A note from TWS: It is important that our Wandering Scholars prepare for their journeys by researching their host country before they leave home. The below post is the product of an assignment in which we ask our Scholars to read and share something interesting they’ve learned about Costa Rica’s history, culture, or politics. 

On December 1, 1948, following a violent civil war, Costa Rica’s president José Figueres Ferrer (also known as Don Pepe) destroyed the wall of the Cuartel Bellavista and called for the abolition of the army.  The following year, it was adopted into the Costa Rican Constitution (article 12). Consequently, the funds previously used by the National Army were allocated to the development of education, health, and culture.

Most media outlets agree that this historical event has greatly improved the living standards of Costa Rican citizens. Citizens enjoy high literacy rates, well-preserved ecology, and relative wealth/stability in comparison to their Central American counterparts. Furthermore, the country is widely regarded as one of the happiest in the world, and Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) and foreigners alike praise the policy.

When faced with the question, “How does Costa Rica defend itself?” people explain that diplomatic alliances with countries like the US, special forces, and the Civilian Guard enforce law and patrol borders. Some go further yet to voice that the impromptu army is nearly on par with American armies in that they are trained extensively and equipped with high caliber weapons (5.56-caliber M4 carbines). Such people draw the argument that Costa Rica continues to protect their citizens and are even increasing internal security spending substantially.

However, other sources contradict this information, pointing out that  “Costa Rica’s police reportedly have insufficient training, a shortage of service men, and a lack of resources (including vehicles, weaponry, etc).” Particularly in recent years, the nation has been faced with serious security problems such as drug trafficking and border dispute with Nicaragua, which cannot be adequately tackled by a small civilian army. To these ends, there are some proponents for the development of a stronger defense system and even potential revision to the policy.