By Carolina Bell Meoño - International Relations student
Democracies can allow for political candidates that don’t always have the peoples’ best interest in mind. Certain candidates can generate a domino effect, bringing back hate speech, racism, sexism and homophobia, leading to a crisis of democratic legitimacy and representation. Costa Rica has had the privilege of being a full democracy for years (Solutions, 2020), and democratic values have intertwined with our DNA in a way that an alternate system would not process in our minds. However, we often forget the importance of living within a participatory system, getting compliant every 4 years, and needing wake up calls to value the ability to vote, without consequence if we decide not to vote.
A Full Democracy?
Costa Rican elections are a sight to be seen, with families openly supporting different parties and election day being mostly a civilized event which outside watchers come to witness (OEA, 2020). Costa Rica is seen as an example of democracy, with separation of powers, transparency, accountability, freedom, respect, and fair and free elections (ONU, 2020). The country has taken steps towards guaranteeing that education is priority, which is key to maintaining a democratic system. However, one of the democratic elements often seen as the cause of distrust is lack of actual accountability, which seems to be present in democratic theory but not in reality. With multiple unpunished corruption scandals throughout the years, trust in democracy erodes (Panorama Digital, 2020), and corruption is a recurrent topic, our own ‘Trump-like’ figures repeat during each election.
During the last election, the Trump effect of speaking out without regard to what is true or false had so much momentum that political figures like Fabricio Alvarado repeated his tactics without remorse (Bolaños, 2018). Call it correlation or causation, irresponsible rhetoric has direct consequences on the population, and although it is believed the world has collectively moved past believing hate speech, recent political events demonstrate the opposite. Some have questioned our democracy (García, 2020), but what should be understood and remembered is that education is key to unraveling and dissecting the speeches, statements, and overall rhetoric utilized by candidates that run for public office, because opportunistic candidates will always exist as long as powerful positions are available to influence and rule.
Reality can take a turn when an unfit candidate wins by democratic processes, and though “democracy” means “rule of the people”, the term is now understood as representation, protection and promotion of rights, interests, and welfare. Democracy has shown to be the way of representation; however, it can be fragile and people willing to take advantage of democratic processes will always exist. Costa Ricans can benefit from remembering that politics is personal and affects everyone, and through education we can understand the power to vote is a privilege. Democracies will always allow for candidates of all backgrounds and ideologies to run, and these will never represent 100% of the nation, but can mark the difference between influencing a country to become respectful and empathetic or resentful and intolerant.