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About Costa Rica
Geography The second smalles country in Central America with a Land area: 19,560 sq mi (50,660 sq km); total area: 19,730 sq mi (51,100 sq km); lies between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Its area slightly exceeds that of Vermont and New Hampshire combined or one half the size of Kentucky. It has a narrow Pacific coastal region. Cocos Island (10 sq mi; 26 sq km), about 300 mi (483 km) off the Pacific Coast, is under Costa Rican sovereignty. There are 12 “life zones” in Costa Rica each with their own climate, vegetation and wildlife. For its size, Costa Rica has one of the richest and highest bio-diversities in the world and is a vital corridor/link for wildlife between North and South America. Those who have visited Costa Rica have consistantly commented on its natural beauty and the friendliness of the people. Costa Rica has dedicated 27% of its land to national parks or reserves. Eight different indigenous groups remain scattered throughout Costa Rica on reservations with most groups maintaining their language, culture and craft traditions.

Population (2008 est.): 4,133,884 (growth rate: 1.4%); birth rate: 18.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 9.5/1000; life expectancy: 77.2; density per sq mi: 211

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): San José, 1,527,300 (metro. area), 337,200 (city proper)

Monetary unit: Colón, Dollar, Euro

Government Democratic republic.

History Costa Rica was inhabited by an estimated 400,000 Indians when Columbus explored it in 1502. The Spanish conquest began in 1524. The region grew slowly and was administered as a Spanish province. Costa Rica achieved independence in 1821 but was absorbed for two years by Agustín de Iturbide in his Mexican empire. It became a republic in 1848. Except for the military dictatorship of Tomás Guardia from 1870 to 1882, Costa Rica has enjoyed one of the most democratic governments in Latin America. In the 1970s, rising oil prices, falling international commodity prices, and inflation hurt the economy.

Efforts have since been made to reduce reliance on coffee, banana, and beef exports. Tourism is now a major business. Óscar Arias Sánchez, who became president in 1986, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his role in negotiating settlements to both the Nicaraguan and the Salvadoran civil wars. José Maria Figueres Olsen of the National Liberation Party became president in 1994. He opposed economic suggestions made by the International Monetary Fund, instead favoring greater government intervention in the economy.

The World Bank subsequently withheld $100 million of financing. In 1998, Miguel Angel Rodríguez of the Social Christian Unity Party became president, pledging economic reforms, such as privatization. In 2000, Costa Rica and Nicaragua resolved a long-standing dispute over navigation of the San Juan River, which forms their border. A psychiatrist, Abel Pacheco, also of the Social Christian Unity Party, won the presidency in elections held in April 2002. In May 2003, several national strikes took place, by energy and telecommunications workers over privatization and by teachers over their salaries.

Costa Rica has a reputation as one of the most stable, prosperous, and least corrupt Latin American countries. But in fall 2004, three former Costa Rican presidents (José Maria Figueres Olsen, Miguel Angel Rodríguez, and Rafael Angel Calderon) were investigated on corruption charges. In 2006, Óscar Arias Sánchez was elected president. Arias, who had served as president once before (1986–1990), won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for fostering peace talks that eventually ended the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Weather There are two seasons: winter (rainy) from May to November and summer (dry) from December to April. In the socialized medical system, hospitals provide good, free emergency services to everyone (including foreigners) and the water is safe to drink in all but the very remote areas of Costa Rica. Central America´s Beacon of Hope.

Religion More than the 90% of the Costa Ricans are catholic , but almost no one gets riled about his or her religion and faith, as religious freedom is granted by the constitution and upheld by the tolerant nature of the Ticos. Holy Week (the week before Easter) is a national holiday, and its supposed to be a time of prayers and good behavior. Costa Rica as a country has always been remarkably secular, the relationship between the state and the church has been always very weak. The population special dislike for dictators have made them intolerant of priests, together with the influence of secular liberal administrations that vanished orders and deeply affected the church's influence at the beginning of the 19th century.

Still, every village, no matter how small it is, has a church facing east, on the west side of the central plaza, and its own saint’s day, which is usually celebrated with secular fervor. Every home, taxi, office and bus has its token religious icons. The Catholic marriage ceremony is the only church marriage with state recognition, and so, Catholicism is the official state religion as mandated by the Constitution of 1949 .

Other information

Languages: Spanish (official), English

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $50.89 billion; per capita $12,500. Real growth rate: 7.9%. Inflation: 12.1%. Unemployment: 6.6%. Arable land: 4%. Agriculture: coffee, pineapples, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber. Labor force: 1.87 million; agriculture 20%, industry 22%, services 58% (1999 est.). Industries: microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products. Natural resource: hydropower. Exports: $7.931 billion (2006 est.): coffee, bananas, sugar, pineapples; textiles, electronic components, medical equipment. Imports: $10.88 billion (2006 est.): raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum. Major trading partners: U.S., Netherlands, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Brazil (2004).

Ethnicity/race: white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%

Literacy rate: 96% (2003 est.)

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 1.388 million (2005); mobile cellular: 1.101 million (2005). Radio broadcast stations: AM 65, FM 51, shortwave 19 (2002). Television broadcast stations: 20 (plus 43 repeaters) (2002). Internet hosts: 12,751 (2006). Internet users: 1 million (2005).

Transportation: Railways: total: 278 km, none of which is in use. Highways: total: 35,330 km ; paved: 8,621 km km; unpaved: 26,709 km (2004). Waterways: 730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2004). Ports and harbors: Caldera, Puerto Limon. Airports: 157 (2006 est.).

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