Emma Daly was a reporter with The Tico Times in 1990 when she alleges Óscar Arias, then serving his first term as Costa Rica’s president, groped her.
The Washington Post first reported that Daly said Arias “ran his hand between her breasts and exclaimed, ‘You’re not wearing a bra’” after she approached to ask him a question in a hotel lobby.
Daly joined several other women who have accused Arias of sexual assault, misconduct or harassment after a criminal complaint against Costa Rica’s Nobel Laureate became public Tuesday.
But Daly says Arias’s alleged behavior was not a secret, even in the 1990s.
“But who would I have complained to?” Daly said. “I think they would have laughed at me for complaining about just being touched by some guy.”
After all, Daly recalls, she had faced unwanted advances numerous times throughout her career. Many women in Costa Rica have had similar experiences with “men of his age,” she says.
“I was outraged, but it wasn’t the first or the last time that someone put their hands on me against my will,” she said. “But it was the first time by a president.
“[…] It definitely pissed me off, but you are constantly walking that line of wanting access to people because you needed them for your story and trying not to put yourself in any particularly dangerous situations.”
Dery Dyer, The Tico Times’ former publisher and editor, remembers Daly telling her about the alleged incident soon after it had transpired. In an email to The Tico Times, Dyer said that “[w]hat was particularly maddening about Emma’s encounter was Arias’ abuse of his power as Presidente de la República vs. a young woman who was obviously dependent on staying in his good graces because of her work.”
“In those days, viejo verde stuff was part of the culture, and nobody would have thought to question it beyond the disgusted head shake,” Dyer wrote. “All we did was keep spreading the word among colleagues so that women could be on their guard with him.”
Viejo verde is Spanish slang used to describe an older man who is perceived to act inappropriately around younger women.
“I’m really glad [Daly] came forth with her story. It’s never too late,” Dyer said.
Daly says she felt a duty to go public with her account after reading Alexandra Arce von Herold’s accusation of sexual assault, which was first published in Semanario Universidad.
Arias “categorically” denied allegations of sexual assault, saying he had “never acted in a way that disrespected the will of any woman.” His lawyers declined comment on any further accusations that had not been filed as criminal complaints, according to La Nación.
On Tuesday, La Nación quoted an advisor to Arias who said the politician had allegedly “approached me, took my hand and put it on his erect penis.”
On Wednesday, The Tico Times spoke with Marta Araya Marroni, who accused Arias of making multiple unwanted sexual advances over the course of several weeks in 2012.
The allegations have shaken Costa Rica and darkened the reputation of the country’s two-term president and only Nobel Laureate. Daly says she understands why Costa Ricans might feel disappointed with the accusations given Arias’s international renown.
“[Arias’s] work in Central America was extraordinarily important,” Daly said. “Pulling together the Central American peace plan and really helping to end those wars, he undoubtedly did incredible work and saved many, many lives.
“Having an incredible résumé doesn’t give him the right to grab people when he feels like it.”
Editor’s note: Katherine Stanley, Managing Editor of The Tico Times, worked in the Office of the President during Oscar Arias’ second presidency and provides English-language speechwriting services for Arias. She has recused herself from all reporting and editorial decisions for any story involving Arias, including this one.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Arias was Costa Rica’s only two-term president. Other presidents have served multiple terms.
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