OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Costa Rica
CAPITAL: San Jose
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Unitary Multiparty Republic
AREA: 51,022 Sq Km (19,700 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 3,674,200


Direct Link to Political MapDirect Link to Physical MapLOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus. It is bound by the Pacific Ocean to the southwest and west, Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast and Panama to the southeast. A series of volcanic ridges form the backbone of Costa Rica, although topographically it can be divided into three zones. (1.) The central highlands which consist of two upland basins, the Cartago to the east and San Jose to the west which are separated by low volcanic hills. (2.) The Pacific coastal zone which consists of the Palmar Lowland Complex, the Guanacaste Plain, the Cordillera de Guanacaste, the Tempisque River Valley and the peninsulas of Burica, Osa and Nicoya. (3.) The Atlantic coastal zone which is a low swampy and heavily forested plain. Costa Rica has four volcanoes, of which two are active. Eighteen small rivers drain the country, of which the principal ones are the Tempisque, San Juan, General Sixaola, San Jose and the Grande de Tarcoles. Major Cities (pop. est.); San Jose 280,600, Desamparados 54,700, Limon 50,900, Alajuela, 45,400, Puntarenas 38,200 (1992). Land Use; forested 32%, pastures 46%, agricultural-cultivated 10%, other 12% (1992).


CLIMATE: Costa Rica has a tropical climate with two seasons. A wet season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. In the central upland areas the climate is more temperate. Average annual precipitation is 3,300 mm (130 inches) and rainfall patterns vary from region to region. Average temperature ranges in San Jose are from 14 to 24 degrees Celsius (57 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) in December to 17 to 27 degrees Celsius (63 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit) in May.


PEOPLE: The principal ethnic majority are the Whites of European descent with many pure Spanish. Around 87% of the population are White while 7% are Mestizos who are of mixed Spanish and AmerIndian descent and 3% are Black Africans or Mulattoes. The three major indigenous AmerIndian groups are the Chorotega-Mangues, the Boruca and the Talamanca tribes which can be divided into two main sub tribes the Bribi and the Cabecares. The principal alien groups are the Mexicans, Panamanians and Nicaraguans.


DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 60 persons per sq km (156 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 54.0% urban, 46.0% rural (1990). Sex Distribution; 50.5% male, 49.5% female (1990). Life Expectancy at Birth; 72.4 years male, 77.0 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 36% under 15, 29% 15 to 29, 19% 30 to 44, 10% 45 to 59, 5% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1990). Birth Rate; 28.2 per 1,000 (1989). Death Rate; 3.8 per 1,000 (1989). Increase Rate; 24.4 per 1,000 (1989). Infant Mortality Rate; 15.4 per 1,000 live births (1990).


RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians with around 85% of the population Roman Catholic while 15% are Protestant.


LANGUAGES: The official language is Spanish which is remarkably pure and close to Castilian Spanish. English is the second national language and the AmerIndian languages all belong to the Chibcha family of languages.


EDUCATION: Economically active population aged 25 or over and having attained: no formal schooling 8.3%, incomplete primary 28.6%, primary 26.3%, secondary 22.6%, higher 14.2% (1984). Literacy; literate population aged 15 or over 1,798,000 or 92.8% (1990).


MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1948 a disputed presidential election led to the National Assembly declaring it illegal, which in turn resulted in a brief civil war. Col. Jose Pepe Figueres Ferrer led the revolt to prevent what was a threatened communist takeover. Figueres took office as interim President and reorganized the government. He also placed banks under state control and abolished the national army replacing it with a 4,000 member civil guard with officers loyal to him. In 1955 there was an air and land invasion by exiled Costa Ricans from Nicaragua, however, the revolutionaries who attempted to overthrow the government were defeated. Between 1963 and 1965 Irazu volcano showered tons of ash over San Jose forcing 1,000 people to abandon their homes. Between 1984 and 1985 numerous border skirmishes took place with Nicaragua and in 1985 the US trained a Costa Rican anti-guerrilla unit to patrol the border with Nicaragua. In 1986 Oscar Arias Sanchez was appointed President and asserted his commitment to developing Costa Rica's welfare system while in foreign affairs he initiated and designed the Central American Peace Plan which was signed in Aug. 1987. In the same year Pres. Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in creating a regional peace plan for Central America. However, in Feb. 1990 he was defeated in elections by Rafael Angel Calderon Fournier while Pres. Calderon vowed to continue the export led economic policies and further privatization of public enterprises. On Apr. 22, 1991 an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale left some 50 people dead while hundreds were injured and in Aug. 1991 severe flooding also resulted in widespread property damage. The natural disasters caused serious economic woes for the country with its transport and shipping infrastructure badly disrupted. Also during 1991 there were two general strikes in June and July by workers protesting about the country's economic situation. In Feb. 1992 the government eased foreign exchange restrictions that included the legalization of the country's black market trade in US dollars. In June 1993 the Legislative Assembly approved plans for construction to commence on a coast-to-coast rail link between Parismina and Cuajiniquil. In July 1993 Japan withdrew its commitment to provide $100 million to the $300 million third-stage of the IMF's structural adjustment program. Also during 1992 Costa Rica protested at the EU's proposal to protect exports from former colonies claiming it was contrary to the rules of GATT with initial negotiations in Sept. 1992 failing. On Mar. 8, 1993 five armed Nicaraguans seized control of their embassy in San Jose taking 25 hostages and demanding the resignation of the Nicaraguan armed forces commander and a presidential minister as well as a $6 million ransom. All the hostages were later released while the kidnap leader was granted asylum in the Dominican Republic. On Apr. 26, 1993 five Costa Rican gunmen seized 19 Supreme Court judges and demanded a $20 million ransom, although Pres. Calderon declared that the government wouldn't pay it. On Apr. 29, 1993 the hostages were released and the gunmen arrested. On May 17, 1993 the trial of former president Luis Alberto Monge and 18 other PLN leaders on embezzlement and misappropriation charges began.


CURRENCY: The official currency is the Colon (C) divided into 100 Centimos.


ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $7,041,000,000 (1993). Public Debt; USD $3,139,000,000 (1993). Imports; USD $2,900,700,000 (1993). Exports; USD $1,944,600,000 (1993). Tourism Receipts; USD $577,000,000 (1993). Balance of Trade; USD -$558,200,000 (1994). Economically Active Population; 1,143,324 or 38.1% of total population (1993). Unemployed; 4.2% (1995).


MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are CACM, the UK and the USA.

MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Bananas, Bauxite, Cattle, Cocoa, Coffee, Gold, Iron Ore, Maize, Oranges, Rice, Silver, Sugar Cane, Sulfur.

MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Aluminum Smelting, Chemicals, Construction Materials, Fishing, Fertilizers, Food Processing, Forestry, Textiles.

MAIN EXPORTS: Bananas, Beef, Cocoa, Coffee, Sugar, Textile, Yarn and Fabrics.


TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 647 km (402 mi) (1989), passenger-km 42,600,000 (26,470,000 passenger-mi) (1990), cargo ton-km 150,000,000 (102,735,000 short ton-mi) (1987). Roads; length 35,556 km (22,093 mi) (1990). Vehicles; cars 168,814 (1990), trucks and buses 95,066 (1990). Merchant Marine; vessels 30 (1990), deadweight tonnage 6,061 (1990). Air Transport; passenger-km 987,000,000 (613,293,000 passenger-mi) (1990), cargo ton-km 39,233,000 (26,871,000 short ton-mi) (1990).


COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 4 with a total circulation of 322,000 (1992). Radio; receivers 760,000 (1994). Television; receivers 340,000 (1994). Telephones; units 364,100 (1993).


MILITARY: 7,500 (1991) total active duty personnel with 100% paramilitary or police forces while military expenditure accounts for 0.4% (1991) of the Gross National Product (GNP).


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