Peace center will hold its own celebration of army abolition

The Quaker Peace Center is miffed that President Laura Chinchilla has invited Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, to the 63rd celebration of the abolition of the Costa Rican military.

So the center is holding its own celebration in Parque Central, the group announced Tuesday.

“Something quite startling has happened for the celebration of the army event we have every year at the national museum,” said Ann Marie Saidy, writing for the center. “Laura Chinchilla has usurped the day to celebrate the graduation of police from the police academy and to invite the visiting President Martinelli from Panama.”

The letter accused Martinelli of having been involved with the murder of 24 Panamanian natives in 2010.

The Dec. 1 celebration is an annual event. The location is the Museo Nacional because that is where José Figueres Ferrer signed the decree abolishing the Costa Rican army. The museum had been the military fort. Figueres was the provisional junta president.

Historians point out that Figueres abolished the military, in part, because he feared a counter revolution. His Caribbean
legion had defeated the regular army in the country’s 44-day revolution in 1948.

Ms. Saidy said that the peace center initiated the celebration but that the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud took over the chore after the day was established by law.

The ministry “made it into a big subsidized event with President Arias, deputies, ex-combatants and many school children as well, speeches and music and lavish amounts of food,” she said.

So the peace center, called the Centro Amigos para la Paz in Spanish, obtained permission to held its own event in Parque Nacional at 10 a.m.

Casa Presidencial has not yet announced that Martinelli will be visiting the country. However, the Chinchilla administration has developed close ties with his administration despite allegations of money laundering and what appears to be an authoritarian approach to government.

Ms. Saidy’s claim that Martinelli was involved in murder appears to stem from the confrontation between strikers and police in July 2010 in Bocas de Toro.

The banana workers’ union called the strike because of a new law restricting unions.

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