Friday, November 25, 2005

CAFTA Supporters Demonstrate in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Thousands of supporters of a free trade pact for Central America marched through Costa Rica's capital on Thursday, an unusual event in a region better known for protests against the pact.

Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Yes to Jobs," and waving Costa Rican flags, the group of about 5,000 mainly workers and business owners urged Congress to approve the pact known as CAFTA.

Costa Rica has yet to join the trade bloc with the United States. Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have already joined.

"The free trade pact will create a lot of employment opportunities, more foreign investment and more choice for consumers," said Anabel Gonzalez, who served as a negotiator in CAFTA talks and joined the demonstration Thursday.

The march came just one week after thousands of union members and farmers demonstrated against CAFTA, saying it would hurt local businesses and farms by allowing unrestrained, unequal competition.

Costa Rica's president sent the pact to Congress in October. The free trade deal is expected to go into effect in early 2006, but Costa Rica will have two more years to join. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)

Last week those against CAFTA were able to take to the streets and let their voices be heard. This week was the turn of those in favor. Not surprisingly, both weeks the protests took place in a respectful and peaceful way, without skirmishes and arrests related directly to the political battle being waged.

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