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Alvarado hopes Costa Rica’s political “pendulum” will not “set back” his advances

President Carlos Alvarado said Thursday he hopes that the eventual “pendulum” of politics in Costa Rica, where the second round of the presidential election will be held on Sunday, “does not set back” the progress of his mandate.

Alvarado made a balance of his years in power during an interview with AFP at the Costa Rican embassy in Paris, where he ends a tour of Spain and France before leaving power on May 8.

Although he avoids pronouncing himself on the ballot, which pits former centrist president José María Figueres against former conservative minister Rodrigo Chaves, he recognizes “a significant dissatisfaction with the political class”.

“Particularly about the party that is taking me to the government”, says this 42-year-old journalist by training, after the ruling party did not win any seats in this year’s legislative elections.

Despite some “not necessarily popular” measures, the center-left leader assures that he “did the right thing to protect the country from an economic crisis, from the health crisis” of the covid, and in terms of human rights.

Politics, in his opinion, “sometimes like history moves like a pendulum”. “I hope he will not back down” on “human rights”, on “international leadership” on climate, on “macroeconomic stability”, he adds.

His two possible successors assure that they will solve the main problems of the Central American country, such as the foreign debt, equivalent to 70% of the GDP, and the high rates of poverty (23%) and unemployment (14%).

Of the two, Chaves, a 60-year-old economist sanctioned for sexual harassment, leads the most recent polls with 41.8% of voting intentions, compared to 38% for Figueres, 67, whose record is burdened with corruption allegations.

“Orderly house”

The current president assures that he delivers “a country with an orderly house”: an economic growth of 7.6% in 2021, “the largest exports of the last 14 years”, the “lowest” primary deficit in 13 years…

“When we came to power, [Costa Rica] was very close to an economic default and we managed to avoid a fiscal crisis in 2018, which was somewhat difficult,” he recalls.

He highlights the management of the pandemic by his government and social measures such as equal marriage, the technical standard for abortion in case of risks to the woman’s life or emergency contraception.

And the fight against climate change: the 2019 plan to decarbonize the economy, the 30% protection of the ocean territory with the conservation of Cocos Island or the production of green hydrogen, among others.

After a pandemic, which hit hard the key tourism sector, his departure comes at a time of war in Ukraine, which, he warns, could provoke a “great crisis” in Latin America.

Alvarado thus highlights the rise in fuel and fertilizer prices which could make it “unaffordable” to grow food or generate employment, as well as pressure on the public debt if it chooses to subsidize them.

On Nicaragua, he calls on the international community to sponsor a solution among Nicaraguans to the “terrible democratic deterioration” under the government of Daniel Ortega and defends that, during his mandate, he “raised his voice” to warn about the situation.

And what will he do when he leaves power in May? “First rest” and then “work, because I gave up my pension. I am 42 years old and I don’t think that at this age I should retire”, he explains.

His goal is to dedicate himself to issues of democracy and climate change, thinking that when his son grows up, “the world has to be a better place.”

by Toni CERDÀ

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