After losing its presidential candidate on Wednesday, the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) tried to reassert itself as a serious contender in Costa Rica’s upcoming elections Saturday morning when it elected Rodolfo Piza as its new candidate.
In front of a crowd of more than 100 PUSC delegates and other supporters sporting navy blue fedoras with red hatbands, Piza accepted the nomination for PUSC presidential candidate at the Holiday Inn in San José. He ran for the spot unopposed.
Piza, a constitutional lawyer who ran unsuccessfully against Dr. Rodolfo Hernández in the PUSC primary last May, suddenly found himself the heir apparent to the candidacy when Hernández announced his resignation on Oct. 3, citing conflicts with the party’s leadership.
Hernández would briefly return to the race on Oct. 5 only to issue his “irrevocable” resignation on Wednesday, Oct. 9 in one of Costa Rica’s greatest political flip-flops.
Unity will have to relaunch its national campaign as the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), the Citizen Action Party, and other smaller factions enjoy a six-month lead in raising funds, and selling their candidate.
In his acceptance speech, Piza acknowledged the hurdles facing the PUSC and the PLN’s war chest, reported at over $12.7 million by the Spanish-language daily La Nación.
“In the end, it’s the Costa Rican people who will vote, not the money,” Piza told his supporters.
All campaigns will have to cinch their belts this year as the central government announced it would reduce its constitutionally mandated political campaign contributions amid budget constraints.
The candidate was bullish about the dwindling time left to campaign before the elections on Feb. 2, 2014, saying there was “more than enough time.”
When asked about the “backstabbing” that Hernández mentioned in his first resignation letter, Piza said he wasn’t aware of anything like it, adding that he was “shielded” from any such attacks.
Piza accepted the nomination alongside his two vice presidents, Carlos Araya Guillén, former Costa Rican ambassador to Brazil and government program coordinator for the Hernández campaign, and Patricia Vega Herrera, a lawyer.
PUSC, while still the largest opposition party in Costa Rica, has struggled to retake the presidency since two of its presidents were tried and jailed for corruption.
Piza acknowledged that the road ahead would be difficult. The candidate must convince Ticos that not only he is the best man to run the country but that the PUSC is still a viable alternative to the entrenched PLN.
“We respect the past,” the newly christened candidate said, “but the future is ours.”