President Chinchilla angling for recognition in Solís’ choice to lead Security Ministry

April 16, 2014
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President Laura Chinchilla has struggled in recent years to communicate her administration’s accomplishments against a popular perception that her government has been ineffectual and riddled with corruption. The most recent national poll, conducted in January, gave the president a paltry 16 percent approval rating, the lowest in the Americas and some parts of Europe.

But when President-elect Luis Guillermo Solís of the Citizen Action Party named Chinchilla’s vice minister Celso Gamboa to his cabinet as the head of the Pubic Security and Interior Ministries, the sitting president used the nod to claim some credit.

“The naming of Celso Gamboa is an implicit recognition of a team that knew how to respond to the most pressing threat four years ago: Security,” Chinchilla tweeted Monday.

Speaking with The Tico Times after the nomination Monday, Gamboa trumpeted Chinchilla and his public security predecessor, Mario Zamora, for their contributions to the country’s security policy.

“I was part of a great team under Mario Zamora,” he said, “There are many processes that have been successful and they’ve been recognized publicly.”

Gamboa is the current vice minister of security and the head of the DIS, Costa Rica’s intelligence service.

During his announcement Monday, Solís split hairs when he said that there would be no holdovers from Chinchilla’s cabinet. Technically, Gamboa is only a vice minister and therefore not part of Chinchilla’s cabinet.

With weeks left in her term, Chinchilla’s most likely legacy is security. Under her administration, Security Minister Mario Zamora overhauled the National Police training program and reoriented the country’s security strategy to be more proactive. Since taking office, Chinchilla’s administration has captured more than 50 tons of cocaine to become the largest single seizer of the narcotic in Central America.

The number of homicides has also dropped in Costa Rica during her term as well from 527 in 2010 to 407 in 2012. The number of homicides, however, remained flat in 2013 for a homicide rate of 8.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to figures from the Judicial Investigation Police.

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