Former president Mario Echandi receives a state funeral

Mario Echandi Jiménez, the man who is credited with mending the political wounds of Costa Rica’s civil war, was buried with high honors Sunday.

Echandi, who was 96, died Saturday, and his funeral was at the Catedral Metropolitana with politicians of every stripe in attendance. Echandi won office in 1958 against the Partido Liberación Nacional candidate, He succeeded José Figueres Ferrer, the victor in the 1948 civil war. Most of the losers had gone into exile, but Echandi allowed them to return.

Fuerza Pública pallbearers carry the casket of former president Mario Echandi Jiménez after his state funeral Sunday afternoon. He is saluted by the agency's ceremonial squad. Echandi, who died Saturday, was 96 and served from 1958 to 1962. Photo: A.M. Costa Rica

He also will be remembered, perhaps with mixed feelings, as the president who put through a law to require employers to pay workers a Christmas bonus or aguinaldo representing a twelfth of what they had earned the previous 12 months. The law still is in effect.

Echandi had been in declining health for four years, and his death was attributed to a heart attack brought on by pneumonia.

Hugo Barrantes, the archbishop, presided at the funeral, and President Laura Chinchilla praised Echandi.
Most current and former holders of high political office were at the funeral. His coffin entered draped in the Costa Rican flag.

Three days of national mourning have been declared. The period will last through Tuesday.

Echandi had served as the nation’s ambassador to the United Nations, to the United States and to the Organization of American States. He also was the president who broke relations with Communist Cuba and created the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the national water company.

He ran twice more for the presidency but was defeated. As an elder statesman, he was in close contact with decades of political activity, and most high officer holders considered him a friend and adviser.

Echandi was the son of Alberto Echandi Montero, who was a presidential candidate in 1923 and also served in high government offices.

In her eulogy, Ms. Chinchilla noted that Echandi was instrumental in designating the Guanacaste tree as a national symbol.

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