The Costa Rica Elections – 2010

According to recent polls, Otto Guevara is gaining ground on Laura Chinchilla, who currently leads in the polls. In order to avoid a runoff election, one candidate need to get 40% or more of the popular vote. A recent poll conducted by La Nacion (newspaper) shows Ms. Chinchilla at 40.9%. Otto Guevara comes in second at 30.4%, followed by last elections near-winner, Otton Solis with 13.7%.

Simple math tells us that Costa Rica will be facing a runoff election if Ms. Chinchilla receives 1% less votes than the latest poll shows. This is well within the margin of error (3.5%) of the poll. A runoff election is not a certainty, but it is quite possible. Barring a dramatic surge from Otton Solis, the runoff will be between Ms. Chinchilla and Mr. Guevara.

For the detail oriented and Spanish speaking: Otto Guevara’s Plan

For Laura Chinchilla’s Plan, you have to go to Laura Chinchilla’s site, pick your connection speed, move your cursor over the topmost arrow, then over, ‘pensamientos’ then over ‘plan de gobierno’ and click to download a zip version of the .pdf file (Adobe Acrobat) It’s not as hard as it seems, though.

The first round is February 7, Sunday. Although a superficial look at their respective plans shows a lot of similarity, there are some differences too. I am not a Costa Rican citizen, just a resident (legal!). I can not vote or participate in the election process, but I believe I am allowed to write about it. Hope I don’t get arrested for this!

Both candidates are against crime. There’s a scoop. Both candidates are all for more jobs and economic growth. Another shocker! They are both all for reducing red tape and bureaucracy. They are against corruption. Both want more tourism. Both want more industry. Both like clean water. Both want to improve the country’s infrastructure. They both like science and technology. They both want to help agriculture.

I believe they both approve of MOTHERHOOD and GALLO PINTO too.

If they don’t differ much in their desired results, they are not so much in agreement as to means. Otto Guevara is the candidate of the Movimiento Libertario, or Libertarian Movement (party). According to an article by the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank:

Guevara is a capital “L” Libertarian. His main issue during the campaign has been to get tough on crime (Costa Ricans’ main concern, according to polls). His economic platform is consistently free market: he proposes to abandon the colón and adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency, he wants to unilaterally liberalize trade, he is calling for the implementation of a flat tax, and promotes an aggressive deregulation agenda. Moreover, he wants to introduce more competition in health care (currently a government single payer system) and education. On the international front, he has said that he would use international pulpits such as the UN and the Organization of American States to criticize Washington’s War on Drugs and propose sensible alternatives to international drug policy.

The Cato Institute does have its political preferences, and we can reasonably suppose that they share some of his views such as “free market,” liberalized trade, “aggressive deregulation,” “more competition in [privatization of] health care” and probably the “flat tax” and the adopting of “the U.S. dollar as the official currency.”

Mr. Guevara seems to be socially liberal in some ways. He is for equal opportunity for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, for example. Laura Chinchilla drew some criticism for participating in a march organized by a coalition of church leaders, its stated mission conflated opposition to the legalization of abortion and granting civil recognition for homosexual couples. Ms Chinchilla stated that the march was not against any group.

Environmental policy seems to be another area of divergence. One of Mr. Guevara’s campaign themes is “Sustainability is not the same thing as ‘atasco'” [blockage, obstruction, barrier]. As far as I can understand it, he wants to relax or get rid of a number of current environmental regulations. Ms. Chinchilla mentions global climate change and supports measures to reduce carbon emissions. I could not find anything in Mr. Guevara’s plan that mentioned the issue specifically.

I apologize for not having the skill or patience to go item by item through the two candidates’ plans and do a detailed comparison. Then again, I can’t vote so maybe it’s best I don’t know too much. I might get very upset.

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