Profiles of the Presidential Candidates:
“At this moment, I would like Costa Rica to be a country in which we all feel safe walking in the streets, gathering outside … enjoying the parks. This is the Costa Rica we all dream about and this is why we propose, over anything else, that safety concerns need to be addressed … to change the future of this country for the better.”
Party: National Liberation Party
Political Orientation: Center, Center-Right Resume: Public Security vice minister (1994-1996), Public Security minister (1996-1998), legislator (2002-2006), vice president of the republic and Justice minister (2006-2008)
Vice-presidents: Scientist Alfio Piva and businessman Luis Liberman
Key issues: Economy, security, the environment
The daughter of a former longtime comptroller for Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla is no stranger to public service or politics. She studied political science at the University of Costa Rica and earned a master’s degree in public policy at GeorgetownUniversity in Washington, D.C., in the United States.
Before she was appointed vice minister of Public Security in 1994, Chinchilla worked as a consultant for various firms, specializing in judicial and public security reform. She also was named head of the Public Security Ministry in 1996 and was the first woman to occupy that post.
In 2002, she was elected to the Legislative Assembly, and later President Oscar Arias chose her to be a vice president in his administration, which began in 2006. Pegged as the candidate who represents a continuation of the Arias regime, Chinchilla has spent much time on the campaign trail trying to prove that she can do more for the country on her own terms.
She has committed to funding security initiatives through a tax on online gambling. She has said she would work to create day care options for working parents and, to regenerate the economy, she has promised to focus on “green jobs” and investment in infrastructure.
Backed by the National Liberation Party powerhouse, Chinchilla consistently has been at the forefront in the polls.
Yet, polls don’t always give the full picture. Arias had a similar lead in 2006, but Citizen Action Party candidate Ottón Solís came within 18,000 votes (or 1.1 percent) of winning the election.
Chinchilla lives in Santa Ana with her husband and 13-year-old son.
“I am not afraid to make tough decisions as long as they help the people of Costa Rica. I think with (my) experience, I am the one best prepared to lead this country, to help people in need, to fix much of what has gone wrong.”
Party: Social Christian Unity Party (Unidad)
Political Orientation: Center
Resume: Lawyer, legislator (1990-1994 and 1998-2002), Public Security minister (1990-1994), vice president of the republic (2002-2006), president of Unidad Vice-presidents: Journalist Iris Zamora and engineer Humberto Vargas
Key issues: Security, education, cost of living A latecomer to the presidential campaign, but no stranger to politics, Luis Fishman was appointed candidate for Unidad on Oct. 17 of last year.
The 62-year-old attorney, who twice served as a member of the Legislative Assembly, was vice president under former President Abel Pacheco (2002-2006) and was minister of Public Security under former President Rafael Angel Calderón (1990-1994). Most recently, he led Unidad as party president.
Fishman replaced former President Rafael Angel Calderón on the ballot. Calderón, who announced his presidential aspirations in April 2009, withdrew from the race after being convicted on charges of corruption and was sentenced to five years in prison.
“We are working from what was left by Rafael Angel (Calderón). All we did was change the main character,” Fishman told students at the University of Costa Rica. His central focus is on issues of security. He has pledged to double the number of law enforcement officials and institute a more efficient Public Security Ministry. He also has pleged to improve housing in poor areas and to lower interest rates to stimulate the economy.
Fishman captured attention on the campaign trail for his publicity gimmicks, which tagged him as el menos malo, or the least of the bad, and featured commercials with dancing pregnant women along with a grown man dressed as a baby.
A father of three, Fishman lives in Rohrmoser with his wife, Aida Faingezicht, a former legislator and former head of the Culture Ministry.
“To me, the origin of the problems in Costa Rica is the loss of family values. What we need to do is to reinforce the family, making it integrated and united.”
Party: Costa Rican Renovation Party
Political Orientation: Center-Right (Christian)
Resume: Lawyer, mayor of Tibás (2005-2006), also served as deputy mayor and city councilor
Vice-presidents: Carlos Alberto Víquez, customs administrator, and José Francisco, lawyer
Key issues: Security, fiscal reform, education
A practicing attorney and a former mayor of Tibás, Mayra González has campaigned on a platform of social issues.
The 56-year-old divorcee firmly believes that Costa Rica’s problems could be fixed if there were restoration of Christian principles.
“Our principle beliefs are to return our focus to families, to return values to the Costa Rican people, to find again our ethics as a people, which have been lost,” she said in an interview with The Tico Times.
González is a resident of Tibás and mother of two adult children.
“We believe that our party and Otto Guevara represent change – a change in Costa Rican values, a change in how we address crime in our country and a change in the inequality in education between public and private schools.”
Party: Libertarian Movement Party
Political Orientation: Right
Resume: Lawyer and professor, founder of the Libertarian Movement, legislator (1998-2002), presidential candidate in 2002 and 2006 elections
Vice-presidents: Legislator Mario Quirós and Lorena San Román, engineer and biologist
Key issues: Security, employment, improvement of public services (education and health).
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the presidential race, Otto Guevara moved from being a little-known, right-wing candidate to a significant force in the elections.
With a massive campaign in which his TV and radio advertisements have been pervasive and his face has been plastered across billboards around the county, the Harvard-educated attorney has become the leading contender to frontrunner Laura Chinchilla.
Guevara’s promises include the termination of the contract with the Spanish vehicle inspection service Riteve, an investigation into the possible dollarization of the economy and the declaration of a national emergency to address burgeoning crime.
He served as the first Libertarian elected to the Legislative Assembly (1998-2002) and was twice named “Legislator of the Year” by the Costa Rican press.
Currently residing in Escazú, Guevara is divorced and the father of three children, ages 9 to 14. He received a master’s degree in business administration from NationalUniversity in San Diego, California, in the United States, and he spent many years working in the tourism industry.
“Governing a country is not like driving a motorcycle down a highway. Governing the country requires leadership and the capacity to inspire the people. I think God has blessed me with these skills.”
Party: Accessibility without Exclusion Party
Political Orientation: Left
Resume: Former president of the National Foundation for the Blind, former representative to a United Nations Development Program commission, legislator (2006-2009)
Vice-presidents: Agnes Gutiérrez, nurse, and Miguel Calderón, academic
Key issues: Security, senior citizens issues, education Blind since birth, Oscar López says Costa Rica is ready to be governed “by someone who has learned to see life through the eyes of the soul.”
He grew up in an impoverished home in San José, bunking with five siblings, uncles and grandparents in a dirt-floored and rusty-roofed home. He has said other politicians can talk about Costa Rica’s problems, but they haven’t lived them in the way he has.
Encouraged by his father to “swim against the current,” he has studied law in San José.
After serving as president of the National Foundation for the Blind and as representative to a United Nations Development Program commission, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2006.
The youngest of the candidates, López has promised to defend the disabled, the elderly and the disadvantaged.
“Our first task is to improve education, our second is to support Costa Rican enterprises and the third is to recover and improve Costa Rica’s prestige regarding the environment.”
Party: Citizen Action Party
Political Orientation: Center-Left
Resume: Academic and economist, national economics and political planning minister (1986-1988) in the first administration of President Oscar Arias, director of the Central Bank, legislator (1994-1998), party founder, presidential candidate in 2002 and 2006
Vice-presidents: Mónica Segnini, businesswoman, and Julio Humphrey, public health specialist
Key issues: Education, competitiveness (state efficiency), small business
On his third try for president since 2002, Ottón Solís is on the campaign trail with promises to reduce the level of poverty and curtail government spending. An economist and academic, the 55-year-old entered politics in 1986 when he served as minister of Planning in President Oscar Arias’ first term and as legislator (1994-1998).
In 2000, he left the National Liberation Party to form a new party, the Citizen Action Party, committed to eliminating corruption in the government and promoting equal opportunity.
In 2006, Solís shocked political analysts by coming within 2 percentage points of winning the presidential election.
Solís has promiseed to cut extreme poverty by half in two years, create equal opportunity by establishing a more progressive tax system and eliminate corruption and excess in the central government.
Born in San Isidro de El General, in the Southern Zone, Solís, at the age of 23, moved to England where he earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Manchester. He is married to environmental lawyer Shirley Sánchez and is the father of four girls, ages 8 to 25.
“We are a richer, more productive country, more competitive … but we are also more unequal. And we haven’t achieved a reduction in poverty. If a model produces growth but destroys the environment or doesn’t reduce poverty, it doesn’t serve its purpose. This is what we are living, and this is what we want to change.”
Party: Broad Front Party
Political Orientation: Left
Resume: Academic and economist, rector Eugenio Trejos, who came into the public eye for his activism in the CAFTA referendum in 2007, launched his presidential campaign with the aim of improving the government’s response to poverty, ensuring greater economic equality and repealing CAFTA, which went into effect in Jan. 2009.
On leave from his job as rector at the Costa Rican Institute of Technology (ITCR), the lifelong academic has worked in various capacities at the institute since 1982. He studied economics and public administration in Spain, where he received a master’s degree. He earned his undergraduate degree in social economic planning at the NationalUniversity in Heredia.
In an interview with The Tico Times in November, Trejos said his priorities for the country include reversing privatization, establishing a regulated society in which businesses respect human rights, ensuring the population has access to clean water and higher salaries, among many others.
The 50-year-old father of three lives in Heredia.
Rolando Araya, of the Patriotic Alliance, and Walter Muñoz, of the National Integration Party, dropped out of the race on Jan. 15 and threw their support to Citizen Action Party candidate Ottón Solís.
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