San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Politics

Costa Rican legislator praises Trump's tactics as he eyes new presidential bid

Libertarian lawmaker and former presidential candidate Otto Guevara Guth says he will decide next year whether he will launch a fifth bid for Casa Presidencial.

However, Guevara, who spoke with The Tico Times on Tuesday afternoon, says he thinks his party should learn some things from U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump’s political playbook; Guevara describes Trump’s strategy as “telling people what they need to hear, regardless of the political cost.” He also praises elements of Trump’s position on immigration, while he criticizes other stances.

Guevara’s Libertarian Movement Party finished fourth in the 2014 elections with 11.3 percent of votes. He now says that his party’s next presidential campaign should be “groundbreaking and sincere,” just like Trump’s.

Guevara, a founder of the party, told The Tico Times that he is not Trump supporter.

“If I were a U.S. citizen I’d have voted for Gary Johnson,” he said, adding that the U.S. Libertarian’s ideas and proposals are the closest to Guevara’s vision of what Costa Rican society needs.

Guevara said that Trump’s victory, however, inspires him and leads him to believe that Costa Rica’s electorate is similarly tired of seeing administrations come and go without solving any of the country’s biggest problems.

If Guevara decides to run again he will have to face a primary election. Guevara’s fellow lawmaker Natalia Díaz Quintana was the first Libertarian to officially announce her interest to launch a bid to win her party’s nomination for the 2018 presidential election.

Trump’s ideas

Guevara said that he likes some of Trump’s ideas, but he is worried about others that could have negative effects on Costa Rica.

He said one of the things he liked about Trump’s campaign strategy was that, in Guevara’s view, Trump understood that voters increasingly support candidates who speak directly and frankly; Guevara says traditional Costa Rican politicians do not do this.

“He forgot about being politically correct and was sincere about his thoughts on issues that he intends to change. That is exactly what a liberal party like ours should do,” he said.

The lawmaker said that as a member of the legislative committee on Financial Affairs for the past two years he has been able to truly understand the major macroeconomic problems the country is currently facing.

“That’s why I think our party should be absolutely sincere with voters and tell them exactly what the country needs to do in order to fix those problems,” he said.

Guevara also said he agrees with Trump’s idea that the U.S. should stop being the world’s policeman and stop interfering with the internal situations of other countries, invest all those funds in the U.S. instead.

Immigration

Guevara said that he believes tightening immigration policies would likely be part of a possible campaign proposal.

The Libertarian said this is nothing new, as he in previous campaigns has proposed implementing stricter regulations on immigrants.

“That is the main problem with our current welfare state,” he said, adding that immigrants are attracted by the country’s social aid programs.

Guevara said Ticos are witnessing how undocumented immigrants come to Costa Rica to give birth here and automatically obtain Costa Rican citizenship in order to take advantage of health services from the Social Security System as well as free education, housing bonuses, food bonuses and other government aid.

“I believe those benefits should be granted only to Ticos,” he said, and noted that the country should consider a constitutional prohibition on granting birthright citizenship –  something countries such as South Korea, Qatar, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand and others already enforce this, he noted.

The legislator said he supports immigrants who come here to work and bring expertise, but only under very strict immigration controls enforced directly at the country’s borders.

“Using technology at the borders would allow us prevent the arrival of people who will not contribute with the country and only seek to live from social assistance,” he said.

Tax opposal

Among Guevara’s main concerns about Trump are his proposals to lower corporate taxes as well as his plans to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals.

“If Trump moves forward with his idea of lowering corporate taxes from 35 to 15 percent, that would force us to speed up the approval of all required amendments to make our country more competitive,” he said.

Guevara says that is why he opposes the approval of the country’s corporate tax law and the modifications to income tax proposed by the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solís.

“We should move forward with a flat tax of 15 percent,” he noted.

Last week’s session of the legislative committee on Financial Affairs was intended to discuss more than 200 motions filed by Guevara to prevent the passage of a bill to reinstate the corporate tax law. The initiative, which seeks to provide the Public Security Ministry with more funds, was dismissed last year when the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, ruled it unconstitutional.

President Solís has been promoting legistlation to allow taxes on entities that are now exempt, including  cooperatives, associations, sports groups and foundations.

Guevara says that instead of creating more taxes or raising current ones, the government should implement fiscal benefits to attract more private investment.

He argues that the proposed tax reforms would make Costa Rica less competitive, and that foreign investment would take a direct hit as a result.

During the last day to vote on the motions filed against the bill, the committee voted against all 59 that were put up for discussion, and dismissed all the rest when the deadline arrived. The bill could be discussed and voted on by the full Assembly as soon as this week.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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Ken Morris

I’d be interested in Otto showing any evidence for his claim that immigrants to Costa Rica are drawn here by the promise of social aid and burden Tico taxpayers by availing themselves of it.

Yes, some Nicas have babies in Costa Rica, and through them eventually obtain citizenship. The kids, whether born here or not, are also entitled to attend public schools and access healthcare services. However, with this, Costa Rica’s welfare entitlements basically end. Although I’m sure they exist, I have yet to know or know of a single Nica in Costa Rica receiving outright welfare from the government. Similarly, while I’m sure they exist, I have yet to know or know of a single Nica who has arrived in order to have a baby here. Every Nica in Costa Rica I have known or known of has come to work. Invariably they start working in the informal economy for far lower wages than Ticos earn, since the Nicas aren’t legally eligible to hold jobs. Then, when usually many years later some obtain residency, they almost always get the lowest-paying and hardest legal jobs. Meanwhile, all along the way they pay the same sales taxes that Ticos pay, which is the main form of (regressive) taxation in the country, and when some do eventually obtain residency and the right to work, they pay the same Caja taxes that Ticos pay.

My guess is that any fair accounting would show that Costa Rica actually benefits economically from Nica immigration, but confirming this guess requires facts that I doubt Otto knows either.

Otto though is at least honest about copying Trump. To neither candidate does “speaking frankly and directly” appear to involve speaking factually. Instead, it appears to involve being frank and direct about expressing prejudices.

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