San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

State Contribution Sticks; Arias, Solís Meet in Ring

• Despite a strained national budget, the government contribution to political parties this campaign season will be approximately $32 million. Legislators had discussed reducing the state contribution – divided among parties after the elections based on votes received – from 0.19% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to 0.15% or 0.12%.However, it appears that initiative has been discarded. The reduction would have been part of a bill being discussed by legislators to reform campaign finance laws and strengthen penalties against violators (TT, Sept. 23). National Liberation Party (PLN) and Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) legislators said the bill could not move forward without eliminating the proposal to decrease the state contribution.• With O.19% of the GDP going to campaigns, each of the approximately 2.5 million votes that could be cast in February could cost the state approximately $11, up from approximately $7 per vote in 2002, the daily La Nación reported. Although the constitution requires a 0.19% contribution, in 2002 it was agreed to reduce the state contribution to 0.10% for that year’s election.• Billed as most anticipated show of the last four years, Citizen Action Party (PAC) presidential candidate Ottón Solís took on fellow candidate and former President Oscar Arias, of Liberation, in the boxing ring Monday night – or rather, masked actors representing the candidates went at it. The three-minute match, hyped in advance by cryptic newspaper ads, ended with the question: “Are you sure Oscar is going to win? Ottón Solís: Go out and vote.” Intended to remind voters that every vote counts, the ad is part of a new Solís campaign. Arias’s camp isn’t thrilled, and not just because of the swings Solís takes at their candidate in the ring: “It seems grotesque to us to compare a political campaign to a boxing match. It is much more than this. It is about explaining ideas,” campaign spokesman Luis Fernando Villalobos told The Tico Times.• The random men named Oscar Arias who participated in another unusual campaign ad in which they espoused views contrary to the candidate’s were paid ¢80,000 ($163) each for their participation, the environmental group behind the ads admitted to the daily Al Día. The print and television campaign, which was rejected by some media before it even started, featured the other Ariases speaking against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which candidate Arias adamantly supports.• The fairness of the electoral process for handicapped people has been called into play with two requests for injunctions filed with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV). The first was filed against the Liberation and PAC campaigns because their television propaganda was not adapted to the needs of the deaf population. PAC has since started dubbing their ads, including Monday’s boxing match.Erick Chacón, who is blind, filed the second against the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) because the organization gave him three days to answer a notification he could not read because it was not sent in Braille.• The number of foreigners eligible to vote in the February 2006 Costa Rican elections has increased by 11%, or 33,608 people, since 2002, the daily La República reported. Nicaragua boasts the largest number of naturalized immigrants here, with 19,546, up from 18,113 in 2002, according to the daily. However, the expatriate group showing the largest increase came from the Dominican Republic, followed by the United States, Chile and Ecuador.• A bill to improve, update and strengthen punishments against violators of environmental laws is moving forward in the Legislative Assembly, after being passed last week in the Special Environmental Commission. The goal of the bill is to guarantee the effective protection of national biodiversity by allowing judges to impose fines or prison sentences against those who commit crimes against wild flora and fauna, depending on the gravity of the damage, according to a statement from the assembly. Judges can also revoke licenses of violators.• The State of the Nation report confirms what many critics of the Legislative Assembly have been saying for months: legislators approved the fewest laws in the 2004-2005 session in 15 years. Only 30 of 68 bills approved in commission were approved in the full legislative session. In addition, it takes bills on average 600 days to be fully processed in the assembly, and of the 166 laws approved since 2002, 88 are applicable only to communities or organizations, rather than having nationwide ramifications, La Nación reported.

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