Trade agreements have been taking centre stage over the past week in the region. CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) came under attack by Daniel Ortega in a speech in Sebaco, ironically the site of a maquila, a garment sweatshop. He also praised ALBA, the Bolivarian alternative, which includes Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.

In Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s Southern neighbour, CAFTA is dominating the political agenda. Whilst the Nicaraguan Parliament ratified CAFTA over a year ago, in Costa Rica ratification depends on an October referendum. The pros and antis are neck and neck, with the momentum seemingly running in favour of the rejection campaign. The arguments of both sides, and some of the implications, is nicely summed up in the Council on Hemispheric Affairs CAFTA’s October Referendum: A death sentence for Costa Rican foreign investment.

Meanwhile Nicaragua’s Northerly neighbours have started talking about son of NAFTA (which could turn out to be much nastier than its dad – now who does that remind you of?). The Presidents of Canada, Mexico and the US met over the weekend to kick off discussions on what is being called NAFTA plus, or as they like to describe it, the Security and Prosperity Partnership (see the Americas Program NAFTA plus – migration and the future of North America by Ted Lewis). Presumably the Prezs were talking about the Prosperity of their big business mates, and the Security for them to keep their loot.


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