Like Castro, Gueverra, and Sandi no, Jose Figueres Ferrer holds a place as one of the most important revolutionary and political forces in Latin American history. This so-called 'father of modern Costa Rica'; led his country to revolution and eventual democracy. Known affectionately as 'Don Pepe'; by his admirers, Figueres was both an enemy of communist and a thorn in the side of the United States. While putting down a communist regime and allying himself consistently with the U. S.
, Figueres was also a strong socialist and nationalist and would prove to be an enigma to U. S. policy makers during his terms as president. Despite the praise and admiration that Figueres enjoyed, a much darker side to his administration as well as an unmistakable duality in his dealings with the U.
S. and democracy itself is seen in his political history. Following a time of democracy in Costa Rica, in the early 40's, then president Rafael Calderon allied himself with the Costa Rican communist party, Van guardia Popular as well as the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza. Figueres would then give a radio speech disdaining Calderon and his actions which would lead to Figueres' exile to Mexico in 1942. (Cockcroft, 232) Figueres returned in 1944, and an alleged fixing of the 1948 Costa Rican election was the window that he had been waiting for. Supported by the governments of Guatemala, Cuba, and the U.
S. , Figueres and his Army of National Liberation would force the surrender of President Pica do, a puppet of Calderon, and theVanguardia forces, Figueres would seize control of Costa Rica as the head of the revolutionary junta for eighteen months. Control was then turned over to the rightful winner of the 1948 election, and Figueres would return for three terms as president, the first in 1953 and the final beginning in 1970. (Longley, 3) During his interim term following the revolution and his subsequent terms as president, Figueres would institute a number of changes that would steamroll Costa Rican democracy. Don Pepe began by extending suffrage and full political rights to blacks and women, a certain democratic move. He then instituted a ten percent tax on the very wealthy, which had no considerable backlash politically in Costa Rica due to the surprisingly large middle class.
Figueres also established a presidential term limit and created an independent Electoral Tribunal to oversee future elections. In perhaps his most amazing and debated decree, Figueres disbanded the government army, thus protecting himself from the possibility of an out of hand military. (Ameringer, 37) The disbanding of the army would also lead to a further involvement with the U. S...
The lack of military left Costa Rica with the U. S. as the only military outlet, and in a later altercation with Somoza of Nicaragua, it would indeed be the U. S. military that would come to Figueres aid. (Langley, 19) Each of these decrees was wholly democratic and pro-U.
S. in nature, they would allow Figueres to institute the socialist policies economically and nationalist policies politically without interference from the U. S... While his democratic tendencies, and vehemently professed anti-communism was presented to the world, Figueres instituted a variety of policies and committed acts which were not in any sense democratic. Figueres began by establishing his own political party, the PLN (National Liberation Party), and outlawing the Communist party. He began to take state control of the economy by nationalizing the banking and insurance systems.
He abolished all labor unions, an unheard of step in many revolutionary Latin American countries, where the opposite has proven a main concern and action toward democracy. In perhaps his most anti-democratic move, he banned the press, the outlet which he himself had been exiled for using. (Baker, 5) In a much darker move, Don Pepe reneged on the peace terms that guaranteed the safety of that had been ousted following the revolution. While most of the were exiled to Mexico, many had their property seized, were thrown in prison, or in the most extreme cases murdered. Thus, Figueres underlying government concentrated on a state-controlled economy, the abolition of labor unions and free press, and repression of opposition parties to the extreme of murder. The two sides of Figueres are easily discernible, but the reason for his duality and the subsequent continued cooperation by the U.
S. is not. From a first glance, Figueres seems the embodiment of democratic idealism that many see him as. He did after all lead the revolution that overthrew a government with communist ties. He fully entrusted his unfaltering cooperation with the U.
S. in all foreign policy matters, and violently spoke out against communism. Don Pepe's instituted policies bleed with democratic ideals. Figueres has even been given a moniker that screams democracy, 'Don Pepe'; is simply a Costa Rican version of Uncle Sam. However, beneath the democratic 'golden boy'; image lies an economic socialist with repressive views of freedom, and a penchant for political assassination. Figueres has been called everything from an 'unconditional servant of American imperialism and democracy'; (Baker, 9), to a 'Communist in Democrat's clothing'; (Johnson, Robert).
Aside from the easily seen duality of his policymaking, a review of his rise to political power also presents an argument. Figueres from the beginning has looked to the U. S. for security and power.
The time of the Costa Rican revolution was also the beginning of the Cold War, and a time during which the U. S. was beginning it's battle for democratic conquest of the western hemisphere. (Langley, 9) The election of 1948 gave Figueres the window for revolution and a chance at power, and he took it. The fact the regime in power had ties to communism was all the better, because it meant that Figueres could enlist the aid of the U. S.
in his revolution. Figueres would then manipulate his own political power, and institute his own socialist policies by satisfying the U. S. with a government that seemed democratic on the outside. The United States was not ignorant to what Figueres was doing, but the sentiment at the time was that while Figueres may not have instituted a wholly democratic government, the situation in Costa Rica was a no-lose situation. Figueres was more than cooperative to anything that the U.
S. asked of him. The disbanding of the military was one of Figueres' true strokes of genius, while it did leave Costa Rica unprotected, it also meant that the U. S. would then be obligated to protect it, under the banner of democracy.
Figueres thus made the U. S. military his military and all it required was that he denounce communism. The relationship between Figueres and the U.
S. can be called the 'Brown-Nose'; relationship. Figueres was willing to comply with anything the U. S. wanted him to, and he knew that by offering full cooperation it would allow him to get by with a number of things that the U. S.
would normally never allow. In conclusion, the presidency and political life of Don Pepe Figueres has been transformed into one rivaling the height of George Washington. However, the side of Figueres which the world sees may not be correct. Figueres was a socialist who used democratic reforms to gain friendship with the United States. Once the parasitic relationship with the U. S.
had been established, Figueres was then able to slip in the socialist and nationalist policies, which he had always wanted to, under the watchful eye of U. S. government that was satisfied with his undying political and military devotion. Figueres manipulated the U. S. government to his own ends by giving in to democracy on several fronts, and allowing himself to become a main facet of American imperialism.
The way in which Don Pepe accomplished his own personal socialist political goals, while at the same time creating the persona as the 'savior of Costa Rica'; , is uncanny and cunning. Bibliography 1) Cockcroft, Costa Rica. 2) Ameringer, Charles; Don Pepe; 1978; University of New Mexico Press. 3) Langley, Kyle; The Sparrow and the Hawk; 1997; University of Alabama Press. 4) Langley, Kyle; Resistance and Accommodation: The United States and the Nationalism of Jose Figueres; Diplomatic History; V 18 n 1; 1994; pp. 128.
5) Baker, Christopher; Costa Rica Handbook; web 6) CIA involvement in Costa Rica; web.