More than 100,000 Costa Ricans marched against the pending Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in the capital, San José, Sept. 30, chanting “Costa Rica is not for sale!” Some were dressed as skeletons, or wore masks of President Bush and handed out fake dollar bills, lampooning US trade policies. It was the largest protest in the recent history of Costa Rica, a country of 4 million.
A small contingent of pro-CAFTA counter-demonstrators turned out, and a hired plane pulled a banner across the skyline reading: “Yes to the free-trade accord, for the benefit of the nation!” The drone of the plane’s engine drowned out some of the protest speeches.
Costa Rica is the only country that has not ratified CAFTA—which includes the US, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic—and will be the only nation to decide the issue by referendum. The Oct. 7 referendum has split the nation, with President Oscar Arias saying it would be “collective suicide” for Costa Rica to reject CAFTA. (Reuters, Sept. 30)