Despite the polls, the rhetoric, the support of Evangelical ministers and followers, lots of money thrown at a hard-fought campaign, the people of Costa Rica decided, Presidente Fabricio Alvarado would not be.
Their choice was clear. Carlos Alvarado was their President, the man who would solve the problems facing the country: a fast-growing fiscal deficit, poverty, unemployment, and road infrastructure, etc.
So what happened?
In my opinion, the voters in Costa Rica made it clear religion and politics don’t mix. It got people scared, so scared that many did the unthinkable, cut their Semana Santa vacation early to get back to the city to vote, resulting in the lowest absenteeism on record.
Anyone who has lived or visited Costa Rica will know that vacation time is sacred. I happened to be in the CIMA hospital ward (working) early Saturday morning and commented to the nursing staff of only 8 patients in a 36 room third floor. “Just wait to Monday, people don’ get sick during the holidays, but the day after,” nurse Furlana (not to use her real name) told me.
More people voted on Sunday than ever before. In fact, Don Carlos may even surpass his Luis Guillermo Solis’ record votes. The final numbers aren’t in, Don Carlos is close to breaking that record, we won’t know until at least next week when all the votes are counted. And that is a feat in itself since Don Luis Guillermo’s record was without an opponent.
Was he, Don Fabricio, overconfident? Perhaps.
Anyone following the politicking this past couple of weeks saw a man overconfident of what was to be, a man who, in my opinion, and that of others, thought he had might on his side and could not lose. He was going to be the next President. He was sure of it. And so were his supporters.
So did the polls.
CID-Gallop, Opol Consultores, the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and others all had Don Fabricio ahead of Don Carlos. Not by much, but still ahead enough to give Don Fabricio and his supporters the belief he would be giving his acceptance speech instead of announcing his defeat come Sunday night.
Watching Don Fabricio in public speaking brought my thoughts to the Evangelical ministers on television, arms in the air, overly excited of their message, sweating profusely while looking up in the heavens and so on. A showman. Totally in contrast to the slow speaking Don Carlos and his direct message. One line that stayed with me during the last few days was, “I promised my mother (…)”.
One had it right. A vendor of ice cream, the Los Paleteros, had the results spot on, even to the percentages.
They had created two ‘paletas’ ice cream treats: the CHURCHI PAC and CHURCHI PRN Based on customer preferences, the Los Paleteros predicted the PAC would win with 60% of the vote, and the PRN with 40%.
Could it have been Don Fabricio’s stand on same-sex marriage?
Some countries in the region — including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay — have legalized same-sex marriage. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights (based in San Jose, Costa Rica) ruled in January (days before the Feb. 4 election) obligating Costa Rica to same-sex marriages.
Don Fabricio seized on this. His stance against same-sex marriage had him winning the February 4 election with almost 25% of the vote, but it was short of the required 40% to take the presidency.
During the weeks leading up to the run-off election, Don Fabricio backpedaled his stance. The threat to remove Costa Rica from the Inter-American Court’s authority should he be elected. He also softened his stance on “gender ideology”, what he called the “secular state”, and his vow to eliminate sex education in schools.
It was interesting to watch the Sunday morning interview on Teletica channel 7, Don Fabricio being interviewed by the weekly noon news anchor, Marcelo Castro, who has said openly that he is gay.
This is where I knew Don Fabricio was done for the day, when to Marcelo’s surprise, he went soft on the last question on the future of gay rights in the country. I swear I could see in Don Marcelo’s face a ready fight. The interview ended quietly.
For days I had been asked of who would win. My answer was Carlos Alvarado, but by a very low margin, maybe even only a few votes.
That conviction was confirmed in my travels around the west side of the San Jose Sunday morning, where cars with flags, horns honking (I even joined in some that of honking, hey I had just installed a new pito (horn) on my classic FJ-40 Landcruiser and people on the side of the road with flags waving, cheering on passersby.
All the flags and honking was for the PAC. Not a single PRN. Maybe I wasn’t looking, as my wife clearly pointed out. Maybe. But, by the afternoon, an hour ahead of the end of voting, on a trip to the local grocery store, the majority of the flags were PRN. But there was no honking.
After the polls closed, at 8:00 p.m, where we got the first glimpse of what was to be, my surprise was not in Don Carlos winning, but by the majority.
Respect, Tolerance, Democracy and just plain common sense won the day.
But don’t rule out Don Fabricio and his Restauracion Nacional party. The PRN won 14 of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly on February 4, the PAC with 10, the PUSC with 9 and the PLN with 17 (their lowest ever). The rest went to various parties. See infograph below.
The PAC has only . This means that Don Carlos, if is to get anything done during the next four years will have to compromise, wheel and deal, negotiate, re-negotiate and them some.
Move the numbers around a bit, but not much different than what we’ve had for the last four years.
Until the next party in 2022.