The Miami Herald
February 3, 2002

3rd candidate heats up race in Costa Rica

 Associated Press

 SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- A year ago, Otton Solis broke away from Costa Rica's main opposition party, created his own political machine and announced he was running for president.

 His pledges to fight corruption and help the poor didn't get much media attention -- until he began catching up with the two main presidential candidates in polls before today's election. Now, for the first time in more than half a century, a third party has a strong shot at the presidency.

 Supported largely by the country's growing middle class, Solis has tapped into voter discontent with the two main parties that have controlled the presidency since a coup in 1948.

 President Miguel Angel Rodriguez -- prohibited by law from serving more than one four-year term -- won as a Social Christian Unity candidate in 1998 by promising to reduce the country's large internal debt, attract foreign investment and promote the creation of decent-paying jobs.

 Although Intel and other high-tech companies have brought thousands of jobs to San Jose, many feel Rodriguez hasn't done enough.

 Giving the thumbs up to Solis as he entered a fried chicken restaurant during a campaign stop Thursday outside San Jose, Ingrid Vega said the 48-year-old economist had given her hope.

 ``People feel more optimistic,'' she said.

 Solis criticizes government corruption while promising to build a capable government that will answer to the needs of Costa Ricans and ``regain the confidence of the

 Solis wants to tax imported goods, help local producers and rethink plans to privatize state-run industries.

                                    © 2002