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Taking  a  walk 
with  Carlos  Cantillo…

 

A conversation without corners with the “executant Mayor”


Mayor Cantillo could not be any happier.  He has done an outstanding job in the Municipality of Carrillo, recognized even by the usual detractors.

Meanwhile, the President just gave him a resounding pat on the back during her tour of Guanacaste with the entire government team.  Doña Laura Chinchilla has inaugurated several municipal projects in Carrillo and on each occasion the ministers, diputados and even the President Chinchilla herself showered praise upon the “executant mayor”.


Cantillo not appear to get distracted by this success nor does it go to his head, but he is clearly a happy workaholic and enthusiastic about every subject.

When asked about “the future of Carlos Cantillo” given his recent fame, he pretends not to notice and starts talking about new projects he has in mind for the municipality.

Come on, Mr. Mayor, you understand what I mean… your political future?  A third term in Carrillo or maybe Diputado… Minister?

He smiles and blushes….“For the time being, I am Mayor until 2016 and that’s what I am focusing on.  I highly doubt that I will seek a 3rdterm in the Municipality because my family wants me back. Not only because they hardly ever see me, but also because of the suffering they have to put up with as a result of the public attacks and exposure one receives as mayor.  Though any attacks are simply unfounded accusations, they leave a tarnished image behind and very bad experiences for my family.

Now my agenda is to move ahead at a fast pace so as not to leave projects half done, and to leave my predecessor, a modern and efficient municipality- an area where we have made big strides toward improvement and modernization.  Today we are in good shape to play in the big leagues.  We have a better organization and strategy and a very capable and committed technical team.

As soon as we get to finalize the regulatory plans for the county, we will be positioned for strong growth, in a more orderly and sustainable manner.

How do you feel upon seeing the completion of a project that is a flagship of your administration, the beach promenade “Amor de Temporada” in Playas del Coco?

Much satisfaction as this was a very long process with various stages and at times, very complicated.  But in reality, we are still only halfway there as several additions are still to come.  For example, the construction of a pedestrian pier has already been approved and financed.  Next comes building a bridge over each estuary and hopefully then extending the promenade towards both ends of the beach.  Also yet to come is the remodeling of the main street of Coco. (Resurfacing of streets, sidewalks, parking areas, rain water drainage and illumination).  I am pleased but there is more to be done.

There are some who criticize you for not consulting with the community in the planning of the beach promenade.  It’s said that you handled the whole process in an almost airtight way.

Yes, I admit that it was like that for this project. Generally we work in close alliance with the communities but this was a special situation.

This process started years ago with a very difficult subject, which was the recovery of the coastal area and the necessary demolition of buildings on the beach.

There was resistance to change and obtaining consensus would have been impossible.  As the mayor, there are times when one has to take the baton and simply execute. We did not want to risk that this plan might stall because it was critical as the starting point for the whole long-term plan. My goal as mayor is to convert Coco into a model beach community, with good urban infrastructure, public spaces, order and optimum security conditions, and thus to be ready soon to re-launch it as a world class destination and as such to consolidate its role as the axis of the development in the rest of Carrillo.  In addition, Coco has a strategic relevancy of even farther reach as a service platform that helps us to attract investments to the rural areas of the county, with a very positive social effect. Playa Hermosa and Playa Panamá on the other hand, have a quite different development profiles while also playing vital roles in our county’s planning for the future.  In both cases there also has been progress as well as many further projects to come.

Since the coastal area has extra resources from the Maritime Zone budget, we are intelligently investing those resources with the goal of creating viable conditions for economic activity in the coastal area and with this, to generate more municipal resources that can be invested in less favored areas of the county.  

In a somewhat turbulent international scene….How do you see the immediate future of Guanacaste and of Carrillo?

Positive on all counts. New airport, new roads and recreational infrastructures, the coming of big investments in the hotel and medical tourism industries such as the new RIU Palace, a Bulgari Hotel, a Marriott in Coco, a Hyatt in Peninsula Papagayo and the new Cima Hospital in Comunidad.  This list will only continue to grow and we have good reason to be positive and optimistic. Meanwhile the presidency during its tour has reaffirmed its commitment to Guanacaste and at the same time has assigned resources and given approval for several projects in our municipality.


Since you mentioned the “massive” presidential tour…I have a concern.  Was it planned by the present government to get updated with what goes on in Guanacaste or devised by the top of the PLN (name of the ruling political party) in reaction to their apparent loss of votes the party was experiencing in the province?

No doubt there were several angles to this tour. The government and the “diputados” that accompanied them wanted to come celebrate with Guanacaste our Annexation festivities and be part of the traditional Government Council in Nicoya.  I interpret the participation of the President, so many Ministers, diputados and high-level executives of different institutions as a strong signal of commitment from the Presidency towards the province.  Obviously it is also an occasion to show the country that there is a strong government team and a party that is united and bringing progress and change.

Independent of the reason for their tour, the outcome has been very positive for Guanacaste as it has given us the opportunity to obtain approval and resources for new projects.  Simultaneously it created an outlet and platform for us to discuss the many of the needs of the province. One of my responsibilities as mayor is to attract resources to the municipality, as much from the state as from private parties and I have learned that one cannot just wait for the government to volunteer resources.  One must seek the money and be persistent about it. Study the ministerial and institutional budgets and then focus on the viable projects and discard those that would be very difficult to finance.  Know how to pursue the funds correctly, be patient and perseverant.

With respect to private investment, it is our job to detect the opportunities and bring them to fruition. Thus we guarantee more jobs and economic activity in the municipality. As a municipality we must provide the appropriate conditions for the investments to prosper in.  This does not mean that we are going to relax the rules or look the other way when faced with irregularities.  It’s all about making an effort to be receptive to investors, to guide them and connect them with the institutions relevant to their project, and where possible, to facilitate and expedite those processes less relevant and more complicated.

Can you share with us some of the businesses that you are working on attracting now?

Presently we are in negotiations to bring a large Price Smart to Carrillo, an important real estate development and several hotels in addition to the already confirmed Marriot Courtyard and RIU Palace.

Speaking of the RIU, are you aware that this hotel has been highly criticized for bringing very scarce benefits to the neighboring communities?  Regarding attracting investments… Are there any requisites with respect to the model of investment and distribution?

In times of crisis, one cannot be very restrictive.  Maybe the RIU is not the optimum model for a hotel for the county, but its arrival has been significant in improving the economic situation in the area in times that are difficult on a global scale.

With no investments or sources of employment, the municipality falls into major social risks.  My mission as mayor is to reduce those risks.

But let me tell you about the benefits. RIU generate over 2,000 permanent jobs directly and indirectly and it will reach some 3,500 with their second hotel. In addition to those jobs, they are also training people, subcontracting diverse services and stimulating the province economy in many other ways.

In terms of money…how much does it represent?

Looking at the income they generate for the municipality, the new RIU will pay nearly ¢300 million (U$600.000) in construction taxes and permits in 2011 alone.  Additionally, the concession will be another ¢60 million (U$120.000) annually.  Add to this the real estate taxes, luxury tax, contribution to the social security... Do you see?  While it might not be the ideal model, it is still economically very positive for the region and the country.

We estimate that the RIU has already generated in excess of ¢13,000 millions (U$26 millions) for Costa Rica.


And in closing another controversial issue but one which is of vital importance. What’s going on with the El Coco-Sardinal Aqueduct?

The aqueduct has green light to be completed at any time.  Last December the Municipality issued the construction permits for the completion of the final segment.  Now the only thing needed is that the Trust of Investors raises the extra financing necessary as the delay escalated the costs and consumed the resources.

Within the already achieved are the construction of a new sanitary network in Sardinal and the activation of 2 new wells in El Coco, which has resulted in a noticeable improvement in the water supply and the availability of nearly 3000 new residential hook ups.

Currently AyA (Water company) is putting in order the meter system and straightening irregular situations in some old residential connections. 

The final connection of the new aqueduct now lies in the hands of the Trust and the AyA.  The Municipality has already finished its role in this, but this is a subject we continue to monitor closely as this project is of great importance for the county.

And what happens if the Trust cannot raise the additional resources soon?

If that were to be the situation I believe that the AyA will have to provide the solution since once completed, the aqueduct will be patrimony of that institution. What the investors are doing is supplying resources to help the state, but if that support is delayed, the state will have to take charge and finish the work.

We have relayed this message to the Presidency during their tour. We expect the news to come soon...


 



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