Carlos Alvarado Quesada
Carlos Alvarado Quesada

Could Costa Rica’s New Pro-LGBT President Represent a Change Throughout Latin America?

Fantastic news from South America: Costa Rica just elected a new president who dedicated his campaign and career to equality for LGBTQ people. Even more delicious: he defeated a virulently anti-queer pastor who opposed the freedom to marry. Meet Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

A former cabinet minister (and novelist!), he easily defeated rival Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz in this month’s runoff election. Quesada was a singer before turning to politics in 2014 and made a name for himself in the last few months after an international court ruled the country must recognize the relationships of same-sex couples. He spoke out emphatically in favor of the decision, setting himself apart from other homophobic candidates.

Carlos Alvarado Quesada south america homophobia
Carlos Alvarado Quesada

In contrast, rival Fabricio said marriage equality violated national values and that Costa Rica should isolate itself from its neighbors so that it would not be beholden to international human rights standards. He was a particularly toxic candidate, standing against access to birth control, education and modern understandings of gender. In addition to being a presidential candidate, he is a TV preacher.

Quesada, on the other hand, promised the international ruling would stand. And now, with him due to be sworn in as the country’s new president in May, Costa Rica’s LGBTQ population can rest easy with an ally at the helm of the country. Though the marriage ruling took effect immediately, the Superior Notary Council has implemented procedural roadblocks that have so far halted any marriages from being recorded.

It’s a particularly volatile time for South and Central American politics. Major elections are due this year in Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and beyond. In many of these elections, that ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will be a prominent issue, since only a handful of countries have so far legalized the freedom to marry.

Fabricio Alvarado costa rica
Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz

In Chile, marriage bills are stalled in the legislature while President Sebastián Piñera does his best to avoid weighing in on the issue. The Constitutional Court in Ecuador is set to hear a marriage case later this year. Panama appears to be included in the international court ruling, which means that marriage may soon start there as well. The same is true for Peru and Venezuela, where marriage bills are making its way through legislatures.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay have all legalized marriage equality, along with a handful of Mexican jurisdictions. Chile and Ecuador provide limited protections.

The election in Costa Rica could be an early sign that voters are ready for change when it comes to LGBTQ equality. An anti-establishment attitude has recently affected elections around the world, and many longtime politicians in Central and South American countries have long stood against the freedom to marry. But with political newcomers like Carlos Alvarado Quesada rocketing to victory on a platform of equality, that could soon change.

What do you think of Carlos Alvarado Quesada as a herald of a change in South America? Sound off in the comments.

Featured image by Luis Madrigal/El Mundo