All eyes on Costa Rica

Delegates from the PI Observatory land in San José as Costa Rica prepares for its general election.
Costa Rica heads to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president and National Assembly as a resurgent right rises in the polls.
Costa Rica heads to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president and National Assembly as a resurgent right rises in the polls.

The vote comes after nearly a decade of governance by the Citizens’ Action Party (PAC). The PAC came to power as a source of hope for millions of Costa Ricans to stand against unfair trade deals —— like the recently signed Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) — and to restore the country’s celebrated social democracy.

By the end of the decade, however, the PAC had betrayed this promise. The governing party has doubled down on a program of liberalization — epitomized by president Carlos Alvarado’s $2 billion IMF deal that brought devastating pandemic austerity, sale of public assets, and the largest strike action by unions in decades.

But many of the parties that have risen to replace the PAC present an even greater threat to Costa Rican democracy. The leading candidate, former president José María Figueres, imposed the first wave of privatizations of Costa Rica’s public enterprises in the 1990s, transforming even forests and ecosystems into “services” to be traded and commodified. His election would submit Costa Ricans to the conditions of new free trade agreements and new IMF loans, returning the country to its 1990s neoliberal trajectory.

The threat posed by this economic orthodoxy is compounded by a new reactionary social orthodoxy advanced by Costa Rica’s far-right parties. Candidates like the gospel singer Fabricio Alvarado, for example, rage against abortion rights, birth control, adoption by same-sex couples, and the specter of “gender ideology.”

These extreme views extend to the environment, as well. Costa Rica’s conservative forces reject the landmark Latin America-wide Escazú Treaty to protect environmental defenders and their movements from violent retaliation, while embracing the hard right-wing axis of the Madrid Charter — promoted by the far-right VOX in Spain, along with figures such as Jair Bolsonaro, José Antonio Kast, and Keiko Fujimori.

But progressive forces are regrouping. In response to the anti-worker IMF deal in 2020, unions staged massive strike actions, protests, and road blockades nationwide. Now, in the 2022 general elections they demand a real alternative to both the unrelenting erosion of social welfare and fundamentalist ultra-conservatism. They fight for a future grounded in solidarity, equality, sustainability, and popular democracy.

We are mobilizing to San José for the first time to ensure a fair playing field for these movements struggling against the odds to renew the social, egalitarian, and peaceful promise of Costa Rica.

Photo: Pexels

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