Costa Rica is one of the most interesting social experiments of the 20th century. This Central American country of 4.5 million people spent the century’s first half on the same depressing path as the rest of Latin America. The people of Costa Rica had the same succession of military coups, bloodshed, malign US influence, and tin-pot dictators as their neighbors. They figured it out though. The problem was the military. Without it, there was no force to threaten democracy.
Costa Rica abolished the military in 1949. Surprisingly, the US acquiesced in this closing of a market to its defense contractors (The military industrial complex wasn’t as big a deal pre-McNamara). Costa Rica then embarked on a unique development path. It turns out that not having a military frees up a ton of money for other things. While the rest of the hemisphere has begun to catch up, for years Costa Rica was the freest and fairest democracy south of Texas. The people’s human development indicators are among the highest in the hemisphere. Costa Rica is one of the world’s premiere Eco-tourism destinations, and has a reputation as an environmental paragon. At the turn of the century, Costa Ricans could pride themselves on proving what was possible without a military.
Our drug war has now arrived in Costa Rica, and with it heavy-handed US “support”.
Beefing up Costa Rica’s security forces is a priority for the United States, which has helped build a new police academy, a national intelligence center to eavesdrop on phone communications, and highway checkpoints with cargo-scanning equipment. But many vulnerabilities remain, and Costa Rica didn’t even have a centralized database with the country’s criminal records until this year.
This makes me nauseous. We are offering paradise the same sorts of help that turned Mexico into a war zone. How does nobody see the idiocy of this? We chased these problems into Costa Rica. Our response is to give them the civil liberties trampling military that they benefited so much from not having. The US sponsored “cure” is so much worse than the disease. How many countries do we need to destroy before we grow up and end prohibition?