focus in the legislature, the UPOV 
maneuver should not be more than a distraction for the GOCR. 
 However, even without a new referendum, the legislature 
returns to work today facing considerable challenges to 
completing its CAFTA-related work on time.  END SUMMARY. 
 
==================================== 
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER REFERENDUM? 
==================================== 
 
2.  (U) On December 28, the TSE announced that it had 
accepted a petition filed by three local environmental NGOs 
to collect signatures for another CAFTA referendum, this one 
to ratify the UPOV (Union for the Protection of New Varieties 
of Plants) Convention and to approve related implementing 
legislation.  (The TSE actually ruled on December 21, but the 
story did not surface for one week.)  The UPOV Convention and 
related legislation must be approved as part of the GOCR,s 
overall CAFTA implementation package. 
 
3.  (U) The few GOCR officials available for comment during 
the year-end holidays were critical.  Legislature President 
Francisco Pacheco told the media that the move was clearly a 
"delaying tactic designed to derail" CAFTA implementation, 
and a "discredit" to the October 7 overall CAFTA referendum. 
Vacationing in Guanacaste, Minister of the Presidency Rodrigo 
Arias told reporters the move was an "abuse" of the electoral 
system, adding that the UPOV issue was too technical to be 
dealt with in a referendum. 
 
4.  (U) Both Pacheco and Arias reiterated the GOCR,s 
commitment to complete the full slate of implementing 
legislation, including the two UPOV-related items, by the 
March 1 EIF deadline and certainly before sufficient 
signatures are collected to launch a referendum.  Arias 
expressed hope that the GOCR would complete the legislation 
"in January or the first two weeks of February," a slip from 
the GOCR,s previous (and publicly-stated) internal deadline 
of 15 January. 
============================= 
NGOs ANXIOUS TO GET GOING . . . 
============================= 
 
5.  (U) The NGOs which filed the referendum petition in 
November, led by the Costa Rican Federation for Environmental 
Conservation (FECON in Spanish), welcomed the TSE ruling. 
The text was posted on their websites and blogs long before 
the TSE released it officially.  The NGOs have vowed to 
collect the required signatures as rapidly as possible.  The 
Referendum Law allows up to nine months to do so, and at 
least 5 percent of the national voter registry, or 133,545, 
must be collected and validated before a referendum could be 
held.  (Referenda may be held by collection of signatures, by 
legislative action, or by a combination of executive and 
legislative action.  The latter mechanism was used to convoke 
the October 2007 CAFTA plebiscite.) 
 
6.  (U) The NGO leaders (including Fabian Pacheco, son of the 
former president) hope to mobilize the grassroots "patriotic 
committees" which were active in the campaign to say "no" to 
CAFTA in October.  All three NGOs oppose UPOV on substantive 
grounds, largely out of concern that ratifying and 
implementing that Convention would "flood" Costa Rica with 
genetically-modified agricultural materials. 
7.  (SBU) However, the broader anti-CAFTA groups (based on 
their web postings) see the UPOV referendum as one more way 
to kill CAFTA.  Signaling a possible opposition tactic in the 
legislature, PAC deputy faction head Madrigal has already 
publicly praised the TSE decision as another indication of 
the "deepening of democracy" in Costa Rica.  The PAC website, 
meanwhile, has regularly warned of the (genetic engineering 
and other) "danger" that might flow from hasty ratification 
of UPOV.  The PAC-led opposition therefore may try to block 
action on the two UPOV-related items, using the call for a 
new referendum as further justification to criticize the 
Arias administration and a &legitimate8 way to delay 
implementation further. 
 
============================================= = 
. . . BUT IMPACT ON IMPLEMENTATION MAY BE LIGHT 
============================================= = 
 
8.  (U) The UPOV referendum maneuver may not have the impact 
sought by the petitioners (or the anti-CAFTA forces).  TSE 
President Luis Antonio Sobrado and Magistrate Max Esquivel 
have been quick to stress that the collection of signatures 
for a referendum does not impede the regular legislative 
process; both may proceed in parallel.  (According to the 
Referendum Law, the legislative process can only be stopped 
when the TSE actually convokes a referendum on the 
legislation in question; the TSE reiterated this in its 
December 21 decision.) 
 
9.  (SBU) Going further, Sobrado emphasized that the UPOV 
referendum could not  be convoked before July 7, 2008 or take 
place before October 7, 2008, i.e., one year from the dates 
the CAFTA referendum was convoked and held.  (In other words, 
the TSE is interpreting the Referendum Law, which says only 
that one referendum can be held each year, to mean there must 
be one year between referenda.)   Under this reasoning, no 
matter how quickly the signatures were collected, the UPOV 
referendum could not be convoked before July, which would 
allow the GOCR ample time to complete all the implementing 
agenda, even if an EIF extension were requested, before any 
new referendum becomes relevant. 
 
============================================= ==== 
COMMENT:  CHALLENGES ENOUGH EVEN WITHOUT UPOV 
============================================= ==== 
 
10. (SBU) We view another CAFTA-related referendum in Costa 
Rica in 2008 as unlikely, but not totally impossible.  With 
sufficient discipline and focus in the legislature -- the 
same ingredients that have been needed since the beginning of 
the CAFTA debate -- the GOCR should be able to withstand the 
combination of probable PAC opposition and likely NGO 
pressure to hold back the UPOV legislation for approval by 
referendum.  This latest development should light a fire 
under the Asamblea, which ended 2007 sick and tired of 
dealing with CAFTA.  For that matter, the Costa Rican public 
also ended the year under the assumption that their role in 
ratifying/approving CAFTA had been completed.  It may be 
difficult, therefore, for the opposition to drag CAFTA out 
for nine more months, but this doesn,t rule out their 
trying.  And, although we believe the NGOs pressed for the 
new referendum out of genuine (if misplaced)  concerns about 
UPOV, we can easily foresee domestic and international 
anti-globalists and anti-free traders jumping on this 
bandwagon to further their broader agenda. 
 
11. (SBU) The legislature returns to work today facing 
challenges enough, even without the UPOV referendum maneuver. 
 Eight items of implementing legislation are pending plenario 
action (a drop of one from our previous tally, Ref A), a 9th 
is in committee and a 10th has not been introduced.  Most/all 
of these will likely face review by the constitutional court. 
 Among these items are the most politically controversial, 
including UPOV, IPR, and telecom and insurance sector reform. 
 PLN faction chief Mayi Antillon and the legislature 
leadership has called for a return to the grueling 6 to 7 
days a week, three session per day pre-recess schedule, but 
the Asamblea may be reluctant to resume that pace quickly (if 
at all).  We will have a better sense of the GOCR,s and 
G38,s thinking for the new year once the major players have 
reported back to work.  Minister Arias,s comments while on 
vacation suggest that political and procedural realities may 
be slowing the GOCR,s ambitious legislative timetable. 

BRENNAN