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Monday, July 15, 2024

Óscar Arias, Costa Rica’s former president and a Nobel Prize winner, accused of sexual assault, per reports

The following story contains graphic details of an alleged sexual assault. It was last updated at 11:40 CST. 

Óscar Arias, the former president of Costa Rica and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was accused Monday of sexual assault in a criminal complaint, according to a report first published by the weekly Semanario Universidad. 

The document, which was obtained by Semanario Universidad, states that the case has been initiated for the alleged crime of rape. The New York Times also obtained a copy of the complaint.  

According to the reports, the alleged incident occurred in December 2014 at Arias’ house in Rohrmoser, San José. In the testimony, the victim said she had been invited to Arias’ house to deliver more information regarding an anti-nuclear armament campaign they had been discussing, per Semanario Universidad. 

The accuser was identified as Alexandra Arce von Herold, nuclear disarmament activist, according to The New York Times. She recounted the assault as follows, as quoted in Semanario Universidad:

“He grabbed me from behind and touched my breasts. I told him ‘no,’ and that he was married. That was my no. It was the only thing I could think to tell him. I had met his wife.

It was the only thing that occurred to me because I am an idiot, but I did not know what to do, really, and I thought that this was the only line of defense I could have. And when he did not react to that, I did not know what to say, because I had this fear that if I refused, he would not cooperate with us anymore.

I do not remember what he said, but he kept touching me, he put his fingers in my vagina and he touched me and he kissed me. And then he told me to wait for a moment and he left the office. I felt as if I did not know what to do; I felt trapped in that moment. “

Arias initially declined comment to Semanario Universidad through his lawyer, Rodolfo Brenes Vargas. He issued the following statement Tuesday morning via his lawyer, according to journalist Amelia Rueda: 

“I categorically reject the accusations that are made of me. I have never acted in a manner disrespecting the will of any woman, much less in the case of her freedom to relate to another person. ”

Semanario Universidad reports that Dr. Arce told several people about the alleged assault, including her boyfriend on the day of the incident. The weekly says she also told a former Costa Rican congresswoman, Natalia Díaz Quintana, who recommended the victim speak with her family and prepare to take “corresponding actions.” 

The victim then told colleagues at an anti-nuclear armament conference held in Austria later in December 2014 in addition to multiple relatives and friends, according to the Semanario Universidad report.

Monday, Dr. Arce took her case to the criminal court and filed a complaint with the Gender Prosecutor’s Office, according to both reports. The victim said she was motivated to come forward after seeing gymnasts testify against United States Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, according to The New York Times.  

Semanario Universidad has a copy of the criminal complaint, in which the victim states she has no interest in presenting any claim for financial compensation. Both publications also conducted interviews with people who could corroborate the victim’s story.

Read the entire story on Semanario Universidad here. Read The New York Times’ report here

This is s a developing story. Check back at for further updates. 

Editor’s note [10:35 a.m.]: Katherine Stanley, Managing Editor of The Tico Times, worked in the Office of the President during Oscar Arias’ second presidency and provides freelance writing and editing services for Arias. She has recused herself from all reporting and editorial decisions for any story involving Arias, including this one.

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