Costa Ricans have elected their first woman president as the ruling party candidate won in a landslide after campaigning to continue free market policies in Central America’s most stable nation. The 50-year-old protege of the current president, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias, promised to pursue the same economic policies that recently brought the country into a trade pact with the U.S. and opened commerce with China. “Today we are making history,” said Chinchilla, who will be the fifth woman in Latin America to serve as president when she takes office in May. “The Costa Rican people have given me their confidence, and I will not betray it.” It is unclear whether Chinchilla’s National Liberation Party will gain a majority in congress. Analysts say that coalition building without a majority would likely delay or derail controversial fiscal reforms to shore up government finances and energy deregulation.
Luis Lieberman, grandson of Jewish immigrants who came from Poland to Costa Rica after world War II, becomes vice president of the small island nation located on the southerly ‘tail’ of Central America, between Honduras and Panama. With approximately 3000 Jews living in Costa Rica today, Lieberman stated to YNET that being Jewish would in no way affect his candidacy, that Jews are very active in Costa Rican politics, and have held other governmental offices.
Former president Arias’ economic policies helped insulate Costa Rica from the world economic crisis. Critics of the Arias government, in which Chinchilla served as vice president, contended its policies catered to big developers to boost the economy at the cost of the nation’s fragile ecosystems. But most Costa Ricans were reluctant to shake up the status quo in a country with relatively high salaries, the longest life expectancy in Latin America, a thriving ecotourism industry and near-universal literacy.
Chinchilla is a social conservative who opposes abortion and unnatural marriage. She appealed both to Costa Ricans seeking a fresh face and those reluctant to risk the unknown. As a female president, she follows Nicaragua, Panama, Chile and Argentina whose voters have all elected women as presidents.