Oscar Arias’ 500-meter walk from his home in Rohrmoser, west of San José, to the National Stadium in La Sabana Park turned out to be more of a crawl as the incoming President was surrounded by mobs of reporters, photographers and supporters.
As Arias had planned, he made his way to the inauguration ceremony among the Costa Rican people. However, a swarm of reporters, photographers and camera operators forced him and his entourage to move at a snail’s pace. As Arias – who had held a press conference and reception for the media the night before, and answered reporters’ questions before beginning the walk – attempted to wave and shake hands, the press and police exchanged some shoves and insults. Eventually, police formed a human chain and forced some members of the press out of the way.
“As if they (reporters) didn’t have four years…to (get) statements,” said Alvaro Carmona, 68, who later crossed the street to try to get a better look. He added that he attended the walk because he wanted to be a “witness” to the administration change, which he hopes is the beginning of better days for Costa Rica.
“(Arias) will return confidence to Costa Ricans, because if that doesn’t happen in these four years, we’ll sink,” he said. “He is capable of doing it, and not just him; he chose a very capable Cabinet.”
Rodrigo Arias, the new President’s brother who will act as his Minister of the Presidency, rode behind his brother in a golf cart, as he was not up for the walk after a recent hip-replacement surgery.
Rodrigo Arias said he didn’t expect so many people to show up for the walk.
“This is a very spontaneous manifestation of the caring nature of the Costa Rican people,” he said.
Meanwhile, a community group from Hatillo, a southern San José suburb, came to walk with Arias not only to support him, but also to remind him of the promise he made during his campaign to provide the community with a government-housing project.
“He gave us his word and said he would show concern for the poor,” said Zoneda Hernández, president of Hatillo’s Tres Marias Housing Association. “I believe in don Oscar, and I already know him from when he was President before. He’s been fighting for human sensibility for 35 years.”
Shouts of “That’s the way, don Oscar!” and signs reading “God Bless You” accompanied Arias on his walk, as did assorted school organizations, traditional dance groups, clowns and papier-mâché mascaradas.
The eclectic soundtrack included music from the Firefighters’ Band, live calypso, and a medley from the musical “Grease,” blasted on roadside speakers.
–Amanda Roberson and Katherine Stanley