The curse of the front runner can be contagious.
For several months Johnny Araya Monge of Partido Liberación Nacional has been enjoying front runner status in the race for president of the country.
So naturally he was in the sights of his opponents
When a recent poll showed that the candidate of Frente Amplio, José María Villalta, might be giving Araya competition, the tone of the campaign changed. He may not have been the actual front runner, but he was close enough to draw fire.
Villalta, of course, is not just another candidate. He is the modern incarnation of the old Costa Rican Communist party. He also is a highly capable speaker and a serious campaigner. Villalta also represents the ideals shared by many Costa Ricans: The United States is a bully. The rich have too much money and state ownership and control is a good thing.
His views resonate with many Costa Ricans as they struggle with rising prices, small salary increases and concern that their standard of living is eroding.
Villalta, who is his party’s only representative in the Asamblea Legislativa, has an answer for all these concerns.
He scares expat business operators who think that his election will doom the tourism industry as well as any chance of making a profit in Costa Rica’ challenging economy. They also fear the results of Frente Amplio getting 10 percent of the legislative seats based on Villalta’s popularity.
Villalta has said he would like to see the free trade treaty with the United States renegotiated. He is not alone in that belief.
There also is a percentage of Costa Ricans who will not vote for Araya even if he were the only candidate. Polls put this figure in the low 30s, although getting a good read on the electorate is pretty hard this far from the February elections.
The latest blast at Villalta is an email campaign displaying a letter that his political party issued on the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. It is not unusual for political figures to issue a statement on the death of a national leader elsewhere. Casa Presidencial did so Thursday on the death of Nelson Mandela.
But Frente Amplio went a step further and said that “in these difficult moments we reaffirm our Latin American principles, our commitment to the fight for liberation, progress and social justice for our America.”
“We are always in solidarity with the Bolivarian revolutionary process and with a guaranteed continuity for our brothers and our sisters of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venzuela.”
“Comandante Presidente Chávez, your exemplary life and sacrifice illuminates our fight for socialism in the 21st century.”
Although there is no proof that Villalta had any role in writing the missive, the document is being help up as proof that he is a Bolivarian extremist.