Óscar Arias

Last updated
Óscar Arias
Oscar Arias (cropped).jpg
40th & 45th President of Costa Rica
In office
8 May 2006 8 May 2010
Vice PresidentFirst
Laura Chinchilla Miranda
Kevin Casas Zamora
Preceded by Abel Pacheco
Succeeded by Laura Chinchilla
In office
8 May 1986 8 May 1990
Vice PresidentFirst
Jorge Manuel Dengo Obregón
Victoria Garrón de Doryan
Preceded by Luis Alberto Monge
Succeeded by Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier
Personal details
Óscar Arias Sánchez

(1940-09-13) 13 September 1940 (age 78)
Heredia, Costa Rica
Political party National Liberation Party
Alma mater Boston 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) was President of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2010. [1] He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end the Central American crisis.

Heredia, Costa Rica City and municipality in Heredia Province, Costa Rica

Heredia is a city in the Heredia province of Costa Rica, of which it is the capital; it is 10 kilometers to the north of the country's capital, San José.

Costa Rica Country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

President of Costa Rica head of state and head of government of Costa Rica

The President of Costa Rica is the head of state and head of government of Costa Rica. The President is currently elected in direct elections for a period of four years, which is not immediately renewable. Two Vice presidents are elected in the same ticket with the president. The president appoints the Council of Ministers. Due to the abolition of the military of Costa Rica in 1948, the president is not a Commander-in-chief, unlike the norm in most other countries, although the Constitution does describe him as commander in chief of the civil defense public forces.


He is 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]

The Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism is a prize given to people who made exemplary contributions to humanity and the environment. The goal of the prize is to advance the cause of humanitarianism. The prize was established in 1986 by Albert Toepfer, an international grain merchant from Hamburg, Germany. Previously given under the auspices of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in New York and administered by Johns Hopkins University, it is named after noted humanitarian and physician Albert Schweitzer and is now administered by The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.

Economists for Peace and Security (EPS) is a New York-based, United Nations accredited and registered global organization and network of thought-leading economists, political scientists, and security experts founded in 1989 that promotes non-military solutions to world challenges, and more broadly, works towards freedom from fear and freedom from want for all.

International Criminal Court Permanent international tribunal

The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court. The ICC began functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force. The Rome Statute is a multilateral treaty which serves as the ICC's foundational and governing document. States which become party to the Rome Statute, for example by ratifying it, become member states of the ICC. As of March 2019, there are 124 ICC member states.

Arias is currently facing several judicial accusations, one for criminal malfeasance [3] due to a decree of national interest about gold mining in a protected area, and nine for sexual assault. [4]

Malfeasance in office, or official misconduct, is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties. Malfeasance in office is often grounds for a just cause removal of an elected official by statute or recall election.

Early life

Arias was born within an upper-class family in the province of Heredia. [5] 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. 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.

Heredia Province Province in Costa Rica

Heredia is a province of Costa Rica. It is in the north-central part of the country. As a result, the province covers areas as diverse as the agriculture-rich Northern plains to the more metropolitan areas such as the city of Heredia in the Central Valley. It contains several major environmentally important areas such as the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the Sarapiqui River. The capital is the city of Heredia.

San José, Costa Rica City and municipality in San José, Costa Rica

San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the mid-west of the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of San José Canton was 288,054 in 2011, and San José’s municipal land area measures 44.2 square kilometers, and an estimated 333,980 residents in 2015. The metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and has an estimated population of over 2 million in 2017. The city is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

Boston University private research university in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston University is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian, but has been historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

First presidency

Arias in the 1980s OscarArias.jpg
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. [6]

National Liberation Party (Costa Rica) political party

The National Liberation Party, nicknamed the verdiblancos, is a political party in Costa Rica. The party is a member of the Socialist International.

Social democracy is a political, social and economic ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and a capitalist economy. The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve a commitment to representative and participatory democracy, measures for income redistribution and regulation of the economy in the general interest and welfare state provisions. Social democracy thus aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian and solidaristic outcomes. Due to longstanding governance by social democratic parties and their influence on socioeconomic policy development in the Nordic countries, in policy circles social democracy has become associated with the Nordic model in the latter part of the 20th century.

Cash crop an agricultural crop which is grown to sell for profit

A cash crop or profit crop is an agricultural crop which is grown to sell for profit. It is typically purchased by parties separate from a farm. The term is used to differentiate marketed crops from subsistence crops, which are those fed to the producer's own livestock or grown as food for the producer's family. In earlier times cash crops were usually only a small part of a farm's total yield, while today, especially in developed countries, almost all crops are mainly grown for revenue. In the least developed countries, cash crops are usually crops which attract demand in more developed nations, and hence have some export value.

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 government 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).

The Esquipulas Nicaraguan Peace Agreement, also known as the Central American Peace Accords, was a peace initiative in the mid-1980s to settle the military conflicts that had plagued Central America for many years, and in some cases for decades. It built upon groundwork laid by the Contadora Group from 1983 to 1985. The agreement was named for Esquipulas, Guatemala, where the initial meetings took place. The US Congress lobbying efforts were helped by one of Capitol Hill's top lobbyists, William C. Chasey.

Democracy system of government in which citizens vote directly in or elect representatives to form a governing body, sometimes called "rule of the majority"

Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association. "Rule of the majority" is sometimes referred to as democracy. Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.

Isthmus Narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas

An isthmus is a narrow piece of land connecting two larger areas across an expanse of water by which they are otherwise separated. A tombolo is an isthmus that consists of a spit or bar, and a strait is the sea counterpart of an isthmus.

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

Arias in 2006 Oscar Arias 8p050806kh-0829-398v.jpg
Arias in 2006

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. [7] This decision was denounced as a "state blow" or "coup d'état" by ex-president Luis Alberto Monge. [8] [9]

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. [10] .

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. [11]

Mediator in 2009 Honduran Constitutional Crisis

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Honduras issued an arrest warrant for Honduran President Manuel Zelaya because of violations of the constitution and laws. [12] [13] 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. [14] [15] [16] 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. [17]

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. [18]


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. [19] On 11 August 2009 Arias was diagnosed with H1N1 Influenza, but he recovered. [20]


Some Oscar Arias acts have generated controversy:

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

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", [3] something that the Prosecution argued was illegal as protected areas can’t be granted for exploitation of any kind. Dobles was previously found guilty of the charges, [25] but Arias was not indicted alongside him by the previous General Attorney Jorge Chavarría (often accused of being close to Arias). [26] The new General Attorny Emilia Navas reopened the case indicting Arias. [26]

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. [3] [27] Arias denied the charges. [3]

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  1. El Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones: Presidentes de la República de Costa Rica
  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 2007-08-01.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) . Retrieved on 1 August 2007.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Robles, Francis (5 February 2019). "Former President of Costa Rica Is Accused of Sexual Assault". The New York Times . Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  4. "Nobel peace prize winner Oscar Árias accused of sexual assault". The Guardian. 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  5. Academia Costarricense de Ciencias Genealógicas.(in Spanish) p. 163
  6. "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.
  7. "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.
  8. Luis Alberto Monge (20 March 2004). Reelección: desafío a la Constitución. Nacion.com. Retrieved on 2012-09-15.
  9. Luis Alberto Monge: La violencia engendra violencia – www.sepamosserlibres.org. Lospobresdelatierra.org (April 2005). Retrieved on 2012-09-15.
  10. "ALGO HICIMOS MAL: Palabras del presidente Óscar Arias en la Cumbre de las Américas". Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Trinidad y Tobago. Nacion (18 April 2009).
  11. 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. Accessed 5 August 2009. Archived 5 August 2009.
  12. Articulo 239: El ciudS Congress Communiqué explaining why ex President Zelaya was removed. Accessdate 9 July 2009
  13. "Micheletti podría asumir en Honduras" (in Spanish). 28 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 January 2010.
  14. "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.
  15. "Honduran Congress names provisional president". CNN.com. 28 June 2009.
  16. "Honduran president overthrown, new leader voted in". Sydney Morning Herald. 29 June 2009.
  17. "Honduras negotiations snag over unity government". CTV (Canada). 28 July 2009. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013.
  18. "Doctors tell Costa Rican leader to rest voice", Associated Press (22 May 2008).[ dead link ]
  19. "Presidente de Costa Rica contrae gripe AH1N1", El Mundo (2009-08-12)
  20. "Álvarez reta a Arias a discutir plan fiscal". Nacion.com. Retrieved on 2018-01-05.
  21. "China exhibe avance de 75% en construcción de Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica". Terra.com. Retrieved on 2012-09-15.
  22. "Arias develó placa de futura Casa Presidencial en un parqueo" Archived 18 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine . Nacion.com (4 May 2010). Retrieved on 2012-09-15.
  23. "Arias inaugura el Santamaría con 82% de avance en obras" Archived 18 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine . Nacion.com (29 April 2010). Retrieved on 2012-09-15.
  24. Cerdas, Daniela (28 January 2015). "Tribunal condena a exministro Roberto Dobles a tres años de cárcel por caso Crucitas". La Nación. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  25. 1 2 Madrial, Luis (2 November 2017). "Caso Crucitas: Los eventos que llevaron a reabrir la causa contra Óscar Arias". Mundo.cr. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  26. Cordoba, Javier (5 February 2019). "Costa Rica ex-leader Oscar Arias accused of sexual assault". The Washington Post . Retrieved 7 February 2019.
Political offices
Preceded by
Luis Alberto Monge
President of Costa Rica
Succeeded by
Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier
Preceded by
Abel Pacheco
President of Costa Rica
Succeeded by
Laura Chinchilla