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Letters
Last Updated: 11/30/2012
December 1st, Day of the Abolition of the Army, Costa Rica
Ronald Castro Fernández

Ronald Castro Fernández describes the circumstances around Costa Rica's decision to abolish the army in 1948, and its enshrinement into the constitution in 1949.


Tomorrow, December 1st, Costa Rica commemorates the Day of the Abolition of Army. The long process ended on November 7, 1949 when the current Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica was issued, making the abolition of the army a constitutional law.

Monument to peace and disarmament, University for Peace. Photo: Katie Shushtari

On November 22, 1919, right after a military dictatorship, the President Mr. Francisco Aguilar Barquero proposed to transform the main military headquarters in San José (Artillery Quarters) into a public school. According to his proposal, this primary school would receive the name of a civil hero who fought against tyranny and was killed and burned by the official troops: the Salvadorian teacher Mr. Marcelino Garcia Flamenco. Although the plan was not realized, another public school building received that name.

Some years after, on November 12, 1934, the Secretary of Public Education Mr. Teodoro Picado Michalski delivered a speech at National Theater to the teachers of Costa Rica and proposed to eliminate the army and transfer its budget to public education.

About 14 years from that speech, Costa Rica suffered its last civil war in which President Mr. Teodoro Picado Michalski was overthrown, the former Secretary of Education who had advocated for the abolition of Costa Rica army. After the war, a “junta” ruled the country.

President Figueres symbolically abolishes the Costa Rican army in a ceremony on December 1st 1948.

In June 1948, the Minister of Public Security of the junta presented a plan to abolish the army and transfer its budget to the Ministry of Public Education. On November 25, 1948, the junta approved the proposal and a week after, on December 1st 1948, there was a public ceremony in which the President of the junta, José Figueres Ferrer, officially declared the abolition of the army.

In the next year, 1949, as the National Constituent Assembly was discussing the new constitutional text, Mr. Fernando Lara Bustamante, a former congressman who had presented a proposal to eliminate the military budget, and a member of the writing commission of the junta that prepared a constitutional draft that was rejected by the Constituent Assembly, through his friends, the representatives Juan Trejos, Enrique Montiel and Ricardo Esquivel, managed to include article 12 into the new Constitution, through which the army was eliminated in Costa Rica as a permanent institution.

This next December 1st also marks a very important week for UPEACE and the world. It begins with the Abolition of Army Day, followed by the XXXII Anniversary of the University for Peace on December 5th, and ends with the International Day of Human Rights on December 10th.

Well, this year is almost over and the next will bring new challenges.

Good bye,

Ronald Castro Fernández

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