Costa Rica News – A debate over same-sex marriage propelled an evangelical Christian singer from a long-shot candidate to the top vote-getter in the first round of Costa Rica’s presidential election Sunday.
Fabricio Alvarado, a former television journalist who became an influential Pentecostal singer, will face Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a former labor minister, in the April 1 runoff. The two men are not related.
Mr. Alvarado had won almost 25 percent of the vote to nearly 22 percent for Mr. Alvarado Quesada, with about 90 percent of the polling places counted, the nation’s electoral board said.
What had been a conventional campaign in Latin America’s most enduring democracy — with debates over corruption, crime and the economy — was suddenly upended four weeks ago when an international court decision required Costa Rica to legalize same-sex marriage.
Fabricio Alvarado, 43, who was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2014, made his opposition to the ruling the centerpiece of his campaign and suddenly emerged from the crowded field of 13 candidates to take the lead in opinion polls.
The January advisory opinion by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights determined that international law required governments to recognize the rights of same-sex couples, including the right to marry.
Mr. Alvarado called the decision a violation of Costa Rica’s sovereignty, and he threatened to pull the country out of the court if he is elected.
“People said, ‘This is the person that I want to defend us in the face of international impositions,’” he told a Costa Rican radio station after he took the lead in opinion polls.
The government of the departing president, Luis Guillermo Solís, sought the opinion on gay marriage from the court in 2016, but the ruling also applies to some 20 countries that acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction. Several countries in the region, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, have legalized same-sex marriage, as have parts of Mexico. But many more have not.
The court’s opinion acknowledged that many countries would face “institutional difficulties” in having to rewrite their laws but urged them to make changes “in good faith.” Mr. Solís’s center-left government celebrated the decision.
But the court opinion quickly exposed a deeply conservative strain in Costa Rica, with a poll by the University of Costa Rica’s Center for Research and Political Studies finding that a majority of Costa Ricans who knew of the ruling opposed it.
“Conservatism is latent among Costa Ricans,” the poll’s authors wrote.
The second-place finisher, Mr. Alvarado Quesada, who, at 38, was the youngest in the race, served first as the minister of human development in the Solís government before moving to the Labor Ministry. He has published three novels.
By ELISABETH MALKIN, New York Times