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Every four years Costa Rica gives a lesson of democracy to the world. Since 1889, this small country has shown to have a collective mentality that ensures popular representation and considers electoral freedom as a sacred right. Just two days before the elections in Costa Rica, today we celebrate our democracy on our blog.

Presidential Debate - Elections in Costa Rica

The debates allow the citizens to make and informed decision. Image by

Latin America


Dictatorships and civil wars have been a constant in the history of Latin America since the end of the colony.  The “new” independent countries have fought for almost 200 years in a search for political stability that has not arrived.


In the 19th century, we find dictatorships in Venezuela with José Antonio Páez, in Mexico with Porfirio Díaz and in the Dominican Republic with Ulises Heureaux.


With the beginning of the 20th century, a long history of violence and long periods of abuse of power arrived to stay. Almost, every single country of Latin America except for Costa Rica, Jamaica and Belize have suffered from a dictatorship and some remain in power. Every day, we are shocked by the news about Venezuela and its great violations of democracy and human rights. Cuba and Fidel Castro cannot be left out, who although passed away, his legacy is alive by his brother Raúl.


Many atrocities tarnish the history of the countries of Latin America, marked by abuses of power and blood as with Pinochet in Chile, Videla in Argentina or Fujimori in Peru. Many are the names that can be mentioned, but we will note as we did not come to exalt those names today, but to remember some as an example of what we do not want in the region anymore.


Some history of democracy in Costa Rica


In this sad context, we place Costa Rica, our small country that although facing many challenges, can proudly hold the title of being the oldest democracy in Latin America.


Although universal suffrage was instituted in the country until 1913, history goes back to the year 1889, moment that frames the first time the people of Costa Rica demands respect for the popular will.  But before telling you about the events that occurred on that date, we will go back a few years to two events that propitiated the conditions for this to happen.


At this time, the elections in Costa Rica were indirect and restricted to certain people with a specific level of education. However, remember that the majority of the population was illiterate.


Only a couple of decades after Costa Rica finally declares itself a sovereign, free and independent Republic, an educational reform was signed in 1869.  This reform envisages a path that has led Costa Rica to achieve what many more powerful nations have not achieved: peace and a deep respect for democracy. And, that path has been the path of education.


In 1886, the general law of common education was enacted, allowing the structuring of education in grades and emphasizing that education should be comprehensive allowing a moral, intellectual and physical development. In this way, important schools and colleges were opened in the country, forcing the recruitment of illustrious European professors, bringing with them liberal ideals.


These educational reforms created a scenario that fostered social mobility, a civic culture and a democratic conscience.


By the year 1889, the country was facing the process of electing a new president. In this year participated: Mr. Ascención Esquivel for the official party and Mr. José Joaquín Rodríguez, for the opposition. The story tells that the people will choose in its indirect vote a majority of representatives of the opposition party giving the victory to Mr. Rodríguez. The defeat was not recognized by the government, so 7,000 Costa Ricans took the streets to demand respect for the popular election. Finally, and after the confrontation in the streets between both sides, the president ordered to recognize Rodriguez as his successor.

Woman exercising her right to secret vote - Elections in Costa Rica

The right of a secret vote was instituted in Costa Rica between the years of 1925 and 1927. Image by Periódico Hoy

After these events, there were still some frauds in the elections in Costa Rica and some presidents were also overthrown by force, especially when the classes in power were being attacked by new laws and taxes that did not favor them. However, this fact constitutes the consolidation of the democratic right in the culture of the country.


As a consequence of this Costa Rican quest for electoral transparency, the Civil War takes place in 1948, when the forces of the people rise up against an election considered fraudulent. After 44 days, the war ends and the Founding Board of the Second Republic is created. This Board creates the Political Constitution of 1949 in which universal suffrage is decreed and the standing army is abolished.



How is a day of Elections in Costa Rica?


The elections in Costa Rica are intense.  In the past, our grandparents filled the streets with flags and large political demonstrations, but always in peace.  Nowadays, social media dethrone public demonstrations becoming the main political vehicle.


Although the passion has generated discussions in all the walls of Facebook of our citizens, the elections in Costa Rica are experienced as a party.  In few countries of the world, you will vote with total peace of mind without seeing armed forces in the streets. While the heat of the moment may generate an enmity, we cannot fail to celebrate that in more than 65 years the will of the people has always been respected.

Costa Rica Elections - celebrating elections

People from different political parties celebrating together on the streets of San José. Image by

We can see in the streets people walking side by side with different flags, without any type of aggression or violence. Delegates from all over the world visit our country to witness this valuable process.



We invite you to visit Costa Rica and stay with us during an electoral process, and so you can value our history with us. Jose Maria Sanguinetti, former president of Uruguay said “Wherever there is a Costa Rican, no matter where he is, there will always be freedom”, and this fills us with pride. Contact us or tell us if you have had this experience.


Featured image by amprensa