“Four Flavors of Fear”: Excerpts from the Casas Memo

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The Casas-Sánchez memo to Arias: “Some urgent actions to reanimate the Yes on CAFTA campaign.” First and foremost: A media blitz based on “fear, uncertainty and doubt.” Kevin Casas, who resigned from the government, is under investigation for illegal use of public funds to benefit the “Yes” campaign. His permanent replacement as Minister of Planning was announced yesterday.

“For our friends, anything; for our enemies, the law.”

“Some 23% percent of working-class respondents indicated they could run into problems if they talked about the FTA, or otherwise expressed hesitation about discussing the issue.” –University of Costa Rica School of Statistics, Institution of Social Research. “Referendum and Free Trade Agreement, Telephone Surveys Between July and September, 2007.”

The major newspaper in Costa Rica published on its front page a letter by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab warning that the U.S. would refuse to renegotiate the terms of the free trade agreement with Costa Rica if CAFTA was voted down.

A follow-up to

The memo is dated July 29, 2007, and is addressed to the president and prime minister of Costa Rica by Kevin Casas (former Minister of Planning, a professor of The Theory of the State at the University of Costa Rica and a lawyer representing the Arias Foundation) and Fernando Sánchez, a lawmaker in the government coalition (and, like Casas, an Oxford-trained political scientist).

(I am assuming from the fact that Casas resigned over the flap — his replacement was named today — that he actually wrote this. I have not seen any claims yet that the document published by Costa Rican newspaper was doctored or dummied up out of thin air.)

They propose that a YES committee be formed immediately to defend that position in the CAFTA referendum, and that the President be a member of that committee.

At another juncture, they propose organizing visits by senior government officials to the country’s largest private employers. Such as Chiquita — “Well, okay, yes, we ran guns for the AUC, but it was to protect our workers” — and Dole.

They suggest covering the visits as “information sessions on the government’s economic development plan, … or some such thing.”

“So as to cover our [backsides] with the TSE [elections tribunal],” they continued.

But allegedly the government is not allowed to use its command of the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone to through its weight behind one proposition or the other. Vincente Fox is in some trouble down in Mexico right now for the some sort of thing (Dick Morris told him to do it).

Casas was honored by the World Economic Forum in as one of 250 young leaders. Along with executives from Intel, Google, Apple and a Harvard Business School professor. And Jimmy Wales, the Confucian sage of Wikipedia.

I have been translating some sections off the PDF posted by the principal opposition party. Casas’ “innovation journalism” campaign, as outlined in the memo:

6. Plan and launch a massive campaign in the media: Beyond what can be done in communities and the business community, in the little time remaining, we must have absolutely no shame about saturating the media with publicity. Precisely because time is short, it is absolutely vital that we direct this campaign in two directions:

Debunk the idea that this is a struggle of rich against poor: This will require carefully choosing the faces that will represent “Yes” in the campaign, the use of workers and small business owners exclusively.

Likewise, we must ratchet up the decibels to a massive degree, along with the presence of the government’s social agenda in the media and official speeches.

We must stimulate fear. This fear has four types (modes):

David “Fear and Misinformation Abound” Sasaki-style fear!

  1. Fear of losing jobs: It would seem very advisable here to make intensive use of the simplest sorts of people, who live in precarious situations, who might lose their job or have already lost as a consequence of “No on CAFTA.” This is also vital for reinforcing the idea that this is not a conflict between rich and poor. In the same way, it is possible that in specific regions, a great impact might be made by concrete cases of companies that have postponed investments, cut staff, or are considering leaving the country if the FTA is not approved.
  2. Fear of an attack on democratic institutions: It is crucial to equate the “Yes” campaign with democracy and democratic institutions (as Eduadro Ulibarri said: We have to fill the “YES” proposition with values), and to equate NO with violence and disloyalty to democracy. Here is an important point: This campaign is no longer rational, and as a consequnce, is no longer about the content of the trade agreement. Thus, the argument that the defense of democracy is the only recourse remaining to us to mobile the EMOTIONS of the people in favor of the FTA. At this moment the people who favor NO have no motivation whatsoever, except that they are intimidated by the motivation displayed by other who favor NO. One thing needs to be understood: No one is ready to “die” for the cause of free trade, but they may be willing to “die” for democracy. We have to give them an ethical motivation, not just a practical one, for voting YES.
  3. Fear of foreign interference in the NO campaign: The connection of NO with Fidel, Chávez and Ortega must be shouted far and wide, in extremely strident terms. It is possible that this sort of campaign might make some people uncomfortable, but it is also certain to have a considerable impact among the simplest sorts of people, which is where we face our most serious problems.
  4. Fear of the effect of a NO vote on the government: All the polls show a great deal of satisfaction with the President and Government. Many people have simply not made the connection that the triumph of NO would leave the Government in a precarious position, with its effectiveness totally undermined, and the nation in a state of ungovernability. They have to be induced to make this connection. This is an argument that is only going to work among certain sectors, but may be very effective at sowing doubt. There are three questions we need to seed in people’s minds, questions that might make their finger tremble if they are thinking of voting NO:
  1. Are they inclined to risk the stability of the economy, which almost everyone acknowledges is an achievement of the government?
  2. Are they included to return to the days of Abel, when no one was in charge, there was no sense of direction and nothing happened in Costa Rica?
  3. Have they thought about who is going to run the country if they vote NO? (The answer is induced by the question: Albino, Merino, Carazo, that’s who will run things).

I have no idea who those people are.

Skipping ahead now:

8. Organize a systematic program of visits by ranking government officials to private firms

At this moment, the easiest form of proselytism to take advantage of, by far, and the one that offers us the best opportuniities, is the business sector. There are more than a million workers there. We should organize a systematic effort to vist the biggest companies in Costa Rica, with talks in favor of YES delivered by high-ranking official, with documentation in hand. No other effort is as potentially effective as this. Ideally, this will require five steps:

  1. Get information on what the largest companies are, and where they are located;
  2. Contact the owners of those businesses and get permission to hold the talk;
  3. Have the companies immediately send a letter to the Planning Ministry asking that the government send a representative to talk about the National Development Plan or its vision of the nation’s future, or something like that (this to cover our [rear anatomical portions] with the TSE);
  4. Plan a program of visits for at least 30 high government officials
  5. The official visits the company (in some cases accompanied by the congressonal representative from the zone) and leaves literature behind.

If 30 officials visit 10 companies a week, it would be possible to cover some 2,500 companies in the next 8 week. We have to emphasize the largest companies and the ones oriented toward exports. What is most important, in any case is to make sure that the government officials and lawmakers are not simply following the president around. This would be an unjustifiable waste of time and energy.

Likewise it is vital to increase our presence on national and local radio, and in the rural print media, where we have big problems. We have to field big guns on all the opinion shows and improve the government’s publicity profile on a series of radio programs hosted by people with a disposition to support the government (e.g., Javier Rojas, Jaime Peña, and so on).

If the presence of the YES point of view on the radio does not improve drastically, this will continue to signal our weakness in the rural areas. It is very possible that the problems that we are having in the rural areas may have less to do with the content of the campaign (themes it has not addressed, or addressed badly) than with the form in which people get information in the rural areas, where radio is a powerful medium.

Okay, so what is so wrong about all that?

The charge is going to be that all of that violates campaign laws.

Let’s look at those campaign laws next when we get a chance.

What would happen to me, I wonder, if I helped, oh, let’s say, the vereadora (city councilmember) of the region we live in here in São Paulo — the effervescent club drug-promoting Soninha — to break local election laws?

Would the response be the same now that the former MTV veejay and Folha-blogging Soninha, formerly of the principal opposition party in the state, has switched to a party of in the government coalition (the clown-nose sporting PPS)?

The instructions I have from the State Dept. is to obey all local laws.

Which I do.

And try to be a “citizen ambassador for democracy.” To help Uncle Sam with his democracy export efforts.

Which I try to do as well.

I am personally all in favor of abiding by the results of careful and accurate beancounting in elections, for example. Even if I happen to think those results suck.

Which is why this whole Mexico election nonsense continues to bother me so much.

It is not so much that I give a damn about López Obrador. I know very little about the man or his programs. And I am not a Mexican.

No, what pisses me off is the apparent triumph of Alberto Gonzalesism over other people’s democratic rule of law … and this creepy sensation I have that the great nation I was born a citizen of has become a cartoonish banana republic in recent years.

My American passport is becoming more of a liability than an asset these days. And I, who have never made more than $70,000 a year, did not even get an offsetting tax break into the bargain.


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