One of South American's foremost political figures is 53-year old Jose Figueres. Twice President of?
One of South American's foremost political figures is 53-year old Jose Figueres. Twice President of Costa Rica - de facto President from June 1948 until November 1949, and Constitutional President from 1954-58 - he is now leader of the Costa Rican opposition party, controlling Congress with only one half vote short of the 2/3 majority necessary to over-ride a Presidential veto.
Senor Figueres owns a prosperous farm - "La Lucha" - in the hills outside San Jose, the capital, where he lives with his American wife and three children.
Son of a Spanish immigrant, he was born in Costa Rica. In his early twenties he went to the USA where he worked and studied. During World War two he became convinced that the Costa Rican government, then led by President Rafael Angel Calderon, was corrupt. During a visit to Costa Rica he tried to expose them in a radio broadcast, but was arrested before he finished it. He was jailed and exiled to Mexico where he stayed until the end of World War two.
The 1947 general elections was a fight between factions led by Calderon's nominee, Dr. Picado, and Otillo Ulate, a publisher whom Figueres supported. The final count gave victory to Ulate by 10,000 votes but the election was nullified by Congress. A decisive factor in this decision were votes by 12 Communist deputies led by Manuel Mora, who still controls the Costa Rican Communist Party.
Congress - elected for four year terms - is composed of 60 members, of whom 45 are permanent and 15 substitutes. Thus 12 votes can, and did sway a decision.
This nullification decided Figueres to rise in armed revolt. With 7 men only he began the 1948 armed revolution. Under an agreement he had reached with the Caribbean Liberation Movement in Guatemala, he was required to be in armed revolt before arms would be made available to him under a lend-lease agreement.
During six weeks of guerilla fighting the mountain slopes, Figueres' men killed over 2,000 Government troops. He lost 100. Pushing on from town to town, it wasn't long before Figueres was menacing the capital itself. After interventions from the American Ambassador and the Papal Nuncio, he agreed to allow the President and top Government officials to leave for exile in Nicaragua. He then marched in triumph through San Jose.
His first command as de facto President was to outlaw the Communist Party. In 1949 he handed over the Presidency to Ulate, whom he succeeded in 1954. President Mario Echandi - 44 - now leads the country.