Catholicism is a state religion in Costa Rica, but since 2004 the Catholic Church no longer receives any direct government grants. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the Constitution and it is also respected.
The Catholics are in the clear majority, but the Costa Ricans are quite secularized compared to the residents of many of the neighboring countries. Just under half identify themselves as practicing Catholics and a quarter as non-believing Catholics.
A large number of other Christian churches are represented in Costa Rica and there are also smaller groups practicing other religions. The indigenous people often practice traditional religion in parallel with Catholicism.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Costa Rica, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
First same-sex marriage
The first same-sex marriage is made when two women get married, in a ceremony shown on Costa Rican TV. Same-sex marriage became a fact when the Constitutional Court ruled that a ban on marriage between two people of the same sex violates the Constitution and is discriminatory (see August 2018). Costa Rica is the first country in Central America to allow same-sex marriage, but they are allowed in parts of Mexico and in five South American countries. In Costa Rica, several religious groups and over 20 members of Parliament have tried to delay the change of law.
Huge cocaine seizure in Limón
Police make the largest drug seizure to date in Costa Rica, when more than five tonnes of cocaine are found in 202 suitcases hidden among cut flowers in a container in Limón. The container was on its way to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. A 46-year-old Costa Rican is arrested in connection with the seizure. Drugs from South America on their way to Europe are often shipped via Central America.
Protest against travel warning
7 th of January
Foreign Minister Manuel Ventura protests “vigorously” against the US issuing a travel warning for US tourists intending to visit Costa Rica, due to the crime risk. The protest will since the US changed the status of Costa Rica from levels 1 to 2 on a 4-degree scale, where 4 means a direct recommendation from visits to a country. In Costa Rica, tourists risk being exposed to petty crime, but armed robbery, murder and sexual violence also occur, the US Department of Foreign Affairs writes. Of the more than 3 million tourists who visited Costa Rica in 2019, 1.2 million were Americans.
Sex charges against ex-president
A storm is blowing around the 78-year-old former president and peace warden Óscar Arias Sánchez, who is regarded as one of Latin America’s most influential and respected politicians. A female psychiatrist reports to him in court for a sexual abuse that should have been committed in 2014. Three other women shortly appear and accuse him, too, of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior. Arias was President 1986-90 and 2006-2010, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 (see Modern History).
LGBTQ rights are strengthened
President Alvarador writes for a number of decrees that strengthen LGBTQ -personers rights. Among other things, same-sex couples get the right to housing subsidies, and transsexuals are given the opportunity for hormone treatment in the state healthcare system. However, the changes do not touch on the most pressing issue – the ban on same-sex marriage. In August, the Supreme Court ordered the country’s parliament to legalize same-sex marriage within 18 months.
“Same-sex marriage must become law”
The Supreme Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination in violation of the Constitution, and gives the Legislative Assembly 18 months to change the law. The decision follows the opinion of the All-American Human Rights Court at the beginning of the year. President Carlos Alvarado welcomes the message.
Efforts against the budget deficit
President Alvarado issues decrees which include, among other things, freezing wages. Plans are also in place for lay-offs and lowered public relations costs and trips for civil servants. The government is also trying to broaden the VAT rate of 13 percent to include more goods and services. The purpose is to try to cope with the large budget deficit and the growing government debt.
Carlos Alvarado takes over as president
Carlos Alvarado Quesada takes over as president and, with his 38 years, becomes Latin America’s youngest head of state. He says in his inaugural speech that Costa Rica will be one of the world’s first fossil-free countries, if not the very first. Alvarado has already presented its government and Costa Rica now gets more female ministers for the first time than male: 14 against 11. One of them, Epsy Campbell, becomes the country’s first female foreign minister and is also the first black vice president in Latin America.
PAC’s Alvarado wins the presidential election
Carlos Alvarado, candidate for PAC, wins the second round of the presidential election with 61 percent of the vote against PRN’s Fabricio Alvarado, who gets 39 percent. The turnout is 67 percent.
Evangelist wins first round
The first round of the presidential election results in a dramatically different result than expected during most of the electoral movement. Most votes, close to 25 percent, get Fabricio Alvarado from the conservative Christian National Restoration Party (PRN) who became a name to count on just a few weeks before the election. Alvarado, who holds the PRN’s only seat in the Legislative Assembly, says that the upswing is due to his opposition to a ruling in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR)) in support of same-sex marriage in Latin America. He is placed in the second round against Carlos Alvarado, who belongs to the outgoing president’s party Citizens’ Action (PAC) and who gets just under 22 percent. The two are not related. Carlos Alvarado’s strong performance is also unexpected; three other candidates have consistently performed better in opinion polls (see October 2017). For the National Liberation Party (PLN), this is the first time the party has not moved on to a second round of elections. In the parliamentary elections, the PLN gets 17 seats, PRN 14 and PAC 10, while the Christian Social Unity Party (Pusc) gets 9, the National Integration Party (PIN) 4 and the remaining 3 seats go to two smaller parties.
UN court decides boundary dispute
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is moving the border offshore between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, off both coasts. Furthermore, the ICJ orders Nicaragua to demolish a military camp near the San Juan border and to pay damages for environmental destruction in the area. However, the sum of $ 380,000 is significantly lower than the $ 6.7 million requested by Costa Rica. Both parties say they are satisfied with the outcome (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).