- Title: COSTA RICA: Presidential candidates close their campaigns
- Date: 2nd February 2010
- Summary: HEREDIA, COSTA RICA (JANUARY 30, 2010) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF CARAVAN PASSING THROUGH TOWN SAN JOAQUIN DE FLORES HEADED BY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OTTO GUEVARA FOR THE MOVIMIENTO LIBERATARIO (ML) PARTY / PEOPLE HOLDING UP RED FLAGS MORE OF PEOPLE CHEERING WITH RED AND WHITE FLAGS VARIOUS OF GUEVARA GREETING FOLLOWERS / KISSES HIS CHILDREN
- Embargoed: 17th February 2010 12:00
- Location: Costa Rica
- Country: Costa Rica
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6CVC728UW6E9ILHZDLOGJ0A34
- Story Text: As candidates in Costa Rica closed their presidential campaigns over the weekend, an outsider candidate from a right-wing party was gaining ground against Laura Chinchilla, favored to be elected this month as Costa Rica's first woman president, according to a recent poll.
Newcomer Otto Guevara from the fringe Libertarian Movement, has pulled into second place behind Chinchilla ahead of the Feb. 7 election, according to a nationwide survey by polling firm Unimer published in La Nacion newspaper last week.
Chinchilla, a moderate from the National Liberation Party who is backed by sitting President Oscar Arias, had 40 percent of decided voters in her camp, down from 63 percent in a September poll, while Guevara's support jumped to 30 percent from 13 percent in the earlier survey.
Guevara headed a caravan in the town of San Joaquin de Flores in the province of Heredia.
His supporters frantically waved his party's red and white flags as he greeted his children.
Guevara said everything was possible.
"I'm convinced we'll achieve this. There are more people everyday in Costa Rica who want a change. We've been governed by the same political parties for 40, 50, 60 years and the winds of change we've seen in other countries are also blowing in Costa Rica. The winds of change that led Ricardo Martinelli to the presidency in Panama or Sebastian Pinera in Chile, they are also blowing in Costa Rica."
Guevara's party was founded in 1994 and wants to scrap Costa Rica's currency, the colon, for the U.S. dollar, as El Salvador and Panama have done, even though the relatively stable country does not have high inflation.
Both Chinchilla and Guevara support more free trade and are tough on crime in the nation of 4 million people, which is seen as safer than its Central American neighbors and as a haven for tourists and U.S. retirees.
Chinchilla is fifty-nine-years-old. She served as Arias' vice president and justice minister and is expected to continue his policies of opening up the small country to international trade and private-sector competition.
She closed her campaign in the capital city of San Jose. Thousands attended cheering and waving the party's green and white flags.
"It's my personal commitment with each one of you. The fight against those who strip us of our lives, our belongings, our dignity, our peace of mind, will be a priority," she told them.
Costa Rica hopes to complete trade pacts with China and Singapore before Arias leaves office as it eyes Asian markets as a destination for its high-quality coffee beans and other agricultural products.
Arias, serving his second stint as president, pushed through a free trade deal with the United States while also forging relations with China. By law, he cannot run for reelection for another eight years and the vote likely will be the end of his career in elected office.
He won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in helping to end the region's civil wars in the 1980s but his peacemaker reputation took a hit last year when he failed to broker a settlement to a political crisis in Honduras following a coup.
Candidates need 40 percent or more of the vote to avoid a second-round runoff in early April, now a strong possibility according to the poll, which surveyed 1,210 people and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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