Carnegie Mellon University

Laura Chinchilla- "Latin America: Hope in Times of Populism?"

Wednesday, November 1, 2017, 5:00-6:00pm, Rashid Auditorium (GHC 4401)

Laura Chinchilla was the first woman to ascend to presidency in Costa Rica, and the fifth ever woman president in America’s history. In her four years in office, between 2010 and 2014, her major achievements were centered and focused on reducing crime, improving public safety, controlling inflation (under 5%) and establishing public healthcare.

As a member of the National Liberation Party (PNL), she had positions in government under Jose Maria Figueres where she was first appointed Viceministra de Seguridad Pública (1994-1996), advancing that platform between 1996 and 1998.

Laura Chinchilla obtained her degree in Political Science from the University of Costa Rica in 1982. Her dedication to service is a family tradition, as her father, Rafael Angel Chinchilla Falla, was former Contralor general de la República.

Since 1990 she has worked as a public administration consultant to various international organizations, with whom she collaborated on numerous projects and implemented studies in Latin America and Africa. Among those entities included the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Program (PNUD), Inter-American Development Bank (BID) and the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress.

She was also President of the Centro de Inteligencia Conjunto Antidrogas, The National Council of Migration, former part of the National Drug Council, National Secuirty, and Académico de la Escuela Nacional de Policía.

During Oscar Arias’ second term (2006-2010) she had been both Vice President and Secretary of Justice. She would resign from these positions in preparation of her presidential candidacy, as prompted by the PNL’s internal elections in June of 2009.

Chinchilla won Costa Rica's first round of elections in February of 2010, with close to 47% of votes in her favor. During her four years in office she managed to significantly reduce crime rates, improve the perceived public safety, as well as to create a national network of child care centers.

In economic matters, she successfully managed to keep inflation below 5% and to stabilize the Social Security Fund, the entity in charge of the public health system.

Chinchilla has received several awards in the academic field, most notably are her three honorary doctorates from the University for Peace (2010), Georgetown University (2011) and Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (2012).

She has also received awards for her commitment to the protection of marine biodiversity, supporting sports and Costa Rica’s athletes.

After leaving office in 2014, Chinchilla became president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Havana. 

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Sponsored by the Center for International Relations and Politics, the Department of Modern Languages, the Office of Government Relations, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Education.