Costa Rica is one of those countries which many people have heard of very few people could find on a map of the world. It has a reputation as a somewhat quiet and reserved nation, two elements which have perhaps led to an improvement and significant growth in the tourism industry over the last few years. But is Costa Rica safe and does it need a military partner?
Protecting the family jewels
The financial situation in Costa Rica has been very volatile to say the least with the current government left to pick up the pieces of a disastrous term for the last president. Prior to this the country enjoyed something of an economic boom due to significant investment over the last few years into the public sector, education and the economy. However, there are some who are growing more and more concerned about the ability of Costa Rica to defend itself from its warring neighbours such as Nicaraguan. So is peace about to be broken around Costa Rica?
Despite the fact that the South American economy as a whole has improved dramatically over the last 10 or 20 years and is seen by many as the economic powerhouse of the future, there is some friction between member states. While Costa Rica has an image as a very peaceful and very welcoming nation there have been issues with neighbouring Nicaragua and other countries in the region. It seems that Nicaraguan in particular feels the need to flex its muscles on a regular basis to show who is “boss” and this is starting to become an issue for some of the Costa Rican population.
The country needs to improve the economy after the difficult period prior to the current government but in order to do this it needs to have some form of calm and stability. The ongoing issues with the current Nicaraguan government, and its fellow allies, have hit the headlines over the last few months and there are growing concerns that this will put off a number of overseas investors in the short to medium term. Whether this is actually the case at the moment remains to be seen but there is no doubt that if Nicaraguan continues to encourage friction in and around the region this will have nothing but a detrimental impact upon neighbouring economies.
Costa Rica has had to adapt and grow its economy over the last 20 years or so to improve not only the lives of the Costa Rican population but also to attract overseas investment. However, the voices of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Iran are growing ever louder in the region as these three countries continue to talk down capitalism and think of ways to grab further control and influence not only in their own countries but in the region as a whole.
Many people believe that this ongoing hatred of the capitalist movement is behind the friction between the likes of Nicaraguan and Costa Rica even if much of this is one-sided. Costa Rica itself is officially ranked as the 44th freest country in the world and continues to attract overseas investment on an ongoing basis. However, there are concerns that the position and strength of Costa Rica and its authorities is fragile with warring factions surrounding the country and ongoing threats of military action.
What happened to the Costa Rican army?
Many people will be astounded to learn that Costa Rica does not actually have its own army therefore if Nicaraguan was to attempt a potential land-grab along the border then the Costa Rican authorities would need to take the diplomacy route to settle any dispute. While the likes of the US would likely get involved in some way, it is worth noting that oil is very much the lifeblood of Venezuela and something which has for many years attracted the attention and the love of the US government. Would the US authorities really take the side of Costa Rica in what many would see as a local dispute with Nicaragua and risk further political turmoil?
Are the Costa Rican authorities investing enough in the economy?
As many countries around the world continue to juggle their budgets and introduce austerity measures this does not seem to be an issue in Costa Rica. A massive 23% of government spending is injected into the education system and this has led to a literacy rate of 96% for the population. This is an absolutely astounding result although it has come at a price with a further 23% of Costa Rican government revenue needed to finance significant debt built up in years gone by.
The Costa Rican health service has also attracted more than its fair share of attention from those in the region and an estimated 200,000 Nicaraguans have illegally entered the country to take advantage of free healthcare. There is also some friction between those with money and those without money in Costa Rica with personal safety and protection of property very much on the agenda for those in the more luxurious areas of the country.
Will Costa Rica eventually fall?
It is highly unlikely that any of the surrounding countries would attempt some form of military action to grab land back from Costa Rica but we may see diplomatic efforts from the likes of Nicaraguan, together with a flexing of their military muscle, to grab some of the country’s natural resources. Therefore the Costa Rica that we see today is unlikely to change materially in the short, medium and longer term but the authorities will need to potentially look at beefing up its defence systems in the medium to longer term.
It is estimated that up to 200,000 Nicaraguans recently entered Costa Rica illegally, although this may turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, and the government will need to look at border controls at some stage. Looking to the future there is no doubt that Costa Rica will continue to rely upon overseas investment, tourism and overseas visitors. Hopefully as and when friction between neighbouring countries starts to fade we should see investors returning to this particular area of the world.