San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Presidential farewell

4 things Chinchilla did right

Leaving office ranked the least popular leader in the Americas, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla has spent the last days of her presidency clamoring for recognition of her administration’s successes. Though perhaps not as entertaining as the blunders that may come to define the Chinchilla years, here is a list of her administration’s actions that Doña Laura wants to promote.

1. Heightened security

As the cornerstone for Chinchilla’s presidential campaign, security improvements sat at the top of a voters’ list of expectations at the beginning of Chinchilla’s term. Now leaving office with drastically reduced crime and homicide rates and record highs in drug seizures, Chinchilla can say she finished what she started.

2. Better marine conservation

At the beginning of her term, President Chinchilla promised to shift Costa Rica’s conservation sites to the country’s largely ignored oceans. With bans on unsustainable fishing practices like shark finning, more marine conservation areas and a newly created Vice Ministry of Waters and Oceans, Chinchilla is leaving the country’s seas better than when she found them.

3. Retained social spending

As Chinchilla leaves office, social spending makes up 23 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. In 2011, the president supported a  mandate that requires public education spending to equal at least 8 percent of the GDP by the end of 2014. Education spending now exceeds 7.5 percent of the GDP, higher than it has ever been in Costa Rican history.  Health spending, also grew and now sits at 6.8 percent.

4. Stabilized the economy

Despite the economic crisis post-2008, the Costa Rican economy grew steadily under Chinchilla. Also during this period, unlike other country’s in the region, Costa Rica did not experience out-of-control rates of inflation. During her term, Chinchilla also created 30,000 jobs and drew more than $8.27 billion in direct foreign investment.


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Ken Morris

A reasonable opinion overall, but the heightened security came at a huge price I’ve yet to see calculated by anyone. Chinchilla basically gave Zamora a blank check to spend whatever he wanted (it was a great time to be security minister) and he proceeded to run up the country’s IOUs by a lot of wastful spending, including unnecesarily expensive SUVs for the cops. If you throw enough money at a problem, it’s bound to help, but bang for the buck, some of this might not have been a wise expenditure. Indeed, while Chinchilla threw money at the front end of policing, she presided over such prison overcrowding that most of the culprits end up going free soon anyway.

Most importantly, crime is a very fickle thing both to measure and combat. Crime rates tend to rise and fall according to the alignment of the planets, making it difficult to conclude that one or another policy had any effect. Then, enforcement is usually a lousy way to combat crime. Basically, resorting to beefed up enforcement is usually a sign that the battle against crime is already lost. More cops with more powerful guns riding around in more expensive vehicles is usually a sign that the battle against crime is being lost, even though this may dent the crime rate temporarily.

On this issue, Chinchilla does deserve credit for keepingt her campaign promise. She promised more cops and delivered them. It’s just not clear that this was the solution and it’s certainly not clear that the country could afford the cost.

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Fernando Edwards Carcamo

Did the president’s PR people email you this article just so you could put your name on it?
The one reference about shark finning is laughable at best, libelous at worst. Sharks have a good cause of action against you.

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The last few days show how this is an unwinnable war. 2 tons confiscated near Golfito. 2.5 tons confiscated in a container sent from Limon to Spain. The drug war just corrupts police and politicians who act with impunity, as is evident from President Chinchilla’s ride on a narco jet to Peru…

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