INSPIRATIONAL, 13 Mar 2017
In 1989, President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama. Manuel Noriega, the military dictator, was captured and brought to Florida, where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Guillermo Endara had earlier won the presidential election in a landslide, with over 70% of the votes, but was prevented from taking office by Noriega. After Noriega’s capture, he could finally take office. But the only government that had recognized him as President was the United States. Despite having been popularly elected, the other Latin American governments did not want to set a precedent by recognizing a government that was put into office by a US military intervention. Endara was desperately seeking recognition by other Latin American governments.
Oscar Arias Sanchez, the President of Costa Rica and recipient of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for mediating an end to several civil wars in Central America, saw a chance. He called, Endara and said, “Listen, I will recognize your government under one condition, if you abolish the army in Panama.” Endara seized this opportunity and enthusiastically agreed. He needed to do nothing, the Panamanian army had dissolved during the US invasion, soldiers got rid of their uniform and weapons to escape arrest of death. All that Endara had to do was not to rebuild a new Panamanian army.
In 1995, also with Oscar Arias’ involvement, Haiti abolished its army. In 1948, President Jose Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica had abolished the Costa Rican army, after a civil war in which the army supported the losing side. Costa Rica has been at peace since then, whereas its Central American neighbors suffered from many wars. In addition, Costa Rica’s per capita income is about twice that if its neighbors, because it can spend on the civilian economy what others waste for arms.
There are about 30 countries without a military in the world, most of them small, but they are doing well.
Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Mar 2017.
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