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New Mayors Take Office, Explain Priorities

The 81 new mayors who took office

Monday are a varied bunch. The National

Liberation Party (PLN) certainly carried

the day in December’s elections, winning

59 seats, but municipal leaders also include

representatives of local parties; experienced

politicians, as well as newcomers; 10

women; and a range of ages from 24 to 68.

With the administration of President

Oscar Arias touting plans to provide mayors

with increased funding and introduce

legal reforms that would give them more

clout (TT, Jan. 26), these leaders may have

a more prominent role than their predecessors.

The Tico Times asked several mayors

from around the country to explain their

plans to address the biggest challenges facing

their cantons. In selecting this group

from the 81 new leaders, we attempted to

represent various political parties and both

genders, rich cantons and poor, areas of

booming tourism development and those

that historically have been neglected.

The Institute for Municipal Development

(IFAM) provided information on

budget and territorial extension, showing

the vast differences among the resources

available to each mayor.

Excerpts follow:


San José

Johnny Araya, 49

Agricultural engineer

National Liberation

Party (PLN)

Second term

Budget: ¢25.76 billion (approximately $49.5 million)

Territorial extension (square kilometers): 44.62

Goals: This is Araya’s second term as a popularly elected mayor, but he’s been a municipal leader for 20 years. He served on the city’s Municipal Council from 1982-1986 and was appointed the Municipal Executive, then the mayor, from 1991-2002, when the first-ever popular municipal elections were held. This political longevity has made Araya a prominent figure on a national level, and also a hard man to interview, as two weeks of our unsuccessful attempts proved. In his lofty inauguration speech on Monday, however, Araya outlined some of his plans, foremost among them the urban renewal proposal “San José Posible,” which seeks to make the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly and reorganize traffic. He also pledged his support for the Tropical Architecture Institute’s proposal to plant trees and plants to make San José a greener place. Security-wise, Araya plans to create a Citizen Safety Council to coordinate the municipality’s efforts with the Public Security Ministry, Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), Immigration and other organizations working to tackle the city’s crime problems. In the speech, he urged the Legislative Assembly and Executive Branch to push for reforms that would decentralize Costa Rica, Latin America’s most centralized nation, by giving mayors more funding and responsibility.


San José

Marco Antonio Segura, 67

Economist, accountant


Second term

Budget: ¢4.88 billion ($9.4 million)

Territorial extension: 34.49

Goals: Segura told The Tico Times that his canton, which boasts the highest human development index in the country, nonetheless suffers a yawning gap between rich and poor, a problem he plans to address by making Escazú the country’s “most educated canton.” Building a home for the EscazúTechnicalHigh School, now open for two years but temporarily holding classes in elementary schools (TT, July 7, 2006), is a priority, as is continuing career classes offered through the National Training Institute (INA). Segura also plans to improve citizen safety – an area in which he said the canton “isn’t as bad as the rest of the country, but we’re not OK” – by installing five video surveillance cameras in highcrime areas this year and making mobile technology accessible to the Municipal Police. In addition, Segura plans to continue improving the local government’s online services, “taking the municipality to the park” by allowing residents to search files or pay municipal bills using their computers or cell phones.

TIBÁS, San José

Jorge Antonio Salas, 53


Citizen Action Party (PAC)

First term

Budget: ¢1.73 billion ($3.3 million)

Territorial extension: 8.15

Goals: Salas says his top priority will be trash collection, and that’s not surprising. His canton has become infamous for what was arguably the biggest municipal disaster in recent memory: the Tibás garbage crisis. For months, hundreds of tons of trash piled up on the streets of the northern San José suburb, causing the proliferation of odors, rats, and mosquitoes, as well as protests that drew national attention. The problem was solved only after the government declared a state of emergency in Tibás and the National Emergency Commission (CNE) took over trash collection (TT, May 19, 2006). Salas, who was an advisor to the Municipal Council during the crisis and was elected as its president in February 2006, said the problem was that because of bad blood between the council and then-mayor Percy Rodríguez of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC). The council, which must authorize municipal spending, wouldn’t give Rodríguez the money for additional trash-collection equipment. Now, Salas says, the municipality has solved the problem by allotting funds to repair its trucks and rent two others. He said he expects to have better relations with his Municipal Council based on his past experience, and says he supports proposed reforms to give mayors a vote on the councils. Other priorities in Tibás will be instituting a recycling program through cooperation with a private foundation, road repair, and creating a zoning plan for the canton.


Fernando Trejos, 52

Union for Change (UPC)


First term

Budget: ¢2.12 billion ($4 million)

Territorial extension: 15.16

Goals: The 48-year Montes de Oca resident has watched his canton, home to the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and Universidad Latina, become home to nightmare traffic and rising crime, with the infamous Calle de la Amargura – the “Street of Bitterness” and thumping nightclubs – drawing near-constant media attention. Trejos wants to revive the canton’s Municipal Police force, abandoned five years ago, in part by increasing municipal taxes. The canton’s roads take a beating because traffic from San José to eastern Central Valley towns such as Tres Ríos and Cartago must pass through small roads in San Pedro that weren’t intended for buses and trucks, according to Trejos, who served as Labor Minister during the administration of President Abel Pacheco (2002-2006). He plans to use municipal funds and solicit external aid to improve the roads.

UPALA, Alajuela

Juan Acevedo, 53



Second term

Budget: ¢503 million ($967,000)

Territorial extension: 1,508.7

Goals:With one of the smallest municipal budgets in the country despite the canton’s ample size, Acevedo said his top priority during his second term will be finishing a project that began during his first: a canton-wide cadastre, or property mapping system, that will give the municipality a more accurate view of the property taxes its residents should be paying. The municipality has been working in conjunction with the National Cadastre Plan to update its data, hoping to reduce municipal tax evasion, which in Upala is approximately 61%, Acevedo said. Because Upala, one of the country’s poorest cantons, doesn’t have major tourism draws or multinational corporations to boost income, improving property assessment and tax collection is the only way to give the municipality more resources, he said.What would he do with increased funds? He’s working on improvements to the sewer network – a group of University of Costa Rica (UCR) students have been visiting Upala to help with preliminary studies – and creating a zoning plan for the canton. He said the Northern Zone Development Council, which the central government created last year to allow municipal leaders from Upala and neighboring cantons to meet with authorities from the Presidency Ministry and other central institutions, “will help a great deal because it provides more direct access to the government.”


Jenny Alfaro

Business administrator


First term

Budget: ¢443 million ($852,903)

Territorial extension: 6.96

Goals: Flores’ first priority is attending to a dilapidated aqueduct that has 20% of her canton’s population without water. She says it “hasn’t received any maintenance for years – they’ve been putting patches on it.” Second, she plans to find out what’s holding up Flores’ zoning plan, which was completed three years ago but since then has been awaiting approval by the National Institute for Housing and Urban Development (INVU). Once approved, the plan will allow the small canton to organize its development, restructure the municipality and make other changes. Improving the municipality’s treatment of its clients, creating a “preventive police force” to address rising crime, and coordinating with the central government to establish a daycare center so single moms with limited resources can hold down a job are among Alfaro’s other goals. For mayors’ universal priority – improving infrastructure – she plans to put power in the hands of neighborhood associations and district councils, granting them 25-50% of the infrastructure budget. “It’s the people from the barrio who know what the needs are,” Alfaro said. “Those councils were created on paper, but they haven’t had power.”

AGUIRRE, Puntarenas

Oscar Monge, 60


Aguirre Labor Organization

First term

Budget: ¢860 million ($1.7 million)

Territorial Extension: 543.77

Goals: Monge –whose latest literary creation is “El Último Sello” (“The Last Seal”), loosely based on corruption in his central Pacific canton – says he’s going to follow the letter of the Maritime Zone Law when it comes to the area’s coveted beachfront spots. (In the past, demolitions of structures built within the protected zone have caused controversy and protests in Aguirre, as in other coastal cantons.) As mayor,Monge will let the Comptroller General’s Office dictate the municipality’s enforcement of the law, he said. He also plans to take a naturefriendly approach to stimulating tourism: in his canton’s hot spots such as Manuel Antonio and Quepos, tourism is growing out of control, damaging the environment but also providing employment to many families. To create a better balance,Monge will push eco-tourism projects and lobby for the Legislative Assembly to approve plans for the Central Pacific Technological Institute, to train people in Quepos and the surrounding area for better tourismindustry jobs. Finally, Monge plans to improve municipal tax collection to boost the budget to ¢3 billion (approximately $5.8 million) by 2009.

GOLFITO, Puntarenas

Jimmy José Cubillo, 45

Business advisor


Second term (served as Municipal

Executive, 1996-1998)

Budget: ¢591 million ($1.1 million).

Territorial extension: 1,753.96

Goals: According to Cubillo, Golfito is a canton of terrible contrasts. Despite natural resources and a booming investment climate, it’s one of the country’s poorest cantons, with a 39% poverty rate. Its population is dropping, he says, though the opposite should be taking place, given the area’s potential. To address this problem, which Cubillo attributes to central government neglect and local failures, the mayor wants to offer simpler, speedier services to both local and foreign investors, and improve infrastructure. He hopes both steps will attract more businesses and create jobs. He also seeks to decentralize the government of the sprawling canton, where two sizeable towns –Puerto Jiménez and Pavones – lie approximately 170 km and 80 km from Golfito through circuitous land routes, making it next to impossible for their residents to access municipal services. By creating district councils in both towns and empowering them, rather than requiring that the mayor sign off on most decisions, Cubillo said living conditions will improve. Though many of his colleagues say mayors need more power, not less, Golfito’s new leader said, “I don’t think any authority is lost by decentralizing.”

LIMÓN, Limón

Eduardo Barboza, 43



First term

Budget: ¢1.97 billion ($3.8 million)

Territorial extension: 1,765.79

Goals: “Because Limón is the face of Costa Rica in the Caribbean, we need a privileged position,” Barboza told The Tico Times. He was referring to plans to build a megaport in his coastal canton, but he could have been speaking in general terms: over the years, Limón, plagued by unemployment and crime, has long been neglected by the central government. The ambitious Barboza plans to make Limón the most developed canton in the country, pinning his hopes on a new oil refinery that would provide 1,000 jobs; the mega-port, which President Oscar Arias threw his weight behind during a visit to Limón earlier this month; and increased cooperation between the municipality and private businesses. Coordination with the Arias administration “couldn’t be better” so far, said Barboza, who plans to install surveillance cameras on every street corner in central Limón within the first few months of his term in an effort to give citizens “the chance to walk calmly on the street again.”

LIBERIA, Guanacaste

Carlos Luis Marín, 43

Administrative assistant


First term

Budget: ¢1.67 billion ($3.2 million)

Territorial extension: 1,436.47

Goals: For Marín, it’s crucial that Liberia prepare its citizens to take advantage of the real estate and tourism boom that surrounds them – a theme other mayors of cantons with high levels of foreign investment, such as Aguirre and Escazú, echoed. The new mayor, who spoke to The Tico Times before a municipal conference at Casa Presidencial in San José last month, said he hopes to work closely with the central government to accomplish this goal. In particular, he plans to work with the Labor Ministry to create a Liberia employment directory that would allow businesses opening up shop in the canton to find local laborers and services to meet their needs. His other goals for his four-year term include improving infrastructure and opening a GuanacasteMuseum in Liberia’s old police headquarters.

SANTA CRUZ, Guanacaste

Jorge Enrique Chavarría, 55

Administrator, veterinarian


First term

Budget: ¢2.38 billion ($4.6 million)

Territorial extension: 1,312.27

Goals: As the new mayor of Santa Cruz, Chavarría will be in charge of managing booming tourism destinations such as Tamarindo, where one of his predecessors ran into some trouble – Pastor Gómez was suspended last year by a San José criminal court investigating an allegedly shady concessions deal. Chavarría, unsurprisingly, asserts that “we’re going to ensure the laws are complied with… everything will be normal.” He said his top priorities include improving infrastructure and building a garbage facility near the town of Santa Cruz to improve sanitary conditions in the canton. He also hopes to give the town a Santa Cruz Theater for folkloric presentations and other cultural attractions, and a modern health clinic. Last but not least, Chavarría said he plans to work with the Public Security Ministry to expand the Municipal Police force from 13 officers to 98, improve training, and focus the new forces on Tamarindo. Though a first-time mayor, Chavarría said he has been involved in municipal politics in Santa Cruz for years.

The New Mayors


Central Johnny Araya, National Liberation Party (PLN)

Escazú Marco Antonio Segura, PLN

Desamparados Maureen Fallas, PLN

Puriscal Jorge Luis Chaves, PLN

Tarrazú Iván Suárez, PLN

Aserrí Mario Morales, PLN

Mora Gilberto Monge, PLN

Goicoechea Oscar Enrique Figueroa, PLN

Santa Ana Gerardo Oviedo, PLN

Alajuelita Tomás Poblador, PLN

Vásquez de Coronado Leonardo Herrera, PLN

Acosta Rónald Durán, PLN

Tibás Jorge Antonio Salas, Citizen Action Party (PAC)

Moravia Edgar Vargas, PAC

Montes de Oca Fernando Trejos, Union for Change (UPC)

Turrubares Rafael Vindas, Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC)

Dota José Valverde, PLN

Curridabat Edgar Mora, Curridabat 21st Century Party

Pérez Zeledón Rosibel Ramos, PUSC

León Cortés Leonardo Quesada, PLN


Central Joyce Zürcher, PLN

San Ramón Raúl Antonio Gómez, PLN

Grecia Giovanny Arguedas, PLN

San Mateo Erwen Yanán Masis, PUSC

Atenas Wilberth Martín Aguilar, PUSC

Naranjo Eugenio Padilla, PLN

Palmares Luis Carlos Castillo, PLN

Poás José Joaquín Brenes, PLN

Orotina Emilio Jesús Rodríguez, PLN

San Carlos Alfredo Córdoba , PLN

Alfaro Ruiz Marco Vinicio Rodríguez, PLN

Valverde Vega Víctor Manuel Rojas, PUSC

Upala Juan Acevedo, PLN

Los Chiles Santiago Millón, PLN

Guatuso Fidel Condega, PLN


Cartago Rolando Alberto Brenes, PLN

Paraíso Marvin Solano, Libertarian Movement (ML)

La Unión Julio Antonio Rojas, PLN

Jiménez Jorge Humberto Solano, PLN

Turrialba Luis Alfonso Pérez, PLN

Alvarado Angel Raquel López, PLN

Oreamuno Marco Vinicio Redondo, PAC

El Guarco William Adolfo Cerdas, PLN


Heredia José Manuel Ulate, PLN

Barva Mercedes Hernández, PLN

Santo Domingo Raúl Isidro Bolaños, PLN

Santa Bárbara Rolando Hidalgo, PLN

San Rafael Alberto Vargas, PAC

San Isidro Elvia Villalobos, PLN

Belén Horacio Alvarado, PUSC

Flores Jenny Alfaro, PAC

San Pablo Aracelly Salas, PUSC

Sarapiquí Pedro Rojas, PLN


Liberia Carlos Luis Marín, PLN

Nicoya Lorenzo Rosales, PLN

Santa Cruz Jorge Enrique Chavarría, PLN

Bagaces Luis Angel Rojas, PLN

Carrillo Carlos Gerardo Cantillo, PLN

Cañas Katia María Solórzano, PLN

Abangares Jorge Calvo, PLN

Tilarán Jovel Arias, PUSC

Nandayure Luis Rodríguez, National Union Party (PUN)

La Cruz Carlos Matías Gonzaga, PLN

Hojancha Juan Rafael Marín, PLN


Puntarenas Agne Gómez, PLN

Esparza Dagoberto Venegas, PUSC

Buenos Aires Primo Feliciano Alvarez, PLN

Montes de Oro Alvaro Jiménez, PLN

Osa Jorge Alberto Cole, PLN

Aguirre Oscar Monge Aguirre, Labor Organization

Golfito Jimmy José Cubillo, PLN

Coto Brus Rafael Angel Navarro, PUSC

Parrita Gerardo Róger Acuña, PLN

Corredores Gerardo Ramírez, PLN

Garabito Marvin Elizondo, PLN


Central Eduardo Barboza, PLN

Pococí Enrique Alfaro Vargas, PLN

Siquirres Edgar Cambronero, Communal Action Party

Talamanca Rugeli Morales, PUSC

Matina Lorenzo Colphan, PLN

Guácimo Gerardo Fuentes, PLN

Source: Institute for Municipal Development (IFAM)


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