Himself accused, Costa Rica’s president vows to tackle sex harassment

Costa Rica’s new president Rodrigo Chaves, elected despite a cloud of sexual harassment allegations, took the oath of office Sunday with promises to revive the economy and end the abuse of women in his country.As feminist organizations protested nearby, the right-wing economist said the “first political commitment” of his four-year term would be to stamp out gender discrimination and harassment.

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“We will not tolerate the harassment they (women) suffer every day and in all areas of society,” he told congress after being sworn in to lead one of Latin America’s most stable democracies.

“It cannot be that our women are afraid to walk alone on the street, feel afraid in their own home, at work, in a park, at a concert.”

Chaves, 60, was investigated over sexual harassment complaints brought by women while he was a senior official at the World Bank, where he worked for 30 years.

He was demoted over the claims, and later resigned.

Last month, Chaves offered “sincere apologies” to two accusers, young subordinates, having previously said the alleged harassment amounted to mere “jokes” that were “misinterpreted due to cultural differences.”

Dozens of women protested Sunday near the seat of congress against gender violence and unequal pay in a country where abortion is allowed only if the woman’s life is in danger.

“We are telling the country and the president-elect that we are here. That we will be vigilant,” Sharo Rosales of the Women in Action movement told local media.

Chaves takes over an economy in decline, with rising foreign debt — about 70 percent of GDP — a poverty rate of 23 percent, unemployment of nearly 14 percent, and public sector corruption.

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