Costa Rica: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government in the country of Costa Rica.



Location--Central America. Nicaragua is to the north, Panama to the southeast. The Caribbean is to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west.

How Created--Columbus touched the Caribbean shore of Costa Rica in 1502, on his 4th and last voyage to the New World. Food was scarce and the Spanish experienced considerable harassment from a number of fierce Indian tribes. No serious settlement occurred until the mid-16th century, and then only in the form of small farms. No large Indian population existed to act as slave labor for large plantations, and the area remained poor and isolated from the centers of Spanish administration. When the Central American countries declared their independence from Spain in 1821, Costa Rica joined them in the Central American republic. The republic collapsed in 1838, and Costa Rica became independent.

Size--19,650 sq. mi.(50,900 sq. km.).

Population--2 million: white (mostly Spanish), 80%; mestizo, 17%; Jamaican blacks, 2%; Chibcha Indians, 1%.

Who Rules--A republic with a President and unicameral legislature elected every 4 years. Costa Rica has had an orderly change of government in every election since 1948, when the current constitution was adopted. Costa Rica is considered one of the most honestly and democratically run countries in Latin America today, and a great friend of the U.S.

Who REALLY Rules--In the past, the foreign-owned banana exporters, such as United Brands (formerly United Fruit) and Standard Brands (a subsidiary of Castle & Cooke), in addition to the coffee exporters, have been a force in the country. However, in the 1970s, racketeers and capitalists speculating in Costa Rican land and resort facilities have become increasingly important. Robert Vesco, U.S. financier who is wanted in the U.S. and Europe on swindling and bribery charges, is the most flamboyant example of the group. His $3.5 million "loan" to then-President Figueres, plus the $10 million he holds in Costa Rican bonds, seems to have secured him against extradition to the U.S. Public outcry over Vesco's close ties to Figueres, and over his vast investment in Costa Rica's economy, has focused public attention on a growing problem.

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