If harboring the United Nation’s University for Peace and being home to a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president weren’t enough, Costa Rica now is establishing a Peace Ministry to further brand itself as the nonviolence capital of the Americas.
Legislators last week approved a bill that lays the foundation for the new Peace Ministry, which will be charged with promoting peace programs among youth groups and other institutions.
“We think it’s very important that Costa Rica have an identity of peace; a reputation for looking for alternative answers to conflicts and a reputation for not accepting crime within our country,” said lawmaker Ana Helena Chacón, a sponsor of the bill.
Already known as the “Switzerland of the Americas,” Costa Rica’s peace-loving reputation dates back at least to the 1940s, when it became the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish its army.
Forty years later, President Oscar Arias played a key role in negotiating settlements to the Central American conflicts of the 1980s. This involvement resulted in his being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. And, most recently, Arias has been at the center of the mediation process for the present Honduran crisis, which began June 28 when President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup d’état and the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti was installed.
Costa Ricans have long demonstrated a tendency to go to lengths to quedar bién (get along well with others), a trait that results in a generally non-confrontational approach to life.