Costa Rica voted for the future on Monday.
Progressive candidate Carlos Alvarado Quesada won the country’s volatile presidential election in a surprisingly decisive vote. Alvarado Quesada, a former labor minister and successful novelist, defeated declared frontrunner Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz (who shares a surname with the president-elect) with 61 percent of ballots cast. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the conservative candidate finished with just 39 percent.
Polling prior to Monday’s vote showed Alvarado Muñoz, an evangelical preacher and singer, would prevail in the race. The Christian fundamentalist experienced a surge in support following the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ January ruling paving the way for same-sex marriage in more than 20 countries.
Prior to the IACHR decision, Alvarado Muñoz hovered at around three percent. But he shocked the nation by taking the first round in the election after claiming he would reject the ruling and remove Costa Rica from the court’s jurisdiction.
The right-winger also vowed to oppose women’s reproductive rights and what he termed as the teaching of “gender ideology” in schools.
In his victory speech, the leftist candidate claimed the vote was a referendum on the issues which had divided Costa Rica in recent weeks. Alvarado Quesada said the election “has put a mirror up to us as a country” and that his upset win “delivered a beautiful democratic message.”
“My duty will be to unite this republic,” he pledged, ”and build a better country for everyone.”
But the soon-to-be president, who will take office in May, has his work cut out for him. Polls conducted prior to voting showed that 70 percent of voters oppose same-sex marriage at a time in which hate crimes against the LGBTQ community have skyrocketed. In March, INTO reported that at least 30 queer and trans people claimed to have experienced bias or harassment since the conservative’s first-round win.
That number is likely to have increased in the weeks since.
In addition, Alvarado Quesada will be tasked with ruling over a legislature in which his opponent’s party claims more seats. The Citizen Action Party boasts just 10 of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly, while Alvarado Muñoz’s National Restoration Party has 14.
Fabricio Alvarado conceded victory following the significant defeat. The conservative sounded a hopeful note, however, saying his campaign fought for “principles and values” and “touched the country’s deepest nerves.”
“We are not sad,” he claimed, “because we made history.”
The 43-year-old president-elect, who ran on a campaign slogan of “I Choose the Future,” stands to be the youngest Commander-in-Chief in Costa Rica’s history. His running mate, Epsy Campbell, will also the country’s first Afro-Latina vice presidentas well as the first black female vice president in Latin America’s history.
Photo by EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images