COSTA RICA
Republic of Costa Rica
Republica de Costa Rica
Joined United Nations:  2 November 1945
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
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Updated 07 February 2013
CAPITAL
POPULATION
CHIEF OF STATE
SELECTION PROCESS
San Jose
4,636,348 (July 2012 est.)
President and Vice Presidents elected on the same ticket by popular
vote for a single four-year term; election last held 7 February 2010

Next scheduled election: February 2014
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
SELECTION PROCESS
According to the Costa Rican Constitution, the President is both
the Chief of State and Head of Government
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
ETHNIC GROUPS
White (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
RELIGIONS
Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
GOVERNMENT
STRUCTURE
Democratic republic with 7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia);  Legal system is based on Spanish civil law system; judicial
review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Executive: President and Vice Presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single four-year term; election last held 7
February 2010 (next to be held in February 2014)
Legislative: Unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to
serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 7 February 2010 (next to be held in February 2014)
Judicial: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)
LANGUAGES
Spanish (official), English
BRIEF HISTORY
In Pre-Columbian times the Indigenous people, in what is now known as Costa Rica, were part of the Intermediate Area located
between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the
Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met. The northwest of the
country, the Nicoya Peninsula, was the southernmost point of Nahuatl (named after Nitin) cultural influence when the Spanish
conquerors (conquistadores) came in the sixteenth century. The central and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences.
However, the indigenous people have influenced modern Costa Rican culture to a relatively small degree, as most of the Indians
died from diseases such as smallpox and mistreatment by the Spaniards. In 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the New World,
Christopher Columbus made the first European landfall in the area. European settlement of Costa Rica began in 1522. The native
peoples were conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century. Costa Rica was then the southern-most province in the Spanish territory
of New Spain. The provincial capital was in Cartago. For nearly three centuries, Spain administered the region as part of the
Captaincy General of Guatemala under a military governor. The Spanish optimistically called the country "Rich Coast". Finding little
gold or other valuable minerals in Costa Rica, however, the Spanish turned to agriculture. The small landowners' relative poverty,
the lack of a large indigenous labor force, the population's ethnic and linguistic homogeneity, and Costa Rica's isolation from the
Spanish colonial centers in Mexico and the Andes -- all contributed to the development of an autonomous and individualistic
agrarian society. Even the Governor had to farm his own crops and tend to his own garden due to the poverty that he lived in. An
egalitarian tradition also arose. This tradition survived the widened class distinctions brought on by the nineteenth century
introduction of banana and coffee cultivation and consequent accumulations of local wealth. Costa Rica joined other Central
American provinces in 1821 in a joint declaration of independence from Spain. After a brief time in the Mexican Empire of Agustín
de Iturbide (see: History of Mexico and Mexican Empire) Costa Rica became a state in the Federal Republic of Central America
(see: History of Central America) from 1823 to 1839. In 1824 the capital was moved to San José, but following a rivalry with
Cartago that was violent. Although the newly independent provinces formed a Federation, border disputes broke out among them,
adding to the region's turbulent history and conditions. Costa Rica's northern Guanacaste Province was annexed from Nicaragua in
one such regional dispute. In 1838, long after the Central American Federation ceased to function in practice, Costa Rica formally
withdrew and proclaimed itself sovereign. Following independence, Costa Rica found themselves with no regular trade routes to get
their coffee to European markets. This was compounded by transportation problems - the coffee-growing areas were on the Pacific
Coast, and before the Panama Canal was opened, ships from Europe had to sail around Cape Horn in order to get to the Pacific
Coast. This was overcome in 1843, when, with the help of William Le Lacheur, a British merchant and shipowner, a regular trade
route was established. In 1856, William Walker, an American filibuster began incursions into Central America. After landing in
Nicaragua, he proclaimed himself president of Nicaragua and re-instated slavery. He intended to expand into Costa Rica and after
entering Costa Rican soil, Costa Rica declared war. Led by Commander in Chief of the Army of Costa Rica, President Juan Rafael
Mora Porras, the filibusters were defeated and forced out of the country. Costa Rican forces followed the filibusters into Rivas,
Nicaragua, where in a final battle, William Walker and his forces were finally pushed back. Juan Santamaría, a drummer boy who
lost his life torching the filibusters' stronghold, was killed in this final battle, and is today remembered as a national hero. An era of
peaceful democracy in Costa Rica began in 1889 with elections considered the first truly free and honest ones in the country's
history. Costa Rica has avoided much of the violence that has plagued much of Central America. Since the late nineteenth century,
only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. In 1917-19, Federico Tinoco Granados ruled as a
dictator, and, in 1948, José Figueres Ferrer led an armed uprising in the wake of a disputed presidential election. In 1949, José
Figueres Ferrer abolished the army; and since then, Costa Rica has been one of the few countries to operate within the democratic
system without the assistance of a military. With more than 2,000 dead, the 44-day Costa Rica Civil War resulting from this uprising
was the bloodiest event in twentieth-century Costa Rican history, but the victorious junta drafted a constitution guaranteeing free
elections with universal suffrage and the abolition of the military. Figueres became a national hero, winning the first election under the
new constitution in 1953. Since then, Costa Rica has held 1
3 presidential elections, the latest in 2010. Once a largely agricultural
country, the twin pillars of Costa Rica's current economy are technology and eco-tourism. Costa Rica's major source of export
income is technology based. Microsoft, Motorola, Intel and other technology related firms have established operations in Costa
Rica. Local companies create and export software as well as other computer related products. Tourism is growing at an accelerated
pace and many believe that income from this tourism may soon become the major contributor to the nation's GDP. Traditional
agriculture, particularly coffee and bananas, continues to be an important contributor to Costa Rica's export income. Land
ownership and wealth is widespread and the population enjoys a relatively high standard of living.
Source: Wikipedia: History of Costa Rica
ECONOMIC OVERVIEW
Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted 1.3% in 2009 but
resumed growth at about 4.5% per year in 2010-12. While the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef
are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export
trade in recent years. High value added goods and services, including microchips, have further bolstered exports. Tourism continues
to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. Foreign investors
remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the incentives offered in the
free-trade zones; and Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America.
However, many business impediments remain such as high levels of bureaucracy, legal uncertainty due to overlapping and at times
conflicting responsibilities between agencies, difficulty of enforcing contracts, and weak investor protection. Poverty has remained
around 15-20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due
to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly
dependent on remittances as they only represent about 2% of GDP. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a
concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important
source of mostly unskilled labor but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system. The US-Central American-Dominican
Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force on 1 January 2009 after significant delays within the Costa Rican
legislature. CAFTA-DR has increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and
telecommunications sectors recently opened to private investors. President CHINCHILLA was not able to gain legislative approval
for fiscal reform, her top priority, though she continued to pursue fiscal reform in 2012. President CHINCHILLA and the PLN
were successful in passing a tax on corporations to fund an increase for security services.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Costa Rica)
POLITICAL CLIMATE
The 2006 national election was expected to be a landslide for former President (1986–1990) and PLN's candidate Óscar Arias,
but it turned out to be the closest in modern history. Although polls just a week before the election gave Arias a comfortable lead of
at least 12% (and up to 20%), preliminary election results gave him only a .4% lead over rival Ottón Solís and prompted a manual
recount of all ballots. After a month-long recount and several appeals from different parties, Arias was declared the official winner
with 40.9% of the votes against 39.8% for Solís.

Since Óscar Arias returned to office, the political debate has centered on whether to approve or reject CAFTA. Main supporters
of the approval include the President's PLN, which has established a coalition with PUSC and ML in Congress in order to approve
the implementation laws in Congress, as well as different business chambers, while the main opposition to CAFTA comes from
PAC, labor unions, environmental organizations and public universities. In April 2007, former PLN Presidential candidate and
CAFTA opponent José Miguel Corrales won a legal battle at the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which authorized him to gather over
100 thousand signatures in order to send CAFTA to a referendum and let the people decide the fate of the controversial agreement.
As the February 28, 2008 deadline to approve or reject CAFTA loomed, Arias decided to call for the referendum himself, and it
took take place on October 7, 2007. In the intercourse, Vice President Kevin Casas quit from his position due to a compromising
memorandum he wrote.

On 7 February 2010, Laura Chinchilla was elected Costa Rica's first female president and only the sixth in all of Latin America.
Though a former vice president under Arias, she is socially more conservative and favors strong ties to the church and supports
maintaining the country's prohibition of abortion under most circumstances.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Costa Rica
INTERNATIONAL
DISPUTES
The ICJ has given Costa Rica until January 2008 to reply and Nicaragua until July 2008 to rejoin before rendering its decision on
the navigation, security, and commercial rights of Costa Rican vessels on the Río San Juan over which Nicaragua retains sovereignty
U.S. State Department
United Nations Human
Rights Council
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
REFUGEES AND
INTERNALLY
DISPLACED PERSONS
(IDPS)
Refugees (country of origin): 10,297 (Colombia) (2011)
ILLICIT DRUGS
Transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis in remote areas; domestic
cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising; significant consumption of amphetamines; seizures of smuggled cash in
Costa Rica and at the main border crossing to enter Costa Rica from Nicaragua have risen in recent years (2008)
Arias Foundation for Peace
and Human Progress
U. S. STATE
DEPARTMENT
HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
2011 Human Rights Report: Costa Rica
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
20
11 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May
25, 2012

Costa Rica is a constitutional, multiparty republic governed by a president and a unicameral legislative assembly that are directly elected
in multiparty elections every four years. In 2010 voters chose Laura Chinchilla Miranda of the National Liberation Party (PLN), the
country’s first female president in elections that were generally considered free and fair. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.

Principal human rights abuses reported during the year included poor prison conditions, including overcrowding and cases of prisoner
abuse, delays in the judicial process, and commercial sexual exploitation of minors.

Other human rights problems reported were domestic violence against women and children, trafficking in persons, discrimination based
on sexual orientation, and child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses.
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UNITED NATIONS
HUMAN RIGHTS
COUNCIL
29 July 2011
Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
Forty-ninth session
11-29 July 2011
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
Costa Rica

Introduction
2. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its combined fifth and sixth periodic report, although its structure did
not follow the Committee’s
guidelines for the preparations of reports. The Committee regrets the long delay in the submission of the
report as well as the outdated information contained therein.
The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for its oral
presentation,
the written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by its pre-session working group and the further clarifications to
the questions posed orally by the Committee.
3. The Committee commends the State party for its high-level delegation, headed
by the Executive President of the National Institute for
Women (INAMU), which
included representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Court of Justice. The Committee
appreciates the constructive dialogue that took place
between the delegation and the members of the Committee.

Positive aspects
4. The Committee notes with satisfaction the adoption of the National Gender Equality and Equity Policy (PIEG, 2007-2017) and its five-
year plan of action
(2008-2012) aiming to improve the status of women and to ensure women’s equality of treatment in areas such as
employment, family responsibilities, access to health
services and education.

Principle areas of concern and recommendations
8. The Committee recalls the State party’s obligation to systematically and continuously implement all the provisions of the Convention
on the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and views, the concerns and recommendations identified in the present
concluding observations as requiring
the State party’s priority attention between now and the submission of the next periodic report.
Consequently, the Committee urges the State party to focus on
those areas in its implementation activities and to report on the action
taken and
the results achieved in its next periodic report. The Committee calls upon the State party to submit the present concluding
observations to all relevant
ministries, to the Parliament and to the judiciary, so as to ensure their full implementation.
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FREEDOM HOUSE
Freedom In The World 2012 Report
Political Rights Score: 1
Civil Liberties Score: 1
Status: Free

Overview
President Laura Chinchilla’s first year in office was marked by declining approval ratings and persistent concerns about rising crime.
Control of the Legislative Assembly fell to an opposition coalition for the first time in decades, an indication of her waning support.
Meanwhile, Chinchilla revealed a 10-year crime plan in February 2011 to combat growing crime and drug trafficking.


n February 2010, former vice president Laura Chinchilla of the PLN became Costa Rica’s first female president, capturing nearly 47
percent of the vote in the first round, and defeating Ottón Solís of the Citizens’ Action Party (PAC) and Otto Guevara of the Libertarian
Movement Party (PML). The balloting resulted in a divided Legislative Assembly: the PLN lost two seats for a total of 24 seats, the PAC
won 11, the PML captured 9, the PUSC took 6, and the Accessibility without Exclusion Party (PASE) captured 4 seats, while the
remaining 3 seats went to other smaller parties.

In April 2011, a broad coalition of opposition parties forged an alliance to depose the ruling PLN from the directorate of the legislature. A
brief crisis ensued when the PLN legislators voted to re-elect Luis Gerardo Villanueva as Assembly president without a quorum, as
required by the body’s procedural rules. Following opposition protests, Villanueva resigned hours later and the PAC’s Juan Carlos
Mendoza was elected president of the Assembly. For the first time in 46 years, the president of the Assembly and the ruling party are
from different parties.

Chinchilla began her presidency in May 2010 with a strong mandate and clear policy priorities to strengthen environmental protections,
security, and family welfare. While she initially enjoyed strong public approval, by July 2011, public opinion polls demonstrated that only
about one-quarter of those surveyed had confidence in her administration. Five cabinet ministers resigned during her first fifteen months
in office.

In February 2011, Chinchilla revealed a 10-year crime plan, which aims to promote inter-agency coordination to combat growing public
insecurity, crime, and narcotics trafficking. However, the plan lacks concrete policy proposals. Chinchilla’s proposal for a 15 percent
gambling tax to fund security initiatives faltered in March 2011 after intense lobbying efforts against the bill.

While the quality of life in Costa Rica is relatively high for the region, economic growth is hampered by the national debt, inflation, and
cost-of-living increases. The global economic crisis has further threatened economic stability in the country, though the economy posted
a modest recovery in 2010 and 2011. Chinchilla signed free trade agreements with China, which went into effect in 2011, and Singapore
in April 2010 in an effort to increase foreign investment and reverse the trend of growing poverty.

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AMNESTY
INTERNATIONAL
Costa Rica's candidacy for election to the UN Human Rights Council: Open letter
18 May 2011

Dear Minister,

OPEN LETTER RE: COSTA RICA’S CANDIDACY FOR ELECTION TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

We write on the occasion of your country’s candidacy for membership of the UN Human Rights Council in the elections scheduled for
20 May 2011. We note your submission election pledges to promote
and protect human rights at the national and international levels, as
indicated in the Annex to the letter
dated 11 April 2011 from the Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations to the
President of the General Assembly.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued guidance in the form of a framework for voluntary pledges and
commitments by Member States when presenting candidatures for
the Human Rights Council, including that these should make specific,
measurable and verifiable
commitments.1 We also recall that, according to General Assembly resolution 60/251, members of the
Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and fully
cooperate with the Council.2 We
take this opportunity to make some comments on Costa Rica’s
election pledges and to note some additional opportunities for your
government to promote and protect
human rights on the occasion of its candidature.

1. Commitments at the international level:
 Ratification of international human rights instruments
While we welcome your commitment to complete the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the
International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Right, we wish to take this opportunity to also
encourage you to ratify the International Convention for the Protection
of All Persons from Enforced
Disappearance, which you have already signed, as well as the International Convention on the Protection
of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

 Cooperation with the Special Procedures
We welcome your commitment to promote the independence of the Special Procedure system. In this
regard we note that the
Independent Expert on access to safe drinking water and sanitation visited
Costa Rica in March 2009 and the Special Rapporteur on the
right of Indigenous peoples in April this
year. We encourage your government to commit to give consideration to the recommendations
arising
from these missions.
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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
UN Human Rights Council: Strong Message on Bahrain Abuses
June 28, 2012

(Geneva) – For the first time, 28 countries, including Mexico, Norway, Costa Rica, France, and Germany, condemned ongoing
violations in Bahrain through a joint collective declaration pronounced by Switzerland during a UN Human Rights Council debate. But the
United States, the United Kingdom (UK), and seven other European Union (EU) states remained silent.

The cross-regional statement called for implementing all the recommendations, including the release of political prisoners, of the Bahrain
Independent Commission of Inquiry, appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa following street demonstrations in Bahrain early in
2011. The group of states also called upon Bahrain to ensure accountability for those in government who have committed abuses.

“This joint action is an important step as it put the government of Bahrain on notice that the UN Human Rights Council will keep a close
watch on the situation in the country,” said Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

However, the US, the UK, and seven other members of the EU (Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Sweden) decided
not to support the joint initiative. In spite of continued attacks of largely peaceful protests, the detention of demonstrators and activists,
and the use by Bahraini courts of confessions obtained under torture, the US and the United Kingdom decided to remain silent on the
gravity of the situation and the lack of engagement of Bahrain with UN human rights mechanisms.

“The United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries that opted for silence today on the abuses committed in Bahrain should
make use of the remaining debates of the Human Rights Council to clearly voice their concerns about ongoing violence and detention and
trials of peaceful protesters in Bahrain,” Stork said.
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OFFICIAL
GOVERNMENT HUMAN
RIGHTS STATEMENT
Address by the President in delivering the Expert Report
An opportunity for our democracy
Remarks by the President of the Republic
Laura Chinchilla Miranda
Thursday January 17, 2013

To mark the work report I presented to the country on May 1 last year, let me make a call for us to address collectively a profound
reflection on the state of our democratic institutions.

I did convinced that Costa Rica is a wonderful country and admired, especially by the strength with which we are building an
institutional framework, based on the defense of freedom, democracy and the rule of law and the promotion of dialogue and peaceful
coexistence.

With that beautiful legacy built over many generations, and Costa Ricans have a homeland from which we justly proud, that, although
small in size, has been able to achieve great things.

Costa Rica is considered one of the strongest democracies in the world, with one of the highest standards of respect for human rights,
the rule of law and freedom of expression. Costa Rica, has held high levels of human development, comparable to those of the most
developed nations of the world. Costa Rica is also an example of respect for the environment and one of the five nations of the world
greener. Costa Rica, has an open and dynamic economy that has managed to take the lead in attracting investment, and where
technology exports as a percentage of exports of industrial products put us at the forefront of Latin America and among the top
worldwide.

But amid these extraordinary advances, many Costa Ricans have been showing skepticism or frustration with the state of the nation. In
particular, the performance of our policy and the functioning of our democratic institutions that are increasingly less able to respond
promptly to citizen demands or address pressing challenges we still pending in our development agenda.

The drive along many years of reforms to our institutional framework, so witty and disjointed, degenerated into a sclerotic state and
atrophied. That is how, regardless of the political capabilities, intellectual or moral rulers, public institutions are showing serious
limitations to fulfill their legal and constitutional mandates and fail to realize the political will of those who are elected at the ballot box.

To these problems of institutional design bind other factors that further aggravated, as fractionation and quality of our political
representation and minority veto power, which eventually imposed on the will of the majority democratically elected.

These circumstances combine to that instead of promoting the initiative and vigor of our people, they often Bridle, so that, instead of
moving with agility, paralyze us eternal handling processes, so that increasingly recourse to the tracks actually detrimental to our rule of
law.
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LA DEFENSORIA DE
LOS HABITANTES
COSTA RICA
TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH BY GOOGLE TRANSLATE
Press Office
Ombudsman
Friday January 18, 2013
Advocacy supports changes in maternity
beyond the License
* Reform must go beyond a license extension for certain special cases, and
include the responsibility for the care of children

The Ombudsman of Costa Rica two years ago launched a discussion process to labor legislation forward in the recognition protection of
the rights of women workers on the occasion of the
motherhood to incorporate men, employers (as) and the State in the responsibility in
the care of and daughters.

This reform should facilitate the implementation of special measures balance employment discrimination suffered by women who are
pregnant,
which extend the license to women in very specific cases (Premature births, children (as) to submit a disability or needs
special children (as) with chronic and multiple births) and
promote new ways of parenting. The proposal must try inclusion in the Labor
Code of the responsibility of care, with the
objective of providing social function of motherhood, addressing the rights of children in
quality spaces from a vision of solidarity and tripartite-between
part worker, employer and the state, which also constitute a legal
framework
the workplace to care network.

In the opinion of the Ombudsman, motherhood changes must go beyond
aspect of the extension of licenses, for an average of 73 000 births
year, only 18.8% are entitled to the term of the license, hence the
need to extend the discussion to the responsibility for the care of children.

While Costa Rica has special measures that protect legally the women at this stage of his life, are constant queries submitted to the
Ombudsman, which occur primarily in the private sector related, among others, the lack of maternity coverage to groups of women,
non-state hiring or firing of pregnancy; excluding social security in areas such as health transcendental, and lack of space and / or
permits for the care of children.

The bill drafted by the Ombudsman told in due course with a broad participation of representatives of the State such as the Ministry of
Labour, the National Women's Institute (INAMU), non-CEFEMINA governmental, foundations as FES, organizations union as ANEP,
national experts and even the Ombudsman for Inhabitants, Ofelia Taitelbaum apprised him of Mrs. President of the Republic, Laura
Chinchilla Miranda.

Notwithstanding the foregoing and importance the Commission for Women's Congress Republic ruled the project, leaving only the part of
strengthening of the Directorate of the Ministry of Labour inspection as body control measures were in effect at the time of labor
motherhood.

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ARIAS FOUNDATION
FOR PEACE AND
HUMAN PROGRESS
TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH BY GOOGLE TRANSLATE
Oscar Arias Sanchez reflects on 25 years since Central American peace accords
By Manuel Roig-Franzia,

Published: August 22, 2012

A quarter-century on, the man of peace still waits. Still waits for the broader hopes of another era to be realized. Still waits for the killing
to stop.

Oscar Arias Sanchez was 46 years old when, as the improbably self-assured president of Costa Rica, he became an international
phenomenon by brokering an impossible accord, knitting the presidents of five Central American nations into agreement on a peace deal
that spurred the end of the civil wars ravaging the region. He always thought of the peace plan that took his name as something grander
than a simple end to wars. As he puts it, the quest for a cease-fire that led to the Esquipulas II Accords, named for the Guatemalan city
where they were negotiated, were merely “an overture.” But the composition’s “leitmotif” was strengthening democracy.

And this is why Arias, who paused for a leisurely chat over lunch during a recent Washington visit to celebrate the peace accord’s 25th
anniversary, frets. He looks around the region he calls home and sees rampant drug violence, intractable poverty and too many
democratic institutions that seem wobbly and imperiled. Now, he says, instead of mourning young “guerrilleros” — guerrilla fighters —
the region’s mothers cry for slain young “pandilleros” — gang members. He touches more notes of lament than trills of triumph, so
much so that I wonder aloud whether he’s depressed at what has become.

“Depressed? No,” Arias says. “Disillusioned” is a better word, he advises. “Latin America has not achieved the development that it
deserves. . . . I’m not optimistic for all of Latin America, not only for Central America.”

He’s glum despite the improvements in the region — the rise of Brazil’s economy, signs of a nascent middle class and more. His
emergence as a Latin American Jimmy Carteresque troubleshooter has given him a unique and dispiriting vantage point on the region’s
ills, particularly the chaotic 2009 coup in Honduras, a constitutional crisis that he was called upon to help resolve but couldn’t pull off.
Arias served as a mediator between Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran president who was flown to Costa Rica after that nation’s high court
ordered him removed and soldiers stormed his office to force him to fly into exile, and Roberto Micheletti, the head of the National
Congress who became de facto president.

“It was impossible to get Micheletti and Zelaya to sit at the same table,” Arias says. “Both were intransigent.”

The Honduran mess made Arias wary of the “specter of authoritarianism” increasing in the region, although he diplomatically avoids
singling out individual countries where the powerful are trampling on democratic institutions. “With states that are so weak, there are not
sufficient resources for education, health care, infrastructure and security,” he says, chiding the region’s elites for not paying enough in
taxes.
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Report
Laura Chinchilla Miranda
President since 8 May 2010
Alfio Piva Mesen
First Vice President since 08 May 2010
TRAFFICKING IN
PERSONS
None reported.
Luis Liberman Ginsburg
Second Vice President since 08 May 2010
Laura Chinchilla Miranda
President since 8 May 2010