San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Araya easily re-elected

San José voters on Dec. 5 handed Johnny Araya another five years in office, re-electing the two-term mayor from the ruling National Liberation Party with 62 percent of a vote marked by absenteeism (see separate story).

Araya, has governed the Costa Rican capital for two decades, first as municipal administrator, then mayor. His latest electoral victory was sealed with less than 25,000 votes – one of the highest rates of absenteeism in the country (82 percent).

Asked whether voters selected him for his track record or the fact that he was the only recognizable name on the ballot, political analyst Victor Borge said, “[His election] shows that he’s been a good mayor. He was elected because he has gotten things done for San José.”

Araya is credited with the creation of two pedestrian walkways, encouraging culture and art and adding lights to make the city safer at night, among other things.

“It’s a city that you can visit,” Borge said. “There are parks, boulevards, commerce. There’s a lot more to do, but he has done a lot.”

Araya grew up in the Palmares and attended the University of Costa Rica’s campus in San Ramón, later moving to the Montes de Oca campus. He graduated with a degree in agricultural engineering.

Araya comes from a political family. His uncle, Luis Alberto Monge, was president from 1982 to 1986, his father was a vice-minister of transportation and legislator, and two uncles were also legislators.

Araya’s first political job in San José was city alderman in San José in 1982.

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