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January 7th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) In the second and last official presidential debate on Monday organized by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), seven presidential hopefuls including frontrunners Johnny Araya (PLN) and Jose Maria Villalta (FA) debated social issues, the role of government, corruption and infrastructure problems.
José María Villalta (Frente Amplio) clarified his position on abortion, saying he would support abortion for therapeutic purposes. Otto Guevara (Movimiento Libertario) said he would reject that possibility entirely as president.
While both Johnny Araya (PLN) and Villalta called for a “review of the development model of the country,” the two differ greatly on what the country’s development model should be.
Araya positioned himself in the middle, saying that his two closest contenders were both on the far ends of the left or right.
Both Villalta and Guevara were later criticized by local press for supposed inaccuracies in some of their statements.
Villalta said during the debate that poverty in the country had grown in recent years. But the daily La Nacion pointed to the XIX State of the Union Report, which indicates that the number of those living in poverty has remained steady at about 20% of the population.
Guevara, meanwhile, said that public health had “hit bottom,” without elaborating. La Nacion, however pointed out that life expectancy in Costa Rica has increased in recent decades and infant mortality is declining.
Most candidates agreed that inequality in the country has increased, which is supported by the fact that over the last 20 years inequality has risen to the point that the richest fifth of the population has almost 25 times the income of the bottom fifth.
Asked to address the fact that most of the country’s production is concentrated in just 10 cantons, the candidates largely agreed for the need to revive and strengthen communities throughout the country.
Villalta called for the rescue of the agriculture sector, which he said has been “destroyed by neoliberal governments,” and the revival of plans to support the country’s fisheries.
“We cannot keep giving away our wealth of tuna,” Villalta said, a reference to the fact that foreign fishing vessels account for a significant proportion of tuna taken from Costa Rican waters.
Villalta also spoke of the need to support eco-tourism and small businesses.
José Manuel Echandi proposed the creation of industrial parks in communities outside of the major productive areas of the country.
Araya said he would charge one of his vice presidential running mates, Jorge Pattaonni to oversee four “poles” of development in Guanacaste, San Carlos, the Southern Zone and Limón.
Justo Orozco spoke of financing and foreign investment zones to revitalize development in various provinces. “We have reached gridlock, there is no incentive for private enterprise,” Orozco said.
Rodolfo Piza said he would support farmers and tourism in the northern and southern zones, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon.
Oscar Lopez proposed tax incentives for employers who hire persons with disabilities.
Rodolfo Piza said he would address 25 points of serious congestion, and improve and expand train service in the Central Valley and control “recurrent expenditures” on public works.
Oscar Lopez said he would seek to eliminate the National Roads Authority (Conavi) and strengthen the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT).
Villalta said that in order for MOPT to function, management posts granted to “friends” of the “neoliberal governments” must come to an end.
Araya said MOPT needed more resources, while stressing the need for an urban tram and continued works on routes 32 and 27.
Johnny Araya said he supports a tax on capital gains.
Villalta said tax reforms were necessary to eliminate loopholes which “allow the ‘haves’ to evade the payment of taxes,” calling current tax codes outdated.
Echandi promoted a progressive tax system, saying those who earn more should pay more and those who earn less should pay less.