The U.S. Shadow Over Costa Rica

The abolition of Costa Rica's military 75 years ago has been highly celebrated at home and abroad. Yet the story is more complicated than the myth lets on.

July 9, 2024

President Ronald Reagan and Costa Rica's President Luis Alberto Monge Álvarez at the signing of the U.S.-Costa Rica extradition treaty at the National Theater in San José, Costa Rica, 1982. (White House Photographic Office / Public Domain)


Costa Rica has been called the “Switzerland of Latin America.” In this episode, host Michael Fox takes us on a dive into this so-called peaceful and democratic beacon for a region beset by dictatorships and violence. He looks at the myth Costa Rica has created around the elimination of the military and how the United States did its utmost to encourage San José to do its bidding.

This is Episode 11.

The National Museum of Costa Rica in San José. (Michael Fox)

A statue of José Figueres Ferrer, known as Don Pepe, outside the National Museum of Costa Rica, San José. (Michael Fox)

The historic image in the National Museum of Costa Rica of José Figueres Ferrer symbolically destroying a wall of the military barracks as he abolished Costa Rica's military in 1949. (Michael Fox)

Under the Shadow is an investigative narrative podcast series that walks back in time, telling the story of the past by visiting momentous places in the present. 

In each episode, host Michael Fox takes us to a location where something historic happened—a landmark of revolutionary struggle or foreign intervention. Today, it might look like a random street corner, a church, a mall, a monument, or a museum. But every place he takes us was once the site of history-making events that shook countries, impacted lives, and left deep marks on the world.

Hosted by Latin America-based journalist Michael Fox.

This podcast is produced in partnership between The Real News Network and NACLA.

Ciska Raventós
David Díaz 
Ivan Molina
Rotsay Rosales
Gustavo Fuchs

Edited by Heather Gies.

Sound design by Gustavo Türck.

Theme music by Monte Perdido and Michael Fox. Monte Perdido's new album Ofrenda is now out. You can listen to the full album on SpotifyDeezerApple MusicYouTube or wherever you listen to music.

Other music from Blue Dot Sessions.

You can see pictures of Costa Rica’s National Museum and Butterfly Garden here.

Follow and support journalist Michael Fox and Under the Shadow, and listen to his new podcast Panamerican Dispatch at

Here’s the link for Kyle Longley’s book, Sparrow and the Hawk: Costa Rica and the United States during the Rise of Jose Figueres.

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