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Flag of Costa Rica
Map of 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. 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
Geographic coordinates:
10 00 N, 84 00 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 51,100 sq km
land: 50,660 sq km
water: 440 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than West Virginia
Land boundaries:
total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 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: 4.4%
permanent crops: 5.87%
other: 89.73% (2005)
Irrigated land:
1,080 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes
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 Costa Rica
4,075,261 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 28.3% (male 590,261/female 563,196)
15-64 years: 66% (male 1,359,750/female 1,329,346)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 108,041/female 124,667) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 26.4 years
male: 26 years
female: 26.9 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.45% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
18.32 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
4.36 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0.49 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 9.7 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 10.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.02 years
male: 74.43 years
female: 79.74 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.24 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
12,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
900 (2003 est.)
noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican
Ethnic groups:
white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
Spanish (official), English
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96%
male: 95.9%
female: 96.1% (2003 est.)
Government Costa Rica
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)
7 November 1949
Legal system:
based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal and compulsory
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Oscar ARIAS Sanchez (since 8 May 2006); First Vice President Laura CHINCHILLA (since 8 May 2006); Second Vice President Kevin CASAS Zamora (since 8 May 2006); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Oscar ARIAS Sanchez (since 8 May 2006); First Vice President Laura CHINCHILLA (since 8 May 2006); Second Vice President Kevin CASAS Zamora (since 8 May 2006)
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 5 February 2006 (next to be held February 2010)
election results: Oscar ARIAS Sanchez elected president; percent of vote - Oscar ARIAS Sanchez (PLN) 40.9%; Otton SOLIS (PAC) 39.8%, Otto GUEVARA Guth (PML) 8%, Ricardo TOLEDO (PUSC) 3%
Legislative branch:
unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members are elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 5 February 2006 (next to be held February 2010)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 25, PAC 17, PML 6, PUSC 5, other 4
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Authentic Member from Heredia [Jose SALAS]; Citizen Action Party or PAC [Otton SOLIS]; Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]; Democratic Force Party or PFD [Vladimir DE LA CRUZ]; General Union Party or PUGEN [Carlos Alberto FERNANDEZ Vega]; Homeland First or PP [Juan Jose VARGAS Fallas]; Independent Worker Party or PIO [Jose Alberto CUBERO Carmona]; Libertarian Movement Party or PML [Otto GUEVARA Guth]; National Christian Alliance Party or ANC [Juan Carlos CHAVEZ Mora]; National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]; National Liberation Party or PLN [Francisco Antonio PACHECO]; National Patriotic Party or PPN [Daniel Enrique REYNOLDS Vargas]; National Restoration Party or PRN [Carlos AVENDANO]; Nationalist Democratic Alliance or ADN [Jose Miguel VILLALOBOS Umana]; Patriotic Union or UP [Humberto ARCE Salas]; Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Luis FILMAN]; Union for Change Party or UPC [Antonio ALVAREZ Desanti]; United Leftist Coalition or IU [Humberto VARGAS Carbonel]
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); Federation of Public Service Workers or FTSP; National Association for Economic Development or ANFE; National Association of Educators or ANDE; Rerum Novarum or CTRN (PLN affiliate) [Gilbert BROWN]
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Tomas DUENAS
chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Hammond (temporary location in Louisiana), Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Tampa (temporarily closed), Washington, DC
consulate(s): San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Mark LANGDALE
embassy: Calle 120 Avenida O, Pavas, San Jose
mailing address: APO AA 34020
telephone: [506] 519-2000
FAX: [506] 519-2305
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 on the hoist side of the red band; above the coat of arms a light blue ribbon contains the words, AMERICA CENTRAL, and just below it near the top of the coat of arms is a white ribbon with the words, REPUBLICA COSTA RICA
Economy Costa Rica
Economy - overview:
Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social safety net has been put into place. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and high education levels, and tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange. The government continues to grapple with its large internal and external deficits and sizable internal debt. The reduction of inflation remains a difficult problem because of rising import prices, labor market rigidities, and fiscal deficits. The country also needs to reform its tax system and its pattern of public expenditure. The current administration has made it a priority to pass the necessary reforms to implement the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). CAFTA implementation would result in an improved investment climate.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$48.77 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$20.77 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4.7% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$12,000 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 8.6%
industry: 31%
services: 60.4% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
1.866 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 20%
industry: 22%
services: 58% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
6.6% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line:
18% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.1%
highest 10%: 36.8% (2002)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
46.5 (2000)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
12.1% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
19.4% of GDP (2006 est.)
revenues: $3.134 billion
expenditures: $3.475 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2006 est.)
Public debt:
53.4% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
coffee, pineapples, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber
microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
Industrial production growth rate:
8.4% (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:
8.4 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1.5%
hydro: 81.9%
nuclear: 0%
other: 16.6% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
7.574 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
440 million kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
202 million kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - consumption:
44,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Current account balance:
$-1.176 billion (2006 est.)
$7.931 billion (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
coffee, bananas, sugar, pineapples; textiles, electronic components, medical equipment
Exports - partners:
US 42.6%, Hong Kong 6.9%, Netherlands 6.4%, Guatemala 4.2% (2005)
$10.88 billion (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum
Imports - partners:
US 41.3%, Japan 5.6%, Venezuela 4.8%, Mexico 4.8%, Ireland 4.3%, Brazil 4.2%, China 4.2% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.5 billion (2006 est.)
Debt - external:
$6.42 billion (30 June 2006 est.)
Currency (code):
Costa Rican colon (CRC)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Costa Rican colones per US dollar - 513.302 (2006), 477.79 (2005), 437.91 (2004), 398.66 (2003), 359.82 (2002)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Costa Rica
Telephones - main lines in use:
1,388,500 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.101 million (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: good domestic telephone service in terms of breadth of coverage; restricted cellular telephone service
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; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); two submarine cables (1999)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002)
980,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002)
525,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
12,751 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
3 (of which only one is legal) (2000)
Internet users:
1 million (2005)
Transportation Costa Rica
157 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 32
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 19
under 914 m: 9 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 125
914 to 1,523 m: 24
under 914 m: 101 (2006)
refined products 242 km (2006)
total: 278 km
narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge (2005)
total: 35,330 km
paved: 8,621 km
unpaved: 26,709 km (2004)
730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2005)
Merchant marine:
total: 2 ships (1000 GRT or over) 2,308 GRT/743 DWT
by type: passenger/cargo 2 (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Caldera, Puerto Limon
Military Costa Rica
Military branches:
no regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police (2006)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age (2004)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 997,690
females age 18-49: 968,290 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 829,874
females age 18-49: 809,343 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 41,097
females age 18-49: 39,243
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$83.46 million (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
0.4% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Costa Rica
Disputes - international:
in September 2005, Costa Rica took its case before the ICJ to advocate the navigation, security, and commercial rights of Costa Rican vessels using the Río San Juan over which Nicaragua retains sovereignty
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 8,266 (Colombia) (2005)
Illicit drugs:
transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis on small, scattered plots; domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007