I
guess we all can agree that no democracy is perfect but certainly Costa Rica and
its people have an excellent record and systems in place to continue forward
with freedom, peace, democracy, diversity and globalization. I feel that all of
us can learn quiet some from the Costaricans and their stable free democracy
model system. 
I am certain that implementing and managing a democracy it
is not a simple thing neither a task that you can master in a few years. Just
like a good marriage takes many years to build in trust, communication and
mutual respect and acceptance, I feel a democracy it is not much different
.


Thug in Central
America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between
Nicaragua and Panama you will find a small nation in size but a giant built in a
democratic heart full of peace and respect for the human race and its diversity,
called “Costa-Rica”. In 1502, on his 4th and last voyage to the New World,
Christopher Columbus made the first European landfall in the area. Settlement of
Costa Rica began in 1522. For nearly three centuries, Spain administered the
region as part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala under a military governor.
The Spanish optimistically called the country "Rich Coast."


It is hard to believe
that in such small territory you can find such diverse culture, rich in
religion, education, social diversity, and structured economy and stabilized
democratic system. Costa Rica enjoys one of the most democratic and stable
governments in Latin America and it has a reputation as one of the most
prosperous and least corrupt. A remarkable fact about Costa Rica is that it has
not have an army since the year 1949. Another interesting fact is that although
the country is small and it covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, it
proudly shelters a 6% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. 25.58 %
of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory and
ecosystem.

It is said that one of the best things Costa Rica has to
offer is the charisma and hospitality of its people also called or known as
“Ticos” (masculine) or Tica (feminine). "Tico" comes from the popular local
usage of "tico" and "tica" as diminutive suffixes (e.g., "momentico" instead of
"momentito"). The phrase "Pura Vida!" (approximately translatable to "This is
living!", literal meaning "Pure Life!" as in "Distilled life!") is a ubiquitous
motto in Costa Rica. Some youth use mae, a contraction of "maje" (mae means
"guy/dude"), to refer to each other, although this might be perceived as
insulting to those of an older generation; maje was a synonym for "tonto"
(stupid), also it is said that “where there is a Tico —there is peace”.

Costa Rica boasts a
varied history where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.
The northwest of the country, the Nicoya peninsula, was the southernmost point
of Nahuatl cultural influence when the Spanish conquerors came in the sixteenth
century. The center and southern portions of the country had Chibcha influences.
Meanwhile the Atlantic coast was populated with African workers during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most Afro-Costa Ricans, however, derive
from nineteenth-century Jamaican workers, brought in to work on the construction
of railroads between the urban populations of the Central Plateau and the port
of Limon on the Caribbean coast. Italian and Chinese immigrants also arrived at
this time to work on railroad construction.


One of Costa
Rica’s richness lies on the cultural diversity of the people. Throughout
Costarican history, the indigenous population of pre-Hispanic origins have been
added movements of immigrants which settled in these lands, making it their home
and enriching the cultural backgrounds and expanding its diversity in the
process. Currently, besides the predominant half-breed component, there are
ethnical-national groups and colonies of immigrants recovering their particular
cultural heritage: African descendants, Chinese, Hebrew, Lebanese, and Italian,
etc.; as well as the indigenous populations of the Bribri, Cabecar, Maleku,
Teribe, Boruca, Ngöbe, Huetar, and Chorotega. Unlike many of their Central
American neighbors, present-day Costa Ricans are estimated 10% to 15% of the
population is Nicaraguan, of fairly recent arrival and primarily of mestizo
(mixed) origin race. Descendants of 19th-century Jamaican immigrant workers
constitute an English-speaking minority and–at 3% of the population–number
about 119,000. Few of the native Indians survived European contact; the
indigenous population today numbers about 29,000 or less than 1% of the
population. Because of this tremendous and rich mixed Costarican family names
are usually English, German, Italian, American and of course Spanish names such
as Betancourt, Bisner, Delpuerto, Gimarais, Urena, ect.
 


Costa Rica is also an
attractive country for investment and it offers great potential for the
establishment of important multinational companies such INTEL, IBM, DOLE, DEL
MONTE, CHIQUITA, thanks to the outstanding academic level of its population, as
well as the high standard of modern services and social and political stability.
The literacy rate in Costa Rica is of 95% one of the highest in Latin America.
Elementary and high schools are found throughout the country in practically
every community. Universal public education is guaranteed in the Constitution.
Primary education is obligatory, and both preschool and high school are free.
There are both state and private universities. There are only a few schools in
Costa Rica that go beyond the 12th grade. Those schools that finish at 11th
grade receive a Costa Rican Bachillerato Diploma accredited by the Costa Rican
Ministry of Education.

 

The Costarican Government

Type: Democratic
republic.

Independence: September
15, 1821.

Constitution: November
7, 1949.

Branches:
Executive–president (head of government and chief of state) elected for one
4-year term, two vice presidents, Cabinet (22 ministers, two of whom are also
vice presidents). Legislative–57-deputy unicameral Legislative Assembly elected
at 4-year intervals. Judicial–Supreme Court of Justice (22 magistrates elected
by Legislative Assembly for renewable 8-year terms). The offices of the
Ombudsman, Comptroller General, and Procurator General assert autonomous
oversight of the government.
 

Subdivisions: Seven
provinces, divided into 81 cantons, subdivided into 421 districts.

Political parties:
National Liberation Party (PLN), Citizen’s Action Party (PAC), Libertarian
Movement Party (PML), Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), and other smaller
parties.

Suffrage: Universal and
compulsory at age 18.


An era of peaceful
democracy in Costa Rica began in 1899 with elections considered the first truly
free and honest ones in the country’s history. This began a trend that continued
until today with only two lapses: in 1917-19, Federico Tinoco ruled as a
dictator, and, in 1948, Jose Figueres led an armed uprising in the wake of a
disputed presidential election. With more than 2,000 dead, the 44-day civil war
resulting from this uprising was the bloodiest event in 20th-century Costa Rican
history, but the victorious junta drafted a constitution guaranteeing free
elections with universal suffrage and the abolition of the military. Figueres
became a national hero, winning the first election under the new constitution in
1953. Since then, Costa Rica has held 14 presidential elections, the latest in
2006.


As a democratic
republic with a very strong system of constitutional checks and balances
Costarican executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the
country’s center of power. There also are two vice presidents and a 20-plus
member cabinet. The president and 57 Legislative Assembly deputies are elected
for 4-year terms. In April 2003, the Costa Rican Constitutional Court annulled a
1969 constitutional reform which had barred presidents from running for
reelection. As a result, the law reverted back to the 1949 Constitution, which
permits ex-presidents to run for reelection after they have been out of office
for two presidential terms, or eight years. Deputies may run for reelection
after sitting out one term, or four years. On January 1, 2009, the U.S.-Central
American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force
in Costa Rica.


The electoral process
is supervised by an independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal–a commission of
three principal magistrates and six alternates selected by the Supreme Court of
Justice. Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice, composed
of 22 magistrates selected for renewable 8-year terms by the Legislative
Assembly, and subsidiary courts. A Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court
(Sala IV), established in 1989, reviews the constitutionality of legislation and
executive decrees and all habeas corpus warrants. The next national elections
will take place in February 2010.

The offices of the
Comptroller General of the Republic, the Solicitor General, and the Ombudsman
exercise oversight of the government. The Comptroller General’s office has a
statutory responsibility to scrutinize all but the smallest public sector
contracts and strictly enforces procedural requirements. Along with the Sala IV,
these institutions are playing an increasingly prominent role in governing Costa
Rica.


There are provincial
boundaries for administrative purposes, but no elected provincial officials.
Costa Rica held its first mayoral elections in December 2002, whereby mayors
were elected to 4-year terms by popular vote through general elections. Prior to
2002, the office of mayor did not exist, and the president of each municipal
council was responsible for the administration of his/her municipality. The most
recent nationwide mayoral elections took place in December 2006. Autonomous
state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include the
telecommunications and electrical power monopoly and the state insurance
monopoly (sectors opened to competition by CAFTA-DR), the state petroleum
refinery, the nationalized commercial banks, and the social security agency.
Costa Rica has no military and maintains only domestic police and security
forces. A professional Coast Guard was established in 2000. Costa Rica has long
emphasized the development of democracy and respect for human rights.


The Costarican
political system has steadily developed, maintaining democratic institutions and
an orderly, constitutional scheme for government succession. Many factors have
contributed to this trend, including enlightened leadership, comparative
prosperity, flexible class lines, educational opportunities that have created a
stable middle class, and high social indicators. Also, because Costa Rica has no
armed forces, it has avoided military involvement in political affairs, unlike
other countries in the region and around the globe; it is this fact that gave
them the recognizing worldwide such as the Central American Switzerland. In May
2006, President Oscar Arias of the National Liberation Party (PLN) assumed
office, defeating principal rival Ottón Solis of the Civil Action Party by
roughly 2% of the vote. Arias listed passage of the CAFTA-DR, along with fiscal
reform, infrastructure improvements, improving education, and improving security
as primary goals for his presidency; also he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  

RELIGION

Christianity is the
predominant religion in Costa Rica, and Roman Catholicism is the official state
religion as guaranteed by the Constitution of 1949. Some 84% of Costa Ricans are
Christian and like many other parts of Latin America, Evangelical Protestant
denominations have been experiencing rapid growth. However, seven in ten Costa
Ricans still adhere to Roman Catholicism. Due to the recent small but continuous
immigration of communities from Asia, the Middle East, and other places, other
religions have grown, the most popular being Buddhism (because of an increasing
Chinese community of 40,000), and smaller numbers of Jewish, Muslim, Bahá’í and
Hindu adherents.


There is a Jewish
synagogue, the B’nei Israel Congregation, in San José, near the La Sabana
Metropolitan Park. Several homes in the neighborhood east of La Sabana
Metropolitan Park are festooned with the Star of David and other recognizable
Jewish symbols. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen modest
growth in Costa Rica in the last 40 years and has built one of only two temples
in Central America in the San Antonio de Belen region of Heredia.

 

Costa Rican Economy

GDP (2007): $26.23
billion.

GDP PPP (2006 est.):
$52.22 billion.

Inflation (2007 est.):
10.81%.

Real growth rate (2007
est.): 7.3%.

Per capita income
(2006): $5,100. (PPP $11,862, 2006 est.)

Unemployment (2007
est.): 4.6%.

Currency: Costa Rica Colon (CRC).

Natural resources:
Hydroelectric power, forest products, fisheries products.

Agriculture (8.7% of
GDP): Products–bananas, pineapples, coffee, beef, sugar, rice, dairy products,
vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants.

Industry (28.9% of
GDP): Types–electronic components, food processing, textiles and apparel,
construction materials, fertilizer, medical equipment.

Commerce, tourism, and
services (62.4% of GDP): Hotels, restaurants, tourist services, banks, and
insurance.

Trade (2006 est.):
Exports–$8.198 billion: integrated circuits, medical equipment, bananas,
pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, textiles, electronic
components, medical equipment. Major markets–U.S. 38.6%, China 6.8%, Hong Kong
6.4%, Netherlands 6.1%, Guatemala 4.0%. Imports–$11.576 billion: raw materials,
consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum. Major suppliers–U.S. 39.3%, Japan
5.1%, Venezuela 5.0%, Mexico 5.2%, China 4.8%, Ireland 4.5%, Brazil
3.4%.


After experiencing 8.8%
growth in 2006, the Costa Rican economy settled down to an estimated 7.3% in
2007. Compared with its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has achieved a
high standard of living, with a per capita income of about U.S. $5,800, and an
unemployment rate of 4.6%. Consumer price inflation is high but relatively
constant at about a 10% annual rate in the last decade. Both the central
government and the overall public sector ran fiscal surpluses in
2007.

For the first time in
the history of world, modernization and globalization a voting population will
have the opportunity to vote on a free trade agreement in a referendum. Costa
Rican voters will be asked to decide whether or not to accept CAFTA (Central
America Free Trade Agreement).  Implementing CAFTA-DR, passing
fiscal reform, pursuing responsible monetary policy, and creating an effective
concessions process are the biggest challenges for the country’s economic
policymakers.


However, opposition
groups in Costa Rica quickly organized to demonstrate against the agreement,
citing the threat that CAFTA-DR poses to the environment, workers’ rights,
economic sustainability, and Costa Rican autonomy and have successfully forced
the government to acknowledge the voice of the people in the public arena.
Submitting the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement to a
referendum in Costa Rica is perhaps the most democratic approach to a free trade
agreement that the world has yet seen in that it is the first instance in world
history of a voting population’s having direct veto power over a free trade
agreement.


Costa Rica ranks 115th
out of 175 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index. This hampers the
flow of investment and resources badly needed to repair and rebuild the
country’s deteriorated public infrastructure. Costa Rica’s major economic
resources are its fertile land and frequent rainfall, its well-educated
population, and its location in the Central American isthmus, which provides
easy access to North and South American markets and direct ocean access to the
European and Asian Continents. One-fourth of Costa Rica’s land is dedicated to
national forests, often adjoining picturesque beaches, which has made the
country a popular destination for affluent retirees and eco-tourists despite
increasing crime.


Costa Rica’s basically
stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Exports
have become more diversified in the past 10 years due to the growth of the
high-tech manufacturing sector, which is dominated by the microprocessor
industry. 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 high
education levels, as well as the fiscal incentives offered in the free-trade
zones. Costa Rica has attracted the second largest amount of foreign direct
investment in Latin America.


Poverty has remained
around 20% 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. Immigration from Nicaragua has
increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000
Nicaraguans estimated to be 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 government continues to grapple with its large internal and
external deficits and sizable internal debt.


Reducing
inflation remains a difficult problem because of rising import prices, labor
market rigidities, and fiscal deficits, though lower oil prices will decrease
upward pressures. The Central Bank is moving towards a more flexible exchange
rate system to focus on inflation targeting by 2010. The US-Central American
Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) will enter into force in January 2009, after
significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. Nevertheless, economic
growth will slow in 2009 as the global slowdown reduces export demand and
investment inflows.


CAFTA-DR would
fundamentally change thousands of laws that are presently in place in Costa
Rica, as it has already done in other countries that are party to the
agreement–Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican
Republic–who have already ratified CAFTA-DR and begun implementation. One of
the most critical legal changes required by DR-CAFTA are the elimination or
substantial transformation of laws protecting natural resources from foreign
purchase or control.


Some key features of
CAFTA-DR include allowing highly subsidized U.S. agriculture to gain immediate
duty-free access to CAFTA-DR markets, excluding competitors from CAFTA-DR
markets so as to protect U.S. textiles & apparel under the ‘Yarn Forward’
Rule, non-reciprocal & anti-free trade sanction measures allowing the United
States to impose tariffs on certain goods in the event of ‘import surges,’
protecting international investors, entitling corporate entities to full
compensation for the market value of any properties, natural resources, or goods
that are nationalized or expropriated by Central American countries,
privatization all social services and allowing U.S. companies to bid on these
privatized public industries, including education and environmental
services.


Costa Rica used to be
known principally as a producer of bananas and coffee, but pineapples have
surpassed coffee as the number two agricultural export. In recent years, Costa
Rica has successfully attracted important investments by such companies as Intel
Corporation, which employs nearly 2,000 people at its $300 million
microprocessor plant; Proctor and Gamble, which employs about 1,200 people in
its administrative center for the Western Hemisphere; and Hospira and Baxter
Healthcare from the health care products industry. Manufacturing and industry’s
contribution to GDP overtook agriculture over the course of the 1990s, led by
foreign investment in Costa Rica’s free trade zone.


Well over half of
that investment has come from the United States. Dole and Chiquita have a large
presence in the banana and pineapple industries. Two-way trade between the U.S.
and Costa Rica exceeded $8 billion in 2007. Costa Rica has oil deposits off its
Atlantic Coast, but the Pacheco administration (2002-2006) decided not to
develop the deposits for environmental reasons. The country’s mountainous
terrain and abundant rainfall have permitted the construction of a dozen
hydroelectric power plants, making it largely self-sufficient in electricity,
but it is completely reliant on imports for liquid fuels. Costa Rica has the
potential to become a major electricity exporter if plans for new generating
plants and a regional distribution grid are realized. Its mild climate and trade
winds make neither heating nor cooling necessary, particularly in the highland
cities and towns where some 90% of the population lives.


Costa Rica’s public
infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance and new investment. Most
parts of the country are accessible through an extensive road system of more
than 30,000 kilometers, although much of the system has fallen into disrepair.
Contamination in rivers, beaches, and aquifers is a matter of rising concern.
Just 3.5% of the country’s sewage is managed in sewage treatment facilities and
the Water and Sewage Institute (AyA) estimates that perhaps 50% of septic
systems function. In 2007, Costa Rica experienced nationwide blackouts resulting
from a severe dry season (which limited hydroelectric resources) and the state
electricity monopoly’s inadequate investment in maintenance and capacity
increases.
 
Costa Rica has sought
to widen its economic and trade ties within and outside the region. Costa Rica
signed a bilateral trade agreement with Mexico in 1994, which was later amended
to cover a wider range of products. Costa Rica joined other Central American
countries, and the Dominican Republic, in establishing a Trade and Investment
Council with the United States in March 1998. Costa Rica has signed trade
agreements with Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, and
several Caribbean Community countries. It began negotiating a regional Central
American-EU trade agreement in October 2007. Costa Rica was an active
participant in the negotiation of the hemispheric Free Trade Area of the
Americas and is active in the Cairns Group, which is pursuing global
agricultural trade liberalization within the World Trade
Organization.

 

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Costa Rica is an active
member of the international community and, in 1993, proclaimed its permanent
neutrality. Its record on the environment and human rights and advocacy of
peaceful settlement of disputes give it a weight in world affairs far beyond its
size. The country lobbied aggressively for the establishment of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights and became the first nation to recognize the
jurisdiction of the Inter-American Human Rights Court, based in San Jose. In
2007 Costa Rica was elected for the third time to serve as a non-permanent
member of the United Nations Security Council (January 2008-December
2009).

During the tumultuous
1980s, then-President Oscar Arias authored a regional peace plan that served as
the basis for the Esquipulas Peace Agreement. Arias’ efforts earned him the 1987
Nobel Peace Prize. Subsequent agreements, supported by the United States, led to
the Nicaraguan election of 1990 and the end of civil war in Nicaragua. Costa
Rica also hosted several rounds of negotiations between the Salvadoran
Government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), aiding El
Salvador’s efforts to emerge from civil war and culminating in that country’s
1994 free and fair elections.


Costa Rica also has had
a lifelong disagreement with Nicaragua, its neighboring country over the San
Juan River which denotes the border between these two countries; the
disagreement originates from the fact that the river, being Nicaraguan soil, is
the only way of access to several communities in Costa Rica which need to be
served by armed Costa Rican police forces trained by the USA special
forces. Costa Rica has been a strong proponent of
regional arms limitation agreements. President Arias has publicly supported
self-determination in Cuba and expressed concern about eroding democratic
institutions in Venezuela. In 2007 Costa Rica established diplomatic ties with
China, ending nearly 60 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.


The United States and
Costa Rica have a history of close and friendly relations based on respect for
democratic government, human freedoms, free trade, and other shared values. The
country generally supports the U.S. in international efforts, especially in the
areas of democracy and human rights. The United States is
Costa Rica’s most important trading partner. The U.S. accounts for almost half
of Costa Rica’s exports, imports, and tourism, and more than two-thirds of its
foreign investment. The two countries share growing concerns for the environment
and want to preserve Costa Rica’s important tropical resources and prevent
environmental degradation. In 2007, the United States reduced Costa Rica’s debt
in exchange for protection and conservation of Costa Rican forests through a
debt for nature swap under the auspices of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.
This is the largest such agreement of its kind to date.


The United States
responded to Costa Rica’s economic needs in the 1980s with significant economic
and development assistance programs. Through provision of more than $1.1 billion
in assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported
Costa Rican efforts to stabilize its economy and broaden and accelerate economic
growth through policy reforms and trade liberalization. Assistance initiatives
in the 1990s concentrated on democratic policies, modernizing the administration
of justice, and sustainable development. Once the country had graduated from
most forms of U.S. assistance, the USAID Mission in Costa Rica closed in 1996.
However, USAID completed a $9 million project in 2000-01 to support refugees of
Hurricane Mitch residing in Costa Rica.


For decades, Peace
Corps volunteers
have provided technical assistance in the areas of
environmental education, natural resources, management, small business
development, microfinance, basic business education, urban youth, and community
education. Between 30,000-50,000 private American citizens, including many
retirees, reside in the country and more than 700,000 American citizens visit
Costa Rica annually. A few vexing expropriation and U.S. citizen investment
disputes have hurt Costa Rica’s investment climate and have occasionally
produced bilateral friction.


The U.S.-Costa Rica
Maritime Cooperation Agreement, the first of its kind in Central America,
entered into force in late 1999. The agreement, which facilitates cooperation
between the Coast Guard of Costa Rica and the U.S. Coast Guard, has resulted in
a growing number of narcotics seizures, illegal migrant rescues, illegal fishing
seizures, and search-and-rescue missions. Bilateral Costa Rican law enforcement
cooperation, particularly against Narco-trafficking, has been
exemplary.


Costa Rica is an active
member of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. The
Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University of Peace
are based in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican State is also a member of many other
international organizations related to human rights and democracy.


Costa Rica’s main
foreign policy objective is to foster human rights and sustainable development
as a way to secure stability and growth. Costa Rica is also a member of the
International Criminal Court, without a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of
protection for the US-military.

MR. B SmileWinkDon't tell anyone