Costa Rica celebrated its 67th anniversary as a military free state on December 1.
The country is the only nation in Latin America with absolutely no military force.
The event was attended by students, military veterans and government officials, all celebrating the culture of peace in the country.
Social Democrat Figueres Ferrer, who died in 1990 at 84-years-old, launched an armed movement against the government of Teodoro Picado after he failed to respect the outcome of the 1948 elections. The outcome sparked a 44-day civil war that caused 2,000 deaths. After his victory, Figueres abolished the presence Costa Rica’s military force, breaking the wall of the country’s army headquarters.
The country’s prior military budget is now invested into security, education and culture.
“The abolition of our army reflects a concept of peace that we remember today and bequeath to the world. Costa Rica was founded on the commitment of dialogue, a culture of peace,” said the President Juan Guillermo Solís in a speech.
Solís added that since former president and leader José Figueres Ferrer, now deceased, took the decision to disband the army, Costa Rica “changed soldiers for schoolchildren,” and today “harvests knowledge and moves towards a culture of peace.”
Just after the president’s speech, Costa Rican Congress also celebrated.
“It’s so real that today Haiti and Panama have no army, after following Costa Rica’s example,” said deputy liberationist, Rolando Gonzalez.
Although Panama and Haiti do not have armies, they still have some means of defense, making Costa Rica the only country on the continent without any military intervention.
In a visit to Costa Rica in late July of 2014, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “for decades, Costa Rica has been a worldwide example in rejecting unnecessary military expenditures. Instead, the country bravely invested in health and universal education. The result has been less inequality and greater social peace,” the Tico Times reported.
The absence of armed forces has become linked to Costa Rica’s international reputation, however, questions remain unanswered as to whether having no army really represents a saving to the country?
This question was raised by BBC Mundo in a June 2015 analysis, and it also takes into account the case of Panama, which hasn’t had an army since 1989.
Looking at all the Central American countries, the analysis reveals that Costa Rica saves around $450 million annually and the other countries – Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador – spend around 0.9 percent of their GDP on their military forces.