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Economist and former finance minister Rodrigo Chaves is sworn in Sunday as Costa Rica’s new president for a four-year term at the hall of the Legislative Assembly in San Jose. He emphasized the need to rebuild the country, as an “urgent need for change that cannot be postponed”. Chaves also stressed that the Government will fight against harassment and violence against women, and will ensure that human rights achievements are respected. The 60-year-old economist and former World Bank (WB) official becomes the 49th president of Costa Rica for the period 2022-2026. Also sworn in at the ceremony were the first vice president, Stephan Brunner, and the second vice president, Mary Munive.
In his first speech, the President called for unity, declaring that there are no differences between the ruling party and the opposition. “If the political class fails once again, the country could fall apart”, he warned.
“The moment we are living is crucial. We are the ones called to make a historic change. That call is imposed with the strength of the voice of the people who demanded from the ballot box an enormous obligation to the entire political class of the country, which includes the three powers of the Republic”, he said.
During the first-round election in February, Chaves’ predecessor Carlos Alvarado’s party was nearly wiped out, earning no seats in the new Legislative Assembly. Chaves’ Social Democratic Progressive Party holds only ten of the legislature’s 57 seats, making him a surprise qualifier for the runoff after finishing fourth in the first round.
Costa Rica’s Economy- New Beginning
Promises on women’s rights
Chaves also promised to stamp out gender discrimination and the abuse of women, as feminist groups protested nearby.
Their rally was a reminder to the 60-year-old former finance minister about allegations of sexual harassment that prompted his resignation from the World Bank.
An internal investigation found that from 2008 to 2013, Chaves made unwelcome comments about physical appearances and unwelcome sexual advances toward multiple bank employees.
Last month, he offered “sincere apologies” to two accusers, young subordinates, having previously said the alleged harassment amounted to mere “jokes” that were “misinterpreted.”
Spain’s King Felipe VI and other heads of state or government and delegations from nearly 100 countries traveled for the inauguration.
Shortly after his address, Chaves signed his first decrees, including scrapping obligatory mask-wearing for most people.
Chaves List of Principles
Costa Rica, with a population of around 5 million, is considered one of the most politically stable countries in Central America.
Nevertheless, the country struggles with social inequality, corruption, hunger and drug trafficking.
Chaves takes over an economy in decline, with rising foreign debt — about 70% of GDP — a poverty rate of 23%, unemployment of nearly 14%, and public sector corruption.
Tourism, one of the country’s main economic drivers, was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, severely spiking unemployment.
Chaves has previously vowed to improve the terms of an agreement Costa Rica reached with the IMF for a loan of more than $1.7 billion (€1.61 billion).
Chaves previously said he would rework a $1.78 billion financial support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a bid to consolidate finances in the country with the heaviest debt load in Central America, at 66.5% of gross domestic product.
“The country is responsible for its debts. We have never failed to pay, we will do what we have to do to honor our obligations,” Chaves said in a speech after being sworn in.
About three quarters of Costa Rica’s $42.62 billion total debt is internal while the rest is external.
Chaves, an anti-establishment former World Bank official, won a run-off election in April with nearly 53% of the vote.
Echoing his campaign speeches, Chaves said he will also work to reduce the cost of living, fight corruption and build bridges with rival parties that dominate Congress.
Chaves tell voters
Shortly after being given the ceremonial presidential sash, Chaves lashed out at the state of the nation, complaining of the high cost of living, crime, drug trafficking and long lines at social security offices.
He warned that “if the political class fails one more time, the country could fall apart.”
“We will not only put the house in order, we will rebuild it,” Chaves vowed. “Change is urgently needed. I will not accept defeat. Costa Rica does not have to accept defeat.”
Key Points regarding Rodrigo Chaves new Presidency
- Chaves lashed out at the status of the country shortly after receiving the ceremonial presidential sash, screaming about the high cost of living, crime, drug trafficking, and long line-ups at social security offices.
- As feminist groups demonstrated nearby, Chaves also promised to abolish gender discrimination and maltreatment of women.
- Their gathering served as a reminder to the 60-year-old former finance minister about sexual harassment charges that led to his departure.
- Chaves made unpleasant comments about physical appearances and unwelcome sexual approaches against many bank workers, according to an internal probe.
- The inauguration was attended by Spain’s King Felipe VI, other leaders of state or government, and representatives from approximately 100 countries.
- Chaves signed his first orders shortly after his speech, including removing the requirement for most individuals to wear masks.
- Costa Rica is one of Central America’s most politically stable countries, having a population of roughly five million people.
- Despite this, the country has challenges such as social inequality, corruption, starvation, and drug trafficking.
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