San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Party leader celebrates return to Costa Rica

Ottón Solís, a likely presidential candidate, celebrated his return to Costa Rica and to politics yesterday after teaching in Florida for five months.

In a spirited gathering at the Citizen Action Party’s headquarters in San José, Solís railed against the government for failing to address crime, environmental degradation, public health and education.

He also criticized the government for rolling out a “red carpet” for foreign investors, while neglecting Tico farmers.

“They only believe in people with the last name Smith or Johnson – people with a passport that isn’t Costa Rican,” he said.

At the same time, he rejected populism and said leftist leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez are “not on the right track.”

Solís left the country in January to teach a master’s course on international trade at the University of Florida. He and his party are best known for their vehement opposition to the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

PAC lawmakers have drawn sharp criticism for filibustering bills required to implement CAFTA, even after voters approved the pact in a national referendum in October.

A recent CID-Gallup poll found just 7 percent of Costa Ricans support the party, down from 16 percent two years ago.

Solís, who ran for president in 2006, has not fared much better. Some 43 percent of Costa Ricans have an “unfavorable” opinion of him, while 37 percent see him favorably.

Solís appears almost certain to run for president.

To sustained applause from onlookers yesterday, PAC adviser Katia Martín introduced Solís, saying, “Our leader and the future president of Costa Rica is back.”

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