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Costa Rica

Government

Costa Rica is a republic governed under the constitution of 1949.

Executive

Executive power is vested in a president and two vice presidents, each of whom is elected by direct popular vote for single four-year terms. Each candidate must receive more than 40 percent of the total vote. Voting is compulsory for all citizens over 18 years of age. The president is assisted by a cabinet of some 20 ministers.

Legislature

Legislative power in Costa Rica is vested in a single-chamber Legislative Assembly, with 57 deputies, elected for four-year terms.

Political Parties

The leading political groups in Costa Rica are the National Liberation Party (Partido de Liberacion Nacional, or PLN), a reformist party; the Social Christian Unity Party (Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana, or PUSC), a conservative party; and the Citizensí Action Party (Partido Accion Ciudadana, or PAC), a party formed in 2000 by dissatisfied members of the PLN.

Judiciary

Judicial power in Costa Rica is vested in a Supreme Court, appellate courts, a court of cassation (highest appeals court), and subordinate provincial courts. Capital punishment has been banned.

Local Government

Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces: San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Heredia, and Limon. Each of the provinces has a governor appointed by the president.

Social Services

The average life expectancy in Costa Rica is 77 years, one of the highest in the western hemisphere. A national health plan was established in the 1970s. Health services are concentrated in urban areas. A social security program has been in operation since 1942, with participation compulsory for all employees under 65 years of age.

Defense

Costa Rica has had no armed forces since 1948, when the PLN came to power and abolished the army. The only security forces are the 4,500-member Civil Guard and the 2,000-member Rural Guard.

 
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