Costa Rica CAFTA Opponents Cry Foul on U.S. Intervention in Referendum

"Costa Ricans on Sunday appeared to narrowly vote in favor of joining the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S." AP reports this morning. "With 89 percent of the precincts reporting, nearly 52 percent of votes backed the agreement." But with results so far contradicting most earlier polls, the opposition balked at conceding before a manual recount. Eugenio Trejos, a leader of the opposition, said he would not recognize the results and vowed to wait for a manual recount scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Public Citizen reports, opponents of the pact charged that election laws banning campaigning in the media in the run-up to the vote were violated - including reporting on the threats by the Bush administration to punish Costa Ricans for voting no by withdrawing current access to the U.S. market:

"Clearly, the national media became channels for the Arias administration and treaty promoters, openly distributing their propaganda; just one instance is the wide broadcast coverage given to USTR Susan Schwab's statement, where she categorically denied the possibility of renegotiating the agreement, as well as the possibility of losing the Caribbean Basin Initiative benefits, if the Costa Ricans voted 'no' on the referendum."

On Saturday, I wrote:

If the referendum tomorrow in Costa Rica passes narrowly, it will be entirely plausible that illegal and anti-democratic threats and intimidation from Washington determined the result.

Well, here we are. Congress should hold hearings on allegations that the Bush Administration deliberately interfered in the Costa Rican referendum and compel Bush Administration officials to testify.