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Chinchilla Rounds Out New Cabinet

Costa Rican President-elect Laura Chinchilla has finished building her cabinet, stacking it with 21 appointees she calls well-qualified, dedicated and versed in the challenges the next four years will bring.

On Tuesday, Chinchilla gave a clear sign that energy and electricity will be priorities of the Ministry of the Environment, Energy  and Telecommunications (MINAET) by naming three-time former executive president of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) Teófilo de la Torre as environment minister.

The 72-two-year-old De la Torre, a civil engineer by trade, is a former president of the board of directors of the National Power and Light Company and a former member of the board of directors of the National Oil Refinery.

“The greatest emphasis of this position will be on energy,” Chinchilla said. “Channeling investments from the private sector is essential to meet our future energy demands.”

Chinchilla also announced on Tuesday that she intends to introduce a bill to remove the telecommunications responsibilities from MINAET and transfer them to the Ministry of Science and Technology (MICIT).

Clotilde Fonseca, 60, a former member of MICIT’s Advisory Council, will head that new ministry.

ICE will be in the hands of Eduardo Doryan, 59, who will assume the post of executive president. Doryan served as executive president of the Costa Rican Social Security System in the administration of outgoing President Oscar Arias and as public education minister under President José María Figueres (1994-1998).

Jorge Enrique Villalobos, 66, will be executive president of RECOPE, where he has worked as a general manager and a director of planning and development.

The youngest of Tuesday’s appointments is 37-year-old Laura Alfaro, who will be in charge of the Planning Ministry. Alfaro – who holds graduate and post-graduate degrees in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is an associate professor at the Harvard School of Business in Boston – has never served in a Costa Rican public office.

Chinchilla made the announcement of the last nine cabinet appointments on Thursday at her headquarters in Sabana Sur, west of San José. All of the positions are in the social sector.

“We have taken much more time with the social positions so that the decision-making was more thorough,” she said.

The president-elect retained three ministers from the administration of President Oscar Arias “because of unfinished work.” These holdovers are Education Minister Leonardo Garnier, Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila and Justice Minister Hernando París.

Chinchilla eliminated the positions of ministers of coordination, communications and competitivity and replaced them with ministers of decentralization and local governments, social welfare and sports.

And she made three additional appointments to existing posts. Pianist and musical composer Manuel Obregón will be minister of culture; Sandra Piszk, a former legislator and ombudswoman, will be minister of labor; and Irene Campos, director of the Costar Rican Cement and Concrete Institute, will be minister of housing.

Guiselle Goyenaga, “who has dedicated her heart and life to sports,” will be the new sports minister. Hojancha Mayor Juan Marín will focus on strengthening municipal governments in his role as decentralization minister, and Fernando Marín, former vice minister of health, will take the post of social welfare minister and be charged with bringing 20,000 families out of extreme poverty by integrating welfare services.

Appointments to autonomous institutions, such as the Costa Rican Social Security System, will be made after Holy Week.


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