Costa Rica: A Global Studies Handbook

By Meg Tyler Mitchell; Scott Pentzer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Costa Rican Economy

Civil wars have a way of becoming “revolutions” in the memories of the victors. It is important to emphasize that the conflict that dominated the tropical summer of 1948 was not the beginning of a Costa Rican revolution. The reforms undertaken by José Figueres and his successors had a definite continuity with the work begun as far back as the aborted presidency of Alfredo González Flores in 1917. Yet the civil war itself—the violence and the heroism and the rupture in the usual modes of Costa Rican life and politics— does seem to have been decisive in putting reform onto a different and faster track. Political reform, in turn, opened the door to new opportunities for economic development. For that reason, key political decisions shaping the economy will be discussed here; a more detailed analysis of Costa Rican political institutions is discussed in chapter 3.

As the dictatorship of Tomás Guardia did in the 1870s, the civil war and governing junta of 1948–1949 marked an interruption in democratic politics that, in retrospect, served to improve conditions for the next round of political, economic, and social reform. Guardia’s legacy was the Constitution of 1871, a modernized and disciplined military, and the “Olympus Generation” of liberals who carried out the legal and educational reforms that made Costa Rica’s relative prosperity and stability notable in Central America. The legacy of José Figueres and the Founding Junta of the Second Republic was a reformed constitution, the abolition of the military, a new approach to public administration and finance for development, and the National Liberation Party (PLN), which would pursue that new approach with great success for three decades. During that time Costa Rica was

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Costa Rica: A Global Studies Handbook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editor’s Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Maps xix
  • Part One - Narrative Section 1
  • Chapter One - Geography and History 3
  • Chapter Two - The Costa Rican Economy 93
  • Chapter Three - Politics and Institutions 169
  • Chapter Four - Society and Culture 227
  • Part Two - Reference Section 293
  • Key Events in Costa Rican History 295
  • Significant People, Institutions, Places, and Events 303
  • Costa Rican Language, Food, and Etiquette 321
  • Costa Rica–Related Organizations 333
  • Annotated Bibliography of Recommended Works on Costa Rica 345
  • Index 355
  • About the Authors 367
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