Chapter 8: Costa Rica: tipping points and an incomplete journey
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This chapter tracks Costa Rica’s long transition from a particularistic to a universal ethical society using a process-tracing methodology. It argues that the origins of Costa Rica’s success began in the early 20th century, followed by three subsequent tipping points that resulted in limiting opportunities for corruption. Each of these tipping points enhanced corruption-free governance through the devolution of political power across the branches of government; the decoupling of the executive branch’s control over state accountability agencies; the creation of new agencies whose actions expanded the anti-corruption capacity of state agencies; and the remove of legal impediments on the media to investigate and publish stories about corrupt officials. It details the central role of the media in the most recent period as a public watchdog investigating and reporting on many cases of apparent corruption by public officials. It also identifies many recent cases where the media (traditional and internet-based) initiated investigations into corruption before the state’s official anti-corruption agencies investigated and prosecuted them. The analysis draws on primary research and interviews with former and current public officials, magistrates, historians, and investigators.

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