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News > Latin America

Costa Rica's Former President Arias Accused of Abusing 3 Women

  • Oscar Arias Sanchez, former President of Costa Rica accused of abusing three women.

    Oscar Arias Sanchez, former President of Costa Rica accused of abusing three women. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 February 2019

Three women accused former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias of abusing them while the Nobel Peace Prize winner denied them.

Three women came forward with complaints of sexual abuse against former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez.


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Alexandra Arce von Herold, a psychiatrist, and anti-nuclear activist has filed a criminal complaint of sexual assault against Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president Arias, the New York Times reported Tuesday, an allegation that Arias categorically denied.

The survivor said that Arias assaulted her at his home in Costa Rican capital San Jose in 2014, according to The New York Times and reports in local media.

She alleged that Arias touched her breasts and put his hand under her clothes, according to The New York Times and local media. “I just froze, and I didn’t know what to do,” she said in an interview. “I was so much in shock. That had never happened to me before.”

The activist filed a criminal complaint against the former president this week. It was hard for her as she had to go against one of the most influential politicians of the region. She was also hesitant because of the fear of alienating Arias from the disarmament crusade.


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“The cause was more important than anything else,” she said. But she finally decided to go forward with the complaint  “even if it destroys me.”

"I categorically reject the accusations against me. I have never disrespected the wishes of any woman," Arias said in a statement through his lawyer.

Arias, 78, was president of Costa Rica twice, first between 1986-90, and then 2006-10. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end civil wars in various Central American countries.

The Public Ministry confirmed that she presented a complaint Monday afternoon but did not give further details. The New York Times said that it had been provided with a copy of the complaint by the accuser, which was filed with federal prosecutors.

The activist often met with Arias, who supported her cause, the New York Times report said. She was inspired by the #metoo movement.


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“All the other women, that did, that helped me,” said Dr. Arce adding, “So I thought maybe, maybe, I can help other people too.”

Emma Daily, the head of communications of Human Rights Watch said in an interview with The Washington Post Tuesday that Arias groped her in 1990 while he was a president and she was a reporter covering Central America.

“We just kind of took it,” she said. “It seemed as if being treated like that came with the territory, and there wasn’t much I could do about it.”

In response to Daly’s allegations, one of Arias’s attorneys, Gloriana Valladares, said in an email, “Since there is an ongoing investigation, our code forbids us to reveal information.”


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Nono Antillon, a television journalist in the 1980s also complained against the former president.  Antillon revealed her experience on social media saying that she used to work as a press advisor for Arias during the 1986 elections.

"He was sitting in front of her desk, he came up to me, took my hand and put it on his erect penis. I pushed him and I stood up and he threw himself at me. He grabbed me by the shoulders, threw me against a closet and began to touch me. When I made noise, people began to knock on the door. From then on I did not accept to be alone with him when he was quoting me alone, "Antillon told La Nacion.

Laura Chinchilla Miranda, former Costa Rican President and successor of Arias wrote, “Experience confirms that for women victims of sexual harassment, it is extremely difficult to denounce the incidents because of the power relations that operate against them and intimidate them, and because of the stigmatization that they may be subjected to.”

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