San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Campaign Gets Dirty, Arias Maintains Lead

•With the election just over a week away, the latest poll has Natio-nal Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Oscar Arias claiming victory without a runoff. If the election were held today, 45.5% of voters would vote for Arias, 24.1% would vote for Citizen Action Party (PAC) candidate Ottón Solís, 15% would vote for Libertarian Movement candidate Otto Guevara, 5.4% would vote for Union for Change candidate Antonio Alvarez, 3.2% would vote for National Union Party (PUN) candidate José Manuel Echandi, and 2.5% would vote for Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) candidate Ricardo Toledo.


•A total of 33,721 naturalized foreigners will be able to vote in the upcoming Feb. 5 elections, 19,580 (58%) of whom are Nicaraguan, the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) reported this week. Other foreign citizens eligible to vote include people from El Salvador (2,992), China (1,463), Panama (1,208), Colombia (1,136), Cuba (1,069), Peru (859), Honduras (584), Chile (448), Spain (437) and the United States (364), among others.


•The Catholic Church has joined the Foundation for the Progress of Blind People in demanding blind people be allowed to vote in secret, instead of being aided by a seeing person. The foundation has filed a request for an injunction with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) demanding as much. However, Hector Fernández, director of electoral programs at the Supreme Elections Tribunal, told The Tico Times they do not have time to print ballots in Braille.


•The mud has started flying all over the place with candidates and civilians pulling skeletons, many not so frightening, out of the closet. The Libertarian Movement team claimed Tuesday that Arias would be an absentee President if elected, citing the fact that he spent 51% of his time outside of the country from 1990-2003. The former President and Nobel Prize laureate has left more than 250 times, according to Libertarian legislator Carlos Salazar. “This shows that Arias doesn’t have the least bit of interest in Costa Rica and is more interested in other countries,” he said. After winning the 1987 Peace Prize, Arias founded the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, which promotes just and peaceful societies around the world.


•Meanwhile, authorities at Channel 31, Cristo Visión, accused Solís of never paying them thousands of dollars for the publicity they provided him during the candidate’s first campaign in 2002.However, PAC’s treasurer Oscar Fernández told Al Día the station was paid in bonds from the political debt and accepted its inherent risk.


•Libertarian Movement legislative candidate Marta Angulo allegedly used psychiatric leave from her job at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) to work on her campaign, the daily La Nación reported. Angulo was approved by a psychiatric clinic to take stress leave from her job; however, she has been photographed working on her campaign. After a MOPT investigation, Transport Minister Rándall Quirós on Wednesday requested Angulo’s dismissal from MOPT and said Angulo used “an apparent swindle,” La Nación reported.


•Patriotic Union legislator and presidential candidate Humberto Arce has accused Liberation secretary general and legislative candidate Oscar Núñez of charging the  Municipality of San José ¢11.5 million ($23,000) for trash collection services that his company never provided. Arce said Núñez’s company Inversiones Paraísos Internacionales S.A. is being investigated for fraud, an accusation Núñez called “outrageous,” according to the daily Al Día.


•Arias said he wouldn’t debate Solís again even if the pope asked him, so San Jose archbishop Hugo Barrantes and Ciudad Quesada bishop Angel San Casimiro should not have been surprised when the candidate didn’t show up for a debate last week organized by the Catholic Church. But they were. According to San Casimiro, Arias didn’t even bother to respond to the invitation, which was sent Nov. 14, a move the Bishop called “inappropriate.” Arias’s image coordinator Fernando Zumbado said they did turn down the offer Jan. 9 and doesn’t understand why the message didn’t arrive. Guevara was the only other candidate to miss the debate, held Jan. 18 in the morning.


•Guevara supports the medical use of marijuana to relieve the pain of people suffering from cancer, the candidate told the daily La Nación. Guevara said that conversations with  his father, an oncologist, inspired the decision, although he is not willing to legalize all uses of the drug.


•Solís told young interviewers from La Nación he lost his virginity to an older woman while picking coffee. Guevara said he learned about sex from Playboy and Penthouse. And other candidates said they learned about sex from their friends. In the same interviews, directed at young voters, Alvarez also said he liked the music of Abracadabra when he was young. Arias said he was a nerd who suffered from asthma and was constantly chased by his mother telling him to put on a sweater. All of the candidates said they would accept their children if they said they were homosexual.


•Singer Alfredo Poveda puts his mouth where the money is. The young singer from Tibás belts out Arias’s latest campaign song so well that his voice has been confused with Rubén Blades; but his heart belongs to Solís, to whom he sang a song at one of the candidate’s recent town hall meetings, the daily Al Día reported.


•Liberation will spend ¢100 million ($200,000) for its final rally in downtown San José Saturday, which will include four stages with musical performances and a speech by Arias on the main stage on Paseo Colon, near Purdy Motor. In addition, the party will spend ¢400 million ($800,000) on Election Day activities, including ¢300 million ($600,000) to transport voters in a fleet of 24,000 vehicles. Between drivers, observers, guides and coordinators, 200,000 people are expected to help the party Election Day – meaning Arias will have more helpers than some parties will have votes.


•Arias met privately this week with former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González (1982-1996), who is considered a champion of social democracy and was here giving a speech on the future of Latin America.Union leaders and the Libertarian Movement party both denounced the visit, claiming González links Arias to Mexican Telecom mogul Carlos Slim – who, according to the daily La República, is seeking inroads to Costa Rica’s telecommunications market if it opens to competition under CAFTA. Arias told Al Día the accusation is a “lie” and a “fantasy” and González said though Slim is “a good personal friend” he has never asked business favors.


•Former President Rafael Angel Calderón, Jr. (1990-1994) plans to be the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) presidential candidate in 2010, he told Unity supporters during a private meeting this week at which he encouraged them to vote for Unity candidates Feb. 5, La Nación reported. The announcement came although Calderón is currently suspended from Unity while authorities investigate him for corruption allegations, which had the former President under preventive arrest last year.

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