We continue celebrating Women’s History Month this March with another profile of a notable Latin American woman – Laura Chinchilla Miranda. Chinchilla was elected the first female president of Costa Rica in 2010, and is the sixth female president in Latin America. Before serving as president, she served as one of former president Oscar Arias Sanchez’s vice presidents from 2006-2008.
Laura Chinchilla attended university in both Costa Rica and the United States — earning degrees from the University of Costa Rica and Georgetown University. Chinchilla spent many years working with NGOs and international organizations before entering politics, consulting on judicial and public sector reform for organizations like US Agency for International Development and the Inter-American Development Bank. She also spent time working in multiple departments in the Costa Rican government (Public Security, Public Safety, National Drug and Immigration Councils) before ascending to the vice presidency.
As a presidential candidate, Chinchilla offered some interesting qualities for Costa Rica, which found itself in somewhat of an internal flux at the eve of her election. Chinchilla hails from the center-right, and supports conservative policies on many social issues, including abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. She’s also staunchly pro-business, though on the other hand, declared continuity with previous policies on maintaining an eco-friendly environment, and making the county carbon neutral by 2021.
More recently, Chinchilla has put herself on the side of the US in recent conversations regarding drug decriminalization and legalization, specifically responding to potential security threats facing Costa Rica with the recent legalization of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado. Just this month, Chinchilla also introduced bills in the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly, seeking “substantial reforms to public institutions, the Legislative Assembly, and the Constitution itself”.
Regardless of specific political beliefs and opinions, as the third female president of a Central American state, Laura Chinchilla represents a new bar for success to which young women throughout the continent can aspire. Women and girls in Latin America still face many challenges and glass ceilings — as do woman across the world — and having role models in each facet of life, including politics, is an important step forward towards showing girls that they can “rule the world”.