Presidential candidate Fabricio Alvarado gives a thumbs-up as he’s surrounded by the press at a polling station, San Jose, Costa Rica, Feb. 4, 2018 (AP photo by Arnulfo Franco).

Costa Ricans headed to the polls last Sunday amid an unusually heated campaign that few had foreseen and even fewer dared to predict. Following the Feb. 4 vote, Fabricio Alvarado of the conservative National Restoration Party and Carlos Alvarado of the leftist Citizens’ Action Party, or PAC, which has been in power since 2014, are headed to a second round on April 1. No presidential candidate came close to securing the 40 percent share of the vote required to avoid a runoff, underscoring the increasingly fragmented political environment in what has been Central America’s most stable democracy. The two Alvarados […]

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Editor’s Note: In July 2019, this story received an Honorable Mention by the National Press Club for the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence, which recognizes excellence in reporting on diplomatic and foreign policy issues. It is also one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. For 15 years, El Salvador’s zero-tolerance approach to gangs—known as mano dura, or iron fist—has resulted in devastating violence while failing to address the root causes of the crimes it’s supposed to eliminate. Yet this approach to dealing with gangs […]