From the print edition
With his sleeves rolled up and his bright blue tie a bit disheveled, Luis Guillermo Solís, a history and political science professor at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and a lifelong political activist, welcomed some 30 Citizen Action Party (PAC) loyalists to hear him speak Tuesday night at an old rubber factory in Escazú.
Held in a spacious room decorated with Costa Rican flags, the event was organized around Solís’ pre-candidacy announcement for the 2014 presidential election. But instead, it developed into an intimate conversation about the 11-year-old political party, of which Solís is one of the leaders, along with the state of the nation and the qualities voters are looking for in their country’s next leader.
“I was left very satisfied. It was an excellent turnout,” Solís said of the Tuesday night event. “It was a generous, significant and rewarding exchange.”
It is no secret that members of PAC have disagreements on policy and the direction of the party, including with party founder Ottón Solís (no relation), who unsuccessfully ran for president in the last three elections.
Ottón Solís said he will not seek the presidency in 2014, opening the door to new candidates from a party that has acknowledged its internal communications problems with core supporters and its failure to build support among working- and middle-class Costa Ricans.
“We need to learn how to market ourselves better,” one PAC member said.
“When the PAC communicates, … it does it the wrong way,” Luis Guillermo Solís responded.
The 54-year-old political analyst has been actively working with PAC for the past seven years while continuing to teach political science and history at UCR. He has published several books on the same subjects and contributed numerous articles to different national and international publications.
Solís has been involved with PAC since 2005, when he actively supported a campaign against the approval of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
“Currently we cannot do anything against CAFTA because we must wait 10 years,” Solís said at Tuesday’s town hall meeting. “But we can create a moratorium for the pineapple producer that keeps polluting the waters and the lands surrounding its business.”
Solís, who has been involved in politics since his early twenties, was part of the negotiating team during the 1987 Esquipulas II Central American Peace Agreement, where he worked as general director for policy at the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry under the Oscar Arias administration.
Solís spent close to 17 years working for the National Liberation Party (PLN), which he abandoned due to ideological differences in 2004.
Another issue affecting many Costa Ricans is the fight against drug trafficking in coastal regions, and the production of illicit drugs in some isolated and rural areas across the country.
“It is extremely important to resolve the problem that feeds the conditions under which drug trafficking thrives,” Solís said.
He also spoke of a lack of access to jobs and economic and educational resources in these areas.
Solís has four daughters and two sons aged 6 to 27. Three are already professionals, including a lawyer, a doctor and a veterinarian, while two are in college and one is in elementary school.
Two other candidates have announced their pre-candidacy for PAC: Claudio Monge and Juan Carlos Mendoza. There is internal party talk that Epsy Campbell, a presidential candidate during the last PAC primary, also might join the race.
In October, PAC’s National Assembly will set the rules for a possible open primary, where any Costa Rican registered to vote can cast their ballot for the PAC representative of their choosing.