A National Liberation Party (PLN) ethics committee on Tuesday night ordered former Costa Rican presidential candidate Johnny Araya Monge to refrain from participating in any political activities for a period of four years, as a result of his decision to drop out of the presidential race on March 5.
Araya left the race just one month after losing a first-round vote in February against Citizen Action Party candidate – and now president – Luis Guillermo Solís, who received a whopping 78 percent of votes of in an April runoff. Araya’s much-criticized decision to throw in the towel came just hours after a poll conducted by the University of Costa Rica showed Solís held a 44 percent lead in the runoff race.
The PLN’s ethics committee ruled that Araya’s early withdrawal merits disqualification from running as a Liberation candidate for any public office in regional and national elections. Araya in recent months has suggested that he is interested in running again for mayor of Costa Rica’s capital, San José, a post he held for 22 years. He stepped down as mayor to launch his ill-fated presidential campaign.
Ethics committee president Álvaro Castro Garnier at 9:40 p.m. confirmed the decision, and soon after, the party’s under-secretary, Kyra de la Rosa Alvarado, who filed the ethics complaint against Araya, confirmed the four-year sanction.
Johnny Araya “not only brought shame to the National Liberation Party, he also caused the biggest defeat in our party’s history,” De la Rosa argued in her complaint filed on Oct. 9.
On Tuesday night, she added, “I believe the moral damage [caused by Araya] is unmatched and unprecedented, and I actually was hoping for a stricter sanction. However, I am respectful of the committee’s decision.”
Araya on Wednesday morning said he was surprised by the move, telling Telenoticias that “there are people in our party who want to lynch me. There are people who want to completely remove me from National Liberation.”
The former mayor said he would challenge the committee’s decision in the PLN’s appeals committee.
After his withdrawal from the presidential race, Araya has served only as an adviser to the PLN’s 18 lawmakers. The new sanction could forbid his participation in that role.
PLN President Bernal Jiménez said he “respects the ethics committee’s decision,” adding that the committee “has full independence to issue such a ruling.”