Costa Rica chooses overhaul with anti-system economist Rodrigo Chaves

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Costa Rica is headed for a declared overhaul with anti-system economist Rodrigo Chaves being elected in the second round of elections this Sunday. With a vote count of over 95%, the poll’s surprise candidate garnered 52.81% support, compared to 47.2% of former president José María Figueres, the maximum representative of traditional politics against whom he campaigned his opponent.

“I accept with great humility this sacred decision of the Costa Rican people,” Chaves said in his first statement as president-elect. “For me this result is not a medal or trophy, but a big responsibility.” In addition, he called on his rival, José María Figueres, to work together to solve the economic crisis plaguing the country and achieve the “Costa Rican miracle”. With only 10 delegates from his party in the 57-seat parliament, agreements would be necessary for the new president.

Before Chaves spoke before his followers in San Jose, José María Figueres did the same to give victory to his opponent. “Costa Rica has voted and the people have spoken. I congratulate Rodrigo Chaves. We, as Democrats, we will always respect that decision,” he told his supporters. “It is time to close the ranks as a Costa Rican family. It is time to leave the enmity and hatred behind”, he said.

Chaves will be Costa Rica’s next president from May 8, following a campaign in which he presented himself as a “change” against traditional politicians and in which he promised to fight corruption. The economist managed to emerge as a powerful candidate after the first round in February and despite facing controversies over allegations of sexual harassment in the past when he worked at the World Bank. The 60-year-old economist, about 1.90 tall, with a stern verbiage, was justified as a “joke”, for which he was sanctioned at the international organization before resigning in 2019, without another job in his sight. Once in Costa Rica, he made his political debut as a surprise finance minister in the current government of Carlos Alvarado, a position he served for six months.

Supporters of Costa Rica's elected President Rodrigo Chaves celebrate in San Jose this Sunday.
Supporters of Costa Rica’s elected President Rodrigo Chaves celebrate in San Jose this Sunday.
Jeffrey Argedus (EFE)

The Central American country experienced Election Day with unusual friction and nostalgia. Costa Ricans voted in an atmosphere of political unease and questioning of the two candidates competing in the second round. The high level of uncertainty and hostility between the two sides lasted until more than 2,100 polling stations closed at 6:00 pm local time, after a day in which the most ardent supporters of both candidates tried to counteract the dismay of most. The population is reflected in the turnout, which reached 40% in the first round.

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“More than an election party, it has been like a cock fight,” said former President Oscar Arias, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1987, despite decades of expressing his support for his co-partisan and internal adversary Figueres.

Among Chávez’s supporters, messages against Figueres for “corrupting” and “representing people who make us feel bad” prevailed, with young Luis Diego López wearing a shirt with the slogan “The party’s over”. Hue, accused of one of the slogans. Chavez’s campaign. In an election debut from his Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD), the candidate promises to remove “powerful groups” from power and bring people there.

Similar messages were addressed to Figueres by a group when he went to vote at 7 a.m. in a town called San Cristóbal Sur on the outskirts of San Jose, before visiting the grave of his father, Jose Figueres, who He ruled Costa Rica three times. , in the 20th century. “It has been a very difficult campaign,” he said as he left. At another time, condemnation was drawn against journalists who followed Chaves, shouting “rogue press”, in line with the candidate’s remarks against unfavorable journalism publications.

A woman in her 70s wrapped in a large PLN flag hangs around her polling station in a rural area of ​​Alajuela, west of the central valley. “I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s proud of my vote for Figueres, but that’s the problem. A lot of people are going to support him because they know there is a threat to Chaves, but they don’t express it openly and feel that he is more”, he told El Pas, although he did not express his feelings for him. Preferred not to reveal the name. The latest poll, published five days before the election, gave Chaves an advantage, though he narrowed his margin over the former president to less than five points.

“I’ve hardly sold anything,” said Ulysses Carranza, an ice cream vendor outside a polling station in downtown Alajuela, 20 kilometers west of San Jose. To make the situation worse in the afternoon, it rained in a good part of the country. “Earlier, people used to come to vote and were still hesitating (discussing), but people come to comply and want to leave quickly. It is not beautiful now because there is no enthusiasm among those candidates,” the person said in the morning. He was going to vote in the afternoon, but he still didn’t know for whom. Or so he replied.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the streets was clearly dull compared to the first round on 6 February. “There has been no crowd. We have not received any complaints about long lines,” Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) spokesman Hector Fernandez said in the afternoon, though he warned that the body does not monitor participation.

The day revealed a bustle in the streets among Chaves supporters, believed to be a blow to traditional politics, although the green and white flag of the old National Liberation Party (PLN) was also visible, represented by former President José María Figueres. who ended the campaign by presenting himself as a moderation card despite overwhelmingly popular disapproval against him.

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