The appointment of Mariano Figueres Olsen as head of the DIS was the surprise announcement of the day during the first cabinet session of Luis Guillermo Solís.
The appointment contradicts the words of the President of last April 21, when he began announcing his choices for cabinet post. “Don Mariano Figueres, a name that has been present in these days, will have no position in the government“, said the then president-elect.
The President had no shown any indication of naming Mariano as head of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad (DIS), Costa Rica’s intelligence service or “presidential police”.
Under Article 13 of the Ley General de Policía, the DIS is an “informational body of the presidency”. The DIS is akin to the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in Canada.
The sole function of the DIS is informing the President on national security issues, with its administrative and budgetary control under the Ministerio de la Presidencia. The DIS headquarters are in La Sabana (the grey nondescript building at the end of the ruta 27 heading into San José, across from McDonalds).
Figueres, 54, is the youngest son of former president José Maria Figueres Ferrer (1948–1949, 1953–1958, and 1970–1974) and considered to be the most important political figure in Costa Rica’s history and brother of former president José María Figueres Olsen (1994-1998).
Solís has the legal basis to place Figueres, with a masters degree in public administration, at the head of one most controversial institutions, which is seen by the public as carrying out espionage actitivites in the country.
In addition, Solís and Figueres, besides being friends, share a political past. The two both quit the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), a party that Figueres’ father founded in 1953.
Figueres, after being named to the post, said he will be submitting a proposal to amend the powers of the DIS, moving away the focus of being a political spy agency. The Ministro de la Presidencia, Melvin Jiménez, said that Figueres will be focusing the work of the DIS to fight corruption and organized crime in the country.