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Government & Democracy
Organized armed forces were abolished in 1948, allowing the government to boost expenditures in social security and education. As a result, Costa Rica has held elections for the three government branches – executive, legislative and municipal – every four years, on the first Sunday in February. February 4, 2006 will be the date of the next elections—a celebration of the country’s democratic traditions.

Costa Rica is a republic, and became independent from Spain through a bloodless process in 1821. Independence Day is commemorated annually on September 15 with parades and celebrations throughout the country.

Elected presidents serve a four-year term, and can only be re-elected eight years after leaving office. A 57-member multi-party congress serves the same four-year term, and members of congress or diputados are forbidden to serve consecutive terms. Costa Rican law mandates that women fill a minimum of 40% of congressional seats.

The judicial branch of the government is in charge of implementing the country’s laws and constitution. It is designed after Roman law, where judges are responsible for leading all processes and making all decisions. No juries are appointed in the legal process in Costa Rica. There are several chambers or salas within the judicial system, with the Sala Cuarta or Constitutional Chamber being responsible for solving constitutional issues. The Electoral Tribunal or Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones is the country’s fourth power and oversees the electoral process.

In the 2002 elections, a traditional bipartisan political process gave way to a pluralistic system. The country is undergoing significant changes in its political structure, with the participation of new parties and emergence of new leaders representing a wide spectrum of political viewpoints. In 1987, then President Oscar Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, due in large part to the Costa Rican democratic system.
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The sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is a felony in Costa Rica and is punishable with jail time