Costa Rica's democracy and social policies have
the 1949 constitution as their cornerstone. This document
guarantees Costa Ricans freedom of expression and mobility, and
upholds the sanctity of human life and private property. Costa
Rica's democratic national government is made up of three separate
branches: legislative, executive and judicial.
Executive Branch: Presidential elections take
place every four years and the president is elected by popular
vote. No president can serve in the presidency for more than four
years -- incumbent presidents and ex-presidents cannot be voted
into office. The president appoints two vice-presidents and 20
cabinet members. The president must be elected with at least 40
percent of the popular vote or a runoff election is held
Legislative Branch: Costa Rica has a unicameral
legislative assembly with 57 seats. Representatives are elected by
popular vote. The legislature has six permanent commissions which
oversee agriculture and natural resources, economic affairs,
government and administration, budgeting and taxation, judicial
affairs and social affairs. The legislative assembly can override
presidential decisions by two-thirds majority vote and is also
responsible for the declaration of war and selection of Supreme
Court Judges. Legislators can be re-elected, but only after
spending one term out of office.
Judicial Branch: The judicial branch is
responsible for administering justice in Costa Rica, and is made
up of the Supreme Court, appellate courts and trial courts. There
are 22 magistrates, selected by the legislative assembly every
eight years. They can be re elected.
Infrastructure and Economy
The economy has traditionally been based on
agricultural commodities such as coffee, cacao, bananas, sugar and
beef. In the recent years successful efforts have been made to
introduce new exports, services and tourism.