Over the weekend, a group of University of Costa Rica (UCR) students released a nonpartisan video renouncing the traditional political parties that have run the Central American country for more than half a century.
Mass communications students released the video last Friday, and it has already received more than 100,000 views as of Monday, being shared widely by Costa Ricans on social media platforms. The video is titled “Nuestro nombre es Costa Rica” – “Our name is Costa Rica.”
“For 30 years, you have decided that some people are more important than everyone,” the video’s narrator said at its opening.
For the project, one woman traveled across the seven provinces of Costa Rica critiquing the economic development model she said is responsible for social ills such as a 21 percent household poverty rate and levels of inequality worse than Mexico and El Salvador. The video also attacked environmental policies such as private beaches and privatization of water resources.
“We want “Our name is Costa Rica” to be a space to reflect on the problem of the development model that has been imposed on us for the last 30 years,” the student group wrote on a Facebook page.
The students said they are not affiliated nor are endorsing any political party or candidate in upcoming February elections. But their attacks appear to be directed at the current ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) and the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), which have been the dominant parties for more than 50 years.
The video appeared during a political campaign holiday enforced by the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), which lasts from Dec. 16 to Jan. 1. During that time, parties cannot release advertisements and can only conduct limited in-person campaign activities. However, nothing prevents nonpartisan groups from releasing videos.
Luis Guillermo Solís, presidential nominee for the Citizen Action Party (PAC), praised the video, according to Channel 7 News.
“Those who have governed us for the last 30 years have imposed a model of exclusionary development that has increased inequality, violence and poverty,” Solís said. “Without a doubt, we need to rescue Costa Rica.”
PAC formed as a progressive party in 2000 from discontented former members of the PLN who accused that party of corruption.
30 years ago
In 1982, Luis Alberto Monge of the PLN won a landslide election over then-ruling party the United Coalition (which later became PUSC), including a large legislative majority. Monge inherited a country wracked by economic despair. Costa Rica suffered as much of the world did from soaring oil prices brought on by the 1979 Iranian revolution. Costa Rican exports, on the other hand, were at a low point, including bananas, coffee and sugar.
Many Costa Ricans at the time blamed the policies of then-President Rodrigo Carazo, who ordered the Central Bank of Costa Rica to borrow heavily to deal with the economic downturn, against the advice of the International Monetary Fund and his own finance minister. Inflation soared with the colón losing 500 percent of its value.
Monge came into power and reversed many of the government-controlled elements of the economy, moving to a more free-market approach. He cut spending, removed import and export taxes, and developed the tourism industry. Monge’s reforms seemed to pay off at the time, with dropping inflation and unemployment.
Authors of the current video appear to be singling out this ideology as the culprit for the country’s current woes. At one point in the video it remarks that Costa Ricans have seen the same last names in political power during the last 30 years – sons, cousins, brothers. Current PLN presidential candidate Johnny Araya – who was the mayor of Costa Rica’s capital for two decades – is the nephew of Luis Alberto Monge.
Many social media users applauded the video, sharing it with friends in their networks. But it hasn’t been well received by all Costa Ricans. Environment Minister René Castro dismissed the video as having glaring omissions, such as not mentioning the crisis during Carazo’s administration. (Pro-business and pro-tourism environmental policies came under fire in the video.)
“’My name is Costa Rica’ is pretty, but typical of leftist communications professors and graduate students,” Castro said, according to Channel 7. “It narrates with emphasis … ancient economic theories; more rice and beans, no pineapple and less golf.”
The business newspaper El Financiero published a column titled “What ‘Our name is Costa Rica’ won’t say.” In the article, libertarian columnist Juan Hidalgo accused the video of being a veiled promotion for progressive Broad Front Party candidate José María Villalta. Hidalgo said he was critical of the PLN as well, but that high level of government control of the economy is not sustainable.
“For [the video’s authors], it was a paradise 30 years ago when some covetous neoliberals began to dismantle the bricks of Costa Rican solidarity,” Hidalgo wrote. “They do not mention that the model to which they want the country to return has imploded.”