"Costa Rica is a politically stable Central American nation with a relatively well-developed economy. Former president (1986-1990) and Nobel-laureate Oscar Arias of the historically center-left National Liberation Party was elected President in 2006. Throughout his term, Arias has advanced so-called 'third-way' policies, embracing his party's traditional support for social welfare programs while rejecting state-led development in favor of market-oriented economic policies. Considerable economic growth and social protection programs have provided Costa Rica's citizens with a relatively high standard of living, however, conditions have deteriorated recently as a result of the global financial crisis and U.S. recession. Although Costa Rica's economy contracted and poverty increased in 2009, analysts believe President Arias' ambitious fiscal stimulus and social protection plan and improving global economic conditions should aid recovery in 2010. On February 7, 2010, former Vice President Laura Chinchilla (2006-2008) of the ruling National Liberation Party was elected president, easily defeating her competitors. Chinchilla, who is closely tied to President Arias and the centrist faction of her party, will be Costa Rica's first female president. Throughout the campaign, Chinchilla pledged to maintain the Arias Administration's economic and social welfare policies while improving public security. She will need to form cross-party alliances to implement her policy agenda, however, as her party will lack a majority in Costa Rica's unicameral National Assembly. Chinchilla and the new legislature are scheduled to take office in May 2010. […] This report examines recent political and economic developments in Costa Rica as well as issues in U.S.-Costa Rica relations. For additional information, see CRS [Congressional Research Service] Report RL31870, 'The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)', by J. F. Hornbeck and CRS Report R40135, 'Mérida Initiative for Mexico and Central America: Funding and Policy Issues', by Clare Ribando Seelke."
CRS Report for Congress, R40593
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