As he walked under the red and yellow flags into the backyard of his party’s headquarters, Luís Guillermo Solís put a pin over the left side of his chest that read “Salí a votar.” The Partido Acción Ciudadana candidate then sat down with his family and campaign team in front of reporters, every now and then allowing for a few quick moments to point to and repeat those three words on his lapel.
After his opponent Johnny Araya suspended his campaign earlier Wednesday, Solís had basically been given Costa Rica’s next presidency one month before the official runoff election. Just don’t tell him that. Solís insisted he is not yet the president and that he will continue his normal campaign process until the April 6 vote.
“We’re going to plan with great detail the rest of the campaign,” Solís said. “The next few days will be devoted to organizing and introducing more communities to our plans.”
He urged his faithful in attendance and those watching from live television feeds to still attend the polls for the runoff vote. The integrity of the country’s political system, he said, depends on voting and participation. “The main enemy of democracy is called abstentionism,” Solís said. Hence the lapel pin that means “gone to vote”
Survey numbers released Wednesday by the Centro de Investigación y Estudio Políticos at the Universidad de Costa Rica had shown a widened gap between Solís and Araya.
One press member probed Solís on a comment made earlier by Araya that alluded to a national deal that had been made as part of his decision to drop out. The former Oscar Arias adviser denied any behind-the-scenes deal with Liberación Nacional.
“We are looking for the best people to fill our cabinet positions,” he said. “We want changes to be made.”
Though he was reluctant to label it a formality, Solís still confronted the basic ideas of his future presidency. He assured those watching that he would do his best to uphold the standards of democracy set in place long before him.
“I want to make a call for the calm, for the serene,” he said. “I want to ask you all to not be afraid. The country is much bigger than I am. We have the confidence and ability to steer the country the right way.”
President Laura Chinchilla made a phone call to the man who seems to be her eventual successor Wednesday afternoon. Solís recalled the 10-minute phone conversation and said Ms. Chinchilla expressed her concerns of a transition and its immediate effects on the nation’s economy. She also wanted to guarantee an easy transition between administrations.
Ms. Chinchilla released a statement after Araya’s campaign announcement in which she shared the stance of Solis that people still have an obligation to vote on the upcoming election day.
“Costa Ricans should still go to the ballot boxes,” she said. “The government maintains this attitude and will continue to ensure the support that our elected authorities require.”
By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff