Costa Rica


  • 1948: Jose Figueres Ferre executed what may be the most original coup d'etat in world history. In the aftermath of a stolen presidential election, Figueres, a coffee grower who stood all of 5'3" cobbled together an army of 700 irregulars that overthrew Costa Rica's government. Then, as the leader of the new ruling junta, his first act as commander in chief of the military was to abolish it. Figueres reasoned that it was easier- and cheaper- to keep the citizenry pacific with schools, health care, and social security than with a standing army ready to suppress internal unrest. On his coffee farm in Southern Costa Rica, he's learned that paying laborers fairly, and providing them medical care and free milk for their children from his dairy, assured him of a loyal workforce. Within a year of his coup he had converted former army barracks to schools, held elections, and stepped down from the interim presidency. A few years later, he was elected democratically, and reelected twice thereafter (p67).-Countdown by Weisman.