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Óscar Arias

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Óscar Arias
Óscar Arias in April 2018
40th & 45th President of Costa Rica
In office
8 May 2006 – 8 May 2010
Vice PresidentFirst
Laura Chinchilla
Kevin Casas
Preceded byAbel Pacheco
Succeeded byLaura Chinchilla
In office
8 May 1986 – 8 May 1990
Vice PresidentFirst
Jorge Manuel Dengo Obregón
Victoria Garrón de Doryan
Preceded byLuis Alberto Monge
Succeeded byRafael Ángel Calderón
Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica
In office
1 May 1978 – 2 May 1981
Preceded byJorge Luis Arce
Succeeded byGerardo Vega
ConstituencyHeredia (2nd Office)
Minister of National Planning
In office
PresidentDaniel Oduber
Preceded byHimself
Succeeded byFernando Zumbado
Director of the Office of National Planning
In office
PresidentJosé Figueres
Preceded byMarco López
Succeeded byHimself
Personal details
Óscar Arias Sánchez

(1940-09-13) 13 September 1940 (age 83)
Heredia, Costa Rica
Political partyNational Liberation Party
Alma materBoston University
University of Costa Rica
London School of Economics
University of Essex

Óscar Arias Sánchez (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈoskaɾ ˈaɾjas]; born 13 September 1940 in Heredia, Costa Rica) is a Costa Rican activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He was President of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2010.

Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his proposal of a negotiated solution to the Central American crisis. He sought the support of the Contadora group for his plan, which involved the removal of all foreign powers from the region, an end to aid for antigovernment guerrillas in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and the implementation of democratic principles and a compromise peace for social reconstruction. Although his plan was not officially adopted, its key concepts were later reflected in the settlements in El Salvador (1990-1993) and Nicaragua (1989-1990).[1]

He was also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. In 2003, he was elected to the board of directors of the International Criminal Court's Trust Fund for Victims.[2]

Early life[edit]

Arias was born into an upper-class family in the province of Heredia.[3] Arias concluded his secondary schooling at the Saint Francis College in the capital city of San José. He then went to the United States and enrolled in Boston University with the intention of studying medicine, but he soon returned to his home country and completed degrees in law and economics at the University of Costa Rica. In 1967, Arias traveled to the United Kingdom and enrolled in the London School of Economics. He received a doctoral degree in political science from the University of Essex in 1974.[citation needed]

First presidency[edit]

Arias in the 1980s

Arias joined the National Liberation Party (PLN), Costa Rica's main social democratic party. In 1986 he ran successfully for president on that party's ticket. Arias's presidency saw the transformation of Costa Rica's economy from one based on the traditional cash crops (coffee and bananas) to one more focused on non-traditional agriculture (e.g., of exotic flowers and fruits) and tourism. Some within the PLN criticized his administration for abandoning the party's social democratic teachings and promoting a neoliberal economic model. He is now often regarded as a neoliberal although he is a member of a nominally social democratic party.[4]

Arias received the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize with the help of John Biehl, his peer in England, and Rodrigo Madrigal Nieto for his work towards the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords. This was a plan intended to promote democracy and peace on the Central American isthmus during a time of great turmoil: leftist guerrillas were fighting against the governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, which were backed by the United States under the auspices of the Cold War; the Contras, supported by the United States, were fighting an insurgency against the Sandinista in Nicaragua; Honduras, only recently wresting political power from its military, was caught in the middle as a base for U.S. military forces; and on Costa Rica's other border, Panama faced the oppression of Manuel Noriega's military dictatorship. With the support of Arias, the various armed conflicts ended within the decade (Guatemala's civil war finally ended in 1996).

Arias then called for a higher level of integration in the Central America region and promoted the creation of the Central American Parliament (Parlamento Centroamericano). During his current administration, Arias has declared that Costa Rica will not enter the Central American Parliament. Arias also modified the country's educational system. The most notable action in this respect was the reintroduction of standardized academic tests at the end of primary and secondary school.

Second presidency[edit]

Arias in 2006
Arias with Barack Obama on 17 April 2009

The Costa Rican constitution had been amended in 1969 to include a clause forbidding former presidents to seek re-election. Arias challenged this at the Sala IV, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, which initially rejected his application in September 2000. In 2003, a group of Arias supporters presented an unconstitutionality challenge against the 1969 constitutional amendment forbidding re-election, and this time the ruling in April 2003 struck down the prohibition against non-consecutive re-election.[5] This decision was denounced as a "state blow" or "coup d'état" by ex-president Luis Alberto Monge.[6][7]

Arias announced in 2004 that he intended to run again for president in the February 2006 general elections. By then, he was the only living former president who was not either in jail, under indictment or facing an investigation. Though for years private polling companies and several news media published polls predicting Arias would win by a wide margin, the election was initially deemed too close to call. A month later, on 7 March, after a manual recount, the official results showed Arias beat center-left contender Ottón Solís by 18,169 votes (1.2% of valid votes cast), and finished just a few thousand votes over the 40 percent threshold required to capture the presidency in a single round. He took the oath of office at noon on 8 May 2006 at the National Stadium. In his speech on 15 September 2008, he admitted that he was tired because of the criticism of his opponents.

On 1 June 2007, he switched Costa Rica's diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People's Republic of China, making Costa Rica the 167th nation in the world to do so. Subsequently, under diplomatic and financial pressure from Beijing, he induced the Dalai Lama, a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to postpone indefinitely a proposed and much anticipated visit during Beijing's suppression of controversial riots in Tibet.[8]

At the 5th Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, on 18 April 2009, Arias gave a speech on the topic "We've been doing something wrong". Directed at fellow Latin American leaders, he decried Latin America's lack of development compared to other parts of the world, calling for pragmatism, and more resources directed at education rather than militaries.[9]

Mediator in 2009 Honduran Constitutional Crisis[edit]

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Honduras issued an arrest warrant for Honduran President Manuel Zelaya because of violations of the constitution and laws.[10][11] Two days later, the National Congress of Honduras (in which Zelaya's own party held 62 out of 128 seats, more than any other party), also voted to dismiss Zelaya.[12][13][14] Zelaya fled to Costa Rica. The Honduran constitution mandated that the head of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, who was next in the presidential line of succession, becomes the provisional head of state since Vice President Elvin Ernesto Santos had resigned in December 2008 to run for president. Micheletti's term ended 27 January 2010.[15]

Arias began serving as mediator between Zelaya and Micheletti in the 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis. Representatives of the two Hondurans met with Arias on various occasions but so far have failed to reach any kind of agreement. As described above (with factual citations), Arias himself was initially prohibited by Costa Rica's constitutional court from another term, due to constitutional term limits, but this was reversed using legal means, with the consent of the Costa Rican Sala IV court, unlike in Honduras. New elections in Honduras are planned for 29 November 2009. Micheletti's government stated on 2 July 2009 that it is willing to hold this year's presidential election early. Arias presented a seven-point agreement, which calls for the return of Zelaya as president – a condition deemed unacceptable to the interim government. Zelaya's representatives accepted the Arias proposal "in principle" but Micheletti's representatives balked at the key point of Zelaya returning to power in Honduras.[16]


In August 2007, Arias was affected by tendinitis, and in April 2008 he canceled some activities because of muscular pain in his lumbar region. Subsequently, due to increasing difficulty in speaking over the course of several weeks, Arias went to the Philadelphia Ears, Nose and Throat Associates medical center in the United States on 20 May 2008, where it was determined that he had a nonmalignant cyst on his vocal cords. As a result, it was announced on 21 May that doctors advised him not to speak for one month, saying that if this did not help, surgery would be considered.[17] On 11 August 2009 Arias was diagnosed with H1N1 Influenza, but he recovered.[18]


Some of Arias’s actions have generated controversy:

  • In 2004, in response to a rival candidate (Antonio Álvarez) for his party's nomination challenging him to a debate, Oscar Arias said: "Eagles live in high places, and make a serious mistake if they go down to the mud to fight with snails."[19]
  • In 2010, during the closing weeks of his second term, he inaugurated various unachieved projects with ribbon-cutting and bronze plaque ceremonies:
    • The new National Stadium, despite the fact that it was only about 75% finished.[20]
    • The "new presidential offices" despite the fact that these offices do not exist yet. In fact, the land is still for sale and the Legislative Assembly has allocated no funds yet in order to buy it, let alone build anything on the vacant lot.[21]
    • The new Juan Santamaría International Airport installation, despite the fact the project was only 82% completed.[22]

Further controversies followed him even after his role as a president had come to an end. The route from Escazú to Caldera built by the Spanish company Autopistas del Sol has undergone heavy criticism over the years for its high tolls and dangerous roads (which had to undergo heavy maintenance to prevent further rock slides). Oscar Arias was also blamed for having invited a Canadian corporation to perform heavy mining which could potentially compromise the local biodiversity. Their permissions were revoked during the Chinchilla Miranda administration which gave the impression of Arias-Chinchilla enmity following his sudden criticism of then president Laura Chinchilla Miranda who was popularly regarded as a successor.

Judicial accusations[edit]

In 2017 Costa Rica's General Attorney office indicted Arias for the Crucitas case, a case in which former Environment Minister Roberto Dobles and Arias as president signed a 2008 decree ceding the Canadian company Infinito Gold control over a protected area near the Nicaraguan border known as Crucitas for gold mining and declaring it "national interest",[23] something that the Prosecution argued was illegal as protected areas cannot be granted for exploitation of any kind. Dobles was previously found guilty of the charges, but Arias was not indicted alongside him by the previous General Attorney Jorge Chavarría (often accused of being close to Arias).[24] The new General Attorney Emilia Navas reopened the case indicting Arias.[24]

Also in 2019 psychiatrist and anti-Nuclear activist Alexandra Arce von Herold formally accused Arias of rape at the Public Ministry. Following her allegation three more women came to light accusing Arias of sexual harassment and misconduct.[23][25] Arias denied the charges.[23] In December 2020, all sexual harassment charges against Arias were dismissed.[26]

Definitive acquittal and dismissal[edit]

After more than a year of investigations, and in the absence of evidence, the cases were dismissed by the prosecution. Due to the request of the two complainants, requiring, therefore, the revocation of the instance and subsequent dismissal.[27] The definitive dismissal was ordered by Judge Natalia Rodríguez Solís, of the Pavas Criminal Court.[28]

Regarding the "Crucitas" case, in October 2019 the former president was completely released from the case, according to a judicial resolution. [29]

Recognitions and awards[edit]

Arias has received over fifty honorary degrees, including doctorates from Harvard University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Oberlin College, Wake Forest University, Ithaca College and Washington University in St. Louis.[citation needed]

Among the main awards received are:

Personal life[edit]

Arias is descended from Ana Cardoso, an enslaved woman from Cartago.[30]



  • 1970 Grupos de presión en Costa Rica
  • 1976 Quién gobierna en Costa Rica
  • 1977 Democracia, independencia y sociedad latinoamericana
  • 1978 Los caminos para el desarrollo de Costa Rica
  • 1979 Nuevos rumbos para el desarrollo costarricense
  • 1984 ¿Quien gobierna en Costa Rica?
  • 1984 Nuevos rumbos para el desarrollo costarricense
  • 1985 Democracia, independencia y sociedad latinoamericana
  • 1989 El camino de la paz
  • 1990 Horizontes de Paz
  • 1990 La semilla de la paz
  • 1994 Nuevas dimensiones de la educación
  • 2005 Hagamos juntos el camino (Discursos, artículos y ensayos)
  • 2007 Sigamos Avanzando
  • 2012 Con velas, timón y brújula
  • 2023 The Power of ideas


Former President Arias has written several opinion articles during his career, which have been published in different journalistic media:

  • Por amor a la política
  • Carta de Oscar Arias sobre flujo de armas a Nicaragua
  • A 30 años de la firma del Plan de Paz
  • To stem the child migrant crisis, first stop poverty and violence
  • Lo humanamente correcto
  • Consejo a los jóvenes de mi país
  • Mi opinión sobre el proceso de negociación de la paz en Colombia
  • «The memory of a rare success»
  • Y ladrillo a ladrillo, fuimos construyendo la paz
  • Es vital para el país aprobar la reforma fiscal


Former President Arias has made a series of speeches, which can be found at Viaf.org:

Características del desarrollo pasado en Costa Rica y perspectivas para el futuro
Con velas, timón y brújula
Demobilization, demilitarization, and democratization in Central America
Democracia, independencia y sociedad Latinoamericana
El camino de la paz
El Estado y la enseñanza de los derechos humanos: expositores, lección inaugural, 12 de junio 1991, Universidad de San Carlos Guatemala
El Nobel: historia, análisis, galardonados.
Entrevista con Oscar Arias Sánchez
Esquipulas, diez años después: hacia donde va Centroamérica?
Estrategia y plan global: Versión preliminar
Friede für Zentralamerika, 1987:
Green markets: the economics of economics of sustainable development
Hagamos juntos el camino: discursos, artículos y ensayos
Horizons of peace: the Costa Rican contribution to the peace process in Central America
La Nación y la peligrosa concentración de poder en el gobierno de Carazo Odio
La paz: una causa ganadora
La Paz no tiene fronteras; [Sólo la Paz puede escribir la Nueva Historia]: Discursos pronunciados en Oslo, Noruega, el 10 y el 11 de diciembre de 1987, con ocasión de recibir el Premio Nobel de la Paz de 1987
La semilla de la paz: selección de discursos
Le traité sur le commerce des armes: genèse, analyse, enjeux, perspectives du premier instrument juridique consacré à la réglementation des transferts internationaux d'armes conventionnelles
Leadership and global governance
Los desafíos del siglo XXI desde América Latina
Nuevas dimensiones de la educación, 1994:
Prospectiva del siglo XXI: Entender las mega-tendencias y la nueva globalización, para construir futuros desde la Prospectiva Estratégica
Regionalización de Costa Rica para la planificación del desarrollo y la administración
Ten years after Esquipulas: looking toward the future: delivered at the ACUNS Tenth Annual Meeting = Diez años después de Esquipulas: mirando hacia el futuro: presentado en la Décima asamblea anual de ACUNS
The arms bazaar: 1995 Paul G. Hoffman Lecture
The struggle for peace
Veus de pau a la Pedrera: per la Cultura de Pau, fem possible el desarmament: Barcelona, 15 de desembre de 2000


  1. ^ Vicki Cox, Oscar Arias Sánchez: Bringing Peace to Central America (Infobase Publishing, 2007).
  2. ^ Amnesty International, 12 September 2003,"Amnesty International welcomes the election of a Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 15 April 2006. Retrieved 1 August 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  3. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20150524080817/http://www.genealogia.or.cr/docs/revistas/accg_revista012.pdf Academia Costarricense de Ciencias Genealógicas.(in Spanish) p. 163
  4. ^ "He is often identified as a'neoliberal' and accused of being in the service of the big capitalists of the country and the transnationals, in spite of his being a member of the National Liberation Party, which defines itself as socialdemocratic." "First Micheletti-Zelaya meeting since the events of 28 June will be in Costa Rica" El Heraldo (6 July 2009). Original in Spanish.
  5. ^ "Reeleccion seduce a los presidentes de America" Archived 13 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine, El Nuevo Diario, Managua, 18 July 2007. Retrieved July 2009; "Reelecion presidencial: Arias sin prohobicion para postularse", La Nacion, Costa Rica, 5 April 2003.
  6. ^ Luis Alberto Monge (20 March 2004). Reelección: desafío a la Constitución. Nacion.com. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  7. ^ Luis Alberto Monge: La violencia engendra violencia – www.sepamosserlibres.org. Lospobresdelatierra.org (April 2005). Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  8. ^ "Grupo tibetano: Arias pidió al Dalái Lama que no venga". 20 August 2008.
  9. ^ "ALGO HICIMOS MAL: Palabras del presidente Óscar Arias en la Cumbre de las Américas". Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Trinidad y Tobago. Nacion (18 April 2009).
  10. ^ On 12 November 2008, the Supreme Court of Justice determined that the modifications to articles 239 and 240 promulgated by Congress in 1998 and 2002 were unconstitutional and returned these two articles to their state in the 1982 constitution. Vigentes artículos pétreos. Retrieved 5 August 2009. Archived 5 August 2009.
  11. ^ Articulo 239: El ciudS Congress Communiqué explaining why ex President Zelaya was removed. Accessdate 9 July 2009
  12. ^ "Micheletti podría asumir en Honduras" (in Spanish). 28 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010.
  13. ^ "Micheletti sería el nuevo presidente de Honduras" (in Spanish). Diario digital de noticias de El Salvador. 28 June 2009. Archived from the original on 4 December 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  14. ^ "Honduran Congress names provisional president". CNN. 28 June 2009.
  15. ^ "Honduran president overthrown, new leader voted in". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 June 2009.
  16. ^ "Honduras negotiations snag over unity government". CTV (Canada). 28 July 2009. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013.
  17. ^ "Doctors tell Costa Rican leader to rest voice", Associated Press (22 May 2008).[dead link]
  18. ^ "Presidente de Costa Rica contrae gripe AH1N1", El Mundo (2009-08-12)
  19. ^ "Álvarez reta a Arias a discutir plan fiscal". Nacion.com. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  20. ^ "China exhibe avance de 75% en construcción de Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica". Terra.com. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  21. ^ "Arias develó placa de futura Casa Presidencial en un parqueo" Archived 18 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Nacion.com (4 May 2010). Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  22. ^ "Arias inaugura el Santamaría con 82% de avance en obras" Archived 18 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Nacion.com (29 April 2010). Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  23. ^ a b c Robles, Francis (5 February 2019). "Former President of Costa Rica Is Accused of Sexual Assault". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  24. ^ a b Madrial, Luis (2 November 2017). "Caso Crucitas: Los eventos que llevaron a reabrir la causa contra Óscar Arias". Mundo.cr. Archived from the original on 6 August 2023. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  25. ^ Cordoba, Javier (5 February 2019). "Costa Rica ex-leader Oscar Arias accused of sexual assault". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 5 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  26. ^ Garza, Jeffry (7 December 2020). "Óscar Arias obtiene sobreseimiento definitivo por denuncias de violación y abuso sexual". LaRepublica.com. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Charges of rape and sexual abuse dismissed against former president Oscar Arias". Q COSTA RICA. 12 December 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  28. ^ "Óscar Arias obtiene sobreseimiento definitivo por denuncias de violación y abuso sexual". www.larepublica.net (in Spanish). Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  29. ^ "Óscar Arias queda libre del caso Crucitas". www.larepublica.net (in Spanish). Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  30. ^ Lohse, Russell (2016), "Cardoso, Ana", Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro–Latin American Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780199935796.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-993579-6, retrieved 18 February 2024

Further reading[edit]

  • Abrams, Irwin. "Behind the scenes: The Nobel Committee and Oscar Arias." The Antioch Review 46.3 (1988): 364-373. online
  • Anglade, Christian. "President Arias of Costa Rica." PS: Political Science & Politics 21.2 (1988): 357-359. online
  • Cox, Vicki. Oscar Arias Sánchez: Bringing Peace to Central America (Infobase Publishing, 2007).

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Marco López
Director of the Office of National Planning
Office abolished
Political offices
New office Minister of National Planning
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Fernando Zumbado
Preceded by President of Costa Rica
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Preceded by President of Costa Rica
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Assembly seats
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Jorge Luis Arce
Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica for Heredia's 2nd Office
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Gerardo Vega
Party political offices
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Carlos Manuel Castillo
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