Liberalizem arrives to Costa Rica


The 1880's saw an increasing split between a traditional, conservative church and a liberalizing state. The bishop of Costa Rica criticized the European ideas that were becoming popular with the elite and the politicians. The bishop was expelled from the country in 1884, and in 1885 there was an official denouncement of an earlier church-state concord that declared Catholicism the state religion. Public outcry at the government's treatment of the church was minimal.

The first truly democratic election characterized by real public participation was in 1889. Liberals saw it as the fruit of their efforts to educate and raise democratic consciousness in the people. In fact, their efforts worked so well that the public gave their overwhelming support to the liberals' opposition. Supporters of the liberals threatened not to recognize the new president, so 10,000 armed opposition members flooded the streets of San Jose . The liberals then demonstrated their firm commitment to democracy by recognizing the new, rightfully elected president.

Costa Rica 's democratic tradition has endured until today with only a few exceptions. One was in 1917, when the Minister of War and the Navy, Federico Tinoco , overthrew an unpopular president. Tinoco's brutal and repressive dictatorship lasted through 30 months of widespread opposition. ally Tinoco fled the country. A provisional president held for a year until normality was reached, and Costa Rica resumed its democratic tradition with a fair presidential election.

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