Last year, Costa Rica elected its first female president, Laura Chinchilla, 52, adding another leader to the growing ranks of female heads of state in Latin America, including Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, Argentina President Cristina Fernandez and former Chile President Michelle Bachelet. In August, FORBES named her the No. 86 most powerful woman in the world.
Chinchilla, who served as vice president in the Oscar Arias administration, has faced outsized challenges in her first year: a cabinet reshuffling, growing budget deficit, border war with neighbor Nicaragua, increased threat of drug trafficking and sinking approval rates.
Mired in these controversies, Chinchilla also carries a burden of responsibility based on her gender—feeling her success is crucial for her nation’s health as well as its perception of female leaders. The President spoke with me about her struggles, concerns and plans for the future.