Costa Rica: Schwab Rewrites History

“What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it” –G.W.F. Hegel

That aphorism has always struck as another version of the Liar Paradox, or “the set of all sets that are not members of themselves.”

Hegel is a person. Persons have never learned from history. Therefore, Hegel has never learned, from history, that no person has ever learned from history.

“This statement is false.”

Charles Krauthammer condemns another foreign-policy stunt by Pelosi: I really have no idea what this Armenian genocide resolution was about, in the context of this little flap in which Turkey decided to invade Iraqi Kurdistan.

I mean, gee, who could have predicted that little side effect?

But I was pretty astonished by the following j’accuse, thrown in as an aside, about the Costa Rican referendum.

Krauthammer refers to Pelosi’s

… letter to Costa Rica’s ambassador, just nine days before a national referendum, aiding and abetting opponents of a very important free-trade agreement with the United States.

Important to whom? Would somebody explain to me how I am going to die of malnutrition because the price of Chiquita bananas are going to go through the roof or something if Costa Rica and Guatemala are not annexed just like the Philippines a century ago? Or what? What are the apocalyptic consequences for me and mine?

Krauthammer trots out his standard “the Conressional opposition majority are unpatriotic defeatists,” “cheese-eating surrender monkey” rhetoric.

But the notion that the letter from Pelosi and Reid to the Costa Rican ambassador was an unpardonable foreign policy intervention, while a front-page op-ed by Susan Schwab during the 72-hour period, when proselytism is banned by Costa Rican law, was not — well, I find that pretty amazing.

“Workers required by employers to record themselves voting yes, despite ban on photographic equipment in voting booths,” says NO campaign. That is, “prove you voted yes, or lose your job.” Nullification petitions in such cases, and TSE resolutions here. The TSE has now officially ratified the result. Studying.

Look: I am a U.S citizen living abroad, and my marching orders from the Embassy are to obey all local laws.

Which I do.

But if the State Dept. is not going to, hey, maybe I should just go hog wild.

I am sure they would back me up, right? Spirit me out of the country, with a battalion of Marines to clear the way, then refuse to extradite me?

I could get up to all kinds of fun stuff, then just claim that I am being persecuted by Stalinists and get off scot free! Sounds like fun.

Oh, wait: The “citizen ambassador corps” dreamed up by Karen Hughes to promote democratic values abroad do not have actual diplomatic immunity, whereas the real diplomats do.

An anti-CAFTA activist group recaps a part of the chronology I had not heard of yet:

The groups monitoring CAFTA also point out that U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Mark Langdale, was given a rare formal denunciation before Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal after he waged a lengthy campaign to apparently influence the vote on CAFTA.

That is a little garbled. The story goes something like this:

San Jose, Sep 20 (Prensa Latina) Costa Rican Supreme Court of Elections endorsed a denounce against US Ambassador to Costa Rica Mark Langdale, for mediating in the process of the referendum on Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

“Langdale does not work as diplomat but as proconsul and as Supreme Chief of the alliance of the government, multinational companies and media which drive to CAFTA”, Deputy Jose Merino del Rio of Frente Amplio Party declared.

After TSE transferred a denounce to the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Cult against Langdale, the parliamentarian deplored the statements to media and the visits of the diplomat to enterprises to defend the commercial agreement.

But there is no reference to Langdale on the TSE’s Web site, so it is impossible for me to read further on what this”endorsement of a denounce” and “transferral of a denounce” — bad Cuban propaganda translators there, though the basic facts were widely reported by a number of sources — means.

If the TSE made jurisprudence on the subject, it has not yet been incorporated into Costa Rican e-government.

La Nación did not report on any proceeding against Langdale in the TSE, either, but did record this moment on the day of the referendum:

Mientras todos en el auditorio mantenían el aliento, silenciosos, el ministro de Seguridad Pública, Fernando Berrocal, lanzó una exhalación de alivio, alzó sus brazos y cubrió su cara con las manos, emocionado, al escuchar que el SÍ obtuvo un 51,68% en el primer corte de la votación.

While everyone in the room kept their cool, in silence, public safety minister Berrocal let out a sigh of relief, raised his hands and covered his face in his hands, clearly moved, upon hearing that Yes had obtained 51.68% in the preliminary vote count.

A su lado, en el Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, estaba la encargada de negocios de la Unión Europea, Cristina Martis, y el embajador de Estados Unidos, Mark Langdale.

Beside him in the elections tribunal was seated EU commercial chargé Cristina Martis and U.S. ambassador Mark Langdalde.

Cuando acabó la sesión solemne, Berrocal extendió la mano a Langdale y salió del salón.

When the formal session was adjourned, Berrocal shook Langdale’s hand and left the room.

Langdale expresó satisfacción, dijo que el plazo para aprobar los 13 proyectos complementarios al TLC podría ampliarse más allá de marzo, pero enfatizó que los 13 proyectos deben ser aprobados.

Langadale expressed satisfaction, saying that the deadline for approving the 13 bills required for the FTA could be extended beyond March, but stressed that all 13 must pass.

Martis comentó que el resultado da confianza a la Unión Europea para iniciar la negociación de un TLC con Centroamérica. El directivo y sindicalista del ICE, Mayid Halabi, aseguró que el resultado debe ser aceptado, pero detalló que la aprobación del TLC no significa un SÍ a las leyes complementarias.

Martis commented that the result gave the EU confidence to initiate its own free trade agreement with Central America. ICE union leader Halabi said the result must be accepted, but said that approval of the FTA did not necessarily entail approval of the complementary legislation.

Pelosi and Reid were correcting statements made by Langsfeld.

As part of that, Langdale allegedly employed misleading threats and suggested there would be economic reprisals if CAFTA was rejected. This was why Pelosi and Reid had to send their letter correcting these misconceptions that Costa Rica would lose its CBI trade preferences if the Costa Ricans voted against CAFTA in the referendum.

Trying to find a copy of that letter.

In addition, US Representative Linda Sánchez who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding the cessation of Langdale’s interventions. “Even the perception of such interference harms the U.S. image in a region already suspicious of our intentions,” Sánchez wrote. “If we are to be seen as respecting democracy, sovereignty, and economic development, we must not interfere in any way with the historic popular referendum on CAFTA in Costa Rica, the region’s oldest and strongest democracy.” Despite this, President Bush’s U.S. Trade Representative reportedly renewed the pressure last Thursday, and the White House issued a statement repeating the threats on Saturday – just hours before the referendum began.

Reportedly my eye.

There was apparently some amazing logic-chopping, wilful noncommunication, and noise-machine engineering going on in this direct appeal to the Costa Ricans, too.

Otton Sólis, the 2006 presidential also-ran and leading NO proponent, had a rebuttal to prior Schwab statements published in La Nación on October 5.


Las declaraciones de la representante de Comercio de Estados Unidos, Susan Schwab, han sido manipuladas por el SÍ y, en todo caso, contienen serios errores.

Schwab’s statements were manipulated by the YES campaign, and in any event, contain serious errors.

Lo que la señora Schwab dice es que “es difícil imaginar que cualquier administración de Estados Unidos renegocie” el actual acuerdo o negocie un nuevo convenio con Costa Rica si este tratado es rechazado. Nótese, entonces, que la señora Schwab no está diciendo que no se renegociará el TLC si lo rechazamos este domingo. Lamentablemente, el SÍ está tergiversando su comunicado y reordenando sus palabras para de esa forma poder atribuirle afirmaciones categóricas que ella no ha hecho.

What Schwab says is that “it is difficult to imagine that any U.S. administration would renegotiate” the current trade or negotiate a new accord with Costa Rica with the treaty is rejected. Note, then, that Mme. Schwab is not saying that the FTA will not be renegotiated if we reject it on Sunday. Sadly, SI is spinning her statement and rearranging her words in order to attribute to her categorical statements that she did not make.

Por otra parte, la señora Schwab no tiene que imaginarse nada: los TLC de Perú y Colombia fueron renegociados en la primera mitad de este año. Efectivamente, ella, igual que algunos en Costa Rica, se oponen a las renegociaciones, pero los demócratas las lograron ejerciendo su mayoría en el Senado y en el Congreso.

On the other hand, Mme. Schwab need not resort to imagination at all: The FTAs with Peru and Colómbia were both renegotiated in the first half of this year. It seems that she, like some Costa Ricans, is opposed to those renegotiations, but the Democrats managed to achieve them, exercising their majority in the Senate and Congress.

Lo que quieren. En todo caso, y con todo respeto a la señora Schwab, ella no tiene autoridad para decir que es difícil imaginar que cualquier administración de los EE. UU. renegocie un TLC, pues el actual Gobierno del presidente Bush no tendrá ninguna influencia en la decisiones del próximo gobierno del Partido Demócrata. En este sentido, importantes miembros del Partido Demócrata han anunciado muchas veces que tanto NAFTA (el TLC con México y Canadá) como el CAFTA (el de nosotros) deben ser renegociados. El NAFTA ha causado desempleo en México y una ola migratoria sin precedentes hacia EE. UU. Tal es la gravedad del problema que EE. UU. ha decidido construir un muro en su frontera con México. Por ello, los demócratas quieren tratados que verdaderamente generen empleo en todos los países y no los que benefician solo a las multinacionales y a pequeñas cúpulas en nuestra región.

What they want. In any event, and with all due respect to Mme. Schwab, she does not have the authority to say it is difficult to imagine any U.S. administration renegotiating an FTA, given that the current government of George W. Bush will not have any influence over the next, Democratic, government. And ranking Democrats have said many times that NAFTA as well as CAFTA must be renegotiated. NAFTA has caused unemployment in Mexico and an unprecedented wave of illegal immigration to the U.S., creating such a serious problem that the U.S. has decided to build a wall on its border with Mexico. For that reason, Democrats want treaties that really generate employment in all these countries, rather than simply benefiting multinationals and small regional ruling elites.

Por otra parte, la señora Schwab dice también “que Estados Unidos nunca ha enfrentado una situación en la que uno de sus socios comerciales rechaza un acuerdo comercial recíproco con Estados Unidos, pero continúa pretendiendo preferencias comerciales unilaterales”. Nótese, entonces, que la señora Schwab no afirma en ninguna parte que, si rechazamos el TLC, nos quitarán la Iniciativa para la Cuenca del Caribe (ICC), por lo que también en este caso los líderes del SÍ, insistiendo en su estrategia de causar miedo, están tergiversando sus palabras.

Schwab also says that “the United States has never faced a situation in which one of its trading partners rejected a bilateral trade deal with it, but still intends to hang onto unilateral trade preferences.” Note, then, that Schwab nowhere says that if we reject the FTA, they will take away the ICC program. Which means that once again the SI campaign, continuing with its fear campaign, is spinning her words.

Pero, en todo caso, es sorprendente que la señora Schwab haga esta afirmación, dado que EE. UU. sí ha enfrentado esta situación: Bolivia y Ecuador rechazaron la ruta del TLC y, sin embargo, el Congreso estadounidense aprobó la extensión de sus preferencias. Nuestras preferencias (la ICC) son permanentes desde 1990, por lo que ni siquiera se requiere una acción del Congreso de EE. UU. para que se mantengan.

But in any event, it is surprising to hear Schwab make this statement, given that the U.S. has indeed faced this situation before: Bolivia and Ecuador rejected a free-trade approach and even so, the U.S. Congress approved an extension of their preferences. Our preferences (the ICC) have been in place since 1990, for which reason Congressional action is not even required to reauthorize them.

Our senior trade representative has a faulty historical memory. What is it? Alzheimer’s? Is she really up to this Doha Round thing?

Vinculación. La señora Schwab tiene título de embajadora y es miembro de un Gobierno muy desacreditado por la guerra en Iraq. Por ello sus palabras, dichas posiblemente después de ser informada desde Costa Rica sobre una masiva marcha y sobre una encuesta que revela una buena posición del NO, deben ser puestas en una balanza con las manifestaciones de las dos personas más poderosas del Capitolio y líderes del partido que muy posible gobierne en los EE. UU. desde enero del 2009. Efectivamente, el senador Harry Reid, la persona más poderosa en el Senado, y Nancy Pelosi, la presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes, escribieron el pasado 28 de setiembre: “Entendemos que algunos han asegurado que existe un vínculo entre el resultado del referéndum y la posibilidad de que Costa Rica continúe participando en la Iniciativa de la Cuenca del Caribe (ICC). … La participación en la ICC no depende de la decisión de un país de aprobar o rechazar un tratado de libre comercio con Estados Unidos, y nosotros no apoyamos este tipo de vinculación”.

Schwab is an appointed ambassador and is part of government that has been discredited by the Iraq War. For that reason, her words — possibly uttered after learning of mass march and a poll indicating a favorable position for the NO campaign — must be weighed in the balance with the most powerful people in the U.S. capital, who may well be governing the U.S. starting in 2009: Reid, the [top dog] in the Senate and Speaker Pelosi, wrote on September 28: “We understand that some have stated that there is a link between the result of the referendum and Costa Rica’s continued participation in the ICC. Participation in the ICC does not depend on a nation’s decision whether to approve or reject a free trade agreement with the United States, and we do not support such a link.”

On those polls, see

Los costarricenses han sido capaces a lo largo de todo este tiempo de separar argumentos sólidos, de la manipulación, las contradicciones y las estrategias del miedo detalladas en el memorando del Gobierno. Por eso mismo no caerán en esta última trampa.

Costa Ricans have been quite able throughout all of this to distinguish between solid arguments and the manipulation, contradictions and fearmongering detailed in the Casas memorandum. That is why they will not fall for this latest ruse.

And so on.

Something very funny went on here. And unsubtle, too. Loud, noisy, boneheaded, arrogant interventionism in the internal affairs of another democracy.

These people seem to think that if they keep us Americans from hearing about, their politicals asses are covered.

If they do not read about it in the New York Times, then nobody will know that it happened?

Believe me, word gets around.

And despite the fairy tales they tell for domestic consumption — and I think this is probably the worst part of it — it really is not just bearded, smelly, Che-venerating Commies who are really, really deeply offended by this sort of thing.

I agree with Ms. Sánchez: I really think our national prestige is in the crapper with a lot of people whose sympathy we should not even have to work that hard to maintain.

Because of gabbling nonsense just like this, and the autistic way these people have of persisting in the same mistake — just like Homer Simpson sticking his finger in a light socket, screaming in pain — and then doing it again. And again. And again.

Just to see if he will get the same result this time around.

Hegel was wrong.

Only cartoon idiots fail to learn from experience to this degree.

Real people often succeed.

Or risk getting written up for a Darwin Award.



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