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Costa Rica
  • Introduction :: COSTA RICA

  • Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. In 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its armed forces. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
  • Geography :: COSTA RICA

  • Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
    10 00 N, 84 00 W
    Central America and the Caribbean
    total: 51,100 sq km
    land: 51,060 sq km
    water: 40 sq km
    note: includes Isla del Coco
    slightly smaller than West Virginia
    total: 661 km
    border countries (2): Nicaragua 313 km, Panama 348 km
    1,290 km
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: 200 nm
    tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
    coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major active volcanoes
    lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m
    agricultural land: 37.1%
    arable land 4.9%; permanent crops 6.7%; permanent pasture 25.5%
    forest: 51.5%
    other: 11.4% (2011 est.)
    1,031 sq km (2003)
    112.4 cu km (2011)
    total: 5.77 cu km/yr (15%/9%/77%)
    per capita: 1,582 cu m/yr (2006)
    occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes
    volcanism: Arenal (elev. 1,670 m), which erupted in 2010, is the most active volcano in Costa Rica; a 1968 eruption destroyed the town of Tabacon; Irazu (elev. 3,432 m), situated just east of San Jose, has the potential to spew ash over the capital city as it did between 1963 and 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Miravalles, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, and Turrialba
    deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
    four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65
  • People and Society :: COSTA RICA

  • noun: Costa Rican(s)
    adjective: Costa Rican
    white or mestizo 83.6%, mulato 6.7%, indigenous 2.4%, black of African descent 1.1%, other 1.1%, none 2.9%, unspecified 2.2% (2011 est.)
    Spanish (official), English
    Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
    Costa Rica's political stability, high standard of living, and well-developed social benefits system set it apart from its Central American neighbors. Through the government's sustained social spending - almost 20% of GDP annually - Costa Rica has made tremendous progress toward achieving its goal of providing universal access to education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, and electricity. Since the 1970s, expansion of these services has led to a rapid decline in infant mortality, an increase in life expectancy at birth, and a sharp decrease in the birth rate. The average number of children born per women has fallen from about 7 in the 1960s to 3.5 in the early 1980s to below replacement level today. Costa Rica's poverty rate is lower than in most Latin American countries, but it has stalled at around 20% for almost two decades.
    Costa Rica is a popular regional immigration destination because of its job opportunities and social programs. Almost 9% of the population is foreign-born, with Nicaraguans comprising nearly three-quarters of the foreign population. Many Nicaraguans who perform unskilled seasonal labor enter Costa Rica illegally or overstay their visas, which continues to be a source of tension. Less than 3% of Costa Rica's population lives abroad. The overwhelming majority of expatriates have settled in the United States after completing a university degree or in order to work in a highly skilled field.
    4,755,234 (July 2014 est.)
    0-14 years: 23.5% (male 570,311/female 545,026)
    15-24 years: 17.5% (male 423,340/female 407,335)
    25-54 years: 43.8% (male 1,045,296/female 1,035,273)
    55-64 years: 8.3% (male 193,205/female 201,377)
    65 years and over: 7% (male 154,467/female 179,604) (2014 est.)
    population pyramid:
    total dependency ratio: 43.6%
    youth dependency ratio: 33.2%
    elderly dependency ratio: 10.4%
    potential support ratio: 9.6% (2014 est.)
    total: 30 years
    male: 29.5 years
    female: 30.5 years (2014 est.)
    1.24% (2014 est.)
    16.08 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    4.49 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    0.84 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
    urban population: 75.9% of total population (2014)
    rate of urbanization: 2.74% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
    SAN JOSE (capital) 1.16 million (2014)
    at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
    38 deaths/100,000 live births (2013 est.)
    total: 8.7 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 9.5 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 7.86 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
    total population: 78.23 years
    male: 75.59 years
    female: 81.01 years (2014 est.)
    1.91 children born/woman (2014 est.)
    76.2% (2011)
    9.9% of GDP (2013)
    1.11 physicians/1,000 population (2013)
    1.2 beds/1,000 population (2012)
    urban: 99.6% of population
    rural: 90.9% of population
    total: 96.6% of population
    urban: 0.4% of population
    rural: 9.1% of population
    total: 3.4% of population (2012 est.)
    urban: 94.9% of population
    rural: 92% of population
    total: 93.9% of population
    urban: 5.1% of population
    rural: 8% of population
    total: 6.1% of population (2012 est.)
    0.23% (2013 est.)
    7,600 (2013 est.)
    300 (2013 est.)
    degree of risk: intermediate
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
    vectorborne diseases: dengue fever (2013)
    24% (2014)
    1.1% (2009)
    6.9% of GDP (2013)
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 97.8%
    male: 97.7%
    female: 97.8% (2015 est.)
    total: 14 years
    male: 13 years
    female: 14 years (2013)
    total number: 39,082
    percentage: 5% (2002 est.)
    total: 18.4%
    male: 15%
    female: 24.2% (2012 est.)
  • Government :: COSTA RICA

  • conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
    conventional short form: Costa Rica
    local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
    local short form: Costa Rica
    democratic republic
    name: San Jose
    geographic coordinates: 9 56 N, 84 05 W
    time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
    15 September 1821 (from Spain)
    Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
    previous 1825; latest adopted 7 November 1949; amended many times, last in 2005 (2005)
    civil law system based on Spanish civil code; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court
    accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    18 years of age; universal and compulsory
    chief of state: President Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera (since 8 May 2014); First Vice President Helio FALLAS Venega (since 8 May 2014); Second Vice President Ana Helena CHACON Echeverra (since 8 May 2014); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
    head of government: President Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera (since 8 May 2014); First Vice President Helio FALLAS Venega (since 8 May 2014); Second Vice President Ana Helena CHACON Echeverra (since 8 May 2014)
    cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president
    elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single four-year term; election last held on 2 February 2014, with a runoff on 6 April 2014 (next to be held in February 2018)
    election results: Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera elected president; percent of vote - Luis Guillermo SOLIS Rivera (PAC) 77.81%; Johnny ARAYA (PLN) 22.19%
    description: unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies - corresponding to the country's 7 provinces - by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)
    elections: last held on 2 February 2014 (next to be held in February 2018)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 18, PAC 13, FA 9, PUSC 8, PML 4, other 5
    highest court(s): Supreme Court of Justice (consists of 22 judges organized into 3 cassation chambers each with 5 judges, and the Constitutional Chamber with 7 judges)
    judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court of Justice judges elected by the National Assembly for 8-year terms with renewal decided by the National Assembly
    subordinate courts: appellate courts; first instance and justice of the peace courts; Superior Electoral Tribunal
    Accessibility Without Exclusion or PASE [Oscar Andres LOPEZ Arias]
    Broad Front (Frente Amplio) or PFA [Ana Patricia MORA]
    Citizen Action Party or PAC [Olivier PEREZ Gonzalez]
    Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]
    Libertarian Movement Party or ML [Victor Danilo CUBERO Corrales]
    National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]
    National Liberation Party or PLN [Bernal JIMENEZ]
    National Restoration Party or PRN [Carlos AVENDANO]
    Patriotic Alliance [Jorge ARAYA Westover]
    Popular Vanguard [Humberto VARGAS]
    Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Gerardo VARGAS]
    Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers or CATD (Communist Party affiliate)
    Chamber of Coffee Growers
    Confederated Union of Workers or CUT (Communist Party affiliate)
    Confederation of Workers Rerum Novarum or CTRN (PLN affiliate)
    Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers or CCTD (Liberation Party affiliate)
    Costa Rican Exporter's Chamber or CADEXCO
    Costa Rican Solidarity Movement
    Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Enterprises or UCCAEP
    Federation of Public Service Workers or FTSP
    National Association for Economic Development or ANFE
    National Association of Educators or ANDE
    National Association of Public and Private Employees or ANEP
    BCIE, CACM, CD, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM (observer), OAS, OIF (observer), OPANAL, OPCW, Pacific Alliance (observer), PCA, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    chief of mission: Ambassador Roman MACAYA Hayes (since 18 September 2014)
    chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 480-2200
    FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
    consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Tampa (FL), Washington DC; note - Honorary Consulate: Boston, Dallas, Denver, Tucson (AZ)
    consulate(s): San Francisco
    chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Gonzalo GALLEGOS (since July 2013)
    embassy: Calle 98 Via 104, Pavas, San Jose
    mailing address: APO AA 34020
    telephone: [506] 2519-2000
    FAX: [506] 2519-2305
    five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white elliptical disk placed toward the hoist side of the red band; Costa Rica retained the earlier blue-white-blue flag of Central America until 1848 when, in response to revolutionary activity in Europe, it was decided to incorporate the French colors into the national flag and a central red stripe was added; today the blue color is said to stand for the sky, opportunity, and perseverance, white denotes peace, happiness, and wisdom, while red represents the blood shed for freedom, as well as the generosity and vibrancy of the people
    note: somewhat resembles the flag of North Korea; similar to the flag of Thailand but with the blue and red colors reversed
    yiguirro (clay-colored robin); national colors: blue, white, red
    name: "Himno Nacional de Costa Rica" (National Anthem of Costa Rica)
    lyrics/music: Jose Maria ZELEDON Brenes/Manuel Maria GUTIERREZ
    note: adopted 1949; the anthem's music was originally written for an 1853 welcome ceremony for diplomatic missions from the United States and United Kingdom; the lyrics were added in 1903
  • Economy :: COSTA RICA

  • Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted 1.3% in 2009 but resumed growth at about 4% per year in 2010-14. While the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. High value-added goods and services, including medical devices, have further bolstered exports. Tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the incentives offered in the free-trade zones; and Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. However, poor infrastructure, high energy costs, bureaucracy, weak investor protection, and legal uncertainty due to difficulty of enforcing contracts and overlapping and at times conflicting responsibilities between agencies, remain impediments to greater competitiveness. Costa Rica’s economy also faces challenges due to a rising fiscal deficit, rising public debt, and relatively low levels of domestic revenue. Poverty has remained around 20-25% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly dependent on remittances, which in 2013 represented 1.1% of GDP. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government.
    The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of mostly unskilled labor but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system. The US-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force on 1 January 2009 after significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. CAFTA-DR has increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and telecommunications sectors recently opened to private investors.
    $71.21 billion (2014 est.)
    $68.74 billion (2013 est.)
    $66.41 billion (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2014 US dollars
    $50.46 billion (2014 est.)
    3.6% (2014 est.)
    3.5% (2013 est.)
    5.1% (2012 est.)
    $14,900 (2014 est.)
    $14,600 (2013 est.)
    $14,300 (2012 est.)
    note: data are in 2013 US dollars
    country comparison to the world: 105
    16.7% of GDP (2014 est.)
    16.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
    16.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    household consumption: 64.9%
    government consumption: 18.1%
    investment in fixed capital: 22%
    investment in inventories: 0.6%
    exports of goods and services: 36.2%
    imports of goods and services: -41.8%
    (2014 est.)
    agriculture: 6%
    industry: 20.5%
    services: 73.4% (2014 est.)
    bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber
    medical equipment, food processing, , textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
    4.7% (2014 est.)
    2.257 million
    note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2014 est.)
    agriculture: 14%
    industry: 22%
    services: 64% (2006 est.)
    8.5% (2014 est.)
    8.5% (2013 est.)
    24.8% (2011 est.)
    lowest 10%: 1.2%
    highest 10%: 39.5% (2009 est.)
    50.3 (2009)
    45.9 (1997)
    revenues: $6.931 billion
    expenditures: $9.728 billion (2014 est.)
    13.7% of GDP (2014 est.)
    -5.5% of GDP (2014 est.)
    59.4% of GDP (2014 est.)
    54.7% of GDP (2013 est.)
    calendar year
    4.7% (2014 est.)
    5.2% (2013 est.)
    21.5% (31 December 2010)
    23% (31 December 2009)
    15.4% (31 December 2014 est.)
    15.19% (31 December 2013 est.)
    $4.7 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $4.599 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $17.41 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $17.15 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $26.95 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $24.94 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $2.015 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    $1.443 billion (31 December 2011)
    $1.445 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
    $-2.569 billion (2014 est.)
    $-2.529 billion (2013 est.)
    $11.75 billion (2014 est.)
    $11.53 billion (2013 est.)
    bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; beef; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment
    US 31.9%, China 12.6%, Mexico 9.3%, UK 8.6%, Hong Kong 5.2%, Netherlands 5.1%, Malaysia 4.5% (2013)
    $17.91 billion (2014 est.)
    $17.15 billion (2013 est.)
    raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials
    US 47.6%, Mexico 6.4%, China 6.1%, Japan 5.2% (2013)
    $7.067 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $7.331 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $18.37 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $17.19 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $24.71 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $22.25 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    $2.492 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $2.292 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    Costa Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -
    539.3 (2014 est.)
    499.77 (2013 est.)
    502.9 (2012 est.)
    505.66 (2011 est.)
    525.83 (2010 est.)
  • Energy :: COSTA RICA

  • 9.889 billion kWh (2011 est.)
    8.792 billion kWh (2011 est.)
    402 million kWh (2012 est.)
    419 million kWh (2012 est.)
    2.944 million kW (2011 est.)
    29.3% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    0% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    57.1% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    13.6% of total installed capacity (2011 est.)
    400 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    10,040 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 bbl (1 January 2014 est.)
    10,630 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    54,170 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    1,898 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    40,290 bbl/day (2010 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (2012 est.)
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    7.29 million Mt (2012 est.)
  • Communications :: COSTA RICA

  • 1.018 million (2012)
    6.151 million (2012)
    general assessment: good domestic telephone service in terms of breadth of coverage; under the terms of CAFTA-DR, the state-run telecommunications monopoly is scheduled to be opened to competition from domestic and international firms, but has been slow to open to competition
    domestic: point-to-point and point-to-multi-point microwave, fiber-optic, and coaxial cable link rural areas; Internet service is available
    international: country code - 506; landing points for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1), MAYA-1, and the Pan American Crossing submarine cables that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2011)
    multiple privately owned TV stations and 1 publicly owned TV station; cable network services are widely available; more than 100 privately owned radio stations and a public radio network (2007)
    AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002)
    20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002)
    147,258 (2012)
    1.485 million (2009)
  • Transportation :: COSTA RICA

  • 161 (2013)
    total: 47
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
    914 to 1,523 m: 27
    under 914 m: 16 (2013)
    total: 114
    914 to 1,523 m: 18
    under 914 m:
    96 (2013)
    refined products 662 km (2013)
    total: 278 km
    narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge
    note: none of the railway network is in use (2008)
    total: 39,018 km
    paved: 10,133 km
    unpaved: 28,885 km (2010)
    730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2011)
    total: 1
    by type: passenger/cargo 1 (2010)
    major seaport(s): Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean) - Puerto Limon; Pacific Ocean - Caldera
  • Military :: COSTA RICA

  • no regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police (2011)
    males age 16-49: 1,255,798
    females age 16-49: 1,230,202 (2010 est.)
    males age 16-49: 1,058,419
    females age 16-49: 1,037,053 (2010 est.)
    male: 42,201
    female: 40,444 (2010 est.)
  • Transnational Issues :: COSTA RICA

  • Costa Rica and Nicaragua regularly file border dispute cases over the delimitations of the San Juan River and the northern tip of Calero Island to the International Court of Justice (ICJ); in 2009, the ICJ ruled that Costa Rican vessels carrying out police activities could not use the river, but official Costa Rican vessels providing essential services to riverside inhabitants and Costa Rican tourists could travel freely on the river; in 2011, the ICJ provisionally ruled that both countries must remove personnel from the disputed area; in 2013, the ICJ rejected Nicaragua's 2012 suit to halt Costa Rica's construction of a highway paralleling the river on the grounds of irreparable environmental damage; in 2013, the ICJ, regarding the disputed territory, ordered that Nicaragua should refrain from dredging or canal construction and refill and repair damage caused by trenches connecting the river to the Caribbean and upheld its 2010 ruling that Nicaragua must remove all personnel; in early 2014, Costa Rica brought Nicaragua to the ICJ over offshore oil concessions in the disputed region
    refugees (country of origin): 16,598 (Colombia) (2014)
    stateless persons: 1,200 (2014)
    transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis in remote areas; domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising; significant consumption of amphetamines; seizures of smuggled cash in Costa Rica and at the main border crossing to enter Costa Rica from Nicaragua have risen in recent years (2008)