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Presidential Election in Costa Rica Focuses on LGBT Rights

The second round of the presidential election in Costa Rica will be held on April 1 and on that day Costa Ricans will select a former journalist and singer named Alvarado as their next President who will have likely won the nation’s highest office because of his stance on gay marriage.

Fabricio Alvarado and Carlos Alvarado are not related, but their trajectories during this presidential campaign are similar. Both men began as longshots only to very quickly find themselves as the frontrunners.

Such is the strange situation that citizens of the longest and most stable democracy in Central America find themselves in.

Presidential elections in Costa Rica

Costa Rica held general elections for President and deputies to the Legislative Assembly on February 4, 2018. Voter turnout was 65.70 percent.

Like many countries in Latin America, Costa Ricans select their president using a runoff system. If no candidate for President receives 40 percent or more of the popular vote in the first presidential election, then a second round is held eight weeks later between the two candidates who received the most votes.

In the first round of the presidential election, the National Restoration party’s candidate, Fabricio Alvarado, came in first with 24.99 percent of the vote. The Citizen Action party’s candidate, Carlos Alvarado, received 21.63 percent, which was three percent more than the third-place candidate. Since no candidate passed the 40 percent threshold, a runoff election is scheduled for April 1.

Fabricio Alvarado

Fabricio Alvarado is a 43-year-old former journalist turned Pentecostal singer and preacher. He first entered politics in 2014 when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly.

Fabricio Alvarado was seen as a longshot for the presidency until early-January when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an advisory opinion requiring member states to recognize same-sex marriages. His opposition to the decision and threat to withdraw Costa Rica from the Court’s jurisdiction made him the front-runner in the race virtually overnight.

Part of Alvarado’s economic plan includes a reduction of Costa Rica’s fiscal deficit in the long-term. His governance plan says, “The deficit is only valid if it is sustainable and this implies that the State must have the capacity to achieve financial balance in time.”

Costa Rica’s deficit is more than 6 percent of its gross domestic product. Standard & Poor’s recently reaffirmed its BB- long-term credit rating for Costa Rica and did not rule out the possibility of a downgrade in the future.

Fabricio Alvarado’s plan also calls for administrative reform, education reform, and increased economic linkages between small, medium, and large businesses in Costa Rica.

Carlos Alvarado

Carlos Alvarado is a 38-year-old former journalist and author of several books. He served as Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion under President Solias.

In contrast to Fabricio, Carlos Alvarado is a proponent of LGBT rights. His campaign website says that one of his goals as president would be to “[g]uarantee full equality for LGBTI persons in the county and the enjoyment of their rights.”

Carlos Alvarado’s other positions clearly show an emphasis on social and economic equality.

In terms of foreign policy, Alvarado wants Costa Rica to be a “leader at the global and regional level in terms of environmental sustainability and human rights.”

Costa Rica is a world leader in sustainable energy. Last year the country went 300 days with 100 percent of its electricity being produced by renewable sources. Hydropower alone produced nearly 80 percent of the electricity produced in Costa Rica.

No clear favorite

A recent poll has both Alvarados in a statistical tie in the second round of the presidential election. A poll by the Center for Research and Political Studies has Fabricio Alvarado with 45 percent support and Carlos Alvarado with 42. The poll’s margin of error was 3.6 percent.

While the electorate may be divided, some prominent Costa Ricans are speaking out against a candidate that they perceive as a threat to their country’s standing in the world.

Christiana Figueres was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change and daughter of one of Costa Rica’s most important heads of state, Jose “Pepe” Figueres. In a video posted to social media, Figueres recognized the “serious danger of concentrating the attention of a campaign on only one topic and such a personal one.”

She also addressed Fabricio Alvarado’s threat to withdraw Costa Rica from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. “In Costa Rica we can’t allow outrages against human rights, nor can we allow threats of withdrawing from international legal frameworks where we’re supported and which we’ve helped to create,” said Figueres.

Concluding her video, Figueres called on both candidates to address other critical issues facing Costa Rica besides the issues of gay marriage and urged her fellow Costa Ricans to participate in the runoff presidential election.

“Above all, I call upon the sense of civic duty with which all of us, young people and not-so-young people, must go out and vote on April 1. Thank you, and may God bless you all.”

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