The Political Herd – Republican Columnist

Volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches are some of Costa Rica’s most recognized characteristics.

This small Latin American nation is world renowned for its natural beauty. Many Americans crave their coffee exports as well. However, its political landscape remains foreign to a number of individuals.

In Costa Rica’s recent presidential election, the first female president was elected with her obtaining nearly 49 percent of the vote (her nearest contender received 22 percent), according to the Associated Press.

Only 40 percent of the vote is required for victory in a Costa Rican election.

Laura Chinchilla, who boasts a distinguished background, offers a progressive line of action through the National Liberation Party.

Chinchilla by no means is a foreigner to the United States. She received her Masters Degree from Georgetown, and then proceeded to work with various non–governmental organizations (NGOs) on predominately social issues.

Upon returning to Costa Rica, Chinchilla held offices in several administrations, including the Minister of Justice and most recently co–Vice President. While certainly well equipped with experience, Chinchilla will have numerous pending issues.

Costa Rica’s presidential election has been the most positive news from Latin America in recent years. While Honduras combats an ousted former president, Venezuela remains under the reign of Hugo Chávez, and Bolivia struggles against illegal drug production, the presented issues in Costa Rica seem miniscule. Nevertheless, those issues still exist.

Drug trade has intensified within the past decade. Geographically, Costa Rica serves as an ideal transfer point for drugs from sea to land transport. The port city of Limón, located on the Caribbean cost, serves as the main distribution point.

Migration has also provided challenges. Neighboring Nicaragua contains a large number of laborers that work on Costa Rican farms throughout the year. This process encompasses the deprivation of human and workers rights.

Environmental concerns are also prevalent throughout the country. Costa Rica has been the only Latin American nation to enforce stringent environmental standards. Although the standards are in effect, comprehensive enforcement has been impossible. Many prize Costa Rica for its organic and sustainable farming practices, which have largely taken root throughout the eco movement.

Along with every other Latin American country, corruption remains a dominant issue. In Costa Rica, the majority of corruption occurs within the police forces (I can attest to this through personal experience).

Reforming and correcting each issue was the platform on which Chinchilla ran. Her party’s ideals represent progressive, reformative action. During the presidency of her predecessor, Óscar Arias, many of these reforms were initiated. Chinchilla plans on increasing the momentum.

The most pressing issue, however, is the looming economy. Chinchilla ought to focus on Costa Rica’s exports to help revitalize the economy, reported by Business Week.

Chinchilla’s election has been hailed as a continued progressive movement in Latin America. A higher number of women are becoming involved in politics, a new phenomena throughout the region.

Regardless of her breakthrough, Chinchilla will still face stark opposition. The recent elections also allowed the opposition parties to snatch seats in the legislature, according to the Economist.

The most forward-looking country throughout Latin America has a detailed history. Costa Rica has been fervently modernizing, some degree due to increased tourism, over the past two decades.

Due to these modernizations, Costa Rica may be classified as a first world country in the near future, while currently listed as a third world country.

Throughout her presidency, Chinchilla will face large challenges in an ever-changing world. Considering her political ties to the former president and her extensive resume, Chinchilla appears to be the best fit both politically and symbolically for Costa Rica.