Oscar Arias Sanchez

Oscar Arias Sanchez

Politician and official, president of Costa Rica (1986-90), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1987 for his Central American peace plan.
Born into one of the wealthiest coffee-growing families in Costa Rica, Arias Sanchez studied economics at the University of Costa Rica and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Essex in England. In the 1960s he began working for the moderate socialist National Liberation Party (Partido de Liberacion Nacional; PLN), and in 1972 he was appointed minister of planning in the government of President Jose Figueres, a post he held until 1977. He was elected secretary-general of the PLN in 1979, and in 1986 he won the general election to become president of Costa Rica.

As president, Arias Sanchez took measures to cope with Costa Rica's heavy foreign indebtedness and other economic problems, but his main interest was in trying to restore peace and political stability to the strife-torn countries of Central America. While harshly critical of the Sandinista government in neighbouring Nicaragua, he forbade that regime's guerrilla opponents (the "Contras") from operating militarily on Costa Rican soil. In February 1987 he proposed a regional peace plan for the Central American countries that would set a date for ceasefires between government and rebel forces, ensure amnesty for political prisoners, and schedule free and democratic elections in those countries. Arias Sanchez and the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua signed this plan in August 1987. In October of that year Arias Sanchez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his efforts to achieve the beginnings of peace in the region.

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