San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vying to Preside Over Costa Rica’s Future: A Look at the Presidential Candidates

WITH the presidential election justseven months away, more and more socialand economic issues facing the nation arebecoming political issues. Candidates arecoming forward more and more visibly tooffer their answers to the uncertain fate ofthe country.One of the largest of the questions athand is the future of the Central AmericanFree-Trade Agreement with the UnitedStates (CAFTA). If President Abel Pachecodoesn’t send the agreement to theLegislative Assembly before the end of histerm in May 2006, many say the Februarypresidential elections will become an indirectreferendum on the agreement’s future,based on whether voters support pro- oranti-CAFTA candidates.While CAFTA may be the most concreteissue, it is representative of largerquestions facing the country that could bedecided in the forthcoming elections – thefuture of the social state and state monopolies,Costa Rica’s participation in theglobal market, and how to combat povertyhere.Since 1948, Costa Rican politics havebeen based on a two-party system: theNational Liberation Party versus a coalitionthat eventually evolved into the SocialChristian Unity Party (PUSC) in the 1980s.But as Costa Ricans become more andmore frustrated with their leadership, thecountry seems to be edging closer to a realchange.Liberation’s candidate, Oscar Arias,remains the front-runner by far in manypolls, but if he cannot capture more than40% of the vote, the elections will go to arunoff. An alliance of anti-Arias, anti-CAFTA groups could spoil his efforts toreturn to the presidency.Although the Tico Times has been coveringelection issues for some time, wewould like to systematically introduce ourreaders to the players in this year’s election(information based on interviews and campaignmaterial):Party: Citizen ActionParty (PAC)Colors: Red andyellowAge: 51Profession: EconomistGovernment goals:Create a developedsociety acceptingglobalization underthe rules of fair trade; promote exports onthe basis of environmental commitmentand solidarity with poorer members of thecommunity; attract foreign investment, butrequire an excellent environmental recordand solidarity with workers; define a justsystem in which “hardworking and honestpeople succeed, as opposed to the currentsystem in which dishonest people succeedthrough bribery and corruption;” long-termemphasis on eliminating corruption,decentralizing trade unions and eliminatingunions’ worst abuses.Possibility of an alliance: Last week,party heads discarded this possibility forFebruary elections. If a runoff occurs, Solíshas said he will only support an alliance ifa well-defined and precise agenda is determinedbetween parties.CAFTAstance: Should be renegotiated.Political Experience: Planning andEconomic Policy Minister, 1986-88; BoardMember, Central Bank, 1986-1988;Legislator, 1994-1998, all with Liberationuntil he left the party for PAC; PAC presidentialcandidate 2002; came in third, forcingfirst runoff in four decades.Other Experience: Master ofEconomics, University of Manchester (UK);President, Inter-American Economic andSocial Council, Organization of AmericanStates (OAS), 1987-1988; Consultant forvarious political and financial institutions;Member of the Committee of Experts onPublic Administration of the United Nationssince 2002.Web site: www.pac.or.crParty: LibertarianMovement PartyColors: Red andwhiteAge: 44Profession: AttorneyGovernment goals:Balanced budgetwith no deficit; nonew taxes, and reduction of current tax levels;opening of public and private monopoliesto free market; promote bilateral andmultilateral trade with the Americas, Europeand Asia to increase investment, jobs andemployment; use private initiatives to buildpublic infrastructure – including airports,roads and landfills – through an improvedconcession system; reinitiate national trainsystem; give all citizens freedom to choosetheir schools and health services; improvenational park system through public/privatecooperation; decentralize the state.Guevara as a leader: Will “representthe new political generation ready to producean intelligent, cautious and positivechange for the country… Listening to thepeople, he knows how to negotiate andmake decisions.”CAFTA stance: Strong proponent.Political experience: Founder ofLibertarian Movement Party in 1994, partypresident since then; Libertarian legislator1998-2002; Libertarian presidential candidate2002Other experience: Master of Law(LLM), Harvard University; Universityof Costa Rica (UCR) law professor;director of various businesses in tourism,commerce and industry from 1988-1998; founder and director of legal servicesand consulting firm; director of varioustelevision and radio programs onpolitics.Web site: www.libertario.orgParty: PatrioticUnion (UP)Colors: Blue andwhiteAge: 66Profession: Legislator,lawyerGovernment goals:Bring young peopleback to politics bygiving them“something to believe in;” defense ofsocial state, particularly health system,to guarantee state institutions are servingthe needs of the country rather than profits; move the long-term course of countryaway from neoliberalism; hold a constitutionalCongress to reform outdatedpolitical system, including organization ofbranches of government, and increaseenvironmental guarantees; reform educationsystem so students can become businessowners, not employees of transnationalcompanies.Possibility of an alliance: Stronglysupports an alliance as a way to defeatArias, CAFTA and what he calls the“neoliberalism leading the country.” Sayshe will join alliance “as captain or assailor.” Working on forming the GrandNational Alliance (GANA), which wouldinclude National Democratic Alliance andcandidate José Miguel Villalobos, formerJustice Minister. A convention could beheld to determine a candidate for thealliance, although, as time passes, analliance is “looking difficult,” according toVillalobos.CAFTA stance: Strongly opposes.Political Experience: Three-time legislator(2002-present, 1974-1978 forLiberation, 1986-1990 for Liberation),former presidential candidate forLiberation (1988). Named Legislator ofthe Decade in 1989 by the Costa RicanJournalist’s Association. Corrales leftLiberation in January after 40 years, sayingthe party is now only concerned with“oligarchic interests.”Other Experience: Law degree, UCR;professor at UCR; substitute magistrate inthe Supreme Court.Web site: www.jmcorrales.comParty: Union forChangeColors: Yellow andblueAge: 47Profession: LawyerGovernment goals:Profound change ingovernment fueledby new leadershipto open path for new generations; proposalof new fiscal reform plan in which the richpay more taxes to benefit the rest of society,to replace proposed tax plan now underconsideration; creation of programs to supportsmall and medium businesses; sustainablegrowth of production; increasedinvestment in education; reform of publicinstitutions; directing funds to public healthsystem for preventive medicine; allianceswith private sector for the construction ofinfrastructure; modern roads, ports, andairports that will promote development;creation of a long-term environmentalagenda; heavy regulation of openingof ICE to the benefit of the consumer;more observers of state contractnegotiations to ensure transparency.CAFTA stance: Supports.Political Experience: Legislator(1994-1998) and president of LegislativeAssembly; Liberation presidential pre-candidate(2001); Minister of Agriculture;Minister of Public Security; executivepresident, National Production Council.Desanti held these posts under Liberation,but left the party in October 2004, withcalls for profound change under new leadership;he says corruption has destroyedUnity and Liberation, and Costa Rica hascome to the “end of an era.”Other Experience: UCR law degree,president of the UCR Student Federation(FEUCR).Web site: www.alvarezdesanti.comParty: NationalUnion PartyColors: Green andyellowAge: 41Profession: LawyerGovernment goals:Rebuild social state,which has lostground because offiscal policy; solicit international cooperationto build infrastructure; increaseinvestment in education from 6% GDP to10%; bridge education gap between ruraland urban areas; create university teachinghospital; purchase MRI (MagneticResonance Imaging) for public hospitals;construction of public housing outsideflood zones; strengthening of programsfor seniors and disabled; promote 3%quota of disabled employees in companiesand institutions; less reliance onvalue-added tax, which taxes rich andpoor equally; instead implement systemin which those who earn more, paymore.CAFTA stance: Should be sent to theLegislative Assembly so legislators candecide. Costa Rica can’t be left out.Possiblity of an Alliance: Recentlyjoined by PUSC pre-candidate EverardoRodríguez. More alliances could followif based on humanism, not on defeatingone candidate.Experience: Ombudsman; Social ProtectionCouncil; director, Child WelfareOffice (PANI); UCR graduate degree inbusiness administration; law degree; professorUCR.Party: NationalLiberation Party(PLN)Colors: Green andwhiteAge: 64Profession:Lawyer, politicalscientistGovernment goals:Fight against corruptionby reforming Judicial Branch,strengthening Comptroller’s office to overseegovernment contracts, and bringingtransparency to those contracts; fightpoverty by increasing quantity and qualityof social spending; participate in globalmarket and stimulate private investment tocreate quality jobs for youth; create macroeconomicdiscipline; find balance betweenpopulism of old left and neoliberal fundamentalismof extreme right; increaseinvestment in public education – at least8% of the GDP; prioritize state, strengtheningareas such as public health, andreleasing hold on areas such as telecommunicationsand insurance; open theseinstitutions to competition, but with regulation.CAFTA stance: Says ratification willbe top priority if elected.Political Experience: President (1986-1990); Planning Minister; Legislator; secretarygeneral, PLN.Other Experience: Won Nobel PeacePrize in 1987 for efforts toward CentalAmerican peace accords; author; UCR lawand economics degrees; political sciencedoctorate from University of Essex; politicsprofessor at UCR and U.S. andEuropean universities.Web site: www.ariaspresidente.comParty: SocialChristian UnityParty (PUSC)Colors: Red andblueAge: 46Profession:Legislator, lawyer.Government goals:Stimulate creationof micro, small andmedium businesses so workers canbecome owners of their own businesses;create jobs by attracting more healthyinvestment; continue Pacheco’s fightagainst corruption; address immigrationissues that are increasingly pressuringhealth and education systems by tighteningborders; provide opportunities for youngpeople so they don’t have to leave theircountry to fulfill their dreams; give computersto every high school graduate; newpositions in government institutions shouldinclude 5% young people as well as peopleover age 50; create home loan programsfor young, middle-class couples with 4%interest rate over 30 years; include nonvotingrepresentatives from Puntarenas,Guanacaste and Limón in government cabinet;maintain allegiance to fundamentalsof party and social Christian ideology.CAFTA stance: Supports once thecomplementary agenda has been approved.Political Experience: Vice Minister ofLabor; various leadership positions inPUSC; alternate ambassador to Organizationof American States (OAS).Other Experience: UCR law degree,agriculture degree; director of NationalYouth Movement.Web site: construction)

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