The Costa Rican Constitution by Numbers
A few days ago I was having a chat in a Facebook Group with this fellow who we are going to call Pete. The subject was the tax on luxury properties in Costa Rica, and something
A few days ago I was having a chat in a Facebook Group with this fellow who we are going to call Pete. The subject was the tax on luxury properties in Costa Rica, and something interesting happened.
Let’s start with the tax itself. On November 2008, the Costa Rican Congress passed a law which taxes “luxury properties” to support the construction of affordable housing. The name of the law is “Solidarity Tax to Strengthen Housing Programs”.
The purpose of the law is to tax properties above certain value (the minimum threshold is about $200,000 USD), and the money collected in taxes is used in low income housing.
Moving back to the conversation, Pete commented that “the government’s decision to tax certain people with a certain amount of money is rather socialistic”. Pete mentioned this with a sense of disapproval of the “socialistic behavior” of the government. I replied by asking “Did you know that Costa Rica is a socialist country?” Then Pete pulled out the first google result he could find showing me that according to the Economist, Costa Rica is a Democracy, to which I rebutted: “A democracy can be socialistic, socialism is not tantamount to autocracy”. Big sigh!
Part of me wonders to what degree people in general do not understand the various types of government, but then I forget that I am an attorney educated in two different countries and a book worm, so it is not fair for me to judge people on what they should know or don’t know. I think the best I can do is to educate people to the best of my ability, but it is a great challenge in a time where people are into “un-schooling” their children by only teaching them their own beliefs.
I will not digress into political systems, we can review that boring subject later, but today I would like to tell you a little bit about the Costa Rican Constitution, I think you will find it interesting.
The CR Constitution has 114 Articles. To put in perspective, the US Constitution has seven articles and if we add the 10 Amendments, that will amount to 17 articles or sections in total.
The word social appears 25 times in the document regulating matters related to “social guarantees“, health care, education and family.
The term education appears 18 times and there is a whole section with 13 articles addressing matters related to education and culture.
Section 78 of the Constitution, establishes the following levels of education as mandatory: preschool, basic general and diversified (this means elementary, middle school and high school).
The environment is mentioned twice. The first time is mentioned in Article 50, which is the first article of Title V, which refers to the Rights of People and Social Guarantees.
Section 50 says that “The State will procure the wellbeing of all inhabitants of the country, organizing and stimulating production with the most adequate distribution of wealth. All people have the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. […]” In this section the Constitution sets forth as a right to have a clean environment.
Well, if you did not know, Costa Rica is officially a Catholic country, and religion is mentioned nine times in the constitution. The CR government pays taxes to the Church, yeah, your tax money goes to the Pope.
Costa Rica does not have three branches of government, it has four. Are you worried about the election being stolen? Well, do not put politicians in charge of it. The Constitution created an independent branch called Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) or Board of Elections. They are responsible for issuing the National ID called cedula. Cedulas are free, you do not need to know how to read and write to have a cedula, and you can get it regardless of the color of your skin. By the way, election day is a national holiday with mandatory pay, so people have the freedom to go vote without losing their jobs.
The word army is mentioned twice. First, to abolish it in Article 12, and then in Article 147 granting powers to Congress to enlist an army, should it be necessary.
Costa Rica has had seven Constitutions, if we do not include the Constitution of Cadiz. Let’s remember that prior to the independence in 1821, CR was part of the Spanish Empire, which produced its first Constitution in 1812 in Cadiz, Spain. Subsequently, through the formative periods of the Central American Federation up until the Civil War of 1948, Costa Rica had a total of seven Constitutions.
Since 1949, the Constitution has had numerous amendments, one of the latest being in 2015 where Article 1 was modified to state that “Costa Rica is a multi-ethnic and pluricultural democratic republic.”
Welcome to your new home. And yes, it is socialist too, so go pay your taxes to help the poor.