Media outlets throughout Latin America on Tuesday reported on statements by Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, who claimed the United States had abolished Costa Rica’s army. In actuality, Costa Rica abolished its own army in 1948, and the U.S. was not involved.
Morales, who was commenting on recent elections in Costa Rica and El Salvador, said, “For the first time a leftist party stands out in a country that was once a colony of the United States, and I think – and I hope I’m not wrong – it is a country without armed forces, as the United States eliminated the army in Costa Rica.”
News outlets attributed Morales’ statement to a report from Spanish news agency EFE, which was cited by Yahoo News, Bolivia’s La Jornada, Colombia’s Vanguardia and El Salvador’s El Mundo.
Morales also said the results of the recent presidential elections “are part of a process of rebellion in Latin America and the Caribbean against U.S. imperialism.” He expressed his hope that all the presidents of the region will be “anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist.”
“I really feel there is a rebellion in Latin America to be democratically freed from the empire. Without U.S. imperialism, there will no longer be coups and we will no longer have our natural resources plundered. Bolivia is the best example,” Morales said.
The Bolivian president delivered the speech during a ceremony of indigenous people in the Andean region of Oruro.
Last week, a news report aired Feb. 2 by Venezuela-based TV station Telesur incorrectly reported the existence of a U.S. Southern Command military base in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province. That report stirred the political climate in Costa Rica and prompted official complaints from President Laura Chinchilla.
Telesur President Patricia Villegas later called the incident a regrettable mistake and offered apologies to the Costa Rican people.
Costa Rica’s army was abolished on December 1, 1948 by a governing board led by National Liberation Party founder José Figueres Ferrer, following the end of a civil war prompted by accusations of electoral fraud by then-President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia.
Calderón’s supporters annuled the March 1 presidential election in which Otilio Ulate had allegedly defeated the president.
Figueres led a civil army that defeated Costa Rica’s Army and a coalition of communist guerrillas loyal to Calderón in a 44-day civil war that killed 2,000. After 18 months, the governing board stepped down and handed the presidency to Ulate.
Figueres later was elected president of Costa Rica three times.
UPDATE: This is not the first time Morales has made wild accusations about Costa Rica’s relationship with the U.S.
In 2010, Morales referred to Costa Rica as essentially a protectorate of the U.S. The Bolivian president said, “Costa Rica doesn’t have armed forces, but it’s armed forces are those of the United States.”
Morales later apologized for the marks, saying he didn’t intend to offend Costa Rica.