“The devil you know” vs. “the devil you don’t” On April 2, 2018, the Costa Rica presidential results were tallied and Carlos Alvarado won the presidency of Costa Rica with 60 percent of the vote over Fabricio Alvarado, who garnered 39 percent. It was a nail-biter, with the results unclear and unpredicted right up to the end. The ruling party continues in power after a serious run by dark horse candidate Fabricio. Like they whisper when an unknown golf pro is about to put on the 18th hole, “Cinderella story, out of nowhere, biggest shot of his life.” Fabricio missed the put.
Many reports from news agencies around the world declare it a war fought and won over gay rights. Headlines read: “Photo finish beckons for Costa Rica election fought on gay rights” (Reuters). “Ruling party candidate wins Costa Rica presidency as voters reject pastor who opposed same-sex marriage” (Chicago Tribune). “With pro-gay marriage presidential win, Costa Rica halted religious conservatism” (NBC news).
While it is certainly true that the liberal Carlos supports gay marriage and conservative Fabricio does not, is that really what the election about? That is the outcome, but was it the cause?
To understand what the results of the election really mean, you need to understand Costa Ricans. Polls show that the majority of Ticos are not in favor of homosexual marriage. The country, while still predominantly Catholic, has a fast-growing evangelical population. Frankly, neither religion promotes homosexuality. That said, Ticos are extremely tolerant of others and pride themselves in being that way. They have strong opinions, but the last thing they want to do is fight. They would really rather live peacefully together. So while the majority would not choose a gay life-style for themselves, they are not inclined to throw stones at those who do. Generally speaking, they are not homophobic.
So, when Fabricio appeared out of nowhere, his platform seemed to echo the sentiments and beliefs of many, and he was an alternate to what they had and hated. However, Fabricio’s homophobic rhetoric became off-putting. Ticos do not like mean talk. Even though they hated the previous administration Luis Guillermo Solis He was disliked tremendously and therefore everyone was glad that by law he wasn’t allowed to run a second term, “the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t.”
Experts speculate on other factors that turned the tide of the election. Because Fabricio was suddenly in a position he hadn’t planned to be in (“I could actually win this!”), he and his party had not cemented his platform prior to him standing on it. His government plan was not well-formed, and an approved plan was presented just a few days before the election. Members of the party in congress received a lot of heat from the press due to their lack of knowledge in regards to the political and legal system and their lack of preparation and limited solid proposals. Fabricio made several unfortunate remarks, and his speeches were full of contradictions on the subjects of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and the National Woman’s Institute. He pulled out of several debates, and the debates he did participate in were filled with non-definitive answers such as “we will have to analyze that” to avoid giving a straight response. That fits with a candidate that didn’t expect to have a chance to win the presidency, and who was quickly finding out that he opinions were having a polarizing effect that he didn’t want.
The support he received from the ruling National Liberation Party could have hurt more than it helped since many voters saw this as a way for PLN to stay in control behind the scenes, an unsavory thought to most.
This Cinderella story ended up with the prince not really liking Cinderella’s dress or personality. Score a win for the ugly stepsister this round!