San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Social Christian Unity Aims for New Image

The leadership of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), following a dismal showing in last February’s presidential elections and a drastic drop in mayoral seats after December’s municipal elections, has decided to make a small change in the party’s name by dropping the word “partido” and moving from “PUSC” to “USC.”

Though a name change may seem trivial and the reasons behind it a bit odd – “USC” President Luis Fishman told The Tico Times recently that the old name sounded too much like “pus” – it apparently marks a deeper division among the party faithful. According to Fishman, ever since PUSC infighting over the election of Fishman and party secretary Xinia Carbajal last year, he no longer considers PUSC’s legislative assembly members part of Social Christian Unity, founded in 1983.

The rapid decline of PUSC, which held both the presidency and the largest Legislative Assembly faction from 2002-2006, arguably began in 2004, when massive corruption cases implicated two ex-Presidents from Social Christian Unity: the party’s founder, Rafael Angel Calderón, Jr. (1990-1994), and Miguel Angel Rodríguez (1998-2002). Both were temporarily imprisoned and are still under investigation for allegedly receiving kickbacks related to public contracts (TT, Oct. 22, 2004). PUSC received only 3.5% of the vote in the 2006 presidential elections, less than a tenth of what it’d received four years before when former President Abel Pacheco was elected.

Last July, Fishman was elected as the party’s president, but accusations that party founder Calderón had intimidated Unity members to ensure Fishman’s victory split the party (TT, July 7, 2006).

The party’s legislative faction head, Lorena Vásquez, did not return Tico Times phone calls this week or last to comment on the developments. However, Fishman – who was elected Vice-President on Pacheco’s ticket in 2002, but, after a falling-out with Pacheco, also of Unity, served out most of his term with a salary but no official functions –shared some insights:

TT: Why has the party changed its name?

LF: It’s not a name change. It’s just an informal image issue, to try to get Costa Ricans to say “U.S.C.” instead of P U S C …When (people) pronounce our name, they don’t pronounce it properly and they say “pus” [Spanish for “pus,” pronounced “pooce”].

“Pus,” like from a wound?

Yes, yes, pus, like the infection. They would say it (to make fun).We want to avoid that whole connotation.

So it’s going to be “U.S.C.,” not “USC”?

We’ll, we’re going to try.

I hear some legislators are putting up some resistance to the name change.

We don’t include the faction.We’re separated. The only one we count on is (PUSC legislator) Bienvenido Venegas. We don’t care what they think… They’re bad losers.

So, in effect, the party has no legislators in the assembly.

We have many: people who aren’t in the party, but we count on them to support our positions within other parties.

Can you give me some examples?

No. But they’re tied to us ideologically… The party can guarantee you that when (President) Oscar Arias’ term ends (in 2010), the USC will have more legislators. They’ll make the decision to go to our party.

What’s next for the party, in terms of the 2010 presidential election?

We’re not working on that yet.


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