Costa Rica’s voting public wants to join CAFTA. This comes despite last-minute efforts by leading U.S. Democrats to dissuade Costa Ricans from voting to support the national referendum.
Worse, these particular lawmakers showed an alarming cynicism in attempting to convince Costa Ricans to reject CAFTA.
For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Michael Michaud recently traveled to Costa Rica for press conference with Ottón Solís, a former presidential candidate who opposes CAFTA. Their message was that Costa Ricans had nothing to fear by rejecting CAFTA, since, according to them, the country would continue to enjoy duty-free access to the American market under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). However, as a congressman in 2000, Sanders voted against CBTPA, an extension of the CBI that allows duty-free access to Costa Rican textiles and tuna . This program expires next year.
More recently, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid sent a letter to Costa Rica’s ambassador in Washington reaffirming Sanders’ message: Costa Ricans can safely reject CAFTA and continue to enjoy trade preferences to the U.S market. Guess what? Reid also voted against the CBTPA in 2000.
Reid and Sanders were later joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown, who gave a highly-publicized speech in the Senate floor in solidarity with Costa Rican naysayers. Brown himself was a naysayer to the CBTPA when he was in the House of Representatives in 2000.
This is the cynicism of protectionism at its best: Profess concern for Costa Rican workers after consistently opposing previous efforts to ease trade restrictions with the country. A majority of Costa Ricans voters didn’t buy the story and supported CAFTA.
Still, with these kinds of friends, who needs enemies?