National Liberation Party (Costa Rica)

The National Liberation Party (Spanish: Partido Liberación Nacional, PLN), nicknamed the verdiblancos ("green and whites"),[3] is a political party in Costa Rica. The party is a member of the Socialist International.[4] Social-democratic by statute, the party has a few internal factions, including liberals, Third Way supporters and centrists, as well as some social conservatives.

National Liberation Party
Partido Liberación Nacional
PresidentJorge Pattoni Sáenz
FounderJosé Figueres Ferrer
Founded12 October 1951; 70 years ago (1951-10-12)
HeadquartersCasa Liberacionista "José Figueres Ferrer", San José, Costa Rica
Student wingMovimiento Universitario Liberacionista (MUL)
Movimiento Estudiantil Liberacionista de Educación Media (MELEM)
Youth wingJuventud Liberacionista
IdeologySocial democracy
Social liberalism
Third Way
Democratic socialism
Social conservatism
Political positionCentre
Centre-left to centre-right
Centre-left to left-wing
Regional affiliationCOPPPAL
International affiliationSocialist International
Colours    Green, white
Legislative Assembly
17 / 57
2 / 8
42 / 82
171 / 508
260 / 486
District councillors
855 / 1,944
Party flag
Bandera de Partido Liberación Nacional.svg


In 1948 a rebel group called National Liberation Army commanded by caudillo José Figueres Ferrer led a rebellion against the government of then President Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia and his communist allies. After the Civil War the rebels were victorious and Figueres took power de facto. Yet, Figueres did not overrule the social reforms made by Calderón and allies, like Social Security, almost free college education and Labor Laws but kept them and even made a series of progressive reforms himself like abolishing the army and introducibg taxation on capital. Figueres gave up power in favor of the democratically elected president Otilio Ulate in 1949.[5]

In 1951 the Social Democratic Party, the Centre for the Study of National Problems and the group Democratic Action formed the National Liberation Party in October 12 in order to participate in the 1953 election, the first election since the civil war, with Figueres as nominee and democratic socialism as their ideology.[5] This election was very controversial as many parties were unable to participate, among others Calderon’s Republican Party and the Communists. Figueres won easily over the only other candidate with 60% of the votes.

For the 1958 general election the PLN was split, as Jorge Rossi left the party after losing in the primaries and was basically an independent candidate thus splitting the Social Democrat vote. The PLN suffers it first defeat as oppositional candidate, liberal Mario Echandi, won the election with the support of Calderón. However, after this time PLN will be clearly Costa Rica’s dominant party in the political system as only when the opposition ran united were capable of winning.[5] This was the case in the 1966 and 1978 election, the rest of the time PLN’s nominees tended to win easily.

In 1986 then younger leader Óscar Arias won the party’s nomination facing the traditional leadership of the party, including Figueres. Arias won also the country’s presidency and his role in the negotiation of a peace agreement to stop the Central American Wars earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.[5] Some critics inside and outside the party pointed Arias’ administration as more neo-liberal than socialist and as a switch from PLN’s traditional progressive views.[5]

Wasn’t until 1983 when the Unity Coalition merged into the Social Christian Unity Party that PLN had to confront what was basically a party of the same dimensions. It is after this time that Costa Rica enters a two-party system with PLN and PUSC as the two main political forces and between the two 90% of the vote casting. But in the 2000s a new party is founded by many former PLN and PUSC leaders, among them former minister and deputy Ottón Solís, former First Lady Margarita Penón (Óscar Arias’ ex-wife) and notable writer and journalist Alberto Cañas. The new party named Citizens Action Party attracted many progressive voters dissatisfied with PLN’s turn to the right and is often pointed as one of the reasons for PLN’s nominee Rolando Araya’s defeat in the 2002 general election. In any case, after PUSC’ catastrophic debacle in 2005 due to a series of corruption scandals PAC became PLN’s main political rival. This was particularly notorious in the 2006 election with Óscar Arias looking for re-election and PAC’s candidate Ottón Solís. Most Costa Ricans showed mixed feelings over Arias, some admiring him and some others very oppose to his figure.[5] That and the issue of CAFTA that polarized public opinion as basically half the population was in favor and half against apparently was translated into the voting polls as Arias (who was pro-CAFTA) and Solís (who was anti-CAFTA) were practically tied after the election. Arias won by a very slight margin of some 22.000 votes after an exhaustive counting.[6]

In the same year's parliamentary election, the party won 25 out of 57 seats. In the 2010 general election, Laura Chinchilla, the previous vice-president and the PLN candidate, won the election with an initial count of 47 percent.

A newspaper poll in July 2011 showed a decline in party popularity. Commentary on the poll pointed to an inherited fiscal crisis, border friction with Nicaragua, and natural disasters the previous November as contributing factors to public discontent.[7][8][9]

In 2013 PLN’s candidate was San José Mayor since 1982 Johnny Araya[10] (Rolando Araya’s brother) after other aspirants like former Presidential Minister Rodrigo Arias (Óscar Arias’ brother) and former president José María Figueres (José Figueres’ son) dropped from the race due to be very low in the polls making a primary unnecessary. Araya was the frontrunner for a while in most polls but he went second in the first electoral round earning only 29% of the votes, the lowest percentage ever for a PLN’s nominee, and behind PAC’s nominee Luis Guillermo Solís. For the run-off election Araya resign his candidacy arguing that he had no more money to run a campaign and that all polls showed him losing by wide margin. Effectively in the second round Solís won with 78% of the votes (1.3 million voters) and Araya gained only 22%.[11]

Araya was expelled from the party after a resolution of the Ethics Committee due to his resignation as candidate in the second round (something unconstitutional, as the Constitution does not allow resigning a candidacy) thus Araya ran for Mayor of San José with a local party winning the election in the 2016 municipal election, in which PLN was the most voted party, yet it lost 14 mayoralties and received much fewer votes that in the previous municipal election.[12]

The party, as then main opposition to Luis Guillermo Solís's government, went into a very divisive primary in which then deputy Antonio Álvarez Desanti won over former president José María Figueres. Internal fighting made impossible to reach an agreement among the factions leading to Figueres withdrawing his support of Desanti's nomination. Desanti, who had previously left the party whilst criticizing it for corruption and abandoning its social-democratic ideology, had the support of Oscar Arias and his brother Rodrigo, however. Nevertheless its results in the 2018 Costa Rican general election were crushing, as the party suffered its worst defeat in history with only 18% of votes and failing to gain a spot in the run-off ending as third for the first time in its history.[13]

Electoral performanceEdit


Election Leader First round Second round
Votes % Position Result Votes % Position Result
1953 José Figueres Ferrer 123,444 64.7% 1/2 Won
1958 Francisco Orlich 94,788 42.8%   2/3 Lost
1962 192,850 50.3%   1/4 Won
1966 Daniel Oduber 218,590 49.5%   2/2 Lost
1970 José Figueres Ferrer 295,883 54.8%   1/5 Won
1974 Daniel Oduber 294,609 43.4% 1/8 Won
1978 Luis Alberto Monge 364,285 43.8%   2/8 Lost
1982 568,374 58.8%   1/6 Won
1986 Óscar Arias 620,314 52.3% 1/6 Won
1990 Carlos Manuel Castillo 636,701 47.2%   2/7 Lost
1994 José Figueres Olsen 739,339 49.6%   1/7 Won
1998 José Miguel Corrales 618,834 44.4%   2/12 Lost
2002 Rolando Araya 475,030 31.1% 2/12 - 563,202 42.0% 2/2 Lost
2006 Óscar Arias 664,551 40.9%   1/7 Won
2010 Laura Chinchilla 896,516 46.9% 1/9 Won
2014 Johnny Araya 610,634 29.7%   2/13 - 374,844 22.1% 2/2 Lost
2018 Antonio Álvarez 377,688 18.6%   3/13 Lost


Election Leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1953 José Figueres Ferrer 114,043 64.7%
30 / 45
New 1/4 Government
1958 Francisco Orlich 86,081 41.7%
20 / 45
  10 1/8 Opposition
1962 184,135 49.8%
29 / 57
  9 1/9 Government
1966 Daniel Oduber 202,891 48.9%
29 / 57
0 1/5 Opposition
1970 José Figueres Ferrer 269,038 50.7%
32 / 57
  3 1/8 Government
1974 Daniel Oduber 271,867 40.9%
27 / 57
  5 1/12 Government
1978 Luis Alberto Monge 155,047 48.2%
25 / 57
  2   2/15 Opposition
1982 527,231 55.5%
33 / 57
  8   1/16 Government
1986 Óscar Arias 560,694 47.8%
29 / 57
  4 1/13 Government
1990 Carlos Manuel Castillo 559,632 41.9%
25 / 57
  4   2/14 Opposition
1994 José Figueres Olsen 658,258 44.6%
28 / 57
  3   1/15 Government
1998 José Miguel Corrales 481,933 34.8%
23 / 57
  5   2/23 Opposition
2002 Rolando Araya 412,383 27.1%
17 / 57
  6 2/18 Opposition
2006 Óscar Arias 589,731 36.5%
25 / 57
  8 1/11 Government
2010 Laura Chinchilla 708,043 37.3%
24 / 57
  1 1/18 Government
2014 Johnny Araya 526,531 25.7%
18 / 57
  6 1/18 Opposition
2018 Antonio Álvarez 416,638 19.5%
17 / 57
  1 1/25 Opposition


  1. ^ Rosales Valladares, Rotsay. "Análisis de Coyuntura Política N°2 - Primarias Partido Liberación Nacional". Universidad de Costa Rica. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  2. ^ Arrieta, Esteban. ""Figuerismo" pide a Tribunal de Ética de PLN investigar rival por difamación". La República. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  3. ^ Tres candidatos frenarían nuevos tratados comerciales La Nación, 2013-12-31. (in Spanish)
  4. ^ Socialist International list of members. Retrieved on 2012-08-10.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Costa Rica". San José University. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  6. ^ Henderson, James D. (2000). A Reference Guide to Latin American History. ISBN 9781563247446. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  7. ^ Se desploma calificación sobre labor de presidenta Chinchilla. (2012-04-26). Retrieved on 2013-22-22.
  8. ^ Sueño totalitario Archived 2012-05-25 at the Wayback Machine. (2012-05-21). Retrieved on 2012-08-10.
  9. ^ Elisabeth Malkin (February 8, 2010). "Costa Rica: Female Leader Elected". New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  10. ^ "Meet Costa Rica's 13 presidential candidates". The Tico Times. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  11. ^ Buckman, Robert T. (20 August 2014). Latin America 2014. ISBN 9781475812282. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  12. ^ Turner, Blair (20 August 2015). Latin America 2015-2016. ISBN 9781475818710. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  13. ^ "Costa Rica decidirá su nuevo presidente en una segunda ronda entre los dos Alvarado". Teletica. 4 February 2018. Retrieved 5 February 2018.

External linksEdit