Costa Rica: Pre-electoral context

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By Rocío Alfaro / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / January 30, 2018

Costa Rica’s 2018 elections seem to have surprising outcome scenarios for a country with a “democratic” tradition, advanced in human rights issues, where education is widespread, without great episodes of violence and without the severe penetration of drug trafficking that is affecting other countries of the region… Except none of this is real, it is part of the myth created around Costa Rica, and what is currently happening will take us by surprise if we haven’t closely watched the economic, political and cultural tendencies of the country.

What is happening today? Tendencies towards the radicalization of the right wing’s speech, entry of drug trafficking money, ideological onslaught of neo-Integrism (Opus Dei) and neo-Pentecostal groups, attack on the institutions and on the Social State of Law (from rampant corruption to a speech that ignores the separation of powers), legitimization of verbal violence and the need for a “strong man”, the partial and/or lukewarm attitude of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), that won’t stand up for what our Constitution establishes (the prohibition of confessional parties and of using religious arguments in elections), a State bank that decides to sabotage the transparent funding of political parties—All of this comes into play in this year’s elections, where the oligarchy’s bet is a campaign of de-politicization and intimidation towards the population, to lower the intensity of the electoral process in order to increase abstention.

It is worth remembering that 4 years ago, and for the first time in Costa Rica since the end of the 1948 civil war, the left wing grew—specifically, the Broad Front—in its partisan expression, to the point of becoming a real danger for the ruling socio-economic model, by coming in third in the elections (after a unified struggle of every other party and business chamber against the Broad Front when it was first in vote intention), and helping a “center” party outside the usual bipartisanship, which always arrives to power, to get to the presidency for the first time

This change of actors in the government was merely cosmetic: the neoliberal policies were maintained, as was the anti-environmental, repressive, etc. Corruption has infiltrated in a deeper way teasing institutions and touching the three powers of the Republic (the case known as CEMENTAZO which actually are several cases of robbery and underfunding of the State banks). Improvements were only seen regarding human rights of the LGBT community but also with severe setbacks in other areas, including (farmers, workers, native, etc) women rights.

This situation has given the evidence that the oligarchy could control with new mechanisms the same politics, abandoning partially (or oxygenating) the worn-out figure of traditional parties, so as the existence of new groups with economic power that demand their space and participation. It also worked to create new actors to stop the coming together of leftist and progressive forces, like the ones of ecology and sexual diversity, that are being demonized by fanatic groups that revel in a Trump style politics making the “politically incorrect” speech an attractive style for the most excluded sectors.

On the other hand, the power of religious groups of Opus Dei inspiration or of American franchises of prosperity theology churches (Neo Pentecostal) show their strength, showing themselves as a new powerful actor that that could define the national politics, as they had done in a dramatic way in countries like Brazil, Honduras and Guatemala.

To this is added, that in Costa Rica the media monopoly is very strong, the media blockade is huge and that the new networks, despite the high connectivity, haven’t been able to break it. This situation has happened due to that the growing of cyber activism has been unfortunately coupled with the abandonment of popular mobilization and with an organizational fragmentation, an effect of the “doubt benefit” that the social movements have given to the first non bipartisan government, and of the ideological and organizational weaknesses that the political left keeps dragging since the rupture of the historical Communist Party in 1983, despite the huge growth of the Broad Front where almost every new and heir party of the Costa Rican left have gathered.

The situation, 5 days to the elections, es pretty confusing and worrying. One day, an evangelical preacher who has used homophobia as his main toll leads the polls. Another day, a clone of Trump that makes use of ignorance on how the democratic system works a flag to capture those that feel excluded from it appears on top. On another moment, a colonial businessman symbol of the bipartisanship and maybe of the most corrupt traditional party. On the other side of the bipartisanship bet on the “choppy waters” or simply in accumulating forces for better times. The ruling party calling desperately towards the “useful vote” of their voters, dismayed by the enormous cases of corruption during their administration, demonizing everyone else like the strategy they took with the anti communist campaign with which they got to power and that, even today, damages the Broad Front. And the latter which couldn’t lift off after an internal and external sabotage and non solved contradictions at the moment of initiating its campaign.

None of them have the possibility of winning in the first round. Neither the left or the badly named progressivism seem to have a chance at all -in the (almost miraculous) case of getting to the runoff- of getting enough votes to face the forces of an emboldened right that seems to have invested for this century on a violent, corrupt, ignorant and fanatic style which we have seen in brother countries, to keep imposing the neoliberal, extractivist, racist and patriarchal model.


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