Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Former president and 2010 presidential candidate Rafael Angel Calderon was convicted of corruption in October 2009 and sentenced to five years in prison related to kickbacks obtained during his first presidency. Public perception of crime and insecurity rose unabated in 2009, as did the incidence of the warehousing and transportation of cocaine destined for the United States. President Oscar Arias introduced emergency measures to mitigate the effects of the global economic crisis on Costa Rica’s most vulnerable populations.
While quality of life in Costa Rica is relatively high for the region, economic growth is hampered by the national debt, inflation, and a rising cost of living. The global economic crisis has further threatened economic stability in the country, causing President Arias in January to announce a 23-point plan to mitigate the effects of the global downturn on the country’s most vulnerable populations. The plan includes a 15 percent increase in welfare payments for the poorest sectors of society and mortgage debt forgiveness for approximately 2,100 families facing foreclosure. The Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) with the United States—narrowly approved by voters in a 2007 referendum—went into effect on January 1, 2009, though its impact is yet to be seen.
Costa Rica is an electoral democracy. Legislative and presidential elections held in 2006 were generally considered free and fair. The president and members of the 57-seat, unicameral Legislative Assembly are elected for single four-year terms and can seek a nonconsecutive second term. The main political parties are the PLN, the PAC, the PML, and the PUSC. A special chamber of the Supreme Court chooses an independent national election commission.