Abolition of Army Celebrated Dec. 1

May 13, 2005

COSTA Rica will celebrate the 56thanniversary of the abolition of the nation’smilitary on Dec. 1, and activities havebeen planned for the weeks leading up tothe event.In 1948, the legendary José “Pepe”Figueres, popularly known as “Don Pepe”led rebels in an armed uprising to oust theruling government after a supposedlyfraudulent election.Althought Otilio Ulate of the oppositionparty won, the head of the governmentparty and its candidate for President,Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia, refused toyield and the ballots were mysteriouslyburned, preventing a recount.Figueres’ rebels defeated a relativelyunorganized Costa Rican army in about 40days, and on Dec. 1, 1948, the father ofCosta Rica’s modern democracy disbandedhis army and abolished the military.The nation’s new Constitution, ratifiedin 1949, officially eliminated Costa Rica’sarmed forces.“AS of that moment, Costa Rica’sarmy goes to the classroom, has books andnotebooks for arms and the barracks thatfor many years sheltered arms andartillery, today is a sanctuary of culture,tradition, heritage and Costa Rican identity,”said a statement from the NationalMuseum in San José, the former Bellavistamilitary headquarters.To commemorate the historic event,the National Library in San José is hostinga display outlining the history of the 1948Civil War, which will be open until theDec. 1 celebration.The National Museum, also in SanJosé, will host public forums beginningnext Wednesday on topics related to peaceand the abolition of the army, according tothe statement.San José archbishop Hugo Barrantes,police chief Walter Navarro and congressmanRodrigo Carazo are among the scheduledmoderators and expositors of theforums.PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco isscheduled to speak at the Dec. 1 ceremony,which will begin at 2 p.m. at theNational Museum.Advocates of the decision to abolishthe army claim it has afforded Costa Ricathe opportunity to grow into an island ofpeace amid a region torn by war and politicalinstability.“Instead of wasting on soldiers andweapons, Costa Rica has invested thoseresources in health and education. Thisdecision has made of this country a peacefuland pacifistic people,” reads the statementfrom the National Museum.FORMER President José MaríaFigueres (1994-1998), the son of thefamous revolutionary leader, has been avocal advocate of that point of view.“We Costa Ricans have no doubt aboutthe transcendence of that decision, howevercontroversial it was at the time, becauseit enabled this country, more than anythingelse, to consolidate the democratic, pacifist,and stable Costa Rica that we are soproud of,” Figueres said during a 1997 ceremonycelebrating the abolition, accordingto the daily La Nación.Figueres is now one of three ex-Presidents linked to the largest governmentcorruption scandals in recent memory(see separate article).UPCOMING forums, entitled“Religion and Cultures of Peace,”“Security Forces and Cultures of Peace,”and “Education, Immigration and Culturesof Peace” will be held next Wednesday,Thursday and Friday, respectively, at 3p.m. at the museum.The final forum, “The Abolition of theArmy – 56 years later,” will be held Nov.29 at 9:30 a.m. in the Sala España in theNational Library.

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