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Costa Rica’s Chinchilla hits the ground running

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Fresh from a sunny, outdoor inauguration Saturday morning, new Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla wasted no time starting her new job.

She swiftly swore in her cabinet and a number of top officials. Then, by a little past noon, she had signed four executive decrees. This woman means business.

One of the decrees puts a moratorium on new metal mining projects — a careful maneuver away from an issue that stuck thorns into the side of the Arias administration. After taking office in 2006, Arias reversed a similar mining moratorium. Then he angered environmentalists, and Nicaraguans, more by giving a small Canadian company the go-ahead to clear forests in order to construct the Crucitas open-pit gold mine near Costa Rica’s northern border with Nicaragua. That project is on hold, tangled up in the courts.

Chinchilla has said she will support whatever court ruling comes, but Costa Rica needs to avoid future projects like it.

Her other decrees involved upping the ante to combat narco-trafficking and reduce drug consumption, and a law that opens a public consultation process regarding the country’s security problem. A fourth decree institutes a nationwide “Care Network,” a plan to make childcare and elderly assistance available to all in need.

The decrees came shortly after her inaugural speech, a sort of pep rally that spent less time on security issues — which had topped the campaign agenda — and more on promising to help Costa Ricans to go far, get tech-savvy, go green and even go to outer space.

She also pledged to keep spreading the anti-war and human rights gospel as past Tico leaders have done. She said, "I will work for a Costa Rica able to maintain its moral leadership in the world thanks to defending peace, liberty and human rights.” Then she went to work, and passed some laws.