I say this with absolute certainty: This electoral campaign is the most lacking of substance of any I can recall.
Just a few days before we decide who will govern in the next administration, we Costa Ricans are in the dark about candidates’ platforms on key issues. This goes well beyond sound bites about “communist threats” fabricated in the minds of traditional power groups rather than the minds of the Broad Front Party, which surprisingly has been transformed from political observer into protagonist.
It’s not just the entire country that lives off of ideological fighting among “centrist democrats” and “communists,” but apparently so does the electoral campaign.
For weeks we’ve been bombarded by propaganda and subjected to endless finger-pointing about who is more corrupt, more incapable or who would be more toxic for the country if elected to the Casa Presidencial.
Meanwhile, the majority of voters want to know what concrete actions candidates would take on crucial issues like roadway and port infrastructure, restructuring of public transport, foreign policy, public security, drug trafficking, in vitro fertilization, state secularization, energy policy – including geothermal – urban planning, water management and cultural promotion, to mention a few.
I would like to stand in front of top-polling candidates and cover their mouths each time they mention the words “communist,” “moderate,” “centrist,” “corruption,” “hope,” and all those empty phrases repeated in ads, debates and campaign songs.
To the candidates: I’m certain I’m not the only citizen who wants – who demands – specific proposals on pressing matters that affect us all.
Will your administration support construction of a new $1 billion port in Moín by the Dutch firm APT Terminals?
Will you comply with the ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to eliminate the ban on in vitro fertilization?
Will you continue negotiating a concordat with the Vatican?
What is your plan to address water treatment problems in urban areas?
What will our foreign policy look like? Will we join the Pacific Alliance? What is our plan for China? Do we want free trade agreements with South America, and if so, with whom?
How do you plan to solve the problem of prison overcrowding without affecting the courts?
Will you maintain police training agreements with Colombia and Israel?
Will you allow geothermal energy to be produced in national parks? If so, who will do it, the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute or private companies?
Will you support the constitutional prohibition on trawling?
How will you reorganize public transport in the Greater Metropolitan Area? How will you pay for it?
And the list goes on and on.
You won’t find the answers to these questions – at least most of them – in the candidates’ government plans, and they certainly weren’t discussed in debates and in interviews.
These gaping holes in the campaign will be the ghosts that accompany us in the voting booths on Feb. 2, while we try to liberate ourselves from the populist phrases that candidates are adept at repeating ad infinitum.
It’s difficult to make an informed decision without having a complete picture, but that’s the challenge we voters face. And the clock’s ticking.
If the predictions hold true and we head to a second round, it is imperative that we set aside this rhetoric and focus on real proposals for real problems.
Nancy De Lemos is a journalist and former director in Costa Rica for the news agency EFE. A graduate of the University of Costa Rica, she now works in communication for global environmental NGOs.