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Libertarians becoming more Popular in Costa Rica Controlling 10% of Congress

Continued from page 1

September 2nd 2005

Libertarians becoming more Popular in Costa Rica Controlling 10% of Congress

Costa Rica


All of this reflects the aggressive, and ‘integrative’ Costa Rican attitude and a ‘Libertarian management’ approach. While US Libertarians hand out a ten point political quiz, Costa Ricans have a 40 point one they use to qualify people and immediately address issues of agreement and training. They made branding decisions in an afternoon, with attractive red polo shirts for adherents and a seagull motif so as ‘not to be confused with’ anyone. All projects are self-run and self-funding, and they rely heavily on ‘bottom-up’ action, with supporters constantly handing out literature to taxi drivers, waiters, and other casual contacts.

They also made a decision to treat any defeat as an opportunity and make lemon of lemonade, encouraged by pep-talks and lengthy e-mails from their international mentors. As the government realized they were expanding under Costa Rica’s proportional representation system, it imposed  requirements that political parties have 5 adherents in almost every neighborhood, a burden seemingly well beyond a struggling new group, and at first they thought the end had come. 

In due course, however, they agreed with their mentors that they were being forced to do what they should do anyway: get out and organize non-Libertarians around local issues. At the same time, they were aided by a government regulation that threatened to put small lottery sellers out of business, which they exploited immediately since in Costa Rica, many people sell a few lottery tickets.


They didn’t look back, and are known for relentlessly looking at world events from the point of vew of how people can benefit from their Libertarian ideas. ‘They simply refuse to react or have a position on other people’s issues. They promptly turn it all around so it’s their issue with a specific action proposal in a very short period of time,” said a local observer. When 9-11 came and other US State Libertarian parties agonized over how to best express Libertarian solutions on foreign policy, the Costa Ricans turned it into a tax-cut  issue, and successfully demanded the government take no ‘hysterical actions’ that would damage tourism or raise spending. They also have come out in favor of the Central American free trade treaty, unlike their US counterpart, but with far more detailed line by line criticism—they feel it has hidden and unfair regulations—so that they’re controlling discussion and, observers say, are forcing other parties to react to them.


The  Costa Ricans have also used local cultural differences, or sometimes a difference of perspective, to address issues that tax their US counterparts. While the US has had a national goal of abolishing its military for years under a little known law, Costa Rica simply did it long ago, and so Libertarians warning against military adventures have a ready audience there.

There was actually an experiment in the 1800’s in Libertarian communes in Limon province, so when Libertarians there proposed eventual creation of a Libertarian non-governmental community on classical anarchist lines as one option, people hailed it as restoring lost roots and a potential revenue-building attraction.

They also used different terminology. They call privatizations democratizations to better include the idea of co-operatives. They decided to call their party a movement—Movimiento Libertario—to express that  they didn’t see their main mission as merely getting elected but creating a new ‘cultural group’ dedicated to freedom and rights.


They’ve also found that, as US Libertarians are discovering, little details argue philosophy. It’s all very well to call for limited government and responsive public services, but when Guevara Guth was elected to Congress and announced he was carrying a cell phone and would provide quick answers to constituent’s questions, he created a sensation, especially in the laid back Latin culture. Opponents became apoplectic at the Libertarian reputation for quick service to constituents, and as donations poured in hinted darkly that the Movimiento was getting money from the Mafia in New York, or worse, Sweden.

Perhaps their biggest management difference from most of the US LP is a structure of welcoming general supporters as members while having a certification process to develop ‘militant’ Libertarian leaders. While the US national party technically has the same policy, under the influence of former Republicans it tended in the last ten years to emphasize membership and short-term politics while having no educational or training program in place, though it has been moving to change. However, some states parties, such as Florida and New Hampshire, have farm team methods that have served them well, being more like Costa Rica, with both a more radical Libertarian message and more Libertarians in government positions or as opinion leaders.

Yet again and again the cultural differences are intriguing. In the US Libertarianism polls more favorably with African-Americans and Hispanics than other cultural groups, but while they’ve done a good job engaging Hispanics, and Blacks make a large number of Libertarian registrations—more proportionally than Greens or Democrats in many areas—bringing them into the leadership has been haphazard. The Costa Ricans have no such problems, pointing to international economist Dr. Rigoberto Stewart, a Black and one of their founders.

 And in the US, while it’s a plus to emphasize a woman in gender neutral activities, it’s rarely so with men. Indeed, in some states a man might be investigated for domestic abuse for arguing with his wife over domestic affairs or ‘taking too great an interest’ in his children by, for example, challenging doctor’s decisions during childbirth. Sometimes taking their cue from academics who maintain fathers are irrelevant, US Courts in custody cases have only recently begun to challenge professionals and accept that fathers are more than financial contributors to their children’s welfare.  In much of Latin America, by contrast, a father is expected to take such intense interest in his children as might, to many in the US from a Germanic background, seem at best exotic. When he ran for election, Guevara Guth made a point of letting people know he was directly involved in his children’s daily routine, with the implication of being the ideal Latin father who would examine government affairs with equal zeal.



All this is important for a small party that can’t waste effort—and the US Libertarian party is quietly recognized as far better organized than its opponents, getting widening influence despite it’s small formal numbers--Costa  Rica has focused on these issues from the beginning. This has created two startling statistics: many Costa Ricans vote Libertarian, and if the US were doing  like the Costa Rican Movimiento, the US party would  have proportionally almost 500,000 members—politically impressive when one realizes these are not passive registered members but active supporters. ”Economy counts, “ said Guevara Guth in an earlier interview.

Nonetheless, Costa Rican Libertarians say they have plenty to learn still, like good Libertarians, and are always trolling for new ideas. “You have to be careful generalizing about the American Libertarians, or for that matter, Americans. Mnay of our people think they get too self-critical, and simply don’t blow their own horn enough,” said Mario Vedova, a Movimiento leader, while on tour in the US. “Yet it’s really a vast laboratory of 50 parties, and there’s no doubt from abroad that US Libertarians are making a difference, and you learn a lot from them. In fact, our co-founder was once the chair of the Florida LP.”

What’s next? After some debate the Movimiento is experimenting with running ‘less than 100% Libertarian candidates’ as long as they advocate and carry out Libertarian solutions, hoping to ‘bring them along.’ While some worry this may lead to the Movimiento being seized by conservatives and ‘do-nothing pragmatists’ given to being overly impressed with political consultants, they point to a tab on ‘philosophy’ at their website and  the division of labor of having separate non-partisan think tank and activism-outreach groups there.

The work of the non-political groups is in some ways even more impressive. Libertarian think tank INLAP (http://www.inlap.org/) , which proposed the think-piece Libertarian province proposal now carried on by a separate group, CELIDE (http://www.celide.org/),  has several initiatives, and the new outreach Instituto Libertario (http://www.institutolibertario.org/index.html ) has in the last few months done seminars at major colleges and schools across the country, with students checking out it’s ‘cool website graphics,’ they say, and  links. There’s even a Libertarian consumer union (http://www.consumidoreslibres.org ) fighting government utility monopolies they feel raise prices.

Meanwhile, even as members discuss expanding and cloning Movimiento Libertario parties up and down Central America, they caution that effective politics is a matter of repetition. The website shows they focus on yeoman work: a radio station is up, an attractive GIF has yet another attack on tax policies, and an invitation to join the Libertarian youth group is prominent. They boast of hard-fought legislation that has cut campaign financing, and urge viewers to join a new less taxes initiative.

“The biggest mistake the Costa Rican Libertarians can make is what many businesses and political groups do—get cocky and change what’s working, “ said  Swanson. “People are listening because they’ve been listening as well. Real change takes time, and it’s very encouraging their getting give- and-take from young people. It’s a matter of consistent effort, a matter of time. That’s politics.”

Please submit your comments or submit your own article here.

By Mike Davis and S. S. Palacheck
International Researchers and Journalists

Libertarian Books

Keywords and Misspellings:  Costa Rica Coasta Rico Libertarian Liberty  

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:38 PM