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Oscar Arias Sánchez: 1941—: Former Costa Rican President, Writer, Activist

Sought Peace For Central America

Though Arias's domestic economic initiatives brought him both praise and criticism, it was his leadership in foreign affairs that made the greatest impact on both Costa Rica and the world. Soon after he was elected, Arias called for the defense of democracy and liberty in the region and spoke out against American and Soviet involvement in Central America, particularly the Reagan Administration's policy of supporting the Contras. Though the United States provided Costa Rica with a large amount of aid and continued to pressure him to support U.S. policy, Arias defiantly maintained his position of neutrality.

In May of 1986 Arias met with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua to discuss the then existing Peace Plan for Central America, the Contadora plan. After failing to reach a full agreement, Arias began working on his own peace plan. In February of 1987 he drafted what became popularly known as the Arias Peace Plan, which called for cease-fires in all guerrilla wars in the region, a stop to outside military aid and media censorship, a general amnesty for political prisoners, eventual free elections, and reductions in civil- and human-rights abuses. This led to the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords or the Procedure to Establish a Firm and Lasting Peace in Central America by all five Central American presidents on August 7, 1987.

That same year Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The Nobel Committee commended him for an "outstanding contribution to the possible return of stability and peace to a region long torn by strife and civil war." On a less official note, awarding the Prize to Arias was seen as an impetus to speed up the peace process in Central America. Seen as a blow to Reagan's Contra policy, the award was a catalyst for the Arias Peace Plan. In his acceptance speech, quoted on The Arias Foundation website, Arias spoke with great urgency to the superpowers: "Let Central Americans decide the future of Central America. Leave the interpretation of and the compliance with the Peace Plan to us. Support the efforts for peace in our region, not the forces of war; send us not swords but ploughshares, not spears but pruning hooks. If, for your own purposes, you cannot stop hoarding the weapons of war, then in the name of God, at least leave us in peace." Critics were quick to point out that Arias had won the award before peace had come to Central America. Implementing the Arias Peace Plan was fraught with complications, but in the end it helped resolve the internal conflicts in the region and created a favorable climate for strengthening economic development and democratic institutions.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyOscar Arias Sánchez: 1941—: Former Costa Rican President, Writer, Activist Biography - Chose A Political Path, Led The Pln To Victory, Sought Peace For Central America, Founded An Organization For Peace