San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Johnny Araya

Ex-presidential candidate Johnny Araya officially banned from political activity for four years

Former presidential candidate Johnny Araya Monge has been officially banished from Costa Rica’s political scene for the near future.

Costa Rica’s Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) on Wednesday upheld the earlier decision by Araya’s National Liberation Party (PLN) to ban Araya from any political activity for four years. The PLN’s ethics committee ordered Araya to stay out of politics last December, following his early withdrawal from the presidential race on March 5, 2014.

The elections tribunal ruled in favor of the PLN, saying the party followed the right procedures in ordering the sanction and did not violate Araya’s rights.

Araya had argued that the PLN’s decision violated his right to participate in political activities. He had also argued that his party lacks regulations on doling out punitive measures, and that there’s no provision in the party’s rules regarding dropping a presidential race.

The justices disagreed on all three counts.

“Such behavior represents a disrespect to a candidate’s duties as a member of a political party, and it also constitutes a sanctionable offense that affected his party’s ethics,” the TSE concluded.

Araya dropped his presidential campaign last year just a month before an April runoff against then-Citizen Action Party candidate, now President Luis Guillermo Solís. He made the announcement just hours after a University of Costa Rica poll showed that Solís held a 44 percent lead in the runoff race.

PLN’s ethics committee banned Araya on Dec. 9, 2014 from running for public office for four years. The committee said Araya’s decision to quit the presidential race was a clear ethics violation.

The sanction had been temporarily suspended pending TSE’s resolution, but it is now in effect following the dismissal of Araya’s appeal.

Araya had suggested he was interested in running for mayor of San José next year. But the ban puts a wrench in that plan. The politician was mayor of the capital for 22 years before resigning in order to pursue the presidential race.

The ban also means Araya can’t run again for president in 2018, as his sanction ends in 2019.

Following his withdrawal from last year’s presidential race, Araya has served as an adviser to the PLN’s 18 lawmakers — until now. The sanction also forbids his participation at the Legislative Assembly.

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I agree more with Ben, Araya was disconnected from the majority of the people and mostly implemented things to benefit the wealthy as most politicians do. I don’t believe a walking bridge is such a huge accomplishment for over 20 Years in office, or signs? San jose needs someone that will ignite the people and help create jobs. The city is a filthy disaster and has become quite dangerous. As for the filthy part, I am sure there are plenty of people that are in need of jobs. How about hiring homeless people to clean the streets. Pay them a decent wage and feed them and I am sure you will not only beautify the city you will turn the lives around for some people. Also when it comes to government housing, the building are terrible. There are materials that are cheaper than concrete and easy to use. The only problem is there isn’t a company here that makes them so there is no kickbacks. There are so many low cost high impact projects that can be done to make this whole country better not just San Jose. The problem is lawmakers only approve projects that kick back funds to them. Just like alot of these development firms. They payoff the government entities so they can build at will without any oversight. I have seen first hand building that are drawn to code but not built to code. The corruption runs deep as it always has and always will. The United States is not different. I still hold out hope that some day a wealthy man with morals will come to office and serve his country in the manner it was intended. It is not possible to do if your poor so all we can do is pray.

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Ken Morris

I’m not sure, but I think Araya is perfectly entitled to run for political office under the auspices of another political party. Thus, his political rights have not been abridged, rather, the right of political parties to discipline their members has simply been upheld.

Of course, as a practical matter it’s unlikely that another party will welcome Araya or that he could win an election as a member of another party, but this is something he should have thought about before he suspended his presidential campaign.

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Araya’s withdrawal from the presidential race was disgraceful.
But although he was not the greatest mayor, he did accomplish some important things.
He oversaw some very good changes over more than 20 years.
For example, during his terms, the pedestrian-only streets were built, which have been the major factor in making San Jose a people-friendly city.
Imagine what downtown San Jose would be like without them.
Also, he had all the garish overhanging signs banned from them, first on Avenida Central, which also made the streetscape much improved. This was not without some pushback from businesses.
(The glass-enclosed ads placed in the middle of Avenida Central were an unfortunate trade-off, in my opinion, but on balance there was an improvement.)
And although there are still lots of bad streets and sidewalks, there was some resurfacing done, including some streets rebuilt with cement instead of asphalt, and therefore with a life expectancy of about 20 years instead of seven.
Downtown festivals (like this weekend’s Transitarte) began during his terms, and the Cow Festival made the downtown a happier place with all its sculptures involving cows.
Araya did none of this single-handedly, of course, but he does deserve credit for helping create and maintain a vibrant downtown despite the construction of so many malls drawing people away from the city center.
Of course, someone else might have accomplished much more in 20-odd years in power, but those are things that we can never determine.

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Ken Morris

I don’t think Araya was a terrible mayor either, and while I doubt I would vote for him, I find him a likeable fellow.

However, I have to disagree that the pedestrian boulevards were improvements. They only appear to be if our standards for good cities are low.

Good cities have thriving mixed-use neighborhoods that are welcoming to pedestrians. Pedestrian boulevards don’t achieve this. Instead, they create single-use mall-like pedestrian areas, and in turn siphon off businesses from other areas while re-routing traffic to them.

The result is that neither the pedestrian boulevards are very good nor are the surrounding neighborhoods. When the stores close on the pedestrian boulevards, they fill with hustlers and become dangerous, precisely because they aren’t mixed use. Meanwhile, many of the surrounding neighborhoods become empty slums, red-light districts, or what have you.

Meanwhile, San José’s pedestrian boulevards are living on borrowed time. They only work as well as they do because so many people have to transfer between buses downtown. As suburbanization and automobile ownership increase, the pedestrian boulevards won’t be a strong enough draw to prevent the city as a whole from degenerating.

My beef with Araya as mayor is that he never bothered to fully understand what makes for good cities, but remained an amateur. It was as if he didn’t even care to learn, but just took the easy way out with pedestrian boulevards, concerts in parks, etc.

The real challenge of San José is how to make the whole city work as an inviting mixed use place. What we want are areas closer to those like the north side of the Central Market, teaming with pedestrians and shops even if they aren’t dedicated pedestrian boulevards. Bringing some of the upper scale businesses from the pedestrian boulevards into these areas would improve them more, while mixing up the businesses on the pedestrian boulevards would improve them.

I’m convinced that good cities are block-by-block things, and I don’t mind a car-free block here and there, even favor them. However, I’m equally convinced that large cookie-cutter pedestrian boulevards are ruinous to good cities, even though they appear to help.

Araya, a suburbanite, never bothered to learn what makes for good cities, and I’m pretty sure didn’t care enough to learn. Others though know and care. San José can find a better mayor.

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Well Araya was Mayor of San Jose for twenty years and did very little to help everyone and did nothing to improve road.sidwalks or anything. I never liked Araya i thought he was clueless when it came to poor people and business. Araya is very rich he will be fine.

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