With all the commotion 2016 U.S. election year provided, it was easy to get caught up in heavy news coverage of the U.S. Presidential campaigns. But as the news coverage about the U.S. Presidential election began to die down, 2,933 miles away, Costa Ricans began to get the first taste of news coverage for their 2018 presidential election. This election holds a great deal of importance due to the current president, Luís Solís, who currently possesses the worst disapproval rating in the hemisphere, with 90% of Costa Ricans expressing their discontentment with the current administration, as reported in a Tico Times article.
Considering Costa Rica’s history of being one of the most stable democracies in Central America as well as its reputation for being a country populated by many American and Canadian expatriates, the incredible amount of discontentment citizens have with the current administration seems a bit unusual for a nation like Costa Rica. Nevertheless, their discontentment is justified.
President Solís and his administration along with the current Legislative Assembly inherited the problems of the national fiscal deficit. According to an article on the Central American Data website, the Costa Rican fiscal deficit closed at 5.2% of the national GDP in 2016 and the Solís administration does not seem to be accomplishing much in terms of cutting the fiscal deficit. Solís’s reform concentrates on gaining revenue via higher income taxes versus gaining revenue through government spending cuts, but in order to decrease the fiscal deficit, the country will need to implement the spending cuts as well.
However, the fiscal deficit is not the only issue that the Solís administration faces. Another criticism that challenges this administration is increase in crime. In 2016, 579 homicides were reported according to an InsightCrime article via the Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Body, breaking 2015’s record of 566 homicides. Along with the escalation in the number of homicides in Costa Rica, drugs are becoming an issue because of the lack of security on the Costa Rican borders. Between the rising of the fiscal deficit and crime rate, it is no mystery why the Solís administration is failing to capture the hearts of Costa Ricans.
Fortunately for Costa Rican citizens, President Solís’s term is coming to a close, and soon, they will elect a new president for 2018. Currently, the candidates running are Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Partido Acción Ciudadana or PAC for short, Antonio Álvarez Desanti of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), Edgardo Araya Sibaja of the Frente Amplio; and Rodolfo Piza Rocafort for Partido Unidad Socialcristiana (PUSC).
Quesada attended both the University of Costa Rica and the University of Sussex where he obtained his master’s degree in Development Studies. He served as Executive Chairman of the Joint Social Welfare Institute & Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion during the Solís administration and worked as Minister of Labor and Social Security after Víctor Mora resigned. While Quesada was head of the Human Development and Social Inclusion ministry, he helped to create and implement social programs like “Bridge to Development”, whose objective was to “would combine current welfare programs into a single system, and tailor aid to the needs of each family” as explained in a Tico Times Article.
Desanti studied law at the University of Costa Rica as well as Harvard University, where he focused on International Tax Law. He was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Cattle Production in 1987 and then Minister of Interior and Police in 1988. As the head of MIP, Desanti founded CICAD (Centro de Inteligencia Conjunta Anti Drogas) within Costa Rica. Along with his work in drug prevention, Desanti promoted laws protecting those who face sexual harassment, which prior to 1997, did not exist in Costa Rica. He became President of the Legislative Assembly in 1995 and then again in 2016.
Sibaja is a Greek born Costa Rican. He also attended the University of Costa Rica and since then he has worked as a lawyer. In 2002 he promoted the founding of Unión Norte por La Vida project, which has worked diligently “to defend the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment in Costa Rica” as stated on the Freshwater Action Network website. He was elected as Municipal Councilor in San Carlos and he is a deputy for the Committee on Legal Affairs.
Rocafort graduated from the University of Costa Rica, earned a diploma from the Society for International Studies in Madrid, Spain, The Human Rights Institute of the Complutense University of Madrid, and the University of Salamanca. In 1990, he was named the Alternate Ambassador to represent Costa Rica in the U.N. From 1999 until 2000, Rocafort was designated as the executive president of the Department of Social Security. He served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Justice during 2009.
Because Costa Rica is considered the most stable democracy in Central America, it’s important for the U.S. to stay informed and involved in Costa Rican affairs. Promotion of democracy is still a goal of the American government, as stated on the U.S. State Department website, and the upcoming Costa Rican presidential election could show the naysayers that democracy is still a viable option for a nation’s governmental structure. Despite the lack of success the Solís administration had, the country is still willing to work to to protect their stability.
- The editorial staff provide commentary and analysis on topics related to international affairs and Atlanta. The views expressed in this Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Atlanta Council on International Relations, the ACIR Board of Directors, or ACIR members.
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