171. Telegram 311 From the Embassy in Costa Rica to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]



  • Preliminary Assessment Election Results


  • San Jose 276; A–33

1. TSE recount now well underway and no significant variations found so far from initial count. Results now generally accepted all parties although conceivable operation proportional representation system could still result shift in one or two Assembly seats.

2. 73,000 vote margin Figueres over Echandi surprised everyone including Embassy. Even PLN command reluctant accept as totally valid survey conducted late in campaign showing PLN absolute majority even in traditionally Calderonista metropolitan area (San Jose 255). Figueres’s nearly 55 percent popular vote clearly shows he retains mystique as national hero and person close to common man, especially small farmer. Figueres also prevailed over dissension within PLN and proved stronger than party as evidenced by higher percentage votes for Figueres than [Page 2] for PLN deputy slate.

3. UN attempts to brand candidate and PLN as communists, which may have been successful in 1966, obviously misfired in 1970. Echandi being criticized for blind acceptance this strategy devised both times by campaign manager Vargas Gene whom WAGS consider chief architect Figueres victory. Widespread unfavorable reaction against “McCarthyism” augurs more elevated campaign in future. This aided by Figueres’s determination vigorously prosecute slander suits as well as few cases attempted electoral fraud which occurred election day.

4. Other factors contributing PLN landslide include Echandi’s self-proclaimed nomination and arrogance throughout campaign which alienated Calderonistas and led many into camp arch-rival: superior pln organization which UN unable equal despite extraordinary financial outlay; conscious or unconscious feeling in electorate on desirability alternation of power. Latter difficult gauge but now uninterrupted pattern past five elections.

5. Most significant feature election is degree PLN control Assembly (32 of 57 seats). Hindsight shows proliferation minor parties actually benefits major ones under CR system proportional representation. Of nine parties participating election only four will have deputies. MCOR Party deputies total three. Extent ballot-splitting (which unusual here) illustrated by comparing PASO, PFN, POC presidential and legislative votes. Even PLN and UN legislative votes ran 4 and 5 percent behind presidential candidate. Ballot-splitting allows voters express protest while not “wasting” presidential vote.

6. We judge results as impressive mandate for Figueres and PLN. Given President-elect’s personality and nature his triumph he will undoubtedly be strong President. PLN legislative control will make possible formulation coherent policies, assurance their approval and implementation, stalemate which characterized Trejos administration about over.

7. PLN by virtue its reformist ideology is action-oriented and development-inclined party and we see possibility for further economic and social progress built on fairly sound existing institutional base and optimistic economic outlook Figueres [Page 3] govt will inherit.

8. Expect develop above points and others in CASP.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 14 COSTA RICA. Confidential. Repeated to Guatemala City, Managua, Panama City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and USCINCSO. In Airgram A–44 from the Embassy in San José, February 20, the Embassy reported the official results from the election, which indicated that Figueres won 55.3 percent of the national total. (Ibid.)
  2. The Embassy reported preliminary information indicating that José Figueres won the 1970 presidential elections with a 73,000 vote margin over his nearest competitor, Mario Echandi.