Solís promises transparent and frugal administration

Luis Guillermo Solís accepted the presidential sash today and promised a transparent government that would end impunity and fight corruption.
The president made no major proposals, but restated many of the themes that marked his campaign. He promised a frugal government that would defend the rights of the minorities, promote foreign investment and tourism while maintaining an open door.

He said his government would support the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which he referred to as the country’s emblematic institution and the cornerstone and the torch that should continue illuminating with growing efficiency and devotion the road of Costa Rica toward development.

Solís noted that there are enormous challenges ahead, but he said the country can confront them with success because the people have a great reserve and courage.

The new president spoke at noon  in an Estadio Nacional filled with an enthusiastic crowd of about 15,000 persons. The weather was threatening.

There was a theme of humility. For example, Solís said that he would not consider that he has received a blank check but that he was a custodian for the people and if he did not fulfill the job he received the legitimate owners, the people, could reclaim the power.

The inauguration had some creative touches. The pabellón nacional,the official flag of the nation, was carried in from the depths of the stadium and carried away at the end of the ceremony by school girls, Melissa Cai Shi of  Colegio Metodista and Mariana Blando Reyes of  Liceo Franco Costarricense. They were accompanied by six students, one of whom suffers from down’s syndrome. Others represented various ethnic groups typical of the country.

The speech by Solís was nearly 3,700 words, and took the expected 25 minutes to deliver. He linked his new administration to the history of the country and said it was one more wave in the ocean of history. But he said that the time now is extraordinary because many Costa Ricans are disappointed with the governments and with the traditional politics and that they have presented a resonating demand for change to sweep away the old forms of administering the power.

This demand is to construct a society of growing opportunities for the greatest number, he said. Many of his comments were met with applause or cheers from the audience.

Solis said it as a contradiction that the growing national economic model concentrates the riches in few hands and creates conditions of inequality and poverty far from the vision of well being that for decades has directed the public policies. At the same time he chided unnamed individuals and the unions for failing to negotiate in good faith.

The emphasis by Solis on social welfare is not unexpected. He had been president of the Partido Liberación Nacional, and his political party, Acción Ciudadana, shares many of the same values. He broke with his former party over corruption.

He promised in his speech that the presidential office would operate as a palace of crystal that would allow the citizenry to examine and scrutinize the daily work of administering the state.

He said corruption is bankrupting the public finances and the time has come to end the  impunity, irresponsibility and the arbitrariness of public employees. But this is not only the job of the government, he said as he called on the civil society and the media to aid in the oversight of how public officials do their jobs.

He promised that the new administration would not go soft on tax evasion in all its manifestations, noting that he is inheriting a fiscal deficit of 6 percent of the gross domestic product.

He said the country has the capacity to reach in a maximum of two years the agreements necessary to resolve perhaps the greatest  challenge: to eradicate extreme poverty.

His administration, he said, will begin immediately to increase the national production, combat social inequalities and rescue the agriculture sector. Social inequalities affect more the women and the young, he noted.

He promised to reduce electrical rates, push for a national development bank and promote other programs orientated to increasing the productivity and improve the competitivity of the business sector, help the tourism industry and local development with a policy of attracting investments. The development bank is the subject of a bill in the legislature, but it has been controversial.

Solis said that the generation of riches is for the general welfare and, if this is not shared adequately, riches cause grave social problems.

He also said he wanted to increase the investment in education from the current 7.23 percent of gross domestic product to 8 percent. To economize on education is very expensive, he said.

Today the Costa Ricans demand that the administration exercise a government of transparency, report on its actions, encourage citizen participation, promote the welfare of animals, defend liberty of conscience, defend the environment and respect the rights of minorities, he said.

Solís received the presidential sash from Laura Chinchilla, who remained in the audience with her husband to hear the veiled critical comments about her four years in office.. The wife of Solís and their 8-year-old daughter also were on the platform, as were heads of state from Latin America and the Spanish prince of Asturias.

When the ceremony ended, Solís and his family walked around the stadium waving to the crowd.
Later he and the heads of state and other special guests rode to the Antigua Aduana where a formal luncheon was prepared.

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