- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Costa Rica, for Dr. Cruel...

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on November 04, 1999 at 19:03:29:

In previous posts, Dr. Cruel has made reference to Costa Rica as being a sort of capitalist paradise, the sort of place more Third World states should emulate. I believe the objective in this was to contrast it to other Central American states like Nicaragua which chose to follow the socialist mode of development. Apparently Nicaragua and Cuba are to be classified as socialist states, while Costa Rica is to be lumped together with the genocidal tyrannies in Guatemala and El Salvador as capitalist states. Correct me if i'm wrong.

I believe that I've already responded to the specious arguments about Nicaragua and El Salvador. I think that at this point there are enough facts displayed to convince any honest observer that Nicaragua under the Sandinistas was a democratic, humanitarian, economically successful and immensely popular socialist regime, while the death-squad states in Guatemala and El Salvador were sordid tyrannies with nothing close to democracy. So I;'m not going to repeat these arguments aT THE MOMENT- unless blatant false stAtements are made, such as that Nicaragua was a one-party state (in fact, it had seven parties winning seats in teh 1984 elections, ranging from Marxist-Leninist to extreme right wing).

Instead, I want to mention Costa Rica. Whetehr or not it is an example is an interesting question. One thing is for damn sure, though, and that's that it was never a 'capitalist paradise'.

Modern Costa Rica was formed in teh crucible of a civil war in the late '40s, after a long intrigue that involved many Latin American countries. As in many thrid world countres, teh people were far tooo smart to give capitalists any hearing whatseover; there was no significant capitalist faction in Costa Rica during that struggle. The 1948 (?) struggle was between liberal-secular democratic socialists, led by 'Don Pepe' Figueres, and a Catholic/Communist/Anti-Fascist alliance, the Social Christians, led by Rafael Calderon. After a disputed election, the Social Christians declared victory, and the Figueres faction (unjustly, I think) claimed that Calderon was strangling democracy. The Figueres faction went into exile, formed an alliance to rid Latin America of 'tyranny', invaded Costa Rica, and after a civil war took over the country. Figueres drafted a new constitution which abolished teh army befroe stepping down.

So neither major faction in Costa Rica's modern histroy was capitalist, and so any attempts to make it a capitalist paradise are futile. Both the National Liberation Party (Figueres) and teh Social Christians would have been good governments, although I think teh Social Christians woudl have been a little better. Since Figueres was teh man who created modern Costa Rica, we must ask if he was 'left' or 'right'?

1)Figueres nationalized the banks and many industries, making him an economic leftist.
2) A planter, Figueres was famous for the high wages he paid.
3) He created the most extensive welfare sttae in the region, inclduing health care and education.
4)on the subject of anti-fascism, Figueres was more of a right-winger than Calderon. Calderon took a hard line twoards fascists and German nationals, while Figueres opposed such strong measures and actually got support from a Nazi sympathizer. Of xourse, this is not to say that he was pro-fascist, just less idealistic than Calderon on this issue.
5) Figueres was not really a strong-anti-communist; he attempted to win the Communsits over to his side, and fell fould of teh anti-communist dictators in teh region, like Somoza, who woudl get his just punsihments in Paraguay in 1980.
6) Figueres became the region's spokesman for teh 'democratic left'.

In the light of all this, it seems difficult to say that Costa Rica is an example of teh capitalist path to development. Teh battle in Costa Rica was between Christian Socialists and secular democratic socialists. Though the former woudl probably have been better, both were socialists, and both did a good job. The situtaion is similar to places like Guyana, India and otehrs wehere there was never any significant capitalist presence in the government, regardless of certain people's attempts to insert one into teh historical record.

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