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Daniel Odobur Quirós, President of Costa Rica 1974-1978

Updated on June 1, 2013
Daniel Oduber, president of Costa Rica 1972-1978,
Daniel Oduber, president of Costa Rica 1972-1978,

Daniel Oduber Quirós (1921-1991) was president of Costa Rica from 1974 to 1978. He was one of the founders of the National Liberation Party (PLN) in 1951 and served in various capacities for the party until his appointment to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1962. As the PLN candidate, he ran unsuccessfully for the office of president in 1966, losing by only 4300 votes. Since its establishment, the PLN has been the predominant political party of Costa Rica.


Oduber graduated from high school in 1938 and received post-high school instruction to be a bookkeeper. He worked at a law firm while attending the University of Costa Rica. He graduated with a degree in Law and Notary Public in 1945. His graduation thesis was entitled, “The Right to Strike.” He then attended McGill University in Canada to study philosophy, graduating with a Master of Arts degree in 1948. After a brief stay in Costa Rica, he returned to his studies in philosophy at the University of Sorbonne in Paris. During this period, he married his wife, Marjorie Elliot Sypher, the daughter of a Canadian diplomat.

Political Career Before Presidency

While studying for his law degree at the University of Costa Rica, Odobur was an active participant in an organization founded by Professor Roberto Brenes Mesén, the Center for the Study of National Problems. In 1948, he returned to the country from his studies in Paris and participated in the revolution. He was afterwards appointed Secretary General of the Foundation Board of the Second Republic.

The PLN party was founded to further the tradition and ideals of the social change that were characteristic of the Social Democratic Party. He spear-headed this movement and signed the founding charter in October, 1951. The party discussed and promoted the candidacy of José Figueres Ferrer (now affectionately known as Don Pepe) for the 1953 elections. Odobur was appointed Director of the Propaganda Section in that campaign.

Figueres appointed Odobur as a European ambassador during his administration. Odobur was Secretary General of the PLN concurrently until 1958. From 1958 to 1962 he was an elected representative in the National Assembly and was President of the Assembly.

In 1962, Odobur was appointed to the the Minister of Foreign affairs by President Francisco J. Orlich. He resigned this position in 1964 to participate in PLN political activities as a part of his failed, but close, campaign for presidency in 1966. This campaign was characterized as having a positive thrust and imagination for changes needed to improve the social and economic conditions of Costa Rica. He refused to participate in the negative rhetoric put forth by opposing presidential candidates.

His successful campaign for presidency in 1974 was against candidates from seven other political factions.

Accomplishments of the Odobur Presidency

President Odobur’s legacy in the field of social justice included the enactment of the Law for Social Development and Family Allowances. This law increased incomes for the poor and help lower costs of food, healthcare and childcare. There were also stipulations for protection of the elderly. Some called him the “President of the Poor.” He also promoted the enactment of consumer protection law.

Additional accomplishments of his presidency included:

§ Agricultural price support and increased exportation of agricultural products

§ Promotion of National Park development and creation

§ Established National Radio and Television

§ Started the construction of the Port of Caldera in Puntarenas, the major shipping port on the Pacific side of the country

§ Creation of two education institutions which help achieve accessible professional education to the populace, the State University a Distancia (UNED) and the Technological Institute of Costa Rica. Both have campuses in various communities across the country.

§ Creation of Museums, including the Historical Cultural Museum Juan Santamaría in Alejuela and the Costa Rican Art Museum in Parque Sabana of San José

§ Creation of a tourism incentives law to boost ecotourism to the country

Two Important People Showcased in the Juan Santamaria Museum

A lieutenant in the Costa Rican forces that lost his life trying to burn down the building housing forces of William Walker in the Second Battle of Rivas.
A lieutenant in the Costa Rican forces that lost his life trying to burn down the building housing forces of William Walker in the Second Battle of Rivas. | Source
Francisca (Pancha) Carrasco, 1826-1890.  Her contributions to help defend Costa Rica against foreign aggression are nationally recognized.
Francisca (Pancha) Carrasco, 1826-1890. Her contributions to help defend Costa Rica against foreign aggression are nationally recognized. | Source

The Historical Cultural Museum Juan Santamaria

The Museum Juan Santamaria, established by Oduber, is a showcase for people who were important figures related to the repelling of foreign domination. Forces organized by the imperialist United States citizen, William Walker, invaded Costa Rica territory and were repelled in two different battles in the northern province of the country and in Rivas, Nicaragua, across the border. There were major battles at what is now Santa Rosa National Park and in Rivas, Nicaragua. Two of the important figures of this armed struggle are shown in the photos to the right. Juan Santamaria, for whom the museum in named after, was the soldier who is accredited with ending the Second Battle of Rivas by setting fire to the building housing Walker's army.

Daniel Oduber's Legacy in Guanacaste Province

Oduber owned a large tract of land on which are currently located the Guanacaste campus and agricultural fields of Earth University la Flor, Ad Astra Rocket (where plasma engine research is done) and the Liberia International Airport. This modern airport, which is about 15 minutes west of Liberia, is named after him.


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      Derdriu 5 years ago

      Randy, What an informative, intelligent, interesting summary of the life and times of Costa Rican President Daniel Oduber Quirós! It's interesting how his policies and programs seem congruent with similar efforts at about the same time in the United States of America. It's also interesting how understanding he must have been of different cultures and viewpoints through his acquaintance with English- and French-speaking countries.

      Thank you for sharing, etc.,