San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Candidates Eye Next Election

Among the many seasoned candidates who ran for President this year, eight first-time candidates experienced their first election on Sunday. The Tico Times spoke to three of them this week.

José Miguel Villalobos, of the Democratic National Alliance Party and Antonio Alvarez Desanti, of the Union for Change (UPC) whose new parties did not score seats in the Legislative Assembly, both told The Tico Times they plan to run for President again in 2010, while former Ombudsman José Manuel Echandi, who founded the National Union Party (PUN) and was elected legislator on Sunday, is not entirely sure.

The presidential and legislative candidate had told The Tico Times he would withdraw from politics if he did not obtain at least a seat in the Legislative Assembly.

“Costa Rica must be grateful to the people that have helped the country come forth. If not, this is the end of José Manuel Echandi in politics,” he said in reference to the Costa Ricans he helped during his years as a social server. Fortunately for his supporters, Echandi was elected legislator.

During his party’s post-election gathering at Hotel Villa Tournón Sunday, the candidate explained he had served the country for 14 years.

As Ombudsman, Echandi published a report that criticized the administration of President Abel Pacheco and called for greater transparency in government, spurring Pacheco to accuse him of abusing his position to launch his political ambitions (TT, June 18, 2004).

Echandi said he formed his party to offer Costa Ricans real solutions, such as a transparency law to reduce government corruption and increase citizen participation.

National Union promised to increase income taxes instead of sales taxes to place a greater tax load on the rich, create a public university hospital, prison work programs and improve services to the indigenous and elderly.

Alvarez, who gained extensive political experience as a legislator for the National Liberation Party (1994-98), Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Public Security and as a pre-presidential candidate for Liberation, said though he did not expect to win Sunday’s election, his party envisioned coming in second place.

Alvarez said he created his party in response to government corruption, thinking Costa Ricans wanted change.

He blames the Citizen Action Party (PAC) for taking most of the votes that would have otherwise gone to the smaller parties.

Alvarez said he will run again because he has encountered people on the streets who have told him they believe he should be President.

“That justifies a second try,” he told The Tico Times this week, adding that his party will gather strength in time.

Villalobos, a lawyer, said he has learned several lessons he would put into practice as a future candidate.

For example, the former Justice Minister said he learned the polls are a farce and that in order to exist in the world of politics, you must be on TV.

“It is an ill-fated precedent for democracy, but you can go to all the houses in this country and have coffee with each family, but if you’re not on TV, that’s it,” he said.

Villalobos said that for the moment, he is happy that his party does not owe anyone a single penny.

Villalobos has served as legal counsel to Osvaldo Villalobos, one of two brothers involved in a failed high-interest loan operation involving approximately 6,000 former investors, mostly North Americans. He is not related to the brothers.


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