Unity economists break from party and endorse Libertarian presidential candidate

In the latest step in the descent of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), a group of party economists are now voicing their support for Libertarian Movement Party candidate Otto Guevara, saying his embrace of the free market is the only solution to the twin electoral threats of socialism and a continuation of the current ruling party’s culture of corruption.

A former president of Costa Rica’s Central Bank and previous PUSC supporter, Jorge Guardia, attacked one of the rising opposition candidates.

“The country faces an urgent political dilemma,” Guardia said at a Tuesday press conference. “There exists the risk that José María Villalta, of the socialist Broad Front Party, could win the February presidential elections.”

Guardia praised the Libertarian Movement presidential nominee as having the only economic plan to solve Costa Rica’s woes, such as its 8.9 percent unemployment rate. He said he made the switch because polls have shown that current PUSC candidate, Rodolfo Piza, has no chance to even reach the runoff.

Recent polls have shown a collapse of support for the one-time ruling PUSC party, while mostly showing Villalta and ruling National Liberation Party nominee Johnny Araya, the former mayor of San José, as the front-runners. Most polls have placed Guevara in third place. If no candidate gets more than 40 percent of the vote on Feb. 2, the top two finishers will face a runoff.

Guevara thanked his new-found supporters and used the opportunity to slam his top opponents.

“The choice is between three,” Guevara said. “Socialism on one side, a continuation of impoverishment, or a change to strengthen the economy.”

Joining Guardia in dissenting from his former party were eight other economists, including university professors, former private bank presidents, and former Costa Rica central bank functionaries.

This latest political infidelity is one of many blows for the party that ruled Costa Rica’s government from 1998-2006. In the 2002 election, PUSC’s Abel Pacheco won the presidency with 58 percent of the vote and captured a plurality of seats in the national legislature. In the next election, 2006, PUSC captured only 3.6 percent of the presidential vote, after former presidents Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez were tarnished by corruption probes. In October, the party’s initial presidential candidate withdrew after an internal dispute with his own campaign managers only days after Costa Rica’s presidential race officially kicked off.

Guevara himself left PUSC to join the Libertarian Movement Party in 1994.