8.10.07

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.
Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias, embraces a supporter Sunday in San Jose after hearing the first results.
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... Please pageview http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/10/08/costarica.us.ap/index.html

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