Latin America & Caribbean

Costa Rica profile - Timeline

A chronology of key events:

1502 - Christopher Columbus visits the area, naming it Costa Rica, (Rich Coast), but disease and resistance by the local population delay the establishment of a permanent settlement for nearly 60 years.

1540 onwards - Costa Rica is part of the vice-royalty of New Spain.

1561 - Spain's Juan de Cavallon leads the first successful colonisers into Costa Rica.

1808 - Coffee is introduced into Costa Rica from Cuba and becomes the principal crop.

1821 - Central America gains independence from Spain. A dispute ensues over whether Costa Rica should join an independent Mexico or a confederation of Central American states.

1823 - Costa Rica joins the United Provinces of Central America, which also embraces El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

1824-25 - Province of Guanacaste secedes from Nicaragua and becomes part of Costa Rica.


1838 - Costa Rica becomes fully independent.

1849-59 - Under the leadership of Juan Rafael Mora, Costa Rica takes the lead in organising Central American resistance against William Walker, the US adventurer who took over Nicaragua in 1855.

1859 - Mora ousted in a bloodless coup.

1870-82 - Under the leadership of Tomas Guardia Costa Rica encourages intensive foreign investment in railways.

1874 - US businessman Minor Cooper Keith introduces banana cultivation and starts the United Fruit Company.

1917 - Frederico Tinoco ousts the elected president, Alfredo Gonzalez, but is himself deposed two years later.

Socialism and civil war

1940-44 - President Rafael Angel Calderon Guradia, founder of the United Christian Socialist Party (PUSC), introduces liberal reforms, including recognition of workers' rights and minimum wages.

1948 - Six-week civil war over a disputed presidential election result.

1949 - New constitution gives women and people of African descent the right to vote; armed forces abolished and replaced by civil guard; Jose Figueres Ferrer, co-founder of National Liberation Party (PLN), elected president and begins ambitious socialist programme, including introducing a social security system and nationalising banks.

1958-73 - Costa Rica governed by mainly conservative administrations.

1963-64 - Irazu volcano erupts, causing serious damage to agriculture.

1968 - Arenal volcano erupts, causing many casualties.

1974 - Daniel Oduber (PLN) elected president and pursues socialist policies.

Conservatism and economic deterioration

1978 - Rodrigo Carazo, a conservative, elected president amid a sharp deterioration in the economy.

1982 - Luis Alberto Monge (PLN) elected president and introduces harsh austerity programme. Meanwhile, Costa Rica comes under pressure from the US to weigh in against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

1985 - US-trained anti-guerrilla force begins operating following clashes with Sandinista troops.

1986 - Oscar Arias Sanchez (PLN) elected president on a neutral platform.

1987 - Leaders of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras sign peace plan devised by Oscar Arias Sanchez, who in turn wins the Nobel Peace Prize for the plan.

1990 - Rafael Calderon, of the centrist PUSC, elected president.

1994 - Jose Maria Figueres Olsen (PLN) elected president.

1998 - Miguel Angel Rodriguez (PUSC) elected president.

2000 - President Rodriguez and his Nicaraguan counterpart resolve long-standing dispute over navigation along San Juan river, which serves as their border.

2002 April - Abel Pacheco of the ruling Social Christian Unity Party wins a comfortable 58% of the vote in the second round of presidential elections.

2003 May - Energy and telecommunications workers strike over President Pacheco's privatisation plans; teachers strike over problems in paying their salaries. Strikes prompt three ministers to resign.

2004 July - Three Chilean diplomats are killed by a security guard at their embassy in San Jose.


2004 October - Mounting concern over corruption as three former presidents - Jose Maria Figueres, Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Rafael Angel Calderon - are investigated over contractor payments.

2005 January - National emergency declared as days of heavy rain lead to serious flooding along the Caribbean coast.

2006 February-March - Presidential election ends in a neck-and-neck race between Oscar Arias and Otton Solis. Mr Solis concedes defeat after a manual count and legal challenges.

2006 October - Two-day public workers strike is held in protest at proposed free trade deal with the US.

2007 May - Government says Costa Rica on course to become first voluntarily "carbon neutral" country.

2007 June - Costa Rica switches diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China in a bid to attract Chinese investment.

2007 October - National referendum narrowly decides in favour of ratifying the Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta).

2008 November - Chinese President Hu Jintao makes highest-level visit by a Chinese official since Costa Rica ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2007.

2009 March - President Arias says Costa Rica to re-establish ties with Cuba, 48 years after they broken off in 1961.

2009 October - Former president Rafael Angel Calderon is sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of corruption.

First woman president

2010 February - Costa Rica elects first woman president, Laura Chinchilla, who takes office in May.

2011 March - UN International Court of Justice orders Nicaragua and Costa Rica to keep troops back from a disputed river border.

2012 September - A powerful earthquake kills two people in the Nicoya peninsula west of San Jose, coinciding with the eruption of the San Cristobal volcano in neighbouring Nicaragua.

2013 May - Costa Rica-based Liberty Reserve, considered to be the world's biggest online currency exchange, is shut down after its founder is arrested on suspicion of money-laundering.

2014 April - Luis Guillermo Solis wins presidential election.

2014 August - The government says it will investigate undercover US programmes to destabilise Cuba allegedly operated from Costa RIca and using its citizens.