Origins of Democracy in Costa Rica and Nicaragua




Pottinger, David

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An incredible disparity exists between the current political state of affairs in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Costa Rica is a stable democracy with a high rate of development for its region, while Nicaragua is widely considered to be drifting towards authoritarianism and is one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. This begs the question: what could possibly account for this divide? After all, Costa Rica and Nicaragua share many aspects of culture and geography. Although the broadness of this question means that innumerable answers could be given, this thesis will attempt to demonstrate that a single factor primarily accounts for these differences: the contrasting outcomes of the “Liberal Reform” period (1821-1909) for the two nations. While Costa Rica began pursuing reforms early and gradually, and was largely free from foreign intervention, Nicaragua was repeatedly stymied in its efforts to modernize, both by internal strife and interference from the United States.



Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Democracy, Democratization