President shuffles ministers when health chief resigns

Casa Presidencial was like a game of musical chairs Thursday. The president accepted the resignation of María Luisa Ávila as minister of Salud or health. Dr. Ávila also served under President Óscar Arias Sánchez. The reason was described as the woman’s disagreement with the way last week’s strike of clinic and hospital workers was handled.

But President Laura Chinchilla also moved to fill some vacancies. René Castro, the foreign minister, was named minister of the environment. That did not set well with some environmentalist groups., which immediately took to the Internet to voice their discontent.

Castro was deeply involved in the territorial dispute with Nicaragua and represented the country at the International Court at the Hague. He replaced Teófilo de la Torre, who was named executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad Monday.

Taking his place is Enrique Castillo, the current ambassador before the Organization of American States.

Yessenia Calderón Solano was named executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados , the national sewer and water company. She is a civil engineer.

The Spanish-language media made much of the changes in light of the low ratings the public is giving President Chinchilla. Channel 7 Teletica asked viewers to call in an vote if they thought the changes are good for the government. Overwhelmingly they voted no.

Opposition lawmakers also were critical and suggested that the government had lost its direction.

The president announced the changes at a 4 p.m. press conference, although the news of the health minister’s resignation had leaked out.

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