“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, October 08, 2007

¡Costa Rica, Si! ¡Yanqui, Si!

"Costa Rica exported $3.37 billion in goods to the United States last year and imported goods worth $4.57 billion, according to Costa Rica's trade ministry"

This is an important story given scant attention in the US. President Oscar Arias is no flack for the US, but he knows what is good for Costa Rica and the hemisphere. The single greatest threat to all of America is poverty and lack of hope and opportunity. America does not stop at the Mexican border. To Latins there are North Americans and South Americans. Regional trade within the Americas is in the vital security and economic interest of all Americans.

For a small country of four million people, Costa Rica, has a surprisingly inordinate amount of influence in the region. Costa Rica has made great strides economically and it is solely due to trade. In areas of energy independence and renewal of American industry, this can be an exciting time of great opportunity. It is the perfect antidote to the likes of Hugo Chavez. American factories throughout Latin America will go a long way to solving the immigration pressures on the US. All of the Americas are tied to the US dollar. With the lower dollar exchange rate, there has never been a greater opportunity for US workers to see the benefit of trade expansion in the Americas.

We do not want to miss another opportunity in Latin America.


SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Costa Ricans voted Sunday in favor of joining the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., the president said. Opponents of the pact refused to recognize the results, which went against most pre-vote polls showing the measure heading for an easy defeat.

With 89 percent of the precincts reporting, nearly 52 percent of votes backed the agreement, which sharply divided the country between those arguing it would bring continued economic development and critics who feared it could hurt farmers and small businesses.

"Costa Rica's people have said 'yes' to the treaty, and this is a sacred vote," President Oscar Arias said.

But Eugenio Trejos, the leader of the pact's opposition, said he would not recognize the results and vowed to wait for a manual recount scheduled to begin Tuesday.

"The people have spoken, and the achievements we have obtained won't be lost," he said. "That's why we will wait for the ballot-by-ballot recount."

Arias urged the nation to move forward.

"The treaty isn't what divides us," he said. "It's poverty that affects 900,000 Costa Ricans, a lack of work and violence. These are the things that separate us, and they will continue to be my priority."

The presumed victory was a surprise, given that most polls leading up to the vote had predicted an easy defeat.

Costa Rica is the only one of the six Latin American signatories to the trade deal, known as CAFTA, that has yet to ratify it. The pact is in effect in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The results were closely watched by the White House, which fought a bruising political battle to get the deal ratified by the Congress, where it passed by a two-vote margin.

Ahead of the vote, U.S. officials and Arias appealed for voters to back the deal. The White House on Saturday said if Costa Ricans vote against joining the agreement, the Bush administration will not renegotiate the deal and it urged people to recognize the treaty's benefits.

The pact would "expand Costa Rica's access to the U.S. market, safeguard that access under international law, attract U.S. and other investment and link Costa Rica to some of the most dynamic economies of our hemisphere," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.

U.S. officials also suggested they may not extend trade preferences now afforded to Costa Rican products and set to expire next September.

Arias said a 'no' vote would affect industries in this Central American nation of 4.5 million people, and called it an "important tool for generating wealth in the country."

Arias, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping end Central America's civil wars in the 1980s, also said rejecting the pact would threaten trade benefits that help Costa Rica's textile and tuna industries.

But critics of the pact object to its requirements that Costa Rica open its telecommunications, services and agricultural sectors to greater competition. They also fear it will mean a flood of cheap U.S. farm imports.

When Arias arrived at a polling station to vote, opponents of the pact almost prevented him from entering and yelled "Arias traitor!" Others shouted in support of the pact.

Groups of demonstrators for and against the agreement marched Sunday in the capital, San Jose.

Pablo Chacon, a 63-year-old former truck driver, said he planned to vote 'yes' because that would mean more opportunities for his children.

"I have children who are studying and one even works for Intel, and if they took it away, what would my children do?" he said.

But many Costa Ricans were skeptical of the pact, or downright hostile.

Lawyer Flor Vega said she feared the trade agreement would end up giving foreign interests the development rights to Costa Rica's natural resources.

"I'm going with 'no' because the treaty has a very broad definition of land," she said. "They can use the ground and underground, and this is a good reason to say 'no."'

As polls closed Sunday evening, electoral authorities estimated that participation surpassed 40 percent of registered voters, the minimum for results to be binding.

Despite its conflicts over trade, Costa Rica fares better than other Central American countries: It has a thriving eco-tourism industry, maintains relatively high-paying jobs and is a magnet for Salvadoran and Nicaraguan migrants.

Costa Rica exported $3.37 billion in goods to the United States last year and imported goods worth $4.57 billion, according to Costa Rica's trade ministry


  1. Dr. Wattenberg, KGO, suggested we export our incorrigibe prisoners--the three or four times convicted lifers-- to any country that would accept them for, say, $6000 per prisoner a year. Said he called up the Mexican consulate one time suggesting this and they said they'd take em all! Said he got in a little trouble with our govmint being accused of negotiating with a foreign power. Approximate savings per prisoner per year to us at current rates--$38,000 a year! Win win situation :)

    Accept I don't think the US Supreme Court would agree to it, but hell it might be worth a try.

    Kind of a prisoner-for-fruit program, or something. :)

    Added benefit, would piss the ACLU off.

    Dr. Wattenberg was in fine form tonight, especially on stealhead runs.

  2. I thot only Senators from Ideehoe Stole head.

  3. The question is:
    Will he run?

  4. Also, can we accept that this is an authentic and true example of Al-Bob's grammatical prowess, or simply diminished capacity of the Chemical Kind?

    No Acceptions, Al-BobAl!

  5. Don't forget Columbia, and Uribe!

  6. Kaplan on Uribe:

    HH: As I’ve said, I’ve got a very small bookshelf of indispensable books. On it is The Looming Tower, America Alone by Mark Steyn, Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts, and now this one goes on there, if you want to understand the world we live in. Robert Kaplan, I used to tell people when I was recommending Imperial Grunts, that they had to read it if only to read what you wrote about Colombia, because we just didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going on down there, and how we were trying to stop it. You went back. Tell people about then and now, and what you found on your second trip to Colombia.

    RK: Well, let me put it this way. Handicap for size the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez. He’s probably the most successful democratically elected ruler or politician on the Earth today. He’s in his second term with a 70% approval rating. He’s, more than anyone in decades, he’s really taken the fight, and alleviated his country’s suffering from narco-terrorists. When I was in Colombia in 2003, there were many parts of the country that I couldn’t go to, because they were insurgent-controlled. By insurgents, I mean narco-terrorist drug armies. When I went back in 2006, I went to places along the Venezuelan border, along the Ecuadorian border, that I simply couldn’t have gone three years ago, but these areas had all been reclaimed. He’s managing to disband one drug army. He’s got a second one on the ropes. And now he’s facing up against a third. He’s had like a Ronald Reagan foreign policy towards the drug armies, and a very liberalish domestic policy in terms of health care and other issues like that. He’s really been an incredible class act, and we’ve helped him by deploying Army Special Forces in Colombia, and Navy and Marines to train his people.

  7. Hewitt

    In a typically comprehensive post, Tigerhawk answers the question, and, citing a most interesting source, asks:
    Do Shia Extremists Cooperate With Sunni Radicals?

    So while Western academics and State Department Arabists apparently believe that it is highly unlikely that Iran and al Qaeda would cooperate because of the supposedly unbridgeable confessional divide within Islam, an Arab newspaper in business in Iraq believes that it is virtually self-evident that they "fly as a single flock." If it is in fact implausible that Sunnis and Shi'ites would cooperate against the United States, why would an Arab newspaper catering to Arab Muslims say otherwise?

    It is, alas, all about us. Killing us, that is. Even ancient enemies can make occasional common cause when the objective of bleeding the Great Satan is the goal.

  8. Guess those Costa Ricans arn't all that dumb, nor Ms Rice and the Team all that inept.

    Good news, indeed.

  9. Success in Costa Rica, the Americas grow even closer and victory in Iraq.

    30,000 Troops Home
    for Victory Parades
    4th July 2008

    Condi is off to Moscow, Russia.
    Hope she does as well, there

  10. Lotsa Luck, Condi!
    ...she'll need it.

  11. “Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force — military force — in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.”

    -Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany (February 11, 2007)


  12. rufus may be ready to sign on. Private economic diplomacy, just what rufus ordered.

    A non-interventionist foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy. It is quite the opposite. Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them.

    American citizens would be allowed to spend their hard-earned money wherever they wish across the globe, not told that certain countries are under embargo and thus off limits. An American trade policy would encourage private American businesses to seek partners overseas and engage them in trade. The hostility toward American citizens overseas in the wake of our current foreign policy has actually made it difficult if not dangerous for Americans to travel abroad. Is this not an isolationist consequence from a policy of aggressive foreign interventionism?

    It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationsists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seek change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example.

    I do not believe that ideas have an expiration date, or that their value can be gauged by their novelty. The test for new and old is that of wisdom and experience, or as the editors wrote "historical reality," which argues passionately now against the course of anti-Constitutional interventionism.

    A Paul administration would see Americans engaged overseas like never before, in business and cultural activities. But a Paul administration would never attempt to export democracy or other values at the barrel of a gun, as we have seen over and over again that this is a counterproductive approach that actually leads the United States to be resented and more isolated in the world.

    Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

    Mr Paul seems to think that Mao won the US foreign policy debates.
    That the US actions indicate that "power grows from the barrel of a gun"

    Not the power of ideology

  13. Russian Mind Games

    Is the Putin bear a grizzly or a Potemkin bear?

    Neither: A Pootie Poot Bear, according to you know who.

  14. Where's officer al when we need him?

    The NYT: Marines, at least, are guilty until proven innocent
    - TigerHawk
    Jim Hoff does a wonderful job of tracing the New York Times' editorial coverage of the Haditha Marines.

    American wars, apparently, are to be defined by the atrocities committed by American soldiers rather than the tyranny they destroy and the enemies they defeat.
    But don't call them unpatriotic.

  15. Small Town, Big Time Carnage
    Seems a woman was involved, fancy that!

    "He graduated with my brother," she said.
    "He was nice.
    He was an average guy.
    You wouldn't think he could do that."

  16. Police training makes the difference, doug

  17. When Reality TV Gets Too Real

    The expanding boundaries of TV voyeurism have at times proved problematic. On “Intervention,” Pam, an alcoholic, drank vodka and then drove off.

    “The law in the United States doesn’t require you to step in and save people,”
    said David Sternbach, counsel for litigation and intellectual property matters for A&E Television Networks.
    “And it doesn’t require you to stop a crime that’s in the works.”

  18. Doug: Seems a woman was involved, fancy that!

    Yet it also seems that men are the failed sex, if some of them can't accept a request to break off a relationship without turning into Terminators.

  19. Wait till we have a successful test of the Airborne Laser next year. He'll throw an aneurism.

    Airborne Lasers, and "Stealth" Aircraft to put them in.

    Oh, I forgot; he's got "Bear" bombers. Yeah, that'll even the score.

  20. Good News on Costa Rica. Sounds like those polls were a little "hinky."

  21. Vodka makes great reality TV, but "sadly" few Bears:
    "Next the Russians have pulled together their entire operationally capable force of strategic bombers
    -- fourteen 1950s era turboprop-driven Tupolev-95's (aka "Bear") and are rushing them to and fro in the U.S. and UK airspace like a bunch of street toughs taunting the police."

  22. Vlad Putin and ?

    Condi Rice
    Syrian Air Defense Budget
    Russian Journalist

  23. Asterizer

    My dear aunt had a blender called an Osterizer, we'd make a daiquiri once in a while. You get make a heck of a daiquiri with this cosmic blender.

  24. I'm in a funk. It just dawned on me that Rufus went from Board of Directors to Oak Leaf Cluster, Silver, in one giant leap, hurdling over Oak Leaf Cluster. Tain't fair.

  25. He'll be goin' for the gold, before you know it.

  26. it looks like Momma Condi is telling the boys its time to put their XBox away. She's made them accountable under US law for future massacres, and a State Dept. representative will now ride with them on future joyrides. I suppose this means only the foreign mercs get to keep playing. Gordon Brown is drawing down the Tommies to 2,500 troops by the Spring of 2008.

  27. Eat your heart out you old lifer b . . . . . . . oops, sorry Bob; force of habit. You know?

    I understand my cluster was for multiple most abusive, and nasty, foul-mouthed dispatches.

    I'm so Proud:)

  28. Now, "Make a Hole," Losers and let a Real Hero, with a Comet comin out his ass get by here. "Move It!"

  29. Bob,

    You were once to be part of the shadow government, but no more. :D

  30. The Larry Craig Problem

    Why they all spend like drunken sailors, and why nobody is in charge of our country, apropos of the post from the other day, Who Runs America.

  31. International Business Daily has a nice little rundown on the Costa Rica election.

    It seems that the Pelosi Democrats and anti-globalists did their best to get out the "no" vote.

  32. If intervention is the question, the U.S. Trade Representative just two days before the vote threatened that Costa Rica's Caribbean Basin Initiative trade preferences were at risk in the event of a 'no' vote. Hardly an insignificant intervention. Not to mention corporate money flowing into the hands of the 'Yes' vote far outpaced any money going into the 'No' camp--and still the 'Yes' campaign was only able to deliver a final lead of 3 points--hardly a mandate from the people.

    This all must be taken in the context of President Arias' government's overt efforts to scare the population into voting yes (recall the leaked memo from now-resigned VP Kevin Casas) even when 13 years of NAFTA has shown that only a tiny rich elite benefit while the majority of workers in all 3 party states have seen the real value of their wages steadily decline. It is also worth noting that NAFTA has lead to increased migration from Mexico into the US and Canada, as subsidized US agricultural goods have unfairly displaced domestic production, driving people out of jobs and into destitution.