Scouts and veterans share honors at traditional celebration

Veterans of the Costa Rican revolution in 1948 display a banner bearing the image of their leader, José Figueres Ferrer, the political leader who became president three times. A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

On the 63rd anniversary of the abolition of the Costa Rican army the peaceful vibes were remarkably unsettled.

Hundreds of boys and girls dressed in navy blue pants and light blue button up shirts, the official country scout uniform, overflowed the Museo Nacional where the president of Costa Rica held a ceremony to commemorate the 63 years without an army on Thursday.

Veterans from the last existing Costa Rican army filled up the front seats accompanied by family. Among the crowd there were ministers, ambassadors and legislative representatives.

Members of the the peace center celebration display their philosophy in front of the Monumento Nacional. A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald

President Laura Chinchilla invited Ricardo Martinelli, the president of Panama, as the guest of honor for the celebratory event as a symbol of solidarity since both countries have abolished military. Panama abolished its military in 1990.

Both presidents were named honorary presidents of the Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica. They were sworn in with a scarf-like accessory placed around their neck. The act is supposed to be a symbol of their humanitarian services. Martinelli happily said he will wear the scarf with much pride because as a kid he wanted to be a scout and never was able to participate, until now.

Prior to their knighting Ms. Chinchilla signed the Benemeritazgo Guía y Scout, which is a law that recognizes the Guías y Scouts as an institución benemérita or meritorious institution.

Ms. Chinchilla and Martinelli also awarded Hilda Vaquero Ortiz the Mérito en la Paz y en la Democracia recognition for her labor in helping underprivileged youth discover music in Costa Rica. Ms. Vaquero said her efforts began with recorders and since then has added flutes, saxophones, violins and even clarinets for the children to learn.

“It’s a form to keep them from this problematic society we live in today,” she said. “There should be more artists than murderers.”

The yearly event had the usual supporters except this year an important group was missing. The Quaker Friends Peace Center publicly refused to participate at the Museo Nacional and the Plaza de la Democracia. Because of political context of the event, the center shifted the celebration to Parque Nacional in front of the Monumento Nacional.

¨We won´t participate in the state visit of president Martinelli from Panama and the graduation ceremony for police academy, even if we agree with the recognition of the Costa Rican Scouts Association,¨ said Francisco Cordero Gené, president of the center.

Codero argues that hypocrisy lies in supporting the events because of recent operations in Panama to disperse and subdue native people and civilians on strike in Bocas del Toro resulting in a number of dead and wounded. The center said it could not support the graduation ceremony because some of the cadets will be sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, the site of the former School of the Americas. The school now is called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

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