Costa Rica Celebrates 70 Years With No Military

This year of 2018 will mark Costa Rica’s 70th anniversary with no armed forces. The nation consistently remains a model country of political stability, economic prosperity and contentment. It ranked first in Latin America and 12th in the world on the 2017 World Happiness Index while the Happy Planet Index ranked it No. 1 in the world. It seems to make sense that Costa Rica’s popularity and solid reputation can be attributed to the fact it has no standing army. To remain a nation without arms is increasingly noteworthy in a world marked by much political upheaval and violence. 

Costa Rica remains a peaceful nation despite the continuing violence in neighboring Latin American countries. The border between Costa Rica and Panama became the only non-militarized frontier in the world after Panama followed Costa Rica’s example and abolished its military in 1989.

It has used the savings from defense spending to improve education and health care. Home to the greatest density of species in the world and containing over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, Costa Rica takes pride in its ecologically friendly policies. It also enjoys a standard of living that is about double that of other Central American nations except for Panama, which profits from the Panama Canal.

Historic Proposal

Costa Rica’s experiment without a military began in 1948, when Defense Minister Edgar Cardona proposed the idea to spend more on education and health,  according to former Interior minister Alvaro Ramos. José Figueres, provisional president at the time, took the proposal to the constitutional assembly, which approved it. The assembly created a new civil police force to defend the nation in lieu of permanent armed forces.

The change led to many advances for Costa Rica, especially in the 1950s and ’60s.

 “The standard of living of the sick, rural society went up, (and) we built big hospitals, but most importantly, there was a massive education boost.”

  former Interior Minister Alvaro Ramos 

Ramos claims that the absence of a military is the reason behind peaceful relations between Costa Rica and Panama.

Presidential Support

Costa Rica has a history of presidential support for peace and conflict resolution without violence. Former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias claims that negotiation is the best way to avoid confrontation.

“Military solutions to conflicts should be the last, last resort,” he said. “Here, conflicts are resolved at a negotiating table.”

Arias, 77, received international attention during his first presidential term in 1986 for his efforts to end major civil wars and pro-communist revolutions in several Central American countries.

“In 1986, the fundamental theme of my political campaign was to look for a diplomatic solution negotiated in Central America.” – former President Oscar Arias Sanchez 

He said the Reagan administration was “obsessed” in the 1980s with supporting Nicaragua’s Contras, the right-wing rebel group that opposed the socialist Sandinista government. Arias rejected President Ronald Reagan’s military option and instead searched for a pacifist solution.

Arias received the Nobel in 1987 for leading a peace plan with Central American heads of state to agree on economic cooperation and a peaceful resolution to that conflict.

“In every negotiation you obtain what you can, not what you want,” Arias said. “We have in our hands the future of Central American youth, and we cannot fail them.

“Blessed is the Costa Rican mother who knows her son at birth will never be a soldier.”

Ryoichi Sasakawa, Japanese political man and philantropist


*Thank you to USA Today for providing much of the information for this noteworthy news