Costa Rica Government and Politics

State and politics

Costa Rica Country Flag


Costa Rica is a republic, in which the executive is exercised by a president who is elected for four years in general and direct elections. Direct re-election of incumbent president is not possible, but after a two-term stint, a former president can stand for re-election. Two vice presidents are also elected at the election. Citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote. At least 40 percent of the candidates on the parties’ electoral lists must be women.

The President ensures that the Constitution and laws and regulations are enforced, upholds the order, appoints and dismisses government members and negotiates with foreign powers about treaties, which must, however, be ratified by the legislative assembly. This consists of 57 members, who are elected for four years in proportional elections at the same time as the presidential election. The Assembly adopts laws, grants taxes and can lift the president’s veto by a 2/3 majority. The country is divided into seven provinces governed by governors appointed by the president and there are 81 municipalities with popularly elected mayors. According to the constitution, a national army must not be established.


For a long time, Costa Rica was in principle a two-party system dominated by the Social Democratic National Liberation Party (Partido de Liberación Nacional, PLN) and the Christian Democratic Unity Party (Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, PUSC).

In the 00s, however, several new political movements were formed that challenged the traditional parties and in 2014 Luis Guillermo Solís, candidate for the Coalition of the Citizens Action (Partido Acción Ciudadana, PAC), won the presidential election. Also in the 2018 presidential election, PAC’s candidate, then Carlos Alvarado, won.


The judicial organization consists of the Supreme Court, a number of appellate courts and various courts of first instance. The legal order is mainly codified according to the continental European pattern. The most important codifications are the Civil Law, the Family Law, the Commercial Law, the Criminal Code, the Civil Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Act. The death penalty was abolished in 1877.

Human Rights

Violence against women and children is widespread, especially sexual violence. Costa Rica is a country of origin, transit and recipient country for men, women and children who are subjected to human trafficking for sexual purposes and forced labor. Minors are used to transport and sell drugs, but commercial sexual exploitation of children and women is by far the most common motive for human trafficking. Child sex tourism, with perpetrators from the US and Europe, is a widespread problem. Women and girls from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic are forced into Costa Rica to be sexually exploited and perform slave labor at home.

Costa Rica’s English-speaking black minority is subject to discrimination and prejudice. A significant proportion of the country’s majority population of Spanish origin considers blacks to be inferior to economic, cultural and perceived racial differences. Racism excludes those who do not have Spanish descent, which puts the group of black people who mainly live in the banana districts on the Caribbean coast facing economic and social barriers. The indigenous peoples are also discriminated against and lack full representation in parliament and government.

There is widespread corruption in the country that is constantly increasing. The prisons are overcrowded and characterized by substandard conditions.

Heads of State


1876-82 Tomás Guardia
1882-85 Prospero Fernandez
1885-89 Bernardo Soto and Alfaro
1889-90 Duran
1890-94 José Joaquín Rodríguez
1894-1902 Rafael Iglesias
1902-06 Ascensión Esquivel
1906-10 Cleto González Víquez
1910-12 Ricardo Jiménez
1912-14 Cleto González Víquez
1914-17 Alfredo González Flores
1917-19 Federico Tinoco Granados
1919 Julio Acosta
1919-20 Juan Bautista Quirós
1920-24 Julio Acosta
1924-28 Ricardo Jiménez
1928-32 Cleto González Víquez
1932-36 Ricardo Jiménez
1936-40 León Cortés Castro
1940-44 Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia
1944-48 Teodoro Picardo Michalski
1948 Santos León Herrera
1948-49 José Figueres
1949-52 Otilio Ulate
1952-53 Alberto Oreamuno
1953-58 José Figueres
1958-62 Mario Echandi Jiménez
1962-66 Francisco José Orlich
1966-70 José Joaquín Trejos
1970-74 José Figueres
1974-78 Daniel Oduber
1978-82 Rodrigo Carazo
1982-86 Luis Alberto Monge
1986-90 Oscar Arias
1990-94 Rafael Calderón
1994-98 José Figueres Olsen
1998-2002 Miguel Angel Rodriguez-Echeverría
2002-06 Abel Pacheco de la Espriella
2006-10 Oscar Arias
2010-14 Laura Chinchilla
2014-18 Luis Guillermo Solís
2018- Carlos Alvarado

Costa Rica Head of Government

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