Key Referendum in Ecuador and Dramatic First-Round Presidential Election in Costa Rica

On February 4, 2017, Ecuadorians voted to prevent presidents from holding more than two terms of office, giving President Lenín Moreno a political victory over his mentor-turned-enemy, former President Rafael Correa, who is now blocked from returning to power. The referendum, called by Moreno, rolls back a measure Correa pushed through Congress in 2015, allowing unlimited presidential re-election. On the same day, Costa Ricans voted in presidential and legislative elections overshadowed by the question of gay marriage. The result, in which evangelical Christian minister and Congressman Fabricio Alvarado pulled into first place before the April runoff, complicates Costa Rica’s image as a progressive oasis. Alvarado campaigned in opposition to a January ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights urging Costa Rica to legalize same-sex marriage; he insisted that the court had violated his country’s sovereignty and now threatens its “traditional family” values. Pundits and commentators endeavored to interpret both elections.

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