When La Nación journalist Álvaro Murillo set out to interview 25-year-old National Liberation Party lawmaker-elect Silvia Sánchez, from the province of Alajuela, he hoped to talk about the importance of bringing young talent and new ideas to the Legislative Assembly. But what unfolded was perhaps one of the worst interviews in recent memory.
When she takes office on May 1, Sánchez will be the youngest member of the new Assembly. The need for bringing fresh ideas and youth to Costa Rican politics was made clear in the country’s Feb. 2 presidential elections, when young voters helped embolden Broad Front Party candidate José María Villalta and helped vault Citizen Action Party candidate Luis Guillermo Solís into first place in the presidential race.
But when you see what apparently is the PLN’s idea of young talent, be warned: It’s scary. Read the entire interview in Spanish here.
Following are excerpts from Murillo’s interview with the high school teacher – who will be pulling in a ₡3 million ($5,600) monthly salary as lawmaker – published Sunday in La Nación:
LN: Who supported you [in your legislative campaign]?
SS: My family and friends, my brother has always helped me. …
But I’m referring to political support. [Current lawmaker] Edgardo Araya?
Well, yes. Him. And doña Xinia Rodríguez, who also was a lawmaker.
And your dad? [who has served as secretary of Alajuela’s Municipal Council for 30 years]
Of course, him, too.
Do you feel you’re qualified to be a lawmaker?
Of course I am.
From where do your qualifications come?
Well, let’s see, from all the work in the community; I know what needs there are.
In what do you specialize?
Youth and community.
And substantive issues?
Well, we haven’t yet divided the issues among our party’s legislative block, but I want to focus on the community.
What is the Legislative Assembly’s most pressing issue?
Well, we have to look at reforming Assembly rules … but there’s really not a specific issue. There are things we are going to analyze. I don’t have a specific issue.
What part of the Legislative Assembly rules would you reform?
Perhaps the time that a lawmaker is allowed to speak, and that one lawmaker could paralyze a bill.
How can that be avoided?
We have to analyze that, but it’s just my opinion.
What role do you believe young lawmakers have played in the past?
Eh … well.
Do you remember one?
Yes, but I haven’t been absorbed in what they did. I’d have to analyze it to give an opinion.
Can you name any [young lawmakers]?
I’d recognize their faces, but I don’t know any names.
Do you follow politics closely enough to know what is happening?
Ah, yes, yes, of course.
Who is the best government minister?
I feel the education minister has done a good job.
Just that one, because I follow education. There are others, but I prefer just to name him.
And the worst minister?
I can’t say a name.
Which sector has this government neglected?
Let’s see … Uh, maybe what people are saying is roadway infrastructure.
Is there something that can be done in the Legislative Assembly about infrastructure?
No, I don’t think so.
So the legal framework is satisfactory?
Like it states in Johnny’s [Araya] government plan, to modify that, but I don’t remember the specific words. Give MOPT [the Public Works and Transport Ministry] the resources to work better.
Do you support gay marriage?
No, I’m against it, because I grew up in a family where marriage was between a man and a woman; because of my religious beliefs I think that marriage is between a man and a woman, but nonetheless I have complete respect.
Because of your beliefs?
Well, I’m not in favor of gay marriage, just like the party [PLN] has been saying.
Should Costa Rica continue being a country with an official religion?
Yes, because yes, so that the churches can give their opinions regarding the state and participate in decisions.
Should the country raise taxes?
What needs to be done is fiscal reform, which is what has been said for a while.
Yes, but that requires raising taxes.
The idea would be to pass reform and see how to accommodate it without affecting everyone.
Which sectors should pay more taxes?
I can’t specifically respond to that question. I’d have to analyze it.
Did you support the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)?
Back then [October 2007, when Sánchez was 19 years old] I couldn’t even vote. I don’t even remember what my mindset was. It was a long time ago. A 14-year-old doesn’t analyze “yes” or “no.”
Why did you vote for [President Laura] Chinchilla?
Because I liked her government plan and the PLN’s ideals.
Has she been a good president?
Yes, she’s done what she can, but they blame her for everything, for the potholes in the street and things like that. She’s done a good job.
Can you cite one of her errors?
Not right now.
Since you’re from San Ramón, did you support the movement against the San José-San Ramón Highway concession?
Yes, but I think that project should be completed.
You supported the opposition [to the project]?
No, I didn’t support one or the other. It’s just my opinion. I was consentient on what happened.
Will you serve four years?
It’s not true then that you would only be in the Assembly temporarily and then give your seat to Luis Carlos Araya [Johnny Araya’s brother]?
No, I have a serious commitment to young people and the community and I don’t want to quit. My idea is to remain until 2018.
What do you think of his job as lawmaker (2006-2010)?
I don’t know, I was a chiquitilla, (little girl).
But that was when you were 17 to 21 years old.
I paid attention, but back then I couldn’t tell you if this lawmaker did this and that lawmaker did that. I’ve heard that he did a great job, but I don’t know what.
Do you agree with the amount a lawmaker earns in salary?
It’s what’s established.
But is it reasonable?
Yes, it’s a little high, that’s why we’re going to propose to change it.
What does it mean for a 25-year-old, only two years out of university, to have a job that pays ₡3 million [a month]?
With all the campaigning I’ve been doing, I haven’t even thought about it.
Well, I haven’t sat down to analyze it. I’ve always worked, during high school vacations, in a store, and later as a receptionist part-time. I’ve always earned something.
And with that, all we can say is, good luck, Costa Rica!