Conservative card? Chaves plays a wild card in the midst of the referendum debate • Semanario Universidad

Conservative card? Chaves plays a wild card in the midst of the referendum debate • Semanario Universidad
Conservative card? Chaves plays a wild card in the midst of the referendum debate • Semanario Universidad

Following the declaration of interest for the Pride March, Chaves dismissed his Minister of Culture and the Commissioner for Social Inclusion, who does not rule out that pressure from Christian groups may have been the trigger.

“I don’t rule out the possibility that the political context and pressure from Nueva República may be a factor. Although I still believe that the president is a strong man who doesn’t let himself be pressured, I can’t rule it out.”

This phrase is from Ricardo Sossa, the Government’s Inclusion Commissioner, who on Thursday was still tooth and nail defending President Rodrigo Chaves and on Saturday received the news of his dismissal for doing what he had done a year ago without anyone even calling him out on it. Now he is cautious in his statements, but the facts around him seem to prove him right in that the president decided to play the wild card of conservative discourse in the face of expressions of sexual diversity.

The triggering event was the signing of a declaration of cultural interest for this Sunday’s March of Diversity, those fired were Sossa and the Minister of Culture, Nayuribe Guadamuz, and the context is the need for support that the Executive Branch has to push its efforts to hold a national referendum and measure its electoral muscle before the 2026 elections.

This support for the Executive was already offered by deputies from the Nueva República bench in a further show of closeness to the Government of Rodrigo Chaves, but the declaration granted to the rainbow march represented an obstacle, and deputy Fabricio Alvarado criticized it a few hours before the president decided to place the blame on Guadamuz and Sossa and further lengthen the list of trusted leaders who have fallen since May 2022.

“The decision was made because they processed a declaration of cultural interest for an LGTBI+ pride march without the authorization of the president or his office,” justified the statement from the Presidency on Saturday at almost 5:30 pm, although Sossa claims to have acted completely normally and without any difference from what he did before the 2023 Diversity March.

It was not the first time that Chaves acted in a manner that coincided with a request from Fabricio Alvarado. It had already happened with the Vice Minister of Education, Karla Salguero, who was accused of allegedly promoting feminist ideological agendas, and with Gloria Navas, who was asked to resign from the party after severe criticism from Chaves. In case anyone had any doubts, Alvarado would later record a new video calling the president “lukewarm” and the Evangelical Alliance published a statement applauding Chaves’ decision.

That is why Sossa suspects that his dismissal was not only “unfair,” but he sees it as likely that it was conditioned by the political moment. “I do not deny that possibility. Although I cannot prove it, I see statements that have embarrassed and hurt the community, I see a public letter from the Evangelical Alliance and I see that some close organizations were requesting that the declaration be rejected and perhaps that the march be prohibited,” he added in an interview with this media outlet.

Sossa says that the LGBTI community now feels “hurt” by the government and sees the risk that anger will lead to a tougher discourse against Chaves, whom he continues to defend as “a just man” and promoter of positions “contrary to discrimination,” according to him.

For example, he claims that the president is against “conversion therapies,” as the processes to which homosexual people undergo religious organizations are called under the premise that not being heterosexual is a problem. To this end, he mentions an interview that Chaves gave in March to CNN in Spanish, where he compared these procedures to “torture,” since the prohibition of these procedures is opposed by Nueva República and other sectors of conservatism associated with religion.

The political moment, however, changed on June 5, when Chaves presented a legislative proposal called the “Jaguar Law for the Development of Costa Rica” to the Legislative Assembly with the aim of submitting to a national referendum reforms to administrative controls that the Executive considers obstacles to infrastructure works.

Although the majority of Congress is against Chaves, the New Republic deputies again offered their support to Chaves and announced that they are willing to vote for the project, which is not necessarily enough to approve it, but at least leaves real opponents more exposed, which is one of Chaves’ stated wishes.

Chaves, therefore, has reasons to favor the deputies of Nueva República, among whom is the current legislative vice president, Rosalía Brown. They, aware of their value for the discussion of the referendum, strongly wave their conservative flag that puts pressure on Chaves among the most conservative segment of the population, which may be important for the national elections, as already happened in 2018 when Fabricio Alvarado as presidential candidate won the first round of elections and caused a strong polarization before the second round where Carlos Alvarado triumphed.

Sossa prefers to think that the weekend incident does not represent a strategic shift by the president, whom he does not hesitate to describe as “a non-homophobic person.” Nor does it represent a shift in relation to the cabinet, despite the political origin of Laura Fernández, current Minister of the Presidency, who was a candidate for deputy and vice president in 2018 in a party close to conservative groups that ended up supporting Fabricio Alvarado that year for the second round.

“I do believe that there is resentment and that can generate reactions. What happened over the weekend, whether calculated or not, angered the groups and now the mood is different,” Sossa added on Monday, after the massive march that took place on Sunday without major setbacks, but with numerous messages against the president. Sossa was there to declare himself hurt and the victim of an unfair decision, because he claims to have shared with the presidential office all the information prior to the questioned declaration that was also signed by the Vice Minister of the Presidency, Jorge Rodríguez Bogle, who remains in office without any scolding.

 
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