CRC Daily: Costa Rica celebrates Army Abolition Day

Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948, focusing instead on healthcare and education.

Costa Rica on Monday is celebrating a day off for Abolition Day.

Día de la Abolición del Ejército has been officially recognized since 1986. The holiday exemplifies Costa Rica’s values of hard work and peace. Abolishing the army also had significant positive impacts on the country’s development.

“The abolition of the army is one of the most politically relevant decisions of our nearly 200 years of republican existence, and it’s an essential part of our national identity,” President Carlos Alvarado has said.

Some brief history: Costa Rica erupted into civil war after a disputed election in early 1948. After eight weeks of conflict, resulting in commander José Figueres Ferrer rising to power, the new leader abolished Costa Rica’s military on December 1, 1948. In a symbolic gesture, the then-President transferred authority of the Bellavista Barracks to the recently formed University of Costa Rica. Today, the former military headquarters are Costa Rica’s National Museum.

Two quick notes: First, the military wasn’t formally abolished until the new constitution was enacted in 1949; however, December 1, 1948 is the officially recognized date. Second, it’s not December 1 yet; however, Costa Rica moved the holiday’s observation this year in order to create a long weekend. Pura Vida.

Article 12 of Costa Rica’s constitution was enacted as follows:

The Army is outlawed as a permanent institution. For the surveillance and preservation of public order, there will be the necessary police forces. Only by continental agreement or for national defense may military forces be organized; Both will always be subordinate to the civil power; They may not deliberate, or make demonstrations or statements individually or collectively.

The result of army abolition? After abolishing the military, Costa Rica began allocating greater resources to infrastructure, health and education, resulting in “various positive effects on Costa Rica’s economy and its general population,” according to the UCR.

Under a new constitution, Costa Rica’s per-capita GDP increased at the second-highest pace in all Latin America. The investments in public resources also paid dividends: Costa Rica is still recognized for its robust healthcare system and educational levels. And while the country’s infrastructure leaves something to be desired, the Electricity Institute (founded in 1949) operates a grid powered almost entirely by renewable sources.

The new constitution also sought political stability; a 1955 attempted overthrow of Figueres’s government is among the only blemishes on Costa Rica’s otherwise peaceful political landscape. (This is particularly noteworthy when compared to the rest of the region.)

Not bad, Costa Rica! The day off is well-deserved.


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