San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica celebrates historic U.S. election

Tico leaders from across the political spectrum cheered Democratic candidate Barack Obama´s victory yesterday after he became the first black president-elect of the United States.

Winning a large majority of Latino voters, Obama captured 349 electoral votes, compared to 162 for Republican candidate John McCain, excluding North Carolina and Missouri, tossups at press time.

“I think Barack Obama´s election is huge – huge for the United States and also for the world,” President Oscar Arias, who represents the social democratic National Liberation Party (PLN), said in a recorded statement. “He is new blood. He has some of the idealism of John F. Kennedy. He will no doubt do a great job directing U.S. policy, above all its foreign policy.”

Obama´s face plastered the covers of every major Spanish-language newspaper yesterday, and his name was on the lips of Ticos and expats alike. Many cheered his election as a welcome change after eight years of Republican President George W. Bush, who is little liked within the United States and around the world.

Epsy Campbell, president of the left-leaning Citizen Action Party (PAC), said Obama´s election was “one of the most emotional events of my political life.”

“He represents the change that the United States needs and that the world was waiting for,” said Campbell, who is of Afro-Caribbean descent. “He broke the glass ceiling for African-Americans and Afro descendents in Latin America and across the world…I thought about all our black ancestors who fought for our people´s rights. Barack Obama embodies (that) fight.”

Ana Helena Chacón, a lawmaker for the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), was rooting for Obama, even though her party has historically aligned itself with the Republicans.

“I hope relations with Latin America improve,” she said. “There have been few efforts at cooperation, except in the field of security.”

Even Otto Guevara, leader of the Libertarian Movement (ML) party and a hesitant McCain supporter, saw a silver lining in Tuesday´s results.

“McCain´s speech was extraordinary,” he said. “He put himself at the service of the new president and (promised) to work together for the good of the United States.”

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