José Figuéres Ferrer

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José Figuéres Ferrer

The Costa Rican political leader José Figuéres Ferrer (born 1906) was president of Costa Rica and one of its most influential figures.

José Figuéres was born in San Ramon on Sept. 25, 1906, soon after his parents' arrival from Spain. He received most of his education in Costa Rica but also studied in the United States, as an unmatriculated student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Upon his return home Figuéres took over a small plantation in the mountains and during the 1930s devoted most of his attention to converting it into a modern enterprise. He gained some local fame for the progressive manner in which he treated his employees.

Figuéres gained sudden national fame when he bought radio time to denounce a riot on July 4, 1942, and the government of President Rafael Calderon Guardia as encouraging violence by Communists to divert attention from its own failures. In the middle of his talk he was arrested and was subsequently deported to Mexico.

Upon his return in 1944 Figuéres helped to organize the campaign of Leon Cortes, opposition candidate in the 1944 presidential election. The opposition claimed that government nominee Teodoro Picado won by fraud and insisted on special guarantees for the presidential poll of 1948. Figuéres and his colleagues, organized in the Social Democratic party, supported Otilio Ulate Blanco against former president Calderon Guardia, the government's nominee.

First Presidency

When Congress negated Ulate's victory, Figuéres started a successful revolt and became president of the provisional government. The Junta Fundidora de la Segunda República (Founding Junta of the Second Republic), the government headed by Figuéres, enacted a number of reforms. It nationalized all banks and set up a government electric power company and a housing institute. In November 1949 it turned the government over to Otilio Ulate, victor in the 1948 election.

During the conservative Ulate regime, Figuéres organized the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN; National Liberation Party). He was the PLN candidate in the 1953 presidential election and was overwhelmingly elected. The principal innovation of the second Figuéres government was a new agreement with the United Fruit Company, the major exporter of the country's bananas, providing for a much larger return to the government from the company's profits. The administration also carried out ambitious public housing and electrification programs.

Figuéres's party did not win the next election because of a split in its ranks. However, in 1962 Liberación Nacional returned to power under President Francisco Orlich, a boyhood friend of Figuéres. PLN lost again at the end of Orlich's administration in 1966.

During these years Figuéres devoted most of his attention to private business affairs, although he remained a major figure in the PLN. He also traveled widely in Latin America, the United States, Europe, and Israel, and was again nominated for president by the PLN for the election of March 1970, which he won.

Figuéres had an importance which transcended his small country. He was a major spokesman for a broad range of Latin American public opinion and in many speeches and articles laid particular stress on the importance of the highly industrialized countries paying "just" prices for the foodstuffs and raw materials purchased from the underdeveloped nations as a possible substitute for economic aid.

Further Reading

There is no general study in English on Figuéres's career. However, a summary version is in Robert J. Alexander, Prophets of the Revolution: Profiles of Latin American Leaders (1962). Additional information can be found in John Martz, Central America: The Crisis and the Challenge (1959); Franklin D. Parker, The Central American Republics (1964); and Mario Rodriguez, Central America (1965). □

José Figueres Ferrer

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José Figueres Ferrer

José Figueres Ferrer (1906 - 1990) served as President of Costa Rica for a total of 12 years. He served three different, non-consecutive terms.

José Figueres Ferrer was born in 1906. There is not much information regarding his early life.

A new epoch came into being in Costa Rica during 1940. It was then that Dr. Rafael Angel Calderen Guardin was elected the new president. He began to make sweeping changes, which appeared to be an attempt to move the country into a more stabilized one. Some of his policies included land reform, progressive taxation and guaranteed minimum wage. The country looked as if it was headed in the right direction.

The sanctuary, which Costa Rica had become, would take turn for the worse. Calderen's United Social Christian Party refused to leave office, or leave behind power. They had lost the 1948 election. A civil war ensued. The Calderen's were opposed by Jose (Don Pepe) Figueres Ferrer. Prior to the revolt, "Don Pepe" had been exiled to Mexico in 1942. He returned to fight a political battle, with the aid of both the Guatemalan and Cuban governments. He won the war, which lasted 40 days, and cost 2,000 lives.

Figueres Ferrer had been named the head of the Founding Junta of the Second Republic of Costa Rica. He made it his mission to reform Costa Rica. He included the positive aspects of Calderen's campaign and added some additional ones which were an attempt to make Costa Rica a more positive and progressive country. Figueres Ferrer gave women the right to vote, abolished all branches and divisions of the Costa Rican armed forces, nationalized banks, etc. One of the more controversial rulings he made was the ban on all actions of the Communist party.

Figueres Ferrer led a national revolt in 1948. The revolt was an act of solidarity to ensure that the newly elected president Otilio Ulate could effectively take over the governmental control. Ulate placed Figueres Ferrer in the rank of provisional president. It was during this legislation period that Costa Rica developed some of it's most useful and socially conscious reforms. Figueres Ferrer was elected to the office presidency in fair and open elections in 1948. He served a total of 12 years. His terms were divided amongst 3 stints in office: 1948-1949, 1953-1958, and 1970-1974.

Figueres Ferrer died in 1990 knowing that to many Costa Ricans, he was a hero. He has been credited with bringing democracy to his country. His son, Jose Figueres Olsen currently serves as President of Costa Rica.

Further Reading

Information regarding José Figueres Ferrer can be obtained from The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia. Additional information on both José Figueres Ferrer and Costa Rica can be found at and at □