Campaign Crawlers

Too Close to Call

In Costa Rica, political division is normal. We may know in a day or two who won on Sunday.

By 2.6.06

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COSTA RICA -- I won 5,000 colones (about 10 bucks) on Sunday's Super Bowl. And I gave 4 points. But here in Costa Rica the big game was the presidential election, which is still not decided. Oscar Arias's name might ring a bell outside of CR as he got himself a peace prize a few years back. Something to do with getting Central Americans to stop killing each other.

The candidates are separated by less than a point (40.1-40.9) and Solis (the other guy) said he will require a recount. Natch.

When I got here about a year ago I thought they were already having the election because I would hear people talk about the next president (Arias). This guy was widely considered a shoo-in for various reasons, and the campaign got lazy. Only in the past couple of weeks did it start talking as if the party, Liberacion, might have a challenge.

Not that I'm listening very closely, but I've yet to hear people yapping about a divided country like the whiners in the U.S., and this election is arguably vastly more important than the 2000 election in the States. On the one side are the Greens and the Unions trying to stop development and new business, on the other is the middle class praying for passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Arias is mostly for it, Solis (uh, the other guy) is dead set against it. As a gringo who pays 50% import taxes on used car parts and at least a $500 premium on any Apple computer, I'm hoping for Arias.

Otto Gueverra, the third place candidate garnering a whopping 8 points, is the Libertarian guy. The women like him because he's handsome, but I think he campaigned over people's heads. Some weeks back I was in a Chicharonnes joint (mmmm, deep fried pork!) where I read a comic book his campaign distributed trying to educate people on inflation. The government here has a regulated devaluation program of the colone, which means any store that sells stuff worth more than a couple hundred bucks charges dollars instead.

It was in Spanish and all, and it took me the whole meal to figure out what they were trying to say. Which in a nutshell is, inflation is bad, rich people use dollars anyway, and the government is stealing from you and it should stop. Pretty simple message, but typical of Libertarians to make it overly complicated. An eight-page comic book is not exactly bumper-sticker material. And it probably cost the campaign half of its finances.

Still, at 8 percent in a field with about fifteen candidates, he did amazingly well and hopes to influence the government in a direction I would probably agree with. Today will be interesting, and probably the next couple of days as they go through the recount.

This is a runoff-style election unless a candidate gets over 40% of the vote. As both top candidates now qualify for the prize, we'll know sooner rather than later whether this most important Central American country will move closer or farther away from the U.S.

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About the Author

Pete Peterson is a writer in southern California. He previously contributed "Little Saigon Eyes Kerry" to the online American Spectator.