San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Araya: No Need For Arias’ Support

San José Mayor and presidential hopeful Johnny Araya said this week that the National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate does not need President Oscar Arias’ blessing to win the 2010 elections.

Arias has snubbed Araya by appearing to favor Vice President Laura Chinchilla. “For any candidate, it would be nice to have the president’s support,” Araya said in a debate with Legislative Assembly President Francisco Pacheco. “But it is not a deciding factor… I don’t think power is transferable.”

A recent CID-Gallup poll found that 54% of Costa Ricans back Arias, making him more popular than any other president since 1980.

Next year, the party, with 124 voting representatives from across the country, will choose a PLN candidate for the 2010 race.

Araya said he plans to run, while Chinchilla said she is considering it.

Arias, who appears to be backing Chinchilla, told the weekly El Financiero that a woman should succeed him, and he told the daily La Nación in March that Chinchilla “is a woman whose calling is public service.”

The president further raised Chinchilla’s profile by appointing her interim public security minister after Fernando Berrocal resigned March 30. Lawmaker Janina del Vecchio has since assumed that post.

Araya, an agricultural engineer, has gained national prominence as a San José municipal leader for more than 20 years. He served on the city’s Municipal Council from 1982-1986 and was appointed the municipal executive, then the mayor, from 1991-2002, when he won the first-ever popular municipal elections.

In Tuesday’s debate, organized by El Financiero, Araya outlined what may become his presidential platform: A war on crime; investment in education; progressive tax reform to solve social inequalities; and policies to empower local governments.


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