San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Political Party To Revive Left

ON May 1, International Workers’ Day, representativesof the country’s labor unions, environmentalgroups and several left-leaning politicians plan toestablish a new political party – one they say will offervoters a “real political alternative.”“This movement is being founded by citizens fromdifferent walks of life – union members, environmentalists,representatives of women’s groups and communityleaders – concerned about the real needs andstruggles of the country’s social sectors,” explainedJosé Merino, one of the movement’s founders.During their founding meeting, to be held after the annual workers’ parade in San José, supporters will decide on an official partyname and define a basic political platform.“THE country is governed by theextreme right,” said Fabio Chávez, presidentof the Costa Rican ElectricityInstitute’s (ICE) ASEDEICE workers’union and a supporter of the new movement.“The two large conservative parties[governing Social Christian Unity andNational Liberation] have forged a strategicalliance. The extreme right is alsopresent in the Libertarian Movement.There is a weak opposition by CitizenAction Party, which was further weakenedwhen it was fractured into two factions,”he explained.ALTHOUGH details of the platformstill must be discussed, Merino said themovement would oppose the CentralAmerica Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA)with the United States, the opening of thecountry’s telecommunications and insurancemonopolies, and the proposed U.S.International Law Enforcement Academy(ILEA), among other issues.However, the movement hopes to serveas more than just an opposing force. It alsowill offer concrete proposals on how tomake Costa Rica a better, more equal andmore environmentally sustainable country,according to Merino.The party hopes to offer voters “analternative to the neo-liberal developmentmodel and Washington consensus policiesthat have governed the country since the1980s,” Merino said.IN the past, the left has played anactive role in Costa Rican politics.Although none of the leftist parties thathave existed in the past 20 years –Popular Vanguard, Socialist Party, UnitedPeople, Revolutionary Movement Partyand Democratic Force, for example –have held more than a handful of seats inthe Legislative Assembly, they served asopposition to the political establishment.Their concerns filtered into the mainstreamlegislative agenda.Today, while there are five major factionsin the Legislative Assembly, no self proclaimedleftist parties are represented.The members of the new leftist movementhope to change this by taking part in the2006 elections.A lack of political representationprompted many left-leaning leaders andintellectuals two years ago to create thePolitical Action Forum for AnotherPossible Costa Rica, an informal thinktank in charge of discussing the country’sproblems and offering potential solutions.From that forum rose the idea for apolitical movement, which on Saturdaywill begin the long journey towardsbecoming a political party.ENVIRONMENTALIST GabrielRivas, who also plans to collaborate withthe movement, believes in the need for anincreasingly belligerent leftist movementthat represents the interests of the majorityof the country’s population.He said he hopes the movement willserve as a counter-balance to the governingminority and the interests of big capital.“I see a real intention to include thepositions of the different social sectors,including not only the traditional left butalso gender rights groups and environmentalists,”Rivas explained.“As an environmentalist, I am attractedby the movement’s proposals. I see a leftwilling to update its proposals; a left thathas thrown out a vision based solely onproduction and economics and is openingitself to environmental proposals.“The movement has great potential,”he said. “It aims to fill a large vacuumthat has been created in the country’spolitical process.”“THIS is a necessary movement,”explained Merino, who served as deputyfor Democratic Force between 1998 and2002. “There are no parties in theLegislative Assembly that represent thereal needs of social groups. There is a needfor an alternative and a modern left thatbelieves in creating an alternative to theneo-liberal capitalism that dominates us.”Union leader Chávez agrees on theneed for a renewed leftist political movement.“The country’s social movements havebeen left without representation,” Chávezexplained. “Different social actors havebeen talking about the need to establish aninstitutionalized movement that truly representsthe country’s social sectors in theLegislative Assembly.Other union leaders supporting themovement include Jorge Gamboa of theNational Learning Institute (INA) unionand Freddy Solórzano of the NationalAssociation of Public and PrivateEmployees (ANEP).MERINO said he prefers not to referto the movement as a political party in thetraditional sense. Ideally, he says, differentsocial movements should be allowedto propose their own candidates fordeputies.However, the current political systemis centered on party politics and the onlyway to achieve political representation isthrough a party. For that reason, the movementis becoming a party, while still tryingto maintain its original identity, he said.“Over the next six months, we hope tohave constituted a nationwide organizationwith branches in every province and canton,”Merino said.“WE hope to have an electoral presenceduring the next elections as part of abroad front,” he said. “Our movementwill seek to stop the advances of the oligarchsled by [former President 1986-1990 and presidential hopeful] Dr. OscarArias, which are threatening the country’s democracy.”The meeting to define the party platformis scheduled for May 1 at 1:30 p.m.,in the Edificio Cooperativo behind the SanPedro Mall.How Is a Political Party Created?1) After a group decides to create a newpolitical party, its representatives need tocollect 3,000 signatures of Costa Ricanvoters willing to support the party.2) The party must then hold assemblymeetings in the country’s 465 districts, 81cantons and seven provinces to elect localrepresentatives. Next, it must hold its firstnational assembly.3) Once that is done, it must submit itspaperwork to the Supreme ElectionsTribunal to be officially registered as a party.4) Candidates for the president anddeputies for the 2006 elections must beelected by August 2005.

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