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article imageNew Costa Rica president vows to end use of fossil fuels

By AFP     May 8, 2018 in World

Costa Rica's new president took the oath of office Tuesday, vowing to turn his country into a global example of how to abolish fossil fuels and convert to clean energy sources.

At 38, Carlos Alvarado, a journalist and former labor minister in the outgoing center-left administration, is the youngest head of state in Latin America.

"We have before us the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy, to open the way for the use of clean and renewable energy," Alvarado said as he took the oath of office.

To emphasize his point, Alvarado arrived at the ceremony aboard a hydrogen-fueled bus.

"Costa Rica must be among the first countries in the world, if not the first," to fully end the use of fossil fuels, Alvarado said.

Alvarado, who is taking over from president Luis Guillermo Solis, will head a multi-party government facing challenges from rising crime, looming migration, and an growing deficit.

The presidents of Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia attended the swearing-in ceremony. The US delegation was led by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

The new president, who ran 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, composed of 14 women and 11 men from several parties, will form a "national unity government" aimed at securing broad support in the 57-seat single-chamber Legislative Assembly.

The PAC has just 10 seats in the assembly, where opposition and evangelical deputies hold sway.

Alvarado has also promised to tackle the fiscal deficit 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 calmer than gang-plagued Central American nations such as El Salvador or Guatemala, the rising insecurity is increasingly a public concern.

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