The owner of a humorous Costa Rican Facebook page called “Humor a lo Tico” on Sunday posted a message claiming a campaign worker for ruling National Liberation Party’s presidential candidate Johnny Araya offered him a monthly fee in exchange for publishing information attacking other candidates. The owner of the page also claimed he was instructed “to leave Araya alone.”
“José,” as he describes himself, posted an audio file of a telephone conversation he allegedly had with a PLN campaign worker detailing the agreement.
He also said the PLN has been creating messages and Internet memes on similar humor pages. Some of these messages – which have widely circulated in recent days – target Broad Front Party candidate and current lawmaker José María Villalta.
“José” claimed that the PLN “bought these pages” with monthly payments of ₡50,000-₡100,000 ($100-$200).
A voice on the recording can be heard asking “José” if ₡100,000 a month was sufficient to allow Liberation campaign workers to “manage” all Araya-related content on the Facebook page and give them access to publish “whatever they want, without any restriction.” Although he did not identify the person in the conversation, “José” claimed he knows that person’s identity and has other recordings from PLN members.
PLN campaign manager Rolando González on Tuesday denied any involvement in the case and called it a “smear campaign aimed at discrediting Araya and his party.”
He said opposition parties are behind the accusations and called for a “public condemnation” of them.
Villalta on Monday told the daily La República that “all these attacks will backfire, as hundreds of thousands of Costa Ricans now realize how low the PLN can go.” He added that his campaign is not affected by the online messages: “On the contrary, I see my campaign strengthened as people become aware of PLN strategies of deception.”
Araya continues to lead polling of potential voters ahead of February’s elections, while Villalta is in third, according to a University of Costa Rica poll, behind second-place Otto Guevara of the Libertarian Movement Party.