Costa Rica
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Top Costa Rica


Costa Rica is a republic run by three powers: executive, legislative and judicial. The president is head of the executive with the other two branches being governed by the Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court. This small Central American country, which has no standing army, carries the distinction of having one of the oldest successfully running democratic governments in Latin America. With 59 years of democracy—uninterrupted by coups or revolution—it is one of the most stable countries the area.

The president, along with 52 Legislative Assembly delegates, is elected every four years. Until 2003, presidents were limited to one term. Since the new legislation was passed, Oscar Arias successfully ran for re-election in 2007.

Arias is probably the most notable president in Costa Rican history. Elected in 1986, he almost immediately began to receive criticism from within his own party for moving from its social democratic traditions to a neoliberalism economic model. Many of his policies are still in effect today, and the healthy state of the current economy has been attributed to them. Arias was also very active in the efforts to stop the civil wars raging in the nearby countries of Guatemala and Nicaragua, and for this he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

Politics Today

There are four leading parties in Costa Rican Politics today. The National Liberation Party (PLN), a social democratic party led by President Laura Chinchilla, currently holds the majority and is considered to be one of the most powerful political forces in the country. Other major parties include the Citizen’s Action Party, the Libertarian Movement Party, and the Social Christian Unity Party.

President Chinchilla is the first female president of Costa Rica. Elected in February of 2010, she ran on a motto of “progressive politics for a better world.” Her policies vary politically; she is pro free-trade, which has been a huge issue in Costa Rica and Central America in general since the adoption of DR-CAFTA (Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement) in 2007. The president’s policies also include a progressive approach to climate change, opposition to gay marriage and opposition to the separation of church and state. She also favors the prohibition of abortion and the legalization of the morning after pill, which has been banned in Costa Rica.

1987 Oscar Arias Wins Nobel Peace Prize

2007 Costa Rica Signs DR-CAFTA

2010 First Woman President Elected

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Costa Rica: Social & Environmental Issues and Economy.

08 Nov 2010

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