Cortés Castro, León (1882–1946)

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Cortés Castro, León (1882–1946)

León Cortés Castro (b. 8 December 1882; d. 2 March 1946), president of Costa Rica (1936–1940). After receiving a law degree from the School of Law in San José, León Cortés Castro held many elected and appointed positions beginning with his appointment by the military dictator President Federico Tinoco Granados (1917–1919), to the post of commander of the Alajuela Garrison (Comandante de Plaza de Alajuela). Cortés served as president of the National Assembly (1925–1926), as minister of education (1929–1930), and as minister of public works (1930; 1932–1936). His tour as minister of public works under president Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno consolidated Cortés's reputation as a no-nonsense and frugal administrator, which prompted the leaders of the National Republican Party to choose him as their standard-bearer in 1936.

During his administration Cortés was a proponent of fiscal responsibility, extending the nation's highway network and embarking on an ambitious construction program. His brick, mortar, and asphalt approach provided employment that helped ameliorate setbacks due to the Great Depression. He founded the National Bank of Costa Rica in 1936.

Although generally accredited even by his detractors with being an effective administrator, Cortés frequently was charged with arbitrary actions. While president he intervened in the 1938 and 1940 elections preventing opposition candidates from being elected; he also meddled in the presidential candidacy of three-time president Ricardo Jiménez.

Shortly after Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia's inauguration in 1940, Cortés, as the most prominent leader of the opposition forces, openly broke with Calderón and formed a rival party. When Cortés lost the 1944 election to Teodoro Picado Michalski (1944–1948), there were widespread charges that Calderón had used his executive power to perpetrate electoral fraud on a grand scale.

Cortés remained the leader of the opposition until his sudden death following a heart attack in 1946.

See alsoCosta Rica .


William Krehm, Democracies and Tyrannies of the Caribbean (1984), discusses Cortés as president and presidential candidate.

John Patrick Bell, Crisis in Costa Rica (1971), discusses Cortés's role in the turbulent events leading to the 1948 revolution.

Franklin D. Parker, The Central American Republics (1964), provides a succinct general history.

Carlos Calvo Gamboa, León Cortés, y su tiempo (1969), deals with Cortés and the politics of the period.

Additional Bibliography

Molina Jiménez, Iván, and Fabrice Edouard Lehoucq. Urnas de lo inesperado: Fraude electoral y lucha politíca en Costa Rica (1901–1948). San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 1999.

Salazar Mora, Jorge Mario. Crisis liberal y estado reformista: Análisis político-electoral (1914–1949). San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 1995.

                                          John Patrick Bell

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Cortés Castro, León (1882–1946)

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