The United States and Central America, 1944-1949: Perceptions of Political Dynamics

By Thomas M. Leonard | Go to book overview

1
Costa Rica

BY 1940, Costa Rica had gained the reputation of an almost ideal democracy. Several factors contributed to this perception. Constitutional government was practiced, the military was apolitical, middle sector pressure was nonexistent, and demands for economic and social reform received national attention only at election time. After 1940, this tranquil picture was greatly altered. The catalyst was Marxist labor leader Manuel Mora, who increased his political presence as well as demands for economic and social change. Although the landowning elite successfully resisted the implementation of his programs, it failed to understand or countervail the emerging middle sector, led by José Figueres. Vigorously anticommunist, this sector also opposed the elitism of Costa Rican politics. The struggle for power climaxed in the 1948 civil war. The landowners and Marxists became strange bedfellows in an unsuccessful military effort against Figueres's revolutionary forces. 1

Evidence was ample to support the popular view that Costa Rica was a harmonious society. Described as an industrious people, small landowners permeated a society not marked by a rigid class structure or racial problems. A larger percentage of the national budget was expended on

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