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State of the Union: In face of pandemic, Carlos Alvarado delivers solemn and hopeful address

May 4, 2020

Carlos Alvarado on Monday called for unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, even as the president acknowledged Costa Rica will endure a difficult economic recovery.

Delivering his annual address to the Legislative Assembly — Costa Rica’s version of a State of the Union — President Alvarado said the country faces its biggest challenge in decades.

“A lethal enemy is causing pain and destruction across the world,” President Alvarado said. “I say it frankly, which you deserve: We will face many difficult months to come.” 

President Alvarado admitted measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, which have prevented a major health crisis in Costa Rica, have at the same time provoked “very severe” social and economic impacts.

While the president alluded to attracting foreign retirees, investing in public infrastructure and stimulating hemp cultivation as ways in which the country might soften the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis, Monday’s speech was light on details.

Instead, President Alvarado spent the majority of his hour-long address celebrating Costa Rica’s actions before SARS-CoV-2 and recognizing the successes the country has had under his administration.

Alvarado praised the Health Ministry, health workers and the public for their response to the coronavirus, and he said “science and data” will continue to guide the country’s actions.

Noting the country’s recent fiscal reforms and its public investments in hospitals, schools and transportation, Alvarado lamented that the global downturn interrupted what he believed to be the beginning of Costa Rica’s economic recovery.

“The results that were being generated before the pandemic showed that we were progressing well,” Alvarado said.

In February, Moody’s Investor Services had predicted Costa Rica’s financial strategy would gradually help the economy — but the U.S.-based financial company argued that the country would face continued challenges due to its deficit.

“The COVID-19 pandemic puts our health and way of life at risk,” Alvarado said Monday. “It has caused unemployment and loss of income. It has damaged production and the economy. Let’s not deceive ourselves: We are facing the greatest challenge of our generation.”

Alvarado acknowledged his administration’s actions might be unpopular but said would focus on promoting Costa Rica’s long-term success — promising not to make excuses, blame others or focus on his own popularity.

“The electoral cycle does not matter to me at all,” he said.

The president ended his speech by asking the public to remain determined and united.

“I trust in the Costa Rican people,” he said. “Costa Rica is small in geography but is large in spirit, because of its people.

“Our formula is three words: Work, unity and hope.”

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