What is the Costa Rica Government Like?

Message from Nick Halverson

One of the first questions that is asked by prospective customers of ours is about the Costa Rican government. Typically one of the following is asked:

  • What type of government does Costa Rica have? Is Costa Rica a democracy? What is the Costa Rica government like?
  • Is the government stable?

The following information should give anyone who is interested in owning or investing in Costa Rica the peace of mind that it is a great place to own real estate, to visit or to retire in.

What type of government does Costa Rica have? Is it stable?  

costa rica flag

Costa Rica flag.

Costa Rica is a democracy. Their current form of government is based off the 1949 Costa Rica Constitution that was written in response to World War II and a small Civil War where 2,000 people died (or about the same number of shooting victims every year in Chicago, IL, USA). The Constitution of 1949 abolishes the military, provides public education, public healthcare and provides all the same rights to foreigners as citizens – including the ability to own fully titled property (unlike Mexico)!

In fact, because Costa Rica does not have a military (or air force), the government is free to spend more money on education. Costa Rican’s are some of the best educated people in the world with literacy rates over 95% and an increasing rate of bilingual (English and Spanish) citizens. I have noticed a big difference in the number of people who speak English over the past decade.

The people elect the President through a popular vote. This makes sense given the geographic size of Costa Rica (size of West Virginia) and its population ~ 5 million.

A piece of history: when the United States Constitution was signed in 1787, the population in the USA was around 4 million people.

Costa Rica is home to one of the longest lasting democracies in the world.  Costa Rica’s independence began in 1848 when Dr. Castro Madriz signed documents separating Costa Rica from the Central American Federation, and formed the Republic of Costa Rica.

The people of Costa Rica are proud of their democracy and their political party system is very fluid. Unlike the United States

Nick Halverson Rosibel Ramos Madrigal Hanz Cruz

Hanz Cruz, Diputada Rosibel Ramos Madrigal and Nick Halverson, inside Dpta Madrigal’s office at the Costa Rican Congress

where there is only two political parties that influence policy, in Costa Rica there are over a dozen. In fact, for the the 2018 federal elections, there are 16 political parties!!! This means that when the people of Costa Rica are frustrated with the policies being made, they don’t simply sit around and complain, they actively form new parties and then actively campaign for support.

Costa Rica has a unicameral Congress. This simply means they have one group of people in their Congress. By way of comparison, the United States of America has a bicameral Congress (two chambers in the legislative branch: Senate and the House of Representatives). Costa Rica’s Congress has 57 members (called ‘diputados’) and they are the highest ranking members of the legislative branch. I have visited the Congress several times and enjoy seeing democracy in action.

I have met two President’s of Costa Rica and the experiences were exactly what you might think they would be if you’ve spent any time in Costa Rica. Very relaxed, informal and pleasant. President Arias was at an inauguration ceremony where the government was opening a new water system for a community. I was invited by our Project Manager, Hanz Cruz, to the event who was there on official business as Vice-Mayor of the region. After the formalities, Hanz invited me to meet President Arias. I was nervous since I had never met a President of a country before, and I had seen plenty of videos of what it’s like simply shaking hands with the President of the United States in a public setting with all of the security in black suites keeping everyone away. In Costa Rica, it was just the opposite. President Arias was standing still, shaking

Nick Halverson Oscar Arias

Nick Halverson and President Oscar Arias when Arias was President.

hands and talking with constituents. There was one person next to him with a coiled wire leading to his ear (like you see in the movies) providing protection, but this one man couldn’t stop the hundreds of people that were there if something went wrong. Hanz moved me next to the President and introduced me in Spanish. They spoke for about 30 seconds and then President Arias turned to me and in perfect English asked, “What do you think of Costa Rica? Would you like a photo?”

We spoke for about 30 seconds, had a photo taken with him, and he moved on. I was amazed how accessible, easy going and friendly he and his team were. His English was perfect – he had taught at Oxford University after all.

The second experience I had was with a former President who I met at a restaurant during a private party. He didn’t have any security with him and if you didn’t know who he was, you would have thought he was just another patron. I love politics, so I took the opportunity to get a photo with him too!

Hanz Cruz Luis Guillermo Solis

Hanz Cruz (left), Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis and Perez Zeledon Mayor Jefry Montoya meet to discuss growth plans for the region (2017)

Our Project Manager Hanz Cruz is currently (2017) the President of San Isidro del General, Perez Zeledon, San Jose, Costa Rica, ‘Consejo’ (City Council). In this capacity he routinely has meetings with high-ranking officials, and recently had a meeting with the current President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis. During the meeting they discussed numerous topics, including tourism in the area.

Costa Rica is a wonderful place to live, with an extremely strong democracy, making a perfect place to own real estate.

Corcovado National Park adds stations to attract tourism

NOTE: Original article is from The Tico Times |

The following article is great news for everyone who owns and/or visits Las Villas de San Buenas. Corcovado National Park is approximately a 2 hour 45 minute drives from Las Villas de San Buenas (map).

Corcovado National Park is home to 2.5% of the entire world’s bio-diversity, making the park the most biologically diverse place on earth.


MICHAEL KRUMHOLTZ | FEBRUARY 17, 2017

The Costa Rican government unveiled new installments in Corcovado National Park as part of a $2.4 million investment that officials say should help increase tourism numbers to the biodiverse jungle in the country’s Osa Peninsula.

President Luis Guillermo Solís traveled to Corcovado on Friday to officially inaugurate new infrastructures located in the park’s three main sectors: San Pedrillo, La Sirena and La Leona.

Workers are building a new visitor’s center in the southernmost station of Leona. In addition, there will be new bathroom stalls, showers and water treatment tanks. Leona will also be equipped with picnic areas and an electric generator as part of the latest investment.

corcovado park upgrades

In addition to some of the new installments already mentioned, the Sirena station in the central coast section of Corcovado has received a camping platform and a common area for cooking and eating.

Authorities said the improved infrastructure should not only boost the number of tourists and help facilitate the work of park rangers, but it should also give more economic benefits to locals living around the national park.

“All of these works have to do with the efforts made by the Environment Ministry (MINAE) to better the conditions in our national parks,” said MINAE chief Edgar Gutiérrez. “We’re looking to increase the visitation and supply extra help to the people who live around these parks by bringing more tourism and more opportunities to their communities.”

Solís pointed out that his administration has continually emphasized the importance of Costa Rica’s national parks and especially Corcovado, which he said has received more than 5 billion colones ($8.9 million) in investments since Solís’ election in 2014. They are part of the Bank of International Development’s Sustainable Tourism Program, which has given some $25 million to various national parks in Costa Rica.

“When this administration took office the resources from the Bank of International Development that allow us to have these new installations today in Corcovado National Park were almost taken away from us because they basically hadn’t been used at all,” Solís said. “We then took up that commitment and have made great changes to benefit our conservation areas in order to bring in more international and national tourists, which can then improve conditions for the surrounding communities.”

Though Corcovado is made up of just under 48,000 hectares (about 185 square miles) of land and marine area combined, this gem in Costa Rica’s southwest corner accounts for 2.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

Among the wildlife found in Corcovado are jaguars, tapirs, pumas, giant anteaters, monkeys and macaws.

Contact Michael Krumholtz at mkrumholtz@ticotimes.net

Mr Halverson Goes to San Jose to Visit the Costa Rica Congress

Last week my project manager, Hanz Cruz, and I spent an afternoon in San Jose where we

Hanz Cruz Rosibel Madrigal Halverosn

Las Villas de San Buenas Project Manager Hanz Cruz, and CEO Nick Halverson meet with Deputada Rosibel Ramos Madrigal at the Costa Rica Congress.

visited the Legislative Assembly (Asamblea Legislativa), Costa Rica’s Congressional body.  Costa Rica has an unicameral legislative structure (a single chamber. By way of comparison the USA has two – the House of Representatives and the Senate). A member of Congress is called a Deputado (Deputada if a woman) – which translates to ‘Senator’.

Costa Rica has 57 Deputados, who are all elected every four years. Deputados do not have term limits, although they cannot serve consecutive terms. Once a Deputado’s four-year term expires, they must sit out an entire four-year election cycle before they can serve again.

We spent approximately one hour talking with a couple of Deputados. We first met with Deputada Rosibel Madrigal, who represents the region including San Isidro del General/Perez Zeledon areas of San Jose province. Next we met with Gerardo Vargas Rojas who represents the province of Puntarenas.

We discussed tourism, increasing foreign investment and I pushed to know more about the possible international airport in Osa (still being reviewed).

I have always found it beneficial during my career in New Zealand and Australia to meet face-to-face

Costa Rica Asamblea Nacional

Founding members of Costa Rica’s first Congress in 1949 (photo by Nick Halverson with Google Glass)

with government officials to ensure they are aware of our project as well as we are kept abreast of any potential changes. We will continue to meet with officials quarterly.

It was an enjoyable day and everyone we met with was friendly and hospitable. I’ll keep everyone updated on our future visits – and the Southern zone international airport.

Nick Halverson
CEO, Las Villas de San Buenas

New Rules for Entering Panama

Costa Rica has implemented a new departure tax at all land border crossings. Historically there was no charge for crossing any land boundaries. As many visitors know there is a departure tax (now $29) for all travelers leaving via an airplane at both international airports in Costa Rica. This will only effect the people that are perpetual tourists. If you come to look at the affordable Costa Rica real estate options we offer you won’t be crossing into Panama or Nicaragua as we have villas for rent in Costa Rica and you have 90 days in the country before you need to leave. That should give you time to check things out.sustainable communities costa rica

The U.S. Embassy wishes to advise U.S. citizen travelers that there have been recent reports of Costa Rican authorities being unable to accept payment of the exit tax at land borders for technical reasons. Costa Rica charges a $7 exit tax for land border crossings. The new tax came into effect on December 2, 2013, and consists of a $5 exit tax and a $2 luggage search fee, regardless of whether the traveler has luggage or not. Travelers are encouraged to pay the $7 fee at a branch of Banco Credito Agricola (Bancredito) or another designated payment collection point BEFORE they arrive at the border station to avoid potential last minute difficulties crossing into Panama or Nicaragua. The charge is to be used to finance improvements at border crossings.

It should also be mentioned as a reminder that upon re-entering Costa Rica you will be asked to show your exit ticket out of the country. Without an exit ticket you may get turned down to re-enter Costa Rica. When coming to Costa Rica some airlines will not let you board the plane if you do not show them proof of a return or continuing on ticket to another destination.

Qatar to Open Embassy in San José, Costa Rica Newspaper, The Tico Times

The oil-rich nation of Qatar, which boasts one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, has announced plans to open an embassy in San José, Costa Rica.

Flag of Qatar

The embassy would be Qatar’s only diplomatic office on the Central American isthmus and one of five in the Americas. It would also be the only Arab embassy in Costa Rica.

Qatar to Open Embassy in San José / Daily News / News / Costa Rica Newspaper, The Tico Times.

Free Trade Zone in Caribbean to Break Ground

Source: www.Ticotimes.net

Promoters of the first free-trade zone in the Caribbean province of Limón will break ground this month. The free-trade zone, to be located in the community of Búfalo, will be large enough to host the manufacturing operations of 12 companies.

The free-trade zone will be administered by Guanazul JRV S.A.

The new zone comes after a December 2009 reform of the law governing areas that provide incentives such as tax breaks to attract companies to set up operations in less developed and less populated areas of the country. Most of the 247 companies operating in free-trade zones are based in the Central Valley.

Free-trade zones offer companies the opportunity to import and export goods without barriers such as quotas or tariffs. Countries use them to attract foreign investment, critical for developing countries like Costa Rica. In 2008, companies operating in free-trade zones in Costa Rica accounted for $4.98 billion in exports, more than 54 percent of the country’s total.

To start operations in the new Limón free-trade zone, a minimum investment of $100,000 is required.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla recently said she aims to bring in $9 billion in foreign direct investment during her presidential term.

The nearest free trade zone for residents of The Village of San Buenas real estate development is located in Golfito. Golfito is an easy 1.5 hour drive from San Buenaventura.

Canada and Costa Rica Start Professional Exchange Program

By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff | clong@ticotimes.net
Original: http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/083010.htm#story1
Young Ticos will soon have the opportunity to work on Canada’s famous ski slopes, study in the best Canadian universities or travel through the northern nation’s national parks, thanks to an agreement signed by the two countries’ foreign ministers on Friday.The agreement overrides immigration requirements for a one-year period so that Ticos and Canadians between 18 and 35 years of age can participate in an exchange program.

Canada has similar programs with Chile, France, Poland, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom, among other nations.

“This is an opportunity to build people-to-people ties,” said Peter Van Loan, Canada’s minister of international trade, who was in San José for the signing of the agreement. “It allows young people the chance to work, to play, to travel in a foreign country.”

Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro praised the program for creating a platform for cultural exchange and said it has the potential to bring Costa Rica closer to its goal of joining the nations of the developed world.

“It’s a pleasure to work to open doors for youth,” he said. “We hope that hundreds – maybe thousands – will benefit from a program that opens borders and opportunities for young people through a cultural exchange and mutual learning.”

The two countries still have to agree on a quota for how many people from each country can take advantage of the opportunity.

According to Castro, both governments are in the process of gauging their citizens’ interest in participating in the program.

Costa Homes For Sale Near Monkeys

Live in Costa Rica and volunteer at a local animal sanctuary

President Chinchilla Launches Costa Rica Day Care Network

By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff | clong@ticotimes.net

Original:http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/081710.htm#story1

Costa Rica’s first female president, Laura Chinchilla, officially launched the National Daycare Network today with a pledge of ¢ 890 million ($1.8 million) to the poorest communities in ten areas of the country.

The money is expected to bring care to 400 children under five years of age, enabling their mothers or fathers to pursue jobs outside the home.

The effort is much more than just a push to open more day care centers, Chinchilla said at a press conference on Monday. The idea of the network is to reach children at a critical stage in their development so that every Costa Rican starts life with the same opportunities.

Early childcare is an area in which Costa Rica continues to have many shortcomings, she said.

The money will be used to expand existing facilities such as community homes and government-run daycare centers, and to offer loans so that more women can operate daycare centers from their homes.

The plan is being introduced as part of a larger agenda of reducing extreme poverty in Costa Rica by a full 10 percent, Chinchilla said.

At present, aid arrives to poor homes in pieces. Sometimes a son or daughter can get a scholarship, other times a parent receives job training, but what these families need, Chinchilla said, is an integrated push from all sides to get them on their feet.

By bringing aid to communities in an integral way, she hopes to permanently reduce poverty.

In keeping with this coordinated approach, the ten areas where the administration is focusing the daycare initiative are also the focus of the poverty relief plan. These include Los Chiles, Guatuso, Upala, La Cruz, Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Cartago, Curridabat, Heredia and San José.

Daughter of former Costa Rican president named ambassador to United States

Original: http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/081810.htm#story3

By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff | clong@ticotimes.net

Muni Figueres, daughter of former Costa Rican President José “don Pepe” Figueres, will serve as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States, after being nominated by her government on Tuesday morning.

Figueres, who served as foreign trade minister in 1986 under then-President Oscar Arias, has also held high-level positions with the World Trade Organization and the Inter-American Development Bank. She is the daughter of Figueres’ first wife Henrietta Boggs and half-sister to recently appointed U.N. Climate Chief Cristiana Figueres and former President José María Figueres.

Muni Figueres was born in Costa Rica but was also a U.S. citizen because of her mother’s nationality. In order to accept the post in Washington, D.C., she was forced to renounce her U.S. citizenship.

President Laura Chinchilla said she saw Figueres’ former U.S. citizenship as an advantage to Costa Rica because, through her, Costa Rica “will have fluid access to all the doors we need to knock on in Washington.”

During a press conference Tuesday, Figueres said she was proud to be part of Chinchilla’s team and pledged to work on the implementation of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States and security measures.

She said, “I don’t have a doubt that Costa Rica is one of the most popular and most loved countries in Washington. I have lived through times where (foreigners) confused Costa Rica with Puerto Rico. But now, there are few people who haven’t been to Costa Rica or don’t want to go to Costa Rica.  … It’s a country that, despite its size, has won many sympathizers.”

Asked about losing her U.S. citizenship, Figueres said that it “bothered her,” but after speaking with her mother, she was convinced that “to be Costa Rican is a privilege.”

“It’s an honor that I am going to carry with me the rest of my life,” she said.

Figueres will replace Luis Diego Escalante as Costa Rica’s ambassador in Washington D.C. Escalante was appointed by former President Arias.

Costa Rica Seeking More Investment from China

http://www.ticotimes.net/daily_paid/dailynewsarchive/2010_08/080210.htm#story4
By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff | clong@ticotimes.net
Even as the Chinese are putting the finishing touches on world class soccer stadium in San José’s La Sabana metropolitan park – a gift to the Central American country – Costa Rica is seeking more investment by the Chinese in infrastructure and in clean energy.

On Sunday, during a visit by China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Costa Rica made a pitch to its Asian ally to invest in a $221 million highway that would connect the country’s northern plains with the Caribbean port of Limón, among other infrastructure projects.

The plea comes at a time when Costa Rica’s highways are crumbling under heavy rains and the weight of years of postponed improvements. Just three days before Jiechi arrived, part of the country’s main highway north, which connects the country with the rest of Central America, was closed when part of a bridge over the Rio Seco collapsed (see story, below).

But Costa Rica’s foreign minister, René Castro, said the relationship should be a two-way street.

“They also have some ideas for advancement relating to biotechnology, cultural exchanges and sciences that are being developed,” he said, adding that he is looking for “a mature, win-win relationship” between China and Costa Rica in years to come.

Following a working session at the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters at the Casa Amarilla, in downtown San José, the two diplomats signed a cooperation agreement, which is expected to bring $6.2 billion in infrastructure improvements to Costa Rica.

Jiechi spent time with President Laura Chinchilla, Vice Presidents Alfio Piva and Luis Liberman, as well as the heads of the Security Ministry, the Foreign Trade Ministry and the Transportation Ministry.

Formal relations between Costa Rica and China began in 2007 during the Oscar Arias administration. In addition to the soccer stadium, China is also investing in the state-owned refinery in Moín and has purchased $300 million in bonds, among other projects.