Solís’s True Colors Paint Grim Outlook for Costa Rica
EspañolWith just over 100 days since the presidential election, President Luis Guillermo Solís has already built a considerable record for us to examine. Costa Ricans now understand how the new president would like to lead the country. The campaign is over, and the new administration have begun to set their course.
Few presidents are elected with such an overwhelming majority as the one seen in the last Costa Rican election on April 6. It was an unusual turn of events. The ruling party candidate, Johnny Araya, dropped out of the race in the second round, and our new president made through the first round with only 21 percent of the vote.
With Araya out of the race, Solís drew 77.9 percent of the vote. Even though over 38 percent of the public opted not to vote at all, the big numbers for Solís provided the illusion of massive popular support. The president made good use of his second-round support, making promises left and right and flooding the country with optimism.
Should energy reform have to wait another six months? “No! It needs to happen now!” Solís would say. Once in office, however, Solís had to regrettably admit a proposal would take at least 18 months.
Will disliked politician Mariano Figueres have a place in this new administration? “Never!” claimed Solís. To people’s surprise, and just a few hours after assuming the presidency, Solís named Figueres chief of the Department of Intelligence and Security (the secret police), the very same agency Solís promised to shut down during the campaign.
Nevertheless, the honeymoon continued. The president had lied, but the public no longer perceived corruption in the executive. Solís even made it past the controversy of hoisting the sexual-diversity flag at the presidential palace, with only subtle disapproval from the public.
Then came the FIFA World Cup, and Costa Rica soon made history with an eighth place finish in the tournament. However, the Superintendency of Communications (SUTEL) would sour the experience by initiating fees for downloads for mobile internet users. The government also announced a rise in the price of fuel.
The Ministry of the President first came out in support of SUTEL, but the public’s disapproval forced Solís to rescind his minister’s statements. He then promised there would be no increase in the price of fuel during the World Cup, but this too was short lived. He would later justify his statements by claiming he had not been made aware of the law: “We did not know that the executive does not decree fuel rates,” he said.
Other decisions the president has made have also raised eyebrows. The administration declared a moratorium on the production of energy from solid waste. Labor unions achieved a 5 percent increase in wages for public sector employees, an historic victory that taxpayers would lament.
Until now, the public’s discontent with Solís has been somewhat generalized and not very well understood, akin to a “bad vibe.” However, the controversies that would come next settled any lingering confusion regarding the administration’s ethics.
The public learned that Solís’s publicist, Iván Barrantes, was paid millions during the campaign, and continued to offer private services while holding office at the presidential palace. Furthermore, Melvin Jiménez, minister of the presidency, has been accused of using funds from the Lutheran Church to squash the political aspirations of Ottón Solís, the founder of and a fellow competitor in the Citizens Action Party (PAC). A PAC attorney, Jorge Sibaja, has also been arrested for submitting forged documents to the Costa Rican Social Security Treasury.
As a result of these revelations, the government’s mask of false transparency has fallen by the wayside. It seems fitting to conclude with a quote by President Solís: “There’s a difference between looking at her, and dancing with her.”
The president’s first 100 days in office have generated friction with various political factions. His comrades at the Broad Front have criticized him for backpedaling on social issues. His temporary allies in the Social Christian Unity Party have been uncomfortable with his poor performance and questionable ethics. Members of the National Liberation Party have similarly attacked his weak performance, while his ideological opponents in the Libertarian Movement have expressed their discomfort with his inconsistencies and divergence of ideas.
Even members of the ruling party, which do not represent a majority, are divided in Congress.
In his short time in office, the real Luis Guillermo Solís has revealed himself. Unfortunately, for the people of Costa Rica, the honeymoon is over, the optimism is gone, and the future of our small Central American nation looks bleak.