QCOSTARICA – Former president, José María Figueres Olsen (1994-1998), on Sunday, became this Sunday the presidential candidate of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) for the general elections on February 6, 2022.
Figueres placed first with 36.98% of the votes, followed by former legislator and former Minister of Public Works, Rolando Araya, with 26.17%. The legislator and former mayor of Alajuela, Roberto Thompson placed third with 14.77% of the votes, Punaternas legislator Carlos Ricardo Benavides placed fourth with 13.3% and political scientist, Claudio Alpízar came in fifth place with 5.86%.
Minutes before 10 pm, José María Figueres arrived at the Balcón Verde, PLN headquarters, in La Sabana to claim victory, saying that he will look to his 4 adversaries (Araya, Thompson, Benavides and Alpízar) to “build ties” and repair frictions that may have occurred during the internal party politics.
In his speech, he said that in the elections next year, “the rescue of the homeland is at stake” and spoke about the lack of direction in the current administration.
“Something much bigger than the Presidency of the Republic is at stake. At stake is the rescue of the homeland, the reconstruction of a society devastated by the pandemic, improvisation and lack of direction. We are living through the greatest social and economic debacle of the last forty years.
“One and a half million Costa Ricans living in poverty, almost one million working in the informal sector, more than four hundred thousand without jobs, and thousands of companies closed. A bankrupt, inefficient and obstructing state, despite the strenuous effort made by most public employees. A social security system exhausted in the human and financial.
An education in ruins, with a whole generation of children and young people who have been learning halfway for almost four years. An unacceptable distribution of income, which makes us one of the most unequal societies in the world, a fact that hurts me deeply. A country intimidated by drug trafficking and organized crime, whose tentacles move freely through the corridors of power,” was part of Figueres’ victory speech Sunday night.
The former president, son of three-time president of Costa Rica, José “Pepe” Figueres and considered the father of peaceful modern democracy in Costa Rica, will lead a party that was an alternate force in leading the country but beaten in the last two electoral processes and with a level of national sympathy with only 15%, half of its historical record.
Cutting carbon emissions in half and eliminating extreme poverty are some of the goals that he raises for his eventual government.
By 2030, Costa Rica should also be a bilingual country, in addition to recovering fiscal health (deficit of less than 3% and debt of less than 50% of GDP), according to Figueres, who is the first candidate elected through an internal convention in this process, which was carried out amid strict sanitary measures due to Covid19.
The PLN presidential candidate has faced a number of allegations during his political career, starting in 1991 with the Chemise case, when Figueres was seen as a possible contender for the presidency, brothers David and José Romero published a book accusing Figueres of having participated in the extrajudicial execution of a drug dealer named Jose Joaquin Orozco, known as “Chemise”.
In the middle of Figueres’ presidential campaign in 1994, anonymous allegations arguing Figueres was not Catholic were widely spread and picked up by the media. To dispel the strong rumors Monsenor Román Arrieta, Archbishop of San José and President of the Episcopal Conference was obliged to pronounce himself acknowledging José María Figueres had been baptized a Roman Catholic.
In 2004, local media reports claimed Figueres had also received payments from Alcatel. Shortly afterward it was reported that Figueres had earned nearly US$900,000 for three years of consultancy work on telecommunications with Alcatel initiated two years after his presidency, and while already working in Europe.
Following an amended tax filing to include income earned outside of Costa Rica, which is not subject to Costa Rican tax, the Ministerio de Hacienda notified Figueres of no financial misconduct.
Figueres was never summoned nor charged by the Attorney General’s office. On September 19, 2007, the Attorney General formally announced that there were no grounds on which to press any charges against Figueres. This paved the way for Figueres’ return to Costa Rica after seven years of self-exile in Europe.