A Tulane University alumnus was elected president of Costa Rica in a landslide victory on Sunday (April 6). Luis Guillermo Solís received his master’s degree in Latin American studies in 1981 and, before his election, was a political science professor at the University of Costa Rica.
Luis Guillermo Solís celebrates with his supporters in San José, Costa Rica. Solís has a strong connection to Tulane. His Tulane master’s degree thesis, titled “The Dynasty of the Colonizers,” examined regional politics in Costa Rica. (Associated Press photo by Moises Castillo)
“His election is historic,” says Ludovico Feoli, director of the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research
Solís is the first third-party candidate to become president of the country. A member of the Citizen Action Party, Solís soundly defeated his opponent, a member of the country’s ruling party. His challenger planned to drop out of the race because Solís had pulled ahead in the polls after a tight finish in the first round of the election. Law required his name stay on the ballot for the runoff. Despite this, Solís mobilized voters to the polls and drew a strong mandate.
“It’s a remarkable story,” Feoli says. Solís “enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a diplomat but never before held elected political office. He is articulate and likeable and connected with voters disenfranchised by the two ruling parties, both mired in corruption scandals.”
Solís, who will start his four-year term in May, comes to power at a challenging time for the country, says Feoli. His party is a minority in Congress, income inequality is increasing and a high fiscal deficit is looming. Solís campaigned on a vow to fight that inequality and improve governance.
He has a strong connection to Tulane. Numerous Tulane students have taken Central American Politics from Solís at CIAPA
, the Tulane-run campus in San José, Costa Rica.
Thomas Reese, executive director of the Stone Center for Latin American Studies
at Tulane, said future CIAPA students will be fortunate to have a close friend of Tulane heading the Costa Rican government.
“It’s a great honor to have one of our own reach such a level of distinction,” Reese says.
Mary Sparacello is a communications specialist in the Office of Development Communications.