AD 1502: The Italian-born explorer in the service of the Spanish Crown, Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus) arrived in the country and named it Costa Rica (rich coast), after the gold and treasure that was rumoured to be found there. 1522: The Spanish army moved south and colonized the Meseta Central. Large numbers of the indigenous population succumbed to diseases such as smallpox and influenza, introduced by the Europeans. 1563: The city of Cartago was founded. 1570: Costa Rica was administered by the Captaincy-General of Guatemala. 1737: San José, the present-day capital of Costa Rica, was founded. 1808: Coffee began to be cultivated. 1821-23: The colony declared its independence from Spain and became incorporated into the newly-formed Mexican Empire. 1823: Costa Rica joined the United Provinces of Central America. 1838: Following the collapse of the Central American federation, the country became an independent republic. 1849-59: Under the dictatorship of J.Rafael Mora, coffee became the country’s major export. 1870-82: Following a bloodless coup d’état, a liberal government was formed under the leadership of Tomás Guardia. 1889: The first democratic elections were held under President Bernardo Soto. 1890: President Alfredo González was deposed by Federico Tinoco, who assumed the presidency under a new Constitution. The USA refused to recognize Tinoco’s revolutionary Government, however. Following a counter-revolution, Julio Acosta won a presidential election, and relations between the two countries were restored. March 1948: Presidential elections were characterized by violent protests, including a 15-day general strike. When the opposition candidate, Otilio Ulate Blanco, was declared victorious, the Government’s candidate, Rafael Angel Calderón Fournier, contested the result, which was eventually nullified. José Figueres Ferrer then led a revolt in support of Ulate. Santos León Ferrera was appointed interim President. May 1948: The Constitution was abolished and the socialist Figueres and his junta assumed control of the Government. January 1949: A new Constitution, which abolished the army, was formulated. November 1949: The junta relinquished power and Otilio Ulate was elected President. 1952: Figueres withdrew his support for Ulate and formed the Partido de Liberation Nacional (PLN). 1953: Figueres was elected President. 1958: The conservative candidate, Mario Echandi Jiménez, was victorious at presidential
1966: The conservative candidate José Joaquín Trejos Fernández, became President. 1970: Figueres was re-elected as President. 1974: Figueres’ successor, Daniel Oduber Quirós, took office as President. 1978: Rodrigo Carazo Odio of the conservative Partido Unidad Opositora (PUO) coalition (later the Coalición Unidad) was elected President. 1981: Odio was criticized for his alleged involvement in the illegal trafficking of arms between Cuba and El Salvador. 7 February 1982: Presidential elections resulted in victory for the PLN candidate, Luis Alberto Monge Alvarez. In concurrent legislative elections, the ruling conservative Coalition Unidad came second, obtaining 34% of votes cast; the PLN won a majority, securing 33 of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly (Asamblea Legislativa). May 1982: Monge’s administration took office and was confronted with domestic economic crises and external conflicts in the neighbouring regions, particularly Nicaragua. 1983: The President officially declared the country’s neutrality with regard to the conflict in Nicaragua. December 1984: Relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua deteriorated when the Government accused Nicaragua of violating international law, following an incident involving a Nicaraguan refugee at the Costa Rican embassy in Managua. Diplomatic relations were subsequently reduced to a minimum. February 1986: The PLN candidate, Oscar Arias Sánchez, won a presidential election. The PLN was also successful at legislative elections, held concurrently. Later that month, diplomatic relations with Nicaragua were restored. May 1986: President Arias announced his intention to pursue a policy of neutrality; none the less he also recognized the necessity of maintaining good relations with the USA, to ensure an influx of foreign aid. However, the US administration subsequently reduced aid to Costa Rica, a decision that was widely regarded as an attempt by the USA to coerce the Government into supporting the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary group, the Contras. August 1987: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua signed a peace accord proposed by President Arias (who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year). January 1988: President Arias organized the first meeting between Nicaraguan government officials and Contra leaders. August 1988: Internal unrest and strikes occurred as a result of the Government’s ‘Agriculture for Change’ policy, that promoted the cultivation of cash crops. 1989: Unrest increased as trade unions, professional bodies and civic groups united to demonstrate against the Government’s policies of structural adjustment. In September the Minister of Finance, Fernando Naranjo, resigned after his efforts to impose austerity measures were undermined by a budgetary deficit. Also in that month, a report by the Asamblea into the extent of drugs-trafficking implicated many political and business figures, including the former PLN President, Daniel Oduber Quirós, of involvement in
February 1990: Calderón Fournier, of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC), was victorious at presidential elections. The PUSC also secured a majority in the Asamblea. 1993: Social and political tensions arose owing to the Government’s privatization programme and reductions in expenditure in education and in the public health sector. Measures including the privatization of the telecommunications and health sectors, and of the state petroleum company, Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope), were opposed by the PNL. 6 February 1994: José María Figueres Olsen, the son of José Figueres Ferrer, was elected as President and pledged to eradicate poverty. March 1994: The Government signed a free-trade agreement with Mexico, which granted approximately 86% of Costa Rican exports duty-free access to the Mexican market. April 1995: The Government made an agreement with the opposition PUSC to ensure the implementation of tax increases and austerity measures. Relations with Nicaragua were again strained following allegations that a group of illegal Nicaraguan immigrants had been violently expelled from Costa Rica. 1996: Social unrest led to the suspension of plans to privatize the energy and telecommunications sectors. Figueres’ popularity decreased dramatically as living standards declined, taxes increased, and social expenditure was significantly reduced. 1997: Despite an improvement in economic conditions, President Figueres’ popularity did not recover and deep divisions appeared within the PLN. 1 February 1998: Presidential elections resulted in victory for the PUSC candidate, Miguel Angel Rodríguez Echevarría, who received 46.9% of votes cast, thereby narrowly defeating the PLN candidate, José Miguel Corrales Bolaños. The PUSC failed to obtain an outright majority in the legislature, securing 27 of a total 57 seats in the Asamblea; the PLN won 23, the coalition Fuerza Democrática (FD) three, the Partido Movimiento Libertario (PML) two, and the Partido Integratión Nacional (PIN) and the Partido Action Laborista Agrícola (PALA) both secured one seat. July 1998: Relations with Nicaragua further deteriorated when Nicaragua prohibited Costa Rican civil guards from carrying arms while navigating the San Juan river, which forms the border between the two countries. February 1999: A six-month amnesty was declared for all illegal Nicaraguan immigrants who had entered Costa Rica prior to November 1998. March 2000: Arias campaigned for a constitutional amendment to enable him to stand in the 2002 presidential elections. However the amendment did not receive the support of the PUSC, and Arias subsequently lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court. April 2000: Popular protests forced the Government to withdraw legislation opening the energy and telecommunications industries to private investment. The Supreme Court rejected the proposed law on procedural grounds. June 2000: The Government’s dispute with the Nicaraguan Government regarding the San Juan river appeared to have been resolved when both countries agreed a procedure that would allow armed Costa Rican police officers to patrol the river. f
US $25 charge for Costa Ricans using the San Juan river. June 2001: A constitutional reform commission was appointed by President Rodríguez to determine the changes required to convert the current presidential system of government into a semi-parliamentary one. July 2001: A dispute arose with Nicaragua over a wall constructed on the frontier between the two countries, used for the control of border traffic.