Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

What Direction Is Costa Rica’s New President Taking?

Rodrigo Chaves took office as Costa Rica’s president on May 8 with vows to “put the house in order.” // File Photo: Costa Rican Government. Rodrigo Chaves took office as Costa Rica’s president on May 8 with vows to “put the house in order.” // File Photo: Costa Rican Government.

Rodrigo Chaves, a former Costa Rican finance minister and World Bank official, took office on May 8 as the Central American country’s president. In his inaugural address, Chaves listed problems Costa Rica is facing, including a high cost of living, as well as crime and drug trafficking, and vowed to “put the house in order.” What do the first days of Chaves’ presidency say about the direction his government will take? What does Chaves’ selection of cabinet members suggest about the policies he will pursue, and is he choosing the right people for key cabinet posts? How well will Chaves be able to work with Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly to get support for his agenda, given that his party holds only 10 of the chamber’s 57 seats?

Andrés León Araya, director of the Center for Research and Political Studies at the University of Costa Rica: “The initial showings of Rodrigo Chaves’ government present a vertical line of command and a clear pro-business agenda. In his inaugural address, Chaves was emphatic on how his government would be one of ‘historical change’ to ‘rescue a democracy.’ However, among the country’s main problems, he failed to include the rising levels of inequality that place Costa Rica well above the OECD’s average and the severe crisis that the public sector (particularly health and education) is going through. His first decree was to eliminate mandatory masking, amid rising levels of Covid cases and against the recommendation of the National Association of Doctors. Also, Chaves mentioned just before taking office that he would not sign the Escazú Agreement, as it would hinder the attraction of foreign investment…”

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