Costa Rica. Following a dramatic vote counting process by
hand, Oscar Arias and PLN (Partido Liberación Nacional) were
declared in February to have won the presidential election
over Ottón Solís and PAC (Partido Acción Ciudadana).
victory margin was the most scarce ever in a Latin American
election, but Arias, who was president of Costa Rica 1986-90
and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts
for peace in Central America, reached the 40 percent
threshold, making a second round of redundancy unnecessary.
The election results, incidentally, were somewhat surprising
as opinion polls had shown a satisfactory takeover for Arias
of around 20%. One reason for Solí's strong election results
was considered to be a general dissatisfaction with the free
trade agreement concluded by the outgoing government with
the United States. The turnout was only 65%, which was a
record low for being in Costa Rica.
At the February 1982 parliamentary elections, Luis Alberto
Monge won from the PLN's right wing. Upon his accession, he
declared his affiliation with "the western democracies" and
called for accuracy. At the same time, the governments of El
Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were approached and
relations with the Sandinist regime in Nicaragua were cut
The US trade boycott against Nicaragua animated to deepen
the hostile attitude towards the neighboring country. The
relationship between the two countries reached a critical
point in July and August 1985, following a series of
episodes in the border region. Thanks to a quick response
from the CONTADORA group, they managed to cushion the
mutants; both governments accepted the presence of neutral
observers at the border between the two countries; the
observers should act as exhortators in the event of a
recurrence of the episodes.
The solution to the aggravated economic crisis and the
threat of a regional conflict in the area were the pillars
of the Social Democratic presidential candidate, Oscar
Arias' election campaign; he surprisingly won the February
1986 election with 52% of the vote.
Arias presented a peace plan in August 1987 at a meeting
held in Esquipulas, Guatemala; the plan was approved and
signed by the presidents of El Salvador, Nicaragua,
Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. The main point of the
agreement was the introduction of a ceasefire at the same
time in Nicaragua and El Salvador, the cessation of US aid
to the "contra" in Nicaragua, a "democratization plan" for
Nicaragua, which would allow free elections and make an end
to the use of third countries as bases for attacks.
The signing of this peace plan known as "Esquipulas 2"
helped to give Costa Rica a prominent role in the
international community and was a personal success for Oscar
Arias, who for his efforts received the Nobel Peace Prize in
Under Arias, the first and then the second Structural
Adjustment Program - PAE 1 and PAE 2 - was launched with
assistance from the World Bank. The purpose was to renew the
production apparatus using modern technology, more
efficiency and productivity. The formula recommended by the
international funding agencies was used - according to the
unions, without taking into account or examining the social
A parliamentary commission of inquiry, set up to map the
drug trade, published a report in July 1989 stating that the
two largest parties, PLN and PUSC, had received money from
drug trafficking to fund their election campaigns in 1986.
Both parties - and in particular Oscar Arias - accused of
receiving money from Panama's General Manuel A. Noriega, to
cover the costs of the election campaign. The structural
adjustment programs led to dissatisfaction and
demonstrations in broad strata of the population.
During 1989, the situation worsened. A coalition of local
trade unions, educational institutions and civic groups
organized a strike in the province of Limón that crippled
shipping on the Caribbean coast for four days; later strikes
on the Atlantic coast came. The teachers conducted a
nationwide strike that year.