José Figueres

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Person.png José Figueres  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(politician, businessman, spook)
José Figueres Ferrer 1.png
BornJosé María Hipólito Figueres Ferrer
25 September 1906
San Ramón, Alajuela
Died8 June 1990 (Age 83)
San José
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Spouse • Henrietta Boggs
• Karen Olsen Beck
President of Costa Rica on three occasions. During his first term in office he abolished the country's army. He had an uneasy relationship with the CIA, who twice tried but failed to assassinate him, despite him working closely with the agency on many issues.

Employment.png President of Costa Rica

In office
8 May 1948 - 8 November 1949

Employment.png President of Costa Rica

In office
8 November 1953 - 8 May 1958

Employment.png President of Costa Rica

In office
8 May 1970 - 8 May 1974

Not to be confused with his son José María Figueres Olsen, also President of Costa Rica.

José Figueres was President of Costa Rica on three occasions: 1948–1949, 1953–1958 and 1970–1974. During his first term in office he abolished the country's army, nationalized its banking sector, and granted women and blacks the right to vote.

He had an uneasy relationship with the CIA, who twice tried but failed to assassinate him,[1] despite him working closely with the agency on many issues.

Figueres eagerly cooperated with US military plans. After the United States established the School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone to train Latin American officers in anti-communist techniques, more Costa Rican "police" graduated from the School between 1950 and 1965 than did officers of any other nation in Latin America, except Nicaragua under the Somozas.8

Figueres' connection with the CIA

The CIA gave Figueres money to publish a political journal, Combate, and to sponsor the founding meeting of the Institute of Political Education in Costa Rica in November 1959. The institute was organized as a training school and a center for political collaboration for political parties of the democratic left, principally from Costa Rica, Cuba (in exile), the Dominican Republic (in exile), Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua (in exile), Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. The CIA concealed its role from most of the participants except Figueres. Its funds passed first to a shell foundation, then to the Kaplan Fund of New York, next to the Institute for International Labor Research (IILR) located in New York, and finally to San José. Socialist leader Norman Thomas headed the IILR. After the CIA connection was revealed, Thomas maintained that he had been unaware of it, but the IILR's treasurer, Sacha Volman, who also became treasurer of the institute in San José, was a CIA agent. The CIA used Volman to monitor the institute, and Cord Meyer[2].

Mr. Figueres himself acknowledged in 1981 that he had received help from the CIA. "At the time, I was conspiring against the Latin American dictatorships and wanted help from the United States", he recalled. "I was a good friend of Allen Dulles. Anyway", Mr. Figueres went on, "the C.I.A.'s Cultural Department helped me finance a magazine and some youth conferences here. But I never participated in espionage. I did beg them not to carry out the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, which was madness, but they ignored me." 4

Cord Meyer came to San José sometime in the summer of 1960. He and Figueres created the Inter-American Democratic Social Movement (INADESMO), which was nothing more than a front. A flier describing the idealistic purpose of INADESMO carried the same post office box as Figueres's personal letterhead. The INADESMO setup enabled Meyer to disburse funds more directly, without having to bother with conduits or the accounting procedures of the institute. For example, INADESMO contributed $10,000 to help finance the First Conference of Popular Parties of Latin America in Lima, Peru, in August 1960.

The following May, Meyer returned to San José for a more urgent purpose. In the wake of the Bay of Pigs failure, he provided Figueres with INADESMO funds to sponsor a meeting at his estate, 'La Lucha', (12–20 May) between the leaders of the principal Dominican exile movements, Juan Bosch and Horacio Ornes. With Figueres as sponsor, Bosch and Ornes agreed to form a coalition government in anticipation of the overthrow of dictator Rafael Trujillo. As the United States moved to rally the hemisphere against Fidel Castro, Trujillo had become expendable, because the United States needed to demonstrate that it opposed all dictators, not just those on the left.

For over a year, the CIA had been in contact also with dissidents inside the Dominican Republic who argued that assassination was the only certain way to remove Trujillo. The CIA station in Ciudad Trujillo (now Santo Domingo) had encouraged the dissidents and actually delivered to them three pistols and three carbines "attendant to their projected efforts to neutralize Trujillo." Because the Bay of Pigs failure created an uncertain situation, the United States tried to put the brakes on this operation and refused to pass along additional weapons to the dissidents which the Dominican station already had, specifically M-3 machine guns. The U.S. National Security Council, meeting on 5 May, "noted the President's view that the United States should not initiate the overthrow of Trujillo before [knowing] what government would succeed him."

On 30 May, Trujillo was ambushed and assassinated. The same "action group" with whom the CIA had been in contact and to whom it had delivered pistols and carbines carried out the attack. According to the 1975 report of the Church Committee, there was "no direct evidence" that CIA weapons had been used in the assassinations and the effect of the Bosch-Ornes pact upon the events that transpired remains a matter for speculation. Nonetheless, the CIA described its role in "changing" the government of the Dominican Republic "as a 'success' in that it assisted in moving the Dominican Republic from a totalitarian dictatorship to a Western-style democracy." Bosch himself was elected president of the Dominican Republic. Sacha Volman followed him there, establishing a new "research and publication center" and taking with him the CIA funding that used to go to Figueres in Costa Rica. Though one cannot prove that there was a coordinated link between the external and internal opposition groups, Cord Meyer [3] was in a position to know what both elements were doing.

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