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Support Of Marriage Equality Helps Elect Costa Rica’s New President

Carlos Alvarado Quesada scored a decisive victory over his opponent, an evangelical pastor who based his campaign on opposition to same-sex marriage.

Marilyn Drew Necci | April 3, 2018

In a surprising turn of events, Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica’s Citizen Action party won the Central American country’s presidential election Sunday, defeating his opponent, Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz by over 20 percentage points.

Pre-election polls had shown Alvarado Muñoz, who had gained prominence as a candidate mainly due to his vigorous opposition to marriage equality, nearly tied with Alvarado Quesada, so the decisive margin of victory was a pleasant surprise for supporters of LGBTQ rights in Central America. In light of the fact that polls including a 2014 Pew Research Center poll have found that a majority of Costa Ricans oppose marriage equality, this victory is truly significant.

Marriage equality has become a wedge issue in Costa Rica due to a January ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, stating that countries under its purview “must recognise and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.” As a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights, Costa Rica therefore falls under this ruling. Alvarado Quesada, a liberal former cabinet minister and novelist, whose best-known novel, Las Posesiones, takes a frank look at Costa Rica’s WWII-era internment camps, pledged as part of his campaign to comply with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling.

However, Alvarado Muñoz called the ruling an attack on Costa Rica’s traditional Catholic values as well as its sovereignty, and pledged to pull the country out of the Organisation of American States if he were elected. Alvarado Muñoz had also pledged to restrict abortion access, to end sex education programs in schools, and to oppose what he called “gender ideology,” a term by which he referred to feminist and pro-LGBTQ movements.

In his concession speech, Alvarado Muñoz claimed to have fought for “principles and values,” and melodramatically dropped to his knees as he declared that his “message touched the country’s deepest nerve.” By contrast, Alvarado Quesada proclaimed to supporters that “Costa Rica once again delivered a beautiful democratic message,” and went on to state, “My commitment is to a government for everybody, in equality and liberty. There is much more that unites us than divides us.”

Alvarado Quesada will take office in May, as will his running mate, Epsy Campbell, who will be the first Afro-Costa Rican to serve as the country’s Vice President. He promises to implement marriage equality soon after his election.

Photo by Luis Madrigal Mena – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0