Following my academically undubious field research in Costa Rica, 9 out of 10 tourists visiting the place are impressed with the country not having an army. In fact, Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948 and its constitution1 prohibits having a standing army.

In 1983, the “Ticos” even went so far to declare themselves neutral. Neutrality was meant to make the US stop using the country as a base to fight Nicaragua under the left-wing Sandinistas. However, when Costa Rica was going through an awful recession, its President Luis Alberto Monge secretly allowed the CIA to establish posts close to the Nicaraguan border – in exchange for dólares.

This treason to Costa Rica’s sovereignty didn’t go so well with the next president Óscar Arias whose government, in 1986, took away the land on which the US had built a landing strip to aid the Nicaraguan Contras. The US got sulky over this and stopped giving out loans to Costa Rica but president Arias – who turned out leading the peace movement of Central America as a whole – won a Nobel Prize for Peace.

Nowadays, Costa Rica’s police have a unit for special interventions (border disputes etc.) as a de facto military force – though limited in its powers and unimpressive in size with a mere 70 non-soldiers. However, this doesn’t mean that the country doesn’t host any soldiers because, in 2010, it granted the US the right to deploy 7000 marines, 200 helicopters etc. to its territory to fight – most of all – drug trafficking. In addition, the US donated military supplies worth $30 million in 2016.

So Costa Rica doesn’t have an army but pretty flashy arms for a non-army and a bunch of soldiers hanging around.


  1. Article 12 of Costa Rica’s Constitution (1949): “Sólo por convenio continental o para la defensa nacional podrán organizarse fuerzas militares; unas y otras estarán siempre subordinadas al poder civil […]”