San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President, Significant Other Acknowledge Relationship

President Oscar Arias has a girlfriend. After a few months of dating, Arias and Geovanna Mendiola, a publicist and mother of four, publicly acknowledged their relationship for the first time last week.

When Mendiola granted interviews to the dailies Al Día and La Teja, her image was splashed upon their front pages, with stories in which the First Significant Other gushed about Arias’ “simplicity” and described him as “tender and caring.”

“They’re united by love and by blood, because they’re also second cousins,” Al Día stated.

The twice-divorced Mendiola, 45, told the daily she’s known Arias, 66, all her life, and that the beginning of their romantic relationship was “totally unexpected, very beautiful and special.”

Asked about marriage, the former public relations director for the daily La Nación and TV Channel 6 said the topic hasn’t come up and “only time can give us the answers.” However, the couple’s children – Arias has two adult children with Margarita Penón, from whom he was divorced in 1996 – have responded well to the relationship, she said.

Arias, questioned by reporters when he and Mendiola arrived for a gala dinner at San José’s Club Unión Jan. 26, said he likes Mendiola’s “intelligence and sweetness… and many other things.”

The news prompted a flurry of speculation from analysts and even Vice-President Laura Chinchilla about how the relationship could affect Arias’ governing style. Sexologist Mauro Fernández told the daily La Teja that “doubling old people’s pensions or giving grants to poor students is something only a President in love would do, and that’s what we have.”


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