Date: Sat, 6 Dec 1997 10:48:29 -0600
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Forty-nine years without an army
By R. Saenz and G. Chaves, La Nacion, 2 December 1997
SAN JOSE - On December 1, 1948, the chief of the victorious revolutionary army of Costa Rica, Jose Figueres-Ferrer, disbanded his forces and declared the abolition of the armed forces of this Central American country.
Figueres, popularly known as "Don Pepe", did so as chairman of the Founding Board of the Second Republic, which temporarily ruled the country until the president elect, Otilio Ulate, was inaugurated.
The abolition of the army was then consecrated in the Constitution of 1949.
The current President of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueres, a son of Don Pepe, yesterday inaugurated the National Center for High Technology (CENAT in Spanish) and, during his address, remembered the transcendental decision made by his father.
"We Costa Ricans have no doubt about the transcendence of that decision, however controversial it was at the time, because it enabled this country, more than anything else, to consolidate the democratic, pacifist, and stable Costa Rica that we are so proud of."
President Figueres also remarked that Don Pepe "was the only victorious general who disbanded his army (after the 1948 civil war)."
The abolition of the army enabled the state to dedicate more resources to education and health, and made it stand apart from the other Central American nations, which have been besieged by coups d'etat, dictatorships, military rulers, and civil wars.
Costa Rica now has an illiteracy rate under 7 percent and the best development indices in Central America, according to studies from the United Nations Program for Development.
Also, this nation has played a leading role in the pacification of Central America. Ex-President Dr. Oscar Arias was bestowed with the Nobel Peace Award in 1987 because of his work toward ending the civil wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.
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