San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Weapons Scandals Dogged President Arias

Sometimes it’s tough being a Nobel laureate. President Oscar Arias, who won the Peace Prize in 1987 for his role in the Central American peace process, drew plenty of criticism from his opponents this year for what they called doubletalk: advocating arms control abroad while opening Costa Rica to arms manufacture at home.

The conflict centered on two documents. The Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) lists illegal weapons on its tariff schedule, prompting the Citizen Action Party (PAC) and other CAFTA critics to argue the pact would allow such arms into the country. Supporters of the agreement denied this.

The other document, a Public Health Ministry decree outlining the process of obtaining health permits for businesses, which Arias signed in August, included the manufacture of illegal arms in an annex.

The administration said the annex, created by the United Nations, did not change the country’s arms ban, but later modified the decree nonetheless. The administration then submitted a bill to expand Costa Rica’s weapons bans – prohibiting the manufacture of all firearms – to the Legislative Assembly, where at year-end it remained under discussion in the Governance Commission.


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