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Costa Rica presidential candidates vow to tackle unemployment

SAN JOSÉ (AFP) – Costa Ricans head to the polls yesterday to elect one of two scandal-tainted presidential candidates in a country grappling with sky-high poverty and unemployment. Former president Jose Maria Figueres was once investigated for corruption while ex-finance minister Rodrigo Chaves was previously demoted for sexual harassment.

But with 23 per cent of the population living in poverty and unemployment soaring to 14 per cent alongside a series of corruption scandals, Costa Ricans seem more focussed on the economy as they elect a successor to Carlos Alvarado.

Costa Rica has been described as the “happiest” country in Latin America and praised for its environmental policies and eco-tourism, but the vital tourism industry was hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Alongside Peru, it suffered the largest fall in employment figures in the region between 2019 and 2020.

“The next president has to change everything because we’re very poor. There is no work here, there is nothing,” said travel agent Ana Briceno in the capital San Jose.

Costa Rican presidential candidate Rodrigo Chaves is greeted by a supporter at a campaign rally. PHOTO: CNA