Mon, Feb 05, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Costa Rica votes amid wrangling about gay rights

Reuters, SAN JOSE

A supporter of Citizens’ Action Party presidential candidate Carlos Alvarado waves a flag in support in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Saturday, ahead of yesterday’s general elections for the president and 57 legislators.

Photo: EPA

Costa Ricans yesterday voted for a new president and legislative assembly in a race that was upended in the final weeks by a debate over same-sex marriage, as leading candidates in the crowded field fiercely opposed gay rights that have recently been expanding in Latin America.

Conservative Christian singer and TV personality Fabricio Alvarado skyrocketed to the top of the 13-person field after speaking out against a ruling last month by the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, calling on the country to give equal civil marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

If no candidate wins at least 40 percent of Sunday’s vote, a run-off election between the top two finishers is set for early April.

The 43-year-old Alvarado, a legislator for the National Restoration Party, has called the ruling by the court, which is part of the Organization of American States, a violation of the country’s sovereignty and an affront to traditional values.

“We have to stand up to those who want to trample on the family,” he said in the campaign’s final debate, threatening to pull out of the court over its resolution.

Banana entrepreneur and National Liberation Party candidate Antonio Alvarez has said that while he personally opposes the court’s decision, he would respect it if he wins.

Among the few candidates who embraced the court’s resolution is former minister of labor Carlos Alvarado, who served in the outgoing government of Costa Rican President Luis Gillermao Solis.

Gay and lesbian couples can marry in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and in parts of Mexico.

Running a close second in one recent poll, conservative former minister of justice Juan Diego Castor is aiming to lure voters with an anti-crime platform as well as pushing for fewer restrictions on miners and oil companies.

A high-end coffee exporter, Costa Rica is well-known for its environmental stewardship and thriving ecotourism sector.

Solis, a former diplomat and history professor, won in a landslide four years ago, but has seen his popularity slide as an investigation into an influence peddling scandal has unfolded.

He is barred by law from seeking a second term.

Solis gained international attention when he hoisted a rainbow flag along with the Costa Rican flag atop his office just a week after he took office as a statement against homophobia.

Costa Rica’s 3.3 million voters are predominantly Roman Catholic and most describe themselves as conservative.

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