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'Revered Statesman' Accused of Sexual Assault

Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez is accused
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 5, 2019 12:05 PM CST
Nobel peace laureate and former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias Sanchez in a 2015 photo.   (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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(Newser) – Another prominent figure has been accused of sexual assault, this time Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez. The New York Times, which first reported the allegations, calls Arias "one of Latin America's most revered statesmen." Now, however, his legacy is at risk. Antinuclear activist Alexandra Arce von Herold met with prosecutors and on Monday filed a sexual assault complaint against him stemming from an alleged incident in 2014. Arce says that while she was at Arias' home, he fondled her breasts from behind, put his hands up her skirt, and digitally penetrated her. "I just froze, and I didn't know what to do," she tells the Times. "I was so much in shock. That had never happened to me before."

Arce, a psychiatrist, says she now regrets not responding more forcefully and fighting back. Instead, she thought only to call out, "You're married!" and rushed out of the home on the pretext of having another appointment. She says she has come forward now because she was inspired by women of the #MeToo movement who did the same. Arias served two different terms as Costa Rica's president, the most recent from 2006 to 2010, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work ending wars in Central America. A post on HumanRights.com has details on that work and notes that Arias used his prize money to establish a foundation dedicated to peace and human rights. A women's rights activist says Latin America's "machiscmo" culture makes it difficult to hold powerful men accountable in the region. (A former Scottish leader also is accused.)

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