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    Costa Rica

    [Country map of Costa Rica]


    Location: 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
    land: 50,660 sq km
    water : 440 sq km
    note: includes Isla del Coco

    Area - comparative: slightly smaller than West Virginia

    Land boundaries:
    total: 639 km
    border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km

    Coastline: 1,290 km

    Maritime claims:
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    territorial sea: 12 nm

    Climate: tropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November)

    Terrain: coastal plains separated by rugged mountains

    Elevation extremes:
    lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point : Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m

    Natural resources: hydropower potential

    Land use:
    arable land: 6%
    permanent crops : 5%
    permanent pastures: 46%
    forests and woodland: 31%
    other: 12% (1993 est.)

    Irrigated land: 1,200 sq km (1993 est.)

    Natural hazards: occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season; active volcanoes

    Environment - current issues: deforestation, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching; soil erosion

    Environment - international agreements:
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
    signed, but not ratified: Desertification, Marine Life Conservation


    Population: 3,534,174 (July 1997 est.)

    Age structure:
    0-14 years: 34% (male 617,256; female 587,566)
    15-64 years: 61% (male 1,090,414; female 1,065,273)
    65 years and over : 5% (male 80,304; female 93,361) (July 1997 est.)

    Population growth rate: 2% (1997 est.)

    Birth rate: 23.35 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

    Death rate: 4.15 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

    Net migration rate: 0.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1997 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: 0.86 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (1997 est.)

    Infant mortality rate: 13.3 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 75.82 years
    male : 73.41 years
    female: 78.36 years (1997 est.)

    Total fertility rate: 2.85 children born/woman (1997 est.)

    noun: Costa Rican(s)
    adjective: Costa Rican

    Ethnic groups: white (including mestizo) 96%, black 2%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%

    Religions: Roman Catholic 95%

    Languages: Spanish (official), English spoken around Puerto Limon

    definition : age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 94.8%
    male: 94.7%
    female: 95% (1995 est.)


    Country name:
    conventional long form : Republic of Costa Rica
    conventional short form: Costa Rica
    local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
    local short form: Costa Rica

    Data code: CS

    Government type: democratic republic

    National capital: San Jose

    Administrative divisions: 7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose

    Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)

    National holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)

    Constitution: 9 November 1949

    Legal system: based on Spanish civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

    Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

    Executive branch:
    chief of state : President Jose Maria FIGUERES Olsen (since 8 May 1994); First Vice President Rodrigo OREAMUNO Blanco (since 8 May 1994), Second Vice President Rebeca GRYNSPAN Mayufis (since 8 May 1994); note - president is both the chief of state and head of government
    head of government: President Jose Maria FIGUERES Olsen (since 8 May 1994); First Vice President Rodrigo OREAMUNO Blanco (since 8 May 1994), Second Vice President Rebeca GRYNSPAN Mayufis (since 8 May 1994); note - 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 6 February 1994 (next to be held NA February 1998)
    election results : Jose Maria FIGUERES Olsen elected president; percent of vote - Jose Maria FIGUERES Olsen (PLN) 49.7%, Miquel Angel RODRIGUEZ (PUSC) 47.5%

    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 6 February 1994 (next to be held NA February 1998)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 28, PUSC 25, minority parties 4

    Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Corte Suprema), justices are elected for eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly

    Political parties and leaders: National Liberation Party or PLN [Rolando ARAYA]; Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Rafael Angel CALDERON Fournier]; National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ]; National Agrarian Party or PAN; People's Party of Costa Rica or PPC [Lenin CHACON Vargas]; Agricultural Union Party or PUAC [Juan Guillermo BRENES Castillo]; Democratic Force Party or FD [Isaac Felipe AZOFEIFA Bolanos]; People United [Humberto VARGAS Carbonell]; Patriotic Front Party; New Democratic Party or PDN [Rodrigo GUTIERREZ)]

    Political pressure groups and leaders: Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers or CCTD (Liberation Party affiliate); Confederated Union of Workers or CUT (Communist Party affiliate); Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers or CATD (Communist Party affiliate); Chamber of Coffee Growers; National Association for Economic Development or ANFE; Free Costa Rica Movement or MCRL (rightwing militants); National Association of Educators or ANDE; Federation of Public Service Workers or FTSP

    International organization participation: AG (observer), BCIE, CACM, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA (observer), NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

    Diplomatic representation in the US:
    chief of mission: Ambassador Sonia PICADO
    chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945
    FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
    consulate(s) general : Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Durham, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and Tampa
    consulate(s): Austin

    Diplomatic representation from the US:
    chief of mission: Ambassador Peter Jon DE VOS
    embassy: Pavas Road, 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 - overview: Costa Rica's basically stable and progressive economy depends especially on tourism and the export of bananas, coffee, and other agricultural products. Poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social safety net has been put in place. Recent trends, however, have been disappointing. Economic growth slipped from 4.3% in 1994 to 2.5% in 1995, and to 0.9% in 1996. Inflation rose to 22.5% in 1995 from 13.5% in 1994, then dropped back to 13.9% in 1996. Unemployment appears moderate at little more than 5% but substantial underemployment continues. Furthermore, substantial government deficits have undermined efforts to maintain the quality of social services. The government thus faces a formidable set of problems: to curb inflation, reduce the deficit, encourage domestic savings, and improve public sector efficiency while increasing the role of the private sector, all this in harmony with IMF agreements.

    GDP: purchasing power parity - $19 billion (1996 est.)

    GDP - real growth rate: -0.9% (1996 est.)

    GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $5,500 (1996 est.)

    GDP - composition by sector:
    agriculture: 18%
    industry: 24%
    services: 58% (1995)

    Inflation rate - consumer price index: 13.9% (1996 est.)

    Labor force:
    total: 868,300
    by occupation: industry and commerce 35.1%, government and services 33%, agriculture 27%, other 4.9% (1985 est.)

    Unemployment rate: 5.5% (1996 est.); much underemployment

    revenues : $1.1 billion
    expenditures: $1.34 billion, including capital expenditures of $110 million (1991 est.)

    Industries: food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products

    Industrial production growth rate: 10.5% (1992)

    Electricity - capacity: 1,113,900 kW (1995)

    Electricity - production: 5.138 billion kWh (1995)

    Electricity - consumption per capita: 1,330 kWh (1995 est.)

    Agriculture - products: coffee, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber (depletion of forest resources has resulted in declining timber output)

    total value: $3.82 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
    commodities: coffee, bananas, textiles, sugar
    partners: US, Germany, Italy, Guatemala, El Salvador, Netherlands, UK, France

    total value: $3.857 billion (c.i.f., 1996)
    commodities : raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum
    partners: US, Japan, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Germany

    Debt - external: $3.2 billion (October 1996 est.)

    Economic aid:
    recipient: ODA, $NA

    Currency: 1 Costa Rican colon (C) = 100 centimos

    Exchange rates: Costa Rican colones (C) per US$1 - 219.29 (December 1996), 207.69 (1996), 179.73 (1995), 157.07 (1994), 142.17 (1993), 134.51 (1992)

    Fiscal year: calendar year


    Telephones: 281,042 (1983 est.)

    Telephone system: very good domestic telephone service
    domestic: NA
    international: connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

    Radio broadcast stations: AM 71, FM 0, shortwave 13

    Radios: NA

    Television broadcast stations: 18

    Televisions: 340,000 (1993 est.)


    total : 950 km
    narrow gauge: 950 km 1.067-m gauge (260 km electrified)
    note: the entire system was scheduled to be shut down on 31 June 1995 because of insolvency

    total : 35,600 km
    paved: 5,945 km
    unpaved: 29,655 km (1995 est.)

    Waterways: about 730 km, seasonally navigable

    Pipelines: petroleum products 176 km

    Ports and harbors: Caldera, Golfito, Moin, Puerto Limon, Puerto Quepos, Puntarenas

    Merchant marine: none

    Airports: 143 (1996 est.)

    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 115
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
    1,524 to 2,437 m : 1
    914 to 1,523 m: 16
    under 914 m: 96 (1996 est.)

    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 28
    914 to 1,523 m: 28 (1996 est.)


    Military branches: Coast Guard, Air Section, Ministry of Public Security Force (Fuerza Publica) note - during 1996, the Ministry of Public Security reorganized and eliminated the Civil Guard, Rural Assistance Guard, and Frontier Guards as separate entities; they are now under the Ministry and operate on a geographic command basis performing ground security, law enforcement, counternarcotics, and national security (border patrol) functions; the Constitution prohibits armed forces

    Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age

    Military manpower - availability:
    males age 15-49: 940,666 (1997 est.)

    Military manpower - fit for military service:
    males: 631,426 (1997 est.)

    Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
    males : 34,422 (1997 est.)

    Military expenditures - dollar figure: $55 million (1995)

    Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 2% (1995)

    Transnational Issues

    Disputes - international: none

    Illicit drugs: transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis on small, scattered plots