Costa Rica( Central America and Caribbean )

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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.
Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
Geographic coordinates:
10 00 N, 84 00 W
total: 51,100 sq km
land: 51,060 sq km
water: 40 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than West Virginia
Land boundaries:
total: 661 km
border countries: Nicaragua 313 km, Panama 348 km
1,290 km
Maritime claims:
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 volcanoes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m
Natural resources:
Land use:
arable land: 4.89%
permanent crops: 6.46%
other: 88.65% (2011)
Irrigated land:
1,031 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
112.4 cu km (2011)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic or industrial or agricultural):
total: 5.77 cu km/yr (15%/9%/77%)
per capita: 1,582 cu m/yr (2006)
Natural hazards:
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
Environment current issues:
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
Environment international agreements:
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
Geography note:
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
noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican
Ethnic groups:
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%
4,755,234 (July 2014 est.)
Age structure:
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: 6.8% (male 154,467/female 179,604) (2014 est.)
Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 43.6 %
youth dependency ratio: 33.2 %
elderly dependency ratio: 10.4 %
potential support ratio: 9.6 (2014 est.)
Median age:
total: 30 years
male: 29.5 years
female: 30.5 years (2014 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.24% (2014 est.)
Birth rate:
16.08 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Death rate:
4.49 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Net migration rate:
0.84 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
urban population: 64.7% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 2.06% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas population:
SAN JOSE (capital) 1.515 million (2011)
Sex ratio:
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.)
Infant mortality rate:
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.)
Maternal mortality rate:
40 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.23 years
male: 75.59 years
female: 81.01 years (2014 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.91 children born/woman (2014 est.)
Contraceptive prevalence rate:
82.2% (2010)
Health expenditures:
10.9% of GDP (2011)
Physicians density:
1.32 physicians/1,000 population (2000)
Hospital bed density:
1.2 beds/1,000 population (2011)
Drinking water source:
improved: urban: 99.6% of population
rural: 90.9% of population
total: 96.6% of population
unimproved: urban: 0.4% of population
rural: 9.1% of population
total: 3.4% of population (2012 est.)
Sanitation facility access:
improved: urban: 94.9% of population
rural: 92% of population
total: 93.9% of population
unimproved: urban: 5.1% of population
rural: 8% of population
total: 6.1% of population (2012 est.)
HIV or AIDS adult prevalence rate:
0.3% (2012 est.)
HIV or AIDS people living with HIV or AIDS:
9,800 (2012 est.)
HIV or AIDS deaths:
300 (2012 est.)
Obesity adult prevalence rate:
23.7% (2008)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
1.1% (2009)
Education expenditures:
6.3% of GDP (2009)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.3%
male: 96%
female: 96.5% (2011 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2012)
Child labor children ages 5-14:
total number: 39,082
percentage: 5 % (2002 est.)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 18.4%
male: 15%
female: 24.2% (2012)
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
conventional short form: Costa Rica
local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
local short form: Costa Rica
Government type:
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)
Administrative divisions:
7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
previous 1825; latest adopted 7 November 1949; amended many times, last in 2005 (2005)
Legal system:
civil law system based on Spanish civil code; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court
International law organization participation:
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch:
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 CHACГ“N EcheverrГ­a (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 CHACГ“N EcheverrГ­a (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%
Legislative branch:
unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-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 9, PML 3, other 5
Judicial branch:
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
Political parties and leaders:
Accessibility Without Exclusion or PASE [Oscar Andres LOPEZ Arias]
Citizen Action Party or PAC [Olivier PEREZ Gonzalez]
Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]
Broad Front (Frente Amplio) or PFA [Ana Patricia MORA]
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]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers or CATD (Communist Party affiliate)
Chamber of Coffee Growers
Confederated Union of Workers or CUT (Communist Party 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
Confederation of Workers Rerum Novarum or CTRN (PLN affiliate)
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Shanon Muni FIGUERES Boggs (since 7 September 2010)
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), Washington DC; note - Honorary Consulate: Dallas (Texas), Denver (Colorado), Tucson (Arizona)
consulate(s): Austin
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Gonzalo GALLEGOS
embassy: Calle 120 Avenida O, Pavas, San Jose
mailing address: APO AA 34020
telephone: [506] 2519-2000
FAX: [506] 2519-2305
Flag description:
five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white elliptical disk 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
National symbol(s):
clay-colored robin known as Yiguirro
National anthem:
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 overview:
Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted 1.3% in 2009 but resumed growth at about 4.5% per year in 2010-12. 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 microchips, 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, many business impediments remain, such as high levels of bureaucracy, legal uncertainty due to overlapping and at times conflicting responsibilities between agencies, difficulty of enforcing contracts, and weak investor protection. 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 as they only represent about 2% 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. President CHINCHILLA was not able to gain legislative approval for fiscal reform, her top priority, though she continued to pursue fiscal reform in 2012. President CHINCHILLA and the PLN were successful in passing a tax on corporations to fund an increase for security services.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$61.43 billion (2013 est.)
$59.35 billion (2012 est.)
$56.45 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$48.51 billion (2013 est.)
GDP real growth rate:
3.5% (2013 est.)
5.1% (2012 est.)
4.4% (2011 est.)
GDP per capita (PPP):
$12,900 (2013 est.)
$12,700 (2012 est.)
$12,200 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
Gross national saving:
16.3% of GDP (2013 est.)
15.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
16.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
GDP composition, by end use:
household consumption: 64.7%
government consumption: 17.9%
investment in fixed capital: 20.9%
investment in inventories: 0.8%
exports of goods and services: 35.2%
imports of goods and services: -39.5%
(2013 est.)
GDP composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 6.2%
industry: 21.3%
services: 72.5% (2013 est.)
Agriculture products:
bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber
microprocessors, food processing, medical equipment, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
Industrial production growth rate:
4.3% (2013 est.)
Labor force:
2.222 million
note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2013 est.)
Labor force by occupation:
agriculture: 14%
industry: 22%
services: 64% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate:
7.9% (2013 est.)
7.8% (2012 est.)
Population below poverty line:
24.8% (2011 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 39.5% (2009 est.)
Distribution of family income Gini index:
50.3 (2009)
45.9 (1997)
revenues: $7.197 billion
expenditures: $9.621 billion (2013 est.)
Taxes and other revenues:
14.8% of GDP (2013 est.)
Budget surplus or deficit:
Public debt:
55% of GDP (2013 est.)
51.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.6% (2013 est.)
4.5% (2012 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
$NA (31 December 2010 est.)
23% (31 December 2009 est.)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
$NA (31 December 2013 est.)
$NA (31 December 2012 est.)
Stock of narrow money:
$4.633 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$4.197 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Stock of broad money:
$14.57 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$14.95 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
$22.92 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$21.93 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$2.015 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$1.443 billion (31 December 2011)
$1.445 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Current account balance:
-$2.673 billion (2013 est.)
-$2.341 billion (2012 est.)
$11.66 billion (2013 est.)
$11.44 billion (2012 est.)
Exports commodities:
bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; beef; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment
Exports partners:
US 38.9%, Netherlands 7.5%, Panama 5.1%, Hong Kong 4.6%, Nicaragua 4.4% (2012)
$17.56 billion (2013 est.)
$16.75 billion (2012 est.)
Imports commodities:
raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials
Imports partners:
US 49.8%, China 8.2%, Mexico 6.6% (2012)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$7.406 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$6.857 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Debt external:
$15.1 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$13.81 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment at home:
$21.7 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$18.98 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment abroad:
$1.681 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$1.481 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
Exchange rates:
Costa Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -
500.9 (2013 est.)
502.9 (2012 est.)
525.83 (2010 est.)
573.29 (2009)
530.41 (2008)
Electricity production:
9.473 billion kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity consumption:
8.532 billion kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity exports:
135 million kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity imports:
164 million kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity installed generating capacity:
2.8 million kW (2010 est.)
Electricity from fossil fuels:
32.4% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Electricity from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Electricity from hydroelectric plants:
55.5% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Electricity from other renewable sources:
12.1% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)
Crude oil production:
290.7 bbl/day (2012 est.)
Crude oil exports:
0 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Crude oil imports:
10,040 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Crude oil proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2013 est.)
Refined petroleum products production:
10,630 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Refined petroleum products consumption:
50,200 bbl/day (2011 est.)
Refined petroleum products exports:
1,898 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Refined petroleum products imports:
40,290 bbl/day (2010 est.)
Natural gas production:
0 cu m (2011 est.)
Natural gas consumption:
0 cu m (2010 est.)
Natural gas exports:
0 cu m (2011 est.)
Natural gas imports:
0 cu m (2011 est.)
Natural gas proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2013 est.)
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
6.806 million Mt (2011 est.)
Telephones mobile cellular:
6.151 million (2012)
Telephone system:
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)
Telephones main lines in use:
1.018 million (2012)
Broadcast media:
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)
Internet country code:
Internet users:
1.485 million (2009)
Internet hosts:
147,258 (2012)
161 (2013)
Airports with paved runways:
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)
Airports with unpaved runways:
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)
Merchant marine:
total: 1
by type: passenger/cargo 1 (2010)
Ports and terminals:
major seaport(s): Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean) Puerto Limon; Pacific Ocean - Caldera
Military branches:
no regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police (2011)
Military service age and obligation:
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,255,798
females age 16-49: 1,230,202 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,058,419
females age 16-49: 1,037,053 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 42,201
female: 40,444 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
Transnational Issues
Disputes international:
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 and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 16,586 (Colombia) (2013)
Trafficking in persons: