Oscar Arias Sanchez was born on 13 September, 1941 to Juan Arias Sanchez and Lillyan Arias Sanchez at Heredia in Costa Rica. The Sanchezs were perceived as one of the richest and prominent coffee growers of the county. After studying at the Colegio Saint Francis in San Jose, Oscar 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.
Oscar was a brilliant student and was awarded a fellowship to study at two prestigious universities in London. In 1967, Arias traveled to the United Kingdom and enrolled in the London School of Economics. He received a doctorate degree in political science from the University of Essex in 1974. His hard work and passion brought Arias over fifty honorary degrees, including doctorates from Harvard University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Oberlin College. Arias married Margarita Penon Gongora in 1973. She was a biochemist trained in Vassar. They have a son (Oscar Felipe) and a daughter (Silvia Eugenia).
In 1972, Arias was appointed Minister of National Planning and Political Economy in the government of President Jose Figueres Ferrers. He, at that time, was teaching political science at the University of Costa Rica.
Arias, already a noted personality, became more popular among the masses for his fair and pragmatic approach in handling the sensitive issues. He concentrated all his efforts to end the prolonged social tension in the country. In 1975, Arias was named the international secretary of the National Liberation Party and soon elected general secretary of the Party in 1975. He thus became the head of the PLN.
Presidential Election 1986
Arias served in the national legislature from 1978 to 1981. He played a crucial role in shrinking the differences between government and the people. He wanted to form a government, which is transparent and close to the people. In 1986, Arias stepped down from the post of the PLN general secretary to put more time for the presidential campaign. During the election, the condition of the national economy was in stark recession and rightly utilizing the situation, Arias assured “roofs, jobs and peace” to all, if he would come to power. Though Arias was fortunate to win the Presidential election the mandate was hardly overwhelming. He polled 52.3 percent plurality.
Arias took “oath of office”, on 8 May, 1986. Interestingly, on that day, nine presidents of the Latin American countries arrived in San Jose to attend the ceremony. They unanimously called for a continental alliance for the protection of democracy and liberty. Costa Rica, led by Oscar Arias, assumed an active role in the search for democracy and peace for all the countries of the region. As president, Arias did his best to realize goals including the system of equitable distribution of wealth, more justice and better earnings for farmers and urban workers, a more open "accessible" government, and a true rule of law for all. He acted as a non-radical, non-ideological leader.
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. President Arias began to be perceived as a genuine international statesman and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. In April 1990, announcing his plan to accept a visiting professorship at Harvard, President Arias stepped down from power to opposition candidate Rafael A. Calderon.
Contribution of Oscar Arias Sanchez
After renouncing the chair of President, Oscar Arias Sanchez associated himself with the non-partisan, non profit organizations working for the progress of mankind. Some of the organizations, with their objectives are listed below:
The Center for Human Progress: Created in 1990, the organization works towards eliminating gender discrimination among the population of Central America.
The Center for Peace and Reconciliation: was founded with the objective of promoting pluralistic participation in building peace in Central America. It was also founded in 1990.
The Center for Organized Participation: The organization was founded in 1993, in collaboration with the Mott Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation and other international donors. Its mission was to strengthen citizen participation in Central America.
Carter Center: The institution was founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn 1982. The Center, in partnership with Emory University, is committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering. It is headquartered in Atlanta.
The International Negotiation Network: This is a sub-institution of the Carter Center comprising eminent person's of the worldwide. It includes former heads of state and other prominent people who individually or collectively were capable of bringing parties to a conflict together. They serve as mediators in peace negotiations, monitor elections or conduct behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
In 2004, Arias intended to run again for the post of President in February 2006 general elections. Contrary to what the private polling companies and media had predicted about Arias huge electoral win, the official results showed that Arias beat center-left contender Otton Solis only by 18,169 votes. The people reportedly smelt the use of unethical means by the opponents.
Arias has received numerous prizes for his contribution towards the progress of humanity. The Nobel Peace Prize, 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 are among them. He has also received approximately fifty honorary doctorates from colleges and universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Marquette, and Washington University in St. Louis.