President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli commended Costa Rica on Thursday morning when citizens and visitors gathered at the National Museum to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the abolition of Costa Rica’s army.
On Dec. 1, 1948, eight months after the end of Costa Rica’s 44-day civil war, then-president José “Pepe” Figueres signed the law that abolished the military.
“The end of the military in Costa Rica is one of the most important facts of the trajectory of our country,” said Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo.
The Scouts and Guides of Costa Rica also attended Thursday’s celebration, where Chinchilla honored their work and dedication by signing a law that officially recognizes the organization that has enriched Costa Rican children since 1915.
The Scouts and Guides in turn thanked Chinchilla with flowers and a plaque before donning each president with red, white and blue kerchiefs for the ceremony.
President Martinelli congratulated the Scouts and Guides on behalf of Panama when he said, “I always wanted to be a scout when I was child, but I never was, so it is an honor to have all of you for company today.”
Martinelli continued applauding Costa Rica and Panama and the parallels that have helped forge strong bilateral relations.
“Our countries share so much. Our countries complement each other and Costa Rica not having an army is something that we respect and admire about our neighbor,” Martinelli said.
Castillo expanded on Martinelli’s comments by explaining how not having an army has allowed Costa Rica to focus resources elsewhere.
“Maintaining an army requires finances that we have been able to invest elsewhere like health care, the environment and education for our children,” Castillo said.
The scouts chanted as Chinchilla took the stage to thank Panama for its dedication to healthy bilateral relations and to assure that Costa Rica continue moving forward peacefully without an army.
“We share the most peaceful border in the world,” Chinchilla said. “Our friendship with Panama is something that we should all be proud of.”
But not everyone agreed with the decision to host Martinelli as one of the event’s guests of honor. The Friends Peace Center simultaneously hosted a separate ceremony at the National Monument, where they celebrated 63 years without an army and used the event to voice concerns over current events in Costa Rica and the region.
Francisco Cordero, president of the Friends Peace Center, said, “We don’t believe that Martinelli deserves the honor of attending the ceremony because of his actions in Panama.”
Cordero further detailed these actions in a letter published on the Friends of Peace website.
“The recent operation to disperse and subdue indigenous and civilians on strike in Bocas del Toro left a deplorable result of a number of dead and wounded and a group of victims of pepper gas that is outlawed [for] being inhumane even for war,” the letter states.
Additional concerns expressed in the letter also include Costa Rica’s mobilization of more police to the Nicaraguan border and the upcoming Latin American leadership summit to be held in Caracas, Venezuela.
The letter closes with a “call for peace, neutrality between bellicose conflicts among the superpowers and rejection of any sign of strengthening of weapons or militarism.”
According to Cordero, members of the Friends Peace Center are “not in accordance with mainstream ideologies.”
“We have lived 63 years in peace without an army,” Cordero said. “We need police to protect our people, but we should not start fortifying these police to take on some of the roles of an army.”