Settled by Spain in 1522, Costa Rica remained under Spanish control for three centuries before declaring its independence from Spain along with other Central American provinces in 1821. The Central American Federation, created by the newly independent provinces, was soon interrupted by border disputes. Costa Rica formally withdrew from the Federation in 1838, declaring its sovereignty. In 1899, the country became a democracy, holding what were considered to be its first truly free elections. This peaceful democracy was only disrupted twice, being controlled by a dictator from 1917 to 1919 and experiencing an uprising in 1948 due to a disputed presidential election. While this civil war lasted only several weeks, it was the bloodiest in recent Costa Rican history, leaving over 2,000 dead. Since drafting its new constitution in 1953, the country has held 13 democratic elections, most recently in 2002.



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