Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy

By John A. Booth | Go to book overview

Conclusions

The international environment can be very harsh to small nations, as Costa Rica's plight in the 1970s and 1980s so amply demonstrates. Powerful international forces menaced it sufficiently to threaten the nation's democratic traditions and institutions. Because decisions are made by elites, Costa Rica's foreign policy making typically takes little account of the mass public. The conflict over approaches to the Central American crisis, however, reveals just how much its foreign policy can be shaped by interest groups and political pressures. Indeed, the way out of the crises of the 1980s involved finding a policy option that built a strong coalition of supporters. Oscar Arias's peacemaking via democratization formula calmed domestic turmoil and restored some of the initiative that Costa Rica had lost to the United States.

In terms of national sovereignty and democracy, the crises of the era produced mixed results. During the 1980s Costa Rica ceded considerable authority over itself to the United States and international lenders because of overpowering geopolitical and economic difficulties. Costa Rica reclaimed some of its political autonomy under Arias, but the ongoing debt crisis eventually overwhelmed the ability of Costa Rica's elected institutions and leaders to determine the national development model. Under the threat of economic catastrophe, the executive and legislative branches swept away social democracy and implemented neoliberalism. The government did so despite persistent public resistance and protest. This external pressure helped shift much ruling power from the people's branch of government, the Legislative Assembly, to the executive. This further reduced popular influence on policy and made Costa Rican democracy shallower.


NOTES
1
This section draws heavily on Luis Guillermo Solís R., "Costa Rica: La política exterior y los cambios en el sistema internacional en los ochenta", in Juan Manuel Villasuso, ed., El nuevo rostro de Costa Rica (Heredia, Costa Rica: Centro de Estudios Democráticos de América Latina, 1992), pp. 341-356; Charles D. Ameringer, Democracy in Costa Rica ( New York: Praeger, 1982), ch. 5; and Gonzalo J. Facio, "Política exterior," in Chester Zelaya , ed., Costa Rica contemporánea, vol. 1 (San José: Editorial Costa Rica, 1979), pp. 159-187.
2
For instance, on several occasions since the 1970s the U.S. government has pressured Costa Rican presidents to allow U.S. armed forces into Costa Rican territory without first obtaining the constitutionally mandated permission from the Legislative Assembly. Even more alarming, U.S. law officers have suborned Costa Rican police to kidnap wanted fugitives and deliver them to the United States, rather than taking the trouble to extradite them properly through the courts.
3
See, for instance, Martha Honey, Hostile Acts: U.S. Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s ( Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1994), chs. 8-13.
4
Ameringer, Democracy in Costa Rica, pp. 81-85.
5
Solíis R., "Costa Rica: La Política exterior", p. 343.

-192-

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Costa Rica: Quest for Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xiii
  • Acronyms xvii
  • Preface xxi
  • 1 - Latin American Democracy and Costa Rica 1
  • Notes 12
  • 2 - Contemporary Costa Rica In Central America 17
  • Notes 30
  • 3 - The Historical Development of Costa Rican Democracy 32
  • Notes 53
  • 4 - The Political Framework of Democracy 56
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Social Structure and Civil Society 82
  • Notes 100
  • 6 - Political Participation 103
  • Notes 125
  • 7 - Political Culture 129
  • Notes 151
  • 8 - Political Economy in Transition 154
  • Notes 174
  • 9 - Costa Rica in the World 177
  • Conclusions 192
  • 10 - Analysi5 and Conclusions: Can Democracy Survive? 195
  • Notes 208
  • Appendix 211
  • Index 219
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