Thursday 8 December 2022

Costa Rica without an army: who defends us?

The border between Costa Rica and Panama is the only demilitarized in the world.

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QCOSTARICA – December 1, 1948, marked a before and after in the history of Costa Rica: the army disappeared. And, with this, came a question: what would happen to the security of the country?

In the Political Constitution of that year, it was established that, instead of the military, a police force would be formed: this is what we now know as the Fuerza Publica (National Police) and all its dependencies. In addition, it was determined that the money that would be spent at that time, for the army, was destined for public health and education.

USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at Juan Santamaría Airport. Photo by Braulio Molina and Rodrigo Castro, October 2020

“With that, Costa Rica assured that it does not have an aggressive or offensive position with respect to anybody in the world, with respect to any other nation or any group, that the State decides to resolve things not by force,” explained Álvaro Ramos, an analyst on issues of security and former Ministro de Gobernación (Minister of the Interior).

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In this way, the Fuerza Publica became the security body within the country, which differs from a military organization.

Ramos explained that there is the particularity that they, the members of the Fuerza Publica, are civil servants, who are subject to and must respond to the Judiciary, like any other Costa Rican. The army, for its part, has a military code that differentiates it from the rest of the population.

“In this code they (the army) are removed from the sphere of civil law, from the common and regular courts to which 95% of the population is subjected,” said the expert.

Read more: December 1 is a new holiday in Costa Rica: “Abolition of the Army Day”

A different perspective of the USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at Juan Santamaría Airport. Photo by Braulio Molina and Rodrigo Castro, October 2020

At the international level

At the international level, the panorama is different, since, in the event of an invasion or if it is necessary, some treaties and conventions can be used. Among these, we can mention the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TRIAR), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Security Council of the United Nations (UN) and the International Court of Justice.

Despite this, Costa Rica has never been invaded geopolitically.

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“It is still politics before war, we are not going to enter any war, we are not going to fight any war, we do not have what with what, there is nothing to sustain,” added Ramos.

In addition, he stressed that the border of Costa Rica and Panama (the second country in Latin America, the other being Costa Rica to permanently abolish standing armies), is the only demilitarized in the world.

The question of would defend us in the unlikely event of a foreign invasion was put to the current Ministro de Seguridad Publica (Security Minister), Michael Soto, who said that the United States, Panama and Colombia as our greatest allies in this matter.

“They have given us team training and information exchange for many years and that has been greatly strengthened in recent years, especially in what is air and water surveillance equipment,” Soto said about the United States.

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Meanwhile, Panama and Colombia have supported, above all, in training matters.

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