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Costa Rica chooses radical change with the anti-system economist Rodrigo Chaves | International

Costa Rica is heading for an announced radical change with the election of the anti-system economist Rodrigo Chaves in the second round of the elections held this Sunday. With more than 95% of the votes counted, the surprise candidate of the elections has obtained 52.81% of the support, compared to 47.2% of former president José María Figueres, the maximum representative of the traditional politics against which he preached his rival.

“I receive with the deepest humility this sacred decision of the Costa Rican people,” said Chaves in his first statements as president-elect. “This result for me is not a medal or a trophy, but a huge responsibility.” In addition, he asked his rival, José María Figueres, to work together to resolve the economic crisis that afflicts the country and achieve the “Costa Rican miracle.” With only 10 deputies from his party in a Parliament of 57 seats, the agreements will be necessary for the new president.

Before Chaves spoke before his followers in San José, José María Figueres did the same to grant victory to his rival. “Costa Rica has voted and the people have spoken. I congratulate Rodrigo Chaves. We, as the Democrats that we are, will always be respectful of that decision, ”he has said before his supporters. “It is time to close ranks as a Costa Rican family. It is time to leave antagonism and hatred behind”, he added.

Chaves will be the next president of Costa Rica from May 8 after a campaign in which he presented himself as the “change” against traditional politicians and in which he promised to fight corruption. The economist managed to emerge as a powerful candidate after the first round in February and despite having to face controversy over accusations of sexual harassment in the past when he worked at the World Bank. The 60-year-old economist, almost 1.90 tall, with a rabid verb, justified as “jokes” the acts for which he was sanctioned in the international organization before resigning in 2019 without having another job in his sights. Once in Costa Rica, he made his political debut as a surprising finance minister in the current government of Carlos Alvarado, a position he held for six months.

Supporters of the elected president of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves, celebrate in San José, this Sunday.
Supporters of the elected president of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves, celebrate in San José, this Sunday.
Jeffrey Arguedas (EFE)

The Central American country experienced election day with unusual friction and apathy. Costa Ricans voted in a climate of political unease and questioning of the two candidates competing in the second round. The high level of uncertainty and hostility between the two sides lasted until the closing of more than 2,100 polling stations at 6:00 p.m. local time, after a day in which the most enthusiastic supporters of both candidates tried to counteract the discouragement of most of the population reflected in the polls, as an indicator of an abstention that in the first round reached 40%.

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“More than an electoral party, it has been like a cockfight,” said former president Óscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1987, despite having expressed his support for Figueres, his co-partisan and internal adversary for decades.

Among the supporters of Chaves, the messages against Figueres for “corrupt” and “representing those who have us bad” prevailed, accused the young Luis Diego López, wearing a shirt with the slogan “the party is over”, one of the slogans of Chavez’s campaign. From his Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD), debuting in an election, the candidate promises to remove “the powerful groups” from power and bring the people there.

Similar messages were addressed by a group to Figueres when he went to vote at 7 in the morning in a town called San Cristóbal Sur, on the outskirts of San José, before visiting the tomb of his father José Figueres, who ruled Costa Rica three times. in the 20th century. “It’s been a very tough campaign,” he said as he left. At another time, the reproaches went against the journalists who followed Chaves, shouting “rogue press”, in tune with the candidate’s remarks against adverse journalistic publications.

A woman in her 70s wrapped in a large PLN flag was hanging around her polling station in a rural area of ​​Alajuela, west of the Central Valley. “I don’t know if I’m the only one who is proud of my vote for Figueres, but that’s the problem. Many are going to support him because they know the danger that Chaves is, but they do not express it openly and it gives the feeling that they are more, “she told El PAÍS, although she preferred not to reveal his name. The latest poll, published five days before the election, gave Chaves an advantage, although he reduced his margin over the former president to less than five points.

“I have hardly sold anything,” lamented Ulises Carranza, an ice cream vendor outside a voting center in Alajuela, the city located 20 kilometers west of San José. In the afternoon, to make matters worse, it rained in a good part of the country. “Before, people came to vote and were still hesitating (discussing), but people come to comply and want to leave quickly. It’s not pretty anymore because there’s no enthusiasm with those candidates,” said the man in the morning. He was going to vote in the afternoon, but he still didn’t know for whom. Or so he replied.

Meanwhile, in the streets there was an apparently duller atmosphere than in the first round on February 6. “There have been no crowds. We have not had complaints about long lines, ”said Héctor Fernández, spokesman for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), at noon, although he warned that the body does not monitor participation.

The day revealed hubbub in the streets among Chaves supporters, confident of striking a blow at traditional politics, although the green-and-white flag of the old National Liberation Party (PLN) was also visible, represented by former president José María Figueres, who finished the campaign presenting himself as the card of moderation despite the high popular rejection against him.

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