Costa Rica’s presidential election is making international news, and I have gotten questions from friends in other countries about Fabricio Alvarado, a Christian candidate in Costa Rica’s presidential election run-off on April 1. Here is a short summary explanation of who he is and how he got to this place, for my international friends, from my point of view as an evangelical living in the country for several decades. This is meant as a description, not to open up any political debates.
Fabricio Alvarado: Who is He?
After taking the lead in Costa Rica’s first round of presidential elections on February 4, Fabricio Alvarado seems likely to win the presidency on the April 1 runoff elections against Carlos Alvarado (same last name, no relation) of the PAC, the socially liberal party of the current president Luis Guillermo Solis, which is embroiled in a corruption case about imported Chinese cement (el Cementazo), and has left the country in spiraling debt.
Fabricio is an outspoken evangelical Christian, but not a pastor as some media outlets are reporting. He is a longtime member of the Centro Cristiano de San José, a large charismatic church pastored by the Apóstol Ronny Chaves, whom Alvarado considers a spiritual father. Fabricio is 43 years old, married with two daughters, a TV journalist by profession, and a Christian music singer and worship leader. His critics are quick to point out that Alvarado did not not graduate from college — he is missing his senior thesis — and does not speak English, a disadvantage in a country that runs on tourism and international trade.
Can he govern without a big traditional party structure?
In the first round of elections in February his initial popularity with Christians — Catholics as well as evangélicos — was due to his eloquent, although apparently Lone-Ranger opposition to an International Human Rights Court order that Costa Rica legalize same-sex marriage. Since then, leading up to the April 1 runoff, he has publicly unveiled impressive multi-partisan Economic and Public Works teams to help run the government if he’s elected. More and more the country is rallying around him because of his demonstrated ability to cross party lines and build coalitions.
Fabricio’s party, Restauración Nacional, was started by Christian pastor and lawyer Carlos Avendaño, and our former Assembly of God superintendent Rodolfo Saenz is the Vice-President of that party. He came to talk to our church’s national leadership team last October as he was ramping up his campaign, so I got to hear from him in person, before anyone thought he had a real shot. During the last 4-year administration Fabricio was the only congressman from his party out of the 57 diputados in the Legislative Assembly. After February’s elections Restauración was assigned a staggering 14 seats in congress, second only to the 17 from traditional behemoth Liberación Nacional.
The party that has been in power the last 4 years, PAC (Citizen’s Action Party), is very much socially liberal, flying the rainbow flag in front of the presidential offices their first week in office 4 years ago. If Fabricio was initially accused of talking mostly about his opposition to the LGBT agenda, PAC seemed to support nothing else. In some ways this is a polarized contest between social conservatives and liberals, not unlike the USA in 2016, with the difference that the conservative guy is a gracious bridge-builder and not a reprobate bully.
Can a Christian president stop the gender ideology train?
Costa Rica’s traditional values coalition in a new administration may put the brakes on the aggressive gender ideology agenda, but in today’s world it will be difficult to stop altogether. The Ministry of Education over the last four years has worked gender ideology content into all the public school textbooks, including science and social studies, along with the obvious vehicle of the much-debated sex-education manuals.
As in much of the world, the universities are unquestioningly pro-LGBT, and the movement feels validated by the International Human Rights Court ruling that marriage is a civil right and cannot be denied people because of their orientation. Even if the legislative branch refuses to pass laws for gay marriage, the national courts may force it through, like they did in the USA.
A world that has lost its marbles on gender ideology may become the new normal, unless the Lord chooses to raise up people like Fabricio Alvarado to make a difference in the public arena, like Daniel and Esther in the Old Testament, and change the course of history.