Costa Rica, National Liberation Party

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Costa Rica, National Liberation Party

The National Liberation Party became the dominant political party in Costa Rica with the election of José Figueres Ferrer as president in 1953. Since that time a majority of the nation's chief executives have been PLN members, and the party generally has enjoyed a majority in the national legislature. Not only did the PLN achieve a dominant position in Costa Rican politics, but its organization and success induced a new politics. No longer could informal, transitory groups form around a charismatic candidate to contest an upcoming election. To meet the challenge of the highly organized, ideologically coherent PLN, its opponents had to become more organized and present the electorate with specific programs and a greater degree of continuity.

The PLN was founded in October 1951 by a group of insiders of the National Liberation movement, which had supported the successful 1948 armed uprising and the resultant de facto government under Figueres Ferrer's presidency (1948–1949). They met at Francisco Orlich Bolmarcich's finca, La Paz. They wanted to convert the movement into a permanent, highly structured political party by capitalizing on the immense popularity of Figueres. Although many of the participants had been active in the Social Democratic Party, they recognized that its poor showing in the December 1948 election indicated the need to form a more broadly based party and to take advantage of the National Liberation label and its association with military victory, social justice, political renewal, and a greater political role for the middle class.

The PLN traces its origins to the formation of the Center for the Study of National Problems (1940), with its strong affinity for social democratic ideas. The Center merged with the Democratic Action group to form the Social Democratic Party (1945), which unsuccessfully presented Figueres as its candidate to lead the united opposition in the 1948 election. It was a party born of national crisis. The successful revolt of 1948 vaulted the founders of the movement into prominent positions in government. Figueres's decisive victory in the 1953 election assured a bright future for the PLN.

See alsoFerrer, José; La Paz.


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Araya Pochet, Carlos. Historia de los partidos políticos: Liberacíon Nacional (1968).

Bell, John Patrick. Crisis in Costa Rica (1971).

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Longley, Kyle. The Sparrow and the Hawk: Costa Rica and the United States during the Rise of José Figueres. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.

Obregón Valverde, Enrique. Socialismo democrático y el Partido Liberación Nacional. San José, Costa Rica: Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 2003.

                                             John Patrick Bell

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Costa Rica, National Liberation Party

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