A recently naturalized citizen of Costa Rica, with Belgian nationality is unable to vote in February elections and lost an appeal this week to the nation’s highest court, Sala Constitucional. At issue is the 12 month waiting period before a newly minted citizen is added to the election rolls. After the period, designed as a safe guard against fraud a naturalized citizen is able to vote in all elections.
The naturalized Costa Rican citizen may not vote until twelve months after obtaining the respective letter.
-Article 94 of Costa Rica Constitution
Dessard Benoit has lived in Costa Rica for 17 years and appeared with his family in an article for crhoy.com. At this point, Benoit is out of options that would get him the right to vote in time for this election. And, since he will be able to vote in the next one, it’s unlikely he will take the next step, which is to bring his case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This is the same court that is obligating Costa Rica to provide in-vitro fertilization as an option for women despite a high court ruling that upheld a ban against the procedure.
Benoit’s claim would seem to have merit, as Costa Rica is a party the following treaty.
Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities (…) to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the voters.
-American Convention on Human Rights
Costa Rica is different from the United States in that it allows international tribunals to which it is a party, the power to over rule the nation’s highest court, even on constitutional issues.
Some might fault Benoit for making a salacuartazo out of a seemingly minor issue. However, his critics should keep in mind that with citizenship comes the right and obligation to defend your rights.