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Flag of Costa Rica
Map of Costa Rica
Introduction Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. Although still a largely agricultural country, it has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism sectors. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
Geography Costa Rica
Middle 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
note: includes Isla del Coco
water: 440 sq km
land: 50,660 sq km
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:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 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: 4.41%
permanent crops: 5.48%
other: 90.11% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
1,260 sq km (1998 est.)
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, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, 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
3,834,934 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 30.8% (male 603,270; female 575,766)
15-64 years: 63.9% (male 1,239,618; female 1,211,641)
65 years and over: 5.3% (male 95,182; female 109,457) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.61% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
19.83 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
4.31 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
0.52 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 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 (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
10.87 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.22 years
female: 78.89 years (2002 est.)
male: 73.68 years
Total fertility rate:
2.42 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.54% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
12,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
750 (1999 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%, other Protestant 0.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
Spanish (official), English spoken around Puerto Limon
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.5%
male: 95.5%
female: 95.5% (1999 est.)
Government Costa Rica
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
conventional short form: Costa Rica
local short form: Costa Rica
local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
Government type:
democratic republic
San Jose
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 Abel PACHECO (since 8 May 2002); First Vice President Lineth SABORIO (since NA May 2002); Second Vice President Luis FISHMAN (since NA May 2002); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Abel PACHECO (since 8 May 2002); First Vice President Lineth SABORIO (since NA May 2002); Second Vice President Luis FISHMAN (since NA May 2002); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president
elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 3 February 2002; run-off election held 7 April 2002 (next to be held NA February 2006)
election results: Abel PACHECO elected president; percent of vote - Abel PACHECO (PUSC) 58%; Rolando ARAYA (PLN) 42%
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 3 February 2002 (next to be held 3 February 2006)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PUSC 19, PLN 17, PAC 14, PML 6, PRC 1
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Agricultural Labor Action or PALA [Carlos Alberto SOLIS Blanco]; Citizen Action Party or PAC [Otton SOLIS]; Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Justo OROZCO]; Democratic Force Party or PFD [Jose M. NUNEZ]; Libertarian Movement Party or PML [Otto GUEVARA Guth]; National Christian Alliance Party or ANC [Alejandro MADRIGAL]; National Independent Party or PNI [Jorge GONZALEZ Marten]; National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]; National Liberation Party or PLN [Sonia PICADO]; Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Luis Manuel CHACON]
note: mainly a two-party system - PUSC and PLN - until the 3 February 2002 election in which the PAC captured a significant percentage, forcing a run-off in April 2002
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 Jaime DAREMBLUM Rosenstein
chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, St. Paul, and Tampa
consulate(s): Austin
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John J. DANILOVICH
embassy: Calle 120 Avenida O, Pavas, San Jose
mailing address: APO AA 34020
telephone: [506] 220-3939
FAX: [506] 220-2305
Flag description:
five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white disk on the hoist side of the red band
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. However, traditional export sectors have not kept pace. Low coffee prices and an overabundance of bananas have hurt the agricultural sector. The government continues to grapple with its large deficit and massive internal debt and with the need to modernize the state-owned electricity and telecommunications sector.
purchasing power parity - $31.9 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
0.3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $8,500 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 11%
industry: 37%
services: 52% (2000) (2000)
Population below poverty line:
21% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 35% (2001) (2001)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
46 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
12.1% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
1.9 million (1999) (1999)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 20%, industry 22%, services 58% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:
5.2% (2000 est.)
revenues: $1.91 billion
expenditures: $2.35 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.) (2000 est.)
microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
Industrial production growth rate:
-2.1% (2001 est.)
Electricity - production:
6.887 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1%
hydro: 83%
other: 16% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
5.895 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
532 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
22 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
coffee, pineapples, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber
$5 billion (2001)
Exports - commodities:
coffee, bananas, sugar; pineapples; textiles, electronic components, medical equipment
Exports - partners:
US 51.8%, EU 20%, Central America 10.6%, Puerto Rico 2.8%, Mexico 1.7% (2000)
$6.5 billion (2001)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum
Imports - partners:
US 53.2%, EU 10.3%, Mexico 6.2%, Venezuela 5.3%, Central America 4.9% (2000)
Debt - external:
$4.6 billion (2001 est.)
Costa Rican colon (CRC)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Costa Rican colones per US dollar - 343.08 (January 2002), 328.87 (2001), 308.19 (2000), 285.68 (1999), 257.23 (1998), 232.60 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Costa Rica
Telephones - main lines in use:
450,000 (1998)
note: 584,000 installed in 1997, but only about 450,000 were in use in 1998
Telephones - mobile cellular:
143,000 (2000)
Telephone system:
general assessment: very good domestic 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: connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); two submarine cables (1999)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 50, FM 43, shortwave 19 (1998)
980,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
6 (plus 11 repeaters) (1997)
525,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
3 (of which only one is legal) (2000)
Internet users:
384,000 (2002)
Transportation Costa Rica
total: 950 km
narrow gauge: 950 km 1.067-m gauge (260 km electrified) (2000 est.)
total: 37,273 km
paved: 7,827 km
unpaved: 29,446 km (1998 est.)
730 km (seasonally navigable)
petroleum products 176 km
Ports and harbors:
Caldera, Golfito, Moin, Puerto Limon, Puerto Quepos, Puntarenas
Merchant marine:
total: 1 ship (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,716 GRT/NA DWT
ships by type: passenger 1 (2002 est.)
152 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 30
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 19
under 914 m: 8 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 121
914 to 1,523 m: 28
under 914 m: 93 (2002)
Military Costa Rica
Military branches:
no regular indigenous military forces; Air Section, Ministry of Public Forces (Fuerza Publica)
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 1,058,283 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 707,927 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 39,411 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$69 million (FY99)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.6% (FY99)
Transnational Issues Costa Rica
Disputes - international:
legal dispute over navigational rights of Rio San Juan on border with Nicaragua
Illicit drugs:
transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis on small, scattered plots; domestic cocaine consumption is rising, particularly crack cocaine

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003