In 1988, José María was asked
by Nobel Peace Laureate President Oscar Arias to serve in
his government, as President of the National Railway System.
In this capacity he put in place a plan to overhaul the ailing
the Railway System, and shortly afterwards was appointed Minister
of Foreign Trade (1988) and later Minister of Agriculture
José María quickly established himself on the
national political scenario, by personally facing down a ruinous
national strike at Costa Rica’s main port of Limon and
helping coax the country’s agricultural sector from
traditional staple crops to technically more complex export
agriculture, with greater value added.
When his party Liberación Nacional
lost the 1990 elections, José María traveled
to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he earned a Masters in
Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard University.
While concentrating on his academic work, José María
was greatly influenced by the important global events taking
place. The Soviet Union was disintegrating, the Iron Wall
in Europe was coming down, and technology allowed citizens
all over the world to witness first hand the daily developments
in the first Gulf War.
José María describes it, “the old world
of the cold war was giving way to the new world of globalization
and the future would not be a simple continuation of the past”.
Impressed by these paradigm changes, José María
decide to run for the Presidency, with the objective of leading
his country into the new world.