Discovered by Columbus in 1502 on his last voyage, Costa Rica (Rich Coast) was part of the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain from 1540 and was thought to be rich in gold. Costa Rica became independent of Spain in 1821. From 1822 to 1823 it was part of Mexico and then part of the Central American Federation until 1838 when it left this confederation and achieved full independence. The first constitution was promulgated on 7 Dec. 1871. Coffee was introduced in 1808 and became a mainstay of the economy, helping to create a peasant land-owning class. Bananas, another important crop, were introduced in 1878. In 1917 Federico Tinoco overthrew the elected president but the USA intervened and Tinoco was deposed in 1919. In 1948 accusations of election fraud led to a 6-week civil war, at the conclusion of which José Figueres Ferrer won power at the head of a revolutionary junta. A new constitution was promulgated with, amongst other changes, the abolition of the army. Ferrer, the founder and leader of the Partido de Liberation National (PLN), became the elected president from 1953 to 1958 and again in 1970–74. More conservative governments held office between Ferrer’s 2 presidencies and again after Ferrer’s PLN successor’s single 4-year term. In 1982 the PLN candidate, Luis Alberto Monge, was elected president.
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