Small Victory, Big Plans

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Former World Bank economist Rodrigo Chaves won Costa Rica’s presidential runoff elections over the weekend, promising to shake up traditional party politics and revive the country’s economy, Bloomberg reported Monday.

Preliminary results showed that Chaves secured 53 percent of the vote against his rival, former President Jose Maria Figueres. Turnout was considered the lowest in decades as voters expressed dissatisfaction with the country’s lagging economy and widespread corruption.

Chaves has vowed to boost growth with more foreign investment and favored a close relationship with the International Monetary Fund. In his victory speech, he pledged to modernize Costa Rica, reduce unemployment and govern with “transparency and austerity.”

The former economist also said that he plans to use referendums to bypass the legislature and shake up the Central American country’s normally stable political structure.

Costa Rica has long enjoyed some of the best living standards in Latin America but the country’s tourism-based economy has been struggling in recent years because of the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC noted.

Chaves previously served as finance minister in the outgoing government of President Carlos Alvarado. He also worked for nearly three decades at the World Bank, where he became country director for Indonesia in 2013.

Still, the new leader faced a series of controversies during his campaign, including allegations of sexual harassment when he worked at the World Bank.

He denied the allegations.

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