Americans who look at the 2014 presidential elections in Costa Rica are often tempted to make comparisons to the political system in the United States. However, as you learn more it’s clear that Costa Ricas are in a very different place, politically speaking.
For example, the candidates that have captured most of the attention in the election are from the National Liberation Party (PLN) and the Broad Front. The ruling party is the PLN, which put Oscar Arias and the current, outgoing President Laura Chinchilla in office. They control more seats in the legislature than any other party, and are seen as a party with more to lose than to gain.
The biggest challenger to the PLN, however many no longer be the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC). This is the conservative party which put Presidents Rafael Ángel Calderón and Abel Pacheco in office. Instead, the Broad Front is expected to increase the number of seats that it has in legislature during this election cycle. Currently the party has just one representative.
The political situation is different from the United States because the PLN is a liberal party, and the Broad Front is so far on the left that some categorize them as communist. A recent editorial in the La Nacion made comparisons between the Broad Front and the rise of extreme socialism in Venezuela, Argentina and Nicaragua.
Although the article is an editorial piece, it is controversial. It comes at a time when the owners of the conservative leaning newspaper face charges of tax evasion.
Costa Rica already has its own unique form of socialism that tends to keep people in the middle class equal or “igualitos”. Payroll taxes are a whopping 36 percent (compared to a 15.3 percent combined rate in the United States), while the upper bracket of the individual income tax is a scant 15 percent. There is also no estate or gift tax in Costa Rica, which contributes to a historical oligarchy of a few families. Most capital gains taxes can also be legally avoided in lucrative real estate deals.
So, in Costa Rica the cost of socialism is something that has been borne, mostly on the backs of the middle class or those who get their income through labor or a profession. Both the Broad Front and former President Oscar Arias of the PLN party have questioned the growing inequality in Costa Rica. A recent video by supporters of the Broad Front uses both economic statistics and visual examples to illustrate the situation.