A Conversation with Carlos Alvarado

Irene Estefania Gonzalez / Inter-American Dialogue

On June 12, the Inter-American Dialogue was proud to host Carlos Alvarado, sitting president of Costa Rica, to discuss a variety of goals and challenges with Dialogue President, Michael Shifter. President Alvarado discussed his plans to restore faith in the government by tackling environmental issues, promoting inclusive education, and improving the transparency of the government.

Michael Shifter opened up the discussion by highlighting the women that make up 54% of the cabinet, specifically the Vice President Epsy Campbell, who is the first female Afro-descendant to hold the position in Latin America. Shifter also listed some of the challenges the president faces in the next four years such as fiscal imbalance, corruption, the situation in Nicaragua, and the lack of support in Congress to achieve his ambitious agenda.

President Alvarado began his speech by reflecting on his career leading up to the presidency. He wondered why the effectiveness and ability to deliver results in the private sector could not be reproduced in the government. As Minister of Labor under former President Solis, he accomplished what was promised to the Costa Rican people, including improving the system for collective bargaining and increasing pensions for teachers. Moving forward, President Alvarado made it clear that he would live up to those promises made during the campaign and that the administration would be “obsessed with delivering results and positively impacting people through our decisions and policies.”

Regarding his agenda, the President focused on the environment and social inclusion through education. In the first few days of his administration, Alvarado submitted an ordinance to ban one-use plastic in order to change public sector consumption patterns and vowed to reduce carbon emissions in transportation. He also stated his commitment to prohibit the exploration of oil in Costa Rica and to focus on renewable energy that currently generates 99% of Costa Rica’s electricity. President Alvarado then listed education as one of the administration’s top priorities in order to improve efficiency for inclusive education. He noted that 70% of the unemployed in the country are young people and most of them have not received a high school education. To improve opportunities for all, specifically on the coasts, the new administration was working on improving nutrition for infants and increasing expenditure for coverage of childcare.

Following his speech, President Alvarado discussed his strategy to achieve his ambitious agenda while avoiding a gridlock in Congress with Michael Shifter. In an effort to bridge the differences between parties, Alvarado named one of his competitors in the election as head of the cabinet and stated that they had signed several bills together that had previously been impossible to pass. The goal of this administration was to “work on what brings us together, not what tears us apart” in order to strengthen confidence in democratic institutions. The President also mentioned Costa Rica's intention to work with Nicaragua and that the country backs the declaration of support adopted in the OAS general assembly last week.

President Alvarado then fielded multiple questions from the audience including Costa Rica’s position on the situation in Venezuela, the new administration’s agenda regarding sexual and reproductive rights, and the plan to strengthen democracy through transparency. The President restated the need to continue debating the Venezuela issue in a multilateral forum through the OAS. He also renewed his promise in supporting the rights of women and to work towards reducing the teen pregnancy rate in the country. Finally, Alvarado placed a lot of emphasis on the need to be more transparent in order to regain the trust of the population. In order to achieve this, the administration will work on improving its digital capabilities to provide all necessary information to the public, and will use data sets and administrative records in order to more effectively generate public policy.

Overall, President Alvarado promised to continue his conversations with Costa Ricans and restore their faith in government by delivering the results promised during the campaign.

Press Coverage:


The Costa Rica Star

Watch the recording of this event here: 


Suggested Content

Issues Shaping Central America

A compilation of the most relevant Dialogue’s articles, presentations and reports on Central America: its development challenges and policy options.