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April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
Rejecting Politics as
World Press Review contributing editor
of a vigorous third-party challenge in Costa Ricas 2002
presidential campaign heralds a watershed rejection of the political
status quo, commentators in the national media concur. It signals
that the electorate will demand greater responsiveness and openness
from the incoming administration. Citizen Action Party (PAC)
nominee Ottón Solís narrowly failed to qualify
in the February general elections for the second-round runoff
vote in April. But the PACs strong electoral showing in
presidential and congressional contests means that the dominant
Social Christian Unity and National Liberation parties can no
longer afford to ignore popular dissatisfaction with the political
Solís gets some bad news in San José, Costa
Rica, Feb. 3, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
The PAC opened the doors to a new democracy in Costa Rica,
wrote Jorge Vieto in La Nación (Feb. 8). The
form of governing will no longer be the same; now the citizenry
will have far more participation and involvement in transcendent
and fundamental decisions for our country....The lesson has
been given, and it cannot be ignored by the traditional parties.
In a commentary published in La Nación (Feb. 6),
attorney Pablo Zeledón Flores described the grass-roots
third-party movement as a robust group of Costa Ricans
of the most diverse social origins, from all corners of the
country, united in a generation of transition,
who have chosen to close the wearying vicious circle of
disillusionment and provide a new opportunity for democracy....Resistance
to change led us to grow accustomed to the ease of expediency,
bribery, patronage, and all the havens of corruption.
Grass-roots mobilization to challenge the political status quo
is not an act of rebellion and protest, he added.
It is...real and voluntary protagonism for Costa Rica.
La República observed in an editorial (Feb. 5)
that Costa Rican voters also displayed their discontent with
the nations traditional political establishment by sitting
out the February elections in unprecedented numbers, elevating
the abstention rate to a record 31 percent of registered voters.
This is a matter that cannot be taken lightly, La
República cautioned. In other latitudes, the
absence of citizen participation opened the door to the worst
tyrannies and military regimes. If those are still distant possibilities
for us, all the same we run the risk of ending up in the hands
of a minority, which taking advantage of the lack of participation,
can continue to wield its power and make decisions indefinitely
on our behalfwhich...can prove as bad as or worse than
Some political analysts cite Costa Rican voters traditional
social and political conservatism as a formidable impediment
to political realignment, wrote Tim Rogers in the Tico Times
(Feb. 1). John Biehl, a Colombian-based political operative
who informally advised the Solís campaign, told the Tico
Times that the major parties aggressive fear
campaign against the PAC nominee reflects their continued
unwillingness to embrace democratic reform. With democratic
systems collapsing throughout the continent, Costa Rica was
the regions great hope, Biehl said. But if
the country continues with the same system that allows parties
to get rich off power, Costa Ricas political situation
will soon be in the same category as Argentina, Peru, and Venezuela.