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Scandals Take Political Toll

November 5, 2004

THE corruption scandals sweeping Costa Rica havetaken their toll on the nation’s international image,according to political analysts, and the damage hasn’tstopped there.The nation’s two major political parties have sufferedgravely amid the crisis, and some say the situation couldprovoke a total political restructuring of the country.Former National Liberation Party (PLN) presidentialhopeful Álvarez Desanti, who last month left the partyto form a new political group, this week said the corruptionscandals spell “the end” for both NationalLiberation and the ruling Social Christian Unity Party(PUSC).THE Unity Party has seen two of its most powerful figures – former Presidents Rafael ÁngelCalderón and Miguel Ángel Rodríguez –jailed in recent weeks in connection to corruptionscandals (TT, Oct. 22, 29). Bothhave been formally separated from theparty.What’s more, one of the party’s foundingmembers, Mario Quintana, committedsuicide last month (TT, Oct. 15).Former President José María Figueres,of the Liberation Party, has just comeunder the scrutiny of the Prosecutor’sOffice for his potential involvement in corruption.PLN leaders, including former Presidentand presidential hopeful OscarArias, have called for his separation fromthe party.RODOLFO Cerdas, a political analystwith the Center for Political andAdministrative Investigation and Training(CIAPA), a non-governmental think tank,said these scars on both parties could provokethe demise of a bipartisan system inCosta Rica.He said the situation is one smalleremerging parties could take advantage ofto gain strength, but they are not.“This has deeply wounded PUSC, andhas seriously eroded the Liberation Party,”Cerdas told The Tico Times. “The emergingparties, such as the Citizen ActionParty and the Libertarian Movement, ifthey could benefit from this situation, arenot taking the actions necessary to make itwork in their favor.”LIBERTARIAN Movement legislatorCarlos Salazar agreed with Cerdas that thescandals could signal the end of the bipartisansystem, calling it “a very great possibility.”“We believe that in the upcoming elections(2006), we will see a response that ismuch more negative for the large parties,and much more positive for the smallerparties,” Salazar said.However, he also said the scandals willlikely have a damaging effect on even thesmall parties, since “people tend to generalize”about politicians, and may be moreinclined now to believe they are all corrupt.IN the coming months, according toCerdas, Costa Ricans will opt for less defined“political movements” rather thana new political party – at least in the shortterm, as movements invariably becomeparties.“At this time, the parties of the countryare in crisis, and it is the moment for newpolitical movements,” Cerdas said. “Thereis a divorce between the political partiesand the people.”At least one such movement hasalready emerged in the form of Desanti’snew party, which he has baptized Unionfor Change (UPC).“There are times when one can nolonger repair a building, and it must bedemolished,” he said. “Both (major) partieshave suffered structural damage.”

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