Opposition parties maintained control over the Legislative Assembly during 2016, complicating President Luis Guillermo Solís’s attempts to pass legislation that would address the country’s annual fiscal deficits. The deficit for the year was about 5.2 percent of gross domestic product, slightly better than expected, but significant tax and spending reform bills stalled in the legislature.
In a positive sign for transparency and accountability, President Solís compelled Labor Minister Víctor Morales to resign in March, just a day after the newspaper La Nación reported that the minister’s niece had been hired by the ministry in violation of an ethics code adopted the previous year.
In July, La Nación accused the state-owned Banco Nacional of withdrawing official advertising as a means of penalizing the paper for a series of investigative reports on alleged irregularities at the bank. An October ruling by the Supreme Court confirmed the newspaper’s claims, ordering the bank to adhere to its previous media spending plan and refrain from future attempts at indirect censorship.
The homicide rate continued to increase in 2016, reaching 11.8 per 100,000 residents; the figure was comparable to those in Costa Rica’s immediate neighbors, but still far below the rates in the region’s worst performers. A total of 579 murders were reported, compared with 566 in 2015. Overcrowding in prisons has been a chronic problem, and the courts intervened on several occasions during 2016 to force the government to ease crowding at specific facilities. Pretrial detainees account for less than a fifth of the prison population.
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