Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla gives a speech during an annual ceremony of graduating cadets at the police school in Bogota November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez (COLOMBIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)
Laura Chinchilla Miranda is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if her beliefs go against the tide of popular opinion.
Chinchilla is the president of Costa Rica, and the first woman to be elected to the prestigious position. Chinchilla served as vice president from 2006 to 2008, and ascended to the presidency in 2010.
Chinchilla, who made Forbes' 2011 list of Power Women, has stood steadfast to her ideals, even when they are unpopular with her constituency. According to Forbes, Chinchilla enacted a fiscal reform plan to deflate the country's $997 million deficit. The majority of the public disapproves of her plan, and thinks she should focus more on reducing crime and bolstering public safety. However, on the upside, her administration has put a moratorium on oil exploration in the tropical country, emphasizing a focus on ecotourism.
Chinchilla is from San José, the capital of Costa Rica, according to Britannica. She grew up immersed in politics; her father, Rafael Ángel Chinchilla, served as the Costa Rican comptroller general in the 1970s and '80s. Chinchilla's love for politics grew, and she later earned a bachelor's in political science from the University of Costa Rica and a master's degree in public policy from Georgetown University.
Chinchilla returned to her native country to be an international consultant who specialized in judicial reform and public security for organizations like the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme. Her affiliation with human rights organizations led her to lecture and write about human rights.
Chinchilla broke into politics when she became the vice minister of public security under Pres. José María Figueres Olsen of the National Liberation Party in 1994.
In 2002, Chinchilla won a four-year term in Costa Rica's Legislative Assembly as a member of the social-democratic National Liberation Party (Partido Liberación Nacional; PLN). She focused on fighting organized crime, domestic violence and crime against children. She also championed free trade and capitalistic progress for businesses.
Chinchilla then became the V.P and minister of justice under reelected president Óscar Arias Sánchez, who was also of the PLN.
Chinchilla then ran for public office in 2010 on a platform to increase spending on education and law enforcement, combat drug trafficking and spur job creation in the environmental and technical sectors. Chinchilla also won over voters with her socially conservative views against abortion and same-sex marriage. Many Costa Ricans hold very conservative social views-- which are in stark contrast to the increasingly socially progressive nature of the United States -- because it is a predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Chinchilla also disagrees with the separation of church and state and supports a ban on the Morning After Pill.
Chinchilla won the presidential election on Feb. 7, 2010 with 46.8 percent of the vote, more than 20 percentage points ahead of Ottón Solís Fallas of the centre-left Citizen Action Party (Partido Acción Ciudadana; PAC).
Despite facing frequent criticism from her constituents, her leadership during a crisis on the Nicaraguan border as well as her commitment to environmental conservation has proven that she is a strong political figure who holds steadfast to her ideals.