QCOSTARICA – The style of strong leadership of President Rodrigo Chaves has a facet that has been evidenced in various situations: a tendency to evade responsibility for his management in the event of events or problems that make him uncomfortable and distribute blame among others.
More than a trait of his personality, this can be framed within a discourse that seeks to minimize weaknesses or setbacks, and maintain the image of a strong man who keeps his promises, but when he does not achieve his goal it is due to the obstruction of third parties.
Read more: Judges ask Rodrigo Chaves to present evidence after accusing them of negotiating sentences
Both Carlos Carranza, director of the Situation Analysis program at the Universidad Nacional (UNA), and Rotsay Rosales, coordinator of the National Policy Observatory (OPNA) at the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), agree that these situations are consistent with the image that Chaves showed from the campaign and which he has reinforced since he assumed the Presidency.
However, it is a situation that has consequences for the country, since it reduces the possibilities of the Government to face national problems from their structural causes, said Carranza.
“The discourse cannot stop at establishing facts and culprits; it is necessary to look for the real causes of each situation, or of each question, which requires a political, social and in many cases, economic or financial analysis, to look for alternatives”, he said.
Carranza also stated that the president must consider that the Executive Power cannot be focused as a partial, exclusive, but as a whole, that it must relate to other powers, that it faces situations that come from previous administrations and must make decisions that must be finalized in future administrations.
“The complexity of the state is very broad, but if we remain immediate or hold others accountable, there will be no progress in comprehensive solutions, in negotiating with other sectors,” he said.
Rosales, for his part, recalled that the president’s style has been marked by excessive personalism, so it is natural that he wants to maintain that prominence before the citizenry, and that this makes him avoid situations that evoke errors or lack of skill.
“Chaves said it since he took office, they line up with him and what it means or they leave. That is why the “mortality”, to call it that, of his cabinet is the highest that I remember, little more than two desertions per month,” he said.
Read more: Rodrigo Chaves’ managerial style: If you don’t meet goals, you better leave
Rosales added that to this element of Chaves’s personality, elements of the country’s political culture and the institutional model, which is essentially presidential, must be added, with which the Zapote tenant is empowered from the outset.
“In Latin America there is a long tradition of authoritarianism, which in Costa Rica has been dressed up with traits of egalitarianism, but let’s not forget that we have had autocratic presidents, like Ricardo Jiménez, Pepe Figueres…”, Rosales said.
However, this environment is not sustainable for Carranza, who opined that it could be sustainable for the first year, while it will wear out later. He stressed that in order to face the country’s real knots, not only analysis is required, but also the capacity for dialogue and harmonizing efforts.
“If you want a government with management capacity, you have to overcome this current level, not stay in the confrontation. That would allow us to have more spaces to advance,” he said.
Rosales declared himself more skeptical on this point, indicating that given the high turnover in the Government, the performance of the following elements would have to be evaluated. And he recalled that despite the issues that some claim to the administration, after ten months he maintains significant levels of support in opinion polls.
Read more: In less than a year, President Rodrigo Chaves has seen the departure of five ministers, five executive presidents and eleven vice ministers.
“We will have to see the evolution of different issues, the way in which the different sectors react and the impact on citizens,” he considered.
The Chaves escape route
During his administration, President Rodrigo Chaves has been involved in numerous cases in which he blamed others for complicated situations.
Some of the examples are:
Security: Given the increase in homicides, Chaves declared at the end of 2022 that his government should be measured by what happened as of January 2023. Later, he transferred the responsibility to the Judiciary, alleging that “there is too much pandering” and that “They should do their part.” His minister of Security, Jorge Torres, followed his example, first alleging that he received a police force without resources and without articulation, then he complained that Costa Rican society is domesticated and does not confront drug trafficking. Chaves also admitted that the government does not have a national security policy, but argued that “this has not existed in more than ten years.”
Education: When Chaves was consulted for the duration of nine months to present the “education route”, he claimed that there were no statistics in the MEP. In line with this style, the Minister of Education, Anna Katharinna Muller, declared that a child with good self-esteem is not affected by bullying when asked about MEP actions to combat bullying.
OECD gray list: When on February 14, 2023, the EU Council for Economic and Financial Affairs included Costa Rica on the list of non-cooperative countries in tax matters (called the gray list), Chaves accused the previous government of negligence and irresponsibility, for assuming commitments that could not be fulfilled and not submitting a project to avoid the sanction. However, Chaves was alerted to the issue in January 2020 when he was a minister and already in power, he just informed the deputies of the current Assembly of the case on February 9, 2023, five days before the sanction. And despite the fact that both Chaves and the Minister of Finance claimed that no project was presented, a text had been sent in December 2021, number 22,848.
CCSS financial situation: Chaves declared on February 15, 2023, that the CCSS was bankrupt, justifying CCSS President Marta Esquivel announcing the suspension of works from the investment portfolio that were not underway. He eludeded that the largest debtor of the CCSS is the State, which owes the CCSS ¢2.6 billion, plus an additional ¢1 billion that is disputed in a court case. To this must be added that the Treasury refuses to transfer resources for ¢26 billion, which deputies approved to the CCSS in the last budget.
ARESEP rates: President Chaves complained to the regulatory authority after the promises he made regarding the vehicular technical review (rtv) did not come true: that the rate would be lower than that of Riteve and then that the second inspection would be free. Aresep claimed that there were aspects of legality and guaranteeing financial balance. He also claimed that the petition not to increase electricity in the second quarter of 2023 should not be accepted, despite the fact that a model that allowed the rate reduction in 2022 that he presented as an achievement of his management was being applied.
Contest for 5G: President Chaves set out to promote the recovery of spectrum frequencies and carried it out, but later entered into a conflict with SUTEL (telecom supervisor) over the call for the contest.
Inflation: Regarding inflation, he declared on August 10, 2022, that it is an imported problem, about which not much could be done. But although it is a global phenomenon, there are nuances: while the world average inflation grew by 87% last year, in Costa Rica the increase was 136%.
Public employment law: He described the law as “freakish” and transferred responsibility to the previous government, but applied it without promoting corrections. Once the law was in force, he announced a dialogue table to seek reform. Several organizations withdrew from the process, arguing that the government only wanted to legitimize changes to reduce exclusions from the law.
The article is translated and adapted from SemanarioUniversidad.com. Read the original (in Spanish) here.