(OP-ED) Costa Rica is capable of maintaining an army and may be facing the reality of such in the future.
Often when people look back on the Costa Rican army, they think of it as a ragtag militia force that was not capable of much of anything. This isn’t true, and for it’s time, and it’s budget, the Costa Rican army proved itself effective in combat between the 1840s and the 1940s, facing US-backed filibusters in Nicaragua, the Panamanian army in the Coto War, and the Nicaraguan army on several small incursions into Costa Rican territory between the 1850s and the 1950s, although the force that met them in the 50s was the Civil Guard, not the army.
The Costa Rican army looked just as professional as those of major powers in the early 20th century, the only thing Costa Rica lacked was numbers, often the army only had a couple thousand men on hand at any given point in history.
Costa Rica used its own variants of the Mauser rifle (Chambered in 7mm Mauser rather than the 8mm used by Germany), and was the only country outside of Italy to use the Breda PG, the Costa Rican variant possibly being the first gun in the world to feature a burst fire mechanic.
Costa Rica never had a navy or an air force, nor did it have tanks. I’ve heard about there having potentially been armored cars at some point in the 30s, but I have never seen pictures of them. The army did have aircraft in inventory, but these were simple transport planes, not fighters/bombers.
As for what would happen in the modern day, the financial situation would simply not allow for a modernized Western force. Likely, the new Costa Rican troops would be using older rifles (AKs, M16s, etc), surplus uniforms from other countries (Likely the US or Canada), and whatever kit they could cobble together.
The Fuerza Publica (national police) owns helicopters, although these are only utility, but I can imagine if a pickup truck can be made into a fighting vehicle, so can a utility helicopter. It certainly wouldn’t be a first-rate force that would be seeing service overseas, but it would be enough to offer formidable resistance to their only rival Nicaragua.
By Rayburn Halkett, former Warrant Officer 2nd Class at Royal Canadian Army Cadets (2014-2018), posted on Quora.com