Americas - Issue 76 - Magazine | Monocle

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Me and my motorcade no.48

Simple but effective

Luis Guillermo Solís [PRESIDENT, COSTA RICA]

It is easy to assume that a nation’s highest office comes with a few perks; a nice street fleet for road trips and a decent set of wings with which a head of state could take to the sky, for example. But that’s not the case with Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solís. Lauded for his low profile and willingness to be among the people, the newly elected leader has a chauffeur but often drives around in his own vehicle, having turned down the 2014 white Range Rover that the previous government purchased.

The president’s predisposition for his own modes of transport was no doubt helped by his predecessor’s affection for planes that didn’t belong to her – or her country. On two occasions, former president Laura Chinchilla was caught using a jet with alleged ties to narcotics circles in Colombia. The fallout led to resignations within her cabinet; she denies ever knowing the jet’s provenance and claims those who should have vetted the plane’s origins failed to protect her. “It was definitely a big black eye for her,” says Zach Dyer, a reporter with Costa Rica’s Tico Times.

Chinchilla’s legacy is one that Solís has tried hard to avoid. When he took office earlier this year he got rid of the presidential Range Rover and traded down to two Toyota Prados, which are only used for official business. His drive to and from work is in his very own 1998 Nissan Pathfinder. Solís’s trips abroad are on commercial airlines and in economy class – often with Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines.

Costa Rica’s mostly mountainous terrain is sandwiched between coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This makes for a country that has always been concerned with the right equipment for getting around. So much so that one national symbol is an ox cart, traditionally used to haul sugar cane, tobacco and coffee – though Solís has stopped short of arriving at any meetings in one.

On the bleat


First there was urban beekeeping, now there are city-dwelling goatherds: Seattle and St Paul have become the latest US cities to allow people to keep the cloven-hoofed creatures. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, City Grazing – a landscaping business with a herd of about 100 goats – hires out the animals (pictured) to munch away unwanted weeds and bushes on the city’s hillsides. Detroit may be next to sign up. Some residents in Motor City – among them investor and farmer Mark Spitznagel – believe that goats would help them deal with overgrown plots of land found in the large swathes of the city that have been abandoned.

Clipped wings

Caracas [AVIATION]

Major carriers are rethinking their Caracas routes after problems getting their money out of Venezuela; the International Air Transport Association says that more than $4bn (€3bn) in earnings is currently trapped there. Long accused of bizarre currency manipulations, a cash-strapped government has been slow to stump up. The weakening bolivar is making the situation worse and some airlines have already scaled back services as a result of the delays. There is hope, however: slowly but surely, some Latin American carriers have begun to receive payouts.

Think of the children USA

Plans by New York mayor Bill de Blasio to introduce universal pre-nursery care are slowly taking shape. Some 53,000 places will be introduced this autumn and a further 20,000 next year.

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