San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

PAC Shows Empty Pockets And Pulls Campaign Ads

Two weeks before the presidential elections, the Citizen Action Party (PAC) announced it has suspended advertising due to lack of funds.

The left-leaning party, which came within 2 percentage points of winning the presidency in 2006, blamed the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) for withholding ?1 billion (about $1.8 million) in bonds.

According to a statement from the PAC, the money will not be released because of the party’s poor performance in the polls. PAC candidate Ottón Solís has not shown more than a 15 percent level of support in the polls since the campaign began.

“This is serious,” said Sergio Alfaro, a PAC legislator. “The banks are weakening Costa Rican democracy. The message they are sending to the people is that, in Costa Rica, whoever presents the money presents the presidents, and those who pay for the polls can present the presidents.”

Campaigns are financed by private donations and by public money. The funds from government coffers – known as the deuda política, or political debt – are retroactively paid and depend on the results of the election. The number of votes a candidate receives on Election Day, Feb. 7, determines how much money his or her campaign is reimbursed.

Political parties can take out “party bonds” in the form of loans, which they can exchange for government bonds following the election. However, banks may decide not to pay cash for the bonds up front if they suspect poor showings on Election Day.

The PAC claims that because it does not represent the interests of big business it has more difficulty raising private funds than do other parties and, therefore, it depends more heavily on public financing.

“Our funding comes from political debt … but even if we lose access to that money, we have people full of desire to fight for their country,” said Solís’ campaign manager, Francisco Molina. “Our election results are achieved by our people and our work and not from (money).”

As of Monday, PAC had withdrawn its advertisements from television channels 4, 6, 7 and 11, as well as from select radio stations

–Chrissie Long

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