COSTA RICA'S GOVERNMENT
Costa Rica is a democratic republic. Under the 1949 constitution, all citizens are guaranteed equality before the law, the right to own property, the right of petition and assembly, freedom of speech and the right of habeas corpus. The constitution also divides the government into independent executive, legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch is composed of the president, two vice presidents and a cabinet. The legislature is the National Assembly, composed of 57 members.
Costa Rica has a very strong system of constitutional checks and balances. Executive responsibilities are vested in a president, who is the country's center of power. There also are two vice presidents and a 15-member cabinet. The president and 57 Legislative Assembly deputies are elected for 4-year terms. In April 2003, the Costa Rican Constitutional Court annulled a 1969 constitutional reform which had barred presidents from running for reelection. As a result, the law reverted back to the 1949 Constitution, which permits ex-presidents to run for reelection after they have been out of office for two presidential terms, or eight years. Deputies may run for reelection after sitting out one term, or four years. In October 2007, the country ratified the U.S.-Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) by a slender margin in its first national referendum.
The electoral process is supervised by an independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal--a commission of three principal magistrates and six alternates selected by the Supreme Court of Justice. Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice, composed of 22 magistrates selected for renewable 8-year terms by the Legislative Assembly, and subsidiary courts. A Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV), established in 1989, reviews the constitutionality of legislation and executive decrees and all habeas corpus warrants. The next national elections will take place in February 2010.
The offices of the Comptroller General of the Republic, the Solicitor General, and the Ombudsman exercise oversight of the government. The Comptroller General's office has a statutory responsibility to scrutinize all but the smallest public sector contracts and strictly enforces procedural requirements. Along with the Sala IV, these institutions are playing an increasingly prominent role in governing Costa Rica.
There are provincial boundaries for administrative purposes, but no elected provincial officials. Costa Rica held its first mayoral elections in December 2002, whereby mayors were elected to 4-year terms by popular vote through general elections. Prior to 2002, the office of mayor did not exist, and the president of each municipal council was responsible for the administration of his/her municipality. The most recent nationwide mayoral elections took place in December 2006. Autonomous state agencies enjoy considerable operational independence; they include the telecommunications and electrical power monopoly, the state petroleum refinery, the nationalized commercial banks, the state insurance monopoly, and the social security agency. Costa Rica has no military and maintains only domestic police and security forces. A professional Coast Guard was established in 2000.
Below are just a few of the top governement agencies and all in Spanish, some have English translations.
Government of Costa Rica - Gobierno de Costa Rica
Legislative Assembly - Asamblea Legislativa
Judicial System - Poder Judicial
Supreme Court of Elections (TSE) - Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones
Comptroller General of the Republic(CGR) - Contraloría General de la República
Attorney General of the Republic - La Procuraduría General de la República
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto de Costa Rica - Ministry of External Relations and Worship
Ministry of External Commerce (COMEX) - Ministerio de Comercio Exterior
Ministry of Public Education (MEP) - Ministerio de Educación Pública
Ministry of Science and Technology (MICIT) - Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología
National Institute of Insurances (INS) - Instituto Nacional de Seguros
Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle (MAG) - Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería
Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC) - Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio
Ministry of Finance and Tax Collecting - Ministerio de Hacienda
Ministry of Health (MS) - Ministerio de Salud
Ministry of Environment and Energy - Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía
Ministry of National Planning and Economical Politics (MIDEPLAN) - Ministerio de Planificación Nacional y Política Económica
Costa Rican Institute of Tourism (ICT) - Instituto Costarricense de Turismo
SUTEL - The Superintendency of Telecommunications
Costa Rica Social Security System (C.C.S.S.) - Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social
National Commission of Prevention of Risks and Attention of Emergencies (C.N.E.) - Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias
Public Register of Properties - Registro Nacional
Costa Rican System of Legal Information - Sistema Costarricense de Información Jurídica
The Learning Institute (INA) - Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje
Institute of the Coffee (ICAFE) - Instituto del Café
Institute of Cooperatives (INFOCOOP) - Instituto Nacional de Fomento Cooperativo
National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICIT) - Consejo Nacional para Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas
National Council of Production (CNP) - Consejo Nacional de Producción
National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) de Costa Rica
Embassy of Costa Rica in the USA - Embajada de Costa Rica en los E.E.U.U
Embassy of the United States in Costa Rica - Embajada de E.E.U.U. en Costa Rica
United Nations - Costa Rica
Most Common Asked US Embassy Questions