There isn’t a great deal to write about with regards to the early history of Costa Rica. There are remains of hunter gatherers going back as far as 10,000 B.C. but history in the area really begins with the arrival of the Spanish, in the form of Christopher Columbus in 1502.
The first Spanish colony was established in Villa Bruselas in 1524, but even as a part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain the region was largely a backwater with little happening.
In 1821, as a direct result of Napoleon’s occupation of Spain during the Peninsula War, Costa Rica tagged on with others in declaring independence from Spain. It was not until 1823 that the United Provinces of Central America was formed; this included Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. By 1840 the whole project had fallen apart and Costa Rica was left to do its own thing.
There was a brief war in 1856 in which an invasion from Nicaragua was repelled and defeated. Since then Costa Rica can claim to have the longest democracy in the region with democratic elections being held in 1869, although there had been elections as far back as 1844.
The democracy of Costa Rica has only been broken on two occasions.
The first was in 1917 when General José Federico Alberto de Jesús Tinoco Granados along with his brother seized power in a coup d’état on 27th January 1917. The General’s dictatorship lasted until 13th August 1919 soon after his brother was assassinated and it became clear that his position was untenable.
The second was in 1948 when, following a 44 day civil war, José Figueres Ferrer took power at the head of a junta known as the “Junta Fundadora” or Founding Council. He held power for 18 months and during that time he abolished the army and introduced a new constitution which has led to a democratic and peaceful society ever since. He handed power over peacefully to a democratically elected government.
Figueres was elected President twice more, 1953 –1958 during which time he established the National Liberation Party (Partido Liberación Nacional; PLN). The PLN has been the most successful party ever since with eight of the 14 elected presidents to the present time. He was also President from 1970 –1974.
After the PLN the Social Christian Unity Party (Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana; PUSC) has been the second most successful party, electing three presidents; Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier (1990–94), Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (1998–2002) and Abel Pacheco (2002–06).
The current president, who will stand down in 2014 is President Laura Chinchilla of the PLN.
The President is elected for a single four year term.
The unicameral National Assembly has 57 members elected for four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Costa Rica at joint 41st out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 58 (where 100 is least corrupt).