San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's most popular minister steps down

Health Minister María Luisa Ávila resigned Thursday, the fifth minister to step down during the first 15 months of Laura Chinchilla’s presidency.

After much speculation beginning Wednesday, Chinchilla announced Ávila’s resignation Thursday afternoon at the Casa Presidencia. Ávila, who served as the Health Minister during the administration of Oscar Arias (2006-2010), was one of Costa Rica’s most popular public figures. In a Unimer poll conducted in March,79 percent of respondents gave Ávila a positive rating (Apr. 8, 2011).

Chinchilla’s announcement was met with a barrage of questions from reporters speculating that Ávila’s resignation indicated a rift between the president and members of her cabinet.

“There is not a crisis in this administration,” Chinchilla said. “This government, like many of the governments of the past, is experiencing changes in personnel. These changes are not considered problems or causes for worry. All of the positions vacated have provided new opportunities for qualified personnel in new roles. I consider these changes to be new opportunities, not problems.”   

The shuffling of the Health Ministry was paired with another unexpected move within Chinchilla’s cabinet on Thursday, as Foreign Minister René Castro left his post to assume the role of the minister of the Environment, Energy and Technology (MINAET). The minister post at MINAET was vacated last week when Teófilo de la Torre stepped down to assume the role of executive director at the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), a position that Eduardo Doryan resigned from last Wednesday. Castro previously served as environment minister from 1994 to 1998.

For more on the resignation of the members of Chinchilla’s cabinet, see the Aug. 5 edition of The Tico Times 

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