Araya setting up infrastructure for his presidential campaign

Presidential elections are more than a year away, but the races already are beginning to heat up.

Front runner Johnny Araya Monge, the mayor of San José, announced Wednesday that he has hired a public relations firm to get his message across to the media before the Partido Liberación Nacional convention April 21. That is when the party will select its candidate.

Araya seems to have a good shot at the nomination because he leads in the polls. In addition, the Partido Acción Ciudadana and the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana seem to be experiencing internal conflicts.

The one condition weighing against Araya is that President Laura Chinchilla is of the same political party, and her ratings among the public are low. Araya picked Antonio Álvarez Desanti as his campaign manager in September, thereby eliminating another challenger.

The opponents of the free trade treaty with the United States and an assortment of minor parties are converging into the Alianca por la Patria, which is expected to field a candidate. Supporters think they have gained some ground because José María Figures said Wednesday that he would not be a presidential candidate. The former president and son of the founder of the current Costa Rican political system lagged in the polls.

Araya said he had selected Nexo Relaciones Públicas y Prensa to handle the communication aspects of his campaign.

His brother ran for president but was defeated by Abel Pacheco in 2002. The election is in 14 months.

Almost immediately after announcing his appointment by email, Alejandro Brokke A., director general of Nexo, had some good news about Araya.

He said that a survey by the Unimer firm, commissioned by La Nación, showed Araya with a 10 point lead over rivals among the general public. Araya had 16 percent of the 1,200 respondents. Rodrigo Arias, the brother of the former president, had 6 percent, the public relations report said.

Among persons with tendencies toward Liberación Nacional, Araya drew 32 percent compared to 16 percent for Arias, said the survey.

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