SAN JOSE--Laura Chinchilla became Costa Rica's first female president Saturday, taking the oath of office in an open-air public ceremony with thousands of supporters cheering her on.
The new president swore to uphold Costa Rica's constitution and accepted the presidential sash that moments before had been worn by Oscar Arias, the twice elected president who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for helping end civil wars in Central America.
The 51-year-old Arias protegee became president after winning the February 7 presidential election representing the center-left National Liberation Party (PLN).
She is the third female president in Central America, after Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua and Mireya Moscoso of Panama.
The socially conservative president is expected to continue Arias's pro-free trade policies and international business ties, but could face tough deal-making in Congress, where her party lacks an absolute majority.
Guests from 56 nations attended the event.
Police on horseback and in riot gear held back scores of protesters who showed up at the inauguration ceremony, expressing anger at Arias's economic policies they say Chinchilla will likely to continue.