A debate over gay marriage has upturned Costa Rica's presidential race, giving ammunition to conservative frontrunners ahead of Sunday's vote and challenging the Central American country's image as a progressive bastion. Evangelical Christian singer and congressman Fabricio Alvarado, who leads recent polls, has pitted himself against a January ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that urges Costa Rica to legalize same-sex marriage.
A center-left academic who has never held elected office easily won Costa Rica's presidential election on Sunday, ousting the graft-stained ruling party from power after its candidate quit campaigning a month ago. However he will have quite a job ensuring support in Congress.
Laura Chinchilla becomes Costa Rica's first female president on Saturday, taking over at a challenging time in one of Latin America's most stable democracies. Rising poverty and insecurity in the popular eco-tourism destination and a fiscal deficit worsened by the global financial crisis are key public concerns at the start of her four-year term.