San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias Campaign Targets Nation’s Youth

WITH text messages, cell-phone callsand ads shown before the latest theatricalrelease of the popular Star Wars series,presidential candidate Oscar Arias, whoofficially became the National LiberationParty candidate Sunday, is using his campaignto target a particular audience – onethat was barely out of diapers during hisfirst term as President (1986-1990).The innovation has in some casesbackfired. While Arias continues to lead inthe polls, his campaigning tactics havereceived thousands of complaints.The Arias campaign believes youngpeople are key to securing victory in theFebruary 2006 presidential election,explained spokeswoman Lorena Sánchez.Arias, 64, captured 35.8% of votes inthe latest poll by Demoscopía, published inthe daily Al Día. Following him was“nobody” – the reply of 20.8% of pollrespondents.It is this contingent, along with thepoll’s 4.8% of “undecides,” that the Ariascampaign is trying to capture by focusingon youth.“Youth are the most unsure if theywant to vote,” Sánchez said.WHILE messages like, “Hi. This isJohn Kerry. I want to be your President,”may have become commonplace for residentsof the United States and parts ofEurope, they are new to Costa Rica.Following the international trend, theArias campaign has made 210,000 randomlydialed calls to houses and left 99,000 messagesin cell phone voicemail boxes.While some are receptive to the message,others have complained not only ofan invasion to their privacy but also of thecost. Because the cell-phone messages areleft directly on voicemail, consumers mustpay to retrieve them – approximately ¢23($0.05) per minute during the day.The government has received approximately6,300 complaints regarding thecalls, according to the daily La Nación.Campaign officials have since decidedto stop the cell phone calls and make callsonly to homes, and only to those who haveat some point in history voted for theLiberation party. This group may alsosoon receive cards in the mail remindingthem why they should vote for Arias – atactic also foreign to Costa Rica, but well usedin other countries.THIS type of alternative campaigningis cheap compared to other media, accordingto Rodrigo Arias, Oscar’s brother andcampaign manager.However, unlike the campaigns ofother candidates, the Arias campaign hasalready spent thousands of dollars on traditionalcampaign methods – more than$14,000 a month on radio ads and morethan $10,000 a month on print ads.The campaign also ran ads beforemovies for one month and ran televiseddocumentary-style ads boasting of Arias’achievements during his first term asPresident, including being awarded theNobel Peace Prize.All this happened before he became theofficial Liberation candidate this weekend.THE election season received an officialkick-off of sorts this week, withMonday being the last day for parties toregister at the Supreme Elections Tribunal.Five new parties registered on thenational level – Patriotic Union (UP),Union for Change (UPC), First Patrimony(PP), National Union (UN), and DemocraticNational Alliance (ADN).These join the 13 parties already registeredon the national level.While 18 parties could potentially viefor the presidency of the Republic, only ahandful of candidates have emerged asleaders in the race.Trailing Arias and the no-voters in therecent Demoscopía poll are Citizen ActionParty (PAC) candidate Ottón Solís (12.8%),Union for Change (UPC) candidate AntonioÁlvarez Desanti (10.4%), LibertarianMovement Party candidate Otto Guevara(8.2%), and Social Christian Unity Party(PUSC) pre-candidate Ricardo Toledo(7.3%). Patriotic Union Party candidate JoséMiguel Corrales, a leader in previous polls,was not named in the Demoscopía poll.The poll of 1,200 people over age 18was conducted May 21 to June 1. Itclaims a margin of error of 2.8%.ARIAS leads the polls not only inpotential votes; 44.6% of poll respondentssaid he is the best candidate and 61.7%believe he will win the presidency.If this is the case, the country will seeincreased funding in education, science,security and social programs, according tocampaign promises made by Arias in hisspeech Sunday accepting the Liberationcandidacy.Arias said the country must invest 2%of its gross domestic product (GDP) in scientificresearch and development, which iscurrently supported by five times less thanthat amount.He also said the amount invested ineducation should be increased from 6% to8% of the GDP. Arias proposes strengtheningthe areas of math, computers andEnglish.ARIAS also told the press he wouldcreate 300,000 new jobs for young people,the daily La Nación reported.To do so, Arias championed, as hehas countless times before, the gradualopening of “some” (state) monopolies,although he did not specify which ones.Arias is a strong advocate of theCentral American Free-Trade Agreementwith the United States (CAFTA), whichincludes opening the state monopolies onmobile telephony and insurance.Arias spent part of this week in theUnited States lobbying democrats thereto pass CAFTA. However, his efforts appearedto be in vain, reported La Nación,who sent a reporter to Washington, D.C.The daily reported that after Ariasmet with Nancy Pelosi, democraticleader in the U.S. House of Representatives,she reiterated that 90% ofdemocrats are already planning to voteagainst CAFTA.

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