Mario José Echandi Jiménez was born on June 17th, 1915, in San José, Costa Rica. A lawyer and politician, he was the son of Alberto Echandi Montero and Josefa Jiménez Rucavado, coming from a Costa Rican aristocratic family which had traditionally been involved in politics. He studied high school in Costa Rica, graduating as a bachelor in 1933, and at the university where he graduated from law school in 1938. He was married to Olga De Benedictis Antonelli.
He was named Secretary General of the National Union Party (PUN) political group that supported the presidential candidacy of Otilio Ulate Blanco (1951-1953). Under the administration of Ulate Blanco, he served as Ambassador of Costa Rica in Washington and to the Organization of American States (OAS), and permanent delegate to the United Nations (UN), in 1949. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs and co-founder of the OAS and the Organization of Central American States (ODECA), in the term 1950-1951.
The events of 1948 stopped his political career, in a certain way, for a few years. Despite this setback, his political value and the consistency of his ideas did not diminish at all, so he founded a political party years later, and was presented as a candidate for deputy independently, and being elected. His arrival at the Legislative Assembly, in 1953, not only caused surprise but it was a real challenge because in it. His leadership was imposed indisputably, to the extent that he managed to consolidate an opposition alliance that overcame his minority status in parliament, influencing in a prominent way in the national life.
From the Legislative Assembly, he left to occupy the Presidency of the Republic, between 1958 and 1962, when he defeated Don Francisco Orlich Bolmarcich and Don Jorge Rossi, respectively, in the elections. From his political struggles, we must highlight the passion he put into each one of them, which allowed him to underline his proven character and conservative ideology but not reactionary, as Don Manuel Mora himself recognized at the time. He was a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic for the term 1970-1974 and was defeated by Mr. Luis Alberto Monge.
In the 2nd administration of Mr. José Figueres Ferrer, he was an opposition representative for the province of San José. His performance in the Assembly was so energetic and combative that he soon became the undisputed leader of the parliamentary opposition, earning the support of a large sector of the country and the rejection of his opponents. During his government of President Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia, he was allowed, along with his followers, to find conditions to organize as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, in 1970 and 1982. He led the delegation of Costa Rica to the inauguration of the President of Ecuador José María Velasco Ibarra in 1968.
What you probably did not know about Mario Echandi Jiménez…
-He built many new schools
-Created a Highway Construction Road Plan
-Created the National Institute of Land and Colonization
-Founded the development of trade and agriculture
-Changed the leftover weapons for tractors that he dedicated to agricultural development
-He broke diplomatic relations the regime of Fidel Castro of Cuba, affirming the democratic ideal of the Costa Ricans.
-Initiated the construction of the Central Bank
-He is the author of the Law of Development and Industrial Development.
-Created the Land and Colonization Institute (ITCO), today “Instituto de Tierras y Colonización Agrarian Development -IDA, to help convert hundreds of low-income farmers into owners of their plots and small productive farms.
-Created the National Service of Aqueducts and Sewers (SNAA), now called the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers -AyA, to improve the supply of potable water and build sewers in cities and many towns around the country.
-Founded the Ministry of Industries and adopted the Alliance for Progress Plan.
In the years prior to his death, the former president suffered the consequences of a stroke that undermined some of his physical faculties. After several days of fighting broncho-pneumonia, Don Mario’s heart stopped and he died on July 30th, 2011, at his home in San José. He was declared as “Benemérito de la Patria” (Most Worthy Citizen of the Fatherland) on June 6th, 2005.