Costa Rica

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PAGE LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 15, 2011
Flag of Costa Rica
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Costa Rica
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Map of Costa Rica
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Photos of Costa Rica
 
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OF COSTA RICA
 

Introduction

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Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. In 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its armed forces. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
 
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Geography

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Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama
 
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10 00 N, 84 00 W
 
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total: 51,100 sq km
country comparison to the world: 130
land: 51,060 sq km
water: 40 sq km
note: includes Isla del Coco
 
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slightly smaller than West Virginia
 
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total: 639 km
border countries: Nicaragua 309 km, Panama 330 km
 
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1,290 km
 
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territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm
 
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tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands
 
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coastal plains separated by rugged mountains including over 100 volcanic cones, of which several are major volcanoes
 
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lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Cerro Chirripo 3,810 m
 
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hydropower
 
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arable land: 4.4%
permanent crops: 5.87%
other: 89.73% (2005)
 
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1,080 sq km (2008)
 
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112.4 cu km (2000)
 
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total: 2.68 cu km/yr (29%/17%/53%)
per capita: 619 cu m/yr (2000)
 
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occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along Atlantic coast; frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season and landslides; active volcanoes
volcanism: Arenal (elev. 1,670 m), which erupted in 2010, is the most active volcano in Costa Rica; a 1968 eruption destroyed the town of Tabacon; Irazu (elev. 3,432 m), situated just east of San Jose, has the potential to spew ash over the capital city as it did between 1963 and 1965; other historically active volcanoes include Miravalles, Poas, Rincon de la Vieja, and Turrialba
 
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deforestation and land use change, largely a result of the clearing of land for cattle ranching and agriculture; soil erosion; coastal marine pollution; fisheries protection; solid waste management; air pollution
 
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party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
 
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four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65
 
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People and Society

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noun: Costa Rican(s)
adjective: Costa Rican
 
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white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
 
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Spanish (official), English
 
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Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
 
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4,576,562 (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
 
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0-14 years: 24.6% (male 574,876/female 549,664)
15-64 years: 69.1% (male 1,588,940/female 1,571,573)
65 years and over: 6.4% (male 135,017/female 156,492) (2011 est.)
 
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total: 28.8 years
male: 28.4 years
female: 29.2 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.308% (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
 
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16.54 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123
 
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4.33 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
 
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0.87 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
 
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urban population: 64% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 2.1% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
 
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SAN JOSE (capital) 1.416 million (2009)
 
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at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
 
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44 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)
country comparison to the world: 102
 
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total: 9.45 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 153
male: 10.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 8.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
 
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total population: 77.72 years
country comparison to the world: 56
male: 75.1 years
female: 80.46 years (2011 est.)
 
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1.93 children born/woman (2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
 
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10.5% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 25
 
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1.32 physicians/1,000 population (2000)
country comparison to the world: 88
 
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1.2 beds/1,000 population (2008)
country comparison to the world: 135
 
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improved:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 91% of population
total: 97% of population
unimproved:
urban: 0% of population
rural: 9% of population
total: 3% of population (2008)
 
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improved:
urban: 95% of population
rural: 96% of population
total: 95% of population
unimproved:
urban: 5% of population
rural: 4% of population
total: 5% of population (2008)
 
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0.3% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86
 
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9,800 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 99
 
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fewer than 500 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83
 
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degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever (2009)
 
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6.3% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 24
 
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94.9%
male: 94.7%
female: 95.1% (2000 census)
 
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total: 12 years
male: 12 years
female: 12 years (2005)
 
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total: 11%
country comparison to the world: 97
male: 9.6%
female: 13.4% (2008)
 
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Government

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conventional long form: Republic of Costa Rica
conventional short form: Costa Rica
local long form: Republica de Costa Rica
local short form: Costa Rica
 
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democratic republic
 
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name: San Jose
geographic coordinates: 9 56 N, 84 05 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
 
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7 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia); Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
 
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15 September 1821 (from Spain)
 
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Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
 
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7 November 1949
 
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civil law system based on Spanish civil code; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court
 
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accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
 
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18 years of age; universal and compulsory
 
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chief of state: President Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda (since 8 May 2010); First Vice President Alfio PIVA Mesen (since 8 May 2010); Second Vice President Luis LIBERMAN Ginsburg (since 8 May 2010); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda (since 8 May 2010); First Vice President Alfio PIVA Mesen (since 8 May 2010); Second Vice President Luis LIBERMAN Ginsburg (since 8 May 2010)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president
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elections: president and vice presidents elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single four-year term; election last held on 7 February 2010 (next to be held in February 2014)
election results: Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda elected president; percent of vote - Laura CHINCHILLA Miranda (PLN) 46.7%; Otton SOLIS (PAC) 25.1%, Otto GUEVARA Guth (ML) 20.8%
 
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unicameral Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa (57 seats; members elected by direct, popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 7 February 2010 (next to be held in February 2014)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PLN 23, PAC 10, ML 9, PUSC 6, PASE 4, other 5
 
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Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (22 justices are elected for renewable eight-year terms by the Legislative Assembly)
 
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Accessibility Without Exclusion or PASE [Oscar Andres LOPEZ Arias]; Citizen Action Party or PAC [Alberto CANAS Escalante]; Costa Rican Renovation Party or PRC [Gerardo Justo OROZCO Alvarez]; Democratic Force Party or PFD [Marco GONZALEZ Nunez]; Frente Amplio [Jose MERINO del Rio]; Homeland First or PP (Patria Primero) [Juan Jose VARGAS Fallas]; Libertarian Movement Party or PML [Otto GUEVARA Guth]; National Democratic Alliance or ADN [Jose Miguel VILLALOBOS Umana]; National Integration Party or PIN [Walter MUNOZ Cespedes]; National Liberation Party or PLN [Francisco Antonio PACHECO Fernandez]; National Rescue Party or PRN [Fabio Enrique DELGADO Hernandez]; National Union Party or PUN [Arturo ACOSTA Mora]; Patriotic Alliance [Mariano FIGUERES Olsen]; Patriotic Union or UP [Jose Miguel CORRALES Bolanos]; Popular Vanguard [Trino BARRANTES Araya]; Social Christian Unity Party or PUSC [Luis FISHMAN Zonzinski]; Union for Change Party or UPC [Antonio ALVAREZ Desanti]
 
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Authentic Confederation of Democratic Workers or CATD (Communist Party affiliate); Chamber of Coffee Growers; Confederated Union of Workers or CUT (Communist Party affiliate); Costa Rican Confederation of Democratic Workers or CCTD (Liberation Party affiliate); Costa Rican Exporter's Chamber or CADEXCO; Costa Rican Solidarity Movement; Costa Rican Union of Private Sector Enterprises or UCCAEP [Rafael CARRILLO]; Federation of Public Service Workers or FTSP; National Association for Economic Development or ANFE; National Association of Educators or ANDE; National Association of Public and Private Employees or ANEP [Albino VARGAS]; Rerum Novarum or CTRN (PLN affiliate) [Gilbert BROWN]
 
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BCIE, CACM, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAES, LAIA (observer), MIGA, NAM (observer), OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Muni FIGUERES Boggs
chancery: 2114 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-2945 or 2946
FAX: [1] (202) 265-4795
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
 
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chief of mission: Ambassador Anne Slaughter ANDREW
embassy: Calle 120 Avenida O, Pavas, San Jose
mailing address: APO AA 34020
telephone: [506] 2519-2000
FAX: [506] 2519-2305
 
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five horizontal bands of blue (top), white, red (double width), white, and blue, with the coat of arms in a white elliptical disk toward the hoist side of the red band; Costa Rica retained the earlier blue-white-blue flag of Central America until 1848 when, in response to revolutionary activity in Europe, it was decided to incorporate the French colors into the national flag and a central red stripe was added; today the blue color is said to stand for the sky, opportunity, and perseverance, white denotes peace, happiness, and wisdom, while red represents the blood shed for freedom, as well as the generosity and vibrancy of the people
note: somewhat resembles the flag of North Korea; similar to the flag of Thailand but with the blue and red colors reversed
 
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clay-colored robin known as Yiguirro
 
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name: "Himno Nacional de Costa Rica" (National Anthem of Costa Rica)
lyrics/music: Jose Maria ZELEDON Brenes/Manuel Maria GUTIERREZ
note: adopted 1949; the anthem's music was originally written for an 1853 welcome ceremony for diplomatic missions from the United States and United Kingdom; the lyrics were added in 1903
 
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Economy

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Prior to the global economic crisis, Costa Rica enjoyed stable economic growth. The economy contracted 0.7% in 2009, but resumed growth at more than 3% in 2010. While the traditional agricultural exports of bananas, coffee, sugar, and beef are still the backbone of commodity export trade, a variety of industrial and specialized agricultural products have broadened export trade in recent years. High value added goods and services, including microchips, have further bolstered exports. Tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange, as Costa Rica's impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and relatively high education levels, as well as the fiscal incentives offered in the free-trade zones; and Costa Rica has attracted one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment per capita in Latin America. However, many business impediments, such as high levels of bureaucracy, difficulty of enforcing contracts, and weak investor protection, remain. Poverty has remained around 15-20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is not highly dependent on remittances as they only represent about 2% of GDP. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of - mostly unskilled - labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system. The US-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force on 1 January 2009, after significant delays within the Costa Rican legislature. CAFTA-DR will likely lead to increased foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy, including the insurance and telecommunications sectors recently opened to private investors. President CHINCHILLA is likely to push for fiscal reform in the coming year, seeking to boost revenue, possibly through revised tax legislation, to fund an increase in security services and education.
 
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$51.17 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
$49.12 billion (2009 est.)
$49.76 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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$35.78 billion (2010 est.)
 
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4.2% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
-1.3% (2009 est.)
2.7% (2008 est.)
 
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$11,300 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 99
$11,000 (2009 est.)
$11,300 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
 
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agriculture: 6.5%
industry: 22.5%
services: 71% (2010 est.)
 
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2.052 million
country comparison to the world: 119
note: this official estimate excludes Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica (2010 est.)
 
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agriculture: 14%
industry: 22%
services: 64% (2006 est.)
 
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7.3% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
8.4% (2009 est.)
 
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16% (2006 est.)
 
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lowest 10%: 1.7%
highest 10%: 39.4% (2009)
 
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50.3 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 23
45.9 (1997)
 
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19.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120
 
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revenues: $5.217 billion
expenditures: $7.083 billion (2010 est.)
 
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14.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 189
 
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-5.2% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
 
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42.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
42.1% of GDP (2009 est.)
 
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5.7% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162
7.8% (2009 est.)
 
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21.5% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
23% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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17.091% (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
19.723% (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$3.484 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 104
$2.615 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$18.68 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
$16.81 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$18.07 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 84
$14.65 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$1.445 billion (31 December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 99
$1.452 billion (31 December 2009)
$1.887 billion (31 December 2008)
 
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bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef, poultry, dairy; timber
 
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microprocessors, food processing, medical equipment, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products
 
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1.8% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
 
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9.29 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
 
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8.247 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
 
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166 million kWh (2008 est.)
 
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70 million kWh (2008 est.)
 
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263 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
 
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47,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 103
 
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2,087 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 112
 
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44,110 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
 
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0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 115
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
 
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0 cu m (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
 
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0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 124
 
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-$1.299 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
-$576 million (2009 est.)
 
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$9.375 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 90
$8.838 billion (2009 est.)
 
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bananas, pineapples, coffee, melons, ornamental plants, sugar; beef; seafood; electronic components, medical equipment
 
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US 33.6%, China 11.7%, Netherlands 11.7%, UK 11.5% (2010)
 
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$12.95 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
$10.88 billion (2009 est.)
 
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raw materials, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum, construction materials
 
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US 40.1%, Mexico 6.6%, Japan 5.6%, China 5.3% (2010)
 
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$4.627 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
$4.066 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$9.239 billion (30 June 2011 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
$8.59 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
 
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$13.5 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
$12.39 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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$88.3 million (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
$544.6 million (31 December 2009 est.)
 
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Costa Rican colones (CRC) per US dollar -
513 (2010)
573.29 (2009)
530.41 (2008)
519.53 (2007)
511.3 (2006)
 
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Communications

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1.482 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 66
 
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3.035 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 122
 
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general assessment: good domestic telephone service in terms of breadth of coverage; under the terms of CAFTA-DR, the state-run telecommunications monopoly scheduled to be opened to competition from domestic and international firms, has been delayed by the nation's telecommunications regulator.
domestic: point-to-point and point-to-multi-point microwave, fiber-optic, and coaxial cable link rural areas; Internet service is available
international: country code - 506; landing points for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1), MAYA-1, and the Pan American Crossing submarine cables that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; connected to Central American Microwave System; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2009)
 
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multiple privately-owned television stations and 1 publicly-owned television station; cable network services are widely available; more than 100 privately-owned radio stations and a public radio network (2007)
 
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.cr
 
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34,024 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 97
 
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1.485 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 82
 
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Transportation

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151 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 36
 
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total: 39
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 12 (2010)
 
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total: 112
914 to 1,523 m: 18
under 914 m: 94 (2010)
 
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refined products 662 km (2010)
 
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total: 278 km
country comparison to the world: 122
narrow gauge: 278 km 1.067-m gauge
note: none of the railway network is in use (2010)
 
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total: 38,049 km
country comparison to the world: 94
paved: 9,619 km
unpaved: 28,430 km (2008)
 
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730 km (seasonally navigable by small craft) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 75
 
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total: 1
country comparison to the world: 152
by type: passenger/cargo 1 (2010)
 
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Caldera, Puerto Limon
 
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Military

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no regular military forces; Ministry of Public Security, Government, and Police (2011)
 
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males age 16-49: 1,255,798
females age 16-49: 1,230,202 (2010 est.)
 
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males age 16-49: 1,058,419
females age 16-49: 1,037,053 (2010 est.)
 
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male: 42,201
female: 40,444 (2010 est.)
 
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0.6% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 155
 
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Transnational Issues

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the ICJ has given Costa Rica until January 2008 to reply and Nicaragua until July 2008 to rejoin before rendering its decision on the navigation, security, and commercial rights of Costa Rican vessels on the Rio San Juan over which Nicaragua retains sovereignty
 
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refugees (country of origin): 9,699-11,500 (Colombia) (2007)
 
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current situation: Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; Costa Rican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country; women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of sex trafficking and forced domestic service; child sex tourism is a serious problem; Costa Rica is increasingly a destination for men from other Central American countries and from Asian countries subjected to conditions of forced labor, particularly in the agriculture, construction, and fishing sectors
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Costa Rica did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts over the previous reporting period; authorities failed to convict or sentence any trafficking offenders, did not maintain specialized services or shelters for trafficking victims, and made limited efforts to raise public awareness about human trafficking; however, the government has made efforts including implementation of procedures to identify and assist trafficking victims, increased staffing of the anti-trafficking police unit, and the creation of a special team to identify potential trafficking victims among migrants (2011)
 
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transshipment country for cocaine and heroin from South America; illicit production of cannabis in remote areas; domestic cocaine consumption, particularly crack cocaine, is rising; significant consumption of amphetamines; seizures of smuggled cash in Costa Rica and at the main border crossing to enter Costa Rica from Nicaragua have risen in recent years (2008)
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