TLC or CAFTA, Part I

Hi! I have returned! I’m actually working on a 7-page paper right now that’s due tomorrow at 8 a.m. so I have decided to take a break (I’m on pg 4). Also, our entire group will be going to Nicaragua this weekend and staying for two weeks. Please do not be alarmed if I write nothing. I will most likely have no access to the internet. I am bringing my camera, and golly gee I will visit the volcanoes!!!!

Central American Free Trade Agreement, in Spanish, Tratado de Libre Comercio, was instituted by the offices of Washington D.C. to better trade with the 5 Central American countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) and the Dominican Republic. In CR, there are only a few companies that supply electricity, gas, internet, and communication for the entire country. But they have low prices.
The biggest issue it seems is the cell phone price. Right now, in this moment, at department stores, people can buy a cell phone for the equivalent of USD 2, and pay about USD 7 a month for service. Even less for only text messages. Many worry, however, that with the “penetration” of the TLC, big companies looking to make a profit will take the money. Not that it’s that much, but if the big companies start selling their cell phones at a lower price, it is natural (given the laws of supply and demand) that the people will buy phones from foreign countries who can raise their prices as soon as other companies are out of business. This is what Rockefeller did with the oil in the 1900s.
Also, why should Ticos pay other companies? They have a good product at a good price with a system that works, right now.

We had the honor of being lectured by the leader of Costa Rica’s Partido de Acción Ciudadano (PAC) political party. He ran for president of the country in 2002 and got third place, the first time in history that the bipartisan election has been broken. Ottón Solís feels that, especially with TLC, US foreign policy methods are outdated. He gave 8 reasons for this, but I was only able to write down 7 (I think this was one of the many days one of my pens died). Here they are:
1) US foreign policy reacts to current events already in motion, instead of anticipating them
2) US foreign policy documents tend to describe, thus, the situations and not the causes. This is not an analysis.
3) US foreign policy diagnostics tend to ignore economic model issues
4) US foreign policy tends to have a “black/white”, “enemy/friend” approach to the acceptance of its policy
5) Policies tend to ignore tensions and political views
6) Policies are pushed as though whatever suffices in the US will suffice for everyone else
7) Policies tend to take into account only the short-run view, and not the immediate consequences.

In my own eloquent style, Solís is more or less saying that the US is trying to cross the culture gap without a bridge. He also feels that a) CAFTA is exactly the same as NAFTA–read one, you’ve read them all, and b) the previous points are a clear demonstration that US foreign policies are not tailored to fit the individual country, but formed in Washington D.C. and enforced abroad.

Here are some random quotes from his lecture:
“Soldiers fight for freedom of democracy, but at the same time, this takes away the freedom for a country to build its own economic model.”

(On TLC) “We want telecommunication to be a social tool, not a profit-making industry. Why can’t you respect that?”

(On Latin America’s “inability” to maintain non-corrupt leaders) “Corruption is not an issue of Latin American politics; we live in a culture of corruption.”

“I get myself to believe that the problems [of US foreign policy] were a product of the Bush administration because it is easier to believe it will change [with the next administration]. If I were to say, ‘This is a running problem of the US,’ then I am blaming an entire country, which is bad for all negotiations. We need to have diplomacy when we assign problems.”

Okay, back to work for me. But I will counter this opinion above with what we heard when we visited the US Embassy.


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