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Mac Margolis

Costa Rica's Election Offers Fiscal Faith Test

An evangelical win could deepen its economic problems.
Spending is not the path to salvation.

Spending is not the path to salvation.

Photographer: Daniel Ramalho/AFP/Getty Images

With its open doors to tourists, no standing army since 1948, and proud claims as Central America’s oldest democracy, Costa Rica is not the place you’d look for a religious uprising. Yet this country of 4.9 million may be poised next month to elect a former gospel singer and television evangelist dedicated to fighting gay marriage and rescuing the country from the Devil’s designs.

Sure, when Fabricio Alvarado Munoz topped a dozen rivals to win the first round of the presidential election last month, the 43-year-old evangelist sounded almost ecumenical in his call for a movement “of solidarity, values, of innovation and of genuine progress.” Parse the stump speech, though, and catch the new grammar of the Latin American reformation, where an aggressive faith-based conservatism is moving from the pews to politics. But in Costa Rica as elsewhere in the region, that could spell trouble for efforts to deal with deep-seated economic problems, not least the world’s highest overall fiscal deficit.