QCOSTARICA (Crhoy) Since Rodrigo Chaves Robles took office in May 2022, his once-popular support has steadily decreased, much to the president’s dismay.
Between August of last year and this month, September, the support of Costa Ricans for Chaves of his management had a precipitous drop of 22 percentage points. Positive evaluations of Chaves’ management fell from 79% to 57%.
Furthermore, negative assessments rose 13 percentage points, going from 10% to 23% in that period.
This was revealed by the most recent survey by the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Políticos (CIEP), de la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) – Center for Research and Political Studies of the University of Costa Rica, published last Wednesday.
Not only is Chaves’ popularity declining, but that of his Administration and Cabinet as well.
This same CIEP study showed that the Government’s positive assessments went from 71% in August 2022 to 53% this September. Likewise, unfavorable opinions rose from 9% to 24% in the same period.
According to the CIEP investigation, among those who have negative evaluations of the president, they point out “his personality.” 31% of the sample mentioned negative characteristics about Chaves such as being “liar”, “corrupt”, “authoritarian”, lacking credibility” and “not inspiring trust”. Added to these opinions are “the failure to keep promises” and the feeling of having been “disappointed.”
The CIEP survey does not mention specific facts as to why Costa Ricans have these negative evaluations of Chaves, however, various facts have marked the actions of the Government and the President in recent months. These facts, more than praise, have earned him criticism from various sectors.
Cost of living and unemployment
In this year and 4 months of government, President Chaves and his Administration have been left in debt with the promise that a substantial decrease in the price of rice and medicines would be achieved to alleviate the pockets of families. They are also beholden to a drop in unemployment.
One year after the Government implemented the so-called “Ruta del Arroz” (Rice Route), the decrease in grain prices is minimal, in some cases imperceptible, and national producers assure that they are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Until now, the presidential promise to make the product, highly consumed among Costa Ricans, cheaper, remains unfulfilled. Although the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC) states that grain prices have experienced a drop ranging between -29% and -36%, according to its own measurements, data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), show a significantly different reality.
The data from INEC, which is the specialized technical entity to determine the prices of goods and services that make up the Consumer Price Index (CPI), offer another panorama. The last CPI measurement made by INEC shows that the year-on-year decrease in the price of rice as of the previous June was -2.83%.
Despite the promise made by the Government, drug prices continue to refuse to drop. In June and August of last year, the Government signed two decrees with the commitment to move towards reducing the costs of medicines. One was to approve or recognize the health records of the drugs granted by the regulatory authorities and another was to make modifications to the parallel imports of the drugs.
However, to date, the prices of most medicines have not only not been reduced, but they continue to increase. As of June 2023, the prices of medicines and other pharmaceutical preparations recorded a year-on-year growth of 3.45%, according to the CPI by the INEC.
Of 16 categories of these products, the costs of 14 of them showed increases and only two showed decreases.
Regarding unemployment, it must be said that although the Government insists on mentioning the decrease in the number of unemployed people in the country, this has happened due to lower participation in the labor market as a result of a reduction in the employment rate.
The drop in employment and the lower participation of people in the labor market explain the decrease in the national unemployment rate, which stood at 9.6%, according to the latest Continuous Employment Survey that corresponds to April, May and June 2023 carried out by INEC.
Different sectors and professional associations assure that the Government lacks a specific strategy to generate more jobs in the labor market. Furthermore, it is questioned from different sides that the approaches that have been made so far are general in nature and do not address the particular needs of specific groups of the population, such as women, whose conditions continue to worsen in the labor market.
Under the scrutiny of the Prosecutor’s Office for alleged 24 cases of corruption
President Rodrigo Chaves Robles is the subject of an extensive investigation in the Attorney General’s Office for 25 alleged cases of corruption. According to a report by the Ministerio Publico (Prosecutor’s Office), 30 criminal cases are being processed against Chaves, despite the fact that he is not even halfway through his term. Of these, 5 have a request for dismissal or were dismissed. Another 25 remain open and under investigation.
The criminal cases against Chaves are for alleged crimes related to alleged acts of corruption in his role in the government.
The crimes include influence peddling and breach of duty.
The extensive list also includes alleged crimes of illegal appointments and malfeasance.
Chaves also has other causes of alleged embezzlement and for the apparent crimes of coercion, influence against the public treasury, and receipt and delivery of alleged illegal donations to political parties.
Insults and authoritarianism throughout a year
In this year and 4 months of the current government, confrontation, insults, and authoritarian overtones have marked Chaves’ management.
Since the beginning of his administration, the press has become the focus of insults and attacks by the president. Chaves has called journalists “scoundrels, “rats” and hitmen” for their work in questioning and corroborating the actions of the Executive Branch.
Not in vain, last May, the Sala IV (Constitutional Court) condemned the president for his lack of respect for communicators by calling them “political hitmen.” Prior to this sentence, the Constitutional Court also condemned the Executive Branch for the president’s violations of the free exercise of journalism in the country, the notorious case of the closure of Parque Viva, through health orders signed by the then Minister of Health, Joselyn Chacón. This closure was annulled by the Constitutional Court, last October, as a “defense of press freedom, an essential pillar of all democracy,” considering that the closure represented an attack on this right.
This type of attacks by Chaves and his government on journalists caused the country to plummet in the most recent Press Freedom Index by the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders. The country fell 15 places in the ranking, going from position 8 to 23 (out of 180 countries).
Attacks on other powers
The country’s legislators have also had to endure the poor treatment and disrespect of President Chaves.
The president has called opposition deputies “filibusters” and also “irresponsible” for questioning the actions of his government.
Furthermore, in July of last year in the middle of the discussion over the approval of the Eurobonds, he called them out and told them to “stop playing tricks.”
These episodes have strained relations between the Executive Branch and Congress and have led to difficulties in reaching agreements.