Español“Our name is Costa Rica, and we’re going to vote — but not for you any longer” (Nuestro nombre es Costa Rica y vamos a votar. Pero por ustedes nunca más).
This is the slogan for a recent social media campaign, Nuestro Nombre es Costa Rica — one that has taken the nation by storm in recent months. Developed by students from the University of Costa Rica, San José, the campaign criticizes both the current government and the dominant two-party system that has governed the nation for the past 30 years.
Launched at the end of December, through the use of a YouTube video and Facebook page, it has gone viral, collecting nearly 40,000 “likes” on Facebook. It has also diverted attention from from the nation’s presidential debates and generated articles about the cause in major national newspapers.
The campaign calls for sweeping changes in Costa Rica and for voters to challenge the status quo mentality. They point to the closure of the national rail system in 1995 and extensive development efforts towards high-end tourism as just two examples for why Costa Rica is far behind in social progress.
The primary motive is a disillusionment with the recent history of Costa Rican politics. The initial line of the first video states, “30 years ago you decided that some people are more important than the whole,” making reference to the lack of diversity in elected parties.
Dating back to 1970, the presidency of Costa Rica has had two dominant parties. Every president since that year has come from either the Social Christian Unity Party or the National Liberation Party, of which incumbent President Laura Chinchilla and presidential favorite this time, Johnny Araya, are members.
NNECR maintains no political affiliation, according to the Facebook page. In a transcript from an interview with newspaper La Nación, the group states that “there are people who support specific parties, and people that have yet to decide their affiliation.”
Because of their criticisms of recent governments, the campaign has been accused of supporting the Broad Front Party (Frente Amplio), which is a rising socialist, feminist, and “progressive” party. Its leader, José María Villalta, has the party’s first realistic chance at the presidency.
NNECR’s response has been direct: “We have no affiliation with the Broad Front Party.”
Further controversy surrounds the campaign, however. A court case has been filed against the original video and its producers for releasing the video near the end of December, a time when political campaigning is supposed to be suspended for Christmas. The suit also alleges that the video used state funds, which would violate Costa Rica’s electoral law.
Other responses have also surfaced. This video, which features another young voter, disputes the claims from NNEC’s video. At one point the voter asks, “Do you really think we are worse than we were 30 years ago?”
The counter video doesn’t specifically mention any political affiliation, but argues for many of the points that National Liberation Party candidate Johnny Araya stands for. That includes opposition to the privatization of water and electricity, support for increased opportunities in higher education, and praising Costa Rica for having Latin America’s second highest minimum wage.
The attention NNECR is getting makes sense, since young voters are expected to be the deciding factor in the election. Experts recently stated that votes of citizens between the ages of 18 and 39 may ultimately decide the victor. While the most populated voting demographic remains those between the ages of 40 and 65, those voters are generally more likely to have made up their minds.
What both videos illustrate is that Costa Rica’s younger generation is once again engaged in politics. With elections fast approaching, all parties have taken notice. On February 2, young voters look to be the deciding factor for the next 4 years in Costa Rica.