|Organizacion del Gobierno
Costa Rica es una de las democracias mas antiguas y estables de America.
The 1949 Constitution guarantees all citizens and foreigners equality before the law,
the right to own property, the right of petition and assembly, freedom of speech, and the
right to habeas corpus.
Costa Rica have NO ARMY. It is the first country in the world that avoid the army forces
by the constitution.
The government is divided into
independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, with "separation of
powers" consecrated under Article 9 of the Constitution (none of the powers,
for example, can delegate to another the exercise of its functions).
The executive branch is composed of the president, two vice
presidents, and a cabinet of 17 members called the Council of Government
(Consejo de Gobierno). Legislative power is vested in the National
Assembly, a unicameral body composed of 57 members elected by proportional
Diputados are elected for a four-year term and can be
reelected only after four more. The Assembly holds the power to amend the
president's budget and to appoint the comptroller general, who checks public
expenditures and prevents the executive branch from overspending.
The Assembly can override presidential decisions by two-thirds
majority vote and reserves unto itself the sole right to declare war. The power
of the legislature to go against the president's wishes is a cause of constant
friction (Costa Rica is governed through compromise: a tempest may rage at the
surface, but a compromise resolution is generally being worked out behind the
scenes), and presidents have not been cowardly in using such tools as the
executive decree to usurp power to themselves.
The Legislative Assembly also appoints Supreme Court
judges--"as many Magistrates as are necessary for adequate service"--for
minimum terms of eight years. They are automatically reappointed unless voted
out by the Legislative Assembly.
There are 24 judges on the Supreme Court.
These judges in turn, can select judges for the civil and penal courts.
The courts have done much to enforce constitutional checks on
presidential power and avoid the corruption over other public workers.
The courts also appoint the three "permanent" magistrates
of the Special Electoral Tribunal, an independent body which oversees
each election and is given far-reaching powers. The Tribunal appointees serve
staggered six-year terms and are appointed one every two years to minimize
partisanship (two additional temporary magistrates are appointed a year before
each election). |
In 1969 an amendment ruled that neither the incumbent president nor any former president
may be reelected (they must also be secular citizens; i.e. not a priest).
This was reviewed later and allowed Oscar Arias to be president for the second time.
The nation's seven provinces:
Each Province is ruled by a governor appointed by the president. The provinces are subdivided into 81
cantones (counties), which in turn are divided into a total of 421
distritos (districts) ruled by municipal councils.
The provinces play
only one important role: as electoral districts for the National Assembly. The
number of deputies for each province is determined by that province's
population, with one member for each 30,000 people; seats are allotted
according to the proportion of the vote for each party. In the past three
decades, the municipalities have steadily lost their prerogatives to central
authority and now are relegated to fulfilling such functions as garbage
collection, public lighting, and upkeep of streets, with a marked lack of
success in some cases!
- San José
There is no shortage of political parties in Costa Rica. However, only
two really count. The largest is the National Liberation Party (Partido
de Liberacion Nacional, or PLN), founded by the statesman and hero of the Civil
War, "Don Pepe" Figueres. The PLN, which roughly equates with European social
democracy and American-style welfare-state liberalism, has traditionally
enjoyed a majority in the legislature, even when an opposition president has
been in power. Its support is traditionally drawn from among the middle-class
professionals and entrepreneurs and small farmers and rural peones.
Its arch rival is the Social Christian Unity Party (Unidad
Social Cristiana, or USC), which represents more conservative interests and is
a loose coalition of four different parties known as La Oposicion and led by
the current president, Rafael Angel Calderón Fournier, a conservative
lawyer. (Calderón enjoyed a close friendship with George Bush during the
latter's tenure. His 1990 election campaign was aided by Bush's own campaign
mastermind Roger Ailes and carried election promises that much resembled Bush's
own "impossible dreams," including cutting taxes.)
Between them, the two parties have alternated power since 1949 (in
every presidential election but two, the "ins" have been ousted). Still, enough
Costa Ricans switch their political colors every four years to make the outcome
of an election hard to predict.
In addition, there are a number of less influential parties
representing all facets of the political spectrum. Together they managed to
collect only some two percent of votes and three seats in the National Assembly
in the 1990 presidential ballot. Since Costa Ricans tend to vote for the man
rather than the party, most minor parties form around a candidate and represent
personal ambitions rather than strong political convictions. (Former president
Figueres once accused Ticos of being as domesticated as sheep; they are not
easily aroused to passionate defense of a position or cause.) The peasantry are
the least represented constituency.
Costa Rica's national elections, held every four years, always on the
first Sunday of February, reaffirm the pride Ticos feel for their democratic
system. In the rest of Central America, says travel writer Paul Theroux, "an
election can be a harrowing piece of criminality; in Costa Rica [it is]
something of a fiesta. `You should have been here for the election,' a woman
told me in San José, as if I had missed a party." The streets are
crisscrossed with flags, and everyone drives around honking their horns,
throwing confetti, and holding up their purple-stained thumbs to show that they
Costa Rican citizens enjoy universal suffrage--everyone, male and
female, over 18 has the vote--and citizens are automatically registered to vote
on their 18th birthday, when they are issued a voter identity card. Since 1959
voting has been compulsory for all citizens under 70 years of age. After being
ushered into voting booths by schoolchildren decked out in party colors, voters
indicate their political preferences with a thumbprint beneath a photograph of
the candidates of their choice. Splitting votes across party lines is common,
as separate ballots are issued for the presidency, legislature, and municipal
councils; disillusioned voters register their dissent with the dominant parties
by turning in blank ballots. If the president-elect fails to receive 40% of the
vote, a special runoff election is held for the two top contenders.
The daily press is full of political messages for months preceding
an election. Most papers take an overt partisan stance and journalists "print
news stories that may be extremely biased, and allow supporters of opposing
points of view to reply the next day," say the Biesanzes in their book, The
Costa Ricans. As in the U.S., campaigns tend to stress personalities rather
than issues, with one blessed difference: attacking your opponent's personal
life is considered taboo. "Costa Ricans may copy a lot of things Americans do,"
said Figueres, "but they would never use sex scandals against their worst
enemies." The Supreme Electoral Tribunal rules on campaign issues and can
prohibit the use of political smears, such as branding an opponent as
Control of the police force also reverts to the Supreme Electoral
Tribunal during election campaigns to help ensure the integrity of all
constitutional guarantees. All parties are granted equal air time on radio and
television, and all campaign costs are largely drawn from the public purse: any
party with five percent or more of the vote in the prior election can apply for
a proportionate share of the official campaign fund, equal to 0.5 percent of
the national budget. If a party fails to get five percent of the vote, it is
legally required to refund the money, though this rarely happens.
Costa Rica government is based on the reforms of the
Calderon and Figueres era in 1949. Successive administrations have created an impressive
array of health, education, and social-welfare programs plus steadily expanding
state enterprises and regulatory bodies, all of which spell a massive expansion
of the government bureaucracy.
Some Costa Rica's government employees are very bureaucratic.
There is also some level of corruption but in a lesser degree than in other Latin American countries.
Travelers may find some long lines to gather the necessary documents.
Travel agencies can usually arrange a trustworthy despachante. to handle this procedures
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