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Costa Rica celebrates 67 years without an army

December 1, 2015

Costa Rica marked the 67th anniversary of the abolition of its army Tuesday morning during a ceremony at the National Museum, once the Bellavista Fortress.

Breaking one of the crenelations of the former fortress with the swing of a hammer as a ceremonial gesture, President José Figueres Ferrer abolished the armed forces in Costa Rica on Dec. 1, 1948 following the end of the civil war that brought him to power.

The abolition of the armed forces was enshrined in the 1949 Constitution that established the Second Republic. Costa Rica declared its neutrality in international conflicts starting in 1983 and banned the death penalty in 1877.

Dec. 1 also serves as a Veterans Day for a country that has few surviving soldiers.

The decision to do away with the armed forces “has forged generations of Costa Ricans who do not know a war tank or armed planes in our territory and will never as Costa Ricans need to carry a rifle to die on a battle field,” said Foreign Minister Manuel González in a statement Tuesday.

“Along with the principles of liberty and democracy, the abolition of the army is one of the exceptional steps moving Costa Rica toward a more just and cultured society” that is focused on human development, not expanding military capacity, González said.

Speaking next to a cannon at the National Museum, President Luis Guillermo Solís urged a group of students present to not “forget the moment when a president of the republic — a victorious general — had the enlightenment to abolish the armed forces in our land. Carry in your hearts, build with your hands the pacific and beautiful nation that Figueres dreamed and the republic we inherited.”

Solís then placed a bouquet of flowers in the barrel of the cannon, “May cannons never fire again in our land.”

A Costa Rican veteran
A veteran wears his army cap on Dec. 1, 2015 with a medal marking the Battle of Santa Rosa. (Courtesy Casa Presidencial)
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