The Number 1 Democracy in Latin America
Among other firsts in Latin America, Costa Rica was the first to establish free and compulsory grammar and high school state education (in 1869) and the first and only one to abolish the army (in 1949). Costa Ricans considered it was wiser to spend money on more schools and education than on guns and soldiers, something which its Central American sister countries have always rejected. Today Costa Rica has 60 private and 4 state universities many which have branches in some of the larger cities.
It might be well to mention here that regarding the absence of arms and an army on one occasion in the 1960s for the arrival of a president from a South American country, the Costa Rican Government asked Panama to lend it one of its cannons for a couple of days so it could give the visiting dignitary a twenty-one cannon salute. The loan was made, the cannon was fired and returned, and everyone remained happy. Today foreign dignitaries are not greeted by firing a cannon salute, but. by rows of children waving flags.
This policy of emphasis on education has been paying off since as a result the country has acquired a reputation of having a well-educated labour force which in turn has been attracting new important technological investments by foreign firms particularly in the computer software, health and service fields. To establish themselves firms generally look for a politically stable place where much of its population has English as a second language and can handle it fairly well besides possessing computer skills.
For more than a hundred years Costa Rica has been known internationally for welcoming political refugees and others who have been persecuted in other countries. Exile is granted only after the government has made a careful study of each case and the results indicate that the request justifies acceptance.
Early in the year 2000, Costa Rica, through its Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court), was the first country to vote against allowing fertilization in vitro (artificial insemination of humans) and introduce it into its Constitution, thus proclaiming the nation's strong pro-life policy.
Another first was obtained when in September 2002, President Abel Pacheco de la Espriella signed environmental guarantees to be included in the country's constitution which, if approved by the Legislative Assembly, would make Costa Rica the first to give constitutional stature to its already existing social guarantees. Through this law, the defence of nature is given top priority and the government is obligated to defend all of its natural resources and the environment and to use them in an adequate form, always with the public interest in mind. Through this action, Costa Rica once again offers the world a good blueprint to follow.