Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oscar Arias popularity plummets in Costa Rica

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. (FILE Photo / Reuters)(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - The popularity of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias has fallen considerably in just three months, according to a poll by Demoscopia published in the Spanish language daily, Al Dia.

Only 27.5% of the respondents think Arias has done a good or very good job as head of state, down 16.5% since a high of 44% in April.

The president's slip in popularity can attributed to a scandal that hit his government hard during the last month.

On Aug. 5, the Housing minister, Fernando Zumbado, tendered his resignation amidst accusations of corruption. Zumbado had stepped aside from his duties in July as authorities investigated his handling of a $1.5 million donation from Taiwan for the country’s poor. The sum was sent through the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). The investigation is still ongoing.

Zumbado, until his resignation, handled most of the current government’s social policies. Arias himself is being accused of contracting friends and associates as consultants for the government and being paid high fees.

The president, who also headed the government from 1986 to 1990, defended his actions saying they are not favours or political payback and that one has to govern with friends and not enemies. Arias ran into a similar scandal 20 years ago during his first term in the presidency.

In 1987, Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in a peace deal that ended years of bloodshed in Central America.

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