5 things that happened this week in Costa Rica’s presidential runoff campaign

April 8, 2014
1 Comments

Didn’t keep up with the runoff campaign this week? Don’t worry, we did. Here are some highlights:

1. Former President Abel Pacheco endorses Luis Guillermo Solís

On Saturday, Feb. 15, Abel Pacheco, president from 2002 to 2006 from the Social Christian Unity Party, threw his political weight behind opposition presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís of Citizen Action Party (PAC).

Pacheco said that Solís had run an honest campaign and he supported the PAC candidate not only as a vote against ruling party candidate Johnny Araya.

“Our flag is the same: honesty,” Pacheco said.

2. Solís wins the recount (barely)

In the final recount announced Monday, Solís eked out a win with 629,866 votes to Araya’s 610,634, a victory of less than 20,000 votes.

Following the formal recount, the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) officially announced a second round for the 2014 presidential election. The country will go back to the polls to cast votes for either Araya or Solís on April 6, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The TSE said the electoral rolls for the second round would be the same as the first on Feb. 2. That means any voter not registered by the Oct. 2, 2013 deadline won’t be able to vote in the runoff, either.

3. Uncertain alliance

Araya has been pushing his business cred this week, including his support for continuing President Laura Chinchilla’s decision to join the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc with some of Latin America’s most important economies.

The ruling party candidate has spoken in favor of the free trade alliance but added that he would listen to concerns from groups like the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries, who have spoken out against increased foreign competition.

Solís previously said he needed more information before he decided to support Costa Rica’s enrollment in the trade alliance, which includes Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

4. Araya throws down a glove over deficit criticisms

During an interview with Radio ADN (90.7 FM) on Thursday, Araya lashed out at recent criticisms Solís made against his plan to resolve Costa Rica’s widening fiscal deficit:

“I haven’t been [in national office] for the last eight years. Luis Guillermo Solís has been more involved in the National Liberation Party administrations than I have. He has been an official in two Liberation administrations. He has less moral authority than me to talk about this.”

Costa Rica’s deficit is 5.4 percent of GDP, according to numbers from the Finance Ministry.

Solís served as chief of staff at the Foreign Ministry during the first Oscar Arias administration (1986-1990), and as ambassador for Central American affairs and general director of foreign policy from 1994 to 1998 under President José María Figueres Olsen. Solís left the PLN in 2005 to join PAC.

5. Johnny’s brush with ‘tax evasion’

Araya has been spinning with anger over the leak of a Tax Administration request for information regarding a $315,000 payment to the National Insurance Institute (INS), among other items, that originally hinted at tax evasion.

The PLN candidate was on the warpath Wednesday and Thursday, accusing the Finance Ministry of mishandling the request, which an official delivered to his home with a passel of reporters in tow. The timing was especially bad, since Araya had been pushing his own suggestions for closing the deficit through more effective tax collection, among other recommendations.

Araya claimed that the move was a setup to besmirch his name during the campaign and said the PAC could be behind the dirty trick. By Thursday night, though, the damage already had been done, consuming two days worth of the candidate’s media coverage with the seemingly bogus charges.

Thursday evening, Araya’s camp claimed that the supposed payment was actually an insurance policy taken out on athletes participating in the Central American Games in San José last March, erroneously made out in Araya’s name.

Araya said he’s never been accused of tax evasion.

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