Accusing the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) and current administration of alleged corruption, the popular ex-legislator Epsy Campbell announced with fanfare on Monday that she hopes to become an opposition candidate for president in 2014.
With a campaign team by her side, the 49-year-old economist from the Citizen Action Party (PAC) made the announcement to dozens of members of the press and supporters on San José’s Central Avenue.
Campbell, who served as lawmaker from 2002-2006 and was a vice presidential candidate in 2006, stood in front of a large mobile home with her image painted on the side, which she plans on using to travel the country to create a “new majority.” She hopes to unseat a ruling party that has occupied Casa Presidencial for the past two administrations.
“Are we going to remove Liberation or not?” a message on both sides of the RV asks.
“We’re going to travel the country in this RV, a roaming citizens’ home, to recruit voters. We’re going to every province with a question: Are we going to change Costa Rica or not,” Campbell said. “The goal is zero tolerance for corruption.”
During the exchange, the candidate listened to suggestions from members of the audience, and responded by saying, “It’s people like you who we are looking for; people who want genuine change and are tired of traditional politics.”
On Tuesday, she met with former PAC presidential candidate and party founder Ottón Solís.
“I wasn’t looking for don Ottón’s support,” Campbell told The Tico Times. “It was a conversation with the party’s founder to re-launch the party flag before we move to the internal process of talking about new tendencies within the party,” she said.
Solís stepped out of his role as a guiding member of PAC’s political commission last year, when he announced he would not run for president in 2014. He promised to remain neutral in upcoming party primaries.
Three other candidates hope to obtain PAC’s nomination in June: lawmakers Juan Carlos Mendoza and Claudio Monge, and political analyst and professor Luis Guillermo Solís.
“I welcome all PAC candidates, and I believe it will provide better choices for our party members, and that’s a positive development,” Solís told The Tico Times.
Some of Campbell’s critics have accused her of failing to issue reports on campaign funds and donations when she sought to become a primary candidate in 2009, a race she lost to Solís.
Campbell blamed the accusations on political opponents: “There was no fundraising strategy and there was no principal spending. I received donations and volunteers, therefore there’s no report to file,” she said.
Solis added, “In our party, accountability is a fundamental principle.”
According to recent polls, Campbell is the most popular potential opposition candidate. A poll by crhoy.com showed that 43 percent of Costa Ricans have a favorable opinion of her. San José Mayor Johnny Araya, the PLN’s sole presidential candidate, obtained 67 percent approval in the same poll. More than a year before elections, Araya is highly favored among potential voters to become Costa Rica’s next president.
Araya has run the city of 1.4 million for more than two decades, serving first as municipal president from 1991-1998, and then mayor.
“Johnny [Araya] has been campaigning for 20 years. … But we’re going to move the country forward by generating a new citizens’ movement that will defeat a politician who spends millions of public dollars to promote himself,” Campbell said.
Along with the Campbell’s flashy new mobile home, her campaign also has a new website, www.vamos.co.cr.