Jewish politician may become Costa Rica's VP
If polls are accurate, elections in Central American country to result in first female president in country's history. In this case, vice president position to be filled by Luis Lieberman, son of Polish immigrants, who is to become most senior Jewish official in country's history
Chinchilla, 51, needs 40% of the votes to win a landslide victory which will not require a second round in two months. During her campaign, she promised to maintain the free market policy led by current President Oscar Arias and strengthen trade ties with the US as well as China. She opposes abortions and gay marriage.
Should Chincilla win, the role of vice president will be assumed by Luis Lieberman, a former banker whose parents immigrated to Costa Rica from Poland prior to World War II. Lieberman, 63, is the grandson of the first Mohel (circumciser) of the small Jewish community which consists of less than 3,000 people.
In an interview with Ynet, Lieberman said that the fact that he is Jewish did not play a part in local politics. "True, there are always going to be people who say something – but it's no different than a chauvinistic comment on a female candidate, which is marginal."
"Jews in Costa Rica, despite being a very small group, are very active and important contributors to politics," he said and stressed that ever since a Jew was appointed as health minister in the 1970s, many Jewish people have assumed key positions in the succeeding governments.
Lieberman (L) during the interview. (Photo: Lionel Baruch)
According to Lieberman, Chinchilla has made it clear that her aim is to focus on a field she knows little about – economy, and has offered him to become the chief coordinator of the economic departments in her government. He himself is no stranger to economy, having outlined the party platform's economic chapter.
'Excellent relations with Israel '
In respect to Middle Eastern affairs, Lieberman estimated that the new government will be less active than the current one, which has signed a document recognizing an independent Palestinian state and has transferred its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. This decision has helped Costa Rica to develop diplomatic relations with Arab countries.
"We shall keep developing good relations with countries such as Egypt and the Persian Gulf emirates but the direction will be solidifying what already has been established," Lieberman said. "Relations with Israel will of course remain excellent as ever. I think our foreign policy should focus on our region - Latin America and in the countries' cooperation in fighting major crime organizations and drug smuggling."
He mentioned that he visited the Holy Land several times and has family in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other parts of the country. "I visited Israel with my wife two and a half years ago, we rented a car and toured the entire the country," he noted.
The Jewish politician is aware that he would have to work hard in order to advance Costa Rica which has suffered greatly from the global economic crisis. "I intend to work mainly on growth. We depend on export and services, which are the areas which have suffered."
He also plans to promote technological education in schools, training of engineers by increasing university funds and improving state infrastructure. "Democratic society, peace and great weather will complete what we have to offer," he concluded.