Oscar Arias Sánchez


Oscar was born in 1941 in the town of Heredia to one of Costa Rica's richest coffee-growing families. When Oscar was just seven years old, Costa Rica made the historic decision to abolish its standing army. Thus, Oscar grew up in Central America's only country that did not rely on military might to ensure its security. After studying at the Colegio Saint Francis in San Jose, Oscar went to the United States and studied medicine at Boston University. Inspired by the political debates of the times, Oscar returned to Costa Rica to study law and economics. Oscar must have done extremely well in his studies because he was awarded a fellowship to study at two prestigious universities in London. His hard work and passion for his studies earned him a thesis prize, master's degree, and a Ph.D. His thesis, Grupos de Presión en Costa Rica (Pressure Groups in Costa Rica) earned him the 1971 National Essay Prize. In 1974, he received a doctoral degree in Political Science at the University of Essex, England. After serving as Professor of Political Science at the University of Costa Rica, Dr. Arias was appointed Costa Rican Minister of Planning and Economic Policy. He won a seat in Congress in 1978 and was elected secretary-general of the National Liberation Party in 1981. In 1986, Oscar Arias was elected president of Costa Rica. Dr. Arias assumed office at a time of great regional discord. The fall of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and the introduction of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua had already been a source of contention in Central America. The ideological and military interference of the superpowers, still entrenched in the Cold War, threatened to broaden this conflict in both scope and definition. Such intervention heightened the state of civil war that had by then claimed more than one hundred thousand lives in Guatemala. It aggravated internal unrest in El Salvador and Nicaragua, as well as border tensions between Nicaragua and its neighboring states: Honduras and Costa Rica. Despite the previous presidential administration's decision not to become embroiled in the growing conflict, Costa Rica's involvement seemed almost unavoidable. In the face of these threats, Dr. Arias intensified his efforts to promote peace. Even before assuming the presidency, Dr. Arias traveled throughout Central and South America to personally invite the Latin American heads of state to visit Costa Rica for his presidential inauguration. On the day he took office, the presidents of nine Latin American countries met in San José. In this meeting Dr. Arias called for a continental alliance for the defense of democracy and liberty. He affirmed the principles that all Central Americans were entitled to the same liberties and social and economic guarantees of democracy, that each nation had the right to select, through free and fair elections, the type of government that could best meet the needs and interests of its people, and that neither armies nor totalitarian regimes were entitled to make this decision. At that moment Costa Rica, led by Oscar Arias, assumed an active role in the search for democracy and peace for the countries of the region. In 1987, President Arias drafted a peace plan to end the regional crisis. Widely recognized as the Arias Peace Plan, his initiative culminated in the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords or the Procedure to Establish a Firm and Lasting Peace in Central America by all the Central American presidents on August 7, 1987. In that same year he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. In 1988, Dr. Arias used the monetary award from the Nobel Peace prize to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. Under the auspices of the Foundation, three programs were established: The Center for Human Progress to promote equal opportunities for women in all sectors of Central American society; the Center for Organized Participation to foster change-oriented philanthropy in Latin America; and the Center for Peace and Reconciliation to work for demilitarization and conflict resolution in the developing world. From these same headquarters, Dr. Arias has continued his pursuit of global peace and human security. Achivements Dr. Arias has received approximately fifty honorary doctorates from colleges and universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Marquette, and Washington University in St. Louis. He has also received numerous prizes, among them the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award, the Liberty Medal of Philadelphia, the Jackson Ralston Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, and the Americas Award.








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