Costa Rica has a new leader. Economist Rodrigo Chaves was sworn in as president on Sunday, with the mission of cleaning up the economy of one of Latin America’s most stable democracies. The ceremony took place in the Congress, the parliament, in the capital San José, in the presence of 97 foreign delegations, including that led by the King of Spain Felipe VI.

Elected on April 3 with 52.9% of the vote, Rodrigo Chaves, a 60-year-old conservative who was a World Bank executive for nearly 30 years, promises during his four years in office to provide solutions to the problems facing Costa Rica: foreign debt, equivalent to 70% of GDP, poverty, which affects 23% of the population, unemployment of 13.6% and corruption scandals.

A meteoric trajectory to the top of the state

The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has also hit tourism, one of the main drivers of the local economy, hard. This country of 5.2 million inhabitants has therefore suffered the largest increase in unemployment in the region, along with Peru.

Rodrigo Chaves had slammed the door of the finance ministry of the outgoing government after only 180 days, in 2020, following a dispute with his predecessor as head of state, Carlos Alvarado. He has since followed a meteoric trajectory during the election campaign. He had in fact qualified as an outsider in the first round on February 6 at the head of the brand new Parti Progrès Social Démocratique (PPSD) and climbed very quickly in the polls during the two months between the two rounds.

The new president, who will nevertheless not have an absolute majority in Congress and will therefore have to come to terms with the other parties, thus overcame the handicap of having been sanctioned for the sexual harassment of two collaborators between 2008 and 2013, when he worked for the World Bank.

Towards a retreat on the environment

Apart from the economy, he also said he was opposed to the policies followed on the question of the environment in a country which in particular gave up exploiting gas and oil. Rodrigo Chaves said in this regard that Costa Rica would not ratify the Escazú Agreement, the first environmental treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean, adopted in 2018.

This agreement is the first in the world to introduce specific provisions to protect the rights of environmental defenders, targets of numerous assassinations in Latin America. It guarantees the protection of the environment and the health of people, mainly indigenous peoples, promotes public participation, access to information and justice in environmental matters.

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