Each December first Costa Rica celebrates one of the most significant events in its history, one of the most important milestones of civilian life in search of peace and democracy: the abolition of the army as a permanent institution.
The army until 1948 continued to maintain its presence in the organization of the state as an institution with legal and financial resources that always represented a burden on the national budget.[one_fourth last=”no”]”The military victories themselves are worth little. What we build from them is what matters “ José Figueres Ferrer, January 1949 [/one_fourth]
It was on December 1, 1948, that General Figueres, victorious in the civil war of that year, disbanded the army in Costa Rica. In an emotional ceremony at what is now the National Museum, it was witnessed by students, members of the diplomatic and national personalities, President of the Governing Board, José Figueres Ferrer, with a blow of a sledge hammer knocked down a few stones of the Bellavista Barracks.
The act symbolized the end of a military era in Costa Rica and began another in which security and education would be government priorities.
In 1949 the abolition of the army was incorporated into the 1949 constitution. This allowed to use the budgets allocated to the army for the development of mainly educational programs.
In “Acta No 178”, dated October 31, 1949, appears the constitutional article abolishing the army as a permanent institution and created civil police, for safeguarding public order.
Weeks earlier, on October 31, 1929, Decree No. 749, the Foundation Board of the Second Republic, transferred the Bellavista Headquarters, where today stands National Museum, to the University of Costa Rica.
In 1986, President Oscar Arias Sánchez declared December 1st the Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Military Abolition Day).
Without a military, Costa Rica has not been a perfect paradise on earth, but it has avoided invading or being invaded by other countries. It has avoided military coups and civil wars.