Laura Chinchilla is Costa Rica’s First Female President
By Dialogo February 08, 2010Laura Chinchilla, a political scientist with a specialization in security, will become Costa Rica’s first female president, having won Sunday’s presidential election by a wide margin. Fifty years old, this petite and elegant woman was encouraged to run for the presidency by President Oscar Arias, of the National Liberation Party (PLN). Chinchilla so becomes the third Central American woman to win her country’s highest executive office, following Nicaraguan Violetta Chamorro and Panamanian Mireya Moscoso, but unlike her predecessors - the widows of prominent politicians - she will come to power on her own merits. She is the daughter of former Comptroller-General Rafael Chinchilla, who held that office for fifteen years, thanks to his high level of professionalism and, it is said, thanks also to his skill in shifting with the political winds, a skill from which the new president-elect has learned much. Chinchilla began to build her career from a very young age, studying political science at the University of Costa Rica and later at Georgetown University in the United States, where she earned a master’s degree in public policy. Between 1994 and 1996, in the administration of then-President José María Figueres, she was Vice-Minister of Public Security, then Minister between 1996 and 1998. Later on, between 2002 and 2006 she was a deputy in the National Assembly, and in Arias’s current administration she served as First Vice-President and Justice Minister, until she resigned in October 2008 to begin her campaign for her party’s nomination. Following a divorce in 1985, Laura Chinchilla was in a cohabiting relationship for five years with the man who is now her husband, a Spanish criminal-law expert, José María Rico, who is twenty-five years older than she is, and with whom she affirms she is still in love. Her only child, José María, thirteen years old, is from this marriage. From the beginning of her campaign, Chinchilla has declared her intention to continue the social and public-works programs of the current president, whose legacy was endorsed Sunday with the victory of his political protégé.