San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Weakened Party Redefines Message

As their party leader sits on trial on corruption charges, members of the onceprominent Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) are in the process of revamping their image.

In front of a room of reporters and camera crews at the Hotel Grano de Oro in San José on Wednesday morning, they unrolled a new logo, previewed a series of television commercials and adopted a new name, all in the hopes of resurfacing in time to make an impact on the February 2010 elections.

“We are a party with 25 years of experience, which has accomplished great things for this country,” said Luis Fischman, current president of the center-right party. “Despite great challenges ahead, we should evolve politically to benefit all Costa Ricans.”

But Fischman acknowledged that the party is in recovery mode, after its reputation plunged in 2004 with the incarceration of an individual who long-defined the group.

Former President Rafael Angel Calderón, whose own father played a central role in founding PUSC, is currently on trial under allegations that he bribed public officials to secure a deal between a Finnish medical equipment firm and the Costa Rican government.

The transaction, which occurred nine years after Calderón left office, involved the purchase of $39.5 million worth of medical equipment by the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja).

Perhaps, due to Calderon’s imprisonment, in the following Legislative Assembly election in 2006, PUSC lost 14 seats. But Fischman and other party members are throwing their support behind Calderón, under full faith that he will be proven innocent when the trial comes to a close.

Speaking of the people leveling accusations against Calderón, Fischman said, “I think they would be happy if this party disappeared.”

PUSC missed its original deadline to name a candidate for the 2010 election, but Fischman expects to announce Calderón’s candidacy before April 29.

He said, “Rafael Angel will manage another (candidate) as a second option in case he decides not to run.”

The political party’s makeover – which includes an official new name, La Unidad, and a logo representing promised protection for the country’s workers and needy – will not just apply to presidential candidates.

Party leaders expect their new image to boost PUSC representatives at the municipal level and within the Legislative Assembly.

With a new Web site and with television advertisements produced to appeal to struggling Costa Ricans, Fischman expressed confidence that his party will rebound.

“Right now, we are the second party,” he said, referring to a recent poll. “But we are not satisfied being the second party.”


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