San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Who’s in Charge Here? A Look at Legislative Assembly Leaders

Mayi Antillón, 46.National Liberation Party (PLN), 25 legislators.

As head of the largest faction, Antillón has plenty of pressure on her to win approval for President Oscar Arias’ campaign elements. A political scientist and the former director of the Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations (UCCAEP), Antillón told The Tico Times she thinks the assembly has enough on its plate without attempting to streamline its regulations.

Elizabeth Fonseca, 57. Citizen Action Party (PAC), 17 legislators.

As the leader of PAC – a party she helped found 2000, whose platform emphasizes measures to eliminate corruption – Fonseca, a former history professor at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), heads the anti-CAFTA fight and says she won’t back down. “We’re fighting hard,” she told The Tico Times, adding that she thinks it would be “absurd” for the assembly to vote on the pact much before the middle of next year.

Evita Arguedas, 45. Libertarian Movement Party, 6 legislators.

Arguedas – who presided over the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) from 1998-1999 and the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce from 2004-2005 – serves as the vice-president of the assembly. In the previous assembly, her party notoriously swamped tax reforms known as the Permanent Fiscal Reform Package with thousands of motions to prevent its passage; it was never approved despite more than three years of debate. Arguedas says the new incarnation of the Libertarian Movement won’t use this method.

Lorena Vásquez, 47. Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), 5 legislators.

Vásquez, a former legislator (1994-1998) and Housing Minister, heads the only party to see its numbers fall after February’s elections. Like some others in her party, she’s conditioned her support for CAFTA on the passage of legislation to help Costa Rica prepare for it – including increased funds for education and investment in infrastructure, she told The Tico Times.

Guyón Massey, 62. National Restoration Party, 1 legislator.

Massey is an evangelical pastor, as is Carlos Avendaño, the former legislator who founded National Restoration in 2005. The soft-spoken, pro-CAFTA lawmaker serves as the legislative directorate’s Second Secretary, and says he’s been impressed by his fellow legislators’ interest in helping the poor.

Oscar López, 35. Access Without Exclusion Party (PASE), 1 legislator.

López says he’s proud of the high profile he has achieved despite being the only PASE legislator. Most notably in recent months, he has denounced the Arias administration for allowing various business transactions he says pave the way for arms manufacturing here (see separate story). López, who is blind, represents a party founded in 2005 to oppose CAFTA and fight for the rights of the disabled, senior citizens and their families.

José Merino, 57. Broad Front, 1 legislator.

A political scientist and journalist, this native of Spain, with his curly mop of hair and distinctive speaking style, is a fixture at protests in San José, particularly when CAFTA is involved. A legislator for the Patriotic Force in 1998-2002, he returned to the assembly this year on a platform based on opposition to the trade pact, gender equality and increased citizen participation in democracy.

José Manuel Echandi, 42. National Union Party (PUN), 1 legislator.

Echandi listened to Costa Ricans’ complaints and problems during his time as Ombudsman –literally translated, “The Defender of the Inhabitants” – during President Abel Pacheco’s term. He then founded National Union and made a simultaneous bid for President and legislator in February’s elections. He says he’s leaning toward voting for CAFTA if enough social legislation accompanies it.

Source: Interviews with legislators and biographies at





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