Discovered by Columbus in 1502 on his last voyage, Costa Rica (Rich Coast) was part of the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain from 1540 to 1821. It was part of the Central American Federation until 1838 when it achieved full independence. Coffee was introduced in 1808 and became a mainstay of the economy, helping to create a peasant land-owning class. 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. In 1986 Oscar Arias Sánchez was elected president. He promised to prevent Nicaraguan anti-Sandinista (contra) forces using Costa Rica as a base. In 1987 he received the Nobel Peace Prize as recognition of his Central American peace plan, agreed to by the other Central American states. Costa Rica was beset with economic problems in the early 1990s when several politicians, including President Calderón, were accused of profiting from drug trafficking.
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