Ticos Applaud Gov’t Response to Quake

February 6, 2009

Recovering from a dip in popularity last year, President Oscar Arias received high marks this month for his response to a Jan. 8 earthquake that devastated parts of Alajuela and Heredia.

Some 92 percent of Costa Ricans believe the Arias administration has done a “good” or “very good” job in helping quake victims, according to a poll by CID-Gallup conducted from Jan. 16 to 22. About 80 percent of respondents said Arias’ response to the quake has been one of the president’s main accomplishments.

When asked who did most for quake victims, Ticos named the Red Cross, the official medical emergency responders here. Some 41 percent of Ticos said the Red Cross was most helpful offering relief, while 33 percent named the “general populat ion,” and just 16 percent named the National Emergency Commission, the state body charged with coordinating relief efforts. It’s unclear whether the president would receive such high marks today. At print time, construction still had not begun on the temporary housing for 1,300 quake victims still living in shelters. Health Minister María Luisa Avila said rains had delayed construction.

“We cannot risk building poorly,” she said at a press conference Wednesday. “That’s why the government and other institutions may appear to be moving slowly.”

The government is planning to build to build at least 250 temporary homes with help from the United Nations and the Chileanbased NGO Un Techo Para Mi País. The Housing Ministry will then build permanent homes in five communities: Chachagua de San Ramón, La Virgen de Sarapiquí, Pital, Aguas Zarcas and Puerto Viejo.

As quake victims complained to reporters this week about poor living conditions, delays in housing construction, and difficulties acquiring medical care, the newly minted communications minister, Mayí Antillón, accused the press of not being “objective.”

“If a handful of people do not feel supported by the government, we cannot jump to the conclusion that the government has failed at its tasks,” she said.

Despite these recent stumbles, Arias’ image received a clear boost in the days after the earthquake. In a striking shift that pollsters attributed to the quake, some 45 percent of Ticos said the country is going in the right direction, up from 26 percent in October.

Some 52 percent of Costa Ricans said Arias was doing a “good” or “very good” job, the highest approval rating of any president in the past three decades.

The poll also revealed that crime and the economy continue to be the main concerns for Ticos. At least one member of 27 percent of households has been robbed or assaulted in the last four months, up from 25 percent in October. And 10 percent said the economy was the country’s biggest problem, up from 7 percent in October.

Still, Costa Ricans are also more optimistic than they were three months ago about the country’s ability to take on these challenges.

Some 33 percent said they expected their economic situation to improve in the next 12 months, up from 18 percent in October. Some 35 percent said the government has done a good job fighting crime, up from 28 percent three months ago.

ggillers@ticotimes.net

 

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