New Costa Rica president takes office

San José (AFP) –


Costa Rica swears in its new president on Tuesday, at the head of a multi-party government facing challenges from climbing crime, looming migration, and an growing deficit.

Carlos Alvarado, a journalist and onetime labor minister in the outgoing center-left administration, is taking over from President Luis Guillermo Solis. Under the constitution, Costa Rican heads of state can only serve one four-year term.

At 38, he will be the youngest head of state in Latin America.

The presidents of Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia are attending the swearing-in ceremony.

Other countries in the region sent lower-ranking officials. The United States' delegation is led by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Alvarado is to be driven through the capital in a hydrogen-fueled bus, in a nod to Costa Rica's commitment to clean, renewable energy.

The new president, fronting for the Citizens ' Action Party (PAC), saw off a challenge from an evangelical candidate, Fabricio Alvarado (no relation) in an April 1 election run-off.

His cabinet, drawn from several parties and boasting 14 women and 11 men, will be a "national unity government" aiming to secure broad support in the 57-seat Legislative Assembly, the country's single-chamber parliament. The PAC has just 10 seats in the assembly, where the opposition and evangelical deputies hold sway.

Carlos Alvarado has promised to tackle the fiscal gap which has grown to 6.2 percent of gross domestic product, improve the country's infrastructure, reduce poverty and boost employment.

Crime is another priority. In 2017, Costa Rica had 603 murders, the highest rate in its history, working out at 12 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Although far lower than gang-plagued Central American nations such as El Salvador or Guatemala, the rising insecurity is increasingly a public concern.