Costa Rica 2006
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). According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Costa Rica include Independence Day (September 15) and New Year (January 1). The 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 off.
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 October 1987.
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 consequences.
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.