Luis Alberto Monge

Luis Alberto Monge
Luis Alberto Monge (1984).jpg
39th President of Costa Rica
In office
8 May 1982 – 8 May 1986
Vice President Alberto Fait Lizano
Armando Aráuz Aguilar
Preceded by Rodrigo Carazo Odio
Succeeded by Óscar Arias
Personal details
Born Luis Alberto Monge Álvarez
(1925-12-29)December 29, 1925
Palmares, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Died November 29, 2016(2016-11-29) (aged 90)
San José, Costa Rica
Political party National Liberation Party
Spouse(s) Flora Rojas Alvarez (1946–1960; divorce)
Doris Yankelewitz Berger (1965–1988; divorce)

Luis Alberto Monge Álvarez (December 29, 1925 – November 29, 2016) was the President of Costa Rica from 1982 to 1986. He also served as Costa Rica's first Ambassador to Israel from 1963 until 1966. [1]

Biography

Early and personal life

Monge was born on December 29, 1925, in Palmares, Alajuela Province, to Gerardo Monge Quesada and Elisa Álvarez Vargas. [1]

He married his first wife, Flora Rojas Alvarez, on March 9, 1946, but the marriage was dissolved in January 1960. [1] He met his second wife, Doris Yankelewitz Berger, while both were attending a luncheon at the University of Costa Rica. [1] At the time, Yankelewitz was a college student while Monge was serving as Ambassador to Israel. [1] Monge and Yankelewitz married at a ceremony in San José on November 25, 1965. [1] They had one daughter, Lena. [1]

Monge and Yankelewitz later separated at the end of his presidency in 1986. [1] The couple divorced in June 1988. [1]

Career

Before becoming President in 1982, Monge served as Costa Rica's first ambassador to Israel from 1963 to 1966 and was one of the founding members of the National Liberation Party (PLN) in 1951. He was also named a deputy in the Legislative Assembly, at age 24, making him one of the youngest to have reached such rank.

Monge inherited an impoverished and distraught nation. The biggest issues his presidency dealt with were: the unmanageable economic crisis, the mounting foreign debt and the Sandinista- Contra crisis involving Nicaragua, the United States and Costa Rica's northern border region.

In dealing with the country's economic situation, he began austere programs on public spending, eliminated many government subsidies to various activities and promoted exports and receptive tourism. He eliminated export and production taxes. Monge also reformed monetary law, and forced all foreign currencies to go through the national bank system. A lot of his efforts paid off, reducing inflation and unemployment. During Monge's term, Costa Rica declared an alignment with all "western democracies" and began to work closely with the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, while its relationship with Nicaragua continued to deteriorate.

By then, the United States was involved in suppressing further socialist revolts in the region and saw Costa Rica as a stable ally in which to base their operations against Nicaragua's Sandinista government. The U.S. imposed a commercial embargo against Nicaragua, facilitating the deepening of the rift between Costa Rica and its northern neighbor. Unwillingly, Costa Rica became too involved in the United States' struggle to topple the Sandinistas and in an attempt to pull away, proclaimed Costa Rica as an active, neutral nation. With Costa Rica still in the midst of a terrible economic recession, Monge opted to exchange sovereignty for economic stability: he gave in to pressure from the United States and accepted American financial assistance in exchange for allowing the CIA to set up small "unofficial" strategic outposts along the northern border.

Shortly after becoming President, Monge traveled to Israel, where, without knowing about the United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, he raised the national flag on Costa Rica's embassy building in Jerusalem. He defined his actions as "exercising sovereignty".