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Business Chambers: We’ll Open Books When Asked

Tico Times, Costa Rica

Business Chambers: We’ll Open Books When Asked

By Katherine Stanley, Tico Times Staff

30 May 2007

Representatives from Costa Rican business chambers said yesterday that they’re happy to publish information on campaign donations for the upcoming free-trade referendum - but only if the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) asks them to do so.

At a press conference held at the headquarters of the Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations (UCCAEP), which represents 42 private business chambers, representatives said the organization does not plan to open its books unless it receives an official request from the TSE.

"We’re going to submit ourselves 100% to the rules the Tribunal establishes," Union board member Franco Arturo Pacheco told reporters. Pacheco and others at the press conference called for the TSE to clarify whether organizations campaigning in preparation for September’s planned referendum on the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) should publish the sources of their campaign donations.

This statement came on the heels of a letter to UCCAEP from union leaders last week, proposing an agreement between pro- and anti-CAFTA activists to make public their donation records. In the letter, addressed to UCCAEP as well as the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce, the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), and the pro-CAFTA lobbying group "Por Costa Rica," union activists Albino Vargas and Fabio Chávez suggested a joint publication of records overseen by a group such as Transparency International.

That letter, in turn, was prompted by ongoing rumors that unions will accept donations from CAFTA opponents in Cuba and Venezuela to help persuade Costa Ricans to vote "no" on Sept. 23.