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Law and Order

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 3 months ago

Government and Law (& Order)



Topics Covered under Law & Order:


  • History of Costa Rica's government
  • Government structure
  • Differences between Costa Rica and other Central American countries
  • Costa Rica's current relations with the rest of the world





History of Costa Rica's government


Originally inhabited by the Mayans and Incans it was eventually conquered by the Spanish.  Due to a lack of slave labor, primarily because the indigenous people died off due to new diseases, Spain soon forgot about the "Gold Coast".  They were able to declare their independence in September 15th, 1821.  The first chief of state instated various institutions and systems throughout the country, including a fair judicial system, public education, and the country's first newspaper. 


The country has worked long and hard to get to where they are now, however they have always stood apart from other Latin American countries.  As the rest of the Latin American countries struggled with militarism and class warfare due to the coffee bean market in the 19th century, Costa Rica was able to avoid the both issues because of the lack of racial-tension throughout the country.  Costa Rica has been a relatively peaceful nation from its roots and that carries on today. 


In that same century an engineering marvel began and finished, connecting San Jose to Guatamale, Honduras and the United States.  This railroad allowed the American company United Fruit to trade with Costa Rica.  United Fruit helped develop a large labor movement throughout Costa Rica.  This lead to the Popular Vanguard Party, a communist party within Costa Rica, attempting to start a revolution. 


The current state of the Costa Rican government is largely due to the work of former President Alfredo Gonzales Flores during World War I.  Because of falling coffee prices Alfredo Flores created income taxes and imposed tariffs.  The army that was instated at the time, oppressed the people, removing them of their right of due process and any free expression.  President Flores was followed by the Tinoco brothers, two brothers that ruled Costa Rica with a "Militaristic authoritarian fashion".  The work that Alfredo Flores did, however, made Costa Rica the equal society that it is today.


Unlike other Latin American countries, Costa Rica wasn't persuaded by Fascist Germany or Italy, and in fact Costa Rica declared war against Germany before the United States did. 


Costa Rica has been a democracy since 1889.  Within the country there is a mandatory suffrage for every person over 18.  However, unlike some countries they don't have any penalizations or types of sentencing for failing to do so.  Eventually in November 7th of 1949 their Consitution was ratified.  This was a year after their current political system came into effect after a short civil war.  Don Pepe Figueres became one of the most influential and greatest people in the nation's history.  Their constitution included a labor code, social assistance and social security.  This has lead them to have the highest standard of living within Latin America even though they went through a dark period for several decades, starting in the 1970's.


The government became too large during that time, employing between 1/5 and 1/3 of all citizens.  Their excessive public spending spiraled them into debt.  The US however, was able to support Costa Rica by pumping 1.3 billion dollars into their economy. 



Government Structure


Costa Rica's current government is currently very similar to that of the United States'.   There are three branches, the executive, legislative and the judicial branch.  There are 57 members of the Legislative Assembly, which has more power in comparison of the Assembly of other nations.  Those legislators and also the president are limited to only a four year term.


Costa Rica's judicial branch has a Supreme Court who are elected by the Legislative Assembly for terms of six years, however most judges maintain a lifetime position. 


Unlike in the United States where there is only one vice-president, Costa Rica has two.  Each vice-president as well as various ministers are in charge of a number of departments such as: Ministry of Education, Health, Tourism, etc.


In 1989 another aspect to the legislative branch was introduced.  The Constitutional Chamber reviews laws to see if they follow the country's constitution.  This is beneficial to the country to have a department dedicated to this cause, however it also slows the passing of laws. 


There is essentially another branch of the government in Costa Rica.  The Supreme Tribunal of Elections is in charge of all elections and actually controls security forces during elections. 


The country is divided into seven provinces and then is further subdivided into 81 sections called cantons.  Furthermore, some cantons are then divided up into various districts.  The governors of these districts and cantons don't have much power, as there isn't much trust in their abilities.  So the power essentially is in the hands of the central government.  




Differences between Costa Rica and other Central American countries



Due to the peaceful past of Costa Rica, it has been able to avoid the civil wars and racial prejudice that plague neighboring countries.  Nicaragua borders Costa Rica to the north, and the political and economic situations accompanying the violence from constant civil wars have caused thousands of Nicaraguans to flee their country for Costa Rica. 



                                                               Part of a civil war that constantly plagues Nicaragua. 


Panama is currently in a better situation.  Their economy and political structure are more stable than that of Nicaragua's, however pale in comparison to Costa Rica's.  During the Cold War, Panama was invaded by the United States, where thousands of civilians are thought to have died.  About 15,000 were displaced.  As a result of all this, the United States donated 400 million in an effort to rebuild what was lost, however much of that is thought to have gone to American businessmen.  That invasion began for a number of reasons.  The US says they were trying to retain the integrity of certain treaties as well as cut down on the drug trafficking that was rampant throughout Panama.  Luckily, drug trafficking isn't as much of a problem for Costa Rica, it is still a significant problem, though. 




Costa Rica's current relations with the rest of the world


Due to their decline in the economy in the past several decades, Costa Rica strongly welcomes foreign investors.  They've also improved their trade relations with the rest of the world by joining the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).  This is expected to boost the economy, primarily because El Salvador's economy was boosted after joining CAFTA. 



In recent years, China and Costa Rica have formed an alliance, primarily due to China's involvement in the Costa Rican economy.  China has invested heavily into Costa Rica, causing their economy to reach unprecedented heights. 















Works Cited
"Costa Rica Information." Costa Rica Link. Travel Agency. 30 Jan. 2008 <http://www.1-costaricalink.com/index.htm>.
"Government and Politics." World Headquarters. 06 June 2004. World Headquarters. 30 Jan. 2008 <http://www.worldheadquarters.com/cr/government/>.
Infocostarica, Staff. "Overview: History of Costa Rica." InfoCostaRica. 07 Dec. 2002. Costa Rica Tours. 01 Feb. 2008 <http://www.infocostarica.com/history/history.html>.
Wilson, Tiffany. "The Costa Rican Government." Real Estate Blog. 13 Dec. 2001. ActiveRain. 31 Jan. 2008 <http://activerain.com/blogsview/306088/The-Costa-Rican-Government>.

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