Mr. Chaves, a U.S.-educated economist, has risen from relative obscurity to the front-runner position over the last several months by presenting himself as an outsider who will confront the country’s aloof elites by bypassing traditional democratic institutions. He has promised to “return power to the people” by holding referendums on pressing policy issues.
To emphasize his image as an underdog, Mr. Chaves has repeated in the campaign that his father was the bodyguard of Mr. Figueres’s father, José Figueres Ferrer, a nation-defining figure who built Costa Rica’s largest political party after leading the winning faction in the country’s brief civil war in the 1940s. Mr. Figueres said on Friday that Mr. Chaves’s father “never” worked for his family.
Mr. Chaves, 60, returned to Costa Rica in 2019 after 27 years at the World Bank, where he rose to the rank of director as the bank’s senior representative in Indonesia, a major developing economy. He left the bank just days after he was demoted for misconduct following a sexual harassment complaint brought against him by two female employees.
He has brushed off the accusations by claiming the investigators never proved that sexual harassment had taken place, a claim that was contradicted by the verdict of the World Bank’s internal tribunal in June, issued nearly two years after Mr. Chaves left the bank.
And in recent weeks, Mr. Chaves was damaged by an investigation launched by Costa Rica’s electoral court into irregular payments that a group of allied businessmen funneled to his campaign. Mr. Chaves said he did not know that those funds existed.