Friday 18 June 2021

Costa Rica May Soon Have A New Holiday: Abolition of the Army Day!

The December 1 holiday would replace the October 12 holiday to commemorate the historic decision taken by the country in 1948

Days before Costa Rica celebrates the 70th anniversary of the abolition of its army, the Government of President Carlos Alvarado Quesada expressed its firm support for the bill “Celebración Nacional del 1 de Diciembre como Día de la Abolición del Ejército” (National Celebration of December 1 as Day of the Abolition of the Army), presented by the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) legislators.

Don Pepe hitting the walls of the Bellavista Barracks on December 1, 1948 in celebration of the abolition of the national army. Photo Casa Presidencial

The Minister of the Presidency, Rodolfo Piza Rocafort, also announced that the Executive Branch will convene this project to extraordinary sessions, which begin in December.

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The bill modifies article 148 of the Labor Code so that the day is considered a “feriado de pago no obligatorio” (non-obligatory holiday), replacing the October 12 holiday, and proposes that the Executive Branch organize events throughout the country in celebration of this important commemoration.

While the date has been officially commemorated since 1986, the current initiative would establish December 1 as a day off from work.

“The abolition of the army is one of the most politically relevant decisions of our nearly 200 years of republican existence, and it is an essential part of our national identity,” Alvarado said in a press statement, which he also shared on Twitter.

Jose Figueres Ferrer

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Then-president Jose Maria Figueres Ferrer, who headed up a provisional military government, grounded in the new constitution the army’s abolition to ensure that militarism would not undermine Costa Rica’s future democracy.

Don Pepe. José María Hipólito Figueres Ferrer (25 October 1906 – 8 June 1990), Benemérito de la Patria (Ben Emeritus of the Fatherland) and three times President (1948–1949, 1953–1958 and 1970–1974) was born in San Ramón de Alajuela. He was the son of Don Mariano Figueres Forges and of Francisca Ferrer Minguella.

After the civil war, Figueres became President at the head of a provisional junta known as the “Junta Fundadora” (Founding Council) that held power for 18 months. During that time he took several actions, in addition to the abolition of the army, among others:

  • Enabled women and illiterates to vote
  • Put into effect basic welfare legislation
  • Nationalized the banking sector
  • Outlawed the Communist Party
  • Guaranteed public education for all
  • Gave afro descendants the right to vote, as well as access to Costarrican nationality
  • Established civil service to eliminate the spoils system in government

In the abolition of the army, Figueres said he was inspired to disarm Costa Rica by H.G. Wells “Outline of History”, which he read in 1920 while at MIT. “The future of mankind cannot include armed forces. Police, yes, because people are imperfect.”, he declared.

In 1953, Figueres created the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN), the most successful party in Costa Rican political history.

Ever since, Costa Rica has had no army and has maintained national police force (Fuerza Publica), becoming one of only a handful of nations worldwide that have no official national army.

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After the presidency, as an acknowledged elder statesman, Figueres became a roving ambassador for subsequent administrations. He has been considered to be the most important political figure in Costa Rica’s history.

Figueres married Henrietta Boggs of Alabama in 1942. They had two children, Muni and José Martí, before the marriage ended in divorce in 1952. He later married Karen Olsen Beck of New York. They had four children, José María, Karen Christiana, Mariano and Kirsten. His wife was a member of the country’s Legislative Assembly.

His son, José María Figueres Olsen, also served as president from 1994 to 1998. His daughter, Christiana Figueres, is a Costa Rican diplomat who served from 2010 to 2016 as the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and is widely considered to be the architect of the Paris Agreement.

December 1 celebrations

Celebrations this Saturday, December 1, include a series of official activities in the National Museum, former Bellavista Barracks, across from the Legislative Assembly.

At the Centro Cultural e Histórico José Figueres Ferrer (CCHJFF), located in San Ramón, will celebrate this historic event with a special cultural agenda, which began on Tuesday and runs until Saturday.

The activities at the CCHJFF include music, film, history, activities for children, exhibitions, dance and educational programs.

Casa Presidencial has been posting on the social networks an audiovisual campaign with testimonials from Costa Ricans and foreigners about the importance of this date and what would have been the course of the country if this historic decision had not been taken.




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