QCOSTARICA – In his first address to the nation on Tuesday before Congress, President Rodrigo Chaves defended his Administration’s economic achievements, promised to continue fighting crime and criticized his opponents and previous governments.

Costa Rica President Rodrigo Chaves giving his first address to the nation in front of Congress on Tuesday, May 2, 2023

In his report of his first year in office, which officially expires next Monday, Chaves stated: “Costa Rica is substantially better off than the uncertain and precarious country we received a year ago.”

The president, who began his 4-year term on May 8, 2022, pointed out that despite “difficult economic and geopolitical circumstances” his government managed to improve macroeconomic figures and “reactivate the economy.”

The president indicates that the unemployment rate dropped from 13.3% to 11.67% and that 61,000 jobs were created, and affirmed that inflation is around 4%, as opposed to the 10% it stood at last August.

“We lowered the cost of living and the people appreciate our fight to eliminate the excessive price of rice,” Chaves said.

Regarding the macroeconomic data, Chaves highlighted the primary surplus of 2.3% of GDP in state finances, the reduction of debt and the economic growth of 4.3% registered in 2022.

Other achievements listed by Chaves are the plan to develop the 5G network, the attraction of 110 foreign investment projects in 2022 and the future installation of scanners in ports to prevent drug shipments in export containers.

“The best way to get the drug traffickers out is to stop them from exporting the cocaine,” he said.

The president stressed the implementation of “an aggressive plan against crime” and acknowledged that violence has been growing “in the last 10 years.”

“A State that does not guarantee security is a failed State and we will not allow it,” he asserted.

As of April 12, Costa Rica reached 241 homicides for the year, 69 more than in the same period of 2022, for an increase of 40%, according to official figures.

Last year, there were a total of 656 homicides, the highest number in Costa Rica’s history and with a rate of 12.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. This represented an increase of 11% compared to the number of homicides in 2021.

“We need the commitment of the other two powers of the State. Together we must restore peace and tranquility to the citizens,” Chaves said when asking the deputies to approve a package of laws to fight crime.

In his speech, the president highlighted the popularity that the polls give him and criticized opponents who, in his opinion, do not recognize his achievements.

Chaves said that during his first year, there has been “a constant bombardment by allied media and people to attack the work carried out, ignoring the measurable results.”

The president assured that in Costa Rica there have historically been “journalistic, political and trade union aristocracies that passed over the institutions” and that “they placed themselves above the people, flaunting crowns in a nation where there are no kings.”

“We set out to work for the unseen, for those who have waited too long for a chance to prosper,” he said.

Chaves concluded by saying that the priorities for his remaining 3 years are the same as at the beginning: reactivate the economy, improve public services for the people, lower the cost of living and guarantee the safety of citizens.

“More than an accountability report, it seems to us more like a campaign speech”

Opposition parties describe the first-year report of President Rodrigo Chaves as superficial, a campaign speech, and verbal illusion and lacking in proposals.

The head of the Frente Amplio (FA) faction, Sofía Guillén, assured that “more than an accountability report, it seems to us more like a campaign speech. It does not raise bridges, it does not open space for dialogue, it is the good self and the bad others. What Costa Rica requires is closeness to build and make things happen.”

The leader of the Partido Liberal Progresista (PLP) faction, Eliécer Feinzaig, was even harsher and affirmed that Chaves described the country that he would like to project in order to maintain his level of popularity and make the population believe that things are better, but -he pointed out- the report has important gaps and data that does not correspond to reality.

Óscar Izquierdo, head of the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) bench, the party with the single largest block of legislators, asserted that the president’s speech was full of good intentions, but without concrete proposals to face the security emergency that the country is experiencing.

Responding to Chaves’ report, the president of the Legislative Assembly, Rodrigo Arias, said that Costa Rica’s problems are complex and cannot be solved with simple recipes, but rather require in-depth analysis, technical support and political audacity.

“Costa Rica demands solutions and we must recognize that, despite the work of both Powers (Legislative and Executive), we still have a lot to do,” he said.

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