The democracy in Costa Rica part 1 (Civil war 1948)

We are days a part of choosing a new president for our country.  The electoral process in Costa Rica has change a lot in the last 20 years. Costa Rica is perceive as one of the strongest democracies in Latin America. In the next weeks we are going to do our best to create a series or articles regarding the topic of the democratic process in Costa Rica.

[A more in depth entry of the Civil war will be made in the future.

This blog and page are not affiliate in anyway or form to any political party. However we concern a great ideal of what the politics propose and executed.  This entry will be focus in telling the reader a little bit of the history behind the democratic process in Costa Rica and will not try to draw party lines at anytime. However mentions of real people, places, parties and dates must be used in order to provided context and accuracy. Also this entry should be taken as a quick summary or a brief tale. And do not pretend to be 100% accurate. Or a referable source for any other serious investigations. If you like this topic and find it interesting. Please tell us so in the comments or our social media and we will dig deeper in this and some related topics in the future. 

Costa Rica has have 2 constitutions the second one produced in 1949 after the revolution. Before this the politicians in power were a succession of rich families of European decent. Costa Rica never was an important land during the colony nor immediately after the independence. The important desicions were taken either in Guatemala or in Leon Nicaragua. There fore the process before 1948 lack the nuances of a modern democracy. That is not to say that anything interesting happen before 1948. To read more about interesting acts and events before 1948 enter Here.


Before the 1948 revolution.

Before the revolution of 1948. The political power were in the hands of a select few. A group o families known and the Coffee Oligarchs. While the previous constitution in principle allow a representative democracy as describe by Montesquieu. The fact was that a long lineage of land lords of European descent held the power. By choosing who was to be featured as a candidate. Still today many of the modern candidates could be trace back to one of those usual powerful families that held to political powers in Costa Rica before 1948.


Dr. Calderon Guardia and the social reforms.

In 1940 Doctor Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia got to elected by an overwhelming majority. Dr. Calderon Guardia got was the oligarch candidate. However upon election he apparently shifted alliance to the Communist Party and the Catholic church. Dr Calderon Guardia with the help of Manuel Mora of the Communist Party. Created the “Garantias Sociales” a law of Social Rights for the workers. Then Dr. Calderón Guardia will create the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social CCSS. A state founded universal social secure for every person in Costa Rica. Since then and until today this two creations were to become one of the most important and treasure institutions for the Costa Ricans.

Dr. Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia.

Calderon got to power with and outstanding public approval. However this approval started to decrees almost as soon as he got the presidency. In 1942 an yet unknown man started a public discourse in a radio. Been deeply critic of Calderon Guardia’s goverment. Openly accusing him of corruption and recklessness.  [Remember that by this dates. World War 2 was taking place. And Calderon had declared beligerations against Nazi Germany in 1941 after Pearl Harbor even before the United States did]

José Figueres Ferrer.

Even before the broadcast ended the police officers had entered the radio station and apprehend the man speaking. That man went by the name José Figueres Ferrer. And due to his anti government speech was exile to El Salvador. One year later he will return to Costa Rica. Calderon Guardia went to finish his first term in 1944. Been succeed by Teodoro Picado Michalski member of the Republican National Party as Calderon was. Words ran that Teodoro and his people were secretly controlled by Calderon whom planned to access power again in 1948… Teodoro Picado was responsable for important reforms in the electoral process of Costa Rica. Reforms that allow the increase in representation of opposite parties.

The Civil War

The elections of 1948 confronted candidates Calderon Guardia from the Republican National Party and Utilio Ulate Blanco from Unión Nacional. Ulate got the assent of the people and most likely the majority of the votes in the election. But and unexpected fired in the Colegio de Señoritas, burned many of the ballets and the official result could not be corroborated. Due to the impossibility to do an official count of the votes the Constitutional Congress (controlled by the Republican National Party) decided to cancel the election and declared Calderon Guardia winner of the election.

One month after the cancellation of the elections a group of dissenters leaded by Jose Figueres took San Isidro del General. Creating an airport from which the provision themselves with ammo and weapons from Guatemala. Several fights broke. The government and the army where looking for “Figueristas” killing some important tenants in the rebellious army since then called Ejercito de Liberación Nacional. Figueres and his army took Santa María de Dota and la finca “La Lucha” and use it as headquarters.

Moving through the forest Figueres’s army took Paraiso and Cartago on April 12th 1949. Upon the sight of the fast progress Teodoro Picado ask Anastasio Somoza president of Nicaragua for assistance. While the Nicaraguan army got to conquer several stations in the border. Figueres was days away to take control of the government. And in April 19th 1948 he overtook Calderon Guardia from power. Teodoro Picado flew to Nicaragua and Calderon Guardia was exile in Mexico.

The second republic. Constitution on 1949

After the army of Liberación Nacional took power Jose Figueres and Otilio Ulate regarded as the rightful winner of 1948 election. Accord that the Army will sustain power for a lapse of 18 months after which the army will pass the power back to Ulate. During this 18 months Figueres and a group of intelectuals reform important sections of the law. In Ochomogo Figueres promised to Manuel Mora of the communist party to preserve and improve the Garantias Sociales. Thing that he did however persecution against the members of the communist party took place ending in the death of some affiliates.  In November 1949 a new constitution was written. That been our present one. Since then the democracy process in Costa Rica has been conducted in peace.

Reflections of the civil war of 1948 will continue to eco the electoral process. From 1948 and until 2014 the only parties in power where either Liberación Nacional or the Unidad Social Cristiana. Even sons of both Calderon Guardia a Figueres Ferrer got elected as presidents of the country. In 2014 this tradition was broke by the PAC. Partido Acción Ciudadana becoming the first third party to administrate the country in more than 66 years.



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