Don Pepe Figueres

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Don Pepe Figueres

By | October 1999
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Like Castro, Gueverra, and Sandino, 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, Vanguardia 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 Picado, a puppet of Calderon, and the Vanguardia 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...