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Oscar Arias Sánchez    

Former president of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace laureate, Oscar Arias holds international stature as a spokesperson for the Third World. Championing such issues as human development, democracy, and demilitarization, he has traveled the globe spreading a message of peace and applying the lessons garnered from the Central American Peace Process to topics of current global debate. The New York Times reported that Oscar Arias' "... positions on Central American issues have become the standards by which many people in Congress and elsewhere have come to judge United States policy." In a similar way, he has come to take a leading position in international discourse.
Dr. Arias was born in Heredia, Costa Rica, in 1940. He studied Law and Economics at the University of Costa Rica. His thesis, Grupos de Presión en Costa Rica (Pressure Groups in Costa Rica) earned him the 1971 National Essay Prize. In 1974, he received a doctoral degree in Political Science at the University of Essex, England. After serving as Professor of Political Science at the University of Costa Rica, Dr. Arias was appointed Costa Rican Minister of Planning and Economic Policy. He won a seat in Congress in 1978 and was elected secretary-general of the National Liberation Party in 1981. In 1986, Oscar Arias was elected president of Costa Rica. Dr. Arias assumed office at a time of great regional discord. The fall of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and the introduction of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua had already been a source of contention in Central America. Even before assuming the presidency, Arias traveled throughout Central and South America to personally invite the Latin American heads of state to visit Costa Rica for his presidential inauguration. On the day he took office, the presidents of nine Latin American countries met in San José. In this meeting Arias called for a continental alliance for the defense of democracy and liberty. He affirmed that all Central Americans were entitled to the same liberties and social and economic guarantees of democracy, that each nation had the right to select, through free and fair elections, the type of government that could best meet the needs and interests of its people, and that neither armies nor totalitarian regimes were entitled to make this decision. At that moment Costa Rica, led by Oscar Arias, assumed an active role in the search for democracy and peace for the countries of the region. 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 in 1987. In that same year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1988, Arias used the monetary award from the Nobel Peace Prize to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. Dr. Arias has received numerous prizes, among them the Jackson Ralston Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Liberty Medal of Philadelphia, and the Americas Award.

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