The new Costa Rican President’s assessment of the country’s environment is a digital Costa Rican journal with a daily circulation. It is managed by the writer Diego Delfino Machín. We are grateful to Diego for permission to reproduce his article here.

25 May 2022 ,

Translated for The Violence of Development website by Martin Mowforth


The president of the republic, Rodrigo Chaves Robles, is in Davos, Switzerland, where for the first time he is attending the World Economic Forum in his capacity as representative of the country. The summit, which gathers delegates from all over the planet with a view to discussions on social and economic challenges facing the international community, took place from 23rd to 26th May this year.

Our leader participated in the Latin American Presidential Panel (with Iván Duque of Colombia, Luis Abinader of Dominica and Dina Boluarte, Vice-President of Perú) in which in turn they discussed the region’s recovery after the pandemic.

The moderator of the fórum, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, addressing Chaves, made a comment on the Costa Rican situation. She flattered us all when she said that Costa Rica is known as a stable and secure nation with social equity and added: “You freed yourself from this serious wave produced by the pandemic, but there are also some growing risks which will lead to a complex period in your presidency.”

In his usual style, Chaves replied: “I haven’t been freed of anything, quite the contrary. Unfortunately I’m inheriting a situation that needs to be put right, contrary to what my colleagues (alluding to the other panellists) have commented on; Costa Rica isn’t doing so well, and we have even experienced a significant deterioration.”

He went on to say that he (in contrast to his colleagues) could not report successes because he’s only had 15 days in post, meaning that he’s only able to determine “the challenges and what we are going to do about them”. Among those that they have to address in Costa Rica are: the fiscal deficit, social inequality, poor quality of public services and dealing with contaminated waters.

Again he pointed out that he had received “a house in a mess” with “an inheritance of huge fiscal disorder”. Explaining that he will address this scenario, he said he hopes to generate public policy which puts an end to the historical beneficiaries of private monopolies in favour of “the vast majority of Costa Rican people”.

“We have to create more and better Jobs, and that might happen with a blow to the confidence of the private sector. In Costa Rica, for years we have been hearing about the false dichotomy between the private sector and the public sector. No, there hasn’t been a country anywhere in the world which has achieved prosperity with only the private sector or only the state sector.”

Later, Argueta tried again to flatter Costa Rica, this time referring to the country’s environmental policies. Chaves again rejected the flattery and noted that the country had not invested sufficiently in its sewage system and as a result of this its rivers are contaminated. Later he stated that we had over-invested in electricity generation “above all with fossil fuels”.

I don’t know where this observation came from, considering that 99 per cent of the electricity that is consumed in the country comes from renewable sources[1]; but I’m going to leave it at that; I’m not going to lay myself open to government accusations of being a member of the gutter press tied to political and economic interests and ….. ZZZZ

Anyway, yes, it is certain that our rivers are suffering and our sewage system is even worse. In fact, our list of environmental grievances is not modest. Perhaps it isn’t fashionable for a president to air the dirty clothes for all the neighbours to see and it parades for all to see the environmental discourse of Alvarado[2], receiving praise from the future king of England less than a year ago. But at least Chaves, on assuming the presidency, has not modified his campaign tone.

Indeed so, and he made it clear that he does not want to go back on what has been put forward on this theme. He said, “Costa Rica is a country that is not going to take one step backwards in its commitments and its wishes to reach carbon neutrality.”

As a part of his intervention, Chaves also said that he has been talking with investors and that he told them that ‘Costa Rica is open for business’ and that he intends to break all the bottlenecks to investment in the country and create a better environment [for business]. Effectively, Chaves himself had stated that the principal aim of his trip to the World Economic Forum is to seek jobs and investments for Costa Rica.

Let’s hope, then, that on his return to Costa Rica he comes back with a little list of useful telephone numbers; that good foreign investment may arrive; that it will offer good jobs; that regulation will be attractive for investors and respectful of the rights of the labour force; and that will genuinely begin to give form to a more equitable Costa Rica that we miss so much.


[1]  Editor’s note: over 70 per cent of Costa Rica’s electricity is generated as hydroelectricity, and as ENCA newsletters have made clear in the past, the environmental credentials of damming rivers are open to public debate.

[2]  Carlos Alvarado was the outgoing President of Costa Rica who handed over to Rodrigo Chaves in April this year, 2022.