2018 Costa Rican Elections Shake Things Up

Parliamentary candidates of the VAMOS party in Costa Rica (Margarita Salas and Dayanna Hernández are first and second to the left, respectively)

Costa Rica’s general elections have two rounds, with the first held earlier this month on February 4th and featuring a new political party, Vamos, formed in 2016. Vamos is the first party in the country dedicated to representing rights for LGBTQ people and other human rights issues. Costa Rica has a proportional representation style of voting where voters choose the party instead of the candidate. As we previously reported, Vamos nominated Margarita Salas, who is openly lesbian, as the first position on their roster and Dayanna Hernández, who is openly transgender, as the second position candidate.

Though the party did not secure any seats on February 4th, their public campaign platform highlighting human rights and LGBTQ rights gave prominent visibility to these issues.  Their participation in the elections marks a growing need for candidates like Margarita and Dayanna. They drove a clear message that they wanted to see LGBTQ people included in the Legislative Assembly, and Margarita Salas took it a step further by stating that LGBTQ rights are “not just an issue, they are our lives.”  Their participation in the elections also comes at a timely moment, just one month after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that gender identity and sexual orientation are protected categories, demanding that its member states, including Costa Rica, recognize full equality for LGBTQ people.

The conservative Presidential candidate, Fabricio Alvarado, received the most votes, followed by the center-left candidate, Carlos Alvarado. In Costa Rica, Presidential candidates must reach 40% of the vote to be proclaimed victorious. Neither candidate reached this percentage, so a run-off election was held on April 1st. Fabricio Alvarado has called the Inter-American Court’s decision a violation of Costa Rica’s sovereignty and had threatened to pull the country out of the court if elected. The rights of LGBTQ people in Costa Rica hinged on the election, and Carlos Alvarado with the Citizen Action Party emerged victorious, with 61 percent of the vote. Not only will marriage equality be preserved in Costa Rica, but an openly LGBT person, Enrique Sánchez Carballo, will serve in the Legislative Assembly representing the fourth district of San Jose. Sánchez and those from Vamos were not the only LGBTQ people running this election cycle. Vice Presidential candidate Luis Paulino Vargas Solís, with the Frente Amplio party, was also on the ballot.

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