San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Female lawmaker tapped to replace housing minister

Clara Zomer, a lawmaker and engineer, has been named to replace Fernando Zumbado as Housing Minister.

Zumbado, under investigation for possibly mismanaging a 2006 $1.5 million donation from the Taiwanese government, has announced he will resign this week on Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Zomer, 68, has broken new ground for female professionals. She was the first woman to head the National Institute for Housing and Urban Development (INVU) from 1982 to 1984.

She was also the first female dean of the University of Costa Rica´s engineering school from 1991 to 1994, and the first female president of the National Training Institute (INA) from 1994 to 1998.

Now a lawmaker for the National Liberation Party (PLN), she has championed the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), approved by popular referendum last October.

In a structural overhaul for the Arias administration, Health Minister María Luisa Avila will now coordinate government social programs, a position previously held by Zumbado in his role as Housing Minister.

Avancemos, a cash-transfer program that awards families modest donations for keeping their children in school, may be removed from the auspices of the Housing Ministry.

“We now have to decide where to put Avancemos, which, for me, is the jewel of this administration,” President Oscar Arias said in a statement.

Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, the president´s brother, said more changes in the social sector would be announced this week.

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