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Costa Rican legislative behavior in perspective,

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Costa Rican legislative behavior in perspective,
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Costa Rican legislative behavior in perspective,
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Baker, Christopher E.
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Business executives ( jstor )
Executive branch ( jstor )
Interest groups ( jstor )
Legislature ( jstor )
National politics ( jstor )
Political candidates ( jstor )
Political parties ( jstor )
Political power ( jstor )
Political systems ( jstor )
Voting ( jstor )

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COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR IN PERSPECTIVE


By

Christopher I. Dake.



















A D)IS.: i. _T* ON PREc '.:. ;. ) TO TE C A[.TL Cb.,. "1,_ OF
THE .UNIVERSITY OF FLO.ID A1 TI PA.RTJ'L 1ULFILL'.ENT
OF THE RE7C. .' :TS CR E 'GREE
DOCTOR C' :fI[;[LOSOPH.i





IiNIVEP.ST1 TY OF F'LCR3ID>'
r. ,i T.9




































To Jane, Lisa, Jon, and Jessie
Je s_.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


In early February of 1968, I departed for Costa Rica

to undertake the research for this study, made possible by

a NDFL Title VI Fellowship and a Ford Foundation research

support grant administered by the Center for Latin American

Studies of the University of Florida. Since that time I

have received the support of numerous persons who have

taken an interest in my work.

The deputies and administrative staff of the Costa Rican

Legislative Assembly opened doors which could easily have

been shut. The reporters at the Assembly offered both

insight and friendship. Professor Andr6s Suarez, chairman

of my committee, and Professor Eric N. Uslaner provided

valuable critiques of my work. Weston H. Agor, Carlos Jos4

Gutierrez, Allan Kornberg, Samuel Z. Stone, and Fernando

Volio Jim6nez also read earlier drafts of this study and

provided suggestions which have helped to improve it. The

facilities of the Computer Center of the University of

Florida were made available for data processing. And

Mrs. Sue Kirkpatrick showed both patience and understanding

in undertaking the typing of the study. To these people

I express my sincere appreciation; shortcomings in inter-

pretlation and presntat ion should, naturally, notl be

attributed to them.











In Costa Rica the friendship of many helped to sustain

my efforts to bring this study to fruition. At home, the

moral and editorial support provided by my parents has been

of inestimable value. But it is to my wife and children

that I owe my greatest gratitude. It is to them, who have

given far more than they have received for seemingly endless

years, that I dedicate this study.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . .

LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . .

INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . .

CHAPTER

I. THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND SYSTEMIC
DECISION-MAKING . . . . . . .

General Characteristics of the Legislative


Sub-System . . . .
Power of Initiative . . .
Power of Enactment . . .
Power of Ratification . . .
Power of Appointmnt ....
Power of Investigation . .
Miscellaneous and Latent Powers
Surmmary and Conclusions . .


II. THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT . .

General Overview . . . .
The Judicial Branch .. ...
The Executive Branch . . .
The Autonomous Institutions .
Summary and Conclusions . .

III. THE POLITICAL CONTEXT . . .

The Political Party System .


Legislative Party Caucuses and External
Party Leaders . . . . . .
Summary and Conclusions . . . .


Page

iii

viii


. . 15
. . . 18
. . . 21
. . 26
. . 28
. . 29
. . . 31
.. 33

. . 40


S 41
S 43
S 45
59
62


. . 67


75
90


t I











Page


CHAPTER

IV. THE ELECTORAL CONTEXT . . . . . .. 97

The Nomination and Election of Deputies . 98
The Product of the Electoral Process:
The Characteristics of the Deputies . 117
Summary and Conclusion . . . . .. 126

V. THE INTEREST GROUP CONTEXT . . . .. 135

Contextual Variation in the Study of
Interest Groups . . ..... . . 136
A Typological Classification of Costa Rican
Interest Groups . . . . . .. 139
Style of Interest Articulation . . . 146
Means of Access . . . . . . . 149
Summary and Conclusions . . . . .. 159

VI. PATTERNS OF LEGISLATIVE DECISIONAL BEHAVIOR 164

The Committee Structure . . . . 164
The Floor . . . . . . . . 192
Decisional Cues . . . . . . . 207
The Influentials .. . . . .. 212
Summary and Conclusions . . . . .. 219

VII. PATTERNS OF NON-DECISIONAL LEGISLATIVE BEHAV-
IOR . . . . . . . . . . 226

Radio Broadcasts: Visibility as a Critical
Contextual Variable . . . . .. 227
Representation Function ..... . .. 234
Information Function . . . . .. 237
Electoral Function . . . . . .. 241
Cathartic Function . . . . . .. 246
Summary and Conclusions . . . . .. 249

VIII. THE IMPLICATIONS OF COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE
BEHAVIOR . . . . . . . . .252

Selected Research Implications . . . 253
Systemic Implications of Legislative
Behavior . . ... . . . . 263

APfL 'PDICES . . . . . . . . . . 277

I. METHODOLOGICAL AND CONCEPTUAL NOTES ... 278











Page

APPENDICES

II. INTERVIEW SCHEDULE . . . . . . . 298

III. SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONNAIRE . . . .. .303

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . 311

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . 322


vi.i















LIST OF TABLES


Table Page

1.1 Committee Assignment of Bills . . . ... 20

1.2 Time Span Between Introduction of Bills and
Final Decision, by Sponsorship Type . .. 22

1.3 Committee Modification of Bills Given Affirma-
tive Committee Reports . . . . ... 25

3.1 Roles Attributed to the Jefe de Fracci6n by
PLN Deputies . . . . . . .... 82

3.2 Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fracci6n by
PR Deputies . . ... . . . . .. 83

3.3 Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fracci6n by
PUN Deputies . . . . . . . .. 84

4.1 Role of the National Leadership in the Nomina-
tion of Elected Deputies . . .... .108

4.2 Age, Education, Occupation, and Income of
Deputies and the Electoral Population of
Costa Rica . . . . . .. . 119

5.1 Interest Groups Contacting Deputies . . .. .137

6.1 Party Distribution in Committees in the 1968-
1969 Legislative Session ... . . .173

6.2 Continuity in Committee Membership in the
1968-1969 Session . . . . . . . 176

6.3 Age at Which Deputies First Became Interested
in Politics . . . . . . . . 180

6.4 When Deputies First Became Active in Party
Activities . ... .. .. ... . . .. 180

6.5 Primary Levels of Party Actitivies of Deputies
Prior to Election ... . ... . . 180





viii












6.6 Previous Positions Held by Deputies . . .. .181

6.7 Time Transpired Between Submission of Bills to
Committee and Issuance of Committee Reports 192

6.8 Comparison of the Total Time Required to Pro-
cess Bills Granted Committee-Related Proce-
dural Exemptions and Those Bills That Were
Not Granted Such Exemptions . . . ... .200

6.9 Comparison of the Total Time Required to
Process Bills Granted Procedural Exemptions
Related to Floor Proceedings and Those Bills
That Were Not Granted Such Exemptions . . 203

6.10 Rand Ordering of Decisional Premises .. . 209

6.11 Party Affiliation of Influential and Non-
Influential Deputies . . . . ... 214

6.12 Previous Legislative Experience of Influential
and Non-Influential Deputies . . . . 215

6.13 Educational Level Attained by Influential and
Non-Influential Deputies . . .... .. 216

6.14 Previous Legislative Experience and Education
of Influential and Non-Influential Deputies 217


Table


Page










Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR IN PERSPECTIVE

By

Christopher E. Baker

August, 1973

Chairman: Andres Suarez
Major Department: Political Science

Despite the prevalent belief in the discipline that all

research should be executed within the parameters of clearly

defined hypotheses, this study reflects the view that sys-

tematic behavioral research on foreign institutions should

not be executed in the absence of an understanding of the

institutions to be studied in this manner. Given the absence

of previous studies which would provide, the foundation for

tightly designed research on the legislature of Costa Rica,

the primary goal of this study is to place the Legislative

Assembly in perspective. Its secondary goal is to provide

empirical proof that the Assembly does, as many claim, play

a significant role in the political system of this country.

The data of the study are the product of (1) structured

interviews of the deputies sitting in this legislature in

1968; (2) multi-variate classification of the bills before

the Assembly in that year; (3) content analysis of the ver-

batim records of floor debate; and (4) extensive observation

of and interaction within the Assembly.











In seeking to provide a comprehensive and well-

substantiated evaluation of the Assembly and of the context

within which it operates, the study deals with seven inter-

related topics:

1) the role of the Assembly in systemic decision-

making;

2) the limitations placed upon this role by the dis-

tribution of decisional power within the other

governmental institutions;

3) the nature of the political party system and the role

of.the parties in legislative decision-making;

4) the impact of the electoral system upon representa-

tion within the legislature;

5) the impact of interest groups upon legislative and

other systemic decisional behavior;

6) the formal and informal aspects of the legislative

decision-making process; and

7) the non-decisional aspects of legislative behavior.

Contrary to the growing tendency to conclude that legis-

lative structures in the lesser-developed countries do not

play a significant role in decision-making, this study

concludes that the Assembly does exert an important influence

upon the initiation, modification, and enactment of legisla-

tion. This is true despite the fact that the allocati.onal

influence of the legislature is limited by the powers

exercised by the executive branch and the autonomous institu-

tions of the country.











Four specific findings of the study could be used to

focus any future research on the Assembly. First, the

study shows that, as would be expected, the political par-

ties play a determinant role in legislative decision-making.

Second, it demonstrates that most effective decision-making

behavior is to be found within the context of the committees.

Third, it concludes that the cues used by most deputies in

reaching decisions on non-routine bills tend to emanate from

a reduced and identifiable group of influential deputies.

The characteristics of these deputies suggest that a modi-

fied seniority system exists in this legislature despite the

fact that deputies may not be immediately re-elected. And,

fourth, the study demonstrates that the deputies play a

crucial role in the generation of specific and diffuse

support for the political system and that studies of legis-

lative behavior in Costa Rica should consequently not be

limited to decisional phenomena. Contrary to what would be

expected, it was found that centralized parties and a

closed party list electoral system need not undermine the

responsiveness of legislators to the needs of their consti-

tuencies.


xii















INTRODUCTION


In the past decade the bibliography of studies on

legislative structures and behavior has expanded in geometric

proportions. The heightened interest in legislative research

evidenced.by members of the community of political scientists

has led to the creation of a recognized disciplinary sub-

speciality which has been taken up by many interested in the

study of American as well as of foreign political systems.

Relative to prior interest and output, it has been those

interested in the study of political systems eincompassed within

the amorphous grouping of nations variously referred to as

underdeveloped, emerging, transitional, non-Western developing,

prismatic, and/or lesser-developed countries who have shown

the most noticeable increase of interest in. leg-islative sub-

jects. Among these, it is the scholars with an interest in

Latin America who have broken most clearly with a past ten-

dency of giving little or no resCearch attention to iegis.a-

tive structures.

Prior to the mid-1960s it was virtually impossible to

find any significant literature on the legislatures of Latin

America. In fact, there was little in the area literature

which encouraged research in the legislative field and much

that discouraged it. William Pierson and Federico Gil,











authors of a textbook used widely in the late 1950s,and

early 1960s may well have affected the outlook of many poten-

tial researchers in referring to Latin American legislatures

in the following way:

Although the constitutional systems of Latin America
have entrusted the legislature with the power to
enact laws and to determine public policy, the con-
gress, in reality, is not the center of the political
life of these nations. . Logically, the weakness of
all legislative assemblies and their inferior prestige
are the consequence of the almost omnipotent role that
the legal systems and political customs have assigned
to the executive branch.1

Alexander Edelmann, author of a more recent textbook, is

even less encouraging, and minces no words in stating that

"the Latin American legislatures ordinarily kowtow to the

president, cater to his slightest whims, and enjoy no more

independence or popular respect than political syncophants

could expect to."2 Such generalizations have been given

further legitimacy through their incorporation into the lore

of the non-area comparativists. The following statement by

Robert Stauffer is a good example of this extrapolation.

The typical stereotype [of legislatures in developing
countries] is of a rubber-stamp body made up of indi-
viduals drawn from a narrow elite or from the govern-
ment bureaucracy. Such a stereotype is fully justified
for a large number of nations, especially those of
Latin America where institutional units called legis-
latures have simply not been relevant to the mainstream
of political life.3

But the growing interest in studies of legislative behavior

experienced in the discipline has provided a number of polit-

ical scientists with the motivation, long-dampened by such










statements, to pursue Latin American legislative research
4
topics.

This study was partially motivated by the inertia of

this prevailing thrust in the discipline. But even in the

absence of this inertia there would have been good reason to

focus upon the Costa Rican legislature. It is in fact quite

surprising that this structure had not been subjected to any

detailed scrutiny prior to the time that the research for this

study was initiated in 1968, for the Assembly was certainly
5
viewed by many as a deviant case in Latin America. For

some time there has been a consensus among a sizeable number

of scholars to the effect that this legislature plays a sig-

nificant role in systemic decision-making. Nevertheless,

no attempt has ever been made to substantiate this belief.

Indeed, most of the literature which mentions the Assembly

has tended to be highly impressionistic, and in some cases has

been entirely inaccurate and/or misleading.

The most glaring example of this tendency is found in

the writing of James Busey, who in 1962 wrote that "the

Costa Rican Assembly . plays an active role in the govern-

ing processes of the country." But instead of substantiat-

ing this evaluation, he chose to devote the major part of his

monograph chapter on the Assembly to a quaint description of

an opening session which he had observed. Those writing

after 1962 did little to improve on Busey. Thus one finds

that rather than address the evaluation in question in











substantive terms, Edelmann simply draws upon this descrip-

tion and contributes to the perpetuation of an entirely mis-

leading view of the Assembly when he states:

In Costa Rica . members of the legislature are not
the least bit awed by the president. Only when his
party has a large majority can he be assured that his
program will be approved, and even then some members
of his party may defect and oppose it. He cannot even
be sure of the respectful attention of legislators
during the reading of his annual message, which in most
of the nations is a very ceremonious, pompous, and
solemn event. His remarks may be greeted with derisive
laughter, boos, hisses and catcalls.8

The boos and hisses, which may or may not have been indicative

of a prevalent pattern of behavior when Busey wrote, are now

a part of not only a quaint but also an unfounded description

which does little justice to the Assembly and provides an

entirely erroneous impression of this legislature. This Roman

circus atmosphere is by no means present on these occasions,

when the entire diplomatic corps is present; nor is it present

in less formal sessions. Such statements provide no evidence

that would help to substantiate the view that the Assembly is

a significant participant in systemic decision-making in

Costa Rica. And even if one were to assume that this evalua-

tion is correct, what has been written tells us very little

about the nature and characteristics of such decison-making

within the Assembly.

The justification for the choice of the Costa Rican

Legislative Assembly as a structure worthy of study is

apparent. However, some questions may be raised regarding

the approach used in the study. The prevailing view at the











present time would seem to be that legislative research

should be directed toward the testing of specific hypotheses.

Such a view is implicitly expressed by Samuel Patterson when

he states:

We have made great leaps ahead in our knowledge about
legislative institutions outside the United States,
although it is largely descriptive knowledge. Almost
all of the new research has been on a country-by-
country basis, and there still are very few attempts
to test hypotheses cross-nationally.-0

On the other hand, Joseph LaPalombara argues that

Those political scientists who claim that we are deluged
with randomly, unsystematically chosen empirical studies
have never attempted, as I see it, to assess what is the
nature of all of the supposed information we have about
the political systems and processes of the West. Regard-
less of the range of one's linguistic skill. and the
resources of American libraries, it is frequently im-
possible to come by the most elemental information about
the political institutions of other countries.11

Hunt, Crane, and Wahlke admit to conspicuous failures in some

of their research, and indicate that these failures "reflect

the necessity for thorough knowledge of institutions as
1?
preconditions for effective behavioral research."12 The

implications of these two statements are certainly at odds

with the prevailing view expressed by Patterson.

If we take LaPalombara's statement at face value, which

is certainly justified in the case of Costa Rica, and if the

testing of hypotheses, certainly part of the behavioral

orientation, requires previous background knowledge, the

legislative researchers undertaking studies in many foreign

countries are likely to be faced with a real dilemma. On the

one hand, they may value rigorous and systematic research










placed within a specific propositional context. But,on the

other hand, they must face the possibility that such research

will lead to the type of failure identified by Hunt, Crane,

and Wahlke in the absence of substantial prior knowledge of

the institutions which they wish to study. Research in

countries where adequate descriptive studies have been carried

out can well afford to focus on very specific research ques-

tions, because investigators have good reason to believe that

in doing so they may identify meaningful patterns of behavior

or relationships. In Costa Rica the spadework that would

lead to the identification of factors which could be used in

generating a useful series of research propositions is yet to

be done, as is that required to determine which research

instruments can be used effectively within the Costa Rican

context. Under such conditions a broad and largely descrip-

tive study is called for as a first step toward more precise

research at a later date. This study, admittedly a configu-

rative probe, seeks to build a bridge between the highly

impressionistic research that has preceded it and a more

systematic and scientific form of research.

In broad terms the goal of this study is to attain a

better understanding of Costa Rican legislative behavior and

of the significance or consequences that this behavior has

within the context of the national political system. The

study is a preliminary probe which seeks to do some of the

initial spadework required before more rigorous studies of










legislative decision-making, and political behavior in

general,.can be carried out in Costa Rica.

Chapters I and II place the Legislative Assembly within

a systemic decision-making context. In Chapter I the propo-

sition that the legislature in Costa Rica participates

actively in decision-making is tested by examining the be-

havior of deputies in the introduction, study and enactment

of legislation. Other miscellaneous powers of the legisla-

ture, such as the powers of appointment and that of ratifica-

tion of foreign loans or treaties, are also taken into con-

sideration. Since the impact of legislative decision-

making may be overestimated unless evaluated within the over-

all institutional context of systemic decision-making, Chapter

II seeks to identify the limitations of the legislature as

an allocator of values which are a result of the distribution

of decisional power among the totality of governmental insti-

tutions and of the relationships which exist between these

institutions. Toward this end, the roles in the decisional

process of local government, of the judiciary, of the execu-

tive, and of the autonomous institutions are examined.

The next three chapters identify some of the main varia-

bles which help to define the context of legislative decision-

making. Chapter III focuses upon the role of political

parties in decision-making. The nature of the Costa Rican

political party system and the characteristics of the external

parties, as well as of the legislative parties, are discussed










in this chapter. Chaper~ IV axildiies the recruitment and

election process as a means of determining what types of ob-

ligations are incurred by deputies in seeking election and

what interests or groups would seem to have ready access to and

perhaps influence over the deputies. It also focuses upon the

background of the deputies as a means of discussing the na-

ture of representation within the Assembly. Chapter V is

devoted to a description of interest-group phenomena and of

the relative impact that these groups may have on legislative

decisional behavior. Particular attention is given to an

evaluation of the various means or channels of access that are

available to interest groups in the articulation of their

demands.

After this discussion of some of the main external inter-

mediate variables which were suspected to have some relevance

to the decisional behavior of deputies, Chapter VI focuses

upon the formal and informal processes by which the Assembly

reaches decisions. Emphasis is placed upon the significance

and characteristics of the committee and floor processes in

Costa Rica; the main actors in these processes are identified

and analyzed. The decisional cues utilized by these primary

actors and the supporting actors are also identified as a

means of suggesting what types of variables would seem to be most

pertinent to an explanation of legislative decisional outcomes.

The original research design for this study envisioned

a broad analysis of the non-decisional as well as the

decisional aspects of legislative behavior in Costa Rica.









Though experience in tlhe Lield.in dicated that it was un-

realistic to attempt to study both aspects with equal rigor,

and a primary decisional focus was opted for, it was not

deemed advisable to exclude non-decisional aspects from the

study entirely. In those cases where the research executed

allowed for easy tapping of information related to non-

decisional behavior, an attempt was made to obtain such

information so as to allow for at least some tentative state-

ments about this type of behavior. Chapter VII provides the

reader with a discussion of some of the non-decisional

aspects of legislative behavior in Costa Rica and emphasizes

the significance that can be attributed to them.

The concluding chapter identifies the main research im-

plications of the study and draws upon the findings of the

previous chapters to demonstrate that legislative behavior

in Costa Rica has clear consequences for the national

political system, thus refuting the contention that the

Assembly is an institution which is not "relevant to the

mainstream of political life."14

No attention is given in this study to the detailed

historical, geographic, and economic questions, customary

in many studies of "foreign" countries, since these ques-

tions would serve no specific purpose within the framework

of the study. Readers interested in the specifics of the

research methodology and in the problems encountered in

executing field research in Costa Rica are referred to the

Appendix.










It is important to mention by way of introduction that

the bulk of the material presented is limited to a single

legislative period, that of 1966-1970. The absence of

substantive prior studies of the Assembly and the difficulty

of obtaining comparative data covering an extended period

of time made it impossible in most cases to obtain the in-

formation required for even the most rudimentary comparisons

between the characteristics of the particular legislature

in office at the time that the research was carried out in

1968 and any preceding one. Therefore, this study.must be

viewed as a baseline case study. General conclusions are

drawn from the data presented, but the reader should keep in

mind that these need to be subjected to further verification

in future studies.














Notes


1William Pierson and Federico Gil, Governments of Latin
America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957), p. 542. (Emphasis
mine.)

2Alexander T. Edelmann, Latin American Government and
Politics (rev. ed.; Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press,
1969), p. 443.
-3
Robert B. Stauffer, "A Legislative Model of Political
Development," Phillipine Journal of Public Administration, 11
(January, 1967), p. 5.

For example, sufficient interest in legislative matters
in Latin America has developed to warrant the publication of
a compilation of articles on the subject in a book of read-
ings. See Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legislatures:
Their Role and Influence (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971).

5The legislatures of Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay are
classified as the main deviant cases in Latin America in
Weston H. Agor, "Introduction," in Agor, pp. xxiii-xlviii.

6For a discussion of the degree of consensus which
exists on this question see ibid., p. xxiv.

James L. Busey, Notes on Costa Rican Democracy (Boulder:
University of Colorado Press, 1962), p. 44. Similar lip
service to the significance of the legislature can be found
in a study of the Costa Rican political system in which it
is stated that "the presidency of the Assembly is a position
of prestige and power second only to the presidency of the
Republic." See Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Government and
Politics (Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1965), p. 79.
Several recent publications reflect such a lack of interest
in the legislature that the authors have not even gone to the
trouble of checking out basic descriptive data. Edelmann, for
example, states that the length of sessions is two months,
when in fact the Assembly is in ordinary session for a total
of six months and in extraordinary session for much of the
remainder of the year. See Edelmann, p. 458. Harry Kantor
and Charles Denton attribute the alternate representative
(suplente) system to the Assembly in books published in 1969
and 1971 respectively,when in fact this system was eliminated










in 1962. See Harry Kantor, Patterns of Politics and Political
Systems in Latin America (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1969),
p. 219, and Charles F. Denton, Patterns of Costa Rican
Politics (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1971), p. 37.

Edelmann, p. 445.

9Newspaper reporters covering the Assembly informed the
author that about one year prior to his arrival in Costa
Rica there had been a brief physical scuffle on the floor of
the Assembly between two deputies. But this incident, like
that mentioned by Busey, is hardly indicative of behavior on
the floor,and devoting extended attention to it would only
distort things. It may be interesting as a side note or as
the subject for study as aberrant behavior but not as a major
section in a general description of the institution. No doubt,
allusion to this incident will lead some readers to jump to
the conclusion that this is an obvious manifestation of
traditional Latin American machismo. But,before reaching such
a conclusion, it would be well for the reader to consider the
cases of similar aberrant behavior which have taken place
within the United States Congress and within state legisla-
tures. See Alan P. Balutis, "Legislative Security: An
Overview," in James J. Heaphey, ed., Legislative Security
(Albany: Research Center, Graduate School of Public Affairs,
State University of New York at Albany, 1972), pp. 9-19.

10Samuel C. Patterson, "Comparative Legislative
Behavior," Midwest Journal of Political Science, 12
(November, 1968), p. 600.

11Joseph LaPalombara, "Parsimony and Empiricism in
Comparative Politics: An Anti-Scholastic View," in Robert T.
Holt and John E. Turner, eds., The Methodology of Comparative
Research (New York: The Free Press, 1970), p. 136.
12William H. Hunt, Wilder W. Crane and John C. Wahlke,
"Interviewing of Political Elites in Cross-Cultural Compara-
tive Research," in Samuel C. Patterson, ed., American Legis-
lative Behavior (Princeton:- D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1968),
p. 420. The need for prior knowledge of phenomena under in-
vestigation is also emphasized in Frederick W. Frey, "Cross-
Cultural Research in Political Science," in Holt and Turner,
eds., pp. 257-260.
13 ra, p. 2.
Supra, p. 2.















CHAPTER I

THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND SYSTEMIC DECISION-MAKING


In the past, the relevance of many of the questions

raised by legislative researchers has been posited upon the

assumption that legislatures universally play a significant

role in systemic decision-making. But recently a number of

scholars have pointed to the necessity of overcoming the

knee-jerk reaction of researchers in making such an assump-

tion. Robert Packenham, in fact, has gone so far as to argue

that most legislatures do not play an important, if any, role

in decision-making.1 The warning which has been issued is

well-worth taking into account in the case of Costa Rica, in

which it has become all too prevalent to assume on the basis

of highly impressionistic evidence that the Legislative

Assembly is a significant decision-making structure. The

question which needs to be answered is whether there is any

substantive empirical evidence that would support this assump-

tion.

The powers granted to the legislative branch of govern-

ment in Costa Rica suggest that the Assembly was meant to be

an active ,i' direct participant in the decision-making

process. But these are only formal, powers. In attempting

to determine whether a structure plays a role in this process,










it is necessary to establish not only what the formal powers

of the structure are or were meant to be but also to deter-

mine the extent to which these powers are actually used.

Given the contention of some that all Latin American polit-

ical systems are characterized by executive omnipotence,3

it might well be posited that these powers will prove to be

more symbolic than real. The possibility that Costa Rica

may be similar to a country such as Mexico, where the

Congress is reported to be "an instrument for the ceremonial

ratification of decisions taken elsewhere, i.e. in the
4
executive branch of government," though very unlikely,

should not be excluded a priori.

The data collected in the field for this study covered

a period of seven months in 1968 and do not lend themselves to

generalizations in respect to behavior over an extended

period of time. It is fortunate, however, that much of the

data to be presented in this section can be checked against

data covering a longer time span in order to determine whether

or not the data collected generate distorted findings and

fail to reflect a general phenomenon. This comparative data

will be drawn from a study which seeks to determine whether

"the executive or legislative branch occupy a position in

the policy process that is dominant relative to the other"5

and which utilizes some of the same data categories used in

the present study. The dissertation in question examines a

random sample of bills covering a tel.ve-year period from











1958 to 1970 and will allow, in this section at least, for

the drawing of some conclusions of a general nature which

will not be limited to the period in 1968 which was studied.

It should be noted though that the purpose of this chapter is

not that of proving that the legislature is the predominant

branch in policy-making. Its purpose is simply that of

determining whether or not the Costa Rican Legislative

Assembly fulfills an effective decision-making function. This

end will be sought by describing the main formal powers of

the Assembly and by determining to what extent these are

exercised in practice.6 But,before proceeding to do so, it

will be useful to provide a brief description of some of the

most outstanding superficial or formalistic characteristics

of the legislature.


General Characteristics of the
Legislative Sub-System

The legislative branch of the Costa Rican government

consists of a fifty-seven member unicameral Legislative

Assembly.7 The deputies are elected at-large within each of

the seven provinces of the country in the quadrennial general

elections and may not be immediately re-elected. The propor-

tion of the fixed number of seats to which each province is

entitled is proportionate to the population of each according

to the latest census taken. Candidates run on legislative

closed list party ballots, and,although these are provincial

in nature, the candidates need not meet any residence











requirements. Votes are cast for entire legislative party

tickets within each province rather than for individuals.

The provincial seats are apportioned among the candidates

by applying a proportional representation formula intended

to favor small parties but not miniparties. The provincial

slates of national parties are formally determined by party

nominating conventions, consisting of ten delegates from each

province, in which all delegates have an equal vote in the

selection of the candidates that go on each of the slates.

In those few cases where a party is only registered as a

provincial party and thus seeks only to participate in the

election of the deputies of one province, the slate is deter-

mined by a provincial party nominating convention, consist-

ing of five delegates from each of the cantons in the province.

Each of the five general elections held since 1953 has

given one party, the National Liberation Party (Partido

Liberacidn Nacional--PLN), a majority in the Assembly.10

The traditional opposition to this party, however, has won a

substantial number of seats in each election. In three of

the periods the predominant party has held a precarious

majority of one and has never held more than two-thirds of

the seats. The executive power, on the other hand, has changed

partisan hands with each election. The PLN won it in 1953,

1962, and 1970, and the opposition in 1958 and 1966. Thus,

the Assembly has had a presidential-party majority system

on three occasions and a presidential-party minority system











twice since 1953. These two factors--substantial opposition

representation in the Assembly and fluctuating control of the

executive branch--have led Robert Dix to classify Costa Rica

as one of the three Latin American countries that have gone

farthest in legitimizing the opposition role in politics.11

No doubt, they have also been crucial in placing Costa Rica

consistently within the top three Latin American nations in
12
Russell Fitzgibbon's "democracy" rankings.. Within the

Latin American context, the fact that the incumbent party has

turned over the executive power in a peaceful manner after

each election is a strong indication of the development of a

relatively stable political system. The gracious acceptance

of defeat, despite early morning grumblings of electoral

fraud, by the incumbent parties has without any doubt been

related to the fact that they have been guaranteed continuing

significant political participation as an opposition force

within the legislature.

Though the Assembly only meets in ordinary session six

months out of each year, it may also meet in extraordinary

session if convened by the president of the Republic. Such

sessions are an essential part of the legislative calendar

and usually keep the Assembly in session an extra five months

out of each year. Were it not for these sessions, the legis-

lative backlog of bills would reflect a marked inability on

the part of the Assembly to cope with the matters that are

presented before it.










The main powers granted to the Assembly by the Constitu-

tion of 1949 are those of legislative initiative, enactment,

ratification of international agreements and loans, and

certain appointive, investigatory, and oversight powers. These

will now be considered in some detail.


Power of Initiative

The power to introduce bills before the Assembly is a

shared one. Bills may be introduced by the executive as well

as by any deputy. 3 An examination of the sources of bills

can be revealing. If one were to find that most of the bills

originate in the executive branch, it could be argued that

the executive is predominant because the subject, scope, and

nature of the lawmaking input would be determined by the

executive. This, however, was not found to be the case.

Over a seven-month period,14 72 per cent of the bills on the

docket of the legislature had been introduced by the deputies,

and only 28 per cent by the executive. The bills covering

the twelve-year period analyzed in the Mijeski study support

the conclusion that legislature initiates a majority of the

bills considered. It was found that over that period of time

64.1 per cent of the bills were initiated by the legislature
15
as opposed to 35.9 per cent by the executive branch. But

this breakdown may be misleading. The executive, though sub-

mitting a lesser number of bills, might.well have submitted

the majority of the most important bills.










Classifying bills according to their relative importance

is an extremely difficult task. Two tentative rough indi-

cators might be suggested. One is the scope of the bill and

the other is the committee to which it is assigned. In the

research carried out, the scope of a bill was classified as

being either "national" or "local." Bills which dealt with

matters that would affect only a local segment of the total

national population were classified as "local" bills. Those

which dealt with matters affecting the totality of the

national population or a segment of it which cut across paro-

chial lines were classified as "national" bills. Using this

scheme, it might be posited that "national" bills are more

important than "local" ones because they have a broader impact.

Consequently, it might be argued that if the executive submits

a majority of the "national" bills, it does in fact play a

preponderant role in the introduction of important bills. It

was found, however, that the deputies sponsored the majority

of both types of bills in the period studied as well as in

the 1958-1970 period studied by Mijeski. In the case of the

"national" bills, legislative sources accounted for 68 per

cent; whereas executive sources accounted for only 32 per

cent of the bills. The distribution of the "local" bills

was 80 per cent and 20 per cent for the legislative and execu-

tive, respectively.16 Thus, it is clear that the executive

not only did not submit the majority of the most "important"

bills but did not in fact submit the majority of either type.1










Committee assignment was used as the second criterion

for judging the importance of each bill. The deputies were

asked to rank the committees according to the relative

importance of the bills handled by each. A high degree of

consensus was found in the rankings they made. The process

was then reversed and the importance of each bill was judged

according to the committee to which it had been assigned.

The proportional breakdown of the sources of the bills and

the committee to which each was assigned is shown below.


TABLE 1.1

Committee Assignment of Bills


Committee (in decend- Executive Legislative
ing rank order) Sponsored Sponsored

Economic Affairs
Committee 42.5% (31) 57.5% (42)

Budgetary Affairs
Committee 23.3 (20) 76.7 (66)

Governmental and
Administrative
Affairs Committee 34.6 (37) 65.4 (70)

Social Affairs
Committee 12.5 (15) 87.5 (105)

Judicial Affairs
Committee 31.6 (25) 68.4 (54)



In no case were more than 43 per cent of the bills submitted

to any committee sponsored by the executive and in one case

the proportion was as low as 12.5 per cent. The findings of











Mijeski's study differ only slightly from these. His sample

contained a slightly higher percentage of executive sponsored

bills in each committee and a slight edge in one of the two
18
most important committees. Despite these minor differences,

it may be concluded that if committee assignment is a valid

indicator of the importance of a bill, at best the executive

has a very slight predominance in the sponsorship of "impor-

tant" bills.


Power of Enactment

The Legislative Assembly has the power to amend the con-

stitution. And it has used this power to effect significant

constitutional changes over the years. The revised edition

of the constitution printed in 1968 indicates that 22 of the
19
117 articles in it had been amended since 1949. It must

be noted though that such amendments are usually,if not always,

carried out in close coordination with the executive.

The Legislature also has the power to enact, amend, repeal,

and interpret legislation. The form in which these powers are

exercised, as reflected in the processing of bills, might well

be used as an indicator of the extent to which the legislature

is subject to control by the executive. For example, it could

be posited that the procedure followed in processing and act-

ing upon executive bills will reflect a tendency to give

automatic approval to such bills. If this were true, the

proportion of executive bills not fully processed in a given

time period should be much lower than that of bills sponsored











by the deputies. The data for the seven-month period studied

indicate that the respective proportions were 59 and 62 per
20
cent.20 This small difference in favor of the executive

bills would not seem to indicate that they are given prefer-

ential treatment and certainly does not suggest that the

Assembly rubber-stamps bills submitted by the executive.

It could also be posited that, if the proposition is a

valid one, the time span between introduction and final

action for the executive bills that are fully processed will

be shorter than that for similar legislative bills. Table

1.2 shows the distribution of the two types of bills accord-

ing to time-span criteria.


TABLE 1.2

Time Span Between Introduction of Bills and
Final Decision, by Sponsorship Type


Per Cent of Per Cent of Legis-
Executive Bills lative Bills
Processed in Processed in
Time Span Time Span Time Span


Less than 1 month

More than 1 but less
than 3 months

More than 3 but less
than 6 months

More than 6 but less
than 12 months

More than 12 months


14.3 ( 8)


32.1 (18)


21.4 (12)


17.9

14.3


(10)

( 8)


26.1 (37)


16.2 (23)


23.2 (33)


18.3

16.2


(26)

(23)


I~L-------~l~-l~----
1_------- -----------1~-.1-1










If a weighted average is calculated, assigning each bill

in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth categories

scores of one, two, three, four, and five, respectively, we

find that the average score for legislative bills is 2.83 and

that for executive bills is 2.86. If the same weighted

average score is computed for processing time in committee,

the legislative bill score is 1.48 and the executive is 1.51.

The differences evidently are very small. But, if anything,

since the lower the weighted average the less the processing

time, the differences indicate that legislative bills were

processed slightly more rapidly than were the executive bills.

An additional indicator which might be used to test the

proposition inquestion could be based on the bills that are

rejected. An examination of such bills indicates that the

frequency of outright rejection was so low as to make a com-

parison meaningless. Out of a total of 207 bills which were
21
fully processed,21 only 8 were rejected; 5 of these were

deputy sponsored and the other 3 were executive bills.22

However, it is revealing to note that,during the 1966-1970

Assembly, an executive bill which called for the demise of

the nationalized banking system was rejected by the Assembly.

This bill was a measure which had been promised during the

campaign by the victorious presidential candidate. Of course,

it should be recalled that his party did not have a majority

in the legislature. But, nevertheless, this example serves

to illustrate that the legislature is by no means a pawn of

the president.










No data related to the extent of committee modification

of executive bills were compiled in the field research

carried out. But observation of committee proceedings

seemed to indicate that this prerogative is used with some

frequency. Money bills, for instance, were consistently

modified during the 1966-1970 period. These modifications

tended to increase the amounts covered, by these bills. For

example, in 1968 a bill which called for an emission of

bonds to the amount of 12 million colones for school construc-

tion was approved after the amount was increased to 41

million colones. (The official rate of exchange on the

col6n is $6.65 to the dollar.) The extra funds were allocated

for the construction of school buildings in specific com-

munities chosen by individual deputies from all of the

parties. The ordinary budget of 1969 was increased by 17
23
million colones, an increase of 2.8 per cent. A large part

of the additional funds was allotted to specific projects

(obras especificas) of the pork-barrel variety. These were

picked exclusively by the majority party (PLN) deputies,

due to their control of the budget committee. Modifications

of money bills, however, do not always involve increases.

In 1969, an extraordinary budget amounting to 177 million

colones was trimmed down to 95 million colones before it was

approved. These types of supplementary budgets were usually

subject to a degree of bargaining between the majority party

in the Assembly and their political opponents in the










executive branch and will be the subject of further comment

in another chapter.

The Mijeski study does allow us, however, to draw some

specific conclusions on the significance of the committees

in the modification of executive bills. Table 1.3 reflects

the findings reported therein based upon the comparison of

the text of the bills reported out of committee favorably and

the original text of these bills. Again, though legislative


TABLE 1.3

Committee Modification of Bills Given
Affirmative Committee Reports


Degree of Modification*
None to Significant
Sponsorship of Bill Slight Moderate to Complete

Legislative 61.4% (51) 26.5% (22) 12.1% (10)

Executive 73.0 (46) 22.2 (14) 4.8 ( 3)


Source: Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legisla-
tive Policy Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation,
University of North Carolina, 1971), p. 81.

*The operational definitions of the degree of modifica-
tion utilized were the following: (1) no change: the
verbatim acceptance of the original bill; (2) slight change:
mostly rearranging words rather than changing substance;
(3) moderate change: rearranging and modifying both words
and substance, but with general intent of bill unchanged;
(4) significant change: much substantive modification which
would affect some of the bill's original intent; and
(5) complete change: original intent of bill modified com-
pletely, with no resemblance to the original proposal.


bills were found to have suffered more substantial modifica-

tion in committee than executive bills, the fact that 27 per










cent of the executive bills were modified in a "moderate"

or "significant to complete" manner is ready evidence of the

decision-making that takes place within the Legislative

Assembly.

The executive, however, may veto any bill--other than

the ordinary budget or a convocation of a Constituent Assembly

or a constitutional amendment--which is not acceptable to it.

During the period studied an unusually large number of vetoes

were exercised. A total of thirty-nine vetoes were inter-

posed as compared to seven in the same seven-month period

the previous year. The sizeable difference is explained by

the fact that 61.5 per cent (24) of the bills vetoed in the

period studied reflected a radical change in the position of

the president in respect to the granting of small tax exemp-
24
tions.24 The data which would indicate whether the Assembly

exercised its right to overrule vetoes by a two-thirds

majority vote in any of these cases were not obtained. Al-

though the data are not complete and are not entirely repre-

sentative, they do illustrate that the president has the means

to counteract legislative decisions. This fact leads to a

balance of power in respect to the power to enact legislation.

But it is obvious that the executive is hardly omnipotent if

it must resort to the final alternative of a veto.


Power of Ratification

All international agreements and foreign loans negotiated

or-suscribed to by the executive branch must be ratified by









25
a two-thirds vote in the Assembly.' In the great majority

of cases, the noncontroversial nature of such agreements and

loans makes this step a pure formality. But it would be a

mistake to assume that the executive has a completely free

hand in such matters. For example, a loan agreement with the

Agency for International Agreement (AID) for the construction

of a new wholesale produce market in the capital city of

San Jose was frozen by the Assembly for more than a year and

eventually withdrawn by AID during the period studied.

In 1969, one very important agreement, the San Jose

Protocol, received similar treatment. This was a protocol

drafted by the finance ministers of the Central American

Common Market (CACM) countries which would have authorized a

regional sales tax on luxury goods and a 30 per cent increase

in the taxes on imports from outside of the CACM region. The

measure was supposedly meant to reduce the balance-of-payments

problem faced by the member nations. Within the PLN caucus,

however, it was argued that the Protocol was nothing more

than an attempt by the other countries to increase government

revenues without having to carry out the direct tax reforms

which Costa Rica had already adopted. Some of the PLN legis-

lative leaders also argued that it would be politically un-

sound to ratify the Protocol because they had previously

stated publicly that they would not approve any new taxes.

Extreme pressures were exerted upon the deputies in an

attempt to get them to ratify this agreement. These pres-

sures emanated not only from the executive branch but also










from external party euaaers, international lending agencies,

and the United States government. Jos6 Figueres, at that

time the assumed presidential candidate for the PLN in 1970,

pressured the deputies of his party. The World Bank hinted

that no further loans would be granted to Costa Rica unless

the agreement was ratified. Similar pressures came from the

International Monetary Fund and AID officials, as well as di-

rectly from the Ambassador of the United States in San Jos4.

The fact that under such conditions the Assembly froze the Pro-

tocol in committee for more than six months and eventually

went on to reject its ratification is an indication of its

potential for independent action.26 An inability of the execu-

tive to control even the behavior of the presidential party

deputies was evidenced by the fact that a substantial number

of them voted against the ratification of the agreement.


Power of Appointment

The deputies of Costa Rica are the sole electors of the

justices of the Supreme Court and of the comptroller and

assistant comptroller of the republic. Due to the fact that

these appointments are made by majority vote, the executive

has had no influence to speak of in the selection of these

officials when the opposition has controlled the Assembly.

The choices in the past years have been made within the PLN

caucus because their absolute majority has allowed it to

determine the outcome on the floor. Although the professional

qualifications of the candidates have been carefully examined










and used as the final selection criteria, only those with

the appropriate partisan background have reached the final

stage of the selection process within the caucus. During

the seven-month period of field research in Costa Rica,

several justices were appointed, and in each case the list

of final candidates considered by the PLN caucus was a parti-

san list. The comptroller and assistant comptroller, who

were appointed prior to the time that the study was carried

out, are also men who are known to be PLN supporters. In

fact, one recent comptroller had been a PLN deputy and re-

signed in 1972 to run for the Assembly again on the PLN

ticket in 1974.


Power of Investigation

The constitution grants the Assembly the power to create

special legislative committees to investigate any matter of

interest to it. These committees are provided free access

to all government records and may request testimony from any

person in the country. Appearance before these committees

is compulsory. The reports which are written after investiga-

tions are carried out, however, tend to be rather ineffec-

tual. Most of them are never voted upon and many are not even

discussed on the floor. Thus, the recommendations contained

in them are seldom acted upon.

The Contraloria General de la Republica, a rough equiva-
27
lent to the U.S. General Accounting Office,7 does carry out

effective investigations related to public expenditures.










As the auditing agent of the legislative branch, it is fre-

quently ordered to carry out specific investigations in this

area by the Assembly.

Though it is not true that the Assembly has the power

to impeach the president, as some have claimed, it is called

upon to rule upon accusations against the president, vice-

presidents, and other members of the executive, legislative,

and judicial branches. It is up to the deputies to establish

whether or not there is due cause for judicial processing in

such cases. If they find due cause, they place the case

before the Supreme Court and suspend the defendant from his

functions temporarily, or, in the case of deputies, lift

their congressional immunity. Several such accusations were

lodged against the members of the executive and legislative

branches during the period of study. In all cases but one,

due cause was found to be lacking. The one exception involved

a deputy who was accused of malfeasance. It seems more than

likely that the Assembly would exercise this power regardless

of the branch of government involved if due cause were in

fact found to exist.

The Assembly has the power to interpellate the ministers

of state. It may also censure a minister by a two-thirds

vote if it is found that he has acted in an unconstitutional

or otherwise illegal fashion or that he committed errors that

are obviously detrimental to the public interest. During

the period of study three ministers were interpellated, and










a vote of censure was sought against one of them, but this

attempted censure did not receive the necessary votes to

pass. In all cases nothing but the most rudimentary cour-

tesies were observed in cross-examining these high officials.

Partisan motivation tends to be a strong factor in the exer-

cising of these powers. It was clearly present on the two

occasions in which the son of the president, who served as

minister of public security, was called before the Assembly.

But regardless of the motive, the fact remains that the

legislature does exercise this investigative power.


Miscellaneous and Latent Powers

There is one additional power granted to the Assembly

which should not be overlooked. Article 98 of the consti-

tution prohibits "the establishment or functioning of parties

which, due to their ideological programs, procedures, or

international ties, tend to destroy the foundations of the

democratic organization of Costa Rica." The final inter-

pretation of this article is placed in the hands of the Legis-

lative Assembly rather than the Supreme Court. Thus, the

Assembly has the power to prevent certain types of parties

from participating in the general elections. It used this

power to proscribe what were considered to be communist-

front parties in the elections of 1.953 and 1966. In 1969 the

Assembly was once again called upon to exercise this power.

In August of 1969 the registration of the Bloc of Workers,

Peasants and Intellectuals (Bloque de Obreros, Campesinos e










Intelectuales) was annulled on technical grounds by the

Supreme Electoral Tribunal as a result of a challenge to the

registration presented by the members of the anti-communist

Uni6n Civico Revolucionaria party. This ruling came after

the deadline set for registering parties for the upcoming

elections--which meant that the newly named traditional

communist part could not run candidates on its own ticket.

Shortly after the ruling was announced, the Socialist Action

Party (Partido Accion Socialista, better known as PASO)

offered to run the top candidates of the Bloque on its legis-
29
lative slates.29 The attempt to keep these candidates from

participating in the election was then carried to the

Assembly. A bill which called for the legislature to rule

that the PASO met the prohibitory requisites of Article 98

and should therefore be proscribed was presented by the UCR

deputies. As the Assembly is required to send such bills to

the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for its opinion, it was sent

there before being fully debated in committee. The opinion

emitted by the Tribunal was that the PASO should be proscribed.

The committee that studied the bill also reported in the

affirmative. Despite this report and the respect in which

the Tribunal is held by most Costa Ricans, no action had been

taken on the bill when the Assembly went into recess two

months before the election. In this case, inaction was a

conscious strategy followed by those who did not feel that

the PASO should be proscribed, a form of decision-making










through inactivity. The party was able to participate in

the election in the absence of a specific vote proscribing it.

The Assembly has several other powers which it has

seldom been called upon to exercise. Among these are the

powers to (1) authorize entry and presence of foreign

troops on national soil, (2) authorize the president to

declare war or to sign peace treaties, (3) suspend certain

constitutional rights and guarantees, and (4) decide when a

president is physically or mentally incapacitated and to

call in his legal replacement. Although there has been no

reason to resort to any of these powers, except that of sus-
30
pension of constitutional rights and guarantees, since

the promulgation of the constitution in 1949, it is signifi-

cant to note that the Assembly could play a very important

role in such crisis situations.


Summary and Conclusions

The purpose of this chapter has been that of testing

the heretofore unexplored proposition that the Costa Rican

Legislative Assembly is an active and significant participant

in the systemic decision-making process. The data presented

in the previous sections clearly indicate that the Assembly

is not only granted significant formal decisional powers; it

also makes effective use of these. Consequently it may be

stated that the study of decision-making within the legis-

lative context of Costa Rica is justified and relevant to an

understanding of the manner in which systemic resources are






34



allocated by the Costa Rican political system. Legislative

decision-making is clearly not of the symbolic-legitimating

type in this country.















Notes


Robert A. Packenham, "Legislatures and Political
Development," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds.,
Legislatures in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1970), p. 522.

The Constituent Assembly, which drew up the constitu-
tion, placed a great deal of emphasis on the need to establish
an effective checks-and-balances system which would reduce
the abuse of power on the part of the executive.

Supra, p. 2

4Martin Needler, "Mexico: Revolution as a Way of Life,"
in Martin Needler, ed., Political Systems of Latin America
(Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, Co., Inc., 1964), p. 17.

5Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legislative Policy
Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
North Carolina, 1971), p. 32.

6Unless otherwise stated, the data presented in the text
and tables of this and subsequent chapters are those collected
by the author.

7In the elections of 1953 and 1958 constitutional pro-
visions called for the election of forty-five deputies and an
additional number of alternates to serve as substitutes
(suplentes) in the temporary absence of the proprietary
deputies. As of 1962, the number of deputies was increased
by constitutional amendment to fifty-seven. This amendment
also eliminated the previous system of temporary alternates.
8The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Supremo Elec-
toral) redistributes the fifty-seven seats in the Assembly
among the provinces after each census is taken, i.e., approxi-
mately every ten or twelve years.

9A description of the specifics of this formula may be
found in Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Election Factbook,
February 6, 1966 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Compara-
Study of Political Systems, 1966). The system is established
by Articles 134-3.38 of the Costa Rican Electoral Code.










0In 1953 the PLN won thirty of the forty-five legisla-
tive seats. In 1958 it gained a majority of twenty-three
of the forty-five seats after it worked out its differences
with a group that had splintered away from the party, run on
an independent ticket, and elected a total of three deputies.
This majority proved to be unstable in certain cases as is
illustrated by the fact that the party was able to elect a
member of its group to the presidency of the Assembly in only
two of the four annual sessions of the 1958-1962 period. In
1962 and 1966 the party won twenty-nine out of the expanded
total of fifty-seven seats. And in 1970 it managed to win
thirty-two of these fifty-seven seats.

1The other two countries ranked in this group are Chile
and Uruguay. See Robert H. Dix, "Opposition and Development
in Latin America" (paper delivered at the 63rd Annual Meeting
of the American Political Science Association, Chicago,
September 5-7, 1967), p. 26.
12
1Russell H. Fitzgibbon and Kenneth F. Johnson," Measure-
ment of Latin American Political Change," in Peter G. Snow,
ed., Government and Politics in Latin America (New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), pp. 262-276.
13
Private bills may be submitted to the Assembly,but in
order to be processed they must be countersigned by at least
one of the deputies.
14
1The period studied was that of May through November,
1968. This covered the first ordinary session period of the
legislative calendar (May through July), an extraordinary
session period (August), and the second ordinary session
period (September through November). The remainder of the
calendar year consisted of the second extraordinary session
period.

For the purposes of this study, private bills have
been classified as deputy sponsored because they require the
countersignature of at least one deputy. In this case 9
per cent were private bills and 63 per cent were "normally"
sponsored deputy bills. The equivalent breakdown for the
Mijeski study is 17.2 per cent private and 46.9 per cent
deputy bills. Though Mijeski retains the private category
throughout most of his study, the author has collapsed his two
categories into one. An evaluation of the Mijeski conclusions
indicates that no great distortion is introduced by proceed-
ing in this fashion. Yet there is another justification
worthy of note for combining private and deputy bills. In
the research carried out it became obvious that a great
number of bills presented by the deputies as personal bills
were in fact bills which they had been requested to present by
others. Thus the primary usefulness of the differentiation










of private and deputy bills, i.e., the identification of the
source of the idea, is lost. In most cases private bills
are introduced as such not because the sponsors find it dif-
ficult to have them presented by the deputies but because
for one reason or another they want to have their names
associated with the bill. See Mijeski, p. 66.

1Mijeski utilized the same operational definition of
"national" and "local" bills used in this study and found
that legislative bills accounted for 52.8 per cent of the
"national" bills and 80.3 per cent of the "local" bills.
17
If one were to use a more sophisticated classifica-
tion scheme, it might be found that a majority of the
"crucial" bills sent to the Assembly have their origin in
the executive branch. Even if this assumption were made,
the data available would still indicate that the deputies
play a significant role in the introduction of bills.
18
Ibid., pp. 77-78.

19Costa Rica, Asamblea Legislativa, Constituci6n
Political de la Republica de Costa Rica (San Jos4: Imprenta
Nacional, 1968).
20
20Mijeski's study does not focus on this and several
other questions raised in this section. In those cases
where comparisons are not made, it will be due to the
absence of comparative data.

It will be noted that this figure (207) does not
match the total figure (198) which would be obtained from
Table 1.2. The discrepancy is due to the fact that time-
span data were not available for nine bills.

22Though Mijeski has utilized an indicator of rejection
in his study, he has operationalized it differently than in
this study. His rejection figures cover not those bills
voted in the negative on the floor but those bills which
were not passed. Consequently they include bills which for
a variety of reasons died before they reached the final vot-
ing stage. Given the fact that all bills must be reintro-
duced (puesto a despacho) at the outset of each annual session
in May, many bills fail to obtain approval not because of any
negative action by the Assembly but because of a lack of
interest on the part of the sponsors who fail to reintroduce
their bills. In effect,then, Mijeski has tapped, perhaps
unconsciously, a dimension which is not really related to the
rejection of bills by the legislature. It is worth noting,
however, that even if his indicator is utilized it is found
that 23.7 per cent of the "defeated" bills that he studied











had been initiated by the executive branch. Though it is
true that legislative bills accounted for more than three-
quarters of the "defeated" bills, the fact that a significant
number of executive bills were "defeated" indicates that
even if one were to rely exclusively on the Mijeski data, it
would have to be concluded that the Legislative Assembly is
far more than a symbolic participant in the allocational
process.
23
2Though the legislature must show where the funding for
an increased budget will come from, it is usually not difficult
to obtain legally acceptable evidence that the executive has
underestimated the projected income for a fiscal year.

2The municipal governments of Costa Rica have long
sought and obtained a dispensation on tax payments for pur-
chases of such things as cement supplies. Many bills dealt
with by the Assembly requested such negligible exemptions.
25
Until a constitutional amendment was passed in 1969,
the Assembly had to authorize the executive to negotiate
foreign loans. This meant that the legislature could formerly
play a greater role in setting certain types of fiscal and
credit policies than it can at the present time. It now
resorts to the introduction of certain enabling clauses which
limit the way in which the executive may utilize the funds
obtained through foreign loans.
26
It is of interest to note that in this case the agree-
ment was ratified in 1970 shortly after the installation of
the Figueres administration, in which there is a presidential-
party majority legislature. This fact would suggest that the
influence which can be exerted by a president varies from
term to term. The style of each president and the conditions
under which he serves may well be just as significant or more
significant than the institutionalized aspects of the executive-
legislative relationship.
27
2Robert D. Tomasek, "Costa Rica," in Ben C. Burnett and
Kenneth F. Johnson, eds., Political Forces in Latin America
(Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1968), p. 112.

28Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Government and Politics
(Ph.D. disseration, Emory University, 1965), p. 38.

29Manuel Mora, the main leader of the Communist party
since its inception in the early 1930s, was nominated to run
in the first slot of the party ticket for San Jose province,
which is the preferential position on any party legislative
slate. The vast proportion of the PASO campaign focused upon
the election of Mora rather than on that of any of the
legitimate PASO candidates.






39



3This power was exercised briefly in 1955, when the
supporters of former President Calder6n Guardia invaded from
Nicaragua and sought to overthrow the Figueres government
elected in 1953.















CHAPTER II

THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT


Any study of legislative behavior carried out in Latin

America is likely to fall victim to the type of imbalance

and defensiveness that Hans Baerwald has pointed to in his

recent comparison of the literature of "well-established"

and "non-established" legislatures. In a critique of a

recent legislative reader, he states:

Compare, for example, Crick's mature reflections on the
British Parliament with Agor's heavily footnoted pro-
testations concerning the "highly developed" character
of the Chilean Senate; or Ko'-nbcerg's severe recrimina-
tion regarding the Canadian Parliament with Stauffer's
comments concerning the Phillipine Congress's vitality
"in keeping democratic politics alive." Ccmrnonr cri-
teria or expectations appear to be lacking, ni.d a
rather pernicious condescension J,- aipparent-.. One can
evidently criticize well--established legislatures; and
freely discuss their shortcomings, especCally the
perceived chasm between expectations ; and performance;
but it is apparently not quite proper to find fault
with similar institutions in less hospitable climes;
nay, their performance must be extolled.J-

Though it is of questionable value to analyze legi.latures

within the context of "common expectations," sirce to do so

would probably lead to a rebirth of highly prescriptive

literature, it is certainly of value to beware of the exces-

sive degree of defensiveness alluded to by this critic. Though

it is not surprising that the imbalance cited should exist,

given the prevalent downgrading of Lat-ii. Aerican legislature.a











and those of other developing areas, an objective and bal-

anced focus should be a clear goal even of those who quite

naturally feel that they must justify the merit of research

topics which until recently have been considered of little

relevance.

In the first chapter of this study the proposition that

the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly is a significant par-

ticipant in systemic decision-making has been tested and

supported. It is difficult, however, to evaluate the decision-

making relevance of any given institution in isolation from

the institutional context of which it is a part. Consequently,

this chapter is devoted to an examination of the limitations

of the role of the legislature in decision-making implied by

the relationship which exists between the legislature and

these other institutions. A failure to focus upon this ques-

tion would make this study subject to the type of criticism

lodged by Baerwald.


General Overview

The relative compactness of Costa Rica, which covers an

area of approximately 19,600 square miles and has an esti-

mated population of 1,832,000,2 and the relative homogeneity

of its population have contributed to the establishment of

strong centralized government in this Central American nation.

The effective locus of decisional power.in the Costa Rican

presidential-unitary system lies without any doubt within

the central government. The seven provinces of the republic










lack any form of self-government. Each has a governor, who

is appointed by the president, but these officials may be

removed by the president at will and are largely symbolic

and anachronistic figures whose responsibilities and powers

are quite limited even in administrative matters. A degree

of self-government does exist at the cantonal level in the

form of elected municipal councils, but these councils have

very restricted allocational powers and rely heavily upon the

central government for those resources that they do receive.

Municipal government is supposed to fulfill important func-

tions at the local level, but there has always been a marked

discrepancy between the formalistic precepts found in the

various constitutions of Costa Rica and the effective powers

and resources granted to municipal councils for the fulfill-

ment of these functions.4 The fact that all modifications

in municipal budgets or in local tax structures must be

approved by the Legislative Assembly, i.e., the lack of home-

rule powers, is ready evidence of the absence of any signifi-

cant national-local decentralization. It has, in fact,

been observed that

This dependency upon allocational decisions made at
other levels of government has sharply curtailed the
development of a strong municipal system of government
in Costa Rica. This is true not only of the constric-
tions placed upon the independence of action of the
councils but also of the attitudes which it has engen-
dered in the local populace. The relevance and signifi-
cance of municipal government for the populace cannot
but be affected by this condition and is reflected in
the attitude that we found that the solutions to most
basic problems of the cantons had to be sought outside
of the municipal structure of government.5










This is to say that it is the Legislative Assembly that

impinges upon the decisional power of local government rather

than vice versa. Thus, if the overall systemic impact of

legislative decisional activity is reduced by decisional

activity within other structures of government, it is appar-

ent that this activity must take place at the central govern-

ment level and not at local levels of government.

The central government consists of the three traditional

branches--judicial, executive, and legislative--and is

patterned after a common Latin American variant of the presi-

dential system. This variant is characterized by the power

of the legislature to interpellate and censure individual

ministers of state, although in Costa Rica such actions need

not lead to the resignation of the minister in question. It

is also worth noting that the institutional fabric of the

nation, indeed the centralization of power found in Costa

Rica, is most definitely affected by the existence of a large

number of national autonomous agencies which operate in a

relatively independent fashion.


The Judicial Branch

The judicial branch of government in Costa Rica cannot

be said to impinge upon the decisional powers of the legis-

lature to any significant extent. It is, however, very

stable, and political meddling in its adjudicative activities

is quite unusual. This branch consists of a Supreme Court











and a number of lower courts. The judicial system, and the

Court in particular, enjoys not only a high degree of inde-

pendence but also substantial prestige, both jealously

guarded by the magistrates of the high court. This inde-

pendence is substantially supported by the fact that the

constitution stipulates that the judicial branch shall re-

ceive no less than 6 per cent of each annual budget and thus

needs not involve itself in political jockeying for adequate

funding within the executive and legislative branches. This

provision makes the court system one of the few institutions

within the Costa Rican public sector which would seem to

have an overabundance of funds. The fact that the Supreme

Court and some of the lower courts in San Jose occupy two

of the most modern and luxurious buildings in this capital

city serves as evidence of the privileged position enjoyed

by this branch of government. The independence of the court

system is further bolstered by the fact that permanence on

the high court tends to be the rule despite the fact that

appointments are for eight-year terms. This apparent weak-

ness is compensated for by the fact that magistrates on this

court are automatically reappointed to successive terms

unless the Assembly votes by a two-thirds majority to elect

a replacement.

The Supreme Court dces have the power to take decisions

which in some instances would reduce the impact of the

Assembly upon systemic decision--making. It is, for example,










empowered to make binding interpretations of constitutional

provisions and of their relevance to the actions of the

other branches of government. It also serves as an adjudi-

cator between the executive and legislative branches through

its required duty of ruling upon the validity of presiden-

tial vetoes which are based upon constitutional interpre-

tation. The Court has played an active role in solving the

latter kind of conflict, but it has not exercised the type

of broad interpretative power which has been resorted to by

the Supreme Court of the United States. It can thus be

stated that the high court of Costa Rica has not moved in

the direction of utilizing the potential power of judicial

legislation that it has to impinge upon the legislative

function of the Assembly. But there can be no doubt that

Costa Rica has one of the most influential court systems to

be found in all of Latin America. It may well be that full

utilization of judiciary constitutional powers has not and

will not be resorted to in the near future for fear that to

do otherwise would endanger the existing balance that has

allowed the judicial system to survive as a viable and

independent branch of government.

The mutual independence which characterizes the re-

lationships between the legislative and judicial branches

is not, however, replicated in the relationships between

the legislative and the executive. Without any doubt, the

major limitations upon the systemic decisional impact of










the legislative branch are related to the existence of a

competing source of decision-making within the executive

branch. The following section of this chapter is devoted

to an analysis of these limitations.


The Executive Branch

The executive branch is headed by a president who is

elected directly in the general elections held in Costa Rica

on the first Sunday of February every four years. He, in

turn, is granted the exclusive power to appoint and dis-

charge his ministers of state, who with him make up the top

hierarchy of this branch of government. The main formal

powers of the president and the ministers are those of

direction of the executive branch bureaucratic structure,

initiation of legislation, veto or ratification and execu-

tion of legislation, submission to the Assembly of the

national budget, disbursement of budgeted funds, direction

of the law enforcement and defense forces, temporary suspen-

sion of certain constitutional rights and guarantees subject

to legislative ratification within forty-eight hours, direc-

tion of foreign policy, and negotiation of international

agreements and loans, most of which require legislative

ratification.

Although the powers of the Costa Rican chief executive

are by no means minor, he is less powerful than most of his

counterparts in Latin America. For example, he does not










have the power to rule by decree in any but administrative

matters and cannot veto the annual budget as modified and

approved by the Legislative Assembly. Most important of

all, he lacks the power to exercise effective control over

the autonomous institutions which, as will be indicated in

another section, control a very substantial portion of the

allocational resources of the Costa Rican public sector.

The fact that presidential re-election has recently been

prohibited by constitutional provision leads to further

limitations on the influence that may be exercised by the

president. The fact that there has been party alternation

in power at the executive level in the past five elections

has prevented any continuity at the ministerial level and

has made it extremely difficult tc establish effective con-

trol over the state bureaucracy, most of whose members are

guaranteed job stability through a relatively advanced and

effective civil service system. The formal and informal

system of checks and balances in Costa Rica, of which the

bureaucracy is a part, has been referred to as one leading

to a form of immobilism that favors preservation of things

as they are and leads to a situation in which "system

maintenance is the keynote of . .formal government, and

change other than the most adaptive type is restricted."8

The above, however, does not mean that the president plays

a secondary role in the allocational process. Any given

Costa Rican president may be less powerful than his










counterpart in another Latin American country, but he is

still a dominant factor in the Costa Rican setting.

It is impossible to evaluate adequately the effective-

ness of the executive-branch inputs into the legislative

sub-system of Costa Rica in isolation of party-related con-

siderations. The means available to a president to affect

the decisional behavior of deputies are without doubt

determined in large part by the presence or absence of a

presidential-party majority in the legislature. It may also

be affected to a lesser, yet significant, extent by the

style and personality of the person occupying the presiden-

tial post. The fact that the occupants of legislative and

executive positions are changed every four years and that

presidential-party majority and minority legislatures have

also alternated in power during each of the last five terms

has in fact prevented executive-legislative relations from

becoming highly patterned. It is very likely that the

inputs into the legislative sub-system emanating from the

executive branch have been subject to substantial variation

from one term to another. The reader should keep in mind

that the discussion which follows is based almost entirely

upon observation of the behavior of one set of executive

officers vis-a-vis a presidential-party minority legislature.

It is also significant to note that the president in power

during the period studied lacked one of the most important

traits which has tended to characterize Costa Rican chief










executives. President Jos6 Joaquin Trejos was not a

national leader of any of the coalition parties which

backed his candidacy; he was a relatively obscure university

professor at the time of his nomination. It is quite likely

that this obscurity and previous non-involvement in politics

was useful to the coalition in projecting an image of a

candidate who was uncorrupted by previous participation in

politics; he was referred to as the candidate of the clean

hands manoss limpias). But once in office he was not able

to call upon the normal loyalty ties that have usually

existed between presidents drawn from the national leader-

ship ranks and the deputies. All of which points to the

fact that this one experience is not particularly represen-

tative and that generalizations based upon it may not be

accurate or applicable in many cases.

The relationship between the executive and legislative

branches was, to say the least, strained during the period

studied. Active coordination and collaboration between the

two branches was the exception rather than the rule. But

what is most important to note is that this was the product

not only of expected partisan conflicts inherent in a

presidential-party minority situation but also of a high

degree of discontent among the deputies of the coalition

that elected the president. In a country where personal

relationships are valued highly and where many feel that

they must go to the very top in order to achieve anything,










it was felt that the president and his ministers did not

provide their deputies with adequate access to them. An

attempt to generate a feeling that the representatives of

the coalition in the executive and the legislative branches

were working as a team was made by the president in the

first months of his term, but it was not successful. Weekly

meetings between the president and these deputies were

dropped by the former due to the fact that the latter wished

to utilize such meetings as a means of obtaining special

favors for their constituents and/or drawing constituency

demands to the attention of the chief executive. The presi-

dent, however, viewed these meetings as a means of discuss-

ing broad policy questions and of seeking to coordinate

legislative and executive activities. The failure of this

experiment led to reduced contact not only with the coalition

deputies as a group but also with individual deputies and

even with the main coalition leaders in the Assembly. The

coalition deputies came to resent this lack of personal con-

tact and were irked by the fact that the president and many

of the ministers failed to take their political interests

into account and at times even acted against these interests

without so much as a symbolic consultation.

Liaison with the legislative branch was carried out to

a limited extent by individual officials of ministerial rank.

But very few coalition deputies were satisfied with this

limited access. The office of the president had one










legislative liaison officer on its staff, but his role in

smoothing things out was peripheral at best as is indicated

by the fact that none of the deputies interviewed even

mentioned his existence. Under such conditions, the con-

clusion that the representatives of the executive power were

not in a strong position to ask special favors of the depu-

ties is obvious. The caucus leaders of the coalition par-

ties at times sought to convince their deputies that they

should toe the line on some matters for the sake of the

coalition's record in power but very frequently found this

to be an extremely distasteful and difficult task. In

general, the government deputies came to feel that,given

the treatment that they received from the executive, they

had no responsibility to it. In fact, some of them seemed

to enjoy watching the president and his ministers struggle

to get themselves out of hot water without any significant

help from the legislative sidelines. Though this feeling

of detachment from the executive was clearly affected by

the personal style of the president, it could be posited

that in countries, such as Costa Rica, where presidents

attain office without having elaborated or campaigned on

a specific programmatic platform, presidential-party depu-

ties will feel less obligated to go along with executive

branch initiatives than would be the case in countries where

these deputies have committed themselves in campaign to

support specific or even general types of measures.










Interestingly enough, most of the pressure mechanisms

at the disposal of the executive were ones which could be

used most effectively vis-a-vis the majority party within

the Assembly. For example, it was able to push for action

on certain bills, given the fact that failure to act upon

them would have brought forth angry protests against the PLN-

controlled legislature rather than the executive branch.

The executive was also in a position to negotiate passage

of certain bills by promising to exercise its power to dis-

burse authorized funds for the pet projects of the PLN

deputies. Most such pressures by and negotiations with the

executive were largely limited to budgetary bills. The

fact that the PLN deputies were the ones who stood to benefit

most from negotiated bills and to lose most from failure to

act upon certain types of urgent legislation explains why

it was these deputies who acted as the main defenders of

certain executive bills in the presence of the lethargy of

the government deputies. Such lethargy was in large part

the product of the fact that the government deputies were

marginal to the entire bargaining process, and this fact

could only contribute to the alienation of this group.

But it would be a grave error to evaluate the impact

of executive inputs exclusively on the basis of the ability

of the executive to pressure the legislature into approving

its bills. Without any question, the power of a president

who lacks a majority in the legislature is relatively










limited, but he is far from being a lame duck. The

executive, through control of or ready access to a vast

bureaucracy, is inevitably in a better position than the

legislature to acquire the data and expertise required to

evaluate the favorable and negative aspects of some types

of legislation. The executive is consequently in a position

to provide or withhold information as best suits its inter-

ests. This power is of considerable significance in a legis-

lative context such as that of Costa Rica, where the legis-

lature has had virtually no support staff capable of acquir-

ing data independently. In some cases the executive has

what amounts to a monopoly on certain types of information.

Representatives of the ministries may be obligated to appear

before committees when requested to do so, but they may be

quite selective in the types of information that they choose

to divulge. If directly asked to produce a given type of

information, they may resort to endless means of withholding

information that they do not wish to divulge. And deputies

are frequently not well-enough prepared or informed to know

which direct questions are critical to an adequate evaluation

of a bill before them if it is the least bit complex. Exec-

utive inputs of highly technical bills and of budgetary

bills are rarely affected in any drastic fashion by the

legislative conversion process.

The data acquired do not allow for the determination

of how frequently highly complex or technical bills are










initiated by the executive branch. The number of such bills

has probably been increasing over the years, though they

still do not seem to represent a very large proportion of

the bills submitted to the Assembly. But it is likely that

those that are introduced, though a minority in number, may

be among the most significant. And if this is true, the

impact of such executive inputs is not to be underestimated,

as the legislature of Costa Rica is virtually unable to

evaluate most of such bills given its lack of support staff.

Consequently, the Assembly is in no position to analyze,

and much less to offer counter-proposals to, bills of this

nature.

Yet it is in the second area, that of budgetary inputs,

that the impact of executive input becomes most evident.

The executive not only has the exclusive power of budgetary

input but has an even more inclusive impact on budgetary

allocational politics due to the fact that the legislature

is not equipped to analyze large budgetary bills such as the

annual budget in more than an extremely superficial fashion.

A brief examination of the process followed in studying an

annual budget will provide ready evidence of the fact that

with very limited exceptions executive budgetary inputs

represent final financial allocational policy.

This author was given permission to sit in on the

closed sessions of the sub-commi.ttee of the budgetary

committee, made up exclusively of PLN deputies, that carried










out the preliminary study of the 1969 budget. This sub-

committee met daily for periods of up to eight hours to

analyze the budget submitted by the executive. They had

only two staff members working with them, and their efforts

were largely reduced to the time-consuming process of

checking the budget line item by line item against the bud-

get of the previous year and against the requests made by

each ministry to the budget office of the executive branch.

They were thus able to cut out new positions or to lower

certain line items which were felt to be detrimental to the

PLN in an upcoming election year, e.g., the funds to

ministries for publicity purposes. No significant attempts

were made to evaluate general programs, a task which would

have been impossible, given the fact that only two out of

the eight members of the sub-committee had any economic

training or understanding of budgetary analysis. In fact,

the main interest of the majority of the members was to work

out the details of the pork-barrel funds built into the

budget at this stage. Thus, though this group was able to

add approximately ten million colones to the budget in

pork-barrel funds for the PLN deputies by cutting or re-

ducing certain items in the budget and by obtaining an

opinion from the Comptroller General's office that the exec-

utive had underestimated its income, it did not and could

not come to grips with an evaluation of the desirability of

authorizing funds for one type of program rather than some










other. The full committee made only minor changes in the

report of the sub-committee and was equally hamstrung as

far as executing a detailed analysis of expenditures. It

is thus apparent that executive budgetary inputs are modi-

fied only slightly by the legislature in the process of

converting them into outputs.

The power of the president to affect the allocational

process in Costa Rica is not, however, limited to the for-

mal decisional process which ends once a bill has been

approved or disapproved by the Assembly. As in most politi-

cal systems, it is the executive branch that must implement

most legislation. This power is potentially significant in

an area of the world where, from colonial times, the phrase

"laws are issued but not followed" (la ley se dicta pero no

se cumple) has been oft repeated. In Costa Rica this is

not a widespread rule, but one can certainly find numerous

cases where it would apply. No doubt, many of these cases

involve what Charles Anderson has referred to as "poetic

laws" or "the grand proyecto."0 The laws are not imple-

mented because it is simply not feasible to do so. For

example, the law passed in 1969 dealing with the protection

of forested areas comes close to being a model law, but the

cost of hiring the manpower needed to guarantee that it not

be violated is prohibitive. In other words, there are some

laws which could not be implemented even if the executive

were highly disposed to do so. But in many cases laws go











by unapplied due to the discretionary power of the executive

to allocate greater or lesser enforcement energy to the law

in question. Individual deputies do from time to time draw

cases of laxity in enforcement to the attention of the

Assembly and of the public, but this type of oversight is

the exception rather than the rule--in large part due to

the fact that the Assembly is simply not equipped to fulfill

an encompassing oversight function.

The discretionary powers of the executive in the imple-

mentation of legislation are substantially bolstered by the

fact that it is normally authorized to issue the specific

implementing orders related to any bill. It is in a posi-

tion, especially in the case of highly technical laws, to

exercise a high degree of unsupervised discretionary power.

The deputies interviewed indicated that they did not con-

sider that such authorization granted the executive a signi-

ficant instrument of power. The prevalence of this feeling

is manifested in the fact that the Assembly and the deputies

expressed no need to follow up on such matters to assure

themselves that the spirit of the law has been faithfully

followed in issuing implementing orders. In reporting a

similar phenomenon in Argentina, Lee Fennell writes that

Under the constitutional power to issue "the instruc-
tions and regulations that may be necessary for the
execution of the laws of the Nation, being careful
not to alter their spirit by exceptions," presidents
have in fact frequently made law by executive
decrees.11










This phase of executive behavior merits careful scrutiny in

future studies of Costa Rica. It is unlikely that Costa

Rican presidents have gone so far as to make law by executive

decree utilizing this subterfuge in very many cases, but it

would not be surprising to find that executive implementing

orders with some frequency reflect biases not specifically

contained in the law. But the discretionary power of the

executive in implementing legislation is not limited to such

orders. One additional prerogative of even greater import

is granted to the executive.

The budgets of Costa Rica establish ceilings on the

disbursements that may be made but in few cases make the

disbursement of authorized allocations obligatory. And

since virtually all budgeted funds must be disbursed by the

Ministry of Finance, the executive branch is in a position

to issue payments according to its priorities and to with-

hold funds when it so desires. This power is used not only

to block certain types of expenditures which it may not deem

appropriate even though budgeted but also as a bargaining

mechanism in a process not unlike that which exists in the

Phillipines and is described in the following terms by

Robert Stauffer:

Because in the centralized Phillipine system the
president has the authority to release or hold back
funds already appropriated, especially, funds for pork
barrel projects, much of the interbranch bargaining
operates on a quid pro quo level with the chief
executive following through on past commitments in










return for which Congress accedes to new proposals
made by the president while simultaneously extracting
new commitments for future allocations.12

In conclusion it can be stated that the president of

Costa Rica is probably in a position to affect the allo-

cational process more than any other single individual or

institution in the country. There is, however, good reason

to question Lloyd Mecham's argument that Latin American

government, and thus Costa Rican government, is mainly

ruled by unchallenged personalistic executive fiat.1 The

weakness of this argument is to be found not only in the

proven role that the legislature plays in Costa Rican

decision-making but also in the presence of a set of insti-

tutions which if grouped together by type must be viewed as

the major single challenge to both executive and legislative

decisicnal power. The institutions in question are those

referred to as autonomous institutions and are briefly dis-

cussed in the following section.


The Autonomous Institutions

In general, research on governmental institutions found

within the Costa Rican political system is limited. But

nowhere is this scarcity or absence of research more notable

than in the case of what could be referred to as the fourth

branch of government of this country-'.-the autonomous insti-

tutions. In fact, any attempt to evaluate the allocational

powers of the traditional branches of government of Costa











Rica in a definitive way will be impossible until adequate

research on these institutions has been carried out.

The autonomous institutions are public institutions

which have been created to meet functionally specific,

largely service-oriented goals in a decentralized fashion.

They play a highly significant part in the allocational

process and in meeting the needs and demands of the Costa

Rican society. Provision of water and sewerage services, of

electrical and telephone services, and of public housing is

all in the hands of such institutions. The social security

system, the national insurance monopoly, the nation's two

railroads, and the nationalized banking system are also

characterized by this form of autonomous control and organi-

zation.

The autonomous institution system has clearly fulfilled

one of the primary goals which motivated its creation, that

of preventing an excessive centralization of power in the

executive branch. But a. price has been paid for this type

of decentralization. A number of independent structures,

jealously guarded by their bureaucratic overlords, have

emerged, and coordinated development has become virtually

impossible to achieve. In effect, these institutions oper-

ate independently of any real direction from or control by

the central government. This situation is due in large part

to the fact that in most cases the budgets and resources of

these institutions are not subject to the normal controls










which can be exercised by the executive and legislative

branches through their respective powers of budgetary

initiative and review. The vast proportion of the resources

of these institutions come from service charges andmandatory

contributions or are guaranteed either by law or by specific

constitutional provision. And budgetary review is restric-

ted to approval of the annual budget of each institution by

the Comptroller General's office, which is not empowered to

exercise any substantial independent judgment in terms of

the priority allocation of the funds of these institutions.

In 1968 one deputy sought to obtain passage of legislation

that would have made these budgets subject to direct legis-

lative review and within-budget priority reallocations, but

he was unsuccessful in his attempt due to the ability of

these institutions to mobilize strong political pressures

against it.

The president and ministers have the shared power to

appoint the directors of the boards of these institutions

and thus would seem to have an effective means of attaining

control over them. But the established staggered term

system of appointment has at times prevented the president's

appointees from gaining control of the boards until his

third year in office. Even when such control has existed,

the directors seem to have acted relatively independently

because, once named, they cannot be removed by the president

during their four-year term.











The implications of this apparent absence of control by

either the executive or the legislature need not be elab-

orated upon beyond indicating that in 1969 the incomes of

these institutions represented 54.6 per cent of public sec-

tor income and a staggering 19.2 per cent of the nation's

gross national product. Clearly, the power of the legis-

lative and executive branches to allocate societal resources

is severely limited, given the existence of the autonomous

institutions.


Summary and Conclusions

In Chapter I, a case was made for classifying Costa

Rica as an exception to the rule that the legislatures of

lesser-developed countries do not have any meaningful

participation in systemic decision-making. But the degree

of independence exercised in decisional matters by a legis-

lature and the significance of legislative decision-making

can be overestimated unless evaluated within the overall

institutional context of systemic decision-making.

In this chapter the institutional context of the coun-

try has been examined in an attempt to identify the possible

limitations which this context may place upon the decision-

making role of the Legislative Assembly. It has been found

that local levels of government and the judicial branch do

not place any notable restraints upon this role. The formal

and informal powers of the executive branch and the











independence and aliocational power of the autonomous

institutions, however, have been found to be a limiting

factor upon this role. Thus an objective evaluation of

the decision-making role of this legislature must indicate

that the legislature of Costa Rica shares its decision-

making role with the above-mentioned institutions and may

in some cases have a lesser impact upon decision-making

than these other institutions do. But the existence of

these limitations does not contradict the finding reported

in the previous chapter that the Legislative Assembly does

play a significant role in the allocation of systemic

resources in Costa Rica.















Notes


Hans Baerwald, review of Legislatures in Developmental
Perspective, ed. by Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
American Political Science Review, 66 (March, 1972), p. 248.
2This estimate is based upon projections to April of
1972 and was provided to the author by the Tribunal Supremo
de Elecciones of Costa Rica.

A recent study of the municipal governments of twenty-
five predominantly rural cantons indicates that the sub-
ventions of the central government accounted for an average
of 54.9 per cent of the revenues of these units of local
government. The study draws the conclusion that "at the
present time the rural municipal councils of Costa Rica
fulfill little more than an administrative function and are
not at all equipped to participate actively in the process
of resolving the needs of a 'developing' society." See
Christopher E. Baker, Ronald Ferndndez Pinto, and Samuel
Z. Stone, Municipal Government in Costa Rica: Its
Characteristics and Functions (San Josd: Associated Colleges
of the Midwest, 1971), pp. 84-85, 122.

Ibid., p. 17-31.

Ibid., p. 130.
A constitutional reform passed in 1969 now prohibits
the re-election of all presidents elected after 1969. Prior
to this reform, re-election was possible after a lapse of
eight years (two terms). For example Jos6 Figueres, who
was president from 1953 to 1958, was eligible for re-election
in 1966. His election in 1970 eliminates him from any
future contention for the presidential post.

To the knowledge of the author, there has been only
one minister who has been carried over from one administration
to another since 1949. This was Oscar Barahona Streber,
who served as Minister of Finance in the latter part of the
term of President Jose Joaquin Trejos (1966-1970) and the
first months of the term of President Jos4 Figueres
(1970-1972).










Charles F. Denton, The Politics of Development in
Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1969),
p. 112.

9It is to be noted that unless the government deputies
had managed to have the executive include port-barrel items
in the budget for their communities before sending the
budget to the Assembly, which did not seem to happen very
frequently, they were totally locked out of the pork-barrel
grab bag.

10Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change in
Latin American (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1967),
p. 135.

l1Lee C. Fennell, "Congress in the Argentine Political
System," in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legisla-
tures: Their Role and Influence (New York: Praeger
Publishers, 1971, p. 157.

12Robert B. Stauffer, "Congress in the Phillipine
Political System, in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
eds., Legislatures in Developmental Perspective (Durham:
Duke University Press, 1970), p. 351.
13J. Lloyd Mecham, "Latin American Constitutions:
Nominal and Real," Journal of Politics, 21 (May, 1959),
pp. 258-275.














CHAPTER III

THE POLITICAL CONTEXT


K. C. Wheare has aptly stated that

We would misunderstand profoundly the working of
legislatures if we thought of them as bodies which,
between elections, thought things out in isolated
tranquillity independence, free to initiate or to
decide matters as they thought fit, influenced only
by members' contacts with each other.'

The institutional setting described in the preceding chapter

is clearly one of the set of factors which limit the degree

of independence that may be exercised by the members of the

Costa Rican legislature. But many Costa Ricans believe that

the most limiting factor in this context is that of the con-

trol exercised over the deputies by supposedly monolithic

party structures. If one were to accept what is written by

some local reporters, the conclusion would have to be drawn

that the deputies of the Legislative Assembly behave like a

herd of cattle and vote at all times according to party

lines and instructions.

Though it is safe to state that many aspects of politi-

cal behavior in Costa Rica must be analyzed within the con-

text of party politics, the view that the behavior of all or

most of the deputies of the Assembly is ruled by monolithic

party structures is open to question and empirical verifica-

tion. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the











characteristics of the political party system as a means of

drawing some informed conclusions in respect to the signifi-

cance that party structures have within the political system

of this country and more specifically within the legislative

sub-system.


The Political Party System

The political party system of Costa Rica has been clas-

sified accurately by Ronald McDonald as a multi-party domi-

nant system.2 There is a dominant party, the National

Liberation Party (Partido Liberacidn Nacional), which will be

referred to as the PLN, and a number of smaller parties, most

of which can be classified as anti-PLN parties. Yet, despite

the predominance of the PLN, these smaller parties in coali-

tion are capable of challenging PLN control of the govern-

ment. Such anti-PLN coalitions have been formed in three of

the four elections held between 1958 and 1970, a fact that

would seem to support the proposition that

As one party grows increasingly dominant, incentives
arise for opposition coalitional party activity, which
are based rationally in the aspiration to maximize
party influence against a strong opponent.3

They have run common deputy slates as well as a common presi-

dential candidate in the last two elections and were success-

ful in wresting the executive branch from the dominant party

in 1958 and 1966, though they have never been able to deprive

the PLN of an absolute majority in the legislature.











The crushing defeat experienced by the two largest

minority parties in 1962, when they chose to run separate

presidential tickets, provided ready evidence that there was

little hope in the immediate future of defeating the PLN

without resorting to coalitional behavior. In that election

the PLN candidate won by a margin of 57,317 votes; but, if

it is assumed that a single opposition candidate would have

received the combined votes of these two parties, it could

be argued that this could have been a close election given

the fact that the margin of victory of the PLN would have

been that of a precarious 2,577 votes. In 1966 a coalition
5
presidential candidate won by a margin of 4,220 votes. The

anti-PLN coalition reappeared in 1970 but suffered defeat at

the hands of the dominant party.

Anti-PLN coalitions have regularly chosen to register

under the name of National Unification Party (Partido Unifi-

cacion Nacional). Invariably the largest party in the coali-

tion has been the Republican Party (Partido Republicano).6

Until the election of 1970, the second largest party in the

coalition was that known as the National Union Party (Partido

Uni6n Nacional). Other nominal parties have been members of

the coalitions, but they have tended to be parties on paper

only and generally have been legal entities formed by a very

reduced number of people seeking to attain some bargaining

power in the nomination process of the coalition. Generally

speaking, it is possible to classify the Republican Party as











somewhat left of center whereas the National Union Party

and the other mini-parties can be classified as right of

center.

The roots of this alliance can best be understood by

placing the major political parties within the historical

context of the "revolution" experienced by Costa Rica in

1948. A full explanation of this event would require an

extensive treatise and cannot be entertained in this brief

chapter. But in capsular form, and in somewhat simplistic

terms, it may be said that in 1948 constitutional order was

interrupted in Costa Rica as a result, among other things, of

the attempt of the leaders of the Republican Party in power

to nullify the outcome of the election held in that year, in

which they lost the presidential race. The leaders of the

revolution eventually became the leaders of the National

Liberation Party when it was founded in 1951. The reasons

for the basic antagonism between these two parties are to be

found in the events surrounding the conflagration of 1948.

It is somewhat more difficult to deal with or classify the

National Union Party. This party has traditionally repre-

sented the more conservative sectors of Costan Rican society.

But it has not always been associated with the other main

anti-PLN party. Thus in 1948 one finds that this political

group was associated with the rebellion against the Republi-

can Party then in government. In fact, the main leader of

the National Union Party was the victorious candidate whose










election was honored by the future PLN leaders, and he served

as president from 1949 to 1953. How then does one explain

the fact that this party is now in the anti-PLN camp?

The explanation for this lies in the recurrence of what

might be referred to as "unholy alliances" between liberal

and conservative parties in Costa Rica. Both the Republican

Party and the National Liberation Party have liberal inclina-

tions, but they have never been able to unify under a common

banner. The conservative forces, on the other hand, have

tended to ally with whatever liberal group has been out of

power. Thus, between 1940 and 1948, when the Republican Party

was undertaking substantial reform, one finds a growing

association between the liberal outs, who would eventually

form the National Liberation Party, and the conservative

forces. Once the PLN attained the status of the main liberal

party, i.e., as of 1953, the conservative party group switched

to an alliance with the Republican Party, which has since

then been unable to recoup its previous status. Though

these alliances have been ones of convenience for both the

liberal outs and the conservatives, it should be noted that

in each case coalition with the conservatives has led to a

sacrifice on the part of the liberal coalition party of some

of its change-oriented perspective. In the years preceding

the events of 1948, one sees that the liberal leaders

opposing the Republican Party were forced to downplay their

real intentions for fear of losing the support of the











conservatives. Thus one is faced with the anomaly that

the leaders of the.Republican Party were led to nullify

the elections of 1948 partly out of fear that the liberal-

conservative opposition coalition would act against the

reforms introduced between 1940 and 1948 if allowed to

take power. The "revolution" indeed was seen by them as a

resort to arms to attain this end; whereas in retrospect

one sees that the leaders of the revolution acted to re-

inforce these reforms and to introduce new ones. The case

at the present time is somewhat different in that coali-

tional behavior has led not so much to the temporary sub-

limation of the reformist inclinations of the Republican

Party but to an extended sublimation of these since 1958.

Despite claims to the contrary by some authors, at

the present time there is no evidence that any of the parties

has a structured ideology. Frequently they lack even the

most basic of party programs or platforms. No doubt,

party activists may refer one to party documents which are

said to enunciate party ideology. But it is hard to

believe that even these so-called "ideologies" are particu-

larly relevant to the political life of the nation when

the main unifying factor in the opposition coalition is

openly described as follows: "We of the Unification, in

essence, are those Costa Ricans who are neither in agree-

ment with the theses, procedures, and points of view of











the National Liberation Party nor with the political be-

havior of their leaders." The relevance and credibility

of "ideology" is even more difficult to take seriously,

given the fact that PLN partisans and officials have in

the past taken actions that are in clear contradiction with

certain principles set out in their ideological charter.1

The relative irrelevance of ideology in Costa Rica is

cogently described by Charles Anderson in the following

terms:

The Costa Rican political process does not encourage
political success through the mobilization of a
narrow coalition circumscribed by a rigorous ideo-
logical position. Rather victory is apt to
come to that movement which can successfully appeal
to many disparate elements in the population.l1

The policy differences between administrations, which in

theory have reflected different "ideological" orienta-
l?
tions, are found by Anderson to be virtually non-existent.2

The only visible ideological commitment within the

PLN, which claims to be an ideological party in a most

vociferous fashion, is the defense of the institutional

reforms which its present leaders carried out in the late

1940s and early 1950s. Generally speaking, it can be said

that the main difference between the general orientation

of the PLN and the other parties revolves around the ques-

tion of the degree to which the state should intervene in

the economy. But despite the predictions of some Costa

Ricans, this one precept has not produced any sort of











integrated ideological formulation on the part of the
13
parties. The PLN has tended to favor more state interven-

tion in the past, but even it has become more conservative

in this respect in recent years. It is certainly not true

that party affiliation is based to any significant extent

on ideological positions. In fact, the interviews carried

out for this study indicate that few PLN or PR deputies

felt that there were any significant "ideological" differ-

ences between these two parties. Party affiliation related

much more closely to a sense of loyalty to or repudiation

of the leaders of the two main groups which participated in
14
the 1948 civil war,4 though changes in this highly person-

alistic pattern are becoming evident with the attrition in

the ranks of these leaders due to age.

The main parties of Costa Rica are very similar in the

sense that they are all multi-class parties in terms of

the class composition of their voters. The absence of

clear-cut social cleavages among the major parties contri-

butes to the fact that pressures for substantial realloca-

tion of systemic resources are not strong enough to lead

to action on the part of the political decision-makers.

Upper- and middle-class interest, which tends to be status

quo oriented, tends to predominate in the parties, even

though the largest proportion of Costa Rican voters is of
the urban and rural lower class. Though Suzanne
the urban and rural lower class. Though Suzanne











Bodenheimer was only referring to the PLN and the other

so-called Social Democratic parties of Latin America when

she wrote that they "have in practice defaulted on their

rhetorical promises to the masses and reinforced the landed,
,16
commercial and industrial elites,6 this evaluation is

applicable to all of the major parties of Costa Rica.

The major parties of the country are also similar

in that, despite the fact that all three of them have been

in existence for at least twenty years, and have generally

enjoyed a continuity in leadership and membership, they

have developed no permanent structures and activities of

note.17 Foreign observers may be shown numerous detailed
18
organizational charts and descriptions, but the truth

of the matter is that in Costa Rica, as in most other

countries of the world where relatively free elections are

held, political parties are electoral organizations, and

as such come to life as active organizational structures at

the time of elections. Although all three parties have had

national committees and directorates, these have tended to

meet irregularly as formal structures. Even the PLN, which

has come closest to maintaining any semblance of permanent

activity, has shown visible signs of experiencing this

dormancy between elections. It has maintained the only

permanent national headquarters office, but this office has

been a symbol rather than a reliable indicator of permanent










activity. All that remains of the political parties after

an election has been held is a group of elected represen-

tatives within the governmental structure at the local

and national levels and a limited number of loosely asso-
19
ciated party leaders.9 The organized structures of the

parties are usually limited to the congressional party

caucuses (fracciones) and, to a more limited extent, to the

supposedly permanent national party directorates.


Legislative Party Caucuses
and External Party Leaders

At the time that the research in Costa Rica was carried

out, four different parties were represented within the

Legislative Assembly. The National Liberation Party (PLN)

held twenty-nine seats and thus an absolute majority in a

legislature of fifty-seven seats. Despite the fact that

they had run on common legislative tickets, the Rupublican

Party (PR) and the National Union Party (PUN) were organized

as separate political groups at both the congressional and

national party levels and tended to lack any significant

degree of coordination. The PR held eighteen seats and the

PUN held eight.2 The fourth party, the Revolutionary

Civic Union (UCR), was represented by two deputies but

lacked any visible organizational structures both inside

and outside of the Assembly. The other parties, i.e., the

three major parties, each had, to a greater or lesser extent,

a caucus organization and a formally organized national

directorate.










The caucus or fraccidn of the PLN was by far the most

highly organized one in the Assembly. The party deputies

met in scheduled fracci6n meetings twice a month, unless

unforeseen circumstances or recesses led to their cancella-

tion or urgent matters led to the scheduling of extra-

ordinary sessions. To the best knowledge of the author,

eleven such meetings were held between June and November
21
of 1968.21 It was difficult to establish how many times

the PR and PUN fracciones met during this six-month period

though it can be stated that they neither met jointly nor

did they tend to seek any coordination between themselves.

The PR caucus did not meet on a regularly scheduled basis

but did so only when special issues or needs for coordination

arose. It was quite apparent that it met far fewer times

than the PLN caucus did. Several deputies of the PUN

claimed that their caucus met weekly at the home of the

president of the national directorate of the party. Informal

conversations with other PUN deputies led to the impression

that this fracci6n met once every three or four weeks for

a total of perhaps six to eight meetings during the period

in question.

The author was granted the unusual permission to sit

in on all of the caucus meetings of the PLN, but it was

impossible to gain access to the meetings of the other two

parties. Thus, in discussing the types of matters dealt

with in caucus meetings, primary attention will be given











to observations made in the meetings held by the more

accessible group. There is reason to believe, with the

exceptions that will be pointed out, that the general de-

scription provided would apply to all three parties.

It is widely believed and reported that party disci-

pline is strictly enforced in the Costa Rican Assembly.22

But the small number of bills discussed in the PLN meetings

does not support the view that party deputies must fre-

quently vote according to party-line stands liness de

partido). A party line, obligating all caucus deputies to

support a specific stand on a bill, is taken whenever two-

thirds of the fraccion deputies vote to subject a bill to
23
such treatment.2 No more than 7 of the 587 bills before the

Assembly were discussed in the fracci6n meetings held during

the six-month period in question, and only 3 of .these.

were subjected to party-line stands. And, even in those

cases where a party line was voted, deputies were allowed to

vote against the stand agreed upon if they could present

arguments considered valid by the other members of the caucus

as to why it would be politically unwise or difficult for

them to support the party line publicly.24 It is doubtful,

however, that this obligation would have been waived had the

release of one or more votes represented the defeat of the
25
position of the fraccin.25

Though it was impossible to obtain detailed reports

from the PR and PUN deputies on the bills discussed by their

caucus groups, the impression given by them was that they too











discussed a very small number of bills, possibly even fewer

than those considered by the PLN group. One main difference

that was established was that the PR and PUN fracciones

tended to discuss bills in the later stages of processing,

i.e., after they had been reported out of committee, whereas

the PLN fracci6n tended to discuss them while they were still

in committee, thus seeking to affect them positively or nega-

tively in a more organized manner.26 No party-line stands on

the part of the fracciones of these two parties were evident

in the period June-November, 1968. The PR deputies indicated

that lines de partido had been taken in previous years but

that they were very infrequent. As in the case of the PLN,

it was indicated that a flexible application of party lines

was utilized. The PUN deputies, on the other hand, indicated

that party lines could be voted by their group, but there

was a consensus among them that they had not done so and were

not disposed to do so because they felt that the freedom of

choice of the individual deputy was of paramount importance

to their group. There is reason to believe that they were

the least subjected to caucus or external party pressures.

To a greater or lesser extent, all of the fracciones

drew upon the advice of outside experts associated formally

or informally with the party when discussing certain bills.

The PLN fracci6n seemed to draw upon such assistance more

frequently than the others. But even in the case of the PLN

this occurred in a minority of the cases. The difference










between the Costa Rican dependence upon external party direc-

tion and that of a strong external party legislature such as

Venezuela's is worthy of note. In Venezuela it is

reported that

It is in the fraccidn that party policy from the party's
central committee is debated and/or explained and/or
legitimate for purposes of defending it in Senate
floor or committee debate.27

The relative influence of the national party leadership

upon the actions of the caucuses of the PLN and the PR and

its individual members is not, however, to be discarded out-

right.28 The personalistic nature of Costa Rican politics

which persists to this day would suggest that to proceed in

such a manner would be quite careless. The influence of the

national party leadership is not evidenced so much through

actions or positions taken by the national party directorate

as by those of individual leaders. No cases in which the

national directorate approached the PR fraccidn as a whole

recommending or demanding that it take certain positions were

identified. Occasional communication from the PLN direc-

torate was received by. the PLN fracci6n, and one joint session

was held by the fracci6n and the national directorate in

order to discuss a highly controversial bill. But even in the

case of the PLN, such contacts were clearly secondary in

importance to informal contacts between certain national

leaders and the key deputies of the fracci6n. Though formal

channels of communication existed between the fracciones and

the national directorates, most communication and pressure










from the external party leaders tended to take place at the

individual level, though this was more marked in the case

of the PR than of the PLN.

It is difficult to generalize about the extent to which

external party leaders in Costa Rica can be said to exercise

control over the behavior of their party deputies. During

the period studied, it appeared that PR deputies tended to be

more highly influenced by such leaders than were the PLN

deputies. In the case of the PR, it seemed that a word from

the party president or one of his lieutenants was sufficient

for consensus to arise on any given issue. No specific cases

of independence in the face of concerted efforts from above

were identified within the PR. The PR deputies argued that

the views of the national leadership were not imposed upon

them. But at least it can be said that these deputies were

not very prone to analyze and evaluate the "word" from above

in a critical fashion. In fact, on several occasions there

were indications that a phone call from one particular national

leader, the brother of party president, Dr. Rafael Angel

Calderon Guardia, during a floor session was all that was

needed to establish the line to be followed by the legisla-

tive party. The PLN caucus, on the other hand, did stand

behind the independent judgment of its members in some cases

in the face of strong pressure tactics by individual external

party leaders. Efforts in 1968 on the part of party president,

Jose Figueres. to get the PLN deputies to approve the San










Jo s P r o t ocol, which called for an increase in a number

of import duties, met with failure. But it must be noted

that the leadership of the PLN was divided by significant

schisms at the time that this study was carried out, and most

cases of independence in the fracci6n reflected an indepen-

dence from pressures emanating from only one sector of the

leadership. The main loyalty referent of most of the PLN

deputies was Daniel Oduber, defeated presidential candidate

in 1966, and not Jose Figueres. Thus, there is some reason

to question whether the PLN deputies would have shown the

same degree of independence had the pressures in question

emanated from Oduber as well as Figueres. The deputies

probably would not have behaved as independently, although

observation of the behavior of these deputies would seem to

indicate that even under these conditions the PLN deputies

would have been less willing to toe the line than the PR

deputies appear to have been.

But any evaluation of the impact of party pressures

upon legislative decision-making, regardless of the potential

that may exist for effective exercise of such pressures, must

take into account the frequency with which this type of input

takes place. In the case of all three parties, it is accu-

rate to state that few decisional matters brought forth the

mobilization of external party pressures. And it has already

been indicated that few legislative matters were discussed

in fracci6n meetings. Yet in order to place the significance











of caucus groups within the Assembly in its proper context,

it is essential to focus upon the role of the jefe de fracci6n

(caucus or majority and minority leaders). Much of the

coordination of the fracciones and the pursuit of partisan-

oriented goals and interests were left to the discretion of

the lefes de fracci6n, especially in the cases of the PLN and

the PR. These leaders were chosen by vote of the party

deputies and, at least in the cases of the mentioned parties,

were paid a supplementary salary by the caucus so that they

could devote their full attention to legislative and caucus

matters. The degree to which they were relied upon by their

caucus deputies is reflected by the following responses indi-

cating the roles attributed to them by the deputies of their

respective parties.


TABLE 3.1

Roles Attributed to the Jefe de Fracci6n by PLN Deputies


EXTERNAL

1.

2.

3.

4.


INTERNAL

1.
2.

3.


ROLE

Dealing with the external party leadership in name
of the fracci6n
Serving as a link between the deputies and interest
groups
Serving as a spokesman of the fracci6n in contacts
with the press and the public
Serving as a spokesman of the fracci6n in contacts
with the executive brance

TACTICAL ROLE

Keeping up with what is going on in committees
Keeping tabs on important bills coming into the
Assembly
Making tactical decisions on the floor and watching
for tactical moves of other parties










TABLE 3.1--(continued)


4. Coordinating tactics with presiding officers of the
Assembly
5. Providing main thrust and direction to political
debates on the floor
6. Serving as the main spokesman of party positions in
floor debates
7. Dealing with representatives of other fracciones in
negotiations

INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE

1. Providing direction to the fracci6n on certain types
of bills of national interest and arranging for
external advisement if required
2. Coordinating fracci6n as a group so as to make it
an efficient team
3. Promoting group cohesion and spirit
4. Serving as a conciliator inside and outside of the
fraction
5. Enforcing fracci6n decisions
6. Helping party deputies
7. Calling fracci6n meetings



TABLE 3.2

Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fracci6n by PR Deputies


EXTERNAL ROLE

1. Serving as fracci6n spokesman with external groups
2. Keeping up with what the press is saying and providing
it with information for public consumption

INTERNAL TACTICAL ROLE

1. Making tactical decisions on floor
2. Being on watch for tactical surprises by the PLN
3. Providing tactical direction to debate on the floor
4. Being spokesman of party position on the floor

INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE

1. Providing direction to fracci6n by studying bills and
explaining pros and cons of bills
2. Coordinating the group for debate purposes so as to
achieve fracci6n goals











TABLE 3.2--(continued)


3. Providing political direction to the fracci6n
4. Keeping the fracci6n members up-to-date on develop-
ments
5. Maintaining harmony and cohesion among members of the
fracci6n



TABLE 3.3

Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fracci6n by PUN Deputies


EXTERNAL

1.


INTERNAL

1.

2.
3.
4.



INTERNAL

1.

2.

3.


ROLE

Serving as fracci6n spokesman in maintaining press
relations

TACTICAL ROLE

Maintaining contacts with other fracciones and reach-
ing agreements with other groups
Representing the fracci6n in any formal conversations
Defending the interests of the party
Being on guard to be sure that fraccion deputies are
treated with equality, e.g., in the naming of members
to special committees

COORDINATION ROLE

Studying bills carefully so he can keep fracci6n
deputies appraised of their implications.
Coordinating and assigning work of and to fracci6n
deputies
Coordinating the debate of the fraccion deputies on
the floor


The role attribution responses listed in the previous

tables suggest that the PLN deputies had a more detailed per-

ception of the various roles of their jefe than did those of

the PR and PUN. The responses also seem to reflect a higher

degree of reliance upon the jefe and a higher degree of










independence of this leader within the PLN caucus. The PUN

jefe seemed to be attributed the least independence; in fact,

one PUN deputy indicated that he felt that the position of the

jefe should be done away with. The jefe himself seemed to

view his role in symbolic terms and emphasized only his respon-

sibility of seeing to it that the caucus deputies not be

discriminated against.

In practice,it was found that the PLN jefe tended to

act in coordination with other key deputies in the fracci6n;

whereas there was no such apparent collaboration and cohesion

in the case of the PR. The PLN jefe worked in conjunction

with hand-picked committee coordinators and with the committee

chairmen of his party in keeping tabs upon bills of interest

and in setting committee and floor strategies for these bills.

The jefe frequently worked in close collaboration with the

presiding officer of the Assembly in planning and executing

floor strategies. Control by the jefe over politically contro-

versial bills was enhanced by the fact that all bills of this

type were supposed to be, and in most cases were, submitted to

him by the deputies of his party for his clearance. It ap-

peared, however, that few bills were blocked by the jefe and

that the main purpose of this procedure was that of keeping

him informed.29 In general, the PLN deputies were not of the

opinion that the jefe acted arbitrarily. The same was not

true of the PR. The degree of coordination with other party

deputies maintained by the PR jefe was quite limited; he did










not work with committee or other coordinators. His exercise

of discretionary tactical decision-making was, perhaps as a

consequence of this, viewed by some as being somewhat arbi-

trary and, in fact, seems to have contributed to the generation

of a dissident group within the fraccidn.

The presence of this dissident goup was made particularly

apparent in the dynamics of negotiation between the PR and

PLN fracciones. In the case of the PLN, the jefe was the only

person empowered to negotiate with the representatives of the

other party groupings, though he could delegate this authority

to others. He tended to represent the congressional party not

only in negotiations with other congressional party groupings

but also with the executive branch as well. The PR jefe,in

theory, enjoyed equal power, but the PLN exploited and sought

to accentuate the schism in the PR caucus by negotiating with

other competing leaders of the caucus in certain cases. The

magnitude of the schism and the lack of cohesion in the PR

caucus was nowhere better evidenced than in the fact that most

budgetary negotiations involved in the passage of the 1969

annual budget were channeled through one of the dissident

leaders who sat on the budgetary committee. This strategy led

to a unanimous favorable committee report on the budget. This

report was viewed as being politically inconvenient by the

executive branch and the jefe de fraccion, given the fact that

it condoned the modifications which the PLN-controlled committee

had introduced into the budget bill submitted by the executive.











It is most significant to note that in all three caucus

groups there was a marked tendency to leave effective decision-

making on important national legislation or politically loaded

legislation in the hands of the jefes and a handful of respec-
30
ted caucus members. There were clear indications that dis-

cussions within the PLN and PR fracciones tended to be limited

largely to the participation of a reduced number of deputies.

Within the PLN caucus a group of seven or eight deputies not

only raised most of the questions which were discussed but also

were the most frequent and recurrent discussants. Decisions

tended to be taken on the basis of the arguments presented by

these deputies. The same group also appeared to be that which

the jefe worked with most closely in coordinating and estab-

lishing party strategies outside of the formal fracci6n meet-

ings. Conversations with the PR deputies indicated that the

same held true in their caucus but that the group of influen-

tials consisted of no more than three or four deputies. In

order to avoid suggesting a misleading conclusion, it should

be stated that in the vast proportion of cases cohesion in

caucus behavior was usually the product of the normal influence

of the well-versed over the relatively inexperienced and

untrained rather than the product of impositions from some

external party structure or an autocratic internal leadership.

The national and fracci6n leaders did have the means of

applying sanctions against recalcil-rant deputies if they had

wished to. The national leaders could make credible threats










of cutting the individual in question off from any future

appointive or elective positions. The fraccidn leader could

deny collaboration in the pursuit of matters of interest to

the individuals. In the PLN, available sanctions were more

varied, given its control of dte presidency of the Assembly.

Deputies from this party could also be denied assignment to

desirable committees and appointment to groups traveling abroad

in representation of the Assembly. PLN control of all but

one of the committees also allowed for conscious sabotage of

bills of interest to a party maverick. But such sanction

mechanisms were seldom invoked. The failure to do so was due,

at least in part, to the fact that a majority of the deputies

viewed national decision-making, that most likely to draw

party attention, as a field best left to the direction of

others. Interestingly enough, it would appear that the self-

image of independence held by most Costa Rican deputies may

well be sustainable given the fact that they do not choose

to or do not have occasion to challenge the party. If they

did, this self-image would probably have been far less marked

than it was found to be.

Local party structures or leaders played a limited part

in providing inputs into the legislative party sub-system.

Few of the respondents gave any indication that there was a

local party organization with which they could deal. And

there is good reason to believe that the deputies who responded

in the affirmative were referring either to (1) contacts with




Full Text
COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR IN PERSPECTIVE
By
Christopher E. Baker
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRABNATL COUNCIL
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PEI I LOS OP HI
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1973
OF

To Jane, Lisa, Jon, and Je

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
In early February of 1968, I departed for Costa Rica
to undertake the research for this study, made possible by
a NDFL Title VI Fellowship and a Ford Foundation research
support grant administered by the Center for Latin American
Studies of the University of Florida. Since that time I
have received the support of numerous persons who have
taken an interest in my work.
The deputies and administrative staff of the Costa Rican
Legislative Assembly opened doors which could easily have
been shut. The reporters at the Assembly offered both
insight and friendship. Professor Andres Suarez, chairman
of my committee, and Professor Eric N. Uslanor provided
valuable critiques of my work. Weston H. Agor, Carlos Jos
Gutierrez, Allan Kornberg, Samuel Z. Stone, and Fernando
Volio Jimenez also read earlier drafts of this study and
provided suggestions which have helped to improve it. The
facilities of the Computer Center of the University of
Florida were ¡nade available for data processing. And
Mrs. Sue Kirkpatrick showed both pcitience and understanding
in undertaking the typing of the study. To these people
I express my sincere appreciation; shortcomings in inter
pretation and presentation should, naturally, not be
attributed to them.

In Costa Rica the friendship of many helped to sustain
my efforts to bring this study to fruition. At home, the
moral and editorial, support provided by my parents has been
of inestimable value. But it is to my wife and children
that I owe my greatest gratitude. It is to them, who have
given far more than they have received for seemingly endless
years, that I dedicate this study.
rv

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
LIST OF TABLES viii
ABSTRACT X
INTRODUCTION ... 1
CHAPTER
I. THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND SYSTEMIC
DECISION-MAKING .13
General Characteristics of the Legislativa
Sub-System . . 15
Power of Initiative 18
Power of Enactment 21
Power of Ratification 2 6
Power of Appointment 28
Power of Investigation 29
Miscellaneous and Latent Powers 31
Suramary and Conclusions 3 3
II. THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT .......... 40
General Overview
The Judicial Branch . .
The Executive; Branch . .
The Autonomous Institutions
Summary and Conclusions .
41
4 3
4 6
59
62
III.THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
66
The Political Party System ........ 67
Legislative Party Caucuses and External
Party Leaders 7 5
Summary and Conclusions 90

Page
CHAPTER
IV. THE ELECTORAL CONTEXT 97
The Nomination and Election of Deputies . 98
The Product of the Electoral Process:
The Characteristics of the Deputies . 117
Summary and Conclusion ..... 126
V. THE INTEREST GROUP CONTEXT 135
Contextual Variation in the Study of
Interest Groups 136
A Typological Classification of Costa Rican
Interest Groups 139
Style of Interest Articulation 14 6
Means of Access 149
Summary and Conclusions 159
VI. PATTERNS OF LEGISLATIVE DECISIONAL BEHAVIOR 164
The Committee Structure 164
The Floor 192
Decisional Cues 207
The Influentials ............. 212
Summary and Conclusions 219
VII.PATTERNS OF NON-DECISIONAL LEGISLATIVE BEHAV
IOR 226
Radio Broadcasts: Visibility as a Critical
Contextual Variable 227
Representation Function ..... 234
Information Function ..... 237
Electoral Function 241
Cathartic Function 246
Summary and Conclusions 249
VIII.THE IMPLICATIONS OF COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE
BEHAVIOR 252
Selected Research Implications 253
Systemic Implications of Legislative
Behavior ..... 263
APPENDICES ....... 277
I. METHODOLOGICAL AND CONCEPTUAL NOTES ..... 278
vi

Page
APPENDICES
II. INTERVIEW SCHEDULE ... ..... 298
III. SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONNAIRE 303
BIBLIOGRAPHY ........ 311
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 322
vii

LIST OF TABLES
Table Page
1.1 Committee Assignment of Bills 20
1.2 Time Span Between Introduction of Bills and
Final Decision, by Sponsorship Type 22
1.3 Committee Modification of Bills Given Affirma
tive Committee Reports 25
3.1 Roles Attributed to the Jefe de Fraccin by
PLN Deputies ....... 82
3.2 Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fraccin by
PR Deputies ....... 83
3.3 Role Attributed to the Je 1 o cl e Fraccin by
PUN Deputies ........... 84
4.1 Role of the National Leadership in the Nomina
tion of Elected Deputies 108
4.2 Age, Education, Occupation, and Income of
Deputies and the Electoral Population of
Costa Rica 119
5.1 Interest Groups Contacting Deputies 137
6.1 Party Distribution in Committees in the 19 68-
1969 Legislative Session 173
6.2 Continuity in Committee Membership in the
1968-1969 Session 176
6.3 Age at Which Deputies First Became Interested
in Politics 130
6.4 When Deputies First Became Active in Party
Activities 180
6.5 Primary Levels of Party Actitivies of Deputies
Prior to Election 180
viii

Table Page
6.6 Previous Positions Held by Deputies 181
6.7 Time Transpired Between Submission of Bills to
Committee and Issuance of Committee Reports 192
6.8 Comparison of the Total Time Required to Pro
cess Bills Granted Committee-Related Proce
dural Exemptions and Those Bills That Were
Not Granted Such Exemptions 2 00
6.9 Comparison of the Total Time Required to
Process Bills Granted Procedural Exemptions
Related to Floor Proceedings and Those Bills
That Were Not Granted Such Exemptions .... 203
6.10 Rand Ordering of Decisional Premises 209
6.11 Party Affiliation of Influential and Non-'
Influential Deputies 214
6.12 Previous Legislative Experience of Influential
and Non-Influential Deputies 215
6.13 Educational Level Attained by Influential and
Non-Influential Deputies 216
6.14 Previous Legislative Experience and Education
of Influential and Non-Influential Deputies 217
XX

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR IN PERSPECTIVE
By
Christopher E. Baker
Zvugust, 1S73
Chairman: Andres Surez
Major Department: Political Science
Despite the prevalent belief in the discipline that all
research should be executed within the parameters of clearly
defined hypotheses, this study reflects the view that sys
tematic behavioral research on foreign institutions should
not be executed in the absence of an understanding of the
institutions to be studied in .this manner. Given the absence
of previous studies which would provide the foundation for
tightly designed research on the legislature of Costa Rica,
the primary goal of this study is to place the Legislative
Assembly in perspective. Its secondary goal is to provide
empirical proof that the Assembly does, as many claim, play
a significant role in the political system of this country.
The data of the study cire the product of (1) structured
interviews of the deputies sitting in this legislature in
1968; (2) multi-variate classification of the bills before
the Assembly in that year; (3) content analysis of the ver
batim records of floor debate? and (4) extensive observation
of and interaction within the Assembly.
x

In seeking to provide a comprehensive and well-
substantiated evaluation of the Assembly and of the context
within which it operates, the study deals with seven inter
related topics:
1) the role of the Assembly in systemic, decision
making;
2) the limitations placed upon this role by the dis
tribution of decisional power within the other
governmental institutions;
3) the nature of the political party system and the role
of the parties in legislative decision-making;
4) the impact of the electora}, system upon representa
tion within the legislature;
5) the impact of interest groups upon, legislative and
other systemic decisional behavior;
6) the formal and informal aspects of the legislative
decision-making process; and
7) the non-decisional aspects of legislative behavior.
Contrary to the growing tendency to conclude that legis
lative structures in the lesser-developed countries do not
play a significant role in decision-making, this study
concludes that the Assembly does exert an important influence
upon the initiation, modification, and enactment of legisla
tion. This is true despite the fact that the allocational
influence of the legislature is limited by the powers
exercised by the executive branch and the autonomous institu
tions of the country.
x 1.

Four specific findings of the study could be used to
focus any future research on the Assembly. First, the
study shows that, as would be expected, the political par
ties play a determinant role in legislative decision-making.
Second, it demonstrates that most effective decision-making
behavior is to be found within the context of the committees.
Third, it concludes that the cues used by most deputies in
reaching decisions on non-routine bills tend to emanate from
a reduced and identifiable group of influential deputies.
The characteristics of these deputies suggest that a modi
fied seniority system exists in this legislature despite the
fact that deputies may not be immediately re-elected. And,
fourth, the study demonstrates that the deputies play a
crucial role in the generation of specific and diffuse
support for the political system and that studies of legis
lative behavior in Costa Rica should consequently not be
limited to decisional phenomena. Contrary to what would be
expected, it was found that centralized parties and a
closed party list electoral system need not undermine the
responsiveness of legislators to the needs of their consti
tuencies.
X.11

INTRODUCTION
In the past decade the bibliography of studies on
legislative structures and behavior has expanded in geometric
proportions. The heightened interest in legislative research
evidenced.by members of the community of political scientists
has led to the creation of a recognized disciplinary sub
speciality which has been taken up by many interested in the
study of American as well as of foreign political systems.
Relative to prior interest and output, it has been those
interested in the study of political systems encompassed with
the amorphous grouping of nations variously referred to as
underdeveloped, emerging, transitional, non-Western developin
prismatic, and/or lesser-developed countries who have shown
the most noticeable increase of interest in legislative sub
jects. Among these, it is the scholars with an interest in
Latin America who have broken most clearly with a past ten
dency of giving little or. no research attention to legisla
tive structures.
Prior to the mid-1960s it was virtually impossible to
find any significant literature on the legislatures of Latin
America. In fact, there was little in the areal literature
which encouraged research in the legislative field and much
thcit discouraged it. William Pierson and Federico Gil,

2
authors of a textbook used widely in the late 1950s, and
early 1960s may well have affected the outlook of many poten-
tial researchers in referring to Latin American legislatures
in the following way:
Although the constitutional systems of Latin America
have entrusted the legislature with the power to
enact laws and to determine public policy, the con
gress, in reality, is not the center of the political
life of these nations. . Logically, the weakness of
all legislative assemblies and their inferior prestige
are the consequence of the almost omnipotent role that
the legal systems and political customs have assigned
to the executive branch.1
Alexander Edelmann, author of a more recent textbook, is
even less encouraging, and minces no words in stating that
"the Latin American legislatures ordinarily kowtow to the
president, cater to his slightest whims, and enjoy no more
independence or popular respect than political syncophants
2
could expect to." Such generalisations have been given
further legitimacy through their incorporation into the lore
of the non-area comparativists. The following statement by
Robert Stauffer is a good example of this extrapolation.
The typical stereotype [of legislatures in developing
countries] is of a rubber-stamp body made up of indi
viduals drawn from a narrow elite or from the govern
ment bureaucracy. Such a stereotype is fully justified
for a large number of nations, especially those of
Latin America where institutional units called legis
latures have simply not been relevant to the mainstream
of political life.J
But the growing interest in studies of legislative behavior
experienced in the discipline has provided a number of polit
ical scientists with the motivation, long-dampened by such

3
statements, to pursue Latin American legislative research
topics.*^
This study was partially motivated by the inertia of
this prevailing thrust in the discipline. But even in the
absence of this inertia there would have been good reason to
focus upon the Costa Rican legislature. It is in fact quite
surprising that this structure had not been subjected to any
detailed scrutiny prior to the time that the research for this
study was initiated in 1968, for the Assembly was certainly
5
viewed by many as a deviant case in Latin America. For
some time there has been a consensus among a sizeable number
of scholars to the effect that this legislature plays a sig
nificant role in systemic decision-making.^ Nevertheless,
no attempt has ever been made to substantiate this belief.
Indeed, most of the literature which mentions the Assembly
has tended to be highly impressionistic, and in some cases has
been entirely inaccurate and/or misleading.
The most glaring example of this tendency is found in
the writing of James Busey, who in 1962 wrote that "the
Costa Rican Assembly . plays an active role in the govern-
7
mg processes of the country." But instead of substantiat
ing this evaluation, he chose to devote the major part of his
monograph chapter on the Assembly to a quaint description of
an opening session which he had observed. Those writing
after 1962 did little to improve on Busey. Thus one finds
that rather than address the evaluation in question in

4
substantive terms, Edelmann simply draws upon this descrip
tion and contributes to the perpetuation of an entirely mis
leading view of the Assembly when he states:
In Costa Rica . members of the legislature are not
the least bit awed by the president. Only when his
party has a large majority can he be assured that his
program will be approved, and even then some members
of his party may defect and oppose it. He cannot even
be sure of the respectful attention of legislators
during the reading of his annual message, which in most
of the nations is a very ceremonious, pompous, and
solemn event. His remarks may be greeted with derisive
laughter, boos, hisses and catcalls.8
The boos and hisses, which may or may not have been indicative
of a prevalent pattern of behavior when Busey wrote, are now
a part of not only a quaint but also an unfounded description
which does little justice to the Assembly and provides an
entirely erroneous impression of this legislature. This Roman
circus atmosphere is by no means present on these occasions,
when the entire diplomatic corps is present; nor is it present
in less formal sessions. Such statements provide no evidence
that would help to substantiate the view that the Assembly is
a significant participant in systemic decision-making in
Costa Rica, And even if one were to assume that this evalua
tion is correct, what has been written tells us very little
about the nature and characteristics of such decison-making
within the Assembly,
The justification for the choice of the Costa Rican
Legislative Assembly as a structure worthy of study is
apparent. However, some questions may be raised regarding
the approach used in the study. The prevailing view at the

present time would seem to be that legislative research
should be directed toward the testing of specific hypotheses.
Such a view is implicitly expressed by Samuel Patterson when
he states:
We have made great leaps ahead in our knowledge about
legislative institutions outside the United States,
although it is largely descriptive knowledge. Almost
all of the new research has been on a country-by-
country basis, and there still are very few attempts
to test hypotheses cross-nationally.
On the other hand, Joseph LaPalombara argues that
Those political scientists who claim that we are deluged
with randomly, unsystematically chosen empirical studies
have never attempted, as I see it, to assess what is the
nature of all of the supposed information we have about
the political systems and processes of the West. Regard
less of the range of one's linguistic skill and the
resources of American libraries, it is ihrequently im
possible to come by the most elemental information about
the political institutions of other countries.
Hunt, Crane, and Wahlke admit to conspicuous failures in some
of their research, and indicate that these failures "reflect
the necessity for thorough knowledge of institutions as
12
preconditions for effective behavioral research." The
implications of these two statements are certainly at odds
with the prevailing view expressed by Patterson.
If we take LaPalombara's statement at face value, which
is certainly justified in the case of Costa Rica, and if the
testing of hypotheses, certainly part of the behavioral
orientation, requires previous background knowledge, the
legislative researchers undertaking studies in many foreign
countries are likely to be faced with a real dilemma. On the
one hand, they may value rigorous and systematic research

placed within a specific propositional context. But, on the
other hand, they must face the possibility that such research
will lead to the type of failure identified by Hunt, Crane,
and Wahlke in the absence of substantial prior knowledge of
the institutions which they wish to study. Research in
countries where adequate descriptive studies have been carried
out can well afford to focus on very specific research ques
tions, because investigators have good reason to believe that
in doing so they may identify meaningful patterns of behavior
or relationships. In Costa Rica the spadework that would
lead to the identification of factors which could be used in-
generating a useful series of research propositions is yet to
be done, as is that required to determine which research
instruments can be used effectively within the Costa Rican
context. Under such conditions a broad and largely descrip
tive study is called for as a first step toward more precise
research at a later date. This study, admittedly a configu-
rative probe, seeks to build a bridge between the highly
impressionistic research that has preceded it and a more
systematic and scientific form of research.
In broad terms the goal of this study is to attain a
better understanding of Costa Rican legislative behavior and
of the significance or consequences that this behavior has
within the context of the national political system. The
study is a preliminary probe which seeks to do some of the
initial spadework required before more rigorous studies of

7
legislative decision-making, and political behavior in
general,.can be carried out in Costa Rica.
Chapters I and II place the Legislative Assembly within
a systemic decision-making context. In Chapter I the propo
sition that the legislature in Costa Rica participates
actively in decision-making is tested by examining the be
havior of deputies in the introduction, study and enactment
of legislation. Other miscellaneous powers of the legisla
ture, such as the powers of appointment and that of ratifica
tion of foreign loans or treaties, are also taken into con
sideration. Since the impact of legislative decision
making may be overestimated unless evaluated within the over
all institutional context of systemic decision-making, Chapter
II seeks to identify the limitations of the legislature as
an allocator of values which are a result of the distribution
of decisional power among the totality of governmental insti
tutions and of the relationships which exist between these
institutions. Toward this end, the roles in the decisional
process of local government, of the judiciary, of the execu
tive, and of the autonomous institutions are examined.
The next three chapters identify some of the main varia
bles which help to define the context of legislative decision
making. Chapter III focuses upon the role of political
parties in decision-making. The nature of the Costa Rican
political party system and the characteristics of the external
parties, as well as of the legislative parties,
are discussed

8
in this chapter. Chapter i'v examines the recruitment and
election process as a means of determining what types of ob
ligations are incurred by deputies in seeking election and
what interests or groups would seem to have ready access to and
perhaps influence over the deputies. It also focuses upon the
background of the deputies as a means of discussing the na
ture of representation within the Assembly. Chapter V is
devoted to a description of interest-group phenomena and of
the relative impact that these groups may have on legislative
decisional behavior. Particular attention is given to an
evaluation of the various means or channels of access that are
available to interest groups in the articulation of their
demands.
After this discussion of some of the main external inter
mediate variables which were suspected to have some relevance
to the decisional behavior of deputies, Chapter VI focuses
upon the formal and informal processes by which the Assembly
reaches decisions. Emphasis is placed upon the significance
and characteristics of the committee and floor processes in
Costa Rica; the main actors in these processes are identified
and analyzed. The decisional cues utilized by these primary
I
actors and the supporting actors are also identified as a
means of suggesting what types of variables would seem to be most
pertinent to an explanation of legislative decisional outcomes.
The original research design for this study envisioned
a broad analysis of the non-decisional as well as the
decisional aspects of legislative behavior in Costa Rica.

9
Though experience in the lecb mlated that it was un
realistic to attempt to study both aspects with equal rigor,
and a primary decisional focus was opted for, it was not
deemed advisable to exclude non-dec.isional aspects from the
study entirely. In those cases where the research executed
allowed for easy tapping of information related to non-
decisional behavior, an attempt was made to obtain such
information so as to allow for at least some tentative state
ments about this type of behavior. Chapter VII provides the
reader with a discussion of some of the non-decisional
aspects of legislative behavior in Costa Rica and emphasizes
the significance that can be attributed to them.
The concluding chapter identifies the main research im
plications of the study and draws upon the findings of the
previous chapters to demonstrate that legislative behavior
in Costa Rica has clear consequences for the rational
political system, thus refuting the contention that the
Assembly is an institution which is not "relevant to the
14
mainstream of political life."
No attention is given in this study to the detailed
historical, geographic, and economic questions, customary
in many studies of "foreign" countries, since these ques
tions would serve no specific purpose within the framework
of the study. Readers interested in the specifics of the
research.methodology and in the problems encountered in
executing field research in Costa Rica are referred to the
Appendix,

10
It is important to mention by way of introduction that
the bulk of the material presented is limited to a single
legislative period, that of 1966-1970. The absence of
substantive prior studies of the Assembly and the difficulty
of obtaining comparative data covering an extended period
of time made it impossible in most cases to obtain the in
formation required for even the most rudimentary comparisons
between the characteristics of the particular legislature
in office at the time that the research was carried out in
1968 and any preceding one. Therefore, this study must be
viewed as a baseline case study. General conclusions are
drawn from the data presented, but the reader should keep in
mind that these need to be subjected to further verification
in future studies.

Notes
William Pierson and Federico Gil, Governments of Latin
America (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957), p. 542. (Emphasis
mine.)
2
Alexander T. Edelmann, Latin American Government and
Politics (rev. ed.; Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press,
1969), p. 443.
Robert B. Stauffer, "A Legislative Model of Political
Development," Phillipine Journal of Public Administration, 11
(Jcinuary, 1967) p. 5.
4
For example, sufficient interest m legislative matters
in Latin America has developed to warrant the publication of
a compilation of articles on the subject in a book of read
ings. See Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legislatures:
Their Role and Influence (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971).
5
The legislatures of Chile, Costa Ric classified as the main deviant cases in Latin America in
Weston H. Agor, "Introduction," in Agor, pp. xxiii-xlviii.
^For a discussion of the degree of consensus which
exists on this question see ibid., p. xxiv.
7
James L. Busey, Notes on Costa Rican Democracy (Boulder:
University of Colorado Press, 1962), p. 44. Similar lip
service to the significance of the legislature can be found
in a study of the Costa Rican political system in which it
is stated that "the presidency of the Assembly is a position
of prestige and power second only to the presidency of the
Republic." See Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Government and
Politics (Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1965), p. 79.
Several recent publications reflect such a lack of interest
in the legislature that the authors have not even gone to the
trouble of checking out basic descriptive data. Edelmann, for
example, states that the length of sessions is two months,
when in fact the Assembly is in ordinary session for a total
of six months and in extraordinary session for much of the
remainder of the year. See Edelmann, p. 458. Harry Kantor
and Charles Denton attribute the alternate representative
(suplente) system to the Assembly in books published in 1969
and 1971 respectively, when in fact this system was eliminated
11

12
in 1962. See Harry Kantor, Patterns of Politics and Political
Systems in Latin America (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1969),
p. 219, and Charles F. Denton, Patterns of Costa Rican
Politics (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1971), p. 37.
8
Edelmann, p. 445.
9
Newspaper reporters covering the Assembly informed the
author that about one year prior to his arrival in Costa
Rica there had been a brief physical scuffle on the floor of
the Assembly between two deputies. But this incident, like
that mentioned by Busey, is hardly indicative of behavior on
the floor, and devoting extended attention to it would only
distort things. It may be interesting as a side note or as
the subject for study as aberrant behavior but not as a major
section in a general description of the institution. No doubt,
allusion to this incident will lead some readers to jump to
the conclusion that this is an obvious manifestation of
traditional Latin American machismo. But, before reaching such
a conclusion, it would be well for the reader to consider the
cases of similar aberrant behavior which have taken place
within the United States Congress and within state legisla
tures. See Alan P. Balutis, "Legislative Security: An
Overview," in James J. Heaphey, ed., Legislative Security
(Albany: Research Center, Graduate School of Public Affairs,
State University of New York at Albany, 1972), pp. 9-19.
"^Samuel C. Patterson, "Comparative Legislative
Behavior," Midwest Journal of Political Science, 12
(November, 1968), p. 600.
11 .
Joseph LaPalombara, "Parsimony and Empiricism m
Comparative Politics: An Anti-Scholastic View," in Robert T.
Holt and John E. Turner, eds., The Methodology of Comparative
Research (New York: The Free Press, 1970), p. 136.
12
'William H. Hunt, Wilder W. Crane and John C. Wahlke,
"Interviewing of Political Elites in Cross-Cultural Compara
tive Research," in Samuel C. Patterson, ed., American Legis
lative Behavior (Princeton:- D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1968),
p. 420. The need for prior knowledge of phenomena under in
vestigation is also emphasised in Frederick W. Frey, "Cross-
Cultural Research in Political Science," in Holt and Turner,
eds., pp. 257-260.
^Supra, p. 2 .

CHAPTER I
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND SYSTEMIC DECISION-MAKING
In the past, the relevance of many of the questions
raised by legislative researchers has been posited upon the
assumption that legislatures universally play a significant
role in systemic decision-making. But recently a number of
scholars have pointed to the necessity of overcoming the
knee-jerk reaction of researchers in making such an assump
tion. Robert Packenham, in fact, has gone so far as to argue
that most legislatures do not play an important, if any, role
in decision-making."'' The warning which has been issued is
well-worth taking into account in the case of Costa Rica, in
which it has become all too prevalent to assume on the basis
of highly impressionistic evidence that the Legislative
Assembly is a significant decision-making structure. The
question which needs to be answered is whether there is any
substantive empirical evidence that would support this assump
tion.
The powers granted to the legislative branch of govern
ment in Costa Rica suggest that the Assembly was meant to be
an active and direct participant in the decision-making
2
process. But these are only formal powers. In attempting
to determine whether a structure plays a role in this process

14
it is necessary to establish not only what the formal powers
of the structure are or were meant to be but also to deter
mine the extent to which these powers are actually used.
Given the contention of some that all Latin American polit-
3
ical systems are characterized by executive omnipotence,
it might well be posited that these powers will prove to be
more symbolic than real. The possibility that Costa Rica
may be similar to a country such as Mexico, where the
Congress is reported to be "an instrument for the ceremonial
ratification of decisions taken elsewhere, i.e. in the
4
executive branch of government," though very unlikely,
should not be excluded a priori.
The data collected in the field for this study covered
a period of seven months in 1968 and do not lend themselves to
generalizations in respect to behavior over an extended
period of time. It is fortunate, however, that much of the
data to be presented in this section can be checked against
data covering a longer time span in order to determine whether
or not the data collected generate distorted findings and
fail to reflect a general phenomenon. This comparative data
will be drawn from a study which seeks to determine whether
"the executive or legislative branch occupy a position in
the policy process that is dominant relative to the other"0
and which utilizes some of the same data categories used in
the present study. The dissertation in question examines a
random sample of bills covering a twelve-year period from

15
1958 to 1970 and will allow, in this section at least, for
the drawing of some conclusions of a general nature which
will not be limited to the period in 1968 which was studied.
It should be noted though that the purpose of this chapter is
not that of proving that the legislature is the predominant
branch in policy-making. Its purpose is simply that of
determining whether or not the Costa Rican Legislative
Assembly fulfills an effective decision-making function. This
end will be sought by describing the main formal powers of
the Assembly and by determining to what extent these are
g
exercised in practice. But, before proceeding to do so, it
will be useful to provide a brief description of some of the
most outstanding superficial or formalistic characteristics
of the legislature.
General Characteristics of the
Legislative Sub-System
The legislative branch of the Costa Rican government
consists of a fifty-seven member unicameral Legislative
Assembly. The deputies are elected at-large within each of
the seven provinces of the country in the quadrennial general
elections and may not be immediately re-elected. The propor
tion of the fixed number of seats to which each province is
entitled is proportionate to the population of each according
to the latest census taken. Candidates run on legislative
closed list party ballots, and, although these are provincial
in .nature, the candidates need not meet any residence

16
requirements. Votes are cast for entire legislative party
tickets within each province rather than for individuals.
The provincial seats are apportioned among the candidates
by applying a proportional representation formula intended
to favor small parties but not miniparties. The provincial
slates of national parties are formally determined by party
nominating conventions, consisting of ten delegates from each
province, in which all delegates have an equal vote in the
selection of the candidates that go on each of the slates.
In those few cases where a party is only registered as a
provincial party and thus seeks only to participate in the
election of the deputies of one province, the slate is deter
mined by a provincial party nominating convention, consist
ing of: five delegates from each of the cantons in the province.
Each of the five general elections held since 1953 has
given one party, the National Liberation Party (Partido
10
Liberacin NacionalPLN), a majority in the Assembly.
The traditional opposition to this party, however,, has won a
substantial number of seats in each election. In three of
the periods the predominant party has held a precarious
majority of one and has never held more than two-thirds of
the seats. The executive power, on the other hand, has changed
partisan hands with each election. The PLN won it in 1953,
1962, and 1970, and the opposition in 1958 and 1966. Thus,
the Assembly has had a presidential-party majority system
on three occasions and a presidential-party minority system

17
twice since 1953. These two factorssubstantial opposition
representation in the Assembly and fluctuating control of the
executive branchhave led Robert Dix to classify Costa Rica
as one of the three Latin American countries that have gone
farthest in legitimizing the opposition role in politics.^
No doubt, they have also been crucial in placing Costa Rica
consistently within the top three Latin American nations in
12
Russell Frtzgxbbon's "democracy" rankings.. Within the
Latin American context, the fact that the incumbent party has
turned over the executive power in a peaceful manner after
each election is a strong indication of the development of a
relatively stable political system. The gracious acceptance
of defeat, despite early morning grumblings of electoral
fraud, by the incumbent parties has without any doubt been
related to the fact that they have been guaranteed continuing
significant political participation as an opposition force
within the legislature.
Though the Assembly only meets in ordinary session six
months out of each year, it may also meet in extraordinary
session if convened by the president of the Republic. Such
sessions are an essential part of the legislative calendar
and usually keep the Assembly in session an extra five months
out of each year. Were it not for these sessions, the legis
lative backlog of bills would reflect a marked inability on
the part of the Assembly to cope with the matters that are
presented before it.

18
The main powers granted to the Assembly by the Constitu
tion of 1949 are those of legislative initiative, enactment,
ratification of international agreements and loans, and
certain appointive, investigatory, and oversight powers. These
will now be considered in some detail.
Power of Initiative
The power to introduce bills before the Assembly is a
shared one. Bills may be introduced by the executive as well
13
as by any deputy. An examination of the sources of bills
can be revealing. If one were to find that most of the bills
originate in the executive branch, it could be argued that
the executive is predominant because the subject, scope, and
nature of the lawmaking input would be determined by the
executive. This, however, was not found to be the case.
Over a seven-month period,^ 72 per cent of the bills on the
docket of the legislature had been introduced by the deputies,
and only 28 per cent by the executive. The bills covering
the twelve-year period analyzed in the Mijeski study support
the conclusion that legislature initiates a majority of the
bills considered. It was found that over that period of time
64.1 per cent of the bills were initiated by the legislature
15
as opposed to 35.9 per cent by the executive branch. But
this breakdown may be misleading. The executive, though sub
mitting a lesser number of bills, might.well have submitted
the majority of the most important bills.

19
Classifying bills according to their relative importance
is an extremely difficult task. Two tentative rough indi
cators might be suggested. One is the scope of the bill and
the other is the committee to which it is assigned. In the
research carried out, the scope of a bill was classified as
being either "national" or "local." Bills which dealt with
matters that would affect only a local segment of the total
national population were classified as "local" bills. Those
which dealt with matters affecting the totality of the
national population or a. segment of it which cut across paro
chial lines were classified as "national" bills. Using this
scheme, it might be posited that "national" bills are more
important than "local" ones because they have a broader impact
Consequently, it might be argued that if the executive submits
a majority of the "national" bills, it does in fact play a
preponderant role in the introduction of important, bills. It
was found, however, that the deputies sponsored the majority
of both types of bills in the period studied as well as in
the 1958-1970 period studied by Mijeski. In the case of the
"national" bills, legislative sources accounted for 68 per
cent; whereas executive sources accounted for only 32 per
cent of the bills. The distribution of the "loccil" bills
was 80 per cent and 20 per cent for the legislative and execu-
tive, respectively. Thus, it is clear that the executive
not only did not submit the majority of the most "important"
bills but did not in fact submit the majority of either type.'*'

20
Committee assignment was used as the second criterion
for judging the importance of each bill. The deputies were
asked to rank the committees according to the relative
importance of the bills handled by each. A high degree of
consensus was found in the rankings they made. The process
was then reversed and the importance of each bill was judged
according to the committee to which it had been assigned.
The proportional breakdown of the sources of the bills and
the committee to which each was assigned is shown below.
TABLE 1.1
Committee Assignment of Bills
Committee (in decend-
ing rank order)
Executive
Sponsored
Legislative
Sponsored
Economic Affairs
Committee
42.5%
(31)
57.5%
(42)
Budgetary Affairs
Committee
23.3
(20)
76.7
(66)
Governmental and
Administrative
Affairs Committee
34.6
(37)
65.4
(70)
Social Affairs
Committee
12.5
(15)
87.5
(105)
Judicial Affairs
Committee
31.6
(25)
68.4
(54)
In no case were more than 43 per cent of the bills submitted
to any committee sponsored by the executive and in one case
the proportion was as low as 12.5 per cent. The findings of

21
Mijeskis study differ only slightly from these. His sample
contained a slightly higher percentage of executive sponsored
bills in each committee and a slight edge in one of the two
18
most important committees. Despite these minor differences,
it may be concluded that if committee assignment is a valid
indicator of the importance of a bill, at best the executive
has a very slight predominance in the sponsorship of "impor
tant" bills.
Power of Enactment
The Legislative Assembly has the power to amend the con
stitution. And it has used this power to effect significant
constitutional changes over the years. The revised edition
of the constitution printed in 1968 indicates that 22 of the
19
117 articles in it had been amended since 1949. It must
be noted though that such amendments are usually,if not always,
carried out in close coordination with the executive.
The Legislature also has the power to enact, amend, repeal,
and interpret legislation. The form in which these powers are
exercised, as reflected in the processing of bills, might well
be used as an indicator of the extent to which the legislature
is subject to control by the executive. For example, it could
be posited that the procedure followed in processing and act
ing upon executive bills will reflect a tendency to give
automatic approval to such bills. If this were true, the
proportion of executive bills not fully processed in a given
time period should be much lower than that of bills
sponsored

22
by the deputies. The data for the seven-month period studied
indicate that the respective proportions were 59 and 62 per
20
cent. This small difference m favor of the executive
bills would not seem to indicate that they are given prefer
ential treatment and certainly does not suggest that the
Assembly rubber-stamps bills submitted by the executive.
It could also be posited that, if the proposition is a
valid one, the time span between introduction and final
action for the executive bills that are fully processed will
be shorter than that for similar legislative bills. Table
1.2 shows the distribution of the two types of bills accord
ing to time-span criteria.
TABLE 1.2
Time Span Between Introduction of Bills and
Final Decision, by Sponsorship Type
Per Cent of Per Cent of Legis-
Executive Bills lative Bills
Processed in Processed in
Time Span
Time
Span
Time
Span
Less than 1 month
14.3
( 3)
26.1
(37)
More than 1 but less
than 3 months
32.1
(18)
16.2
(23)
More than 3 but less
than 6 months
21.4
(12)
23.2
(33)
More than 6 but less
than 12 months
17.9
(10)
13.3
(26)
More than 12 months
14.3
( 8)
16.2
(23)

23
If a weighted average is calculated, assigning each bill
in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth categories
scores of one, two, three, four, and five, respectively, we
find that the average score for legislative bills is 2.83 and
that for executive bills is 2.86. If the same weighted
average score is computed for processing time in committee,
the legislative bill score is 1.48 and the executive is 1.51.
The differences evidently are very small. But, if anything,
since the lower the weighted average the less the processing
time, the differences indicate that legislative bills were
processed slightly more rapidly than were the executive bills
An additional indicator which might be used to test the
proposition in question could be based on the bills that are
rejected. An examination of such bills indicates that the
frequency of outright rejection was so low as to make a com
parison meaningless. Out of a total of 207 bills which were
21
fully processed, only 8 were rejected; 5 of these were
22
deputy sponsored and the other 3 were executive bills.
However, it is revealing to note that, during the 1966-1970
Assembly, an executive bill which called for the demise of
the nationalized banking system was rejected by the Assembly.
This bill was a measure which had been promised during the
campaign by the victorious presidential candidate. Of course
it should be recalled that his party did not have a majority
in the legislature. But, nevertheless, this example serves
to illustrate that the legislature is by no means a pawn of
the president.

24
No data related to the extent of committee modification
of executive bills were compiled in the field research
carried out. But observation of committee proceedings
seemed to indicate that this prerogative is used with some
frequency. Money bills, for instance, were consistently
modified during the 1966-1970 period. These modifications
tended to increase the amounts covered by these bills. For
example, in 1968 a bill which called for an emission of
bonds to the amount of 12 million colones for school construc
tion was approved after the amount was increased to 41
million colones. (The official rate of exchange on the
coln is $6.65 to the dollar.) The extra funds were allocated
for the construction of school buildings in specific com
munities chosen by individual deputies from a!3. of the
parties. The ordinary budget of 1969 was increased by 17
23
million colones, an increase of 2.8 per cent. A large part
of the additional funds was allotted to specific projects
(obras especficas) of the pork-barrel variety. These were
picked exclusively by the majority party (PLN) deputies,,
due to their control of the budget committee. Modifications
of money bills, however, do not always involve increases.
In 1969, an extraordinary budget amounting to 177 million
colones was trimmed down to 95 million colones before it was
approved. These types of supplementary budgets were usually
subject to a degree of bargaining between the majority party
in the Assembly and their political opponents in the

25
executive branch and will be the subject of further comment
in another chapter.
The Mijeski study does allow us, however, to draw some
specific conclusions on the significance of the committees
in the modification of executive bills. Table 1.3 reflects
the findings reported therein based upon the comparison of
the text of the bills reported out of committee favorably and
the original text of these bills. Again, though legislative
TABLE 1.3
Committee Modification of Bills Given
Affirmative Committee Reports
Degree
of Modification*
Sponsorship of Bill
None to
Slight
Moderate
Significant:
to Complete
Legislative
61.4% (51)
26.5% (22)
12.1% (10)
Executive
73.0 (46)
22.2 (14)
4.8 (3)
Source: Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legisla
tive Policy Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation",
University of North Carolina, 1971), p. 81.
*The operational definitions of the degree of modifica
tion utilised were the following: (1) no change: the
verbatim acceptance of the original bill; (2) slight change:
mostly rearranging words rather than changing substance;
(3) moderate change: rearranging and modifying both words
and substance, but with general intent of bill unchanged;
(4) significant change: much substantive modification which
would affect some of the bills original intent; and
(5) complete change: original intent of bill modified com
pletely, with no resemblance to the original proposal.
bills were found to have suffered more substantial modifica
tion in committee than executive bills, the fact that 27 per

26
cent of the executive bills were modified in a "moderate"
or "significant to complete" marinea: is ready evidence of the
decision-making that takes place within the Legislative
Assembly.
The executive, however, may veto any billother than
the ordinary budget or a convocation of a Constituent Assembly
or a constitutional amendment--which is not acceptable to it.
During the period studied an unusually large number of vetoes
were exercised. A total of thirty-nine vetoes were inter
posed as compared to seven in the same seven-month period
the previous year. The sizeable difference is explained by
the fact that 61.5 per cent (24) of the bills vetoed in the
period studied reflected a radical change in the position of
the president in respect to the granting of small tax exemp-
24
tions. The data which would indicate whether the Assembly
exercised its right to overrule vetoes by a two-thirds
majority vote in any of these cases were not obtained. Al
though the data are not complete and are not entirely repre
sentative, they do illustrate that the president has the means
to counteract legislative decisions. This fact leads to a
balance of power in respect to the power to enact legislation.
But it is obvious that the executive is hardly omnipotent if
it must resort to the final alternative of a veto.
Power of Ratification
All international agreements and foreign loans negotiated
or- suscribed to by the executive branch must be ratified by

27
25
a two-thirds vote m the Assembly. In the great majority
of cases, the noncontroversial nature of such agreements and
loans makes this step a pure formality. But it would be a
mistake to assume that the executive has a completely free
hand in such matters. For example, a loan agreement with the
Agency for International Agreement (AID) for the construction
of a new wholesale produce market in the capital city of
San Jos was frozen by the Assembly for more than a year and
eventually withdrawn by AID during the period studied.
In 1969, one very important agreement, the San Jos
Protocol, received similar treatment. This was a protocol
drafted by the finance ministers of the Central American
Common Market (CACM) countries which would have authorized a
regional sales tax on luxury goods and a 30 per cent increase
in the taxes on imports from outside of the CACM region. The
measure was supposedly meant to reduce the balance-of-payments
problem faced by the member nations. Within the PLN caucus,
however, it was argued that the Protocol was nothing more
than an attempt by the other countries to increase government
revenues without having to carry out the direct tax reforms
which Costa Rica had already adopted. Some of the PLN legis
lative leaders also argued that it would be politically un
sound to ratify the Protocol because they had previously
stated publicly that they would not approve any new taxes.
Extreme pressures were exerted upon the deputies in an
attempt to get them to ratify this agreement. These pres
sures emanated not only from the executive branch but also

28
from external party xeaaers, international lending agencies,
and the United States government. Jos Figueres, at that
time the assumed presidential candidate for the PLN in 1970,
pressured the deputies of his party. The World Bank hinted
that no further loans would be granted to Costa Rica unless
the agreement was ratified. Similar pressures came from the
International Monetary Fund and AID officials, as well as di
rectly from the Ambassador of the United States in San Jos.
The fact that under such conditions the Assembly froze the Pro
tocol in committee for more than six months and eventually
went on to reject its ratification is an indication of its
2 g
potential for independent action. An inability of the execu
tive to control even the behavior of the presidential party
deputies was evidenced by the fact that a substantial number
of them voted against the ratification of the agreement.
Power of Appointment
The deputies of Costa Rica are the sole electors of the
justices of the Supreme Court and of the comptroller and
assistant comptroller of the republic. Due to the fact that
these appointments are made by majority vote, the executive
has had no influence to speak of in the selection of these
officials when the opposition has controlled the Assembly.
The choices in the past years have been made within the PLN
caucus because their absolute rna.jor.ity has allowed it to
determine the outcome on the floor. Although the professional
qualifications of the candidates have been carefully examined

29
and used as the final selection criteria, only those with
the appropriate partisan background have reached the final
stage of the selection process within the caucus. During
the seven-month period of field research in Costa Rica,
several justices were appointed, and in each case the list
of final candidates considered by the PLN caucus was a parti
san list. The comptroller and assistant comptroller, who
were appointed prior to the time that the study was carried
out, are also men who are known to be PLN supporters. In
fact, one recent comptroller had been a PLN deputy and re
signed in 1972 to run for the Assembly again on the PLN
ticket in 1974.
Power of Investigation
The constitution grants the Assembly the power to create
special legislative committees to investigate any matter of
interest to it. These committees are provided free access
to all government records and may request testimony from any
person in the country. Appearance before these committees
is compulsory. The reports which are written after investiga
tions are carried out, however, tend to be rather ineffec
tual. Most of them are never voted upon and many are not even
discussed on the floor. Thus, the recommendations contained
in them are seldom acted upon.
The Contraloria General de la Repblica, a rough equiva-
27
lent to the U.S. General Accounting Office, does carry out
effective investigations related to public expenditures.

30
As the auditing agent of the legislative branch, it is fre
quently ordered to carry out specific investigations in this
area by the Assembly.
Though it is not true that the Assembly has the power
to impeach the president, as some have claimed, it is called
upon to rule upon accusations against the president, vice-
presidents, and other members of the executive, legislative,
and judicial branches. It is up to the deputies to establish
whether or not there is due cause for judicial processing in
such cases. If they find due cause, they place the case
before the Supreme Court and suspend the defendant from his
functions temporarily, or, in the case of deputies, lift
their congressional immunity. Several such accusations were
lodged against the members of the executive and legislative
branches during the period of study. In all cases but one,
due cause was found to be lacking. The one exception involved
a deputy who was accused of malfeasance. It seems more than
likely that the Assembly would exercise this power regardless
of the branch of government involved if due cause were in
fact found to exist.
The Assembly has the power to interpellate the ministers
of state. It may also censure a minister by a two-thirds
vote if it is found that he has acted in an unconstitutional
or otherwise illegal fashion or that he committed errors that
are obviously detrimental to the public interest. During
the period of study three ministers were interpellated, and

31
a vote of censure was sought against one of them, but this
attempted censure did not receive the necessary votes to
pass. In all cases nothing but the most rudimentary cour
tesies were observed in cross-examining these high officials.
Partisan motivation tends to be a strong factor in the exer
cising of these powers. It was clearly present on the two
occasions in which the son of the president, who served as
minister of public security, was called before the Assembly.
But regardless of the motive, the fact remains that the
legislature does exercise this investigative power.
Miscellaneous and Latent Powers
There is one additional power granted to the Assembly
which should not be overlooked. Article 98 of the consti
tution prohibits "the establishment or functioning of parties
which, due to their ideological programs, procedures, or
international ties, tend to destroy the foundations of the
democratic organization of Costa Rica." The final inter
pretation of this article is placed in the hands of the Legis
lative Assembly rather than the Supreme Court. Thus, the
Assembly has the power to prevent certain types of parties
from participating in the general elections. It used this
power to proscribe what were considered to be communist-
front parties in the elections of 1953 and 1966. In 1969 the
Assembly was once again called upon to exercise this power.
In August of 1969 the registration of the Bloc of Workers,
Peasants and Intellectuals (Bloque de Obreros, Campesinos e

32
Intelectuales) was annulled on technical grounds by the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal as a result of a challenge to the
registration presented by the members of the anti-cominunist
Unin Cvico Revolucionaria party. This ruling came after
the deadline set for registering parties for the upcoming
electionswhich meant that the newly named traditional
communist part could not run candidates on its own ticket.
Shortly after the ruling was announced, the Socialist Action
Party (Partido Accin Socialista, better known as PASO)
offered to run the top candidates of the Bloque on its legis-
29
lative slates. The attempt to keep these candidates from
participating in the election was then carried to the
Assembly. A bill which called for the legislature to rule
that the PASO met the prohibitory requisites of Article 38
and should therefore be proscribed was presented by the UCR
deputies. As the Assembly is required to send such bills to
the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for its opinion, it was sent
there before being fully debated in committee. The opinion
emitted by the Tribunal was that the PASO should be proscribed
The committee that studied the bill also reported in the
affirmative. Despite this report; and the respect in which
the Tribunal is held by most Costa Ricans, no action had been
taken on the bill when the Assembly went into recess two
months before the election. In this case, inaction was a
conscious strategy followed by those who did not feel that
the PASO should be proscribed, a form of decision-making

33
through inactivity. The party was able to participate in
the election in the absence of a.specific vote proscribing it.
The Assembly has several other powers which it has
seldom been called upon to exercise. Among these are the
powers to (1) authorize entry and presence of foreign
troops on national soil, (2) authorize the president- to
declare war or to sign peace treaties, (3) suspend certain
constitutional rights and guarantees, and (4) decide when a
president is physically or mentally incapacitated and to
call in his legal replacement. Although there has been no
reason to resort to any of these powers, except that of sus
pension of constitutional rights and guarantees,^ since
the promulgation of the constitution in 1949, it is signifi
cant to note that the Assembly could play a very important
role in such crisis situations.
Summary and Conclusions
The purpose of this chapter has been that of testing
the heretofore unexplored proposition that the Costa Rican
Legislative Assembly is an active and significant participant
in the systemic decision-making process. The data presented
in the previous sections clearly indicate that the Assembly
is not only granted significant formal decisional powers; it
also makes effective use of these. Consequently it may be
stated that the study of decision-making within the legis
lative context of Costa Rica is justified and relevant to an
understanding of the manner in which systemic resources are

34
allocated by the Costa Rican political system. Legislative
decision-making is clearly not of the symbolic-legitimating
type in this country.

Notes
Robert A. Packen'nam, "Legislatures and Political
Development," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds. ,
Legislatures in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1970), p. 522.
2
The Constituent Assembly, which drew up the constitu
tion, placed a great deal of emphasis on the need to establish
an effective checks-and-balances system which would reduce
the abuse of power on the part of the executive.
3
Supra, p. 2
4
Martin Needier, "Mexico: Revolution as a Way of Life,"
in Martin Needier, ed., Political Systems of Latin America
(Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, Co., Inc., 1964), p. 17.
5
Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legislative Policy
Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
North Carolina, 1971), p. 32.
^Unless otherwise stated, the data presented in the text
and tables of this and subsequent chapters are those collected
by the author.
7
In the elections of 1953 and 1958 constitutional pro
visions called for the election of forty-five deputies and an
additional number of alternates to serve as substitutes
(suplentes) in the temporary absence of the proprietary
deputies. As of 1962, the number of deputies v/as increased
by constitutional amendment to fifty-seven. This amendment
also eliminated the previous system of temporary alternates.
^The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Supremo Elec
toral) redistributes the fifty-seven seats in the Assembly
among the provinces after each census is taken, i.e., approxi
mately every ten or twelve years.
9
A description of the specifics of this formula may be
found in Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Election Factbook,
February 6, 1966 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Compara-
Study of Political Systems, 1966). The system is established
by Articles 134-138 of the Costa Rican Electoral Code.
35

36
In 1953 the PLN won thirty o the forty-five legisla
tive seats. In 1958 it gained a majority of twenty-three
of the forty-five seats after it worked out its differences
with a group that had splintered away from the party, run on
an independent ticket, and elected a total of three deputies.
This majority proved to be unstable in certain cases as is
illustrated by the fact that the ptirty was able to elect a
member of its group to the presidency of the Assembly in only
two of the four annual sessions of the 1958-1962 period. In
1962 and 1966 the party won twenty-nine out of the expanded
total of fifty-seven seats. And in 1970 it managed to win
thirty-two of these fifty-seven seats.
"^The other two countries ranked in this group are Chile
and Uruguay. See Robert H. Dix, "Opposition and Development
in Latin America" (paper delivered at the 63rd Annual Meeting
of the American Political Science Association, Chicago,
September 5-7, 1967), p. 26.
12
Russell H. Fitzgibbon and Kenneth F. Johnson," Measure
ment of Latin American Political Change," in Peter G. Snow,
ed., Government and Politics in Latin America (New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), pp. 262-276.
13
Private bills may be submitted to the Assembly, but m
order to be processed they must be countersigned by at least
one of the deputies.
14
The period studied was that of May through November,
1968. This covered the first ordinary session period of the
legislative calendar (May through July), an extraordinary
session period (August), and the second ordinary session
period (September through November). The remainder of the
calendar year consisted of the second extraordinary session
period.
15
For the purposes of this study, private bills have
been classified as deputy sponsored because they require the
countersignature of at least one deputy. In this case 9
per cent were private bills and 63 per cent were "normally"
sponsored deputy bills. The equivalent breakdown for the
Mijeski study is 17.2 per cent private and 46.9 per cent
deputy bills. Though Mijeski retains the private category
throughout most of his study, the author has collapsed his two
categories into one. An evaluation of the Mijeski conclusions
indicates that no great distortion is introduced by proceed
ing in this fashion. Yet there is another justification
worthy of note for combining private and deputy bills. In
the research carried out it became obvious that a great
number of bills presented by the deputies as personal bills
were in fact bills which they had been requested to present by
others. Thus the primary usefulness of the differentiation

37
of private and deputy bilis, i.e., the identification of the
source of the idea, is lost. In most cases private bills
are introduced as such not because the sponsors find it dif
ficult to have them presented by the deputies but because
for one reason or another they want to have their names
associated with the bill. See Mijeski, p. 66.
16
Mijeski utilized the same operational definition of
"national" and "local" bills used in this study and found
that legislative bills accounted for 52.8 per cent of the
"national" bills and 80.3 per cent of the "local" bills.
17
If one were to use a more sophisticated classifica
tion scheme, it might be found that a majority of the
"crucial" bills sent to the Assembly have their origin in
the executive branch. Even if this assumption were made,
the data available would still indicate that the deputies
play a significant role in the introduction of bills.
18Ibid., pp. 77-78.
19 .
Costa Rica, Asamblea Legislativa, Constitucin
Poltica de la Repblica de Costa Rica (San Jose! Imprenta
Nacional, 1968).
20
Mijeski's study does not focus on this and several
other questions raised in this section. In those cases
where comparisons are not made, it will be due to the
absence of comparative data.
21
It will be noted that this figure (207) does not
match the total figure (198) which would be obtained from
Table 1.2. The discrepancy is due to the fact that time-
span data were not available for nine bills.
22 .
Though Mijeski has utilized an indicator of rejection
in his study, he has operationalized it differently than in
this study. His rejection figures cover not those bills
voted in the negative on the floor but those bills which
were not passed. Consequently they include bills which for
a variety of reasons died before they reached the final vot
ing stage. Given the fact that ail bills must be reintro
duced (puesto a despacho) at the outset of each annual session
in May, many bills fail to obtain approval not because of any
negative action by the Assembly but because of a lack of
interest on the part of the sponsors who fail to reintroduce
their bills. In effect, then, Mijeski has tapped, perhaps
unconsciously, a dimension which is not really related to the
rejection of bills by the legislature. It is worth noting,
however, that even if his indicator is utilized it is found
that 23.7 per cent of the "defeated" bills that he studied

38
had been initiated by the executive branch. Though it is
true that legislative bills accounted for more than three-
quarters of the "defeated" bills, the fact that a significant
number of executive bills were "defeated" indicates that
even if one were to rely exclusively on the Mijeski data, it
would have to be concluded that the Legislative Assembly is
far more than a symbolic participant in the allocational
process.
23
Though the legislature must show where the funding for
an increased budget will come from, it is usually not difficult
to obtain legally acceptable evidence that the executive has
underestimated the projected income for a fiscal year.
24
The municipal governments of Costa Rica have long
sought and obtained a dispensation on tax payments for pur
chases of such things as cement supplies. Many bills dealt
with by the Assembly requested such negligible exemptions.
2 5
Until a constitutional amendment was passed m 1969,
the Assembly had to authorize the executive to negotiate
foreign loans. This meant that the legislature could formerly
play a greater role in setting certain types of fiscal and
credit policies than it can eit the present time. It now
resorts to the introduction of certain enabling clauses which
limit the way in which the executive may utilize the funds
obtained through foreign loans.
^lt is of interest to note that in this case the agree
ment was ratified in 1970 shortly after the installation of
the Figueres administration, in which there is a presidential-
party majority legislature. This fact would suggest that the
influence which can be exerted by a president varies from
term to term. The style of each president and the conditions
under which he serves may well be just as significant or more
significant than the institutionalized aspects of the executive
legislative relationship.
? 7
Robert D. Tomasek, "Costa Rica," in Ben C. Burnett and
Kenneth F. Johnson, eds., Political Forces in Latin America
(Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1968), p. 112.
op
Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Government and Politics
(Ph.D. disseration, Emory University, 1965), p. 38.
29
Manuel Mora, the main leader of the Communist party
since its inception in the early 1930s, was nominated to run
in the first slot of the party ticket for San Jose province,
which is the preferential position on any party legislative
slate. The vast proportion of the PASO campaign focused upon
the election of Mora rather than on that of any of the
.legitimate PASO candidates.

39
30
This power was exercised briefly in 1955, when the
supporters of former President Caldern Guardia invaded from
Nicaragua and sought to overthrow the Figueres government
elected in 1953

CHAPTER II
THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT
Any study of legislative behavior carried out in Latin
America is likely to fall victim to the type of imbalance
and defensiveness that Hans Baerwald has pointed to in his
recent comparison of the literature of well-established"
and "non-established" legislatures. In a crritique of a
recent legislative reader, he states:
Compare, for example, Crick's mature reflections on the
British Parliament with Agor1s heavily footnoted pro
testations concerning the "highly developed character
of the Chilean Senate; or Kornbergs severe recrimina
tion regarding the Canadian Parliament with Stauffers
comments concerning the Philippine Congress's vitality
"in keeping democratic politics alive." Common cri
teria or expectations appear to be lacking, and a
rather pernicious condescension is apparent. One can
evidently criticize well-established legislaturen and
freely discuss their shortcomings, especially the
perceived chasm between expectations arid performance;
but it is apparently not quite proper to find fault
with similar institutions in less hospitable climes;
nay, their performance must be extolled.x
Though it is of questionable value to analyze legislatures
within the context of "common expectations, since to do so
would probably lead to a rebirth of highly prescriptive
literature, it is certainly of value to beware of the ex>
sive degree of defensiveness alluded to by this critic.
p O --
Though
it is not surprising that the imbalance cited should exist,
given the prevalent downgrading of Latin American legislatures
4 0

4.1
and those of other developing areas, an objective and bal
anced focus should be a clear goal even of those who quite
naturally feel that they must justify the merit of research
topics which until recently have been considered of little
relevance.
In the first chapter of this study the proposition that
the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly is a significant par
ticipant in systemic decision-making has been tested and
supported. It is difficult, however, to evaluate the decision
making relevance of any given institution in isolation from
the institutional context of which it is a part. Consequently
this chapter is devoted to an examination of the limitations
of the role of the legislature in decision-making implied by
the relationship which exists between the legislature and
these other institutions. A failure to focus upon this ques
tion would make this study subject to the type of criticism
lodged by Baerwald.
General Overview
. x
The relative compactness of Costa Rica, which covers an
area of approximately 19,600 square miles and has an esti
mated population of 1,832,000,2 and the relative homogeneity
of its population have contributed to the establishment of
strong centralised government in this Central American nation.
The effective locus of decisional power.in the Costa Rican
presidential-unitary system lies without my doubt within
the central government. The seven provinces of the republic

42
lack anv form of self-government. Each has a governor, who
is appointed by the president, but these officials may be
removed by the president at will and are largely symbolic
and anachronistic figures whose responsibilities and powers
are quite limited even in administrative matters. A degree
of self-government does exist at the cantonal level in the
form of elected municipal councils, but these councils have
very restricted allocational powers and rely heavily upon the
3
central government for those resources that they do receive.
Municipal government is supposed to fulfill important func
tions at the local level, but there has always been a marked
discrepancy between the formalistic precepts found in the
various constitutions of Costa Rica and the effective powers
and resources granted to municipal councils for the fulfill-
4 ,
ment of these functions. The fact that all modifications
in municipal budgets or in local tax structures must be
approved by the Legislative Assembly, i.e., the lack of home-
rule powers, is ready evidence of the absence of any signifi
cant national-local decentralisation. It has, in fact,
been observed that
This dependency upon allocational decisions made at
other levels of government has sharply curtailed the
development of a strong municipal system of government
in Costa Rica. This is true not only of the constric
tions placed upon the independence of action of the
councils but also of the attitudes which it has engen
dered in the local populace. The relevance and signifi
cance of municipal government for the populace cannot
but be affected by this condition and is reflected in
the attitude that we found that the solutions to most
basic problems of the cantons had to be sought outside
of the municipal structure of government.5

43
This is to say that it is the Legislative Assembly that
impinges upon the decisional power of local government rather
than vice versa. Thus, if the overall systemic impact of
legislative decisional activity is reduced by decisional
activity within other structures of government, it is appar
ent that this activity must take place at the central govern
ment level and not at local levels of government.
The central government consists of the three traditional
branchesjudicial, executive, and legislativeand is
patterned after a common Latin American variant of the presi
dential system. This variant is characterized by the power
of the legislature to interpellate and censure individual
ministers of state, although in Costa Rica such actions need
not lead to the resignation of the minister in question. It
is also worth noting that the institutional fabric of the
nation, indeed the centralization of power found in Costa
Rica, is most definitely affected by the existence of a large
number of national autonomous agencies which operate in a
relatively independent fashion.
The Judicial Branch
The judicial branch of government in Costa Rica cannot
be said to impinge upon the decisional powers of the legis
lature to any significant extent. It is, however, very
stable, and political meddling in its adjudicative activities
is quite unusual. This branch consists of a Supreme Court

44
and a number of lower courts. The judicial system, and the
Court in particular, enjoys not only a high degree of inde
pendence but also substantial prestige, both jealously
guarded by the magistrates of the high court. This inde
pendence is substantially supported by the £\ct that the
constitution stipulates that the judicial branch shall re
ceive no less than 6 per cent of each annual budget and thus
needs not involve itself in political jockeying for adequate
funding within the executive and legislative branches. This
provision makes the court system one of the few institutions
within the Costa Rican public sector which would seem to
have an overabundance of funds. The fact that the Supreme
Court and some of the lower courts in San Jos occupy two
of the most modern and luxurious buildings in this capital
city serves as evidence of the privileged position enjoyed
by this branch of government. The independence of the court
system is further bolstered by the fact that permanence on
the high court tends to be the rule despite the fact that
appointments are for eight-year terms. This apparent weak
ness is compensated for by the fact that magistrates on this
court are automatically reappointed to successive terms
unless the Assembly votes by a two-thirds majority to elect
a replacement.
The Supreme Court aces have the power to take decisions
which in some instances would reduce the impact of the
Assembly upon systemic decision-making. It is, for example.

45
empowered to make binding interpretations of constitutional
provisions and of their relevance to the actions of the
other branches of government. It also serves as an adjudi
cator between the executive and legislative branches through
its required duty of ruling upon the validity of presiden
tial vetoes which are based upon constitutional interpre
tation. The Court has played an active role in solving the
latter kind of conflict, but it has not exercised the type
of broad interpretative power which has been resorted to by
the Supreme Court of the United States. It can thus be
stated that the high court of Costa Rica has not moved in
the direction of utilizing the potential power of judicial
legislation that it has to impinge- upon the legislative
function of the Assembly. But there can be no doubt that
Costa Rica has one of the most influential court systems to
be found in all of Latin America. It may well be that full
utilization of judiciary constitutional powers has not and
will not be resorted to in the near future for fear that to
do otherwise would endanger the existing balance that has
allowed the judicial system to survive as a viable and
independent branch of government.
The mutual independence which characterizes the re
lationships between the legislative and judicial branches
is not, however, replicated in the relationships between
the legislative and the executive. Without any doubt, the
major limitations upon the systemic decisional impact of

46
the legislative branch are related to the existence of a
competing source of decision-making within the executive
branch. The following section of this chapter is devoted
to an analysis of these limitations.
The Executive Branch
The executive branch is headed by a president who is
elected directly in the general elections held in Costa Rica
on the first Sunday of February every four years. He, in
turn, is granted the exclusive power to appoint and dis
charge his ministers of state, who with him make up the top
hierarchy of this branch of government. The main formal
powers of the president and the ministers are those of
direction of the executive branch bureaucratic structure,
initiation of legislation, veto or ratification and execu
tion of legislation, submission to the Assembly of the
national budget, disbursement of budgeted funds, direction
of the lav/ enforcement and defense forces, temporary suspen
sion of certain constitutional rights and guarantees subject
to legislative ratification within forty-eight hours, direc
tion of foreign policy, and negotiation of international
agreements and loans, most of which require legislative
ratification.
Although the powers of the Costa Rican chief executive
are by no means minor, he is less pov/erful than most of his
counterparts in Latin America. For example, he does not

47
have the power to rule by decree in any but administrative
matters and cannot veto the annual budget as modified and
approved by the Legislative Assembly. Most important of
all, he lacks the power to exercise effective control over
the autonomous institutions which, as will be indicated in
another section, control a very substantial portion of the
allocational resources of the Costa Rican public sector.
The fact that presidential re-election has recently been
prohibited by constitutional provision leads to further
limitations on the influence that may be exercised by the
president. The fact that there has been party alternation
in power at the executive level in the past five elections
7
has prevented any continuity at the ministerial level and
has made it extremely difficult to establish effective con
trol over the state bureaucracy, most of whose members are
guaranteed job stability through a relatively advanced and
effective civil service system. The formal and informal
system of checks and balances in Costa Rica, of which the
bureaucracy is a part, has been referred to as one leading
to a form of immobilism that favors preservation of things
as they are and leads to a situation in which "system
maintenance is the keynote of . formal government, and
8
change other than the most adaptive type is restricted."
The above, however, does not mean that the president plays
a secondary role in the allocational process. Any given
Costa Rican president may be less powerful than his

48
counterpart in another Latin American country, but he is
still a dominant factor in the Costa Rican setting.
It is impossible to evaluate adequately the effective
ness of the executive-branch inputs into the legislative
sub-system of Costa Rica in isolation of party-related con
siderations. The means available to a president to affect
the decisional behavior of deputies are without doubt
determined in large part by the presence or absence of a
presidential-party majority in the legislature. It may also
be affected to a lesser, yet significant, extent by the
style and personality of the person occupying the presiden
tial post. The fact that the occupants of legislative and
executive positions are changed every four years and that
presidential-party majority and minority legislatures have
also alternated in power during each of the last five terms
has in fact prevented executive-legislative relations from
becoming highly patterned. It is very likely that the
inputs into the legislative sub-system emanating from the
executive branch have been subject to substantial variation
from one term to another. The reader should keep in mind
that the discussion which follows is based almost entirely
upon observation of the behavior of one set of executive
officers vis-a-vis a presidential-party minority legislature.
It is also significant to note that the president in power
during the period studied lacked one of the most important
traits which has tended to characterise Costa Rican chief

49
executives. President Jos Joaquin Trejos was not a
national leader of any of the coalition parties which
backed his candidacy; he was a relatively obscure university
professor at the time of his nomination. It is quite likely
that this obscurity and previous non-involvement in politics
was useful to the coalition in projecting an image of a
candidate who was uncorrupted by previous participation in
politics; he was referred to as the candidate of the clean
hands (manos limpias). But once in office he was not able
to call upon the normal loyalty ties that have usually
existed between presidents drawn from the national leader
ship ranks and the deputies. All of which points to the
fact that this one experience is not particularly represen
tative and that generalizations based upon it may not be
accurate or applicable in many cases.
The relationship between the executive and legislative
branches was, to say the least, strained during the period
studied. Active coordination and collaboration between the
two branches was the exception rather than the rule. But
what is most important to note is that this was the product
not only of expected partisan conflicts inherent in a
presidential-party ininority situation but also of a high
degree of discontent among the deputies of the coalition
that elected the presideixt. In a country where personal
relationships are valued highly and where many feel that
they must go to the very top in order to achieve anything,

50
it was felt that the president and his ministers did not
provide their deputies with adequate access to them. An
attempt to generate a feeling that the representatives of
the coalition in the executive and the legislative branches
were working as a team was made by the president in the
first months of his term, but it was not successful. Weekly
meetings between the president and these deputies were
dropped by the former due to the fact that the latter wished
to utilize such meetings as a means of obtaining special
favors for their constituents and/or drawing constituency
demands to the attention of the chief executive. The presi
dent, however, viewed these meetings as a means of discuss
ing broad policy questions and of seeking to coordinate
legislative and executive activities. The failure of this
experiment led to reduced contact not only with the coalition
deputies as a group but also with .individual deputies and .
even with the main coalition leaders in the Assembly. The
coalition deputies came to resent this lack of personal con
tact and were irked by the fact that the president and many
of the ministers failed to take their political interests
into account and at times even acted against these interests
without so much as a symbolic consultation.
Liaison with the legislative branch was carried out to
a limited extent by individual officials of ministerial rank.
But very few coalition deputies were satisfied with this
limited access. The office of the president had one

51
legislative liaison officer on its staff, but his role in
smoothing things out was peripheral at best as is indicated
by the fact that none of the deputies interviewed even
mentioned his existence. Under such conditions, the con
clusion that the representatives of the executive power were
not in a strong position to ask special favors of the depu
ties is obvious. The caucus leaders of the coalition par
ties at times sought to convince their deputies that they
should toe the line on some matters for the sake of the
coalition's record in power but very frequently found this
to be an extreme3.y distasteful and difficult task. In
general, the government deputies came to feel that, given
the treatment that they received from the executive, they
had no responsibility to it. In fact, some of them seemed
to enjoy watching the president and his ministers struggle
to get themselves out of hot water without any significant
help from the legislative sidelines. Though this feeling
of detachment from the executive was clearly affected by
the personal style of the president, it could be posited
that in countries, such as Costa Rica, where presidents
attain office without having elaborated or campaigned on
a specific programmatic platform, presidential-party depu
ties will feel less obligated to go along with executive
branch initiatives than would be the case in countries where
these deputies have committed themselves in campaign to
support specific or even general types of measures.

52
Interestingly enough, most of the pressure mechanisms
at the disposal of the executive were ones which could be
used most effectively vis-a-vis the majority party within
the Assembly. For example, it was able to push for action
on certain bills, given the fact that failure to act upon
them would have brought forth angry protests against the PLN-
controlled legislature rather than the executive branch.,
The executive was also in a position to negotiate passage
of certain bills by promising to exercise its power to dis
burse authorized funds for the pet projects of the PLN
deputies. Most such pressures by and negotiations with the
executive were largely limited to budgetary bills. The
fact that the PLN deputies were the ones who stood to benefit
most from negotiated bills and to lose most from failure to
act upon certain types of urgent legislation explains why
it was these deputies who acted as the main defenders of
certain executive bills in the presence of the lethargy of
the government deputies. Such lethargy was in large part
the product of the fact that the government deputies were
marginal to the entire bargaining process, and this fact
could only contribute to the alienation of this group.
But it would be a grave error to evaluate the impact
of executive inputs exclusively on the basis of the ability
of the executive to pressure the legislature into approving
its bills. Without any question, the power of a president
who lacks a majority in the legislature is relatively

53
limited, but he is far from being a lame duck. The
executive, through control of or ready access to a vast
bureaucracy, is inevitably in a better position than the
legislature to acquire the data and expertise required to
evaluate the favorable and negative aspects of some types
of legislation. The executive is consequently in a position
to provide or withhold information as best suits its inter
ests. This power is of considerable significance in a legis
lative context such as that of Costa Rica, where the legis
lature has had virtually no support staff capable of acquir
ing data independently. In some cases the executive has
what amounts to a monopoly on certain types of information.
Representatives cf the ministries may be obligated to appear
before committees when requested to do so, but they may be
quite selective in the types of information that they choose
to divulge. If directly asked to produce a given type of
information, they may resort to endless means of withholding
information that they do not wish to divulge. And deputies
are frequently not well-enough prepared or informed to know
which direct questions are critical to an adequate evaluation
of a bill before them if it is the least bit complex. Exec
utive inputs of highly technical bills and of budgetary
bills are rarely affected in any drastic fashion by the
legislative conversion process.
The data acquired do not allow for the determiruition
of how frequently highly complex or technical bills are

54
initiated by the executive branch. The number of such bills
has probably been increasing over the years, though they
still do not seem to represent a very large proportion of
the bills submitted to the Assembly. But it is likely that
those that are introduced, though a minority in number, may
be among the most significant. And if this is true, the
impact of such executive inputs is not to be underestimated,
as the legislature of Costa Rica is virtually unable to
evaluate most of such bills given its lack of support staff.
Consequently, the Assembly is in no position to analyze,
and much less to offer counter-proposals to, bills of this
nature.
Yet it is in the second area, that of budgetary inputs,
that the impact of executive input becomes most evident.
The executive not only has the exclusive power of budgetary
input but has an even more inclusive impact on budgetary
allocational politics due to the fact that the legislature
is not equipped to analyze large budgetary bills such as the
annual budget in more than an extremely superficial fashion.
A brief examination of the process followed in studying an
annual budget will provide ready evidence of the fact that
with very limited exceptions executive budgetary inputs
represent final financial allocational policy.
This author was given permission to sit in on the
closed sessions of the sub-committee of the budgetary
committee, made up exclusively of PLN deputies,
that carried

55
out the preliminary study of the 1969 budget. This sub
committee met daily for periods of up to eight hours to
analyze the budget submitted by the executive. They had
only two staff members working with them, and their efforts
were largely reduced to the time-consuming process of
checking the budget line item by line item against the bud
get of the previous year and against the requests made by
each ministry to the budget office of the executive branch.
They were thus able to cut out new positions or to lower
certain line items which were felt to be detrimental to the
PLN in an upcoming election year, e.g., the funds to
ministries for publicity purposes. No significant attempts
were made to evaluate general programs, a task which would
have been impossible, given the fact that only two out of
the eight members of the sub-committee had any economic
training or understanding of budgetary analysis. In fact,
the main interest of the majority of the members was to work
out the details of the pork-barrel funds built into the
9
budget at this stage. Thus, though this group was able to
add approximately ten million colones to the budget in
pork-barrel funds for the PLN deputies by cutting or re
ducing certain items in the budget and by obtaining an
opinion from the Comptroller General's office that the exec
utive had underestimated its income, it did not and could
not come to grips with an evaluation of the desirability of
authorizing funds for one type of program rather than some

56
other. The full committee made only minor changes in the
report of the sub-committee and was equally hamstrung as
far as executing a detailed analysis of expenditures. It
is thus apparent that executive budgetary inputs are modi
fied only slightly by the legislature in the process of
converting them into outputs.
The power of the president to affect the allocational
process in Costa Rica is not, however, limited to the for
mal decisional process which ends once a bill has been
approved or disapproved by the Assembly. As in most politi
cal systems, it is the executive branch that must implement
most legislation. This power is potentially significant in
an area of the world where, from colonial times, the phrase
"laws are issued but not followed" (la ley se dicta pero no
se cumple) has been oft repeated. In Costa Rica this is
not a widespread rule, but one can certainly find numerous
cases where it would apply. No doubt, many of these cases
involve what Charles Anderson has referred to as "poetic
laws" or "the grand proyecto.The laws are not imple
mented beca\ise it is simply not feasible to do so. For
example, the law passed in IS)69 dealing with the protection
of forested areas comes close to being a model law, but the
cost of hiring the manpower needed to guarantee that it not
be violated is prohibitive. In other words# there are some
laws which, could not be implemented even if the executive
were highly disposed to do so. But in many cases laws go

57
by unapplied due to the discretionary power of the executive
to allocate greater or lesser enforcement energy to the law
in question. Individual deputies do from time to time draw
cases of laxity in enforcement to the attention of the
Assembly and of the public, but this type of oversight is
the exception rather than the rule-in large part due to
the fact that the Assembly is simply not equipped to fulfill
an encompassing oversight function.
The discretionary powers of the executive in the imple
mentation of legislation are substantially bolstered by the
fact that it is normally authorized to issue the specific
implementing orders related to any bill. It is in a posi
tion, especially in the case of highly technical laws, to
exercise a high degree of unsupervised discretionary power.
The deputies interviewed indicated that they did not con
sider that such authorization granted the executive a signi
ficant instrument of power. The prevalence of this feeling
is manifested in the fact that the Assembly and the deputies
expressed no need to follow up on such matters to assure
themselves that the spirit of the lav; has been faithfully
followed in issuing implementing orders. In reporting a
similar phenomenon in Argentina, Lee Fennell writes that
Under the constitutional power to issue "the instruc
tions and regulations that may be necessary for the
execution of the laws of the Nation, being careful
not to alter their spirit by exceptions," presidents
have in fact frequently made law by executive
decrees.

58
This phase of executive behavior merits careful scrutiny in
future studies of Costa Rica. It is unlikely that Costa
Rican presidents have gone so far as to make law by executive
decree utilizing this subterfuge in very many cases, but it
would not be surprising to find that executive implementing
orders with some frequency reflect biases not specifically
contained in the law. But the discretionary power of the
executive in implementing legislation is not limited to such
orders. One additional prerogative of even greater import
is granted to the executive.
The budgets of Costa Rica establish ceilings on the
disbursements that may be made but in few cases make the
disbursement of authorized allocations obligatory. And
since virtually all budgeted funds must be disbursed by the
Ministry of Finance, the executive branch is in a position
to issue payments according to its priorities and to with
hold funds when it so desires. This power is used not only
to block certain types of expenditures which it may not deem
appropri.ate even though budgeted but also as a bargaining
mechanism in a process not unlike that which exists in the
Phillipines and is described in thefollowing terms by
Robert Stauffer:
Because in the centralized Phillipine system the
president has the authority to release or hold back
funds already appropriated, especially, funds for pork
barrel projects, much of the interbranch bargaining
operates on a quid pro quo level with the chief
executive following through on past commitments in

59
return for which Congress accedes to new proposals
made by the president while simultaneously extracting
new commitments for future allocations.^
In conclusion it pan be stated that the president of
Costa Rica is probably in a position to affect the allo-
cational process more than any other single individual or
institution in the country. There is, however, good reason
to question Lloyd Mecham's argument that Latin American
government, and thus Costa Rican government, is mainly
13
rifled by unchallenged personalistic executive fxat. The
weakness of this argument is to be found not only in the
proven role that the legislature plays in Costa Rican
decision-making but also in the presence of a set of insti
tutions which if grouped together by type must be viewed as
the major single challenge to both executive and legislative
decisional power. The institutions in question are those
referred to as autonomous institutions and are briefly dis
cussed in the following section.
The Autonomous Institutions
In general, research on governmental institutions found
within the Costa Rican political system is limited. But
nowhere is this scarcity or absence of research more notable
than in the case of what could be referred to as the fourth
branch of government of this countrythe autonomous insti
tutions. In fact, any attempt to evaluate the allocational
powers of the traditional branches of government of Costa

60
Rica in a definitive way will be impossible until adequate
research on these institutions has been carried out.
The autonomous institutions are public institutions
which have been created to meet functionally specific,
largely service-oriented goals in a decentralized fashion.
They play a highly significant part in the allocational
process and in meeting the needs and demands of the Costa
Rican society. Provision of water and sewerage services, of
electrical and telephone services, and of public housing is
all in the hands of such institutions. The social security
system, the national insurance monopoly, the nation's two
railroads, and the nationalized banking system are also
characterized by this form of autonomous control and organi
zation.
The autonomous institution system has clearly fulfilled
one of the primary goals which motivated its creation, that
of preventing an excessive centralization of power in the
executive branch. But a. price has been paid for this type
of decentralization. A number of independent structures,
jealously guarded by their bureaucratic overlords, have
emerged, and coordinated development has become virtually
impossible to achieve. In effect, these institutions oper
ate independently of any real direction from or control by
the central government. This situation is due in large part
to the fact that in most cases the budgets and resources of
these institutions are not subject to the normal controls

61
which can be exercised by the executive and legislative
branches through their respective powers of budgetary
initiative and review. The vast proportion of the resources
of these institutions come from service charges and mandatory
contributions or are guaranteed either by law or by specific
constitutional provision. And budgetary review is restric
ted to approval of the annual budget of each institution by
the Comptroller General's office, which is not empowered to
exercise any substantial independent judgment in terms of
the priority allocation of the funds of these institutions.
In IS68 one deputy sought to obtain passage of legislation
that would have made these budgets subject to direct legis
lative review and within-budget priority reallocations, but
he was unsuccessful in his attempt due to the ability of
these institutions to mobilize strong political pressures
against it.
The president and ministers have the shared power to
appoint the directors of the boards of these institutions
and thus would seem to have an effective means of attaining
control over them. But the established staggered term
system of appointment has at times prevented the president's
appointees from gaining control of the boards until his
third year in office. Even when such control has existed,
the directors seem to have acted relatively independently
because, once named, they cannot be removed by the president
during their four-year term.

62
The implications of this apparent absence of control by
either the executive or the legislature need not be elab
orated upon beyond indicating that in 1969 the incomes of
these institutions represented 54.6 per cent of public sec
tor income and a staggering 19.2 per cent of the nation's
gross national product. Clearly, the power of the legis
lative and executive branches to allocate societal resources
is severely limited, given the existence of the autonomous
institutions.
Summary and Conclusions
In Chapter I, a case v/as made for classifying Costa
Rica as an exception to the rule that the legislatures of
lesser-developed countries do not have any meaningful
participation in systemic decision-making. But the degree
of independence exercised in decisional matters by a legis
lature and the significance of legislative decision-making
can be overestimated unless evaluated within the overall
institutional context of systemic decision-making.
In this chapter the institutional context of the coun
try has been examined in an attempt to identify the possible
limitations which this context may place upon the decision
making role of the Legislative Assembly. It has been found
that local levels of government and the judicial branch do
not place any notable restraints upon this role. The formal
and informal powers of the executive branch and the

63
independence and allocations! power of the autonomous
institutions, however, have been found to be a limiting
factor upon this role. Thus an objective evaluation of
the decision-making role of this legislature must indicate
that the legislature of Costa Rica shares its decision
making role with the above-mentioned institutions and may
in some cases have a lesser impact upon decision-making
than these other institutions do. But the existence of
these limitations does not contradict the finding reported
in the previous chapter that the Legislative Assembly does
play a significant role in the allocation of systemic
resources in Costa Rica.

Notes
" Hans Raerwald, review of Legislatures in Developmental
Perspective, ed. by Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
American Political Science Review, 66 (March, 1972), p. 248.
2
This estimate is based upon projections to April of
1972 and was provided to the author by the Tribunal Supremo
de Elecciones of Costa Rica.
3
A recent study of the municipal governments of twenty-
five predominantly rural cantons indicates that the sub
ventions of the central government accounted for an average
of 54.9 per cent of the revenues of these units of local
government. The study draws the conclusion that "at the
present time the rural municipal councils of Costa Rica
fulfill little more than an administrative function and are
not at all equipped to participate actively in the process
of resolving the needs of a 'developing* society." See
Christopher E. Baker, Ronald Fernandez Pinto, and Samuel
Z. Stone, Municipal Government in Costa Rica: Its
Characteristics and Functions (San-JoseT Associated Colleges
of the Midwest, 1971), pp. 84-85, 122.
^Ibid., p. 17-31.
^Ibid., p. 130.
g
A constitutional reform passed in 1969 now prohibits
the re-election of all presidents elected after 1969. Prior
to this reform, re-election was possible after a lapse of
eight years (two terms). For example Jos Figueres, who
was president from 1953 to 1958, was eligible for re-election
in 1966. His election in 1970 eliminates him from any
future contention for the presidential post.
7
To the knowledge of the author, there has been only
one minister who hcis been carried over from one administration
to another since 1949. This was Oscar Barahona Streber,
who served as Minister of Finance in the latter part of the
term of President Jos Joaquin Trejos (1966-1970) and the
first months of the term of President Jos Figueres
(1970-1972).
64

65
8
Charles F. Denton, The Politics of Development in
Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1969),
p. 112.
9
It is to be noted that unless the government deputies
had managed to have the executive include port-barrel items
in the budget for their communities before sending the
budget to the Assembly, v/hich did not seem to happen very
frequently, they were totally locked out of the pork-barrel
grab bag.
"^Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change in
Latin American (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1967),
p. 135.
"^Lee C. Fennell, "Congress in the Argentine Political
System," in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legisla
tures: Their Role and Influence (New York: Praeger
Publishers, 1971, p. 157.
12 ....
Robert B. Stauffer, "Congress xn the Phillipine
Political System, in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
eds., Legislatures in Developmental Perspective (Durham:
Duke University Press, 1970), p. 351.
13 ....
J. Lloyd Mechara, "Latin American Constitutions:
Nominal and Real," Journal of Politics, 21 (May, 1959),
pp. 258-275.

CHAPTER III
THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
K. C. Wheare has aptly stated that
We would misunderstand profoundly the working of
legislatures if we thought of them as bodies which,
between elections, thought things out in isolated
tranquillity, independence, free to initiate or to
decide matters as they thought fit, influenced only
by members' contacts with each other. -1*-
The institutional setting described in the preceding chapter
is clearly one of the set of factors which limit the degree
of independence that may be exercised by the members of the
Costa Rican legislature. But many Costa Ricans believe that
the most limiting factor in this context is that of the con
trol exercised over the deputies by supposedly monolithic
party structures. If one were to accept what is written by
some local reporters, the conclusion would have to be drawn
that the deputies of the Legislative Assembly behave like a
herd of cattle and vote at all times according to party
lines and instructions.
Though it is safe to state that many aspects of politi
cal behavior in Costa Rica must be analyzed within the con
ten t
most
party
of party politics, the view that the behavior of ill or
of the deputies of the Assembly is ruled by monolithic
structures is open to question and empirical verifica-
The purpose of this chapter is
tion.
to exair.i ne the

67
characteristics of the political party system as a means of
drawing some informed conclusions in respect to the signifi
cance that party structures have within the political system
of this country and more specifically within the legislative
sub-system.
The Political Party System
The political party system of Costa Rica has been clas
sified accurately by Ronald McDonald as a multi-party domi-
2
nant system. There is a dominant party, the National
Liberation Party (Partido Liberacin Nacional), which will be
referred to as the PLN, and a number of smaller parties, most
of which can be classified as anti-PLN parties. Yet, despite
the predominance of the PLN, these smaller parties in coali
tion are capable of challenging PLN control of the govern
ment. Such anti-PLN coalitions have been formed in three of
the four elections held between 1958 and 1970, a fact that
would seem to support the proposition that
As one party grows increasingly dominant, incentives
arise for opposition coalit.ional party activity, which
are based rationally in the aspiration to maximize
party influence against a strong opponent.3
They have run common deputy slates as well as a common presi
dential candidate in the last two elections and v/ere success
ful in wresting the executive branch from the dominant party
in 1958 and 1966, though they have never been able to deprive
the PLN of an absolute majority in the legislature.

68
The crushing defeat experienced by the two largest
minority parties in 1962, when they chose to run separate
presidential tickets, provided ready evidence that there was
little hope in the immediate future of defeating the PLN
without resorting to coalitional behavior. In that election
the PLN candidate won by a margin of 57,317 votes; but, if
it is assumed that a single opposition candidate would have
received the combined votes of these two parties, it could
be argued that this could have been a close election given
the fact that the margin of victory of the PLN would have
been that of a precarious 2,577 votes.^ In 1966 a coalition
5
presidential candidate won by a margin of 4,220 votes. The
ant.i-PLN coalition reappeared in 1970 but suffered defeat at
the hands of the dominant party.
Anti-PLN coalitions have regularly chosen to register
under the name of National Unification Party (Partido Uni'fi-
cacion Nacional). Invariably the largest party in the coali-
6
tion has been the Republican Party (Partido Republicano).
Until the election of 1970, the second largest party in the
coalition was that known as the National Union Party (Partido
Union Nacional). Other nominal parties have been members of
the coalitions, but they have tended to be parties on paper
only and generally have been legal entities formed by a very
reduced number of people seeking to attain some bargaining
7
power in the nomination process of the coalition. Generally
speaking, it is possible to classify the Republican Party as

69
somewhat left of center whereas the National Union Party
and the other mini-parties can be classified as right of
center.
The roots of this alliance can best be understood by
placing the major political parties within the historical
context of the "revolution" experienced by Costa Rica in
1948. A full explanation of this event would require an
extensive treatise and cannot be entertained in this brief
chapter. But in capsular form, and in somewhat simplistic
terms, it may be said that in 1948 constitutional order was
interrupted in Costa Rica as a result, among other things, of
the attempt of the leaders of the Republican Party in power
to nullify the outcome of the election held in that year, in
which they lost the presidential race. The leaders of the
revolution eventually became the leaders of the National
Liberation Party when it was founded in 1951. The reasons
for the basic antagonism between these two parties are to be
found in the events surrounding the conflagration of 1948.
It is somewhat more difficult to deal with or classify the
National Union Party. This party has traditionally repre
sented the more conservative sectors of Costan Rican society.
But it has not always been associated with the other main
anti-PLN party. Thus in 1948 one finds that this political
group was associated with the rebellion against the Republi
can Party then in government. In fact, the main leader of
the National Union Party was the victorious candidate whose

70
election was honored by the future PLN leaders, and he served
as president from 1949 to 1953. Hov; then does one explain
the fact that this party is now in the anti-PLN camp?
The explanation for this lies in the recurrence of what
might be referred to as "unholy alliances" between liberal
and conservative parties in Costa Rica, Both the Republican
Party and the National Liberation Party have liberal .inclina
tions, but they have never been able to unify under a common
banner. The conservative forces, on the other hand, have
tended to ally with whatever liberal group has been out of
power. Thus, between 194 0 and 1948, when the Republican Party
was undertaking substantial reform, one finds a growing
association between the liberal outs, who would eventually
form the National Liberation Party, and the conservative
forces. Once the PLN attained the status of the main liberal
party, i.e., as of 1953, the conservative party group switched
to an alliance with the Republican Party, which has since
then been unable to recoup its previous status. Though
these alliances have been ones of convenience for both the
liberal outs and the conservatives, it should be noted that
in each case coalition with the conservatives has led to a
sacrifice on the part of the liberxl coalition party of some
of its change-oriented perspective. In the years preceding
the events of 1948, one sees that the liberal leaders
opposing the Republican Party were forced to downplay their
real intentions for fear of losing the support of the

71
conservatives. Thus one is faced with the anomaly that
the leaders of the. Republican Party were led to nullify
the elections of 1.948 partly out of fear that the liberal-
conservative opposition coalition would act against the
reforms introduced between 1940 and 1948 if allowed to
take power. The "revolution" indeed was seen by them as a
resort to arms to attain this end; whereas in retrospect
one sees that the leaders of the revolution acted to re
inforce these reforms and to introduce new ones. The case
at the present time is somewhat different in that coali-
tional behavior has led not so much to the temporary sub
limation of the reformist inclinations of the Republican
Party but to an extended sublimation of these since 1958.
Despite claims to the contrary by some authors, at
the present time there is no evidence that any of the partie
has a structured ideology.^ Frequently they lack even the
most basic of party programs or platforms. No doubt,
party activists may refer one to party documents which are
said to enunciate party ideology. But it is hard to
believe that even these so-called "ideologies" are particu
larly relevant to the political life of the nation when
the main unifying factor in the opposition coalition is
openly described as follows: "We of the Unification, in
essence, are those Costa Ricans who are neither in agree
ment with the theses, procedures, and points of view of

72
the National Liberation Party nor with the political be-
9
havior of their leaders." The relevance and credibility
of "ideology" is even more difficult to take seriously,
given the fact that PLN partisans and officials have in
the past taken actions that are in clear contradiction with
certain principles set out in their ideological charter.
The relative irrelevance of ideology in Costa Rica is
cogently described by Charles Anderson in the following
terms:
The Costa Rican political process does not encourage
political success through the mobilization of a
narrow coalition circumscribed by a rigorous ideo
logical position. Rather . victory is apt to
come to that movement v/hich can successfully appeal
to many disparate elements in the population.H
The policy differences between administrations, which in
theory have reflected different "ideological" orienta
tions, are found by Anderson to be virtually non-existent.
The only visible ideological commitment within the
PLN, which claims to be an ideological party in a most
vociferous fashion, is the defense of the institutional
reforms which its' present le.ciders carried out in the late
1940s and early 1950s. Generally speaking, it can be said
that the main difference between the general orientation
12
of the PLN and the other parties revolves around the ques
tion of the degree to which the state should intervene in
the economy. But despite the predictions of some Costa
Ricans, this one precept has not produced any sort of

73
integrated ideological formulation on the part of the
13
parties. The PLN has tended to favor more state interven
tion in the past, but even it has become more conservative
in this respect in recent years. It is certainly not true
that party affiliation is based to any significant extent
on ideological positions. In fact, the interviews carried
out for this study indicate that few PLN or PR deputies
felt that there were any significant "ideological" differ
ences between these two parties. Party affiliation related
nrnch more closely to a sense of loyalty to or repudiation
of the leaders of the two main groups which participated in
14
the 1948 civil war, though changes m this highly person-
alistic pattern are becoming evident with the attrition in
the ranks of these leaders due to age.
The main parties of Costa Rica are very similar in the
sense that they are all multi-class parties in terms of
the class composition of their voters. The absence of
clear-cut social cleavages among the major parties contri
butes to the fact that pressures for substantial realloca
tion of systemic resources are not strong enough to lead
to action on the part of the political decision-makers.
Upper- and middle-class interest, which tends to be status
quo oriented, tends to predominate in the parties, even
though the largest proportion of Costa Rican voters is of
L S
the urban and rural lower class.-' Though Suzanne

74
Bodenheimer was only referring to the PLN and the other
so-called Social Democratic parties of Latin America when
she wrote that they "have in practice defaulted on their
rhetorical promises to the masses and reinforced the landed,
1
commercial and industrial elites," this evaluation is
applicable to all of the major parties of Costa Rica.
The major parties of the country are also similar
in that, despite the fact that all three of them have been
in existence for at least twenty years, and have generally
enjoyed a continuity in leadership and membership, they
have developed no permanent structures and activities of
17
note. Foreign observers may be shown numerous detailed
18
organizational charts and descriptions, but the truth
of the matter is that in Costa Rica, as in most other
countries of the world where relatively free elections are
held, political parties are electoral organizations, and
as such come to life as active organizational structures at
the time of elections. Although all three parties have had
national committees and directorates, these have tended to
meet irregularly as formal structures. Even the PLN, which
has come closest to maintaining any semblance of permanent
activity, has shown visible signs of experiencing this
dormancy between elections. It has maintained the only
permanent national headquarters office, but this office has
been a symbol rather than a reliable indicator of permanent

75
activity. All that remains of the political parties after
an election has been held is a group of elected represen-
tatives within the governmental structure at the local
and national levels and a limited number of loosely asso-
19
ciated party leaders. The organized structures of the
parties are usually limited to the congressional party
caucuses (fracciones) and, to a more limited extent, to the
supposedly permanent national party directorates.
Legislative Party Caucuses
and External Party Leaders
At the time that the research in Costa Rica was carried
out, four different parties were represented within the
Legislative Assembly. The National Liberation Party (PLN)
held twenty-nine seats and thus an absolute majority in a
legislature of fifty-seven seats. Despite the fact that
they had run on common legislative tickets, the Rupublican
Party (PR) and the National Union Party (PUN) were organized
as separate political groups at both the congressional and
national party levels and tended to lack any significant
degree of coordination. The PR held eighteen seats and the
2 0
PUN held eight. The fourth party, the Revolutionary
Civic Union (UCR), was represented by two deputies but
lacked any visible organizational structures both inside
and outside of the Assembly. The other parties, i.e., the
three major parties, each had, to a greater or lesser extent,
a caucus organization and a formally organized national
directorate.

76
The caucus or fraccin of the PLN was by far the most
highly organized one in the Assembly. The party deputies
met in scheduled fraccin meetings twice a month, unless
unforeseen circumstances or recesses led to their cancella
tion or urgent matters led to the scheduling of extra
ordinary sessions. To the best knowledge of the author,
eleven such meetings were held between June and November
21
of 1968. It was difficult to establish how many times
the PR and PUN fracciones met during this six-month period
though it can be stated that they neither met jointly nor
did they tend to seek any coordination between themselves.
The PR caucus did not meet on a regularly scheduled basis
but did so only when special issues or needs for coordination
arose. It was quite apparent that it met far fewer times
than the PLN caucus did. Several deputies of the PUN
claimed that their caucus met weekly at the home of the
president of the national directorate of the party. Informal
conversations with other PUN deputies led to the impression
that this fraccin met once every three or four weeks for
a total of perhaps six to eight meetings during the period
in question.
The author was granted the unusual permission to sit
in on all of the caucus meetings of the PLN, but it was
impossible to gain access to the meetings of the other two
parties. Thus, in discussing the types of matters dealt
with in caucus meetings, primary attention will be given

77
to observations made in the meetings held by the more
accessible group. There is reason to believe, with the
exceptions that will be pointed out, that the general de
scription provided would apply to all three parties.
It is widely believed and reported that party disci-
. 22
pline is strictly enforced in the Costa Rican Assembly.
But the small number of bills discussed in the PLN meetings
does not support the view that party deputies must fre
quently vote according to party-line stands (lneas de
partido). A party line, obligating all caucus deputies to
support a specific stand on a bill, is taken whenever two-
thirds of the fraccin deputies vote to subject a bill to
23
such treatment. No more than 7 of the 537 bills before the
Assembly were discussed in the fraccin meetings held during
the six-month period in question, and only 3 of: these.,
were subjected to party-line stands. And, even in those
cases where a party line was voted, deputies were allowed to
vote against the stand agreed upon if they could present
arguments considered valid by the other members of the caucus
as to why it would be politically unwise or difficult for
24
them to support the party line publicly. It is doubtful,
however, that this obligation would have been waived had the
release of one or more votes represented the defeat of the
2^
position of the fraccin.
Though it was impossible to obtain detailed reports
from the PR and PUN deputies on the bills discussed by their
caucus groups, the impression given by them was that they too

78
discussed a very small number of bills, possibly even fewer
than those considered by the PLN group. One main difference
that was established was that the PR and PUN fracciones
tended to discuss bills in the later stages of processing,
i.e., after they had been reported out of committee, whereas
the PLN fraccin tended to discuss them while they were still
in committee, thus seeking to affect them positively or nega-
2 g
tively in a more organized manner. No party-line stands on
the part of the fracciones of these two parties were evident
in the period June-November, 1968. The PR deputies indicated
that lneas de partido had been taken in previous years but
that they were very infrequent. As in the case of the PLN,
it was indicated that a flexible application of party lines
was utilized. The PUN deputies, on the other hand, indicated
that party lines could be voted by their group, but there
was a consensus among them that they had not done so and were
not disposed to do so because they felt that the freedom of
choice of the individual deputy was of paramount impor tance
to their group. There is reason to believe that they were
the least subjected to caucus or external party pressures.
To a greater or lesser extent, all of the fracciones
drew upon the advice of outside experts associated formally
or informally with the party when discussing certain bills.
The PLN fraccin seemed to draw upon such assistcince more
frequently than the others. But even in the case of the PLN
this occurred in a minority of the cases. The difference

79
between the Costa Rican dependence upon external party direc
tion and that of a strong external party legislature such as
Venezuela's is worthy of note. In Venezuela it is
reported that
It is in the fraccin that party policy from the party's
central committee is debated and/or explained and/or
legitimated for purposes of defending it in Senate
floor or committee debate.27
The relative influence of the national party leadership
upon the actions of the caucuses of the PLN and the PR and
its individual members is not, however, to be discarded out-
2 8
right. The personalistic nature of Costa Rican politics
which persists to this day would suggest that to proceed in
such a manner would be quite careless. The influence of the
national party leadership is not evidenced so much through
actions or positions taken by the national party directorate
as by those of individual leaders. No cases in which the
national directorate approached the PR fraccin as a whole
recommending or demanding that it take certain positions were
identified. Occasional communication from the PLN direc
torate was received by. the PLN fraccin, and one joint session
was held by the fraccin and the national directorate in
order to discuss a highly controversia], bill. But even .in the
case of the PLN, such contacts were clearly secondary in
importance to informal contacts between certain national
leaders and the key deputies of the fraccin. Though formal
channels of communication existed between the fracciones and
the national directorates, most communication and pressure

80
from the external party leaders tended to take place at the
individual level, though this was more marked in the case
of the PR than of the PLN.
It is difficult to generalize about the extent to which
external party leaders in Costa Rica can be said to exercise
control over the behavior of their party deputies. During
the period studied, it appeared that PR deputies tended to be
more highly influenced by such leaders than were the PLN
deputies. In the case of the PR, it seemed theit a word from
the party president or one of his lieutenants was sufficient
for consensus to arise on any given: issue. No specific cases
of independence in the face of concerted efforts from above
were identified within the PR. The PR deputies argued that
the views of the national leadership were not imposed upon
them. But at least it can be said that these deputies were
not very prone to analyze and evaluate the "word" from above
in a critical fashion. In fact, on several occasions there
were indications that a phone call from one particular national
leader, the brother of party president, Dr. Rafae.3. Angel
Calderon Guardia, during a floor session was all that was
needed to establish the line to be followed by the legisla
tive party. The PLN caucus, on the other hand, did stand
behind the independent judgment of its members in some cases
in the face of strong pressure tactics by individual external
party leaders. Efforts in 1968 on the part of party president,
Jos Figueres. to get the PLN deputies to approve the San

81
Jos Protocol, which called for an increase in a number
of import duties, met with failure. But it must be noted
that the leadership of the PLN was divided by significant
schisms at the time that this study was carried out, and most
cases of independence in the fraccin reflected an indepen
dence from pressures emanating from only one sector of the
leadership. The main loyalty referent of most of the PLN
deputies was Daniel Oduber, defeated presidential candidate
in 1966, and not Jos Figueres. Thus, there is some reason
to question whether the PLN deputies would have shown the
same degree of independence had the pressures in question
emanated from Oduber as well as Figueres. The deputies
probably would not have behaved as independently, although
observation of the behavior of these deputies would seem to
indicate that even under these conditions the PLN deputies
would have been less willing to toe the line than the PR
deputies appear to have been.
But any evaluation of the impact of party pressures
upon legislative decision-making, regardless of the potential
that may exist for effective exercise of such pressures, must
take into account the frequency with which this type of input
takes place. In the case of all three parties, it is accu
rate to state that few decisional matters brought forth the
mobilization of external party pressures. And it has already
been indicated that few legislative matters were discussed
in fraccin meetings. Yet in order to place the significcince

82
of caucus groups within the Assembly in its proper context,
it is essential to focus upon the role of the jefe de fraccin
(caucus or majority and minority leaders). Much of the
coordination of the fracciones and the pursuit of partisan-
oriented goals and interests were left to the discretion of
the jefes de fraccin, especially in the cases of the PLN and
the PR. These leaders were chosen by vote of the party
deputies and, at least in the cases of the mentioned parties,
were paid a supplementary salary by the caucus so that they
could devote their full attention to legislative and caucus
matters. The degree to which they were relied upon by their
caucus deputies is reflected by the following responses indi
cating the roles attributed to them by the deputies of their
respective parties.
TABLE 3.1
Roles Attributed to the Jefe de Fraccin by PLN Deputies
EXTERNAL ROLE
1. Dealing with the external party leadership in name
of the fraccin
2. Serving as a link between the deputies and interest
groups
3. Serving as a spokesman of the fraccin in contacts
with the press and the public
4. Serving as a spokesman of the fraccin in contacts
with the executive brance
INTERNAL TACTICAL ROLE
1. Keeping up with what is going on in committees
2. Keeping tabs on important bills coming into the
Assembly
3. Making tactical decisions on the floor and watching
for tactical moves of other parties

83
TABLE 3.1(continued)
4. Coordinating tactics with presiding officers of the
Assembly
5. Providing main thrust and direction to political
debates on the floor
6. Serving as the main spokesman of party positions in
floor debates
7. Dealing with representatives of other fracciones in
negotiations
INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE
1. Providing direction to the fraccin on certain types
of bills of national interest and arranging for
external advisement if required
2. Coordinating fraccin as a group so as to make it
an efficient team
3. Promoting group cohesion and spirit
4. Serving as a conciliator inside and outside of the
fraccin
5. Enforcing fraccin decisions
6. Helping party deputies
7. Calling fraccin meetings
TABLE 3.2
Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fraccin by PR Deputies
EXTERNAL ROLE
1. Serving as fraccin spokesman with external groups
2. Keeping up with what the press is saying and providing
it with information for public consumption
INTERNAL TACTICAL ROLE
1. Making tactical decisions on floor
2. Being on watch for tactical surprises by the PLN
3. Providing tactical direction to debate on the floor
4. Being spokesman of party position on the floor
INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE
1. Providing direction to fraccin by studying bills and
explaining pros and con's of bills
Coordinating the group for debate purposes so as to
achieve fraccin goals
2

84
TABLE 3.2(continued)
3. Providing political direction to the fraccin
4. Keeping the fraccin members up-to-date on develop
ments
5. Maintaining harmony and cohesion among members of the
fraccin
TABLE 3.3
Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fraccin by PUN Deputies
EXTERNAL ROLE
1.Serving as fraccin spokesman in maintaining press
relations
INTERNAL TACTICAL ROLE
1. Maintaining contacts with other fracciones and reach
ing agreements with other groups
2. Representing the fraccin in any formal conversations
3. Defending the interests of the party
4. Being on guard to be sure that fraccin deputies are
treated with equality, e.g., in the naming of members
to special committees
INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE
1. Studying bills carefully so he can keep fraccin
deputies appraised of their implications.
2. Coordinating and assigning work of and to fraccin
deputies
3. Coordinating the debate of the fraccin deputies on
the floor
The role attribution responses listed in the previous
tables suggest that the PLN deputies had a more detailed per
ception of the various roles of their jefe than did those of
the PR and PUN. The responses also seem to reflect a higher
degree of reliance upon the j_ofe and a higher degree of

85
independence of this leader within the PLN caucus. The PUN
jefe seemed to be attributed the least independence; in fact,
one PUN deputy indicated that he felt that the position of the
jefe should be done away with. The jefe himself seemed to
view his role in symbolic terms and emphasized only his respon
sibility of seeing to it that the caucus deputies not be
discriminated against.
In practice, it was found that the PLN jefe tended to
act in coordination with other key deputies in the fraccin;
whereas there was no such apparent collaboration and cohesion
in the case of the PR. The PLN jefe worked in conjunction
with hand-picked committee coordinators and with the committee
chairmen of his party in keeping tabs upon bills of interest
and in setting committee and floor strategies for these bills.
The jefe frequently worked in close collaboration with the
presiding officer of the Assembly in planning and executing
floor strategies. Control by the jefe over politically contro
versial bills was enhanced by the fact that all bills of this
type were supposed to be, and in most cases were, submitted to
him by the deputies of his party for his clearance. It ap
peared, however, that few bills were blocked by the jefe and
that the main purpose of this procedure was that of keeping
him informed. In general, the PLN deputies were not of the
opinion that the jefe acted arbitrarily. The same was not
true of the PR. The degree of coordination with other party
deputies maintained by the PR jefe was quite limited; he did

86
not work with committee or other coordinators. His exercise
of discretionary tactical decision-making was, perhaps as a
consequence of this, viewed by some as being somewhat arbi
trary and, in fact, seems to have contributed to the generation
of a dissident group within the fraccin.
The presence of this dissident goup was made particularly
apparent in the dynamics of negotiation between the PR and
PLN fracciones. In the case of the PLN, the jefe was the only
person empowered to negotiate with the representatives of the
other party groupings, though he could delegate this authority
to others. He tended to represent the congressional party not
only in negotiations with other congressional party groupings
but also with the executive branch as well. The PR jefe,in
theory, enjoyed equal power, but the PLN exploited and sought
to accentuate the schism in the PR caucus by negotiating with
other competing leaders of the caucus in certain cases. The
magnitude of the schism and the lack of cohesion in the PR
caucus was nowhere better evidenced than in the fact that most
budgetary negotiations involved in the passage of the 1969
annual budget were channeled through one of the dissident
leaders who sat on the budgetary committee. This strategy led
to a unanimous favorable committee report on the budget. This
report was viewed as being politically inconvenient by the
executive branch and the jefe de fraccin, given the fact that
it condoned the modifications which the PLN--controIled committee
had introduced into the budget bill submitted by the executive.

87
It is most significant to note that in all three caucus
groups there was a marked tendency to leave effective decision
making on important national legislation or politically loaded
legislation in the hands of the jefes and a handful of respec
ted caucus members. There were clear indications that dis
cussions within the PLN and PR fracciones tended to be limited
largely to the participation of a reduced number of deputies.
Within the PLN caucus a group of seven or eight deputies not
only raised most of the questions which were discussed but also
were the most frequent and recurrent discussants. Decisions
tended to be taken on the basis of the arguments presented by
these deputies. The same group also appeared to be that which
the jefe worked with most closely in coordinating and estab
lishing party strategies outside of the formal fraccin meet
ings. Conversations with the PR deputies indicated that the
same held true in their caucus but that the group of influen-
tials consisted of no more than three or four deputies. In
order to avoid suggesting a misleading conclusion, it should
be stated that in the vast proportion of cases cohesion in
caucus behavior was usually the product of the normal influence
of the well-versed over the relatively inexperienced and
untrained rather than the product of impositions from some
external party structure or an autocratic internal leadership.
The national and fraccin leaders did have the means of
applying sanctions against recalcitrant deputies if they had
wished to. The national leaders could make credible threats

88
of cutting the individual in question off from any future
appointive or elective positions. The fraccidn leader could
deny collaboration in the pursuit of matters of interest to
the individuals. In the PLN, available sanctions were more
varied, given its control of the presidency of the Assembly.
Deputies from this party could also be denied assignment to
desirable committees and appointment to groups traveling abroad
in representation of the Assembly. PLN control of all but
one of the committees also allowed for conscious sabotage of
bills of interest to a party maverick. But such sanction
mechanisms were seldom invoked. The failure to do so was due,
at least in part, to the fact that a majority of the deputies
viewed national decision-making, that most likely to draw
party attention, as a field best left to the direction of
others. Interestingly enough, it would appear that the self-
image of independence held by most Costa Rican deputies may
well be sustainable given the fact that they do not choose
to or do not have occasion to challenge the party. If they
did, this self-image would probably have been far less marked
than it was found to be.
Local party structures or leaders played a limited part
in providing inputs into the legislative party sub-system.
Few of the respondents gave any indication that there was a
local party organization with which they could deal. And
there is good reason to believe that the deputies who responded
in the affirmative were referring either to (1) contacts with

89
isolated partisan leaders at the local level rather than with
any formal organization or to (2) contacts with party group
ings that were beginning to be reorganized for campaign pur
poses at the time that the interviews were carried out, i.e.,
groupings which were not concerned with placing demands upon
the legislative sub-system but rather upon the time of the
deputies as coordinators within these groups.
During the major part of a legislative term, approximately
two and one-half to three of the four years, contacts with
anything approximating a local party grouping tend to be
limited to that with the leaders of the local party organiza
tion of the previous campaign and in some cases with the party
representatives elected to the local municipal councils.
Local demands channeled to the deputies through these indi
viduals are generally not of a partisan nature, with the
exception of those related to the placing of partisans in
jobs within the public sector, which in effect are not related
to the legislative decision-making function but rather to a
modified patronage or service function. In those cases where
the demands are related to the decision-making function, it
is extremely rare to find any degree of controversy surround
ing the demands in question. Such demands are usually posi
tive and seek the aid of the local deputy in serving as the
guardian of a bill and expediting the successful passage of
the legislation in question.
In those rare cases where a local demand is contro
versial, the local party leaders frequently seek access to the

90
main party leaders within the Assembly and in some cases to
the national non-legislative party leaders. Such controversy
is most frequently the product of (1) unusual bills which
tend to benefit only one segment of the local population,
{
(2) equally unusual bills which would not only benefit the
local community but be in the detriment of other localities,
and/or (3) bills which call for the allocation of scarce
revenues which of necessity become part of a zero-sum game.
The only real bargaining threat which local leaders can use
with any real effect is that of an implied reduction in the
ability of the party to attain votes in the area in the next
election.
Summary and Conclusions
In evaluating the relative importance of political partie
in Costa Rican legislative behavior, it is important to take
the frame of reference of the reader into account. In this
respect it is important to point out. that there is a marked
difference between the contextual frameworks of Costa Rican
and North American readers. Costil Ricans have long been
bombarded with repeated statements to the effect that the
behavior of deputies is controlled almost exclusively, if not
exclusively, by the fracciones or by national party leaders.
North Americans, on the other hand, are not disposed to be
lieve that any single factor can be used to explain such
behavior.

91
None of the information in this chapter supports the
Costa Rican view that deputy behavior is ruled to a very large
extent by autocratic party organizations and/or leaders. The
behavior of deputies may at times be directed by the fraccin
and by national party leaders, but it can be explained only
partially in these terms. Within the North American disciplin
ary frame of reference, it must be stated that the political
parties are without any doubt the most important single de
cisional referent to be found in the Legislative Assembly. An
examination of the electoral process in Costa Rica, presented
in the following chapter, will help to explain further why
this statement is true.

Notes
C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1963), p. 64.'
2
Ronald H. McDonald, Party Systems and Elections in
Latin America (Chicago: Markham Publishing Company, 1971),
p. 151.
^Ibid., pp. 93-94.
^Costa Rica, Tribunal Supremo Electoral, Computo de
Votos y Declaratorias de Eleccin para Presidentes y
Vicepresidentes, Diputados a la Asamblea Legislativa,
Regidores y Sndicos Municipales (San Jos: Tribunal
Supremo Electoral, 1969), p. 179.
^Ibid. p. 269.
^In 1971 this party took on the party name used by
the coalition, and it is now legally registered as the
National Unification Party.
7
This situation has changed somewhat since the election
of 1970. There are now several opposition parties which
can be said to have some viability as organizations. Yet
the complexity of the present panorama makes it impossible
to discuss these parties in the context of this study.
8
For arguments to the contrary see Mario Carvajal
Herrera, Political Attitudes and Political Change in Costa
Rica: A Comparison of the Attitudes of Leaders and Followers
with Respect to Regime Values and "Party Identifica t'i on
(Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kansas, n.d.); and Burt
English, Liberacin Nacional of Costa Rica: The Develop
ment of a Political Party in_a Transitiona1 Society (Ph.D.
dissertation, University" of' Florida, 19 67) It is "possible
that this study contradicts the reports of these two studies
due to the fact that it applies the relatively restrictive
definition of ideology generated by Angus Campbell and his
associates. See The American Voter (abridged version;
New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1964), pp. 109-123.
9
This statement was made by the secretary-general of
the coalition. See La Nacin, September 4, 1970, p. 13.

93
For a detailed analysis of the contradictions between
party actions and ideological statements see Suzanne
Bodenheimer, "The Social Democratic Ideology in Latin
America: The Case of Costa Rica's Partido Liberacin
Nacional," Caribbean Studies, 10 (October, 1970), pp. 49-96.
^Charles W. Anderson, "Politics and Development Policy
in Central America," in Robert D. Tomasek, ed., Latin
American Politics (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,
1966), p. 549.
12
Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change
in Latin America (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc.,
1967), p. 280.
13
In 1961 a respected Costa Rican academician indicated
that a heated discussion on the question of state inter
vention in the economy prevailed at the time and that this
w'ould probably lead to a larger ideological cleavage among
Costa Ricans. See Carlos Jos Gutierrez, "Las Bases de la
Realidad Social Costarricense," Revista de Filosofa de la
Universidad de Costa Rica, 3 (Enero-Junio, 1961), p. 62.
14_
xt xs generally accepted that the PR and PUN have
been highly personalistic parties. The fact that the PLN
won the presidency by a landslide in 1953 and was not able
to reverse a decline in its proportional share of the vote
after that election until 1970, when it again ran Jos
Figueres as its candidate, suggests that the appeal of the
personalistic leader is very strong in this party also.
15 .
One way of determining the extent to which different
class interests are represented by the parties is to analyze
the manner in which elected party representatives choose to
use the extractive power of the political system. Though
it is true that the rich are taxed more in Costa Rica than
in most other Latin American nations, the progressive income
tax rate is still quite low. The highest rate paid is
30.0 per cent, and that is paid on any amount earned over
the equivalent of $75,500. There has been a tendency on
the part of all parties to favor indirect schemes of
taxation rather than increases in the progressive rates of
direct taxes.
^Suzanne Bodenheimer, "The Bankruptcy of the Social
Democratic Movement in Latin America," New Politics, 8
(Winter, 1969), p. 48. A similar, though less damning,
statement about the PLN can be found in a pro-PLN study
published by one of the young intellectuals of the party.
See Carlos Araya Pochote, Historia de los Partidos Polti-
cos: Liberacin Nacional (San Jos: Editorial Costa Rica,
1969), pp. 191-192. ~

94
17
One of the parties in question, the PUN, lost its
significance and influence in coalition politics in the
election of 1970. The statements made in this section refer
in most cases to the state of affairs that prevailed at the
time that the research for this study was carried out in
1968.
18
For an example of such a description see English.
19
This situation is not markedly different from the
party phenomena to be found in the United States. The
main difference is that in the United States the parties
are reactivated more frequently due to midterm and staggered
state and local elections.
20
One of the PUN seats was vacant due to the fact that
its occupant was named Minister of Foreign Relations and
chose to take a leave of absence from the legislature
rather than resign.
21 .
The regularity of these fraccin meetings is some
what misrepresented by this observation, as it would seem
to indicate that sessions were indeed held twice a month
during the six month period of time in question. It should
be noted that only three of these meetings were held within
two weeks of a prior session. Three meetings were held
within one month or more of a prior session, and three were
held within one week or less of a prior session.
?2
Among other things see Charles F. Denton, Patterns
of Costa Rican Politics (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 197l]~.
p. 36.
23
It is interesting to note that whereas the fraccin
by-laws call for only an absolute majority vote, the more-
demanding two-thirds vote requirement was that actually
applied in all cases observed, thus making it far more
difficult to arrive at this form of control over the votes
of the PLN deputies in committee and on the floor.
24
These waivers were granted despite the fact that the
fraccin by-lav/s stated that the obligation to support party
line positions could not be relaxed under any conditions.
>5
One interesting exception to this was reported m
respect to a bill processed by the Assembly in 1967, prior
to the time of this study. In this case, it was decided
by the fraccin that it could not afford to support the
bill in question, which called for the institution of new
taxes. On the other hand, it was felt that if the bill
were defeated, as it would have been without a few favorable

95
PLN votes, the executive would be in a position to blame
any and all economic problems that arose afterwards upon
the PLN group. This dilemma was resolved by allowing two
deputies who felt that they had to support the bill for a
number of political reasons to do,so and by forcing one
deputy who did not support the bill to vote for it. Thus
the bill was passed even though the PLN fraccin gave the
impression of being solidly against it.
2 6
The relatively higher degree of organization found
within the PLN caucus and the lesser degree found within
the other party caucuses may be explained in terms of three
different factors. First, the anti-PLN parties in most
cases were limited to the use of delaying tactics, due to
the absolute majority held by the PLN. Given the limited
nature of the role that these could play in affecting
decisions as organized party groups, there was little in
centive to seek to operate in a highly organized fashion.
Second, the ad hoc nature of the anti-PLN group was such
as to preclude it from carrying any degree of party organi
zation into the Assembly. And third, the PLN has a long
history of striving to establish clearly defined organi
zational units, whereas the other two parties have not
placed any emphasis upon'non-electoral organizational
units. ;
27
R. Lynn Kelley, "The Role of the Venezuelan Senate,"
in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legislatures: Their
Role and Influence (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971),
p. 469.
28
Very little information could be obtained on the
relationship of the PUN national leadership with its caucus.
The very loose nature of the PUN structure, the reports that
specific bills were seldom discussed in the joint caucus-
national directorate meetings, and the presence of an
apparent growing alienation of certain caucus members from
the political positions of the partys president all lead
to the tentative conclusion that not only were few, if any,
attempts made by the national directorate to pressure its
deputies to take given positions on bills but also that
such attempts would not Have been particularly effective.
No doubt this situation was partially due to the fact that
the PUN party was in a process of decomposition and that
everybody was aware of thiis fact.
29
The one PLN deputy bill which was blocked by the
jefe de fraccin during this period was one that was being
co-sponsored by an opposition deputy. This bill dealt
with the expansion of the coverage of the medical facet of the
social security program, land it was reported to the author

96
that the bill was considered to be of significant political
impact and consequently not one that should be co-sponsored
by a member of the opposition.
30
It is to be noted, however, that there was no
coordination across fracciones in the case of the PR and
the PUN of any systematic nature. The statement made by
Charles Denton to the effect that these two groups always
voted as a block, that one of the deputies was informally
chosen as leader of both fracciones, and that he coordi
nated coalition strategy between the two parties during
legislative sessions is not supported by the research and
experience of this author. See Charles F. Denton, The
Politics of Development in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation,
University of Texas, 1969), p. 161.

CHAPTER IV
THE ELECTORAL CONTEXT
The procedures followed in nominating and electing con
gressmen are far more than mechanistic factors of peripheral
significance to the composition and eventual performance of
legislatures. The types of influence patterns manifested
in the electoral process of a nation have most definite
implications for the representative nature and role of a
legislative structure. The importance that can be attributed
to the electoral context is well evidenced by Bernard
Hennessey's statement that "how parties funnel and control
political power through nominations ... is the most critical
question political analysts could concern themselves with."^
The lore of Costa Rica would have it that even the most
humble citizen harbors legislative aspirations. And though
this view, no doubt, is yet another manifestation of the ex
aggerated Switzerland of the Americas myth which has been
built up around this country, there is certainly no shortage
of individuals who pursue the elusive goal of attaining a
seat in the legislature. One seasoned Costa Rican politi
cian has estimated that for every position on a legislative
slate there are at least one hundred aspirants.Z Few attain
their goal, and it would be naive to imagine that those few
97

98
who succeed do so without incurring obligations which will
be reflected in their actions as deputies.
The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate some of the
elements of the filtering process which determine the suc
cess or failure of aspirants to legislative seats. This
evaluation will seek to establish whether the process allows
for representation in terms of broad participation on the
part of the community in the choice of the person or persons
who, in theory, are to represent them; it will identify some
of the obligations which are incurred in the successful pur
suit of a deputyship in Costa Rica, which in turn will pro
vide a means for suggesting some of the accountability refer
ents present among Costa Rican deputies; and it will examine
the characteristics of the individuals recruited to legis
lative positions through the electoral process in order to
establish whether this process fosters the election of
deputies who are representative of the electorsite.
The Nomination and Election of Deputies
Though restrictiveness is present in the nominating and
electing of deputies, it is. not to be found to any signifi
cant degree in the legal requisites for candidacy established
by the Constitution of 1949 and by the Electoral Code. The
statement that "nowhere in Latin America is it easier to form
3
a political party than Costa Rica" may also be applicable
with minor modification to the fulfillment of the legal
requirements for candidacy as a deputy. The two basic

99
requirements that must be met by all candidates are those
of being at least twenty-one years of age and of enjoying
full rights of citizenship through native birth or naturali
zation, though in the latter case it is further required
that the individual must have resided in the country for at
least ten years following the acquisition of this status. No
individual sitting in the legislature during the four-year
term, or any part of it, prior to the election is eligible
for candidacy. Other secondary limitations prohibit the
candidacy of persons who, within the six-month period pre
ceding the election, have served as (1) elected or acting
president of the Republic, (2) ministers of government,
(3) proprietary magistrates of the Supreme Court, (4) pro
prietary or alternate magistrates of the Supreme Electoral
Tribunal, (5) director of the Civil Registry, (6) members of
the armed forces on active duty, (7) functionaries having
civil or police authority over a province, and (8) general
4
managers of the autonomous institutions. Persons having
up to and including second-degree blood ties with the
president of the Republic are also excluded from nomination.
It should be noted that, unlike some other Latin American
nations, Costa Rican law does not prohibit the election of
5
members of the clergy to the Assembly. Once sworn into
office, deputies may not participate in certain types of
activities, but none of these prohibitive requisites bear
any relationship to representation.^

100
The power to decide which qualified individuals will
run for office on the various legislative provincial tick
ets is formally in the hands of the national assemblies of
those parties registered nationally and of the provincial
assemblies of those which are not. The members of these
nominating assemblies or conventions are selected by what is
supposed to be an open process which starts at the district
level. All party members of a district are members of the
district assembly of their party, which elects the five
district delegates that participate in the cantonal assembly
which in turn elects the five cantonal delegates that partici
pate in the provincial assembly. The ten delegates from each
of the seven provinces that make up the national assembly are
chosen by these provincial assemblies. But provincial dele
gates have no special formal prerogatives in the nomination
of the candidates that will run on their provincial ticket,
as all delegates have an equal vote in the selection of
candidates regardless of province. This relatively contra
dictory form of selecting provincial candidates is established
not by the parties but by the Electoral Code, which stipu
lates that the delegates of each national assembly have an
equal voice in the formulation of all provincial tickets.
This feature of the process can be interpreted as being
restrictive in representational terms if the provincial form
of election is interpreted as implying a provincial represen
tational concept. But it must be noted that a strong

101
probability exists that this procedure makes it more difficult
for a clique within a province to distort representation in
other ways.
In general, the formal procedure established by the
Electoral Code for the nomination of legislative candidates
is meant to support an open system in which a large number of
people can have a voice in the selection of the .individuals
who will select the candidates. But there is quite a diver
gence between theory and practice in nomination procedures.
For example, lower-level assemblies, particularly those at
the district and cantonal levels, are not closely supervised
by the delegates of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. This has
led in the past to the practice of some parties of not hold
ing them at all in some cases, especially in the case of
the district assemblies. The delegates to the higher-level
assembly are chosen in these situations by a few local party
leaders in coordination with the predominant national party
leaders. Such choices are legitimized by the submission of
fallacious notarized documents that indicate that the selec
tion of delegates for higher-level assemblies was the product
of a duly constituted assembly. Though this practice has
become the exception rather than the rule, due in part to a
growing desire for effective participation by party members
and in part to the more pervasive penetration of the electoral
authorities, it is still accurate, for reasons that will be
discussed later, to state that nominations are in many cases

102
determined by a handful of people. Nominee indebtedness and
accountability is primarily to these people. But before
proceeding to a more detailed evaluation of the dynamics of
the nomination process, it would be well to describe several
informal aspects of the Costa Rican representational system
which will enable us to place the evaluation to follow within
a more comprehensible context.
As was explained in Chapter I, the fifty-seven seats in
the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly are distributed among
the seven provinces of the nation in a manner proportionate
to their respective populations. Elections are carried out
within each province utilizing a closed -list party ballot
system, in which votes are cast for entire legislative party
7
tickets rather than for specific individuals on each list.
Thus, if a party attains sufficient provincial votes, say
in the province of San Jos, to win ten seats, it is the
individuals who occupy the first ten slots of the provincial
ticket of the party that are elected to the Assembly. Ob
viously, then, the rank position of a candidate on his party
ticket is of the greatest importance in the election of
deputies.
The supposed system of provincial representation
implied by the election of deputies at large within each of
the seven provinces, of the country is substantially modified
by two practices that have become generalized to the point
where they are an integral part of the representative system.

103
The first is that adopted by all major parties in reserving
the first five slots on their San Jos province ticket for
national party leaders and in some cases for subject-matter
experts supported by these. These individuals are viewed
by all as national rather than as provincial deputies, i.e.,
they are not expected to represent a specific geographically
determined constituency. Their election is virtually guaran
teed in all cases due to the high positions which they
occupy on tickets from a province that elects a total of
twenty-one deputies at the present time.
The second generalized practice is that of allotting all
or most other slots on the provincial tickets according to
cantonal criteria. As a result, the success of a candidate
in being placed high on the ticket depends not so much on his
personal merits as it does upon the canton with which he is
associated. The electoral population and past partisan vote
of each canton are used as the basic criteria in determining
which slots will be allotted to each canton. The larger
cantons in each province are invariably given the higher,
and thus virtually assured, slots although there tends to be
some jockeying among these from election to election in
seeking a slightly higher position on the party ticket of
their province. The politics of nomination varies accord
ing to the type of candidate in question.
It is no exaggeration to say that in Costa Rica no
aspirant to a legislative nomination can be successful if he

104
is opposed by the national leadership of his party. It can
be stated categoricallythat the^selection of what have
been referred to above as national deputies is exclusively
in the hands of this group. The nominating conventions simply
ratify and legitimate these choices. The role played by the
national leadership in the selection of the remaining can
didates is important but not always as absolute. Few aspi
rants become candidates without the support of the national
leaders. Twenty-six of the twenty-nine deputies who completed
the questionnaire that was distributed ranked such support
as being of great or critical importance. Though some of
the deputies interviewed indicated that they had not received
the active support of the national leaders and that in a few
cases these had supported another aspirant, all admitted
that they could not have won the nomination if the leaders
in question had openly opposed.them. This would seem to
support the contention of some that the nomination process is
controlled exclusively by the national leaders. This con
clusion, however, is somewhat simplistic, as success at the
nominating assembly usually requires that cantonal aspirants
have far more than support from the national leadership.
Only one study on the politics of nomination in Costa
Rica has been carried out to date. It draws upon inter
views with PLN party functionaries in sixty-four of the
sixty-nine cantons in existence in 1969 when the field re
search was carried out, upon an examination of a random
sample of the confidential correspondence file of the party,

105
upon an examination of the background of the nominations
made in the national assembly of the party in that yearf and
upon a relatively close association v?ith a reduced number of
9
members of the national leadership of the party. The con
clusion of this study is that lower party functionaries and
groups do not participate in the selection of the candidates
10
prior to or at the nominating assembly. In fact, it
reports that "no [lower-level] functionary even intimated
that he considered recruitment of legislative candidates a
part of his responsibilities.Those cases of controversy
which arose at the national assembly of the PLN in 1969 over
particulcir nominations, according to this study, were not
the result of lower party organizational demands. "Contro
versy over nominated candidates appeared to occur only in
those instances when there were disagreements between the
12
two national leaders." Most important of all, the con
clusion is reached that the national assembly is controlled
by national headquarters due to the ability of the latter to
influence the composition of each cantonal delegation to the
provincial assemblies, i.e., controlling the selection of
13
the delegates to the national assembly. The author ot the
study offers impressive data and arguments in support of
his conclusion but falls victim to the shortcomings of many
14
who have tried to execute power-elite studies.
As stated pre\riously, the national leaders of each
party in effect have exclusive power in the nomination of

106
of national deputies. But in the case of those who must
compete for cantonal slots on a provincial ticket, success
in many cases depends first upon one's ability to obtain
sufficient support at the local level to be considered as
one of the effective contenders. In fact, such nominations
force the national leadership to deal with an equivalent of
what Bachrach and Baratz have referred to as the second
15
face of power. The national leaders do play an important
and, indeed, predominant part when interested enough in
determining which of a series of local aspirants with ade
quate local support will be nominated. But their choices are
usually, though not always, restricted to aspirants who have
done their preliminary groundwork in obtaining the support
of local leaders, attaining visibility among the local elec
torate of the party, and getting favorable delegates elected
16
to the cantonal, provincial, and national assemblies.
Though one could cite a number of cases where national leaders
have used their influence and control over national assem
blies to nominate an individual to a cantonal slot who has
not fought out the local and provincial battles, this is the
exception rather than the rule. Thus, though it may be
argued that national leaders do have the final say when they
wish to have it, the preferences of local party leaders and
groups are definitely taken into account in the nomination
of cantonal legislative candidates. To conclude otherwise
is to underestimate the obligations of these deputies to their

107
supporters. Heavy concentration of power at the national
level of all major political parties in Costa Rica does
exist, and one's final victory does more often than not
imply a primary obligation to the national leaders. But it
would be erroneous to assume that no significant obligations
are incurred at lower levels. Though only two of the PLN
deputies in the 1966-1970 Legislative Assembly had succeeded
in attaining their nominations without the support of the
party's presidential candidate, fifteen of the seventeen
party deputies responding indicated that local support was
of great or critical importance in winning their nominations.
Seven out of eight anti-PLN deputies responding attributed
the same level of importance to local support.
Interview data and information acquired through conver
sations with knowledgeables indicated that nineteen of the
fifty-six deputies sitting in the Assembly at the time that
the research was carried out had been hand-picked (escogidos
de dedo) by the national leaders and/or the presidential
candidate of their respective parties. Eight other deputies
had received substantial backing by these but had partici
pated to some extent in the preliminary skirmishes at the
lower levels prior to the nomination assemblies. The remain
ing twenty-nine deputies were nominated with the acquies
cence of the national leaders largely on the basis of their
lower-level victories; five of these had made it despite the
fact that the national leaders had supported other aspirants

108
but without openly opposing their nominations. The break
down by parties is as follows:
TABLE 4.1
Role of the National Leadership in the Nomination
of Elected Deputies
PLN
Anti-PLN
PR PUN UCR
Total
Hand-picked by national leaders
7
9
1
2
19
Substantial leadership support
5
2
1
0
8
Partial leadership support
15
6
4
0
25
No leadership support
_2
JL
_1
_0
_4
Total
29
18
7
2
56
What has been said above is not intended to give the
impression that the indebtedness of deputies to the national
leadership of their parties is minimal. It is an attempt to
place the influence of these leaders within a well-balanced
context in order to avoid the prevalent tendency found in
Costa Rica of attributing all power to an extremely reduced
number of people. The leaders are indeed extremely salient
loyalty referents, not only because of their role in the
nomination process but in the electoral campaign as well.
In Costa Rica the quadrennial general election campaigns
quite naturally focus primarily on the presidential candi
dates. Though legislative candidates participate actively in
the campaigns, these activities are of secondary Importance
and rely to a great extent on the organization and funding

109
17 '
provided by the national party.. Legislative candidates
are expected to give some attention to local issues and
problems in their formal speeches and informal contacts/
but ironically these prove to be of relatively little inter
est to local constituencies. Costa Rican campaigns at all
levels have tended to focus upon the personalities of the
presidential candidates, mudslinging, and references to the
unfortunate events surrounding the Civil War of 1948. One
foreign observer of several electoral campaigns has sug
gested, only half in jest, that in the absence of annual
carnival celebrations, Costa Ricans hold an election every
18
four years instead. Many of those who attend the political
rallies which are held throughout the country seem to seek
entertainment, and the more scurrilous and aggressive the
attacks the happier the observers are. Attempts to speak
to substantive issues and proposed programs are often re
ceived with foreboding silence. Some observers, in fact,
attribute the defeat of the PLN candidate in 1966 in part to
his attempt to campaign on the basis of a concrete program
19
and to his inability to warm up the rural crowds. In 1970
the party's presidential candidate attempted to focus his
campaign on the issue of widespread poverty but was forced
in the long run to fall back on the traditional bogey-man
approach.
Under such conditions and given the straight party-
ticket voting for provincial legislative slatesv it is

110
impossible for the individual legislative candidates to
achieve much visibility. Their election depends upon the
showing of the party, and this in turn is dependent upon the
key figures in the campaign, i.e., the presidential candi
dates, and upon the organization provided by the national
party organizations controlled by these. Though no study has
yet managed to establish clearly that straight party voting
across the legislative and presidential tickets is a general
20
practice m Costa Rica, there is little to suggest that
cross-party voting occurs with much frequency. The deputies,
at least, are generally convinced that this is not the case,
as is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of them
who completed the questionnaire distributed (twenty-four
out of twenty-seven) reported that straight party voting is
the general rule in their respective areas. Only a few (five
out of twenty-seven) felt that their campaign activities
were of greater importance to their election than those of
the presidential candidates of the parties. These percep
tions, whether they actually reflect reality or not, are
illustrative of the extent to which deputies must feel a
sense of obligation to their presidential candidates and
national party leaders when they enter the Legislative Assem
bly. The marked difference between this and the situation
which is described by David Truman as prevailing in the
United States is worthy of note. Truman states:
Within any state or district, for various reasons,
the organized, active elements responsible for the
election of a senator or representative are not

Ill
necessarily the same as those which give the state's
or district's support to a candidate for president.
This situation is accentuated at the national level by
the staggered terms of senators, representatives, and
president. A senator elected at the same time as a
president must face re-election in an "off" year, and
vice-versa; a representative must "gc it alone" at
least every four years. In consequence, as Herring
has put it, "Most congressmen are still independent
political entrepreneurs."21
At this point it would be v/ell to examine one additional
aspect which some have attributed to the Costa Rican nomina
tion process. It is not at all uncommon to hear the charge
that many deputies have in fact bought their seats. The
following unusually candid remark made by the defeated presi
dential candidate of the PLN in 1966 will serve as an illus
tration.
The way in which deputies are selected, to be objec
tive, realistic and frank, is conditioned by a number
of factors. It is conditioned by what is referred to
as "the finger" (el dedo) of the presidential candidate;
it is conditioned in some parties by the financial
contributions of_aspirants; it. is conditioned by local
leadership . .22
As this statement makes no indication as to how prevalent
this practice is, there is the danger of misinterpreting it.
In the period of time-spent executing the field research for
this study and in the interim period between that time and
o
1972, the author has had the opportunity to attain a fairly
detailed knowledge of what went on and goes on behind the
scenes in nomination struggles. There is ample evidence to
indicate that the buying of seats is still present, but this
occurs relatively infrequently, though it is quite possible

112
that it may have been a far more prevalent practice in
earlier years. Only three deputies in the Assembly studied
were identified as individuals whose nominations may have
been primarily the result of substantial contributions to the
party coffers. In fact, a knowledge of the general income
bracket of each deputy leads to the conclusion that the
largest proportion of the deputies were not in a position to
23
make sizeable contributions to the party. No indication
was found that seats are bought by deputies bank-rolled by
interest or other organized or informal groups who might wish
to have a personal representative in the Assembly. One
practice utilized by all major parties, however, could lead
to some confusion in respect to this question.
The PLN, PR, and PUN all required and require that those
who are nominated to sure slots make specific contributions
to the party to help defray campaign expenses. A slot is
said to be sure in those cases where previous experience
indicates that the party will receive sufficient votes to
elect the person filling that slot. This practice is possible,
given the fact that closed-list provincial party ballots are
used and that the number of seats won by a party is propor
tionate to its total provincial vote. Due to the closed-
list system and the prevalence of the national leadership in
the nomination procedure, campaign financing for congressional
campaigns must come largely from the national headquarters.
Neil Cullinan describes the impact of these two factors in
the following way:

113
Given this electoral structure, there is little ini
tiative for a financial contributor to contribute to
the cantonal organization which operates within his
area of residence. Particularly if a contributor seeks
a favor from the party, he will be inclined to donate
his money to the national headquarters for he realizes
this is where the decisions are made. Thus the lower
level organizations are denied a critical source of
revenue. In this way the electoral system itself
further increases the dominance of the national head
quarters while increasing the financial dependence of
lower parties.^4
It might also be added that there is a state subvention to
political parties every four years to help them cover com-
paign expenses and that these subventions go to the national
25
headquarters rather than to any lower-level organizations.
Given the necessary reliance upon national headquarters for
the funding of congressional campaigns, the contributions
made by the candidates should be viewed as the equivalent of
the personal campaign expenses that candidates must sustain
in seeking election in electoral systems characterized by a
higher degree of organizational decentralization.
These obligatory contributions were of // 20,000 in the
case of the PLN and /^30,000 in the case of the other two
parties. At the official rate of exchange of 6.65 to the
dollar these sums amounted to approximately $3,000 and
$4,500 respectively. But as all made these payments, it is
somewhat exaggerated to equate this with the buying of seats.
Furthermore, if the way in which these contributions were
made is taken into account, it is obvious that what is
evidenced is not the wholesale selling of legislative seats

114
to rich partisans. Of the twenty-seven deputies who pro
vided data on the form of payment of such contributions,
twenty-one indicated that part or all of the payment was
made in the form of a negotiable I.O.U. (pagar). These
legal documents were delivered to the parties and sold by
them at a discount to loan sharks (prestamistas), to well-
heeled partisans, and were also accepted by the public media
in payment of political propaganda. Though the data on the
time and form of payment of these documents by the deputies
is, for obvious reasons, not as complete as would be desired,
it can be stated that more than half of the deputies either
took out commercial loans to redeem these or had a limited
embargo placed upon their salaries by which a certain pro
portion of their monthly checks from the legislature was
automatically withheld for payment to those holding the docu
ments in question.
It would be erroneous in light of the above to conclude
that the financial status of aspirants plays a determining
role in the nomination of the majority of deputies. Those
who do not have the necessary resources to make their contri
butions in cash can do so on what proves to be an extended
payment basis. For those who are in such conditions, as will
be shown later in this chapter, the increase in income
represented, by election to the legislature more than compen
sates for the financial obligations assumed. This, however,
is not to say that economic considerations do not play some

115
role in the filtering out of potential candidates. Aspirants
in many cases must be in a position to devote all of their
attention to a campaign that lasts for six or more months,
depending upon how early the person in question starts devot
ing major attention to the preliminary hustings that precede
the national nominating convention. In doing so, they must
in a large number of cases be able to get along without any
job income. Candidates must also cover certain types of
local campaign expenses such as vehicle rentals and mainte
nance. It was impossible to estimate with any precision the
cost to a candidate of a campaign in terms of these two types
of expenses or sacrificed income, but clearly it is of a
magnitude and type which could not be sustained by the average
citizen. However, no candidate could justifiably view these
expenses as clearing him of a responsibility to the national
party for financial support of his campaign. The centralized
system of most campaign financing cannot help making the
deputies feel accountable to the national party.
Over and above what has already been mentioned, there
is another reason for arguing that the accountability of
deputies in Costa Rica is primarily to the national parties
and their leaders. It is significant to note that 48.0
per cent (24) of the fifty deputies interviewed indicated
that they aspired to a continued political career. An
uninterrupted political! career in Costa Rica is possible only
for individuals sitting in the Assembly if they can attain

116
appointive positions after their term ends, and these
appointments are usually made by or influenced by high
party officials. The presence of party rewards of this type
is clearly evidenced by the fact that at least sixteen of
the twenty-nine deputies who sat in the 1966-1970 legis
lature for PLN are known to have been named to appointive
positions by the party-controlled administration which took
office at the end of that quadrennium. Four of them were
appointed to upper-level positions: one as a minister, two
as general managers of autonomous institutions, and one as
a Supreme Court magistrate. Six were appointed to diploma
tic posts: five with the rank of ambassador and one with
the rank of consul-general. The remaining seven were ap
pointed to middle-level positions in the state bureacracy.
The presence of such strong indications of a prevail
ing dependency and thus accountability to national parties
and leaders does not, however, in the Costa Rican case
preclude the existence of a strong local representational
orientation on the part of many deputies. And, interestingly
enough, it leads to an indirect from of accountability to local
constituencies. Though it is true that deputies need not
worry about immediate re-election, it is also true that their
performance may have a bearing on the success of other party can
didates in the future. Consequently, a part of the accountability
of deputies to their parties is that of doing an effective job

117
of representing local interests so as to assure the favorable
disposition of local constituencies toward the party list
in the next election. Should the voters express their dis
pleasure at the polls, the chances of a deputy being named
to an appointive post and of returning to the Assembly after
2 6
the enforced four-year wait will be substantially diminished.
Such a phenomenon! would seem to contradict the proposi
tion that closed-list party ballot electoral systems tend
to reduce the accountability of individual representatives to
their constituencies and to increase their accountability to
27
national parties. But to speak of a reduction m the
accountability to constituents is not to suggest that such
accountability disappears. What is most important to note is
that even with the type of indirect accountability to con
stituents that has been identified, it is the party interests
that are most likely to prevail if there is a clash between
constituency and party interest.
The Product of the Electoral Process:
The Characteristics of the Deputies
The preceding section clearly indicates that, if an
active and direct voice in the nomination and election of
deputies is considered to be an essential requisite for
representation and accountability to exist, Costa Rica falls
short of having an effective system of representation. But
if such a premise were indeed accepted, it would be difficult,
if not impossible, to find a system in which it could be said

118
that such representation exists. The representational
phenomenon in most cases is clearly affected by party con
trols, and it might well be postulated that the responsive
ness of representatives is partially dependent upon party
pressures in favor of the representation of constituency
interests. As has been indicated, this would clearly seem
to be the case in Costa Rica.
It is also possible to posit that effective represen
tation may be present despite the elitist nature of nomina
tion procedures and the inability of the voters to cast votes
for individual candidates on party lists if the end result
of these procedures is the election of deputies who are
representative of the electorate in terms of socio-economic
traits. It should come as no surprise that the data to be
presented in this section lead to the same conclusions drawn
in numerous previous studies in other nations. Samuel
Patterson summarizes these as follows:
One of the first generalizations which can be made
about the social composition of legislatures is that
they do not mirror their populations. . Systematic
and substantial biases in the recruitment of every
known system produce legislatures whose members over
represent business and profesional occupations and
under-represent the working-class population. Similarly,
parliamentarians are highly over-representative in
educational attainment.28
A brief examination of the data compiled for this study will
indicate the extent to which the deputies in Costa Rica differ
from the electoral population in terms of sex, age, education,
occupation, and income.

119
The question of sexual representativity may be disposed
of expeditiously by indicating that whereas 50.4 per cent
of the voting-age population reported by the 1963 census were
made up of women, only 5.3 per cent (3) of the deputies were
of the female sex. It is tempting to attribute this to the
often mentioned male dominance found in Latin American cul
tures. But, if this were the case, it would be logical to
expect that such misrepresentation vjould not be present in
other cultural contexts. But this is not the case; this type
of misrepresentation recurs time after time in the studies
that have been carried out in a broad variety of cultural
contexts.
TABLE 4.2
Age, Education, Occupation, and I
the Electoral Population
Income of
of Costa
Deputies and
Rica
i
)eputiesa
Electoral
Population
Age
20-30
0 %
( 0)
33.2
31-40
21.8
(12)
25.5
41-50
,
49.1
(27)
17.4
51-60
25.4
(14)
12,0
60 and over
3.6
( 2)
11.9
Educationhighest level attained
Completed primary
7.7
( 4)
16.7
completed secondary
13.5
( 7)
1.7
Beyond secondary but no degree
30.8
(16)
.8
University degree
t
18.1
(25)
1.2

120
TABLE 4.2(continued)
Deputiesa
Electoral
Population
Occupation
Professional
48.3%
(27)
5.2%C
Ownership in commerce, industry
and/or business
17.9
(10
1.3
Other
33.9
(19)
93.6
Income per year ($1 = p/6.65)
Less than jt/ 20,000
11.1
( 3)
d
&20,000-30,000
7.4
( 2)
Over 0/20.000 1..
/>31,000-40,000
44.4
(12)
xm, 000-50,000
11.1
( 3)
^I50,000-//50,000
25.9
( 7)
The total number of duputies covered under each data
category varies due to the fact that not all deputies pro
vided complete data.
^The age groups provided by the census are 20-29, 30-
39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60 and over. These, however, are close
enough to the categories used in the research carried out to
allow for meaningful general comparisons. All population data
in this table have been computed from data found in Costa Rica,
Ministerio de Industria y Comercio, Direccin General de
Estadsticas y Censos, Censo de Poblacin 1963 (San Jos:
Seccin de Publicaciones, Direccin General de Estadsticas
y Censos, 1966).
The nature of the categories used in the census tend to
exaggerate the proportion of the population falling in our
categories of "professional" and "ownership in commerce,
industry, and business." The data in question also reflect the
characteristics of the employed population rather than that
of the electoral populations.
^The data reflect the income of deputies prior to taking
office.
eThe- data reflect the income level of the active popula
tion, not of the electoral population, which reported having
an income.

121
A comparison of the age distribution of deputies with
that of the electoral population indicates that those be
tween the ages of twenty and thirty are the roost under
represented as they constitute 33.2 per cent of the electoral
population yet were not represented by any deputies in their
29
age category. Most over-represented are those between the
ages of forty-one and fifty. The statement that "the legis
lative recruitment process . tends to select the middle-
aged-men in their forties and fiftiesclearly holds true
in Costa Rica. This phenomenon is functional to the stability
of the Legislative Assembly in some ways but may be dysfunc
tional to the adaptation of the institution. It is functional
in that it tends to foster the election of those who are more
likely to have some understanding of and experience in poli
tical matters. It may be dysfunctional in that it tends to
exclude those who are less likely to have become status-quo
oriented. Observation of the behavior of the younger deputies
in two legislatures (1966-1970 and 1970-1974) suggests,
however, that youth and effective change are not necessarily
related. The younger deputies, i.e., those under forty,
in many cases lack the ability to use the system to achieve
change-oriented goals,and their participation more often than
not becomes empty rhetoric.
The discrepancies between the educational level and
occupations of deputies and those of the electorate are even
more marked than the age differences. Whereas 78.9 per cent

122
of the deputies had carried out studies beyond the secondary
level, only 2-0 per cent of the electorate had done so. Two-
thirds of the deputies were drawn from professional positions
or ownership positions in commerce, industry, and/or business,
but only 6.5 per cent of the electorate fell into these two
31
categories. The impliccitions of these differences are
somewhat different in each case. It would be hard to argue
that it is desirable to have the educational level of the
general electorate in Costa Rica reflected among those elected
to the legislature. Under-representation of the lower educa
tional levels would seem to have a positive implication. The
under- and over-representation along occupational lines
implied by the data shown would suggest that the recruitment
system has a built-in bias which does not allow for adequate
representation of the interests of what in very broad terms
might be referred to as the lower classes. This imbalance
in class representation, again speaking in very broad terms,
is further illustrated by the fact that whereas 98.9 per cent
of the active population of Costa Rica earned less than
//20,00o per year, 88.9 per cent of the deputies had been drawn
from higher income categories.
The degree of representativity of deputies according to
income groupings becomes even lower if this relationship is
examined in terms of the income of these individuals once in
office. Whereas only 25.5 per cent (7) of the deputies were
in the highest income bracket of more than //30,000 before
being sworn-in, all deputies fell into this category once they

123
started receiving their per diem-based salaries as legis
lators. An examination of the monthly payments made to the
deputies from May of 1966 to November of 1968, based upon a
per diem payment of /C/L25 per session attended, indicates
that monthly payments fluctuated between a high of/O^,800,
received by the presiding officer of the Assembly, to a low
3?
of //3.624. The average monthly per diem salaries for all
deputies was above fA ,000. Given the fact that deputies re
ceive the additional one-month pay bonus (treceavo) guaranteed
by law to government employees, all would surpass the /£50,000
33
mark even in the absence of any supplementary income. Un
like Venezuela, where Kelley reports that "the salary of a
senator does not make the position particularly appealing in
34
comparison to private-life remuneration," election to the
Assembly of Costa Rica entails no economic sacrifice for the
vast majority of deputies. Of those deputies providing ade
quate economic data, 88.4 per cent received a higher income
after election and only 7.0 per cent received less. This
phenomenon is explained in part by the fact that 66.1 per cent of
the fifty-six deputies held one or more jobs in addition to
their legislative posts during the time they were in office.
Despite the clear indication that deputies fail to mirror
the socio-economic characteristics of the population from
which they are drawn, it is important to note that the resi
dence pattern found among those deputies who had definite
responsibilities for representing areally defined constituen
cies would tend to indicate that the Costa Rican system does

124
not promote representation, to whatever extent it exists,
by outsiders. For example, 91.4 per cent (32) of these
deputies were residents of their areas at the time of their
35
election. Of the areal deputies, 55.5 per cent (15) had
lived in the area since birth or for at least ten years
prior to election. And it is to be noted that of those who
were not residents of their areas at the time of election,
11.1 per cent (3), all but one had resided in the area pre
viously and had kept close ties with the people in it. Only
35.9 per cent (14) maintained their residences in their
areas of origin once sworn-in, but in most cases this was
due to the physical impossibility of commuting to the Assembly
in San Jose on a daily basis. In those cases where residence
in the capital became inevitable, areal deputies tended to
travel to their cantons very frequently.
Recent studies in Canada and the Phillipines have indi
cated that representation within these countries is heavily
biased toward a traditional elite. Allan Kornberg reports
that data collected in Canada seem to support the claim that
high public office in the Province of Quebec has been monopo-
3 6
lized by a small traditional elite. And Robert Stauffer
indicates that there is evidence that party politics in the
Phillipines would seem to be the product of factional strug
gles between elite families that Ccin be traced back to the
37
late 19th century. Much to the surprise of those who have
long argued that Costa Rica is characterized by a high de
gree of egalitarianism, there i
evidence in Costa Rica that

125
representation within the Legislative Assembly has been
biased by a similar factor. Samuel Stone of the University
of Costa Rica has found that 350 of the 1,300 deputies (26.9
per cent) elected since 1821 can be traced to one family de-
scendancy and estimates that incorporation of five other
family descendancies would raise this figure to roughly 50 per
3 8
cent of the deputies. The significance of this apparent
political class becomes even more important when one realises
that its members have not concentrated in any one partisan
group but rather have spread out into all major political
39
parties. The study, however, indicates that the predomi
nance of kinship ties and the control of the Assembly by this
group has diminished progressively since 1910 as a result of
40
the growth or expansion of the active electoral base. Only
four descendants of the main family studied were deputies in
the 1966-1970 Assembly compared to eleven such deputies in
41
the 1949-1953 period. This finding is consistent with that
of others who have found that the representation of the aris
tocratic groups of most nations has diminished as the elec
toral base has expanded.^2 Stone concludes, however, that
though the political class which he has identified is no
43
longer the "owner" of power, it is the "leader" of power.
In commenting upon comparisons between the characteris
tics of congressmen and those of the electorate, Roger
Davidson has aptly stated:
While [the fact that those who serve in legislatures
differ in key respects from the electorate at large]
often dismays egalitarian democrats, it should come
as no surprise to students of social systems. After

126
all, it was Aristotle who first observed that elec
tions are essentially oligarchic affairs.44
The type of participation and more direct representation of
the public in decision-making advocated by critics of
45
"democratic elitism" is, if not beyond the reach of most
systems, certainly difficult to attain. Representation, as
noted before, is subject to an endless number of filters
which tend to dilute the nature of this phenomenon in all
contexts. Perhaps these goals will be part of a new partici
pation crisis that will require adjustment of the entire
nomination and electoral system. The magnitude of this
adjustment is clearly of immense proportions. But in the
Costa Rican case it is significant to note that party domi
nance at the nomination and election stages and the moderately
elitist, though by no means oligarchic, composition of the
Legislative Assembly do not prevent deputies from having a
definite sense of responsibility for responding to the
demands of their constituents. Evidence of this
responsiveness is provided in Chapters VI and VII.
Summary and Conclusion
In this chapter two factors, the electoral system and
the background characteristics of the deputies studied, have
been evaluated in tenas of the implications that these
factors have for the representativity of legislators and of
legislative behavior in Costa Rica. The electoral system,
it has been found, would seem to be heavily biased toward

127
making deputies accountable to the political parties rather
than to constituencies. The closed-list party ballot system,
the centralized nature of campaign funding, the ineligibility
of deputies for immediate re-election and the influence of
party leaders in the nomination process would all seem to
contribute to this bias. The fact that deputies fail to
mirror the socio-economic characteristics of the population
from which they are drawn also suggests that the bond between
deputies and constituents in Costa Rica is likely to be a
weak one. However, this conclusion is contradicted by the. ^
following findings of this chapter. Though deputies are
elected under a closed-party-list ballot, provincial at-large
electoral system, the political parties follow the practice
of allotting slots on the provincial congressional tickets
according to cantonal criteria, thus associating specific
candidates with specific sub-provincial constituencies. And
the candidates who run in such slots tend to be recruited
from the populations of the cantons which they are to repre
sent. The bond between deputies and constituencies would
seem to be further strengthened by the fact that the success
of aspiring candidates in being nominated by the national
assemblies of their parties depends at least in part upon
the support that they enjoy within their cantons. And last,
but most important of all, one of the responsibilities thrust
upon most, of the deputies by the parties is that of serving
as effective spokesmen for local constituents and interests.

128
The political parties are unquestionably primary
loyalty referrents of the deputies, but this association does
not necessarily undermine representativity in Costa Rica.
In fact, it would appear that the deputy-constituency bond
may well be supported indirectly by the very factors in the
nomination and election processes which favor loyalty and
accountability to the political parties. An obvious conclu
sion to be drawn from this finding is that the frequently
encountered assumption that strong centralized parties under-
46
mine representation may be in need of some re-evaluation.

Notes
Bernard Hennessey, "On the Study of Party Organi
zation," in William J. Crotty, ed., Approaches to the
Study of Party Organization (Boston: llyn & Bacon,
1968) p. 26.
2
"Oduber Revela como se Escogen los Diputados,"
La Nacin, October 11, 1971, p. 8.
3
Ronald H. McDonald, Party Systems and Elections in
Latin America (Chicago: Markham Publishing Company,
1971), p. 154.
4
All of those who occupy these positions, with the
exception of the elected president, may qualify.for nomi
nation by resigning six months prior to the election.
Though such resignations are not uncommon, they are usually
not so massi.ve as to affect the efficiency of the insti
tutions in question.
5
It is not true as Edelmann has stated that legislative
candidates must be literate, have property valued at
500 colones or an annual income of 200 colones, though it
is true that these requisites did exist at various times
prior to 1949. See Alexander T. Edelmann, Latin American
Government and Politics (rev. ed.; Homewood, Illinois:
Dorsey Press, 1969), p. 454.
g
Deputies may not hold any positions within a ministry
or autonomous institution with the exception of those -who
are named ministers of state and retire temporarily from
the Assembly while they hold this position; those who are
named by the executive as members of delegations to inter
national conferences; those who occupy positions in chari
table institutions and those who are professors of the
national university, which is an autonomous institution.
They are also prohibited from participating directly or
indirectly in a contract with the state; they may not
obtain public concessions nor may they serve as directors,
administrators or general managers of firms which are con
tracted by the state for purposes of public works or for
supplying certain products or providing certain types
of public services.

130
7
Though votes are tallied by province, all electoral
procedures are organized, directed and supervised by a
single authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal
Supremo de Elecciones).
8
Neil M. Cullinan, Candidate Recruitment within the
Costa Rican "Partido Liberacin Nacional" (Ph.D. disser
tation, University of Georgia, 1971).
9
Cullman originally set out to conduct a study which
would include both major parties in the 1970 election, but
he was not able to attain the cooperation of the Partido
Unificacin Nacional, the anti-PLN coalition. The diffi
culty of overcoming the suspicion of the anti-PLN parties
is one which has been encountered by most researchers in
Costa Rica. The prime example of this obstacle is that pro
vided by the work of Theodore Creedman, who carried out a
historical study of the period of government of Dr. Rafael
Angel Calderon Guardia, the main leader of the anti-PLN
group until his death in 1970. Despite the fact that
Creedman was carrying out a study which promised to clarify
some of the misconceptions and myths that have arisen in
respect to this period, he was denied access to the
ex-president. Research carried out by the author of the
present study has met with limited success whenever it
attempted to go beyond the superficial platitudes that most
anti-PLN leaders feel are adequate grist for the mill of
outsiders. Under such conditions it is extremely difficult
for the researcher to generalize on the basis of well-
founded knowledge of all major political groups. In this
section certain generalizations are made, but it must be
admitted that they are based upon impressions in as far as
parties other than the PLN are concerned. However, out of
fairness to the PLN, it must be stated that there is every
reason to believe that the other parties are subject to the
same types of "deficiencies" and usually to even greater
extents.
10
Cullman, p. 104.
'^'Ibid. p. 76.
12Ibid., pp. 133-134.
13 .
Four methods of control are identified by Cullman:
(1) establishment of requirements for delegates that few can
meet, (2) letting it be known that the national leadership
supports given delegate candidates, (3) printing up ballots
with the names of the favored candidates and having these
distributed at the time of the election, and (4) overt
coercion. See ibid., pp. 166-168.

131
X4
A critique of the power-elite school of thought which
is particularly relevant to this study can be found in
Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz, "Two Faces of Power,"
American Political Science Review, 56 (December, 1962),
pp. 947-952.
16
The author is indebted to Enrique von Browne Olivier,
who carried out research on the informal aspects of the
nomination procedure in Costa Rica under the direction of
the author in 1969 and 1970. Von Browne's research helped
to broaden the understanding of the author of these aspects
of the Costa Rican political process.
17 . .
Cullman emphasizes this fact m his study by stating
that there is little question that the lower level party
organizations are dependent upon the financial support of
the national organization since no respondent indicated
that his local party organization was able to finance its
own campaign activities. See Cullinan, pp. 183-184.
Research on the campaign of 1970 carried out by the author
indicates that this statement applies to all major parties.
18
The author is indebted to Theodore Creedman for this
analogy.
19
See among others, Suzanne Bodenheimer, "The Social
Democratic Ideology in Latin America: The Case of Costa
Rica's Partido Liberacin Nacional," Caribbean Studies,
10 (October, 1970), p. 64; and Partido Liberacin Nacional,
Comisin de Investigacin y Estadstica, Anlisis de la
Derrota de 19 66 (mimeographed document, June, 19 67).
20
Though two previous studies have drawn the conclusion
that ticket-splitting is not a common occurrence, both studies
are based upon the analysis of aggregate data which might
well hide an internal cancelling effect of cross-ticket
voting. See Burt H. English, Liberacin Nacional of
Costa Rica: The Development of a Political Party in a
Transitional Society (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Florida, 1967), p. 142; and John D. Martz, "Costa Rican
Electoral Trends, 1953-1966," Western Political Quarterly,
20 (December, 1967), p. 905.
21
David Truman, The Governmental Process (New York:
Alfred Knopf, 1951), p. 324.
22
"Oduber Revela Como se Escogen los Diputados,"
La Nacin, October 10, 1971, p. 4.

132
23
The ability to contribute or obtain large contri
butions may be an extremely important consideration in the
choice of many presidential candidates. For example, it
is reported that Mario Echandi won the approval of the
main anti-PLN coalition leaders as presidential candidate
in 1970 due to the fact that he could guarantee to bankroll
most of the campaign.
24
Cullinan, p. 189.
25
For a description of this aspect of party financing
see Henry Wells, "Party Finance in Costa Rica" (paper pre
sented at the 8 th World Congress of the International
Political Science Association, Munich, September 1, 1970).
2 6
Fifteen of the fifty-seven deputies elected to the
1966-1970 Assembly had served previously in an elected
legislative capacity.
27
Such a proposition is indirectly suggested by
Lee C. Fennell, "Congress in the Argentine Political System,"
in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legislatures; Their
Role and Influence (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971),
p. 164; and by R. Lynn Kelley, "The Role of the Venezuelan
Senate," in Agor, p. 5G6.
28
Samuel Patterson, "Comparative Legislative Behavior,"
Midwestern Journal of Political Science, 12 (November,
1968), pp. 602-603.
29
The age data provided reflects the ages of the
deputies at the time that the research was carried out,
i.e., two years after the deputies took office. At the
time that the deputies were sworn in there was one deputy
age twenty-nine, which is to say that even at that time
less than 2.0 per cent of the deputies fell into the 20-30
age category.
"^Malcolm Jewell and Samuel C. Patterson, The Legis
lative Process in the United States (New York: Random
House, 19 66)', p. 114.
31 ...
Over-representation of lawyers m legislatures is a
common phenomenon. Costa Rica is no exception in this sense;
sixteen of the fifty-seven deputies elected to serve from
1966 to 1970 xvere lawyers. But the degree of over-represen
tation here is minimal compared to a country such as Colombia
where 123 out of 186 members of the Chamber of Deputies were
found to be lawyers. See Ernest A. Duff, "The Role of
Congress in the Colombian Political System," in Agor, p. 390.

133
2
' The higher payment of the presiding officer of the
Assembly was due to the fact that he received a per diem of
200 colones per session. The cases of two deputies, whose
chronic absenteeism in several periods lowered their incomes
from legislative sessions to as little as 375 colones per
month, have been excluded from these figures. It is also
to be noted that during the period studied, with few7
exceptions, no per diem was paid beyond attendance at
thirty-four floor and committee sessions. This practice
was dropped during the first two years of the 1970-1974
Assembly, and during that period some deputies received as
much as 13,000 colones in one month. As of May 1972, the
maximum number of sessions to be paid was set at sixty.
33 .
If one were to utilize remuneration as an indication
of relative status vis--vis the top officials in the
executive branch, it would be accurate to state that the
status of the deputies is approximately equal to that of
the president and his ministers. The president had a
monthly salary of 6,000 colones as opposed to that of
6'^00 colones of the presiding officer of the Assembly;
whereas the ministers earned 5,000 colones per month.
This procedure is suggested and utilized by Lee Fennell in
his recent study of the Argentine Congress. See Fennell,
pp. 144-145.
"^Kelley, p. 486.
35
Due to the fact that complete information could not
be obtained from all of the areal deputies, the N used in
this case is lower than that used in computing previous
areal deputy related figures.
3 6
Allan Kornberg, "Parliament in Canadian Society,"
in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legislatures
in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1970), p. 89.
37
Robert B. Stauffer, "Phillipine Legislators and
their Changing Universe," Journal of Politics, 28 (August,
1966), p. 567.
38
Samuel Z. Stone, "Algunos Aspectos de la Distribucin
del Poder Poltico en Costa Rica," Revista de Ciencias
Jurdicas, 17 (Junio, 1971), p. 114. Passing mention of
the influence of a reduced number of families in Costa Rican
politics is also made in the following publications:
Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change in Latin
America (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1967),
p. 102; English, p. 220; and Alberto Caas, Los 8 Anos
(San Jos: Editorial Liberacin Nacional, 1955), p. 12.

134
39
Stone, p. 126.
40 .
Ib .id., pp. 115, 120. The influence of kinship ties
at the executive level is still quite evident today as
can be seen in the fact that seven of the ten main presi
dential candidates participating in the elections held
between 1958 and .1970 were descendants of the family in
question. This information is contained in Stone, "Aspects
of Power Distribution in Costa Rica," in Dwight D. Heath,
ed. Contemporary Societies and Cultures of Latin America
(rev. ed. ; New York: Random Piouse, forthcoming) .
41
The number of descendants has been determined by
comparing the list of 1966-1970 deputies with the descendancy
list which appears in Revista de Ciencias Jurdicas, Suple
mento 17 (Junio, 1971).
42
This phenomenon was found to be true by Kornberg,
among others. See Kornberg, p. 85.
43
Stone, "Algunos Aspectos . p. 128. The signifi
cance of this reduced group of kinship elites may prove to
be even greater than would appear if Stone is able to verify
his most recent thesis to the effect that the Revolution
of 1948 may have been led by the "poor relatives" of this
descendancy who had been locked out of power both politically
and economically.
44
Roger H. Davidson, The Role of the Congressman-
(New York: Pegasus, 1969), p. 35.
45
See, for example, Peter Bachrach, The Theory of
Democratic Elitism (Boston: Little, Brown and Company,
1967) .
46 .
The prevalence of this assumption among Latin
American specialists is reflected in Anderson, p. 130.

CHAPTER V
THE INTEREST GROUP CONTEXT
There would seem to be little doubt that any attempt
to identify the main participants in the political process
of a nation with societal patterns of moderate or high com
plexity should take interest-group phenomena into account.
Joseph LaPalombara, while denying membership in the school
of thought of Bentley, goes even further in stating:
I do not consider the political process to be
characterized exclusively by group behavior or
by group-oriented decisions. Yet it is obvious that
no political process, no matter what the nature or
stage of development of the political system may
be, can be understood without according serious
attention to the role of interest groups.1
The articulative function of interest groups and their
indirect participation in decision-making certainly makes
them highly relevant to a study of a legislative structure,
such as that of Costa Rica, which fulfills a decision
making function.
In this chapter attention will be given to interest-
group phenomena in Costa Rica in order to determine the
characteristics of such groups and to establish the
implications which these have for legislative decision
making. But before proceeding to this examination;-it will
be useful to point out several broad differences found to
135

136
exist between those groups identified as "interest groups"
by the deputy respondents and those dealt with in most re
search that has dealt with interest-group behavior within
the context of the national legislature which has been
most closely studied in the past, that of the United States.
Such a comparison will help to sharpen our awareness of
the fact that interest-group related phenomena may vary
substantially from one national context to another.
Contextual Variation in the
Study of Interest Groups
Costa Rican interest groups are more reduced in
variety and number than those found at the national legis
lative level in the United States. But far more impor
tant, there are very substantial differences in terms of
the nature of these. Research focusing upon interest-group
behavior within the national legislative sub-system of the
United States leads, rightly or wrongly, to the impression
that the most relevant groups are national in scope, well
2
organized, and well financed. Yet the group referents
identified by the Costa Rican deputies fail to a large
extent to fall into categories which could be described in
this way, as is illustrated by the following listing of
the interest groups which these deputies identified as
those establishing contacts with them.
Though the groups classified under the heading
"national" would in large part fail to meet the organizational

137
TABLE 5.1
Interest Groups Contacting Deputies
Interest Groups
Number of Deputies
Reporting Contacts
NATIONAL GROUPS
Industrial, commercial and agri- 26
cultural chambers
Labor unions 24
Teacher organizations 8
Professional organizations 5
Autonomous institutions 3
Women's organizations 2
Ideological interest groups 2
LOCAL GROUPS
Municipal governments 22
Semi-autonomous local government boards
(e.g., health and welfare boards, boards
of education, local roads boards) 25
Local community development organizations 21
Local cultural organizations 3
Local cooperatives 3
Local religious congregations 3
Local sports organizations 2
Local Red Cross organizations 1
and financial characteristics previously cited, they are at
least similar to their counterparts in the United States
in that they are not primarily localistically oriented
groups. But more than half of the groups identified would
fail to meet the requisite of national orientation as well
as fall far short of the organizational and financial
characteristics mentioned. This difference could be due to
the fact that the greater proliferation of groups to be
expected in a more complex society such as that of the

138
United States has led researchers to focus primarily upon
the larger and more obvious interest groups to the exclusion
of smaller and localistically oriented ones. The difference,
however, can be attributed to another factor. Localisti
cally oriented interest groups do exist in the United
States, but their activities are usually focused upon state
and local decision-making structures. In Costa Rica the
activity of localistically oriented or parochial interest
groups at the national level of politics is explained by
the centralized system of government. Whereas the articu
lation of local interests or needs is usually channeled to
the levels of state and local governments in the United
States, Costa Rica has no equivalent to state government;
and local, or municipal government, is a very weak inter-
3
mediary allocational structure. Consequently, these
structures do not syphon off or absorb a large proportion
of demands of a localistic nature. This phenomenon is not
unique to Costa Rica. A recent study of the Colombian
legislative sub-system provides further support to the view
that the predominant attention given to national interest
groups by scholars studying interest-group phenomena in the
United States Congress could be misleading if applied in
political systems which do not have effective governmental
4
structures at the state and local levels.

139
A Typological Classification of
Costa Rican Interest Groups
Almond and Powell define interest groups as "[groups]
of individuals who are linked by particular bonds of concern
5
or advantage, and who have some awareness of these bonds."
And they suggest that such groups can be sub-divided into
four basic types: (1) associational, (2) institutional,
(3) non-associational, and (4) anomic interest groups.
They describe each type in two ways--by identifying specific
groups that fall into each group and by identifying the
distinguishing characteristics of each type of group.
The specific referents used by Almond and Powell to
identify associational interest groups are the following:
"trade unions, organizations of businessmen or industrialists,
ethnic associations, associations organized by religious
denominations, and civic groups."^ The distinguishing
characteristics of these are said to be "explicit repre
sentation of the interests of a particular group, a full
time professional staff, and orderly procedures for the
7
formulation of interests and demands." On the basis of
the examples provided, the following Costa Rican groups
listed may be identified as associational interest groups:
industrial, commercial, and agricultural chambers; labor
unions; teacher organizations; professional organizations;
women's organizations; ideological interest groups; local
cultural organizations; local cooperatives; local religious

140
congregations; local sports organizations; and local Red
Cross organizations. But on the basis of the distinguishing
characteristics mentioned by Almond and Powell, it would
not be possible to include many of these within the asso-
ciational category. It is apparent that, despite attempts
to overcome the developed-Western democratic bias present
in Almond's earlier formulations, it is still difficult to
use certain parts of Almondian classification schemes within
the context of less developed countries. In this case, it
is the full-time professional staff characteristics attri
buted to associational interest groups that proves to be
an excessively restrictive trait. No doubt, such research
staffs are present in many developed countries and even in
9
some partially industrialized nations such as Italy and
serve very important functions for groups and legislatures
alike. But in countries such as Costa Rica which have not
reached a high level of economic development and where
10
organized interest-group activity is a recent phenomenon,
it is not likely that many organized groups of any kind
will be in a position to afford the type of staffing which
characterizes such groups in highly industrialized nations.
In the case of Costa Rica, few groups have full-time pro
fessionals on their staff, if they have any professional
staff members at all. Yet it would not appear that this
absence alone is sufficient to justify excluding the Costa
Rican groups that have been mentioned above from the categor

141
of associational interest groups. It would appear more
appropriate to state that the distinguishing characteris
tics which would best define associational interest groups
are those of formal organization, permanence, established
procedures by which group interests and activities are
agreed upon, and explicit representation of a particular
group with a restricted membership.
The category institutional interest group is parti
cularly relevant in the Costa Rican context. Such groups
are described in the following way:
Institutional interest groups are found within such
organizations as political parties, legislatures,
armies, bureaucracies, and churches. These are formal
organizations, composed of professionally employed
personnel, with designated political or social functions
other than interest articulation. But, either as cor
porate bodies or as smaller groups within these bodies
(such as legislative blocs, officer cliques, higher
or lower clergy or religious orders, departments,
skill groups, and ideological cliques in bureaucracies),
these groups may articulate their own interests or
represent the interests of other groups in the society. 1
Though it is possible to identify certain vague cliques
within the political parties, among the legislative repre-
12
sentatives and perhaps even within the bureaucracy, there
are two distinct and very important types of groups in
Costa Rica which would fall into the general category of
institutional interest groupsneither of which is encom
passed within the referent groups cited by Almond and
13
Powell. The first of these is made up of the autonomous
institutions. These public institutions are distinctly
different from the other traditional segments of the

142
bureaucratic apparatus. The bureaucrats of these insti
tutions jealously guard the broad prerogatives and indepen
dence of their respective domains and generally refuse to
view themselves as part of an integrated state apparatus.
This posture leads them to view themselves instead as the
trustees of certain types of public as well as institutional
interests and to defend these interests much the same way
that groups in the private sector would defend theirs.
Whereas this type of behavior is also present on the part
of the central power ministries, specially in so far as the
defense of the interests of the bureaucratic segment are
involved, the difference between these and the autonoriKms
institutions is that in the central government all are sub
ject to a high degree of centralized orchestration on the
part of the president. No such control exists in the case
of the autonomous institutions, which at times even wage
open battle against the central government.
The second type of group is that consisting of various
units of the local government complex and certain community
wide oriented groups of a semi-public nature. As was indi
cated previously, local government structures are weak
intermediary government structures, and the solution to
many local problems can seldom be provided by these insti
tutions alone. Thus, municipal councils and the various
types of local semi-autonomous boards and community develop
ment organizations tend to fulfill an articulative s well

143
as a decision-making function in that they are forced to
present those local demands which they are unable to resolve
before national structures of government. It seems proper
to conceive of them as behaving as interest groups despite
the fact that they often represent community-wide interests
when they undertake articulative activities, in that each
cantonal government unit or set of units competes with other
such units from other cantons in attempting to obtain allo
cations for their communities.
It is difficult to identify many interest groupings in
Costa Rica that would fall into Almond and Powell's third
category of non-associational interest groups. Such groups
are exemplified by kinship, lineage, ethnic, regional,
status, and class groupings, and closely approximate what
Fred Riggs has referred to as the manifestations of cornmu-
14
nalism in prismatic societies. These are said to be
characterized by "intermittent patterns of articulation, the
absence of any organized procedure for establishing the
nature and means of articulation, and the lack of continuity
15
in internal structure." There is good reason to believe
that such groups do exist at least at the ethnic and class
levels. The black population, largely concentrated in the
Atlantic coastal province of Limn, would be one such group.
But within the total context of interest groupings in Costa
Rica, this non-associational interest group is at present
of minimal importance. Ethnic consciousness is without any

144
question present among this group, has become stronger in
recent years, and has led to a higher perception of a
community of interest within it. It has, however, limited
access to the political system and will probably not attain
greater political relevance until this segment of the popu
lation attains organizational strength.
Classwise, it is to be expected that the upper and
upper middle class also fit into this category to a limited
extent. But as Almond and Powell suggest, this unorganized
means of articulating interests is probably relied upon
less frequently by this class grouping due to the develop
ment of formally organized interest groups which represent
its interests.^
Within the Costa Rican context, or any other for that
matter, the anomic interest-group category is of little use
and is most confusing. Almond and Powell describe such
groups in the following terms:
Somewhat akin to individual self-representation are
the structures called anomic interest groups, the
more or less spontaneous penetrations into the poli
tical system from the society, such as riots, demon
strations, assassinations, and the like . Anomic
groups are marked by limited organization and a lack
of constant activity on behalf of the group.17
It is almost unnecessary to state that "riots, demonstrations,
assassinations, and the like" are not groups but means of
forcefully-bringing demands to the attention of decision
makers Application of the description of the supposed
characteristics of anomic interest groups to Costa Rican

145
interest groups in general would lead to the conclusion
that most Costa Rican interest groups are anomic as few
carry on "constant activity on behalf of the group." Yet
some modified form of the anomic interest-group category
is needed if all groups are to be placed within an encom
passing classification scheme. The necessity for such
modification is also suggested by Wheare's observation that
"most of these organizations [interest groups] are permanent,
but others come into existence for a particular purpose
18
and go out of existence when their cause is won or lost."
A better classification for such groupings, whether they
utilize anomic forms of behavior or not, would appear to
be that of "ad hoc interest groups." Such groups can be
said to seek a single and limited specific goal which does
not provide the group with a binding community of interest
for more than a very limited period of time. These may or
may not have a rudimentary form of formal organization.
None of the deputies mentioned any groups of this
type when referring to interest groups, although they did
mention some under the rubric of constituency contacts.
This points up the rather nebulous parameter between interest
group contacts and constituency contacts in the Costa Rican
context. Nevertheless, ad hoc groups do arise with some
frequency both at the national and local levels. For
example, in 1967 one such group with a degree of formal
organization arose to support the abolition of the state

146
monopoly in banking. A far lass organized group arose at
the University of Costa Rica in 1970 to oppose the passage
of a state contract with ALCOA. And in 1968 relatively
spontaneous groupings of students arose to support and to
oppose the creation of a normal school in the province of
Heredia. At the local level, it is not at all uncommon to
find temporary groupings arising to support such things as
the installation of a water supply system in a given place,
requiring financial support from the central government.
With few exceptions, such local ad hoc groups lack a for
malized organizational structure.
Style of Interest Articulation
Although it can be argued that the very existence of
interest groups leads to a latent expression of interests
that need not be manifestly stated, most interest articu
lation on the part of Costa Rican interest groups is manifest
and specific as opposed to latent and diffuse. The exception
to this rule is found in the case of the ideological inter
est groups, which do devote some of their efforts to the
communication and propagation of diffuse interests. Thus,
for example, the anti-communist Movimiento Costa Rica Libre
and the Manchester-liberal Asociacin de Fomento Econmico
repeatedly issue general warnings regarding the dangers of
"communist infiltration" and state intervention in the
economy but take positions on specific issues only occa
sionally. Interest-group demands frequently tend to be

147
couched in general rather than particular terms; yet the
majority of such demands tend to be particularistic to the
extent that they are, in fact, usually based upon group
rather than systemic interest considerations.
There are marked differences among groups in terms of
the instrumentality or affectivity of interest articulation.
Few are in a position to use instrumental forms of interest
articulation, but those that can resort to these forms tend
to do so quite effectively. Among the associational groups,
it is the organized labor and professional groupings within
the public service sector, the banana workers' unions and
the teachers' unions,that are in a position to back up
their demands with overt or covert threats of retaliatory
action in the form of strikes. A strike by groups such as
the railroad workers, the port workers, the medical union
within the social security system, the United Fruit banana
workers, or the teachers' union creates a crisis situation
in the country, be it economic or social, which must be
dealt with rapidly. It should be noted, however, that
these tactics are usually used vis--vis executive rather
than legislative decision-making. Industrial, commercial,
and agricultural chambers do not opt for overt bargaining
of this type, although the favored financial position of the
individual members of these groups should not be overlooked
in connection with an analysis of instrumental forms of
pressuring. The implications of unfavorable action toward

148
these groups cannot be ignored by those who must worry
about future campaign contributions. Yet it is well to
recall LaPalombara's warning that "when one is attempting
to assess the relative legislative power of an interest
group, it is vital to steer clear of the facile generali-
19
zation that money equals power." Concern over future
contributions to campaign chests is, no doubt, a factor
taken into consideration in legislative decision-making,
but it is not an all-prevailing consideration in Costa
Rica.
Local associational interest groups are the least
capable of articulating their demands in an instrumental
fashion. Non-associational interest groups may resort to
threats of reduced voter support as in the case of the
black ethnic groups of Limn, but the lack of organization
of the black community does not provide such threats with
much credibility. The upper- and upper-middle-class elite
can, however, make quite credible threats in respect to
reduced campaign contributions. Institutional interest
groups represented by the autonomous institutions have
little specific threatening power vis-h-vis the legislature,
although it is always understood that they may resort to
propaganda techniques aimed at generating the feeling that
it is or is not in the interest of the nation to act in
favor or against them. Local institutional interest groups
may also bargain on the basis of implied losses or increases

149
in electoral strength of the parties that happen to have a
majority within each of the cantonal local governmental
units. But it should be pointed out that explicit recourse
to direct instrumental techniques are not highly evident in
Costa Rica. Ad hoc interest groupings are the least capable
of utilizing effective instrumental techniques, due to the
very fact of their temporary nature. The use of violence
and the utilization of highly effective disruptive tech-
iques are not condoned by the political culture of the
nation and are not utilized with much frequency.
Means of Access
Almond and Powell suggest that interest groups may be
usefully classified according to the means or channels of
20
access that they utilize m articulating their demands.
This classification dimension is not only a highly inter
esting one but also a most revealing one. Any in-depth
evaluation of the effectiveness of the various Costa Rican
interest groups would have to utilize this dimension. In
considering this dimension within the context of this study,
it should be pointed out that the interest present is that
of determining the channels of access to the legislative
decision-makers. An analysis of this dimension in system-
wide terms is beyond the scope of this study.
The first dimensional category suggested by these two
authors is that of physical demonstrations and violence.

150
This channel of access, as indicated previously, is the
least frequently used and generally of relatively low
effectiveness in the case of the Legislative Assembly. To
21
utilise Anderson's model of Latin American politics, it
can be stated that the threat or actual use of violence is
not acceptable within the rules of the game and consequently
is not a means of attaining a position as an acceptable
power contender. Resort to such tactics is generally a
sign of weaknessan indication that the group utilizing
it has exhausted or does not have access to more legitimate
ways of supporting its interests. During the period studied,
it was found that demonstrations were used most frequently
by ad hoc interest groups, i.e., those that generally
lacked more effective means of access. It was also found
that such demonstrations frequently were ready evidence of
the fact that interest groups had not done their homework
and had not become aware that their interests were in
question until it was too late to do anything else. The
impact of filling the public observers' section of the
Legislative Assembly with people carrying placards for or
against a given bill being discussed on the floor could,
however, be easily misinterpreted by an occasional observer.
A packed gallery presents a strong temptation to the egos
of the deputiesa temptation that does not go unattended
very frequently. Consequently, it is not at all unusual
to find deputies delivering flowery oratory and largely

151
demagogic speeches whenever large crowds are present in
the public gallery. Discussions become even more heated
when both favorably and negatively oriented crowds are
present, with each side openly cheering on their knight
from behind the bullet-proof and sound-proof glass divider
that separates the public gallery from the floor. If the
effectiveness of pressure were to be measured by such
behavior on the part of the deputies, one would have to
conclude that such a strategy works well. The fact of the
matter is that such oratory has little or no effect on the
decisions reached by the legislature. In fact, such demon
strations at times are not really aimed at affecting de
cisions. The prime example of this was the massive demon
stration staged outside of the Legislative Assembly by a
university-centered group on the day that the ALCOA contract
was to be discussed in third debate. There was no doubt in
anyone's mind that the contract was going to be approved;
and, even if there had been any chance of having it turned
down, anyone seriously attempting to do so would not have
chosen the third debate as the time to apply pressures to
this end. In this case, demonstration was a means of seek
ing the limelight, boosting a self-image, and establishing
a myth of student activism and political relevancy. The
minor riot which broke out that day (the final vote was
taken as tear gas seeped under the doors of the' floor) has
been propagandized by some student leaders at the university

152
as a patriotic "happening" (la jornada patritica) and is
celebrated on a small scale by some university groups each
year.
The second category in the access dimension, personal
contacts, is diametrically opposed to the first, both in
terms of its nature and its significance. This is the most
effective and most frequently used means of access. Though
Costa Rica is slowly moving away from a highly personalistic
pattern of politics, the fact that it is still personalis-
tically oriented is evidenced by the importance of personal
contacts. In brief, success or failure can still depend
to a significant extent upon whom one knows. This explains,
in large part, why most interest groups have multi-party
memberships. Personal contacts may be with individual
deputies, members of the legislative leadership, or with
party leaders outside of the Assembly. In some cases, such
contacts may even take the form of indirect contacts with
influentials through relatives or friends. If the bill in
which one is interested is of a local nature and not highly
controversial, local associaticnal and institutional groups
will seek to contact their local deputy and impress upon
him the importance of the bill to his constituency. If
the local bill happens to be of great significance to the
community., group representatives raise their sights and
attempt to gain access to the legislative leadership and
even to the party leadership. However, in the case of bills

153
of national scope, the process is reversed. Attempts are
made to draw the support of national party leaders or at
least of the legislative leadership in the person of the
president of the Assembly, the jefes de fraccin, committee
chairmen, and of a reduced number of other influential
deputies in the hopes that they will exercise their influ
ence to support or to oppose the bill. If such support
is obtained, few groups proceed to the type of informal
institutional lobbying that would encompass attempts to
establish personal contacts at lower levels or the other
means of access unless the matter in question is so contro
versial as to require that certain types of supports be
provided to their collaborators at the top. It is inter
esting to note within the context of such pressure teen- .
iques from above that 66.6 per cent (28) of the deputies
responding (42) indicated that there was at least a partial
and, at times, a significant difference between the interest
groups which were of importance to them and those of impor
tance to their parties. This would seem to indicate that
certain groups (it was impossible to determine which) resort
to pressures from above, at least in part, because they do
not have a favorably disposed audience within the Assembly
in the form of the individual deputies.
The direct-or elite-representation means of access,
the third category in Almond and Powell's scheme, is not
particularly evident in Costa Rica as far as the legislative

154
sub-system is concerned. Functional representation is not
taken into account formally or informally in the nomination
process. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that a few indi
viduals who are directly or indirectly related to or
sympathetic toward certain groups will be among those
elected to the legislature. These do, to some extent, serve
as the spokesmen of certain group interests, but they do so
guardedly. In fact, no group identified could place heavy
reliance upon such representation within the legislature as
a means of attaining adequate articulation and aggregation
of group interests. But certain groups do seem to be more
successful in gaining partial representation of their
interests through this means. The most apparent among these
are teachers, doctors, lawyers, and cattlemen.
Almond and Powell's last category, that of formal and
institutional means of access, consists of three sub-cate
gories: (1) mass media, (2) political parties, and
(3) legislative, bureaucratic, and cabinet access. All
three are relevant sub-categories in the case of Costa Rica.
Use of the mass media is widespread although the difference
in the economic strength of the interest groups clearly
affects the extent to which this means of access may be
used. The most common form of access is through newspaper
publications of paid advertisements which seek to create
the impression of favorable or unfavorable public opinion
on any given issue, Interest-group behavior tends in some

155
ways to reflect cognition of Truman's statement that
"whether a group is able to exploit the advantages of its
position or not will depend in part on the size of the
. 22
public concerned at the time." But it should be added
that the goal of interest groups is more often that of
giving the impression of general public concern rather than
effectively broadening the scope of such concern. The criti
cal question is not whether these publications have any
substantial impact on the molding of public opinion on the
issue but rather whether legislative decision-makers can
be led to believe that they represent the views of a sub
stantial sector of the public. The various chambers utilize
this means of access quite frequently as a means of bolster
ing their personal contact access route as do the various
labor, teacher, and professional organizations. Certain
well-financed ad hoc interest groups also resort to this
channel. For example, it is reported that the committee
that was formed to support the executive bill which called
for the abolition of the state monopoly in banking used this
method in massive quantities. The institutional interest
groups represented by the autonomous institutions also rely
to some extent upon this channel. Local institutional
interest groups in most cases cannot afford to do so.
The industrial, commercial, and to some extent, the
agricultural interest groups, are at a distinct advantage
in respect to the use of the press, given the fact that

156
members from these groups are the major stock holders and
directors of the nation's only widely circulated newspaper,
La Nacin. Thus, they frequently can influence editorial
policy as well as obtain front-page coverage for their
points of view. The existence of this advantage has led
one observer to state that "public opinion is nothing more
than the private opinions of those who have the power to
disseminate their views."2^ The impact on legislative
decision-making of such control is, however, highly
questionable. The majority PLN party has had a running
battle with La Nacin for years and would hardly be dis
posed to be guided or misguided, as they would put it, by
this biased source of information. The degree of antagonism
that exists between the party and the newspaper is well
illustrated by the fact that President Figueres has publicly
stated that the newspaper is run by a group of dime-a-dozen,
frustrated, would-be politicians.
The printed media is also used by the two major ideo
logical interest groups as a means of creating the proper
atmosphere for their diffuse demands. The Asociacin
Nacional de Fomento Econmico publishes a daily column in
La Nacin,apparently free of charge, which is a general
politico-economic commentary column. The Movimiento Costa
Rica Libre publishes a weekly paid political column which
seeks to establish and/or maintain the view that all must
keep up their guard against the seeping menace of communist

157
infiltration. Neither of these is geared primarily toward
affecting legislative behavior, although there have been
some exceptions to this general rule.
Political party organizations, as organizations, do not
provide a ready means of access in most cases. The reason
for this is obviousto a large extent they simply do not
exist. Party-related personal contacts, e.g., with top
party leaders, do provide a modified form of this channel.
And as was previously indicated, this channel is used fre
quently and with a relatively high degree of effectiveness.
Institutional channels of access related to the Legis
lative Assembly are utilized with some frequency with vary
ing degrees of success. As in Italy, "the deputy is viewed
[by interest-group representatives] as a sectarian poli
tician who tends to be completely uninformed regarding the
2
very matters with which he purports to deal intelligently."
To counteract this real or imagined ignorance, interest-
group representatives appear before the committees studying
bills of interest to them to testify for or against them.
But it would appear that such testimony is considered of
secondary importance and that far more significance is
attributed to the personal tapping of key deputies on the
committee or of the legislative leadership. The more for
mal channel of institutional access should not, however, be
discarded as an ineffective method in all cases. For exam
ple, the only known case study of interest-group behavior

158
within the Assembly indicates that the Chamber of Industry
not only drafted the law passed in 1959 which sought to
provide additional investment incentives, but also provided
the Assembly with the only data and arguments presented in
2 6
the consideration of this bill. Under these conditions,
there can be no doubt that formal institutional means of
. 27
access can m some cases be used very effectively. Yet,
few interest groups are able to provide the type of infor
mation and research function fulfilled by interest groups
. 28
m some other countries. Truman has noted that "one
important factor among the informal determinants of access
is created by the legislator-politician's needs of infor-
29
mation and the ability of a group to supply it." In
Costa Rica, interest groups are not in a position to gain
the gratitude of deputies through the provision of data of
interest to the deputies which is not related to a matter
of specific interest to the interest groups. It is possible
that the larger interest groups will attain the ability to
meet such a need in the future. But no significant progress
in this direction has been noted by this author in the four
years that he has spent in Costa Rica.
The use of channels of access to the Assembly through
the bureaucratic structure and/or ministerial level offi
cials is evidenced in two ways in Costa Rica. Ministers
and members of the bureaucracy are approached from time to
time by interest groups in an attempt to convince them to

159
use their good offices or influence in favor of or against
a bill of interest to a given group. These central govern
ment officials may also be sought out by interest groups
prior to the presentation of an executive bill in an attempt
to seek protection or furtherance of group interests in the
original draft of a bill, thus affecting the institutional
inputs that emanate from the executive branch. These types
of access are somewhat limited and depend to a large extent
on the ability of interest groups to tap friendship and
kinship ties. This is not to say that these ties are requi
sites for such access. The Costa Rican bureaucracy is not
characterized by the highly restrictive bazaar-canteen
. 30
structure described by Riggs. But as m all political
systems, whether it be that of the United States or that of
Thailand, friendship and kinship patterns are important
factors to be taken into account in evaluating the access
of diverse groups to the decision-making process.
Summary and Conclusions
Though interest groaps in Costa Rica are still in a
rudimentary stage of development, there can be no question
that some of these groups have established the type of
permanent structure which allows them effective partici
pation in the political process. Articulation of demands
through organized interest groupings is a common phenomenon
today in Costa Rica. But the effective mobilization of

160
pressure inputs to affect decisions related to these demands
is not quite so common. It thus becomes relevant to ask:
"What groups have achieved this capability, and, conse
quently, what groups are in the best position to influence
decision-making at the legislative or any other level of
government?"
The relative success of interest groups in having their
demands met would appear to depend primarily upon two fac
tors: (1) their ability to utilize instrumental techniques;
and (2) their ability to draw upon a network of personal
contacts. This being the case, it must be concluded that
effective interest-group behavior in Costa Rica is largely
restricted at the moment to those groups which represent
upper, upper middle class, and institutional interests.
These have clear advantages in the utilization of personal
channels of access to decision-makers and can utilize instru
mental techniques as well, in the form of implicit threats
of an economic nature that politicians cannot afford to
ignore completely. The Costa Rican legislative sub-system
is not insensitive to the demands of the less organized
sectors of society; all groups are heard, and all generate
inputs into the Assembly. But there is little question that
the outputs of the Assembly are likely to favor the inter
ests of those who are capable of mobilizing immediate and
active support for their demands.

Notes
Joseph LaPalombara, Interest Groups in Italian
Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964),
p. 13. (Author's emphasis)
2
To cite but one case, the articles in a recent reader
on pressure group activity in American politics at the
national level all tend to focus upon "groups which are
well-organized with contributors or members, budgets, paid
secretaries and publications and able to maintain permanent
staffs at various seats of government." See Phillip
Moneypenny, "Introduction," in H. R. Mahood, ed., Pressure
Groups in American Politics (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1967), pp. 5-6.
3 ...
A recent study of municipal government m Costa Rica
indicates that "in all of the cantons numerous demands are
taken directly to higher levels of government such as the
legislature, ministries and autonomous institutions." It
goes further in stating that there is "a common belief that
there is no sense in resorting to the municipal structure of
government in search of the solutions to many needs which
exist in the community." See Christopher E. Baker,. Ronald
Fernandez Pinto, and Samuel Z. Stone, Municipal Government
in Costa Rica: Its Characteristics and Functions (San Jos:
Associated Colleges of the Midwest, 1971), p. 113.
4
See Gary Hoskin, "Dimensions of Representation m
the Colombian National Legislature," in Weston H. Agor,
ed. Latin American Legis.latures : Their Role and Influence
(New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971), p. 425.
5
Gabriel A. Almond and G.'Bingham Powell, Jr.,
Comparative Politics: A Developmenta1 Approach (Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1.966), p. 75.
Jlkid., p. 78.
^Ibid.
g
Gabriel A. Almond and James S. Coleman, eds., The
Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1960).
161

162
9
LaPalombara, pp. 201-207.
10
Carlos Jos Gutierres, "Las Bases de la Realidad.
Social Costarricense," Revista de Filosofa de la Universidad
de Costa Rica, 3 (Enero-Junio, 19617% p. 49.
11
Almond and Powell, p. 77.
12 ...
Charles F. Denton concludes that the public admini
stration is the only effective and consistent agent in the
articulation-aggregation conversion process, but his support
of such a claim is limited to the report that 79 out of
125 bills passed by the legislature in a given time period
had had their origin within one or another of the branches
of the public administration. See The Politics of Develop
ment in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Texas, 1969), p. 139.
13
The church hierarchy, though not powerless, is not
oriented toward participation in the political sphere. It
is significant to note, however, that it does speak out
occasionally and that it did play an important, if not
crucial, political role in the early 1940s in favoring the
establishment of social security measures and the passage
of the present labor code. The military, or what remains
of a military establishment following the disbanding of
the standing army and the creation of a small civil guard
in its place, can be said to play no significant role in
politics. The officers and a large proportion of the
guardsmen are shuttled in and out of service with each shift
in the partisan control of the executive branch. Many
Costa Ricans believe that this pattern is highly functional
to system stability and would be alarmed if it were to
change so as to allow for the creation of a military
mentality among a sector, however small, of the population.
14 .
Fred W. Riggs, Administration m Developing Countries:
The Theory of Prismatic Society (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin
Co., 1964), p. 153-164.
15
Almond and Powell, pp. 76-77.
16Ibid., p. 77.
~^Ibid., pp. 75-76.
18
K. C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1963), p. 76.
19
LaP alombara, p. 211.

163
20
Almond and Powell, pp. 80-86.
21
Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change
in Latin America (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc.,
1967), pp. 87-114.
22
David B. Truman, The Governmental Process (New York:
Alfred Knopf, 1951) p. 357.
23
Oscar Arias Snchez, Grupos de Presin en Costa Rica
(San Jos: Editorial Costa Rica, 1971), p. 77.
2^ibid., p. 99.
25
La Palombara, p. 203.
2 6
Lorin Weisenfeld, "La Ley de Desarrollo y Proteccin
Industrial de 1959: El Proceso de su Creacin," Revista
de Ciencias Jurdicas, 14 (Diciembre, 1969), pp. 41-111.
27
It should be noted, however, that the potential for
such high effectiveness was made possible due to the exis
tence of an ineffective committee system which has since
been supplanted.
For a discussion of the fulfillment of these func
tions in other national contexts see Truman, pp. 333-334,
and La Palombara, pp. 201-207.
29
Truman, p. 333.
30 .
Riggs, pp. 100-121.

CHAPTER VI
PATTERNS OF LEGISLATIVE DECISIONAL BEHAVIOR
Legislative sub-structures and procedures may, in most
cases, be attributed some degree of significance in the
legislative process in that they provide the formal means
for the legitimation of the decisions reached or ratified
by legislatures. But in the case of Costa Rica, as in that
of any legislature which does fulfill a decision-making func
tion, the significance of a study of these sub-structures
and procedures goes beyond that of describing the mechanical
processes followed in legislating. A study of these element
allows for the identification of the degree of independent
decision-making manifested through the behavior of deputies
within these sub-structures, of some of the determinants of
this decisional behavior, and of the nature of legislative
decision-making. It is on such matters that this chapter
focuses.
The Committee Structure
It is generally accepted that the characteristics of
legislative committee systems may be fruitfully analyzed as
one means of determining the degree of independent decision
making power that is or can be exercised by different legis
latures Strong committee systems are generally associated
164

165
with legislatures having a relatively high degree of
decision-making power, whereas those with weak committee
systems are believed to reflect weak decision-making power.
Given these assumptions and the data presented in Chapter I,
indicating that the Legislative' Assembly in Costa Rica is
far from being a rubber-stamp legislature, it would seem
reasonable to posit that the Assembly is more likely to have
a strong rather than a weak committee system.
The committee system of the Costa Rican Legislative
Assembly has changed radically since 1962 when the by-laws
were amended to make this system more operant. Prior to
this time, behavior within committee was of limited signifi
cance, and the traits of the system were certainly not those
of a strong committee system. There were fifteen committees
in existence, each consisting of only three members. Though
bills were channeled through these committees for detailed
study prior to their discussion on the floor, little seems
to have been gained by this procedure, as the reduced size
of the committees and the absence of a support staff made it
unlikely, if not impossible, for them to function effectively
The general ineffectiveness of the committee system prior to
1962 has been described in the following terms:
Operating without any staff, the members of the commit
tee had the exclusive responsibility of studying those
bills submitted to them and of issuing the reports that
accompanied all bills when submitted to the floor for
debate. ... It was unusual for the members of the
committee to carry out a systematic study of the text of

166
a bill. Generally, discussions in committee consisted
of informal conversations which led to a general con
sensus among the members of the committee. Frequently,
committees did not meet over a period of several months
due to the urgent personal business of its members or
to a lack of interest.1
The modifications introduced in 1962 have substantially
altered the effectiveness of the system. The reduction of
the committees from fifteen to six and the increase in the
number of members in each has had a very salubrious effect
upon the work of the committees. It may now be stated that
committees come much closer to functioning as they do in
strong committee legislatures in that they tend to dominate
much of the legislative process, as it is there and not on the
2
floor that bills are studied and most compromises worked out.
The high impact of the committees upon legislative decision
making is evidenced by the fact that during the period
studied, 82.6 per cent of the bills reported out of committee
3
were approved on the floor without any modification. It is
also evidenced by the responses given by the deputies when
asked what tactics they employed in seeking to guide a bill
through the legislature. Though there were a few deputies
who mentioned seeking support at all levels and stages, such
as the one who lyrically stated thc\t obtaining passage of a
bill of interest was like courting a woman and no leaf could
be left unturned, the responses of the vast majority of the
deputies focused upon efforts at the committee stage of the
processing of bills.

16?
The Legislative Assembly has five main standing commit-
tees, each of which is assigned a general subject of spe-
4
cialization. The best way to identify these, given the
difficulty of finding fully adequate English translations of
the committee titles, is to list the subjects of the bills
which the by-laws of the Assembly state should be assigned
to each committee along with a rough translation of the
committee title.
1. Comisin de Asuntos Econmicos (Economic Affairs
Committee): economic affairs, foreign loans,
Central American Common Market agreements, com
merce, and industry.
2. Comisin de Asuntos Hacendarlos (Budgetary Affairs
Committee): national budgets and taxation.5
3. Comisin de Gobierno y Administracin (Governmental
and Administrative Affairs Committee): governmental
affairs, public security, foreign affairs, public
works, municipal affairs, and agriculture.
4. Comisin de Asuntos Sociales (Social Affairs
Committee): labor, social security, health, educa
tion, and welfare.
5. Comisin de Asuntos Jurdicos (Judicial Affairs
Committee): civil, penal, procedural, administra
tive and electoral law, and all other judicial
matters.
All deputies, except the President of the Assembly, serve on
one of these committees. Four of these committees consist
of eleven members, and one of them has a total membership of
twelve, thus accounting for the fifty-six deputies in ques
tion, none of whora serves on more than one of these.
All bills submitted to the Assembly are announced by
title and subject in legislative'session;-following this, the
president indicates which of the five permanent committees

168
will be called upon to study the bill. Although the subject
matter of the bill is supposed to serve as the primary
criterion for assignment to committees, the president can
use his discretion in making these assignments. He is
consequently in a position to expedite or kill a bill by
assigning it to a committee whose members are known to favor
or oppose it. Usually such decisions are based exclusively
upon the judgment of the president, although in some in
stances he consults with the caucus leader of his party.
Once the bill is announced and assigned to committee,
a copy is submitted to the national printing office for publi
cation in the national register or Gaceta. Proposed legis-
i
lation cannot be placed on the agenda of the appropriate
committee until five days after its inclusion in the Gaceta,
which is usually published six days a week. This procedure
usually represents a time-lag of approximately ten days.

¡
Once a bill is placed on its agenda, a committee may
choose by a two-thirds vote to discuss it before the preced
ing bills on the agenda. The president of the committee may
also expedite the processing of a bill by calling for an
extraordinary meeting of the committee, since he is the one
who draws up the agendas for such sessions. It is entirely
possible to pigeon-hole a bill by systematically agreeing
to deal with other bills in a preferential fashion.
According to the by-laws of the Assembly, committee
I
reports are to be issued no later than fifteen days after

169
bills are officially added to the agenda. The presidents
of the committees are supposed to request necessary exten-
tions from the president of the Assembly. Failure to meet
the usual deadline, or that set by the president in granting
extensions, is supposed to be sanctioned by a forfeiture
of payment for attendance at committee sessions until such
6
time as the report is submitted. But these deadlines are
not enforced. Over the seven-month period studied, fewer
than five extensions were requested, and no committee members
were deprived of their pay for attendance at committee
sessions for this reason. Yet less than 29 per cent of
those bills reported out of committee were processed in the
time lapse called for in the by-laws, and only 49 per cent
of the bills before the Assembly got out of the committee
processing stage.
The extent to which the committees study bills varies
substantially. In some cases, automatic approval is
forthcoming due to the non-controversial nature of the bill.
In other cases, detailed study is carried out. Supposed
study in detail is, at times, nothing more than a delaying
tactic. Through their presidents, committees may call public
officials or private citizens to testify before them. With
the exception of the president of the country, the ministers
of state, and the justices of the Supreme Court, all public
officials must accede to such requests. Committees may also
request written evaluatory statements of any person. In

170
some cases, the Assembly is obligated by law to seek the
opinion of certain institutional representatives. For
example, the board of directors of an autonomous institution
must be consulted in respect to any bill related to it; but
the opinions issued by these are not binding upon the Assembly.
The committees are also obligated to seek the opinions of the
Supreme Court and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal on matters
dealing with the organization and functioning of the judicial
system in the one case, and electoral matters in the other.
In both cases, these opinions are binding unless overruled
7
by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.
Committees may amend any part of a bill by majority
vote. Once all amendment motions have been dealt with, a
final vote on the bill is taken in committee. The president
of the committee then appoints one member to draw up a
report reflecting the favorable or negative decision taken
by the majority of the members. Should any individual or
group within the committee be in disagreement with the
majority decision, he or they may draw up one or more minor
ity reports. Such minority reports, however, are considered
on the floor only if the majority report is rejected. A
favorable majority report does not always reflect support
for the original bill submitted. Amendments to a bill
acted upon favorably in committee are incorporated into the
final committee text of the bill, and this revised version
of the bill is what is acted upon on the floor. At times

171
these amendments or additions are substantial and in some
cases even antithetical to the original purpose of the bill.
A case in point is the report issued on the San Jos Protocol,
in which the committee issued a majority report favoring rati
fication of this Central American Common Market agreement call
ing for an increase in certain import duties. But it appended
a stipulation, which had not been included in the bill as
submitted by the executive, that the rate of another indirect
tax be decreased proportionately to the income generated by
the new taxes called for by the Protocol, thus denying the
executive the additional funds that it was thought to be seeking.
According to the by-laws of the Assembly, each committee
must meet in ordinary session twice a week. These meetings are
usually held on Friday, the day on which no plenary floor
8
sessions are held. Extraordinary sessions may be called by
the committee chairmen at their discretion or at the request
of a member of the committee. It is usual for the committee
9
to meet in extraordinary session two or three times per week.
In theory, all committee sessions must last for a period of
at least two hours if the committee members are to be
entitled to per diem payment for attendance at each of these.
Yet it was impossible to determine from the records how long
sessions did last. If one were to rely upon the data pro
vided in the committee records, one would conclude that all
sessions do last for at least two hours. Yet the vast
majority of committee sessions attended by the author during

172
the period of study lasted much less than that. Most
sessions did not run for more than forty-five minutes to an
hour in length and some lasted as little as fifteen minutes.
The reason for the discrepancy between the observed and
officially reported durations is obviousall sessions are
formally reported to last two hours so that the deputies will
be entitled to their per diem payment.
Assignment of deputies to committee is made by the
president of the Assembly at the beginning of each session
year in May. The four deputies who served as presidents
during the 1966-1970 term, all members of the majority party,
discussed committee assignments with their majority leader
(PLN jefe de fraccin). In the case of disagreement, it was
the choice of the jefe that prevailed. The minority parties
were not formally consulted by the president in making these
assignments. The jefes of these parties did, however,
approach the president informally with certain requests.
These leaders were almost always assigned to the committees
of their choice, and other requests were acceded to as long
as they did not go against the interests or strategy of the
majority party. The assignments made are not final, as the
deputies who are not satisfied with their assignments may
switch off with deputies from other committees by mutual
agreement during the first month of the session. Several
such changes take place every year, primarily among the
members of the minority parties.

173
The assignments made between I9b6 and 1969 indicated
that partisan considerations were the strongest determinants
of assignment. The strategy followed by the majority party
was that of assigning party deputies in such a way as to gain
control of as many committees as possible and to load the
most important committees with as many party deputies as was
possible without sacrificing the first goal.
An examination of Table 6.1 will provide clear support
for this statement.
TABLE 6.1
Party Distribution in Committees in the 1968-1969
Legislative Session
Committees (in descending
Number of
Deputies per
Party
order of importance)*
PLN
PR
PUN
UCR
Economic Affairs Committee
7
2
1
1
Budgetary Affairs Committee
8
2
2
0
Governmental and Adminis
trative Affairs Committee
6
5
0
0
Social Affairs Committee
6
3
].
1
Judicial Affairs Committee
1
6
3
0
*The method used to rank
scribed in Chapter I.
order the
committees is
de-
In order to control all five
committees,
the
majority
party
would have needed a total of thirty-one deputies rather than
the twenty-nine that it had. Thus, one committee could not
be controlled by them, although majority control could be

174
guaranteed in the first four. Two of the top committees
were given one more deputy than needed to obtain a majority.
In order to make this possible, only one party deputy was
assigned to the last committee, whereas the other parties
were given disproportionate representation on it.
Provincial considerations in committee assignment
appear to have been of negligible importance. No clear pat
tern or biases can be detected in the data available for the
period in question. Responses from the deputies who had
served as majority party leader or as president indicated
that, with one exception, provincial balance was not one of
the main criteria used in making assignments. The one excep
tion was related to assignments to the Comisin de Asuntos
Hacendarlos, the committee which deals with budgetary matters.
Within the caucus of the majority party, the presidents were
pressured not to assign more than one party deputy from each
province to this committee. The provincial interest evidenced
in respect to the assignments to this committee is unques
tionably tied to the desire of the deputies that their
provinces get their fair share of the pork-barrel distribu
tion made within this committee every year when the annual
budget is submitted to the committee for its study.
Despite the partisan nature of the membership of the
diverse committees, sessions were not characterized by any
considerable degree of political hay-making or dramatics.
Most of the time, a serious attempt was made to discuss bills

175
in an objective fashion. Log-rolling, which tends to take
place at this level rather than on the floor, usually cut
across party lines. In brief, the partisan element was not
called upon very frequently, although there can be no doubt
that it could and was mobilized whenever necessary in order
to support PLN fraccin strategies. The degree of consensus
within the committees is reflected by the fact that, though
minority reports may be issued by committee members who
dissent from the majority opinion, only 4.1 per cent of the
bills reported out of committee during the period studied
were known to have reflected such committee controversy.^
Though our description of the committee system would
seem to indicate that it is very strong, there are several
factors that tend to weaken it to a significant extent in
comparison with that of the United States Congress or the
only other Latin American legislative sub-system where com
mittees would seem to play a highly relevant decisional role,
i.e., that of Chile, where the power of committees is sup
ported by continuity in committee membership, member
13
specialization, and more than a clerical support staff.
Charles Denton makes mention of several of these weaknesses
when he states:
The fact that the deputies cannot seek reelection
until a four-year term intervenes tends to limit
the continuity of the body and discourages speciali
zation in particular policy-making areas. The com
mittee system, with its revolving membership, assures
that most issues will be acted upon in a piecemeal
fashion and on the basis of limited information.-2

176
The research carried out indicates that there are three
basic limitations upon the impact of committees within the
Costa Rican legislature. The first limitation is that ex
pertise does not seem to be a goal of the system. The
Assembly studied placed very limited value on the development
of expertise within the committees. If expertise had been
sought, little turnover in the committee would be experienced,
despite the annual assignment characteristic of the system.
This was not the case, as is evidenced in the table shown
below.
TABLE 6.2
Continuity in Committee Membership
in the 1968-1969 Session
Percentage of 1968-1969
Members Who Were:
Committees (in descending
order of importance)
(D*
Members
in Prior
Session
(2)
Members
in Any
Previous
Session
(3)
Members
in All
Previous
Sessions
Economic Affairs Committee
36.4
36.4
9.1
Budgetary Affairs Committee
0
0
0
Governmental and Administra
tive Affairs Committee
27.3
36.4
27.3
Social Affairs Committee
18.2
36.4
9.1
Judicial Affairs Committee
18.2
36.4
9.1
*These categories are not mutually exclusive.

177
The small percentage of deputies on each committee who had
served on the same committee in the prior session reflects
the degree to which the members could have been expected to
be aware of the status and background of carry-over bills
from the previous session. The figure related to those who
had served on that same committee in any previous session
reflects the extent to which the members had obtained previous
experience in the subject matter dealt with by the committee.
The percentage figure for those who had served on the commit
tee in all preceding sessions serves as an absolute measure
of continuity. As in each case a high percentage is an
indication of low turnover and a low percentage an indication
of high turnover, the data indicate that there was a very
high degree of turnover in the membership of the committees.
Given the partisan nature of appointment to committees,
it is of interest to note that the PLN deputies tended to
have proportionately less previous experience on the same
committee than had deputies from the other three parties.
This relationship is reversed, however, if one calculates
a weighted score based upon the importance of the committees
where such experience was obtained. For instance, if a
score of 5 is allocated for three consecutive years of
experience on the highest ranked committee, 4 for the second
highest ranked, and so one, we find that the PLN obtains a
score of 10, the PR a score of 7, UCR a score of 5, and the
PUN a score of 0. If the same procedure is followed for

178
scoring experience obtained in the committee of assignment
in 1968-1969 in at least one prior annual session, the
scores are PLN33, PR21, PUN10, and UCR5. Thus, it
would appear that the PLN deputies tended to attain prolonged
experience in the more important committees, whereas the
opposite was true of the deputies of the other parties.
This would suggest that the PLN had used its control of
appointments to assure that it had more experienced members
on the more important committees.
One recent researcher has implied that the existence of
the rotating committee membership system can be explained
by the fact that "most of the deputies use their committee
appointments as a method of making contacts in the various
interest areas, insuring themselves a more fruitful law
13
practice in the future." This interpretation is untenable,
given the fact that only fifteen of the fifty-six deputies
in the term studied were lawyers, and eight of these did not
move from the committee to which they were originally
assigned in 1966.
The basic explanation for the rotation practiced during
the 1966-1970 period is that it was decided upon by the
majority party caucus at the beginning of the term. Two
reasons were given for this decision. The first was that it
was a way of preventing any one or a few deputies from being
saddled with a dull or insignificant committee assignment
for all four years of their term. Being assigned to the

179
lowest-ranked committee was referred to by the deputies as
being "assigned to Siberia." The second, and probably the
primary, reason for the rotation was that almost all of the
party deputies wished to be given the opportunity to serve
on the budgetary committee. This desire was motivated by
two considerations: (1) the deputies who serve on the
committee draw a higher salary because many extra sessions
are held by the committee when the ordinary budget or annual
budget is being studied, and (2) they have a better oppor
tunity to introduce special items of interest to their
communities into the budget. The necessity of satisfying
the desire to serve on this committee, or as one deputy put
it, to be assigned to the "Blue Coast," at least once during
the four-year term, helps to explain the fact that the
Budgetary Affairs Committee was the only committee in the
1968-1969 session which had no carryover members from any
of the previous sessions.
It is possible that the previous experience and exper
tise brought to the Assembly by the deputies might help to
make up for the apparent lack of specialization evidenced
in the data presented above. But an examination of Tables
6.3, 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6 indicates that this would not tend
to be the case.

130
TABLE 6.3
Age at Which Deputies First Became Interested in Politics
Prior
to age 13
17.0%
( 8)
13 to
18
36.2
(17)
19 to
23
27.7
(13)
After
age 23
19.1
( 9)
TABLE
6.4
When Deputies
First Became
Active
in Party Activities
1948 or before
50.0%
(24)
1953
33.3
(16)
1958
12.5
( 6)
1962
4.2
( 2)
1966
0
( 0)
TABLE 5.5
Primary
Levels of Party Activities of Deputies
Prior to Election
Cantonal
72.9%a (35)
Provincial
37.5 (18)
National
39.6 (19)
aN =20.
than 100% due
Sum of percentage figures equals greater
to multiple responses.

181
TABLE 6.6
Previous Positions Held by Deputies
Deputy in a previous term
30.0%a
(15)
Member of a board of directors
of an autonomous institution
18.0a
( 9)
Diplomatic position
R
O

r1
( 7)
Top-level post in a ministry,
other than minister
12.0a
( 6)
Ministerial post
6.0a
( 3)
Member of a municipal council
46.4b
(26)
aN = 50. Sum of percentage figures equals greater than
100% due to multiple responses.
bN = 56.
The deputies studied were undoubtedly politicized early
in life and had served extensive apprenticeship periods in
politics prior to election. A high 83.3 per cent (40) had
worked for their parties for at least fifteen years prior to
election and thus were far from being political novices when
14
elected. But the activity carried out by the deputies
prior to their election tended to have been at the local
rather than the provincial or national level. Though such a
finding tends to indicate that legislative representatives
elected to serve specific local constituencies are drawn
primarily from those who have worked within these, rather
than from political syncophants whose main qualification is
that of being able to contribute hefty sums to the party

182
coffers, or from national politicians with the support of
the party leadership, it does not indicate that a large
proportion of the deputies bring to the Assembly the type of
expertise which might be generated if there were more con
tinuity in the membership of the committees. However, there
is some indication that the deputies in general tend to have
acquired some decision-making experience as a result of the
previous positions that they have held. This experience might
indeed qualify them as specialists in certain issue areas,
but the very fact that they are moved from committee to
committee indicates that little is done to maximize the con
tribution that deputies could make in whatever areas of
expertise they have.
A second factor which tends to weaken the committee
system is that of the multiple career pattern of many depu
ties. This variable has been found to be operant in a
number of other legislative sub-systems and thus is not
particularly unique. Kelly describes its existence in
Venezuela in the following terms:
Another variable which influences the activity and
output levels of the Senate is what has been called
the Latin American tradition of multiple career
patterns. Evident to a greater or lesser extent in
most Latin American countries, the multiple career
pattern simply means that a man is likely to be, for
example, simultaneously a practicing lawyer, a poet,
and a politician, with several offices, dividing his
time between his three "professions." In the
Venezuelan Senate this is the rule rather than the
exception. In fact, a senator attains that office
because of his success in political-party, economic

183
or professional activity. His ability to remain as
a senator depends upon the support given to him by
his professional, economic, or political group ties
and the demands that these groups may make upon his
time.15
A similar pattern is reported by Singvi in his study of the
Indian Parliament.
Even with subsidized housing and a non-taxable daily
allowance, the average member has great difficulty
making financial ends meet. Thus, in terms of
material compensation, there is little if any incen
tive for professionals to become legislators. Many
of those that do, of necessity, cannot regard the
position as a full-time one. The necessity for supple
menting one's income frequently leads to large-scale
absenteeism. . Those who do attend cannot always
give their complete attention and interest to parlia
mentary work.l
In Costa Rica, however, the multiple career pattern
seems to be largely the product of the fact that deputies
may not be immediately re-elected, thus eliminating any
possibility of an extended legislative career. Though it is
no doubt true that some deputies continue to undertake pro
fessional or other activities once in the Assembly as a
means of supplementing their income, most do so primarily
because they cannot let their normal activities go unattended
since they will have to rely upon them as a source of income
once their term in office has come to an end. To ignore
this reality is to court long-run financial instability. One
former deputy and close observer of the legislative scene
in Costa Rica has stated that it is only the big businessmen
or industrialists, those who have established administrative
structures that can operate effectively in their absence,

184
who can go to the Assembly without a relative degree of
17
risk to their long-run financial well-being.
The fact that the multiple career pattern predominates
in the Costa Rican Assembly is evidenced by the fact that
66.1 per cent (37 out of 56) deputies held other positions
concurrently with their legislative posts during the period
of our study. And though the professionals among the
deputies were more prone to follow this pattern, with 76.0
per cent holding concurrent positions, non-professionals
were also highly disposed to do so, with 48.0 per cent
holding such positions. It is important that a sizeable,
proportion of the deputies, 30.0 per cent, held what would
normally be considered full-time positions. The medical
doctors continued to practice much the same as they had be
fore, possibly adjusting their hours to allow for attendance
at committee and floor sessions. Most lawyers continued to
practice as well. One was not only a practicing lawyer but
Dean of the Law School and deputy as well.
Moonlighting is not an uncommon practice in Costa Rica.
It is not unusual to find professionalsf for example, who
hold down three or more half-time jobs at the same time.
Thus it comes as no surprise that this practice should be
reflected in the Legislative Assembly as well. In this
sense, if in few others, the deputies are truly representa
tive. But the implications of this phenomenon, inside or
outside of the Assembly, are the same. It is difficult to
give adequate attention to any one job.

185
Observation of committee sessions cannot help giving
one the impression that Costa Rican deputies are not particu
larly well informed. Few committee members have even
looked at the text of a bill before it is opened for debate
in committee session. And even when a bill has been under
debate for several sessions, one gets the distinct impres
sion that few deputies have given the bill much thought or
study from one session to the next. This circumstance
might not be so significant were it not coupled with a third
weakening factor.
Costa Rican committees have no research staff at their
disposal. The staff of each is limited to one secretary,
who is in charge of taking care of minor administrative
details and typing up the minutes of each session. Further
more, Costa Rica lacks even the most basic legal research
tools. There is no codified version of Costa Rican law;
and, in fact, there is not even an adequate index to this
body of law. Consequently, the legislator frequently is
unaware of the effect which a bill may have on previous
legislation. The situation has led to the anomalous practice
of the tacit repeal of legislation. A clause is tacked
onto many laws which states that they repeal any previous
legislation contrary to them. Thus it is at times almost
impossible to determine what laws are in force and which are
not. In fact, this situation has led, in at least one
case, to the repeal of the same lav; on four separate occa
sions .

186
The lack of expertise, the concurrent holding of
several positions and the lack of adequate research instru
ments, as well as of a research staff, means that frequently
the information provided by interested parties in appearances
before the committees is not checked out against information
from independent and/or unbiased sources. Even in those
cases where such information is requested, it is all too
frequently found that replies from independent external
sources are either much delayed or are simply never received.
The disadvantage of this situation becomes particularly
marked when the committees are dealing with bills of interest
to the executive power. Without any question, the control
of information that can be exercised by the executive places
it in a highly advantageous position vis-a-vis ^the legis
lature. The Assembly, through its committees, may make
effective demand of most information of interest to it
known to be held by the executive; but in Costa Rica, as
elsewhere, this power is not equivalent to that of holding
the information.
The one factor that made committee consideration of
bills relatively meaningful was the fact that within each
committee there were two or three individuals at any given
time who could bring a certain amount of expertise to bear
upon matters before the committee and who also tended to
carry out a certain amount of research on such matters.
These individuals led most, of the substantive discussion.

187
They not only expressed their views in respect to given
questions but identified most of the pertinent questions to
be raised as well. And although it was the eleven or
twelve members of the committee who resolved the questions
by vote, they did so under the guidance of a few who were
relatively well versed in the general or specific subject
matter at hand. These few deputies in each committee were
predominant in influencing the decisions of the committees
and in providing at least a modicum of sophisticated evalua
tion to committee deliberations.
The responses of the deputies to the question "Which
members of your committee do you consider to be subject-
matter experts?" tend to support the description provided
above. There was a high degree of consensus on the indivi
duals mentioned by the members of each committee. Mentioned
in each case was the chairman of each committee, the person
on whom major responsibility for guidance falls.
Without any doubt, the committee chairmen are the key
figures within the committee system. This is true not only
because they have certain powers associated with their
positions, such as that of establishing the agenda for
extraordinary sessions, but also because the other deputies
tend to rely upon them heavily. For example, when asked
to describe the perceived role of the committee chairmen,
the deputies mentioned not only such things as directing
debate with equanimity and seeking to expedite the study

188
of bills in committee, but a large portion of them, regard
less of party, also indicated that chairmen should provide
direction to debate, acquire and provide other deputies
with all information relevant to a bill, and that they were
the ones who should study bills in greatest detail. The
following response of one deputy is characteristic of the
reliance placed upon the committee chairmen: "He should be
aware of the good and bad points of each project so as to
make the other committee members aware of them. It is
interesting that this response came from one of the anti-PLN
deputies who belonged to a committee chaired by a PLN deputy
One committee chairman indicated that the members of his
committee expected him to provide them with a description
and analysis of the content of each bill when it came up for
debate and that they also expected him to provide them with
guidance in respect to the implications of data presented
in the process of consideration of- a bill. At times he
withheld such direction, and the result is reported to have
been an inability of the committee to come to grips effec
tively with the bill in question if it was other than a
19
purely routine matter. Though this report may be slightly
biased, it is most certainly true that committee decisions
on other than routine bills are largely based upon tutorial
behavior of this type on the part of the chairmen and the
reduced group of deputies identified as subject-matter
experts by their fellow committee members.

189
The type of behavior and expectations described pre
viously clearly lead to the conclusion that committee
chairmen are in a unique position to affect decision-making
within the committee context. This position is further
bolstered by their ability to make use of their formal and
informal discretionary powers. The responses of the deputies
indicated that committee chairmen may exercise these powers
toward two ends.
The first end is that of accelerating or slowing down
consideration of a bill. There are numerous ways in which
a chairman may act in order to achieve either of these re
sults. The most important and prevalent tactics used are
those of including or excluding bills from the agenda of
extraordinary committee sessions, adjourning or failing to
adjourn sessions at propitious or unpropitious moments for
a given bill, and expediting or failing to expedite requests
for the opinions of autonomous or other state bodies when
seeking such opinions is required by lav/. This last tactic
is most frequently used to delay a bill and involves the
failure of the chairman to take the initiative in seeking
these opinions, i.e., waiting until somebody else on the
committee makes the request that the consultation be under
taken. The chairman may also delay a bill substantially by
undertaking consultations which may not be required. Since
consultations are usually made of institutions which do not
respond in an expeditious fashion, each added opinion sought

190
tends to delay the processing of a bill by one or more months.
This tactic, of course, may be used by any committee member,
but the chairman has the marked advantage of choosing to
subject a bill to a vote or not to do so in the absence of
unrequired information of peripheral importance.
The committee chairmen may also utilize their powers
toward the end of seeking the favorable or negative outcome
of a bill. Most frequently such ends are sought in one of
three ways. The fact that the chairmen usually are expected
to set up the specific public hearings on a bill, if in
fact any are to be held, means that they can load such hear
ings with interested parties who favor their position on the
bill. They may also choose to seek written opinions from
sources which they know will be favorably or negatively
disposed. And they may bring a bill to a vote at the most
propitious time for its acceptance or rejection. These
powers may be exercised in respect to amendments to a bill
as well as to the final bill as it is to be reported out
of committee. Yet it must be noted that with the exception
of the timing of a vote, all members of the committee are
in a position to follow similar tactics. The fact is that
few choose to do so. As a result, the predominant influence
of the committee ehai.rmen is at least partially due to the
absence of initiative on the part of the majority of committee
members.

191
Despite the weaknesses inherent in the committee system
of Costa Rica that have been pointed out, this system is
still a highly significant one. This is no purely formalis
tic committee system. As can be determined from Table 1.3
in Chapter I, 33.6 per cent of those bills studied by
... 20
Mijeski were found to have been modified m their substance
in committee. And given the fact that 82.6 per cent of the
bills reported out of committee were passed on the floor as
reported by committee, it is apparent that the committees
not only do exercise more than a formal decision-making
function but also that their decisions are seldom challenged
on the floor. It is also to be noted that committees can
have a significant impact on the time priorities given to
legislative bills. Denton reports that "bills are studied
by one ... of the principal Assembly standing committees
for approximately one week and are then reported back [to
21
the floor]." This report is not only fallacious but tends
to underestimate the significance of the power of the commit
tee to affect the priorities to be given to bills. As
Table 6.7 shows, the amount of time taken to report bills
out of committee was found to fluctuate substantially.
Given this type of spread, it is apparent that the committees
do play a role in setting priorities. This power is, in
fact, even more prevalent than the table indicates as it was
found that of the 587 bills at various stages of processing
during the period studied, 337 of these, or 57.4 per cent,

192
to the best of our knowledge had not been reported out of
committee. And, though it was not determined how long these
had been in committee, it appeared that the vast majority
had been awaiting committee processing for well over a month.
TABLE 6.7
Time Transpired Between Submission of Bills to
Committee and Issuance of Committee Reports
Length of Time Percentage of Bills*
Less than 1 month 27.9
More than 1 month but less than
3 months 31.0
More than 3 months but less than
6 months 18.6
More than 6 months but less than
9 months 9.9
More than 9 months but less than
12 months 5.6
More than 12 months 6.8
*Sum of percentages equals less than 100% due to round
ing procedures.
The Floor
Prior to the introduction of the reforms of 1962, much
of the effective decision-making and debate on bills seems
to have been carried out on the floor. With the modification
of the committee system, however, it would be reasonable to
assume that the role of debate on the floor in decision
making would, come much closer to approximating the situations

193
which prevail in strong committee legislatures in which
floor behavior is a means of legitimating decisions already
reached within the committee structures and of fulfilling
other non-decisional functions.
Debate on the floor is prescribed by the following
procedural stipulations. Bills reported out of committee are
placed at the bottom of the floor agenda two days after the
relevant reports have been published in the Gaceta. As in
the case of the committees, on the floor bills are handled
according to their order of appearance on the agenda, unless
the deputies agree to consider a bill in preferential fashion
this action requires a two-thirds majority vote of those
present. Bills are frequently relegated to extremely long
delays unless such preferential treatment is requested and
obtained for the first of the three debates required to
enact them.
The constitution and the by-laws of the Assembly estab-*
22
lish that all bills should receive three separate debates.
Each debate must be held on a separate day. The first debate
is for the discussion of the substance of the bill and for
the introduction of amendments to the text reported out of
committee. Amendment motions which have been rejected in
committee may be reconsidered in first debate and need only
receive a majority vote to be adopted. Though passage of
other amendment motions also requires a majority vote, these
amendments must be cleared for discussion by approval of a

194
procedural motion requiring a two-thirds vote. In recent
years, the presiding officers of the Assembly have resorted
to a special procedural step in order to overcome the
problem of having to deal with an endless number of amend
ment motions to the same bill. Special sub-committees have
been formed in order to consider the motions presented.
Within a specified period of time they submit a report which
recommends the approval of all, some, or none of the motions
presented. And it is this report rather than each individ
ual. motion that is discussed and voted upon in first debate
Once the original or modified text of the bill has
been approved in first debate, amendment motions related to
the substance of the bill may be considered only after a
two-thirds majority approval of a procedural motion request
ing that the bill be returned to first debate. If a
favorable report on a bill is rejected in first debate, the
I
bill is assigned to a new committee by the president of the
Assembly, unless it has been rejected in first debate before
in which case it is defeated. If a negative report is
approved in first debate, the bill is also defeated. In
either case the bill may not be reintroduced until the
beginning of the following legislative calendar year. If a
favorable report is accepted, the bill goes on to second
debate.
The second-debate period allows for general discussions
to be held in respect to the form or wording, rather than

195
the substance of a bill. Debate during this period is
extremely unusual. If a favorable vote is cast, the bill is
assigned to a third debate. If it is rejected, the bill
is defeated. No one interviewed could recall an instance of
a negative vote in second debate during the 1966-1970 period
The third debate is for the general discussion of the
favorable and negative aspects of the final text of the bill
Once discussion of the final text of the bill is exhausted,
a final vote is taken unless a motion is presented to return
23
the bill to first debate or to committee. If the bill is
rejected, it runs the same fate as if rejected in second
debate. If approved, it is submitted to the executive for
*
its final sanction. The executive is obligated to approve
or veto a bill within ten working days from the time that
it is received from the Legislative Assembly. All votes in
the Assembly are standing votes unless a request is made
for a roll-call vote (voto nominal) and this is approved '
by a majority vote. Roll-call votes are not frequent, and,
when they are requested, it is usually for political pur
poses or to demonstrate symbolic unity of the Assembly in
passing a given bill.
The participation of each deputy in the various debates
on a bill is supposedly limited to a total of four thirty-
minute interventions. However, each intervention may be
extended for additional periods of equal duration upon the
presentation and acceptance of a procedural motion. This

196
means that each deputy may address himself to a bill on
four separate occasions for a virtually unlimited period
of time. Motions to extend a speaker's allotted half-hour
time are seldom voted down. During these periods the
speaker is supposed to limit his statements to the subject
at hand, and it is up to the president of the Assembly to
exercise his discretion in calling a deputy to order. The
judgment is a difficult one to make and implement without
arousing a substantial amount of antagonism on the part of
the other deputies. Consequently, few deputies are ever
called to order for making extraneous comments. The same
procedures apply to the discussion of motions related to
non-statutory matters which may be presented under the daily
i
floor agenda chapters of "correspondence," "matters of
urgency," or "miscellaneous propositions." Such propositions
may range from calling for a special investigation to non
binding requests that the executive branch or the antonomous
institutions proceed in certain ways or that the Assembly
agree to censure actions taken within or outside the country.
The fact that bills are debated on the floor on three
separate occasions would suggest that great emphasis is
placed upon the detailed discussion of the strengths and
weaknesses of bills. The length of some debates on the floor
would, in fact, tend to strengthen this impression which is
further enforced by previous observations that "issues are
sharply debated"^ in the Assembly.- It is thus tempting to

197
assume that the floor procedure has a substantial impact
upon the final action taken upon bills. Careful observa
tion of floor sessions and a detailed analysis of the daily
records of these, however, raise serious doubts about such
an assumption.
If the floor process were indeed one in which issues
or bills were "sharply debated" or in which bills were dis
cussed in detail, most bills would be the objects of such
discussion. Yet the data of this study indicate that in
the seven-month period studied, 53.0 per cent of the bills
that were fully processed were voted upon in each of the
25
three debates without any discussion whatsoever. Discus
sion was limited to one participant in the case of 45.9 per
cent of those bills which did receive some discussion. If
debate were to be defined in terms of the participation of
two or more discussants, then 74.4 per cent of those bills
processed were not subjected to debate on the floor of the
Assembly. If debate were to be operationalized in terms of
controversy, it would be found that 82.5 per cent of the
6
bills were non-controversial.Finally, if the significance
of the floor procedure were to be judged on the basis of
the extent to which bills are modified on the floor, it would
have to be concluded that the significance of the floor is
quite reduced, given the fact that only 15.3 per cent of the
27
bills were so treated.' If the floor process is analyzed m
terms of the total number of bills which were affected in any

198
way other than outright approval, we find that only 20.3
2 8
per cent of the bills were so affected.
In Costa Rica the back-log on the floor agenda serves
to accentuate a slow process which starts at the committee
level, where it was found that 41.0 per cent of the bills
were held up for more than three months, with as many as
22.4 per cent being delayed for between six months and a
year or more. At the floor level 42.8 per cent of the bills
reported out of committee and processed in the period studied
sat on the floor agenda for anywhere from three to eighteen
months before being acted upon. The magnitude of the com
bined delays is evidenced by the fact that of those bills
that had received final action on the floor, 58.0 per cent
required anywhere from three months to more than two years
to be fully processed, with 27.4 per cent requiring nine or
more months and 17.8 per cent more than a year. The
problem becomes even clearer if it is observed that of the
remaining bills, those that were not fully processed at the
time that the research was terminated, 68.2 per cent had
been in the Assembly for at least three months with 29.1 per
cent having been in process at least nine months and 28.2
per cent more than a year. With this type of record, it
becomes apparent that bicameralism would come close to
paralyzing the government apparatus in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rican Assembly does not have an equivalent to
the Rules Committee of the United Stcites House of Representa
tives, nor does the majority leadership enjoy scheduling

199
powers as is true in the United States Senate, nor does it
I
have special days allotted to discussion of certain types
of bills. This absence has led to the generation of an in
formal type of decision-making on the floor in respect to
the granting of bill priorities. Such priority is granted by
a number of procedural measures which must be supported by
a majority of a thirty-eight vote on the floor. The impor
tance of these procedures is well illustrated by the fact
.
!
that, during the period studied, no less than 48.0 per cent
of the bills which received final action were covered by one
or more of the various procedural expediting mechanisms
available. Some bills which were not aided by procedural
motions were not fully processed for more than two years
i
and, in some cases, never did reach third debate.
Several procedural tactics are used to expedite the
processing of bills. The first of these, and by far the most
drastic, is to request that a bill be debated immediately on
I
the floor without being submitted to committee scrutiny. Of
the bills processed during the period of study, 15.0 per
cent were granted this procedure. Another 8.4 per cent of
the bills were processed on the floor prior to the issuance
j
of a committee report and 6.0 per cent after issuance of
specific instructions from th floor that a bill be reported
out of committee in a specified time period. In all three
!
cases a minimum of thirty-eight votes was required on the
floor in order to proceed in |:hese ways, as such a vote is
i
required whenever the normal requirements of the by-laws are
to be varied.

200
The expediting effect of such procedures is clearly
illustrated in the table that follows.
TABLE 6.3
Comparison of the Total Time Required to Process Bills
Granted Committee-Related Procedural Exemptions
and Those Bills That Were Not Granted
Such Exemptions
Proportion of Proportion of
Exempted Non-Exempted
Period of Time Required Bills Processed Bills Processed
for Full Processing in Period in Period
Less than 1 month
63.4%
(45)
2.5%
( 4)
More than 1 but less
than 3 months
19.7
(14)
18.1
(29)
More than 3 but less
than 6 months
5.6
( 4)
26.9
(43)
More than 6 but less
than 9 months
1.4
( 1)
11.9
(19)
More than 9 but less
than 12 months
2.8
( 2)
11.9
(19)
More than 12 but less
than 18 months
0
( 0)
14.4
(23)
More than 18 but less
than 24 months
0
( 0)
4.4
( 7)
More than 24 months
0
( 0)
5.6
( 9)
Lack data
7.0
( 5)
4.4
( 7)
Sum of percentages does not equal 100% due to rounding
procedures.
The distributions speak for themselves, although it might be
noted for further illustrative purposes that whereas 83.1
per cent of those bills receiving committee-related

201
procedural exemptions were processed in less than three
months, only 23.6 per cent of those bills which were not
so exempted were processed in a similar time period.
Given the significance which has been attributed to the
committee process, it is important that 24.4 per cent of
those bills which were processed on the floor by-passed
committee consideration partially or entirely. This raises
an important question. To what extent do such procedures
29
undermine the position of the committees? It would appear
that the majority of bills that are dealt with in this
fashion are relatively simple and non-controversial, though
there are exceptions to this rule. The fact that a two-
thirds vote is required to proceed in this manner would tend
to support this impression.
The second, and without question the most frequent,
expediting procedure is that of v/aiving the requirement that
all bills must be dealt with in the order that they appear
on the floor agendasuch order being determined by the date
that the committee report was published in the Gaceta. In
order to attain preferential treatment of a bill, any deputy
or group of deputies can present a motion requesting that one
or more bills be discussed prior to all other bills on the
agenda. If thirty-eight deputies vote the motion favorably,
the regular requirements are waived and preferential treat
ment is granted. The frequent usage of this procedure is
illustrated by the fact that 84 per cent of those bills which

202
were acted upon on the floor were covered by such procedural
floor motions. As might have been expected, all of the bills
granted waivers of committee processing were also granted
waivers on the floor. The effect of the floor expediting
procedure is illustrated in Table 6.9. It is evident that as
a group bills exempted on the floor tend to be processed more
rapidly in large part because many of these have previously
been waived at the committee level. But there is no ques
tion that the impact of waivers on the floor is substantial
even if not accompanied by previous committee waivers. In
order to support this conclusion one need only note that
whereas 57.7 per cent of the bills waived on the floor only
were processed in less than six months, only 8.8 per cent of
those receiving no waiver were processed in a similar time
lapse.
During the period studied, decisions related to the
preferential treatment of bills were found to be the subject
of discussions and buttonholing among all of the deputies. In
fact, the figures would suggest that unless one is resigned
to a long wait for passage of a bill of interest, it is
necessary to attain this type of treatment for the bill.
Floor exemption motions took two forms. In the first case,
preferential treatment wa.s requested for individual bills;
68.4 per cent of the bills waived at the floor stage of
processing were covered by motions of this type. In the
second case, accounting for 31.6 per cent of these bills,
preferential treatment was requested for a group of bills.

TABLE 6.9
Comparison of the Total Time Required to Process Bills Granted Procedural Exemptions
Related to Floor Proceedings and Those Bills That Were Not Granted Such Exemptions
Period of Time
Required to
Proportion of
Floor Exempted
Bills Processed
Proportion of
Floor Exempted
Bills Processed
In Time Period
Excluding Bills
Granted Committee
Proportion of
Non-Exempted
Bills Processed
Ftilly Process
in Time
Period
Exemptions as Well
in Time Period
Lass than 1 month
24.9%
(49)
3.1%
( 4)
0 %
( 0)
More than 1 but less than
3 months
20.8
(41)
21.3
(27)
5.9
( 2)
More than 3 but less than
6 months
23.3
(46)
33.1
(42)
2.9
( 1)
More than 6 but less than
9 months
9.1
(18)
13.4
(17)
5.9
( 2) '
More than 9 but less than
12 months
8.6
(17)
11.8
(15)
11.8
( 4)
More than 12 but less than
IS months
3.0
( 6)
4.7
( 6)
50.0
(17)
More than .18 but less than
24 months
2.5
( 5)
3.9
( 5)
5.9
( 2)
More than 24 months
2.5
( 5)
3.9
( 5)
11.8
( 4)
Lack data
5.1
(10)
4.7
( 6)
5.9 >
( 2) ;
\
Sum of percent?iges not equal
to 100%
due to
rounding procedures.
203

204
In this case, a motion was presented covering a group of
non-controversial bills, referred to commonly as a mocin
paquete. It was found that one such motion covered as many
as forty bills awaiting first debate. The original motion
had included far fewer bills, but the long list of bills
awaiting first debate at the time led to a bargaining process
among the deputies which required adding almost all of the
non-controversial bills in order to assure supporting votes
for the motion.
Mociones paquete are initiated by individual deputies
rather than by the fracciones, although they are frequently
cleared with the majority and minority-party jefes. The
lack of party initiative in such matters is explained by
the fact that bills of specific party interest are more apt
to be controversial and thus are not likely to be included
in such motions. Individual deputies tended to initiate
them because most of the bills of specific interest to their
constituents were non-controversial. Their interest in
these motions is explained by the fact that their bills were
frequently held back by heated debate on controversial bills
which, in fact, tended to freeze progress on the agenda. The
way to keep such items from paralyzing the output of the
Assembly was to present a mocin paquete which at least
allowed the non-controversial bills to get through.
These means of expediting bills on the floor did not,
however, work all the time. There were cases in which for

205
one reason or another, e.g., political interest or urgency,
controversial bills were granted preferential treatment
which meant that not only was the regular agenda frozen but
also that the bills listed for preferential treatment were
as well.
It is tempting to conclude that most decision-making on
the floor is related to procedural motions which determine
whether or not a bill should be dealt with in a preferential
fashion. Yet there is more to behavior on the floor than
jockeying for preferential treatment and delivering
boring, long-winded speeches; though there is that too. The
leaders of the fracciones and deputies interested in a given
bill must be alert and ready to move rapidly to i-esolve any
last minute problems that may arise on the floor. Con
versations in the session hall and in the cafeteria can be
critical elements of a successful strategy to favor the
passage or defeat of some bills. External interested parties
will, at times, make last-ditch attempts to generate support
or opposition to bills at this stage and will buttonhole
deputies as they leave the session hall for a breath of
fresh air or as they are brought out by other cooperative
deputies. In general, it can be said that there is a
potential for trouble on the floor, and interested deputies
must keep taking the pulse of the Assembly in order to
foresee unexpected developments, or, as the soccer-loving
Costa Ricans would put it, to avoid a score by the other team.

206
It was found that 15.3 per cent of those bills which
were discussed on the floor were amended there; in the case
of an additional 2.1 per cent of the bills unsuccessful
attempts were made to this effect; and 3.8 per cent of the
bills were returned to committee. It is true that these
cases are the exception rather than the rule, but they are
nevertheless present. Thus it can be stated that, though in
the vast majority of cases floor debate has little to do
with the outcome of bills, the floor procedure cannot be
discarded as purely formal in nature.
Perhaps it is just as well that the main activity of the
floor is a priority-setting activity with only occasional
substantive alteration of bills. The nature of much sub
stantive debate on the floor is even less impressive than
debate or discussions in committee. If committee considera
tion is frequently characterized by a lack of any in-depth
study, debates on the floor are even more impressionistic.
In 1958, one deputy stated the following in closing an
argument on the floor:
Nobody has tried to demonstrate with figures, facts
or specific examples that it is really useless to
apply [the method that I have recommended]....
The discussion has instead been based upon pure
assumptions, upon simple generalizations, more
generalizations and then again more generalizations.
But I have not yet heard a solid argument based upon
quantitative proof . from those colleagues who
are attacking . the amendment that I have presen
ted 30
It is not unlikely that the speaker in question had also
failed to assume the burden of proof. Things have not

207
changed in this sense since 1958. One deputy in the 1970-
1974 Assembly has summarised the prevalent situation as
follows:
Here we legislate on the basis of hunches. ... It is
extremely unusual to find debates within the Assembly
in which conflicting points of view are supported by
relevant facts and figures which would allow one to
reach well-founded decisions; that is, we legislate on
the basis of hypotheses.31
Decisional Cues
Though controversy on the floor is not the rule and
though decisions seem to be based upon committee, recommenda
tions in a large proportion of cases, bill-related controversy
and modifications on the floor do take place from time to
time. What then determines the decisions of deputies in
these cases? Are such decisions based upon individual cri
teria and specific knowledge of the issues in question? This
may be true in a few isolated situations, but on the whole it
would appear that in most cases the majority of the deputies
are not familiarized with the bills that reach the floor.
Few make any real effort to study such bills before casting
their vote. This fact was well evidenced, though in some
what extreme terms, early in the period of research when two
deputies were observed locked in a heated debate over the
feasibility of modifying a bill in a given way. The debate
dragged out over several days, and the modification in
question was eventually approved. Yet an examination carried
out by the author of ail relevant documents indicated that

208
'\
anybody familiar with these could have shown that the modifi
cation that was approved went against the specific terms of
a foreign grant agreement involved. It was quite apparent
that nobody, the debating deputies included, had bothered to
look into the issue in any detail.
Individual decision-making on the part of legislators
in the absence of specific knowledge of the bills under
debate is not, however, unique to Costa Rica. John Saloma,
for example, suggests that it is virtually impossible for
legislators in the United States to be well enough informed
on every specific issue that comes before them to be able to
reach decisions on the basis of personal knowledge. He
indicates that, instead, legislators utilize a series of
simplifying devices in decision-making.
Considering the range of policy issues on which con
gressmen must act and the heavy pressures on their
time, the national legislator faces problems of infor
mation processing as acute as any other individual in
the political system except for the Chief Executive.
Not surprisingly, a variety of simplifying devices are
utilized: following the party leadership, deferring
to the judgment of the responsible committee, voting
with the state delegation, consulting members who
are experts on the subject under consideration.32
Such a statement would also be applicable to the Costa Rican
Legislative Assembly.
The questionnaire utilized asked the deputies to indi
cate the priority that they attributed to a series of con
siderations in reaching decisions on bills. Each decisional
premise could be ranked in four ways, ranging from high to

209
no priority. For the purposes of this section, these have
been collapsed into a high and a Low category. The rank
ordering of these premises, according to the proportion of
deputies that ranked each in the high category, is shown
below.
TABLE 6.10
Rank Ordering of Decisional Premises
Premise
Proportion of Deputies
Responding Who Placed
Premise in "HIGH"
Priority Category
1)
Personal criteria or opinion
26/26
2)
Opinions of subject-matter
experts
21/26
3)
Position of national party
directorates
19/26
4)
Position of fraccin
19/26
5)
Position of constituency
19/26
6)
Committee reports
17/26
7)
Political benefits
15/26
3)
Public opinion
14/26
9)
Political liabilities
13/26
10)
Bill presented by a party
deputy
13/26
ID
Opinion of organized groups
11/26
12)
Executive-sponsored bill
8/26
13)
Bill presented by an opposi-
tion deputy
5/26
14)
Editorial opposition in
newspapers
2/26
15)
Editorial support in
newspapers
1/26
The fact that Costa Rican deputies, as noted previously,
tend to depict themselves as individuals who act indepen
dently of any and all pressures is clearly demonstrated by

210
the top-ranked decisional premise "personal criteria or
opinion." But there is a vast difference between reported
and observed behavior in respect to this premise. It would
be highly misleading not to indicate that these responses
would seem to reflect widespread resentment among deputies
over the fact that they are frequently depicted by others as
manipulated puppets. Such a description does indeed dis
tort reality, but there is good reason to believe that in
most cases deputies reach decisions on the basis of cues
other than those provided them by their personal evaluation
of the issues in question. For example, reliance upon the
opinions of subject-matter experts in the Assembly was found
to be highly relevant to decision-making both in terms of
observed and reported behavior. This finding will merit
detailed consideration in the following section of this
chapter.
The remaining premises which were ranked as being of
high priority by more than half of the responding deputies
include the positions taken by national party directorates,
the fracciones and constituencies as well as public opinion,
committee reports, and political benefits. The significance
or impact of these should, however, be placed in proper
perspective. In the case of the positions taken by the
national party directorates and the fracciones, it should be
recalled that the relative infrequency of these is such as
to limit their overall quantitative significance. The

211
importance of constituency views is also limited by the
fact that constituents seldom have any opinion about, and
are most often not the least bit interested in, the bills
that are before the Assembly. Public opinion is clearly an
elusive decisional premise as it is most difficult to
evaluate public opinion on most issues. In this context,
it is highly significant to note that newspaper editorials
are apparently not equated with this decisional premise, as
editorial support and opposition are ranked last among all
of the premises listed. Finally, it should be noted that it
is surprising that the committee-report premise is not ranked
higher, as the data presented earlier in this chapter suggest
that this is the decisional premise relied upon most frequently.
This apparent contradiction between observed and reported
behavior probably reflects the view that, whereas committee
reports are important, in certain situations other decisional
considerations tend to prevail.
Observation of floor behavior and informal conversations
with the deputies indicate that, in those cases where commit
tee reports are not relied upon exclusively, the most
significant decisional cues tend to emanate from a reduced
group of deputies who are perceived by others as having some
degree of expertise. This impression is clearly supported
by the data collected. Yet it is not only at the floor level
that this phenomenon is found. It should be recalled that
a similar pattern was identified in the case of decisional

212
behavior at the fraccin and b'ommittee levels. This reliance
upon a reduced group of legislators is not unlike that re
ported by William Keefe in the case of American state legis
latures when he states that
Some members by choice, and others by incapacity,
leave the critical responsibilities of the legis
lature to an active minority willing to invest its
expertise and other resources managing the legisla
tive process.33
The impact that these influential deputies would seem to
have upon legislative decision-making warrants some atten
tion being given to their characteristics.
The Influentials
In the interviews carried out, each deputy was asked if
there were some deputies whose views were highly respected
and taken into account more so than those of others in each
of the following contexts: (1) within the party caucus,
(3) across party lines, (3) in committee, and (4) on the floor.
It is significant that in each case there was not only a
general consensus as to who these individuals were but also
a high degree of overlap from one context to another. The
degree of consensus and overlap found is illustrated by the
fact that only seventeen deputies were identified by more
than two deputies in at least two of the mentioned contexts
and that only six other deputies were so identified in only
one of the four contexts. For the purposes of this study, the
deputies who have been identified as influential are those
seventeen deputies who met the first operational definition.

213
In providing the profile of this group two interrelated
factors will be focused upon. First, it will be determined
whether the members of this group tend to be drawn pre
dominantly from those having certain specific attributes,
e.g., whether they tend to be drawn from university graduates
as opposed to those with lesser education, or whether they
tend to be drawn from those with previous legislative ex
perience more so than from those without such experience.
Then it will be established whether these attributes are
unique to the influential group of deputies or are simply a
reflection of the predominant attributes of the totality of
deputies.
Given the existence of a group of decisionally influen
tial deputies and the heavy emphasis which has been placed
by some upon partisan influence in the behavior of deputies,
it would seem logical to posit that one will find a tendency
on the part of party deputies to look to members of their
own ranks for direction in decision-making. Since 52 per
cent of the deputies interviewed were from the PLN and 48
per cent were from the anti-PLN parties, if this proposition
were true, it would be expected that this proportional break
down would be approximately replicated in the case of the
party affiliation of the influentials. But this is not the
case. As is indicated in Table 6.11, the group of influentials
was made up of a much larger proportion of PLN than of anti-
PLN deputies (64.7 per cent as opposed to 35.3 per cent).

214
TABLE 6.11
Party Affiliation of Influential and Non-Influential Deputies
Influence
PLN
Anti-PLN
Total
Influential
(42.3)
11
(64.7)
(25.0) 6 (35.3)
17
Non-influential
(57.7)
15
(45.5)
(75.0) 18 (54.5)
33;
Total
26
24
50
In the case of the non-influentials, this relationship is
reversed, though of a lesser magnitude. These differences are
explained by the fact that, though the PLN respondents did
tend to favor identification of influentials from their own
ranks, the anti-PLN deputies tended to identify more PLN than
anti-PLN deputies as influential. It might be argued that
influence is obviously related to the majority or minority
status of a legislative party,as this will naturally affect
the degree of power that each can exercise. But it should be
remembered that the "influential" deputies were identified
not by asking who the powerful deputies were but rather by
having each respondent identify those deputies whose opinions
were most highly respected and taken into account by him.
It would thus appear that PLN predominance among the influ
entials was due to the recruitment and election of a larger
number of deputies who are capable of earning the confidence
and/or respect of their colleagues.

215
But far more interesting and surprising is the rela
tionship that exists between the influential and non-influen-
tial deputy groups and the variables of previous legislative
experience and education. An examination of the distribu
tion of deputies with previous legislative experience
(hereafter, referred to as experienced) and those with no
previous legislative experience (hereafter referred to as
inexperienced) among the influentials and non-influentials
leads to several interesting conclusions.
TABLE 6.12
Previous Legislative Experience of Influential and
Non-Influential Deputies
Influence
Previous
Legislative
Experience
No Previous
Legislative
Experience
Total
Influential
(64.3) 9 (52.9)
(22.2) 8 (47.1)
17
Non-influential
(3 5.7) _J5 (15.2)
(77.8) 2£ (84.8)
33
Total
14
36
50
As shown in the table above, though experienced deputies only
outnumbered the inexperienced among the influentials by a
small margin, there is a sharp difference along these lines
in the case of the non-inf luentials. As most non^-inf luential
deputies were drawn from the ranks of the inexperienced (84.8
per cent proved to be inexperienced), it is not surprising
that they should have relied upon the influentials, who as
a group could draw upon far more experience. Previous

216
experience was by no means a necessary requisite for in
fluential, yet it is highly significant that approximately
two-thirds (64.3 per cent) of the deputies with previous
experience were included in the influential group. From
the above could be drawn a most surprising conclusion. It
would indeed appear that, despite prior indications that
little value is placed upon the acquisition of expertise, a
modified seniority system may be present in the Costa Rican
Assembly.
The high degree of association between university
education and influential status would also seem to indicate
that the members of the Assembly do value expertise.
TABLE 6.13
Educational Level Attained by Influential and
Non-Influentiai
Deputies
Not
University
University
Influence
Graduate
Graduate
Total
Influential
(38.9) 14 (83.4)
(11.5) 3 (17.6)
17
Non-influentiai
(61.1) 10 (30.3)
(82 .4) 23 (79.7)
33
Total
24
26
50
As can be seen in Table 6.13, influentials tended to be drawn
almost exclusively from the deputies who had attained a
university degree. Non-influentials on the other hand,
tended to be drawn largely from those without such an

217
education. As in the case of previous legislative experience,
it is not difficult to imagine why the non-influentials
would rely upon the influentials given the low group educa
tional level of the former and the high level of the latter.
If examined in conjunction, the variables in question are of
even higher explanatory power.
TABLE 6.14
Previous Legislative Experience and Education of
Influential and Non-Influential Deputies
Previous
Experience
No Previous Experience
Influence
Degree
Non-Degree
Degree Non-Degree
Influentials
7
2
7 1
Non-influentials 1
4
9 19
Close examination of the table will help to uncover a
number of interesting relationships. First, it was indicated
previously that a high proportion (64.3 per cent) of the
deputies with previous experience fell into the influential
group. But why do some who have previous experience fail to
be included among the influentials? The answer seems to lie
in their lack of a formal university education, as all but one
of those not included were non-degree holders. It becomes
apparent that previous experience combined with a university
degree is almost an ironclad guarantee of influential status.
In fact, the only deputy who did not fall into the

218
influential category, even though he met both of these quali
fications, wa^ a man with a degree in pharmacy who had not
even practiced his profession in the interim period of four
years between his first and second terms of office,but rather
had accepted a consular post abroad. The two influential
deputies who had previous experience but no degree also
proved to be highly exceptional cases. One of them had
served as Minister of Industry and Commerce in the interim
period between his first and second term in office. The
other was the son of a highly respected Costa Rican intellec
tual, who chose not to continue his education beyond the high
school (bachillerato) level due to a desire to embark upon
entrepreneurial activities, and who had done so quite effec
tively.
Unfortunately, the research carried out failed to
uncover the detailed knowledge required to explain why seven
degree holders with no previous experience were included in
the influential group whereas the other nine with similar
backgrounds were not. The same is the case of the lone
influential who had neither previous experience nor a univer
sity degree. Yet the strength of the relationship between
the influential deputies and previous experience and educa
tion is unquestionable. In isolation and in combination,
they account for no less than sixteen of the seventeen
deputies in the influential group, i.e., 94.1 per cent.
Though the status of these deputies may well be based upon

219
several other factors, e.g., leadership ability or political
influence, there can be no question that the influence of
deputies within the Legislative Assembly is based to a large
extent upon academic training and the scarce resource of
legislative expertise gained through previous legislative
experience.
Summary and Conclusions
The formal and informal practices evidenced in the
legislative decision-making process of the Legislative Assembly
clearly contradict the popular belief that one has "seen a
legislature in action" if one has observed debate on the floor
of a legislature. The information contained in this chapter
would indeed suggest that the floor of a legislature is one
of the last places that one should concentrate his attention
if he is seeking some understanding of the factors that come
into play in this process. It is no wonder that first-time
observers of floor proceedings in a legislature are fre
quently disenchanted with what they see. For many of them
the floor is_ the legislature, and their idealized conceptions
of the legislature lead them to expect an august scenario of
statesmanship where momentous decisions are taken and where
the eloquent discussion of ideas leads to the resolution of
controversy. What they see in most cases, of course, falls
far short of their expectations. Floor proceedings in the
Costa Rican Legislative Assembly are no exception to this

220
rule. Heated debates and the well-substantiated discussion
of ideas may be seen from time to time; but, on the whole,
a very low degree of bill controversy is manifested on the
floor; indeed, few bills are ever defeated on the floor.
Short of exceptional cases, the main decisional activity of
deputies on the floor of the Assembly is that of granting
or denying priority treatment to bills, an activity which
can hardly be classified as momentous or statesmanlike.
Where then are decisions made in the Assembly?
To get at the essence of decision-making one must probe
far below the surface of the floor. And what one finds is
that, on the whole, decisional activity and behavior of con
sequence is most frequently found within the committee
structures. And, if one probes deeply enough, he finds that
most decisional outcomes of a non-routine nature are deter
mined by a reduced number of deputies.
What one finds in Costa Rica, be it at the committee
level, at the floor level, or at the caucus level, is an
advanced system of internally guided decision-making charac
terized by the presence of a modified seniority system based
upon previous legislative experience and professional
education, and manifested through the existence of a group
of influential deputies who have a far higher impact upon
the decisions taken than the other deputies. Proper evalua
tion of the ability of the Assembly to produce relatively
well-substantiated decisions in the case of bills that are

221
even moderately complex requires that this phenomenon be
taken into account. If the presence and role of the influ-
entials is ignored, it is tempting to conclude that the
decisional process within the Assembly is one in which the
blind lead the blind. An understanding of the dynamics of
legislative decision-making would be- most incomplete if the
behavior of these influential deputies was not taken into
account. This is not to say, however, that the behavior of
the other deputies can or should be ignored. The non-
influential deputies may not be as highly relevant to the
legislative decision-making process as are the influential
ones, but, as will be shown in the next chapter, they do
participate actively in a number of non-decisional phases of
activity which are highly significant to the stability of
the Costa Rican political system.

Notes
Lorin Weisenfeld, "La Ley de Desarrollo y Proteccin
Industrial de 1959: El Proceso de su Creacin," Revista de
Ciencias Jurdicas, 14 (Diciembre, 1969), p. 46.
2 .
These criteria, among others, are utilized to sub
stantiate the view that in Chile the committee system is a
strong one. See Weston H. Agor, "The Senate in the Chilean
Political System," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
eds., Legislatures in Developmental Perspective (Durham:
Duke University Press, 1970)', p. 247.
3
This figure is related to those reports for which
adequate data could be obtained. The reports excluded
from consideration due to an insufficiency of data repre
sented only 6.9 per cent (14) of the total number of re
ports processed on the floor. The 17.4 per cent of the
bills that were rejected or modified can be broken down
further as follows: 13.2 per cent (25) were approved with
modifications; 2.6 per cent (5) were sent back to committee;
and 1.6 per cent (3) were rejected.
4
The sixth main committee created in 1962 was eliminated
in 1968. There are several other permanent committees, such
as the Library Acquisition Committee and the Inter-Parlia
mentary Affairs Committee, but these are in no way signifi
cant to the decision-making process. Special temporary
committees are established occasionally when it is felt
that an issue to be dealt with requires special treatment
outside of the context of the permanent committees. Such
committees most frequently are created for specific .investi
gative purposes although from time to time they are also
created to study particularly complex bills.
5
''In practice, there is a substantial overlap in the
assignment of tax-related bills between the Economic Affairs
Committee and the Budgetary Affairs Committee.
^The deputies are paid on a per session attended basis.
Their monthly earnings during the ordinary session periods
are computed on the basis of the total number of committee
and floor sessions attended by each up to a determined
maximum. During the interim periods, whether these be
recesses or extraordinary session periods, the deputies auto
matically receive the average monthly salary earned during
the preceding ordinary session period.

223
7
The one exception to this rule is that the Assembly
may not legislate on electoral matters without the approval
of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in the six months pre
ceding and four months following an election.
g
During the period of our study, the day of such
meetings was Thursday, but the by-laws were modified later
so that floor sessions would be held on Thursdays but not
Fridays, given the fact that it was frequently difficult
to attain a quorum on the floor for Friday sessions.
9 .
The frequency of ordinary and extraordinary sessions
of the committees during the extraordinary legislative
periods fluctuates widely, given the fact that the amount
of business to be dealt with by each committee is determined
by the types of bills that the executive power chooses to
submit to the legislature during each of these periods.
"^The fact that minority reports are seldom considered
on the floor may in part explain the low percentage in
question. Nevertheless, there is every indication that
committee consensus is the predominant rule.
11
For a detailed analysis of the committee system m
Chile,see Weston H. Agor, The Chilean Senate: Internal
Distribution of Influence. (Austin: University of Texas
Press, 1971), pp. 37-113.
12
Charles F. Denton, Patterns of Costa Rican Politics
(Boston: Allyn and Bacon"^ 1971) p. 38~.
13
Charles F. Denton, La Poltica del Desarrollo en
Costa Rica (San Jos: Editora Novedades, 1969), p.~61.
14 ...
Party switching is not a common phenomenon among
political leaders in Costa Rica.
15
R. Lynn Kelley, "The Role of the Venezuelan Senate,"
in Weston H. Agor, ed.f Latin American Legislatures: Their
Role and Influence (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971),
pp. 485-486.
"^L. M. Singhvi, "Parliament in the Indian Political
System," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds, p. 226.
17
Alberto Caas, "Chisporoteos," La Repblica,
December 12, 1967, p. 9.
1 8
The absence of such an instrument will soon be obviated
as such an index is soon to be published. The Assembly has
also contracted the compilation and publication of an
annotated code of Costa Rican law which should be ready
sometime in 1974.

224
Most deputies, however, would have us believe that
their decisions are based upon their personal judgment or
criteria.
20
Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legislative Policy
Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
North Carolina, 1971), p. 81.
21
Charles F. Denton, The Politics of Development in
Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1969),
p. 107.
22
Bills are approved or rejected at the end of each
debate period, usually by a simple majority vote. In
certain limited cases, such as constitutional reforms and
ratifications of foreign loans, a two-thirds vote is re
quired.
23
A bill may be returned to the original committee
during any of the three debates. This procedure may only
be used once for each bill.
24
Denton, Patterns of . p. 36.
25
A bill was classified as being a subject of discussion
if the daily records indicated that even one deputy made a
statement about the bill on the floor. As it was deter
mined that it is extremely unusual for deletions to be made
from the verbatim electronic recording of the sessions,
there is every reason to believe that this percentage figure
is a highly accurate one. The same could not be said of
committee sessions, because the printed records of these do
include occasional deletions and because it is common for
deputies to request that certain discussions be off the
record even though the committee is not meeting in closed
session.
2 6
The operational definition of controversy which was
used called for the classification of a bill as controversial
if any two or more deputies took opposing sides of a non
procedural question related to the bill.
27
In an additional 2.1 per cent of the bills unsuccess
ful attempts were made to introduce amendments to the bill
on the floor.
28
This figure includes all bills which were amended,
returned to committee or rejected by the floor.
29 .
Regretfully this question must be dealt with m an
impressionistic fashion as the scheme which was used for

225
bill-classification purposes did not generate any specific
data which would allow for empirical substantiation of the
interpretation presented.
30
Weisenfeld, p. 104.
3]
"This statement was made by PLN fraccin leader Luis
Alberto Monge Alvarez.
32
John S. Saloma III, Congress and the New Politics
(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969), p. 217.
33
William J. Keefe, "The Functions and Powers of the
State Legislatures," in Alexander Heard, ed., State
Legislatures in American Politics (New York: Prentice
Hall, 1966), p. 66.

CHAPTER VII
PATTERNS OF NON-DECISIONAL LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR
Any attempt to provide an encompassing evaluation of
the role played by the Legislative Assembly in the Costa
Rican political system would be incomplete if it were re
stricted to the decisional aspects of legislative phenomena
discussed in the preceding chapters. One need only observe
the activities of the deputies inside and outside of the
Assembly for a few days to realize that their behavior is
oriented toward far more than direct participaton in the
systemic decision-making process. In fact, the behavior of
some deputies would seem to support the view that decision
making is not what they are most interested in, nor is it
what they devote most of their attention and energies to.
This chapter is devoted to a discussion of the most
salient aspects of non-decisional behavior which were iden
tified by the Costa Rican deputies as being related to their
responsibilities and behavior as members of the legislature.
This chapter is not meant to be exhaustive or all-encompass
ing. As was indicated in the introduction to this study,
the research priorities of the author and the field and time
limitations present made it impossible to research this phase
226

227
of behavior in as much detail as would be desired. Suffi
cient information was collected to attain the two goals
pursued in this chapter, which are those of providing a
more encompassing evaluation of the systemic consequences
of legislative behavior in Costa Rica and identifying a
number of the non-dec.isional aspects of such behavior which
would merit detailed study in the future.
Radio Broadcasts: Visibility as
a Critical Contextual Variable
The behavior of deputies in floor debate is the subject
of much criticism in Costa Rica. Such criticism is usually
the result of an assumption that such debate should be geared
toward the dispassionate analysis of the advisability of
passing the bills under consideration as laws of the land.
And,in fact, debate on the floor of the Assembly, like that
on the floors of most legislatures, is most frequently not
oriented toward this end. Observation of the activities of
the deputies during floor sessions indicates that, with the
exception of an occasional debate, few deputies pay any
attention to what is said on the floor. Most deputies enter
tain themselves during debates by reading the afternoon news
papers or conversing along the periphery of the session hall.
A number of deputies will also be found talking on the phone
in the five phone booths located on the floor, in the
ca.feteria next to the session hall, in the office of their
caucus group, or receiving constituents in the large public

228
room off the session hall. The extent to which deputies
absent themselves from the floor is reflected by the fact
that sessions are usually interrupted at least once per
session due to a lack of quorum, i.e., thirty-eight out of
the fifty-seven deputies.'*' Faced with this behavior and the
lack of interest of most deputies in the substance of much
debate related to decision-making, many Costa Ricans express
alarm. Indeed, several deputies created a furor among some
indignant members of the press in 1972 when they were dis
covered playing chess on the floor during the discussion of
the annual budget. The inevitable topic of the decadence of
legislative life is frequently heard by the foreign observer.
But such discussions tend to overlook the fact that a
number of important functions that have nothing to do with
the "responsible" discussion of legislative bills may be
fulfilled on the floor. Wilhelm Hennis, who is one of the
persons who has written most eloquently on the failure of
scholars and observers to place floor debate within its
proper context, speaks to this point in the German scenario
in stating:
It seems to me that the greatest fault of our dis
cussions about the proper functions of parliament lies
in the fact that in Germany we have no adequate con
cept either of the practical procedure or of the
political meaning of what is accomplished on the floor
of parliament.2
He goes onto say:
Are those critics right who detect merely boring, self-
righteous monologues and proclamations of unshakable
points of view on the floor of the house? I am sure

229
that anyone who listens a little more closely will
easily find that in the great debates neither a search
for the truth nor a series of monologues takes place,
but something much more interesting and appropriate to
political controversy.3
What, then, does take place on the floor? In an attempt
to answer this question, the Costa Rican deputies interviewed
were asked, "Why do you participate in floor debate?" As
would be expected, a large number of responses to this ques
tion focused upon the importance of voicing one's opinion and
presenting one's arguments as a means of affecting the out
come of the matter being discussed. But there was a series
of responses which served to reinforce the impression
attained through observation to the effect that much behavior
on the floor is not at all related to decision-making. For
example, several expressed the view that constituents expect
to see their representatives participating in discussions
and that to fail to meet this expectation is to project an
unfavorable image of inactivity. Some expressed the same
view in slightly different terms by pointing out the neces
sity of projecting a feworable public image. A few men
tioned the responsibility to provide those outside of the
Assembly with information about the projects being discussed.
Some referred to floor debates as a means of propagandizing'
for their parties. A large proportion of them indicated
that such debate was a means for electoral mobilization.
Others openly admitted that at times they participated in
debate, due to the presence of large crowds in the public
I

230
observers' section and a desire to get a warm response from
them.
But in order to grasp the full implications of the
debate behavior of deputies on the floor and indeed to
understand this behavior, it is essential to take one cri
tical variable into account. All of the floor sessions of
the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly are broadcast by one
radio station which is contracted by the Assembly to provide
this service. In suggesting that the broadcasting of legis
lative sessions can have certain positive effects, K. C.
Wheare states:
Some legislaturesAustralia and New Zealand are
exampleshave . seized the opportunity provided
by radio to broadcast their proceedings or parts of
their proceedings. . Such arrangements could
produce an increase in the public interest in the
legislature, if not inevitably in the public esteem.4
He failed, however, to indicate what kinds of repercussions
this might have on the behavior of legislators. The re
sponses just mentioned are a good illustration of the kind
of behavior which is likely to be reinforced by the type of
action that Wheare seems to be recommending. It is more than
likely that the Costa Rican broadcasts have had a significant
impact upon the public interest in the legislature; it is
doubtful that they have had an entirely positive impact upon
public esteem for the institution. But wTithout any question
they have oriented many deputies toward participation in
debate as a means of reaching an external audience.

231
Many deputies use or abuse this opportunity to reach
their constituents, their statements frequently being ir
relevant to the decision-making and/or legitimating func
tion being fulfilled by those present on the floor. One
deputy in the group studied reportedly put off speaking,
whenever possible, until after 4:30 P.M., when he considered
the radio audience to be at its peak. It is largely due
to this extended audience that many deputies give the
impression of being on a soapbox rather than in an environ
ment propitious for the objective evaluation and discussion
of legislative bills. No survey has been taken to determine
how large and widespread this audience is, but the deputies
report that it is very large. And there is some evidence
that many people in the rural areas, who finish work around
3:00 P.M., make a regular practice of tuning in when the
legislative session starts at 3:30 P.M.
The feelings of the deputies in respect to the broad
casts were somewhat mixed. The deputies who had served in
previous legislative terms in which the broadcasts had not
been made indicated that floor behavior had taken a turn for
the worse with the broadcasts. In fact, even the novices
tended to see the disadvantages involved in this procedure.
When asked what effect suspending the radio broadcasts would
have, most deputies indicated that it would produce a
salubrious effect on the seriousness and length of debates.
The following are some of the responses given: "Debate

232
participation would be more serious." "It would prevent
speaking to an external public." "More abundant and serene
work would be carried out." "Discussion rather than speeches
would prevail." "Debate would be less lengthy and more to
the point." "There would be less demagoguery and politick
ing." "We would work in a calmer atmosphere as we do in
committees where sessions are not broadcast." "It would
eliminate the feeling that we are on a soapbox, and there
would be less unsubstantiated discussion." "Speeches would
be less flowery and more serious." "A large proportion of
the 80 per cent of the time that is lost politicking would be
eliminated."
Yet, some of the same deputies who expressed feelings
of this type were quick to point out that suspending the
broadcasts would have negative effects which far outweighed
the benefits to be accrued by such an action. Generally,
such responses focused upon the need to have a direct means
of access to constituencies and the strong protest that
would arise from the general listening public. These views
were expressed in diverse ways: "It would have a negative
impact on the public image of the deputy." "This is the
only means that we have of making ourselves heard, as the
written press provides us with little coverage." "It would
imply a lack of contact with the public." "It would bring
a strong protest because people have become accustomed to
it." "Broadcasts are important as a means of mobilizing

233
political support." "It would be a strike against the
nation's democracy." "Localities would lack information
in respect to the participation of their deputies and this
would lead to a decreasing interest of the deputies in
their job." "It would be said that we were trying to do
things under the table."
It is evident that the broadcasting of sessions pro
vides deputies with a type of visibility which is not
entirely conducive to calm and dispassionate discussion of
legislative bills and that it provides them with a means of
carrying out certain types of non-decisional activities.
In fact, it is quite possible that these broadcasts have
shifted the primary emphasis of floor behavior from deci
sional to non-decisional matters, assuming that the primary
emphasis was ever on decisional matters. This emphasis may
be viewed negatively if one believes that the floor process
should be one in which calm deliberations of the pros and
cons of bills should prevail. Legislative leaders in other
countries who share this view would be well advised to
consider the impact that implementation of Wheare's recommen
dation may have on the behavior of their legislatures. This
is especially true given the fact that the Costa Rican case
indicates that it is difficult, if not impossible, to
backtrack once the "experiment" is set in motion. On the
other hand, caution should be exercised in jumping to the
conclusion that a multi-functional floor process is

234
necessarily dysfunctional to the political system. Some of
the non-decisional activities undertaken on the floor of
the Legislative Assembly are highly functional for the
stability of the Costa Rican political system.
Analysis of the interview and questionnaire items
related to the perception that the deputies have of their
functions as elected members of a legislature and observa
tion of their behavior inside and outside of the Assembly
indicate that there are some clear non-decisional functions
which Costa Rican deputies seek to fulfill. For the purposes
of this chapter they will be dealt with as falling within
the following four main functional categories: (1) repre
sentation, (2) information, (3) electoral mobilization, and
(4) catharsis.
Representation Function
The representation function was by far the most fre
quently mentioned by the deputies and that most evidenced
in the behavior observed. It has already been noted that
a large proportion of deputies seek to fulfill this function
through the introduction of local demands in the form of
localistic or parochial bills. In doing so, they are no
doubt fulfilling articulation and/or aggregation functions
as well, but this type of behavior is viewed by the deputies
as an essential means of fulfilling their representational
function. Behavior related to the fulfillment of the
representation function is also evidenced in the efforts of

235
deputies to promote, expedite, and in general assure passage
of bills related to or of interest to their constituents.
But the representational demands made upon deputies are not
limited to demands for adequate representation of constitu
ent interests in the legislative decision-making process.
A large proportion of the demands placed upon the deputies
calls for the fulfillment of a representational function
outside of the Assembly, referred to in some literature as a
service or "errand-boy" function. The necessity of fulfill
ing such a function was expressed in terms of the role
played by deputies in providing a link between the central
government bureaucracy and the public. Particular emphasis
was placed on the role of the deputy in serving as a spokes
man of local interests before the executive branch dependen
cies.
Behavior related to this facet of the representation
function varied from accompanying groups to see the president
to using good offices and partisan contacts within the public
administration to obtain jobs for constituents or getting
free medical service for them from party-affiliated doctors.
One of the most visible forms of "errand-boy" service
activities on the part of the presidential-party deputies
comes in February when the Ministry of Education assigns
teachers to the temporary positions that are open for the
upcoming school year. The assignment of these positions is
not subject to the control of the civil service; and,

236
consequently, the positions are prime targets for politically
motivated appointments. The feverish pitch of activity of
the deputies at the Ministry at this time of year would
certainly suggest that a large number of them are oriented
toward the provision of such a service.
It is difficult to evaluate the significance attributed
to this type of behavior on the basis of the proportion of
time devoted to it. If one were to accept the responses
given at face value, it would have to be concluded that the
service function is very definitely a weak secondary func
tion. Only three of the twenty-four deputies (12.5 per cent)
completing the questionnaire indicated that they devoted
more time to activities related to the service function than
they did to activities related to the decision-making func
tion. But in interpreting this finding it must be taken
into account that deputies must attend committee meetings
and floor sessions if they are to receive their per diem pay;
consequently, they are not free to allocate their time as
they might see fit. The lack of interest in studying
decisional matters that was evidenced among a high proportion
of the deputies would certainly suggest that the time-based
operational measure of interest of significance does not
reflect the real situation. In fact, informal conversations
with many deputies indicated that a large proportion of them
viewed their role primarily in terms of the fulfillment of
a service function. There is a clear tendency on the part

237
of the cantonally oriented deputies to believe that they
must use their good-offices in favor of the people of their
canton because they believe themselves to be the only effec
tive links between local groups and the executive branch.
In fact, some of these deputies feel that their representa
tional responsibilities go well beyond this. This view is
exemplified by the following response from one of these
deputies:
The job of a deputy is to take care of the people that
he represents--accompanying them on visits to the
ministries, helping them get jobs, getting them into
the hospital. One must show an interest in each
individual, and, if a constituent from a rural area is
hospitalized in San Jos, his deputy should visit
him and take him some candy.
All of this would lead one to believe that,if a more effective
indicator of service orientation could be devised, it would
be found that this orientation among deputies would prove
to be far more prevalent in the case of cantonally oriented
deputies, though not necessarily among the national type
deputies.
Information Function
A large number of deputies indicated that it was the
responsibility of the deputy and the Legislative Assembly as
an institution to inform and educate the general public.
As previously noted, at least part of the debate participa
tion of deputies is attributed to a motivation of this type
and to the knowledge that the floor sessions are being,
broadcast. However, it is difficult to draw a clear line
I

238
between behavior related to the information function and
that related to the electoral mobilization function to be
discussed in the next section. Impressionistically, it would
appear that much of the behavior which the deputies referred
to as fulfilling an information function seems to be much
more closely related to the electoral-mobilization function.
Many locally oriented deputies indicated that they
returned to their cantons with frequency in order to keep in
touch with constituents: to discuss local needs, issues, and
opinions and to provide constituents with a report of what
had been going on in the Assembly and an explanation of major
issues that had. arisen there. With rare exceptions, it
would appear that the majority of the activities of deputies
on such visits is related either to the articulation-aggrega
tion facet of the representation function or to the electoral-
mobilization function. The vast proportion of the local
deputies indicated that their main local contacts were with
municipal council members, local community development
organization leaders, and local party leaders. And the
types of subjects discussed tended to revolve around .local
party matters and matters related to the needs of the commu
nity and its inhabitants. Only when major issues or local
issues were at stake in the Assembly were discussions
centered around what would fall into the pure information
functional category. But it is most important to note that
whether one chooses to classify these contacts as primarily

239
oriented toward the fulfillment of a representation, infor
mation, or electoral-mobilization function, the deputies of
Costa Rica are highly accessible to constituents. The fact
that this is true is highly interesting within the context
of Gary Hoskin's recent study of the Colombian congress.
Hoskin reports that Colombian congressmen demonstrate
a high degree of aloofness from constituency relations and
attributes this to: (1) the relatively low visibility of
congressmen to their constituents, (2) the elitist character
of the political system, (3) departmental-wide elections,
g
and (4) restricted electoral and nominational processes.
At first sight,it would appear that the Costa Rican case
would not support the proposition that might be drawn from
the Colombian findings to the effect that political systems
having these characteristics are also likely to be character
ized by a low degree of constituency relations on the part
of legislators. With the exception of the low visibility
characteristic, Costa Rica would seem to meet the other three
characteristics; and yet a large number of deputies are
highly disposed toward constituency relations. A more care
ful examination of the Costa Rican case indicates that the
similarity with the characteristics of the Colombian case
are largely superficial. Even though Costa Rican recruitment
and nomination processes may be controlled by elitist groups?
the representatives nominated to fill cantonal slots are not
members of an elite group at the national level nor need

240
they of necessity be wealthy. Congressional elections are
held at the provincial level, the equivalent of the depart
mental level in Colombia, but the informal aspect of the
nomination process which allots preferential position on
party provincial slates according to specific cantonal pri
orities makes it quite different from the Colombian case.
These variations would seem to suggest that the systemic
characteristics which Hoskin finds related to the Colombian
congressmen's high degree of aloofness form constituency
relations need to be refined further before they can be used
to posit a comparative hypothesis.
Yet it should be noted that the Costa Rican case may
not be a good one to use in tes|ing the proposition that has
been examined. The presence of constituency-oriented
deputies who are quite genuinely interested in helping their
communities to solve their problems is clearly related to
what may be an idiosyncratic cultural variable. The aloofness
that prevails among elites in seme Latin American countries
is simply not acceptable in Costa Rica, where egalitarianism
is given at least symbolic lip-service. A politician in
this small country courts disaster if he separates himself
from direct contact with the public. In fact, the defeated
PLN presidential candidate in 1966 has recently stated that
one of the main errors which he made in his campaign was
that of being overly detached from the electorate at public

241
rallies. There is also a touch of the personalistic-
paternalistic syndrome which contributes to this pattern of
behavior. But, unlike the representatives of a traditional
elite, the paternalism of local deputies drawn from the local
populace is not based upon a superficial noblesse oblige.
Electoral Function
The accessibility of deputies, no doubt, is also related
to the fact that parties expect their deputies to gain or
retain the support of their constituents for future electoral
purposes. The fulfillment of this function is quite apparent
in the behavior of the deputies inside as v/ell as outside of
the Assembly. Hennis states that "the purpose of parliamen
tary debates . [is] to influence public opinion, and
7
thereby to determine the results or the next election" and
characterizes floor proceedings as "a permanent electoral
campaign.Bernard Crick notes the existence of this func
tion in Great Britain when he writes:
Governing has now become a prolonged election campaign.
Parliament is still the agreed arena in which most of
the continuous election campaign is fought and the
principal device by which parties obtain something like
equal access to the ear of the electorate in the long
formative period between official campaigns.9
Peter Ranis notes a similar phenomenon in the context of
Argentina in stating:
The Chamber of Deputies through its debates publicized
party positions and thus served an important electoral
(educational) function. The deputies, especially, as
political actors, performed the role of visible propa
gandists. J-0

242
The fact that floor sessions are broadcast by radio
has most likely led to the increased use in Costa Rica of
floor debate as a means of carrying on a continued political
campaign from the floor of the Assembly. Partisan issues,
often totally unrelated to the substance of matters being
dealt with on the floor, frequently bring forth partisan
attacks which motivate counter-attacks; and many hours, often
days, can be spent this way. During the period studied it
was not unusual to find that effective debate on a bill,
motion, or other item of business was paralyzed for a number
of days while partisan rhetorical attacks and counter
attacks indirectly related to the business at hand were made.
All deputies seem to accept that this type of behavior is,
for better or for worse, an essential part of the legisla
tive "game," that the deputies in their roles as party
representatives are expected to utilize their oratorical and
rhetorical skills to laud their party and denigrate the
opposition. Hennis could easily have been writing about
Costa Rica when he wrote that "parliamentary debate is not
a philosophical search for the truth buthow could it be
anything else?political contest by rhetorical means.
But the heat of such debate is understood to be in large
part artificial, and only in very rare occasions is it taken
into account in the interpersonal relationships of the
deputies. It is, thus, not uncommon to see two deputies who
have been locked in deadly battle on the floor five minutes
before, having a friendly conversation in the Assembly

243
cafeteria or along one of the corridors. The situation is
not very different from that which prevails between two
college debate teams, although all participants, of course,
are well aware of the fact that the stakes of their game
are far from academic.
The permanent campaign activities of deputies are not
restricted to soapbox rhetoric broadcast by radio from the
floor of the Assembly. It is generally understood that one
of the duties of the single-term Costa Rican deputies is
that of serving as party guardians of the provincial slot
that they occupy by maintaining the types of activities that
will assure the votes of satisfied constituents in the
upcoming election. Within the Assembly, this obligation
involves serving as an effective spokesman and promotor of
local bills of interest to constituents. It may also
involve the relatively familiar practice of presenting bills
that have no chance of passage and even of presenting
duplicate bills in those cases where an opponent from the
same area has already done so. Careful observation led to
the identification of cases where bills had no chance of
passage, not because of a lack of votes to obtain passage
but because it was procedurally impossible to pass them.
This was the case of one deputy who presented a bill which
sought an allocation that could only be obtained by incor
poration into the budget bill, yet insisted upon having the
bill processed to its logical demise so that he could let

244
his constituents know that he had tried the impossible. The
case of the duplicate bill is not seen too frequently as
deputies from the same area will usually collaborate in
order to attain the desired goal of the community that they
represent. Such collaboration in many cases is essential if
a minority-party deputy wishes to reap at least some credit.
An electoral-mobilization function is fulfilled by
local deputies on each visit that they make to their respec
tive communities and when they utilize their good offices
in fulfilling an "errand-boy" or service function. Accessi
bility tends to be viewed by constituents as a significant
indicator of how well the deputy is serving his community.
Thus, it was not surprising to find that of those deputies
who had cantonal responsibilities and did not reside in
these cantons during the periods of the legislative session,
sixty per cent traveled to their cantons at least once per
week and the other forty per cent did so not less than once
a month. Most of those returning at least once a week
tended to spend their weekends in their cantonal constituency
areas.
The local deputies also tend to rely heavily upon the
cooperation of the radio media reporters who cover the
Assembly in order to assure the projection of a favorable
image of.themselves and their parties at the local level.
In Costa Rica there are a number of radio stations which
broadcast news spots referred to as radioperjodieos. Most

245
of these tend to have special sections devoted to commen
taries on legislative activities. As it is generally
believed, apparently with some reason, that these programs
are listened to quite widely in rural communities, the
deputies value good contacts and relations with the radio
reporters who cover the Assembly as a means of obtaining
plugs which favor them and their parties. Such reporters
are usually cooperative as they value good relations with
the deputies as a means of obtaining inside information when
major issues are at stake. Though not true at the time
that this study was undertaken, at present the Assembly pays
several stations to guarantee the presence and broad coopera
tion of their reporters. A similar value is placed on good
relations with the newspaper reporters, but the extent to
which these can service the deputies is quite reduced, given
the fact that newspapers allot very little space and atten
tion to legislative matters unless there is a major issue at
stake or one in which they happen to be highly interested.
Though the propensity of deputies toward these forms of
electorally oriented behavior becomes more marked as active
campaign periods get closer at the end of their third year
in office, there is a marked feeling that it is necessary to
court votes throughout the entire period in office. Visi
bility is thus sought by the deputies and encouraged by the
parties.

246
Cathartic Function
It was most interesting and surprising to find that as
a whole the deputies interviewed tended to have a highly
developed and relatively sophisticated conception of the
cathartic function which members of a legislature can and
do fulfill individually and as a group. More than one
deputy, in fact, referred to this function in the exact terms
used by some writers in labeling this function, i.e., as a
"safety valve" (vlvula de escape) function. It had been
anticipated that this function would not be identified by
many deputies, given the fact that the concept behind it
might be excessively abstract. But there is one very good
reason which should have led to positing that there would,
on the contrary, be a high level of awareness of this func
tion and its significance. This reason is that the Civil
War of 1948 created a society-wide polarization of political
groups characterized by a high degree of antagonism. The
fact that these divisions have not led to any significant
violent confrontations between the groups, with the possible
exceptions of the small invasions of 1949 and 1955, would
suggest that a lot of this antagonism must have been released
through some cathartic mechanism. And the facts that the
Legislative Assembly has been a focal point of attention
since 1949 and that both contending forces have had repre
sentation within the Assembly further suggest that much of
the built-up pressure was probably released through this
structure.

247
The responses of the deputies indicate that this was
indeed the case and that it continued to be to a lesser
extent even as late as 1968. Drawing upon this experience,
some deputies argued that it was essential that representa
tives of the communist party be allowed to run for and
occupy seats in the Assembly so as to allow for the de
pressurizing of this group. Heated debate on political
issues is reported to satisfy the psychic-aggressive needs
of groups within the Costa Rican parties and at all levels
of society. Several deputies went so far as to state that
they felt that the generally stable and non-violent charac
teristics of Costa Rica are at least in part a product of
the availability of such a means of blowing-off steam.
A high ranking deputy in the PR party went so far as to
state that he doubted that the antagonism between the
partisans of both major political groupings, created by the
events before, during, and immediately after the Civil War,
could have been controlled had there not been a national
forum in which political opponents could attack each other
verbally rather than physically. And he reported that in
the 1950s this means of releasing built-up pressures was
relied upon extensively. Other deputies indicated that the
Assembly also tends to provide political leaders with the
necessary means to release those pressures built-up by the
loss of a presidential election. In many cases the deputies
pointed out that the cathartic function of heated political

248
debates was accompanied by an educational function in that
the public experienced situations where an air of serenity
prevailed among the actors in the Assembly once the debate
was over. The lesson imparted was that political opponents
need not be deadly enemies and that heated debate or dis
cussion of a political nature need not preclude collabora
tion and civility.
Those who are tempted to evaluate the tangential aspects
of floor debates and the effects of broadcasting floor
sessions negatively are well advised to consider what the
effects of a dispassionate approach to the legislative process
might be. The clear perceptions of the deputies in respect
to the importance of the cathartic function of the legis
lature in Costa Rica have, in fact, done much to temper such
a temptation on the part of the author.
Legislative cathartic behavior according to most reports
has diminished over the years much as the virulence of
presidential campaigns has. It may well be that those of
us who tend to view the virulent and scurrilous attacks of
campaigns in Costa Rica negatively should take more careful
note of the causes and effects of these characteristics. It
may well be that in both cases the Costa Rican system
demonstrated an outstanding capability to adjust to the
needs of a potential conflict situation and that what has
heretofore been viewed in negative terms should be viewed
positively. Ironically, herein may lie a small fragment of

249
the explanation for the development of stable and relatively
democratic government in this "Switzerland of the Americas."
Summary and Conclusions
Scholars have yet to agree on a proper definition of
"legislature." But, then, the academic community is well
known for its propensity to while away its time consider
ing such matters. Recently it was suggested to the author
that semantic and conceptual hairsplitting need not go on
that a simple method for identifying legislatures was at
hand. "Go to any country," it was suggested, "and ask the
local populace what institution is most inefficient,
irresponsible, useless and in most obvious decadence, and
you will be led to the local legislature." Legislative
bodies are, no doubt, easy objects of criticism and the
source of endless jokes. But even an incomplete listing of
the non-decisional aspects of legislative behavior present
in this chapter gives one very good reason for hesitancy in
evaluating a legislative structure in unfavorable terms
simply because it does not live up to expectations based
upon the assumption that it is desirable that the legisla
tive decision-making process be "efficient," "responsible,"
and "well pondered." The value, or worthlessness as some would
put it, of legislatures must clearly be viewed in terms of
the non-decisional as well as the decisional consequences
that siach institutions have within their societies.
In the

250
Costa Rican case there is very good reason to believe that
the role played by the Assembly in the fulfillment of such
functions as representation, information, electoral mobili
zation, and catharsis is essential to the continued political
stability of the nation.

Notes
A quorum must be present whenever a vote is taken.
Because a procedural motion must be presented and voted
upon in order to allow a deputy to speak for more than any
one thirty-minute period at a time, far more votes are taken
on the floor of the Costa Rican Assembly than is true in
other countries. Thus, the lack of quorum is made evident
far more frequently than in other legislatures.
2
Wilhelm Hennis, "Reform of the Bundestag: The Case
for General Debate," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed., Modern
Parliaments (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971), p. 69.
^Ibid., p. 71.
4 .
K. C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford Univer
sity Press, 1963), p. 228.
5 .
Costa Rican deputies do not normally utilize the news
letter technique used by a large number of congressmen and
senators in the United States. Only three deputies indi
cated that they used circular letters, and they only sent
such out in a very sporadic fashion.
^Gary W. Hoskin, "Dimensions of Representation in the
Colombian National Legislature," in Weston H. Agor, ed.,
Latin American Legislatures: Their Role and Influence
(New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971), p. 421.
7
Hennis, p. 70.
8Ibid., p. 76.
9
Bernard Crick, The Reform of Parliament as quoted m
Robert A. Packenham, "Legislatures and Political Development,"
in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legislatures
in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke University Press,
1970), p. 572.
^Peter Ranis, "Profile Variables Among Argentine Legis
lators," in Agor, ed., p. 180.
'^Hennis, p. 72 .
251

CHAPTER VIII
THE IMPLICATIONS OF COSTA RICAN LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR
This study of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly was
motivated by two goals. The first, largely influenced by
the view of Hunt, Crane, and Wahlke that thorough knowl
edge of institutions is essential to effective behavioral
research,"'" was that of providing the background knowledge
required if research of a more systematic nature is to be
undertaken within this legislative context in the future.
The means to this end has been the collection of a body of
information which would provide a comprehensive and well-
substantiated description of the Assembly and of the context
within which it operates. The second goal was that of
providing tangible evidence to justify further legislative
research in Costa Rica. In seeking this end, an effort has
been made to determine whether legislative behavior has any
consequences for the national political system or if, to
the contrary, the legislature is an institution which is
irrelevant to the mainstream of political life as Robert
2
Stauffer suggests. In this final chapter it is pertinent
to focus upon the general conclusions that have arisen from
the pursuit of these two goals.
The first section of this chapter focuses upon a dis
cussion of the basic types of inferences which can be drawn
252

253
from this study to generate or to give direction to future
research efforts. The second section demonstrates that
research on the Assembly is definitely justified as a means
of attaining a better understanding of political behavior
which has clear consequences for the political system of
Costa Rica.
Selected Research Implications
Definitive studies exist only in the minds of men.
Research inevitably leads to the identification of new ques
tions and perspectives. But the inferences to be drawn
from a study such as this one are largely dependent upon the
research interests of the reader. A person interested in
studying committee-related decisional phenomena in Costa
Rica might identify the following as the main implications of
interest to him. First, it is clear that the committees of
the Assembly play an important role in legislative decision
making and thus are worthy subjects of study within his
frame of reference. Second, it is clear that a study of
the committees should, among other things, give special
attention to: (1) the role played within the committees by
the "influential" deputies; (2) the relationship between
committee presidents and the majority caucus leader; (3) the
extent to which committee presidents utilize their discre
tionary powers to favor or to oppose, expedite or delay, bills
in committee; (4) the types of issues in which committee

254
decision-making is relatively free of party pressures and
those in which definite party pressures arise; and (5) the
extent to which committee decisions are affected by inter
ested deputies who are not members of the committee. A
person interested in the role played by the executive in
the legislative decision-making process would, no doubt,
concentrate upon another set of inferences. And a third
person interested in cross-cultural comparative studies might
focus upon yet another set of inferences.
Listing the findings relevant to a wide range of re
search interests is impossible within the context of this
chapter. Listing the implications of this study for a single
area of research interest would be most limited. Thus, in
discussing the research implications of this study, it will
be best to speak in more abstract terms and focus upon the
types rather than the specific implications of this study
for future research.
Two broad categories can be used in grouping these
implications. The first category is country-specific and
incorporates those research questions which the study sug
gests warrant further attention in future studies carried
out in the Costa Rican legislative context. The second
category encompasses those inferences relevant to legisla
tive research in a broader comparative context.
Country-specific implications
Four broad research questions of particular significance

255
to the author may be used to illustrate the country-specific
variety of implications present in this study.
The first and one of the most obvious questions which
this study indicates is worthy of further research is that
of the role played by the autonomous institutions in the
systemic decision-making of Costa Rica. As was indicated in
Chapter II, studying and evaluating this role would be of
extreme significance, given the fact that at the present it
is impossible to evaluate adequately the relative impact
that either the executive or the legislative branches have
upon the allocation of systemic resources in the absence of
any concrete understanding of the full-fledged implications
of the autonomous institutions. This topic need not be
restricted to an evaluation of these institutions within
the legislative context. Certainly any group of independent
structures that controls over fifty per cent of the public-
sector budget can and should be studied as possible decision
making centers and not just as the initiators of inputs
into, or as the subjects of outputs from, the legislature.
Yet to evaluate the role of the autonomous institutions in
the legislative context would of itself be a useful and
most urgent pursuit. In Chapter V it has been indicated
that these institutions are capable of mobilizing and exer
cising effective pressures upon the Assembly, but it is not
clear why they need or choose to do so. In fact, there is
an internal inconsistency in the findings of Chapters II and

256
V in respect to these institutions. The first indicates
that the autonomous institutions are most independent and
that neither the executive nor the legislature has the means
necessary to control or to give direction to them. However,
Chapter V shows that they act as interest groups. If they
are as independent as reported, why is there a need for
exercising pressure upon the legislature? Is it that these
institutions, or the bureaucrats who run them, have devel
oped a set of interests that go beyond their attributed
spheres of activity? Certainly this is not an impossibility.
Indeed, there is good reason to believe that bureaucracies
do develop a life and interests of their own and frequently
pursue these interests independent of purely institutional
concerns.
This line of questioning leads to a second useful area
of inquiry, that of the role played by the members of the
executive bureaucracy in influencing decision-making in the
legislature. It has been indicated in Chapters II and VI
that representatives of this bureaucracy provide inputs of
some importance into the legislative sub-system. But in
both chapters they were conceived of as spokesmen of the
executive. Do they in fact act as instructed and obedient
agents of the executive? Or do they frequently pursue their
bureaucratic or other interests independent of the elected
and appointed hierarchy of the executive? In a political
system which is characterized by an absolute lack of

257
continuity in both the executive and legislative branches,
it is not only possible but likely that permanent bureau
crats could have a most significant impact upon decision
making within these discontinuous branches. Thus it is no
exaggeration to state that research on the roles played by
these bureaucrats is of the utmost urgency if one wishes to
gain a fuller understanding of the dynamics of systemic
decision-making in Costa Rica.
The third area of inquiry suggested by this study is
related to the implementation phase of decision-making.
Chapter II indicates that deputies attribute little signifi
cance to the implementation phase of decision-making. It
further suggests that this attitude is a strange one, given
the broad implementing powers and discretion which may be
exercised by the executive. Obviously, though broad in
scope, this study could not focus upon this topic in any
detail. But in Chapter II some indication is given that the
executive does not faithfully implement all lav/s passed by
the Assembly. In fact, it has been found that the executive
utilizes one of its implementing powers, that of disburs
ing allocated funds, as an important bargaining instrument
vis--vis the legislature. This finding alone is sufficient
to provide an indication of the potential significance of
carrying out detailed research on the implementing phase of
decision-making. All three topics discussed thus far are
essential ones which need to be researched in order to

258
supplement the initial attempt of this study to identify the
context within which the systemic decision-making process
takes place.
The fourth area of research in the country-specific
category is all-encompassing. As stated in the introduc
tion of this study, research conditions made it impossible
to collect data covering a time span which would incorporate
more than one legislative term. Obviously follow-up studies
will have to be executed before it can safely be affirmed
that the findings reported here are not unique to a single
legislature of Costa Rica. Given the significance of parties
in the Costa Rican context, it may be inferred that any
follow-up studies undertaken should focus upon a term charac
terized by the presence of presidential-party-majority
legislature so that the findings may be compared with those
of this study, which deals with a presidential-party-
3
minority legislature.
Comparative implications
Contrary to what one might normally expect to arise
from a configurative approach to the study of a foreign
political system, the implications of this study are rele
vant to a broader comparative framework of analysis. The
findings reported can be utilized to draw three different
types of comparative inferences which may be categorized
under the sub-headings of relational, methodological, and
general inferences.

259
The relational category includes those findings which
have suggestive implications for comparative researchers
who might wish to test isolated hypotheses in an idiographic
manner. For example, one of the most significant conclusions
drawn in the preceding chapters is that in Costa Rica the
responsiveness of deputies to constituents would appear to
be relatively high. This finding has important research
implications because it contradicts several common-sense
hypotheses in respect to the relationship that is likely to
exist between electoral system and party centralization
variables on the one hand and the responsiveness of deputies
on the other. It would have been logical to expect that the
centralized nature of the political parties, the election of
the deputies at large by province, the closed-list party
ballot system, and the legal impediment to the re-eligibility
of the deputies would have resulted in a low degree of
responsiveness; as in each case the factors in question would
seem to be ones which would undermine the deputy-constituent
bond. Yet this did not prove to be the case. This finding
would suggest the merit of examining the relationship which
exists between responsiveness and these structural variables
in other legislative settings in order to determine whether
these independent variables are in fact unrelated to the
dependent variable of responsiveness or if the Costa Rican
case is unique and explainable primarily in terms of such
intervening variables as size of population, geographic

260
extension, culture, or the emphasis which is placed upon
deputy responsiveness by the political parties. An answer
to this question would definitely contribute to our under
standing of the effect that structural variables may have
upon legislative behavior.
The second type of comparative inference to be drawn
from this study is made possible by the fact that the re
search executed utilized a wide variety of methodological
techniques. This study, then, can be useful to researchers
interested in carrying out legislative research abroad in
that it provides useful insights into the feasibility of
utilizing certain research techniques and a better under
standing of the methodological problems encountered by
researchers in the field. Detailed attention to the methodo
logical aspects of the study is provided in the appendix,
but it will be useful at this point to provide at least one
illustration of the type of methodological inference that can
be drawn from the previous chapters.
Within this context, one of the most significant con
clusions to be drawn is that research in foreign countries
should utilize indicators generated in studies of American
legislative behavior with the greatest of caution. Chapter
VI clearly indicates that use of such indicators may at
times lead to extremely inaccurate evaluations of foreign
legislative phenomena. Take, for example, the indicators
of committee strength generated by Nelson Polsby in order

to evaluate the influence of the committee system in the
United States Congress. Polsby suggests that committee
strength is associated with continuity in committee member
ship, seniority, expertise and the presence of permanent
professional support staffs.^ The presumption is that
committees having these characteristics are likely to be
strong, i.e., influential in decision-making; whereas
committees which do not have these characteristics are likely
to be weak, i.e., not very influential in decision-making.
Application of these indicators in the Costa Rican case
would lead to the conclusion that the committees of the
Legislative Assembly are weak and thus not influential. But
this conclusion, as has been demonstrated in Chapter VI,
would not be valid. It would be misleading to infer that
this is the case when eighty per cent of the bills reported
out of committee were found to have been approved on the
floor without any modifications and when it was also found
that most bill amending was carried out within the committee
structure. It should also be recalled that most deputies
reported that they considered the committee phase of
processing to be most crucial, the phase that should be
focused upon most carefully when they seek to affect the
outcome of decisional matters before the Assembly. Clearly,
researchers seeking to utilize compcirative methodology in
executing their studies abroad must exercise a high degree
of discretion in utilizing indicators generated in other

262
political contexts, for the automatic use of these indi
cators may well reflect cultural ethnocentx'ism in research
at its worse.
The third type of comparative inferences, that of a
general nature, which one can draw from this study may be
illustrated by referring to the general conclusion drawn
in Chapter VI that an identifiable and reduced group of
deputies in many cases were found to be more influential in
the decision-making process than the other deputies. The
presence of this group and the role that it plays in decision
making clearly raises some country-specific research ques
tions worth pursuing. Future studies focusing upon decision
making within the Legislative Assembly, for example, would
clearly benefit from giving careful attention to the role
played by this group and to the v/ay that these legislators
interact among themselves and with the non-influential
deputies. Their interface with party leaders, interest
groups, and the executive would also seem to warrant some
research attention. But this finding has equally sugges
tive general implications for comparative legislative research
The presence of this group and the fact that its members
tended to be drawn from those deputies who had previous
legislative experience and a professional education clearly
suggests that even in non-continuous legislatures there may
be a tendency to generate a modified seniority system based
upon these two factors. Comparative studies might well

263
focus upon the possible existence and characteristics of
similar elites in other legislative contexts. And, though
it is impossible to identify or relate any specific issue-
area parameters with this type of elite predominance at this
time, further research might well lead to conclusions of
this nature which would be very useful in drawing struc
tured issue and interview samples in decision-making studies
As previously indicated, the research implications
discussed above are in no way exhaustive. They have been
selected for discussion with an eye toward giving the reader
some idea of the range of ways in which the material in this
study can be used. It is hoped that the reader will see fit
to draw upon the study to generate those questions and
inferences which are of greatest relevance to his or her
research interests. If this should prove to be the case,
the first basic goal of this study will have been attained.
Systemic Implications of
Legislative Behavior
In seeking to evaluate what significance may be attri
buted to any given legislative structure, it is advisable
to take the following observation of Gerhard Loewenberg
into account.
The long history of parliament helps to explain the
conflicting expectations of the institution which
have caused successive generations of observers to
conclude that representative assemblies [are] declin
ing in quality and public importance. Such judge
ments [are] often the result of applying the stan
dards of a previous stage of institutional development
to the parliamentary behavior of the moment.5

264
In other words, it can be said that by using standards of
performance more pertinent to the past than to the present
legislative critics have frequently failed to place the
legislatures which they criticize within a proper perspec
tive. It is possible that Robert Stauffer's evaluation of
Latin American legislatures as institutions which are
6
irrelevant to the mainstream of political life may also
be a product of this tendency. This would certainly appear
to be true in the Costa Rican case.
The Costa Rican legislature, no doubt, has many and
serious flaws, but it is totally wrong to suggest that the
Assembly is irrelevant to the political life of this nation.
This study shows that, to the contrary, it is a structure
which is in a position to have most significant consequences
for the national political system in that it, at the least,
plays an important part in systemic decision-making and con
tributes to the generation of support for this system, thus
making it a structure worthy of detailed study.
Legislative behavior and systemic
decision-making
At a time when it has become commonplace to question
whether legislatures have any significant participation in
systemic decision-making, it is well worth emphasizing that,
the data presented in this study support the contrary propo
sition, that the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica does
play a meaningful role in this process. Evidence to

265
substantiate this proposition may be drawn from an examina
tion of the extent to which the Assembly utilized the powers
granted to it by the constitution.
As is indicated in Chapter I, the deputies of the
Assembly participate most acti\'ely in the initial stage of
decision-making by utilizing their power of initiative.
Evidence of this participation in the determination of the
issues to be dealt with in the legislature is to be found
in the fact that a very substantial proportion of the bills,
seventy-two per cent, dealt with by the Assembly were initiated
by the members of the legislative branch. And it was found
that the important initiatory role of the deputies applied
to bills of national as well as of local scope.
The decision-making role of the deputies also spreads
over into the areas of enactment and ratification and indi
cates that it is not possible to substantiate the view that
the Legislative Assembly is a mere rubber-stamp legislature.
Bills are modified during their processing, and some of these
modifications are of a substantive nature. Kenneth Mijeski's
study, in fact, indicates that the substance of as many as
one-third of the bills in his sample covering a twelve-year
period were modified by the Assembly.^ It could also be
pointed out that the annual national budget is almost in
variably subjected to modification by the Assembly in order
to guarantee the- deputies a source of pork-barrel funding.
And, though the ratification of international agreements and

266
loans tends to be a symbolic act most.of the time, Chapter I
indicates that the Assembly has on occasion failed to ratify
such agreements and, it might be added, has done so in the
face of high-powered pressures from the president, external
political party leaders, and international organizations.
These are certainly not the characteristics that one would
expect to find in a legislature which is irrelevant to the
mainstream of political life.
The significant consequences of legislative behavior
within the context of the national political system is
further shown in the manner that the Assembly has applied
some of its other powers. The fact that Costa Rican dep
uties have in the past played a predominant role in deter
mining whether elections will be open to certain types of
parties is indicative of the impact that the Assembly has
upon regulatory decisions which can lead to the exclusion of
certain groups from participation in office seeking. And
their role in appointing the members of the top echelons of
the judicial branch is equally hard to overlook as one
which has significant consequences for the political system.
It would be misleading, however, to ignore the fact
that the overall institutional context of Costa Rica places
significant restraints upon the impact that the Assembly can
have upon systemic decision-making. Foremost among these
limitations are the formal and informal powers of the execu
tive branch and the allocational power of the autonomous
institutions.

267
Despite the fact that Costa Rican presidents are less
powerful than most of their Latin American counterparts and
that the power of the president during the period studied
was probably weaker than that of previous chief executives,
the powers available to even the weakest of Costa Rican
presidents are such as to allow him to play a significant
role in all three stages of decision-making. He can influ
ence decisions through the introduction of moderately com
plex bills which overtax the Assembly's resources for study.
He can utilize the bureaucratic expertise available within
the executive branch to provide the Assembly with informa
tion that best serves his purposes. He can also influence
decisions by employing limited but ever-present pressure
and bargaining techniques vis--vis the Assembly. And,
finally, he can employ his implementing and disbursement
powers to support or undercut legislative decisions.
It is obvious, then, that the Legislative Assembly
shares its decision-making power to a significant extent
with the executive branch and is independent only in a re
stricted sense. But the same must be said of both the
executive and legislative branches in terms of their rela
tionships with and the position of the autonomous institu
tions of Costa Rica. The sphere of influence in decision
making of both is severely.curtailed by the independence of
a group of institutions that pursue essential societal
goals and control no less than half of the economic resources
of the public sector.

263
But the proposition being examined here is not that
the legislators of Costa Rica are the predominant force in
systemic decision-making. The executive is probably pre
dominant in the formulation of policy and in the allocation
of systemic resources. Yet legislators need not be the
predominant actors in decision-making in order to be relevant
to this important facet of the political life of the nation.
As will be shown in the following section, their participa
tion in this process, though limited by the powers enjoyed
by other segments of the nations institutional complex, can
have most significant consequences for the generation of
support for the political system.
Legislative behavior and systemic support
Few scholars have contested David Easton's axiom that
systemic stability is related to the degree to which a
political system is able to generate specific and diffuse
support for itself among the members of its political com-
8
munity. General consensus on this point justifies stating
that, contrary to the view held by some critics, the
Legislative Assembly is highly relevant to the political
life of Costa Rica because of the unequivocable role that
it plays in the generation of both of these types of systemic
support. This relevancy may be demonstrated by showing
that this legislature contributes to the provision of
specific support by responding to the material and regula
tory needs of the political community and that legislative

269
behavior has most significant implications for the genera
tion of diffuse support also.
Many Costa Ricans who criticize the Assembly because
few wise and eloquent men get elected as deputies have
failed to perceive the importance of the role that is played
by many of the deputies that they criticize. The legis
lature, according to them,is composed in its majority of
individuals who cannot see beyond the immediate interests of
cantonal constituencies. This, in fact, is largely true.
A vast majority of the deputies tend to view themselves
primarily as the spokesmen of their constituents. Their
attention and efforts are directed largely toward obtaining
the necessary funding and authorization for the construction
of small bridges, waterworks, schools, community and health
centers desired by the people in their cantons, and toward
providing these constituents with the "errand-boy" services
which they demand. This orientation, no doubt, reduces the
amount and quality of attention they give to "more important"
national matters. It is true that there are few deputies
that have the statesmenlike qualities and interests that
the aforementioned critics would wish to find. But it is
highly questionable that the Assembly could play the impor
tant role that it does in generating specific support for
the political system if the critics' wishes were to be
satisfied, for in a very real sense it is the country-bumpkin
(or maicero) deputies who serve as the key links between

270
constituents and the system; it is they who are most willing
to seek to satisfy the needs of constituents. It is
evident that the deputies in Costa Rica clearly serve as the
primary aggregating agents of demands emanating from local
constituencies, demands which otherwise might never be
introduced into the system.
Certainly there are other institutional actors in Costa
Rica who respond to the needs of the political community and
in doing so contribute to the generation of specific support
for the system. But an examination of the sponsorship of
local bills before the Assembly during the period studied
suggests that the responsive role of these actors is secon
dary to that of the deputies. During that period, eighty
per cent of the bills of local scope were sponsored by the
deputies, and only twenty per cent were sponsored by the
executive. Admittedly many local demands seem to be of
peripheral importance compared to those demands which are of
a national scope. But before jumping to the conclusion that
the satisfaction of these minor demands is likely to generate
an insignificant amount of specific support for the system,
the reader should recall Nelson Polsby's admonition that
"it is entirely possible indeed likely that, taken together,
all 'unimportant' . decisions affect more people and more
9
resources than the few 'important' decisions." The signifi
cance of responding to relatively minor demands takes on an
added dimension in the Costa Rican context, given the absence

271
of any provincial legislative structures, which might other
wise deal with these demandsthat may well be of the utmost
importance to individuals, groups or local communities.
In brief, stating that the Assembly is irrelevant to
the generation of specific support for the political system
would be totally erroneous. Stating the same in respect to
the role of the legislature in the generation of diffuse
support would be absurd.
There are a number of ways in which the Assembly helps
to generate diffuse support for the system. For example, it
can justifiably be argued that it does so by providing
information to the public through its debates and through the
frequent contacts that deputies have with their constituents.
It may also be argued that the electoral mobilization con
sequences that legislative behavior has may well help to
generate such support. But in order to understand why this
is the case, it is necessary to focus upon the general role
played by the legislature in creating the impression that the
institutional structures of the state are relevant and
accessible to the population.
In many developing countries, and certainly in many of
those in Latin America, one of the most difficult tasks faced
by politicians is that of making the political process rele
vant to the lives of broad sectors of the population. It
is possible to posit that at least in some of the countries
of Latin America, e.g., Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala,

272
Peru, to mention the most obvious, instability brought on
by military coups has been the rul, in part because large
segments of the population not only are powerless but also
fail to view the political system as relevant to them. Under
such conditions a small shift in the effective support base
can easily lead to a new balance and to a new government.
Costa Rica is not plagued by this problem.
The Legislative Assembly is perhaps the most tangible
evidence that the Costa Rican population has that politics
is relevant to them. By providing information to the
population, the deputies tend to make the political process
relevant to the population and less of an abstraction. By
seeking to have an impact upon electoral mobilization, the
Assembly places emphasis on the fact that the opinion of the
population is important and that the population at large
may have an impact upon the direction of government. But
more important than the above is the fact that the deputies
of the Assembly are not a group of people who belong to a
detached bodya body too august to be approached by most
of the population. Much to the contrary, the deputies are
accessible, have an interest in the problems of their con
stituents, and seek to do something about these problems.
It should be emphasized that in many cases diffuse support
is generated despite the fact that, no specific satisfaction
may be given to demands. The very fact that access to these
decision-makers exists may in many cases be sufficient.

273
Finally, it may be stated that the role played by the
Assembly in the management of systemic tension, though not
directly productive of support, may make the continued
generation of support possible. The significance of the
cathartic consequences of legislative behavior in Costa Rica
have been discussed in Chapter VII. Among other things,
potentially explosive party rivalries,embedded in the
population as a result of the events which led up to and
followed the Civil War of 1948, have been diffused in large
part due to the fact that these rivalries could be vented
in the controlled setting of the Assembly. And heated
debate on political issues reportedly helps to satisfy the
psychic-aggressive needs of the population and to provide
political leaders with the necessary means to release pres
sures built up by the loss of an election. In the absence
of this safety-valve forum, it is not altogether unlikely
that the accumulation of tension might lead to decreasing
levels of diffuse support for the system. In Costa Rica
it is stated that no scandal lasts for more than a few days.
This statement is not far from true, but the situation might
be far different if forums such as the legislature were not
available for the airing of irregularities of this sort.
The important thing to the Costa Rican is that he have the
opportunity to express his ire, whether it be directly or
through a symbolic spokesman. As long as such an opportunity
is provided and because it is provided, diffuse support for
the system continues to be generated.

274
This is not to say that these tension-releasing con
sequences of legislative behavior need be viewed favorably
in all cases. Major changes in politiccil systems and in
allocational patterns are frequently the product of inade
quate or malfunctioning tension-release mechanisms. By
releasing tensions the Assembly may well contribute to
preventing significant, and to some, desirable, changes
from taking place in the Costa Rican society. But to use
such an argument against the Assembly would indeed be a
change, for it would be an admission that the performance of
the Assembly does have most significant consequences for the
political system and that in some ways it may operate too
effectively.
Legislatures have never been able to live up to the
idealized visions of democratic theoreticians. Today, as
in the past, the frustrations of normative theoreticians
and laymen are vented in statements much the same as that
of James Bryce, who in 1921 wrote:
Every traveller who, curious in political affairs,
inquires in the countries which he visits how their
legislative bodies are working, receives from the
elder men the same discouraging answer. They tell him,
in terms much the same everywhere, that the tone of
manners has declined, that the best citizens are less
disposed to enter the Chamber, that its proceedings
are less fully reported and excite less interest, that
a seat in it confers less social status, and that,
for one reason of another, the respect for it has
waned.10
The similarity between Bryce's observation and the complaints
of some Costa Rican elders is uncanny.^
The theme of

275
legislative decadence is universal. But one cannot help
agreeing with K. C. Wheare when he states:
Much of the discussion on the decline of legislatures
is based on the assumption that decline was possible.
There is a myth of a golden age of legislatures when
wisdom, oratory and gentlemanly behaviours and public
spirit all seemed somehow to flourish and to flourish
together. It is difficult to know when this could
have been.12
The basic question which must be raised, however, is >
not whether a legislature has decayed, which inevitably leads
one to judge it by past standards, but rather whether it is
relevant or sigificant within the present context of the
political system. It is difficult to see what useful pur
pose would be achieved if one were able to state that the
present-day legislature ranks higher or lower on some scale
of wisdom, eloquence and gentlemanly behavior than some
19th or early 20th century legislature of Costa Rica. It is,
however, highly significant within the present-day context
of the Costa Rican political system to note that the deputies
have meaningful participation in the systemic decision-making
process and thus in the allocation of systemic resources and
that their behavior has a definite impact upon the genera
tion of specific and diffuse support for the political
system. The presence of these attributes permits one to
conclude that legislative behavior is most definitely rele
vant to political life in Costa Rica and a highly justifiable
subject for research in the future.

Notes
^Supra, p. 5.
2
Supra, p. 2.
3 .
If the political scene at the time of this writing
(mid-1973) does not alter substantially, it is quite likely
that the legislature to be elected in February of 1974 will
be unique in that no single party will win an absolute
majority in the Assembly, as has been the case in the past.
Were this to be the case, it would be most useful to deter
mine what differences this structural change and coalition
politics might have upon legislative behavior.
^Nelson W. Polsby, "The Institutionalization of the
United States House of Representatives," American Political
Science Review, 62 (March, 1968), pp. 144-168,
^Gerhard Loewenberg, "The Role of Parliaments in Modern
Political Systems," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed. Modern
Parliaments (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971), p. 15.
^Supra, p. 2.
7
Supra, p. 25.
O
David Easton, A Systems Analysis of Political Life
(New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1965), p. 273.
9
Nelson W. Polsby, Community Power and Political Theory
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), p. 96. This
view is also emphasized in Kenneth Mijeski, The Executive-
Legislative Policy Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation,
University of North Carolina, 1971), pp. 72-73.
^James Bryce, "The Decline of Legislatures," in Loewen
berg ed., p. 22.
^The most vociferous spokesman of these elders is
Manuel Formoso, who frequently devotes his editorial column
in La Nacin to a discussion of the decadence of the Assembly.
12
K. C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford Univer
sity Press, 1963), p. 232.
276

APPENDICES

APPENDIX I
METHODOLOGICAL AND CONCEPTUAL NOTES
In carrying out research on legislative structures in
foreign countries, most American-trained scholars are likely
to be faced with the problem of having to adjust not only
to a new cultural context but also to new and often baffling
research conditions. Many times these conditions will be
ones which the researcher never anticipated. The most
evident assumptions in respect to source material avail
ability and methodological applicability often collapse in
the field. Familiar approaches to data collection take on
totally unforeseen degrees of difficulty. And the replica
tion of familiar studies or the use of fashionable paradigms
often becomes senseless if not impossible. Increased aware
ness of the types of problems that are likely to be encoun
tered can, however, reduce the frustration of future re
searchers .
By focusing upon the research experiences of the author
in Costa Rica, this appendix is meant to contribute to such
an awareness. It is hoped that an account of the procedure
followed and of the problems encountered in this research
effort will prove useful to this end.
Initial Phases of Research
Prior to arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica, in February
270

279
of 1968, an examination of all of the literature available
in the United States on Costa Rica led to the conclusion that
most of the research for this study would have to be struc
tured in the field. Potential areas of research within the
legislative context had been identified by the author, but
there was no way of telling if any or all of them warranted
detailed study. Furthermore, it was impossible to determine
what methods were best suited to the research endeavor being
undertaken. For example, the literature on congressional
behavior in the United States indicates that regional vari
ables frequently help to explain voting behavior in the
United States Congress. It seemed logical to examine the
significance of this variable within the Costa Rican context.
But there were no indications, positive or negative, that
gave any clues as to the relevance of regionalism within the
Legislative Assembly. In fact, it was not even known whether
the roll-call form of voting was employed frequently enough
to permit the use of the roll-call analysis technique
normally associated with this line of inquiry. Given the
absence in the United States of any useful substantive
information on the Assembly, it could only be hoped that it
would be possible to find a. body of literature on the subject
in Costa Rica.
The first two months in Costa Rica were devoted to two
goals. The first was that of becoming acquainted with the
sources of written or compiled information available in the

280
field. The second was that of undertaking other appren
ticeship activities which would allow the author to gain a
broader understanding of legislative matters through direct
observation.
Efforts to locate written or compiled sources of infor
mation on the legislature or legislative-related matters
were largely unsuccessful. Only two studies of the Assembly
were found, and both proved to be of a highly legalistic-
formalistic nature.'*' With these exceptions, no journal
acticles, books, or unpublished studies related to the
Assembly were found. Nor was it possible to locate sources
of bibliographical data such as congressional directories or
social registers. Newspaper reporting on the legislature
was found to be superficial and of little research utility.
Systematically compiled data on legislative proceedings,
bills, and other matters could not even be found in the
Assembly.
By the end of the second month in San Jos, it became
apparent that there were only two major sources of primary
data in written form which could be utilized in the research
to be undertaken. The first was that of the agendas and
verbatim records of the floor proceedings. The second was
a weekly report on legislative proceedings distributed by
2
the Assembly. Work within the congressional archives,
where all bill-related records are kept, had to be discarded
because of the absence of an adequate system of

281
cross-referencing the bill jackets filed there. Research
utilizing the archive materials would have been so time-
consumming as to preclude the possibility of drawing upon
other types of materials. As it was, the nature of the two
sources identified and the lack of any previous efforts to
systematically compile even the most rudimentary types of
data related to the Assembly clearly indicated that the pro
cedures which would have to be followed to extract usable
data from these sources would require expending a consider
able amount of time on this phase of research. This fact
indicated that there was no alternative but to abandon two
of the original goals which the author had in mind when he
went to Costa Rica: first to study several legislative terms
and second to analyze several facets of legislative behavior
in detail. It was evident that it would be impossible to
focus upon more than one trro of the legislature without
severely limiting the topical scope of the research to be
undertaken. And it was apparent that in the research to be
carried out it would not be possible to examine all facets
of legislative behavior in great detail; consequently, a
primary decisional focus was opted for.
The success of research in the Costa Rican context is
definitely affected by the steps that the researcher takes
to gain the respect and confidence of the people that he.
intends to work vjith. A natural inclination found among
many researchers is that of wanting to get right down to

282
the business at hand, the collection or data. This inclina
tion, however, must be held under controla fact clearly
attested to by the bad reputation earned by some students
who had previously undertaken research projects in Costa Rica
and succumbed to this temptation. A few false steps in the
first weeks of field presence can do more to reduce the
chances of success of a project than any other single factor.
From the outset, the author considered that immediate
contact with the deputies would entail the danger of being
labeled as just another naive North American student who
was going around asking stupid questions. Consequently, in
the first two months of field presence, the author restricted
himself to observing committee and floor sessions and to
establishing rapport with and obtaining information from the
reporters who covered the Assembly. It was not until the
third and fourth months of research that initial contacts
were established with some of the deputies. In seeking
these first contacts, an attempt was made to choose a sample
which duly represented all parties. Special emphasis was
also placed upon contacting those deputies whose training
and sophistication would allow them to understand what the
author was trying to do and to help him generate the most
useful research instruments possible.
This cautious approach proved to be very effective.
In fact, the original contacts with the' deputies chosen
caused a sufficiently positive impression that they

283
volunteered to help establish contacts with other deputies.
The fact that the researcher was in a position to make
relatively incisive observations and to raise relevant
questions, as well as to make occasional statements which
indicated to the deputies that he could differentiate be
tween rhetoric and fact, eventually led some of the deputies
to believe that the researcher had a better knowledge and
understanding of what went on in the Assembly than many of
them had. The approach in question also helped to convince
several important leaders within the Assembly of the academic
nature of the research being undertaken and eventually led
to the author's obtaining the extremely unusual permission
to attend the secret caucus meetings of one of the political
parties as well as to attend the closed sessions of the
sub-committee that was charged with studying the annual
budget prior to its discussion in full committee.
Research Procedure
As a result of the initial research activities carried
out in the first months of field presence, four basic
research instruments were produced for use in the data-
gathering phase of this study. The first was a coding sys
tem to be utilized in processing the floor session agendas
and records and the weekly report on the proceedings of the
Assembly. This system was geared toward the identification
of a number of variables related to each bill. The second

284
was a content-analysis' format to b used in classifying
the behavior of each individua], deputy as reflected in floor
proceedings. The third instrument generated was an inter
view schedule. And the fourth was a hand-out questionnaire,
which was to serve as a supplement to the interview.
Codification of the bills, drawing upon the sources
mentioned, was carried out in two phases. First, the follow
ing types of data on each bill before the Assembly in the
period studiedMay through November 1968--we.re compiled:
(1) sponsorship, (2) procedural history> and (3) nature of
debate on the floor. These data were then used to classify
each bill within a data profile consisting of twenty-six
variables. The more significant variables utilized were:
(1) the nature of bills according to national-local scope
3
criteria, (2) the source of sponsorship of bills, (3) the
committee assignment of bills, (4) the processing time,
(5) the presence or absence of procedural motions to expedite
committee and/or floor consideration, (6) the type of
committee report rendered, (7) the controversy of bills as
reflected in floor debate, (8) the presence or absence of
modifications on the floor, and (9) the outcome of the bills.
The content-analysis format used made it possible to
codify the following behavioral data on each deputy:^
(1) participation in the introduction of bills? (2) partici
pation in debate on bills? (3) favorable or negative stands
taken on bills? (4) introduction of motions calling for the

285
modification of bills on the floor of the Assembly; and
(5) success or failure in having bills, debate positions, and/
or motions approved. These data were used to classify
deputies in terms of interests and influence.
The final interview schedule tapped the following six
major categories of data: (1) background of the deputies,
e.g., political socialization, experience, recruitment, and
career goals; (2) perceived functions of the Assembly as an
institution and of the deputies as individual actors;
(3) role orientations of a representational, purposive, and
stylistic nature; (4) relationship of deputies with external
groups or individuals, e.g., political party organizations,
party leaders, executive branch, interest groups, and con
stituents; (5) decisional factors relevant to legislative
decision-making; and (6) informal norms of behavior.
As the low return rate experienced in research efforts
utilizing questionnaires promised to be even lower than
usual in Costa Rica, it had been hoped that it would be
possible to obtain all data sought from the deputies by
means of direct interviews. But a pre-test of the original
interview schedule indicated that what was being attempted
would meet with little success as the interviews ran
between two and three hours in length. Consequently, the
interview schedule was trimmed down to one which could be
completed in one hour and was expected to run no more than
an hour and a half in most cases. The result was achieved

286
by cutting out those questions which were less important as
well as those which experience had indicated were not
amenable to an interview context in Costa Rica. Since it
was felt that some of the questions which had been excluded
from the interview schedule should not be ignored altogether,
the decision was made to incox'porate these in a question
naire to be given to each deputy several days after he was
interviewed, with the request that it be completed and re
turned at the earliest possible data.
The questions incorporated in the hand-out questionnaire
were of three types: (1) those which sought supplementary
biographical data; (2) those which sought specific data
related to recruitment, campaign expenses and activities,
financial support of personal campaigms by local and
national party funds and by local contributors, and per
ceived significance of personal campaigns as opposed to the
national presidential campaign; and (3) those which sought
scaled responses to questions previously raised in the
interview.
Retrospective Evaluation of
Research Instruments
The utility of the research instruments described above
varied substantially. The contents of the chapters of this
study are clear indications of this fact. An evaluation of
the experiences encountered by the author in the use of these
four data-gathering methods will help to explain the
strengths and weaknesses of each.

287
Bill coding
As was anticipated, the major shortcoming of the hill
coding method was that it required substantial effort and
considerable time to obtain all of the information required
for classification purposes. In other research sites,
acquisition of the data of interest might prove to be far
easier. But, even if similar painstaking efforts are required,
the time spent on this phase of research may well be as
warranted in other research contexts, as it was in Costa
Rica. The vast proportion of the data presented in this
study to establish that the Assembly does play an active
role in decision-making was obtained through this method
of data collection. The information attained in this fashion
was also of crucial importance in proving that decision
making activity in the Assembly is centered in the committees
and not on the floor. Virtually every variable tapped by
the coding scheme gave some insight into the nature of
5
decision-making within this legislative structure.
One variable did, however, prove to be operationally
deficient. The classification of bills according to their
national-local scope failed to provide a sufficiently dis
crete measure of the content of bills. Utilization of these
categories for purposes of establishing the relative impor
tance of bills proved to be somewhat unsatisfactory.
Obviously, future attempts to code bills according to con
tent criteria should seek to identify more relevant dimensions
than those used here.

288
Content analysis format
Of the four methods used, the least fruitful was the
attempt to generate valid indicators of deputy interest and
influence through content analysis of the floor records.
The time expended in executing this phase of the research
was most obviously not justified. It had been assumed that
debate participation could be used as an indicator of the
prevailing interest of deputies. But experience showed
that this assumption was not well founded. The behavior of
deputies varies substantially, and it was found that indi
cators based upon debate participation were very misleading
in the case of legislators who were not predisposed to
speak on the floor. It had also been assumed that it would
be possible to evaluate the relative influence of deputies
by determining whether their positive or negative positions
in debate on the floor were supported or not in the final
outcome of bills. But,again, it was found that this
influence indicator was most misleading, because the main
supporters or opponents of bills and bill amendments often
acted behind the scenes.
The fact that the author chose to ignore the findings
generated through content analysis of floor debate records
raises an important question of subjective bias. Should
subjective criteria and impression be used in judging the
validity of objective behavioral indicators? The answer
in this case must be in the affirmative. Researchers

289
exercise discretionary judgment in many phases of their work.
In fact, indicators are frequently the product of such
i
judgment. Certainly, if one finds that the indicators used
totally distort a reality that is readily apparent to any
keen observer, there is good reason to withhold a set of
findings or conclusions which are probably misleading. Of
course, due cause must be established in the minds of re
searchers prior to exercising discretionary judgment in
reporting their findings. Mere impression is not sufficient
cause for such action. But when it becomes apparent, as it
did in this case, that there are serious shortcomings in the
underlying assumptions of a given approach, there is ¡just
and obvious cause to reject it. When sxich situations arise,
it is time to go back to the drawing board in order to avoid
leading others to utilize unreliable indicators.
Interviews and questionnaires
Interview schedules and hand-out questionnaires are
common tools in the world of legislative research. Yet
there are many different ways of structuring these research
instruments. What one learns in the long run depends to a
large extent upon the decisions made in the early phases
of planning when a researcher is forced to choose the
topical areas which he will investigate and the way in which
!
he is to cover them. One of the most crucial decisions that
must be made in relation to interview and questionnaire
formats is how much emphasis should be placed upon

290
quantification. The wisdom of such decisions often depends
upon the degree to which they reflect a knowledge of the
milieu within which one plans to work. Interviewing can be
a time-consumming process. In Costa Rica the author devoted
the better part of four and a half months to this activity,
and he was able to complete interviews with only fifty of
the fifty-six deputies who were sitting in the Assembly.
The vast proportion of this time was spent not in interview
ing but in trying to establish appointments for the inter
views, waiting for deputies to appear at the time and place
agreed upon, and trying to make new appointments in those
cases where the original ones were canceled. Part of this
time was also spent cornering deputies who had been inter
viewed but who had not completed the supplementary question
naires. In the long run, even frequent reminders to the
deputies in respect to the importance of completing the
questionnaires proved to be ineffective, as is evidenced
by the fact that only twenty-eight of the fifty questionnaires
were returned.
Clearly, if one is to devote this much time to these
activities, every effort must be made to assure that the
returns will be worth the efforts expended. The experience
of the author would indicate that in Costa Rica, and very
possibly in many other legislative contexts, there is a real
danger in placing excessive emphasis upon quantification.

291
It is doubtful that much was gained by efforts to
obtain data which could be easily quantified. It is possible
that, to the contrary, much was lost through these efforts.
Attempts to identify the decisional factors that come into
play in the legislature would have been more successful if
less emphasis had been placed upon obtaining responses which
could be dealt with quantitatively. There is reason to
believe that many of the deputies who failed to return their
questionnaires may have done so because they felt that the
multiple-choice response pattern required by many of the
questions was absurd. One questionnaire which was returned
had to be discarded because it came to the attention |of the
author that it had been completed by a secretary and not by
the deputy that had received it. He evidently felt that he
could not be bothered with such nonsense. Yet it is quite
likely that this same deputy would have been willing to
sit down and discuss the dynamics of decision-making as he
saw it if he had been approached properly. Informal conver
sations do not produce quantifiable data, but they do provide
significant insights into questions of interest.
The same type of situation prevailed in the attempts
made to identify the types of contacts that deputies had
with external groups. A case in point is the relationship
of deputies to interest groups. Evaluating the .relative
impact that interest groups have upon legislative decision
making proved to be most difficult. Under structured

292
interview conditions, the deputies were not willing to
speak openly about interest groups or about their orienta
tions towards them. On the basis of the interviews carried
out, one could well draw the conclusion presented by Jean
Grossholtz when she states that "in the Phillipine politi
cian's view, pressure groups are evil and illegitimate for
they represent demands that he use his public authority for
7
private gam." It is instructive to note, however, that
Richard Styskal disagrees entirely with this observation and
states that congressmen in that country are in fact favorably
oriented toward interest groups.^ It is quite possible that
the different conclusions drawn by these two authors may be
explained by the fact that,one of them may have tapped a
formalistic response pattern whereas the other may have been
successful in obtaining less guarded responses. This
divergence was experienced in Costa Rica. Interview re
sponses by the deputies seemed to indicate that they viewed
interest groups with a great deal of suspicion. But infor
mal conversations with some of the deputies and the behavior
observed did not support the on-the-record statements;.
Costa Rican deputies are quite accessible to researchers,
but it is most difficult to establish any rapport with them
under structured interviewing conditions. If one can gain
their confidence and respect, they will discuss most sub
jects very openly. But they will not do so when subjected
to a battery of questions which do not permit them to catch

293
their breath between questions. Though they will bear with
the interviewer and answer his questions, a researcher might
well maximize his returns if he were to se a different
approach.
The premium placed upon quantitative data in the dis
cipline of political science is high. But researchers must
be conscious of the fact that "hard" data obtained in
foreign countries are often quite misleading and that one
conversation at times may be worth more than reams of computer
output.
A Conceptual Note
In the research which was carried out, an attempt was
made to utilize the fashionable role-orientation paradigm
9
set out by Wahlke, Eulau, and their associates. Previous
researchers have used the paradigm with what they considered
significant results. Its use in Costa Rica proved to be
an interesting experiment but nothing more. The results
obtained from trying to categorize deputies along represen
tational, purposive, and stylistic dimensions were discarded
by the author due to a lingering doubt that they were
artificial and that they could be easily misconstrued in
future comparative analyses of this typs. Several distinct
problems arose in the utilization of this conceptual approach.
The first problem was reflected in the fact that when
confronted with questions which sought to probe into

294
orientational matters, some deputies were stymied. The
questions made no particular sense to them in some cases.
At times it was evident that they had never given any thought
to such questions, possibly because they were amateur
deputies. Faced with this kind of situation, the author
utilized a set of leading questions which did in most cases
elicit responses. But response validity became quite fuzzy.
Was the deputy giving a response that he would have given
had he thought the questions out in more detail? Or was he
simply trying to please the interviewer?
The necessity of using leading questions could easily
have loaded the responses in favor of what the author was
trying to find. Under such conditions there is good reason
to question the validity of the response patterns obtained.
But there is also another basis for questioning the reli
ability and advisability of using for analytical purposes
the data acquired. Having gone through the process of
classifying frequently vague responses according to repre
sentational, purposive, and stylistic criteria, the author
believes that there is reason to raise serious doubts in
respect to the validity of employiiig the role-orientation
approach in most legislative contexts. This point is espe
cially true if the goal of the research is that of generating
discrete categorical groups that are to be subjected to
statistical analysis.

295
The weakness of the categorical groupings was best
reflected in the problems encountered in seeking to classify
the Costa Rican deputies into stylistic categories. The
categories most frequently used for this purpose, and those
used in the research carried out, are drawn from the oft-
cited Burkean concept of representational style. Burke
posited his concept in terms of two ideal typesthe delegate
and the trustee. To this, one normally adds a very conve
nient third categorythe politico. It is most interesting
that many studies that have used these categories indicate
that the politico style variant predominates among legis
lators. There are, perhaps, good reasons to expect that
this would be the case. After all, legislators are involved
in activities that call for compromise. And the politico
variant is exactly thata compromise position between the
delegate and the trustee. The coding experience of the
author does suggest, however, that there may be a far dif
ferent reason for these findings. The differentiation be
tween the politico type and the other two types is frequently
difficult to make unless one is dealing with extreme cases.
And, under these conditions, a general rule of thumb tends to
prevailwhen in doubt, use the middle category. If this
practice is as prevalent as the author suspects, it is hard
to believe that stylistic categories are discrete enough to
be subjected to the type of analysis carried out by some
scholars in the past.

296
Robert Packenham expresses serious doubts in respect
to the utilization of the role-sector paradigm when he
i
states:
The ready availability of these paradigms, and the
alluring quality of the precise data that are
readily gathered v/ith them, have induced (seduced?)
some serious students of legislatures into using
these studies as models in research sites where
they may not be, and in my judgment are not, most
appropriate.10
Though one need not take such an extreme position, it is
clear that the paradigm in question must be utilized with
the greatest of care. In some : legislative contexts it may
be possible to justify its use. In the Costa Rican case,
however, there is reason to be .highly skeptical about the
approach and the conclusions which might be drawn from it.

Motes-
Osear Chacn Jinesta, "El Poder Legislativo Costarri
cense" (tesis de grado, Universidad de Costa Rica, n,d.)
and Rafael Obregn Loria, El Poder Legislativo en Costa
Rica (San Jos: Asamblea Legislative, 1966).
2
This report proved to be the product of one Assembly
employee and has been discontinued. ¡
3 . .
For a description of the criteria used m classifying
bills according to scope, see Chapter I.
i
4
Of the six deputies who were not interviewed, one
openly refused to speak to the researcher, two consistently
broke all appointments to carry out the interview, two were
evasive and put off setting an appointment, and one could
not be reached due to a long period of hospitalisation
following a heart attack.
5 |:'
The dimensions utilized m operationalizing the various
coded variables were in many cases highly idiosyncratic and
would not prove of use for purposes of replication in other
countries. Hence, a detailed description of the coding
scheme is not appended to this study.
^It was impossible to analyze individual legislative
voting behavior, given the fact that roll-call votes were
taken very infrequently. In the two years preceding
February, 1968, only twenty-one roll-call votes had been
taken. Eighteen of these did not meet the requirements for
utilization of roll-call analysis techniques. |
7 .
Jean Grossholtz, Politics in the Phillipmes, as
quoted in Richard A. Styskal, "Philiipine Legislators'
Reception of Individuals and Interest Groups in the Legis
lative Process," in Herbert Hirsch and M. Donald Hancock,
eds., Comparative Legislative Systems (New York: The Free
Press, 1971), pp. 63-64. !
^Styskal, p. 75.
9
John C. Wahlke, Heinz Eulau, et al., The Legislative
System (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1962.
^Robert Packenham, "Legislatures and Political Develop
ment," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legisla-
tures in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1970), p. 550.
297

APPENDIX II
INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
1. Can you remember when you first became interested in
politics?
To what do yo\i attribute the arousal of this interest?
i
Was there any person or persons who were influential in
arousing this interest?
2. When did you first take an active part in the political
activities of your party?
I
I
In what types of party activities have you participated
3. Have you ever been a member or a sympathizer of another
party?
j
4. Would you say that there are deputies in this Assembly
who aspire to a permanent political career?
Would you include yourself among those who aspire to
such a career?
To what or which positions do you aspire?
In your case, what factors do you believe will be most
important in determining the success that you may have
in attaining your aspirations?
5. Did you seek your nomination in the past election of
your own accord or were you urged to run by another
person or by a group of persons?
Who urged you to do so?
6. Would you please describe briefly the activities or con
ditions which contributed to your nomination by the
National Assembly of your party?
Which in your opinion were the most important contri
buting factors in your nomination as a party candidate?
2 93

299
7. In your opinion, what are the needs or functions that
are met or fulfilled by the Legislative Assembly?
Which of these do you believe to be the most important?
8. With the exception of the invasion of 1955, Costa Rica
has enjoyed a peaceful political climate since 1949.
To what do you attribute this?
Do you believe that the Assembly contributes in any way
to the maintenance of this political climate?
In what way?
9. Do you feel that it is the duty of the Assembly to over
see the performance of the ministries and of the auton
omous institutions?
¡
How do you believe that such an oversight function
should be carried out?
10. Every deputy carries with him when he goes to the
Assembly some belief in respect to the role that1he
should play as a deputy. How would you describe, your
view of the functions that you should fulfill as a
deputy?
Which of these functions do you believe to be the most
important?
11. Do you participate in debate on the floor with some
frequency?
Why do you do so?
12. What effect do you think that the suspension of the
radio broadcasts of floor sessions would have on the
Assembly?
13. As a member of a chamber of representatives, whom do
you represent? ;
14. Do you consider yourself to be a deputy of a specific
canton or cantons?
Which?
How frequently do you visit your canton or cantons?
What kinds of contacts do you have with the people of
these cantons during these visits? |
15.

300
What other kinds of contacts do you have with them when
you are in San Jos?
16. There are a number of different ideas as to the way in
which a deputy should meet his responsibility as a
representative. Which of the following comes closest
to your feelings on this matter?
a) A. deputy should find out what the views of his con
stituents are in respect to the bills under debate
and should act in keeping with these views.
b) The responsibility of a deputy is to act in keeping
with what he believes the views of his constituents
would be if they were aware of the bills under
debate.
c) The behavior of a deputy should be based exclusively
upon his personal criteria and judgment.
I
17. Do your constituents urge you to support or oppose
certain bills?
What kinds of bills?
18. Are you contacted by any interest groups?
Which?
Do interest groups urge you to support or oppose cer
tain bills?
What kinds of bills?
19. What interest groups do you consider to be most'impor
tant to you politically?
What interest groups do you consider to be most impor
tant to your party?
20. What types of contacts do you have with the Executive
or Political Committee of your party?
Are you urged by the Committee to support or oppose
certain bills? ;
What kinds of bills? ,
' I
How do such urgings reach you?
21. What kinds of direct contacts do you have with the
President of the Republic?

301
Do you (also) have indirect contacts with him through
some intermediary?
22. What are the main factors that you take into account
in reaching a decision in respect to bills under con
sideration by the Assembly?
23. Are you urged within caucus to support or oppose cer
tain bills?
j
What kinds of bills? !
24. What factors are taken into account by your caucus
when the position to be taken by the caucus in respect
to a bill is discussed?
i
25. Within your caucus, are the views of any of the member
deputies more respected and influential than those of
the other caucus members?
Who are the more influential deputies?
26. Are there any deputies who tend to be respected and
influential among all of the deputies, regardless of
party affiliation? I
i
27. What considerations are taken into account in the
election of caucus leaders?
In your opinion, what should the role of the caucus
leader be?
28. If you are interested in having the Assembly pass a
bill, what do you do to seek this end?
Do you seek out the support of given deputies or groups
of deputies?
Whom would you contact first?
29. Are there any deputies in your committee who tend to be
highly regarded and more inferential in the decisions
taken by the committee than the other committee mem
bers?
j
Who are they?
30. Do you believe that a committee president can exert
greater influence over the outcome of a bill before
the committee than other members can? !
|
Why?
I
I

302
31. What considerations are taken into account in selecting
the president of a committee? I
In your opinion, what should the role of a committee
president be?
32. When bills are debated on the floor, are there any
deputies whom you tend to listen to and to rely upon
for guidance?
Who are they?
i
33. What considerations are taken into account in selecting
the Directorate of the Assembly?

In your opinion, what should the role of the presiding
officer of the Assembly be?
34. In your opinion, what should the position of a deputy
be in respect to the demands made upon him by the
following individuals or groups?
a)
President
of
the Republic
e)
Interest groups
b)
Ministers
of
State
f)
Organized groups that
you belong to
c)
Caucus group
g)
Constituents;
d)
Executive
or
Political
¡
Committee
of
your party
35.Studies of other legislatures which have been carried
out in the past indicate that, in addition to the for
mal rules contained in the by-laws of the legislature,
there are normally additional informal rules of behavior
of a consensual nature which indicate how a deputy should
or should not behave. If you had to advise a new dep
uty in respect to the informal norms of behavior that
prevail in this Assembly, what would you tell him?

APPENDIX III
SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONNAIRE
1. When were you born? '
2. Where were you born?
3. Where do you reside at the present time? '
Where did you reside prior to being elected as a deputy?
How long had you resided there? '
4. What is your profession or occupation?
5. Do you hold any remunerated position outside of the
Assembly or carry on any other remunerative economic
activities at the present time? i
What position or activity?
6. What is your annual income?
7. What was your annual income prior to becoming a deputy?
8.Have you ever held a position in the autonomous insti
tutions, in the central government, or in provincial
or local government?
Which and when? I
9.What party positions do you hold at the present time
at the national, provincial or local levels, or within
your caucus organization? i
10.
What is the highest level of
attained?
education that you
have-
11. Are you pursuing a university degree at this time?
12. Do you agree with those people who state that the
political parties of Costa Rica are the products of
personalistic differences rather than programmatic
differences? j
303

304
13. Did you contribute to the campaign of your party in
the last elections?
Was this contribution made:
a) before you were nominated
b) after you were nominated
c) after you were elected
How much did you contribute?
Was this contribution in the form of an I.O.U. or
in cash?
14. Approximately how much did you personally invest in
your efforts to be nominated by the National Assembly
of your party?
Approximately how much did you personally invest in
your campaign?
Were the party funds for your campaign controlled by
the treasury of your party?
Did you receive any direct local contributions to help
cover your expenses in:
a) running for nomination
b) running for election
15. Where were most of your campaign activities carried
out?
16. Would you say that people in your area usually vote
for the same party on both the presidential and legis
lative tickets?
17. How would you classify the importance of your own
campaign activities in relation to those of the
presidential candidate of your party in terms of your
success in being elected?
a) less important
b) more important
c) similar importance
13. Plow frequently do your constituents urge you to take
certain positions in respect to the bills that are
before the Assembly?
a) in almost all cases c) in a minority of cases
b) in a majority of cases d) never

305
What kinds of projects generally bring forth such
action?
19. Do you deal with any party organization at the local
level?
Which?
How frequently do you have contact with this organi
zation?
a) at least once a week
b) at least once a month
c) less than once a month
Do you hold a position of leadership within this
organization?
Which position?
20. It has been noted that legislators in other countries
tend to carry out three different kinds of tasks. The
first is that of studying and discussing the bills that
are before the legislature. The second is that of pro
viding aid unrelated to legislation to constituents.
For example, a legislator might accompany constituents
when they have meetings with a government office, or
he might use his good offices to get a ministry to
complete a local project. The third is that of keeping
in touch with constituents and providing information
to them. How many hours per week would you estimate
that you devote to each one of these tasks?
21. Does your caucus group establish strategies to be
followed on the floor in respect to certain bills?
Hov; frequently are these strategies established?
a) very frequently
b) frequently
c) infrequently
What types of bills are usually the subjects of :such
strategies?
Who establishes these strategies?
Does your caucus group establish strategies to be
followed in committee in respect to certain bills?
22.

306
How frequently are these strategies established?
a) very frequently
b) frequently
c) infrequently
What types of bills are usually the subjects of such
strategies?
Who establishes these strategies?
23. Do you submit the bills that you are planning to pre
sent to your caucus leader for his approval?
24. Would you please indicate how you would rank order the
committees of this Assembly in descending order of
importance, according to the importance of the types
of bills that are processed through each of them.
25. How frequently does the President of the Republic con
tact you in person, in writing, or by telephone?
a) at least once a week
b) at least once a month
c) less than once a month
d) never
26. How frequently does the Executive or Political Committee
of your party contact you?
a)
at least
once a week
b)
at least
once a month
c)
less than
once a month
d)
never
THIS QUESTIONNAIRE HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR DISTRIBUTION TO ALL
OF THE DEPUTIES OF THE ASSEMBLY. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOME
OF THE QUESTIONS THAT FOLLOW WILL NOT BE RELEVANT TO THE
RESPONSES PROVIDED IN THE INTERVIEW WHICH YOU SO KINDLY AC
CEDED TO. IF YOU FIND THAT THE NUMBER BEFORE A QUESTION HAS
BEEN CROSSED OUT, PLEASE PROCEDE TO THE NEXT QUESTION, AS
THIS WILL INDICATE THAT THE QUESTION SO MARKED IS NOT RELE
VANT IN YOUR CASE.
27.You have indicated that the factors listed below will
be important in determining your success in pursuing
a permanent political career. Please indicate what
degree of importance you would attribute to each of
these factors.

307
a) Factor #1
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
b) Factor #2
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
c) Factor #3
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
d) Factor #4
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
e) Factor #5
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
PLEASE CIRCLE THAT FACTOR WHICH YOU CONSIDER TO BE MOST
IMPORTANT OF ALL.
28. Please indicate what degree of importance you would
attribute to each of the following factors which you
reported to have contributed to your success in seeking
nomination.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 28]
29. You have reported that you take the following factors
into account in reaching decisions in respect to bills
under consideration by the Assembly. Please indicate
what degree of importance you would attribute to each
of these decisional factors.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 28]

308
30. You have reported that your caucus group at times
urges you to take certain stands in respect to bills
before the Assembly. Please indicate how frequently
this happens.
a) in almost all cases
b) in a majority of cases
c) in.a minority of cases
How important are these urgings within your decision
making context?
a) of the utmost importance
b) of great importance
c) of some importance
d) of no importance
31. You have indicated that the Executive or Political
Committee of your party at times urges you to take
certain stands in respect to bills before the
Assembly. Please indicate how frequently this
happens.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
How important, are these urgings within your decision
making context?
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
32. You have indicated that your constituents urge you to
take certain stands in respect to bills before the
Assembly. Please indicate how frequently this happens.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
How important are these urgings within your decision
making context?
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
33. You have indicated that on the floor you tend to listen
to the opinions of certain deputies. Please indicate
how frequently you tend to reach decisions on bills on
the basis of these opinions.
a) in almost all cases c) in a minority of cases
b) in a majority of cases d) never
34. In studies carried out in other legislatures, it has
been found that a number of factors tend to be

309
associated with the voting behavior of legislators.
Would you please indicate what importance each of these
factors could be said to have in your favorable re
sponse to bills of national scope.
a) Fact that the bill was presented by the executive
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
iv)of no importance |
[ALL RESPONSE PATTERNS IN THIS SEQUENCE OF QUESTIONS
ARE IDENTICAL TO THAT SHOWN IN 34A]
b) Fact that the Executive or Political Committee of
your party has urged you to vote for the bill
c) Fact that within your caucus group you have been
urged to vote for the bill
d) Fact that the bill was presented by one or more of
the deputies of your party
e) Fact that the deputies with some expertise support
the bill
f) Fact that the bill was presented by one or more
deputies from another party
g) Fact that interest groups support the bill
h) Fact that the bill has a favorable committee report
i) Fact that the bill has been supported editorially
in the press
j) Fact that the bill has been attacked editorially
in the press
k) Fact that your constituents support the bill
l) Fact that constitutionally required consultations
on a bill have proved to bring forth support for
the bill from the relevant institution
m) Political benefit that will accrue to you from
supporting the bill
n) Political liability involved in supporting the bill

310
o) Favorable public opinion
p) Personal judgment ¡
PLEASE CIRCLE THOSE THREE FACTORS WHICH YOU CONSIDER TO BE
OF THE GREATEST IMPORTANCE

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Christopher Evans Baker was born .in Flint, Michigan,
on January 4, 1341. From 1944 until 1959 he lived in
i
Havana, Cuba, where he v/as graduated from Ruston Academy.
His undergraduate work was done at Middlebury College in
Vermont, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree with
a major in political science in June, 1964. Mr. Baker earned
his Master of Arts degree in Latin American studies at the
University of Florida in December, 3.9 66 After completing
his course work and preliminary examinations for a doctoral
degree in political science in November, 1967, he went to
Costa Rica to carry out doctoral research on the legislature
of that country. He worked as a graduate research assistant
at the Center for Latin American Studies of the University
I
of Florida from January through August, 1965, and held a
NDFL Title VI Fellowship at this institution from September,
j
1965, through May, 1969. !
From July, 1969, until June, 1971, Mr. Baker was
employed as a research associate of the Central American
Field Program of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.
¡
In this capacity he directed a research project on the munici.
pal government system of Costa. Rica, carried out in .col labor a
I
tion with the School of Political Science of the University
322

: ¡ 323
of Costa Rica. Since September, 1971, he has been an
advisor to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica and
coordinator of the Costa Rican Legislative Development
I
Project of the Comparative Development Studies Center of the
State University of New York at Albany. In 1972, and 1973,
he served as a visiting professor at the School of Political
Science of the University of Costa Rica and as chairman of
the Rorad of Directors of the Costa Rica Academy in San Jose.
I .
Mr. Baker is married to the former Jane Oke MacFarlane
of Montreal, Canada, and is the father of three children.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
7
Andrs Surez, Chairman
Professor of Latin American Studies
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I/, ItjlZi/iA
Manning CJ. /Dauer
Professoi of. Polii
v7
.ical Science
1 certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
f
Keith R. Legg
Associate Professor of Political Science
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
iVq.
Lyle N. McAlister
Professor of History

I certify that I have read this study and that in ray
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
&, j?.
O. Ruth McQuown
Associate Professor of Political Science
I certify that I have read this study and that in ray
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
/?
o
/
Eric M. Uslaner
Assistant Professor of
Political
Science
This dissertation was submitted to the Department of
Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and
to the Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial ful
fillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy.
August, 1973
Dean, Graduate School

August 2007
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74
Bodenheimer was only referring to the PLN and the other
so-called Social Democratic parties of Latin America when
she wrote that they "have in practice defaulted on their
rhetorical promises to the masses and reinforced the landed,
1
commercial and industrial elites," this evaluation is
applicable to all of the major parties of Costa Rica.
The major parties of the country are also similar
in that, despite the fact that all three of them have been
in existence for at least twenty years, and have generally
enjoyed a continuity in leadership and membership, they
have developed no permanent structures and activities of
17
note. Foreign observers may be shown numerous detailed
18
organizational charts and descriptions, but the truth
of the matter is that in Costa Rica, as in most other
countries of the world where relatively free elections are
held, political parties are electoral organizations, and
as such come to life as active organizational structures at
the time of elections. Although all three parties have had
national committees and directorates, these have tended to
meet irregularly as formal structures. Even the PLN, which
has come closest to maintaining any semblance of permanent
activity, has shown visible signs of experiencing this
dormancy between elections. It has maintained the only
permanent national headquarters office, but this office has
been a symbol rather than a reliable indicator of permanent


INTRODUCTION
In the past decade the bibliography of studies on
legislative structures and behavior has expanded in geometric
proportions. The heightened interest in legislative research
evidenced.by members of the community of political scientists
has led to the creation of a recognized disciplinary sub
speciality which has been taken up by many interested in the
study of American as well as of foreign political systems.
Relative to prior interest and output, it has been those
interested in the study of political systems encompassed with
the amorphous grouping of nations variously referred to as
underdeveloped, emerging, transitional, non-Western developin
prismatic, and/or lesser-developed countries who have shown
the most noticeable increase of interest in legislative sub
jects. Among these, it is the scholars with an interest in
Latin America who have broken most clearly with a past ten
dency of giving little or. no research attention to legisla
tive structures.
Prior to the mid-1960s it was virtually impossible to
find any significant literature on the legislatures of Latin
America. In fact, there was little in the areal literature
which encouraged research in the legislative field and much
thcit discouraged it. William Pierson and Federico Gil,


Notes
" Hans Raerwald, review of Legislatures in Developmental
Perspective, ed. by Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
American Political Science Review, 66 (March, 1972), p. 248.
2
This estimate is based upon projections to April of
1972 and was provided to the author by the Tribunal Supremo
de Elecciones of Costa Rica.
3
A recent study of the municipal governments of twenty-
five predominantly rural cantons indicates that the sub
ventions of the central government accounted for an average
of 54.9 per cent of the revenues of these units of local
government. The study draws the conclusion that "at the
present time the rural municipal councils of Costa Rica
fulfill little more than an administrative function and are
not at all equipped to participate actively in the process
of resolving the needs of a 'developing* society." See
Christopher E. Baker, Ronald Fernandez Pinto, and Samuel
Z. Stone, Municipal Government in Costa Rica: Its
Characteristics and Functions (San-JoseT Associated Colleges
of the Midwest, 1971), pp. 84-85, 122.
^Ibid., p. 17-31.
^Ibid., p. 130.
g
A constitutional reform passed in 1969 now prohibits
the re-election of all presidents elected after 1969. Prior
to this reform, re-election was possible after a lapse of
eight years (two terms). For example Jos Figueres, who
was president from 1953 to 1958, was eligible for re-election
in 1966. His election in 1970 eliminates him from any
future contention for the presidential post.
7
To the knowledge of the author, there has been only
one minister who hcis been carried over from one administration
to another since 1949. This was Oscar Barahona Streber,
who served as Minister of Finance in the latter part of the
term of President Jos Joaquin Trejos (1966-1970) and the
first months of the term of President Jos Figueres
(1970-1972).
64


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
LIST OF TABLES viii
ABSTRACT X
INTRODUCTION ... 1
CHAPTER
I. THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND SYSTEMIC
DECISION-MAKING .13
General Characteristics of the Legislativa
Sub-System . . 15
Power of Initiative 18
Power of Enactment 21
Power of Ratification 2 6
Power of Appointment 28
Power of Investigation 29
Miscellaneous and Latent Powers 31
Suramary and Conclusions 3 3
II. THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT .......... 40
General Overview
The Judicial Branch . .
The Executive; Branch . .
The Autonomous Institutions
Summary and Conclusions .
41
4 3
4 6
59
62
III.THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
66
The Political Party System ........ 67
Legislative Party Caucuses and External
Party Leaders 7 5
Summary and Conclusions 90


250
Costa Rican case there is very good reason to believe that
the role played by the Assembly in the fulfillment of such
functions as representation, information, electoral mobili
zation, and catharsis is essential to the continued political
stability of the nation.


313
Kantor, Harry. The Costa Rican Election of 1953: A Case
Study. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1958.
Patterns of Politics and Political Systems in
Latin America. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1969.
LaPalombara, Joseph. Interest Groups in Italian Politics.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964.
Lscaris, Constantino. Desarrollo de las Ideas Filosficas
en Costa Rica. San Jos: Editorial Costa Rica, 1964.
Lipset, Seymour Martin and Aldo Solari, eds. Elites in
Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press,
1967.
McDonald, Ronald H. Party Systems and Elections in Latin
America. Chicago: Markham Publishing Company, 1971.
Matthews, Donald R. U. S. Senators and Their World. New
York: Random House, 1960.
Monge, Carlos. Historia de Costa Rica. 5th ed.; San Jos:
Librera Las Americas, 1955.
Obregn, Rafael. Conflictos Militares y Polticos en Costa
Rica. San Jos! Imprenta aciona'l, 1951.
El Poder Legislativo en Costa Rica. San Jos:
Asamblea Legislativa, 1966.
Oduber, Daniel. Una Campaa. San Jos: Editorial Eloy
Mora Carrillo, 1967.
Pierson, William and Federico Gil. Governments of Latin
America. New York: McGraw Hill, 1357.
Polsby, Nelson W. Community Power and Political Theory.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963.
Pye, Lucian W. Aspects of Political Development. Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1966.
Ranney, Austin. The Doctrine of Responsible Party Govern
ment. Urbana; University of Illinois Press, 1962.
Riggs., Fred W. Administration in Developing Countries;
The Theory of Prismatic Society. Boston: Houghton-
Mifflin Co., 1964.
Rodriguez, Eugenio. Apuntes para una Sociologa Costarri-
oense. San Jos Editor!.^Universitaria, 1953.


194
procedural motion requiring a two-thirds vote. In recent
years, the presiding officers of the Assembly have resorted
to a special procedural step in order to overcome the
problem of having to deal with an endless number of amend
ment motions to the same bill. Special sub-committees have
been formed in order to consider the motions presented.
Within a specified period of time they submit a report which
recommends the approval of all, some, or none of the motions
presented. And it is this report rather than each individ
ual. motion that is discussed and voted upon in first debate
Once the original or modified text of the bill has
been approved in first debate, amendment motions related to
the substance of the bill may be considered only after a
two-thirds majority approval of a procedural motion request
ing that the bill be returned to first debate. If a
favorable report on a bill is rejected in first debate, the
I
bill is assigned to a new committee by the president of the
Assembly, unless it has been rejected in first debate before
in which case it is defeated. If a negative report is
approved in first debate, the bill is also defeated. In
either case the bill may not be reintroduced until the
beginning of the following legislative calendar year. If a
favorable report is accepted, the bill goes on to second
debate.
The second-debate period allows for general discussions
to be held in respect to the form or wording, rather than


275
legislative decadence is universal. But one cannot help
agreeing with K. C. Wheare when he states:
Much of the discussion on the decline of legislatures
is based on the assumption that decline was possible.
There is a myth of a golden age of legislatures when
wisdom, oratory and gentlemanly behaviours and public
spirit all seemed somehow to flourish and to flourish
together. It is difficult to know when this could
have been.12
The basic question which must be raised, however, is >
not whether a legislature has decayed, which inevitably leads
one to judge it by past standards, but rather whether it is
relevant or sigificant within the present context of the
political system. It is difficult to see what useful pur
pose would be achieved if one were able to state that the
present-day legislature ranks higher or lower on some scale
of wisdom, eloquence and gentlemanly behavior than some
19th or early 20th century legislature of Costa Rica. It is,
however, highly significant within the present-day context
of the Costa Rican political system to note that the deputies
have meaningful participation in the systemic decision-making
process and thus in the allocation of systemic resources and
that their behavior has a definite impact upon the genera
tion of specific and diffuse support for the political
system. The presence of these attributes permits one to
conclude that legislative behavior is most definitely rele
vant to political life in Costa Rica and a highly justifiable
subject for research in the future.


197
assume that the floor procedure has a substantial impact
upon the final action taken upon bills. Careful observa
tion of floor sessions and a detailed analysis of the daily
records of these, however, raise serious doubts about such
an assumption.
If the floor process were indeed one in which issues
or bills were "sharply debated" or in which bills were dis
cussed in detail, most bills would be the objects of such
discussion. Yet the data of this study indicate that in
the seven-month period studied, 53.0 per cent of the bills
that were fully processed were voted upon in each of the
25
three debates without any discussion whatsoever. Discus
sion was limited to one participant in the case of 45.9 per
cent of those bills which did receive some discussion. If
debate were to be defined in terms of the participation of
two or more discussants, then 74.4 per cent of those bills
processed were not subjected to debate on the floor of the
Assembly. If debate were to be operationalized in terms of
controversy, it would be found that 82.5 per cent of the
6
bills were non-controversial.Finally, if the significance
of the floor procedure were to be judged on the basis of
the extent to which bills are modified on the floor, it would
have to be concluded that the significance of the floor is
quite reduced, given the fact that only 15.3 per cent of the
27
bills were so treated.' If the floor process is analyzed m
terms of the total number of bills which were affected in any


77
to observations made in the meetings held by the more
accessible group. There is reason to believe, with the
exceptions that will be pointed out, that the general de
scription provided would apply to all three parties.
It is widely believed and reported that party disci-
. 22
pline is strictly enforced in the Costa Rican Assembly.
But the small number of bills discussed in the PLN meetings
does not support the view that party deputies must fre
quently vote according to party-line stands (lneas de
partido). A party line, obligating all caucus deputies to
support a specific stand on a bill, is taken whenever two-
thirds of the fraccin deputies vote to subject a bill to
23
such treatment. No more than 7 of the 537 bills before the
Assembly were discussed in the fraccin meetings held during
the six-month period in question, and only 3 of: these.,
were subjected to party-line stands. And, even in those
cases where a party line was voted, deputies were allowed to
vote against the stand agreed upon if they could present
arguments considered valid by the other members of the caucus
as to why it would be politically unwise or difficult for
24
them to support the party line publicly. It is doubtful,
however, that this obligation would have been waived had the
release of one or more votes represented the defeat of the
2^
position of the fraccin.
Though it was impossible to obtain detailed reports
from the PR and PUN deputies on the bills discussed by their
caucus groups, the impression given by them was that they too


231
Many deputies use or abuse this opportunity to reach
their constituents, their statements frequently being ir
relevant to the decision-making and/or legitimating func
tion being fulfilled by those present on the floor. One
deputy in the group studied reportedly put off speaking,
whenever possible, until after 4:30 P.M., when he considered
the radio audience to be at its peak. It is largely due
to this extended audience that many deputies give the
impression of being on a soapbox rather than in an environ
ment propitious for the objective evaluation and discussion
of legislative bills. No survey has been taken to determine
how large and widespread this audience is, but the deputies
report that it is very large. And there is some evidence
that many people in the rural areas, who finish work around
3:00 P.M., make a regular practice of tuning in when the
legislative session starts at 3:30 P.M.
The feelings of the deputies in respect to the broad
casts were somewhat mixed. The deputies who had served in
previous legislative terms in which the broadcasts had not
been made indicated that floor behavior had taken a turn for
the worse with the broadcasts. In fact, even the novices
tended to see the disadvantages involved in this procedure.
When asked what effect suspending the radio broadcasts would
have, most deputies indicated that it would produce a
salubrious effect on the seriousness and length of debates.
The following are some of the responses given: "Debate


316
Goldkind, Victor. "Sociocultural Contrasts in Rural and
Urban Settlement Types in Costa Rica," Rural Soci
ology, 26 (June, 19*61) pp. 365-380.
Gutierrez, Carlos Jos. "Las Bases de la Realidad Social
Costarricense," Revista de Filosofa de la Universidad
de Costa Rica, 3 (Enero-Junio, 1961), pp. 43-62.
. "Libertad, Derecho y Desarrollo Poltico," Revista
de Ciencias Jurdicas, 1 (Mayo, 1963), pp. 71-132.
Hart, Henry C. "Parliament and Nation-Building: England
and India," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed., Modern Parlia
ments New York: Aldine-Atherton, 1971.
Hennessey, Bernard. "On the Study of Party Organization,"
in William J. Crotty, ed., Approaches to the Study of
Party Organization. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1968.
Hennis, Wilhelm. "Reform of the Bundestag: The Case for
General Debate," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed., Modern
Parliaments. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971.
¡
Hoskin, Gary. "Dimensions of Representation in the
Colombian National Legislature," in Weston H. Agor,
ed., Latin American Legislatures: Their Role and
Influence. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.
Hunt, William H., Wilder W. Crane and John C. Wahlke*
"Interviewing of Political Elites in Cross-Cultural
Comparative Research," in Samuel C. Patterson, ed.,
American Legislative Behavior. Princeton: D. Van
Nostrand Co., Inc., 1968,
Huntington, Samuel. "Political Development and Political
Decay," World Politics, 17 (April, 1965), pp. 386-430.
Keefe, William Jr. "The Functions and Powers of the State
Legislatures," in Alexander Heard, ed., State Legis
latures in American Politics. New York: Prentice-
Hail, Inc., 1966.
Kelley, R. Lynn. "The Role of the Venezuelan Senate)" in
Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legislatures:
Their Role and Influence. New York: Praeger Publish
ers, 1971.
.
Kling, Merle. "The State of Research in Latin America:
Political Science," in Charles Wagley, ed., Social
Science Research in Latin America. New York: |
Columbia University Press, 1964.


147
couched in general rather than particular terms; yet the
majority of such demands tend to be particularistic to the
extent that they are, in fact, usually based upon group
rather than systemic interest considerations.
There are marked differences among groups in terms of
the instrumentality or affectivity of interest articulation.
Few are in a position to use instrumental forms of interest
articulation, but those that can resort to these forms tend
to do so quite effectively. Among the associational groups,
it is the organized labor and professional groupings within
the public service sector, the banana workers' unions and
the teachers' unions,that are in a position to back up
their demands with overt or covert threats of retaliatory
action in the form of strikes. A strike by groups such as
the railroad workers, the port workers, the medical union
within the social security system, the United Fruit banana
workers, or the teachers' union creates a crisis situation
in the country, be it economic or social, which must be
dealt with rapidly. It should be noted, however, that
these tactics are usually used vis--vis executive rather
than legislative decision-making. Industrial, commercial,
and agricultural chambers do not opt for overt bargaining
of this type, although the favored financial position of the
individual members of these groups should not be overlooked
in connection with an analysis of instrumental forms of
pressuring. The implications of unfavorable action toward


Notes
A quorum must be present whenever a vote is taken.
Because a procedural motion must be presented and voted
upon in order to allow a deputy to speak for more than any
one thirty-minute period at a time, far more votes are taken
on the floor of the Costa Rican Assembly than is true in
other countries. Thus, the lack of quorum is made evident
far more frequently than in other legislatures.
2
Wilhelm Hennis, "Reform of the Bundestag: The Case
for General Debate," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed., Modern
Parliaments (Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971), p. 69.
^Ibid., p. 71.
4 .
K. C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford Univer
sity Press, 1963), p. 228.
5 .
Costa Rican deputies do not normally utilize the news
letter technique used by a large number of congressmen and
senators in the United States. Only three deputies indi
cated that they used circular letters, and they only sent
such out in a very sporadic fashion.
^Gary W. Hoskin, "Dimensions of Representation in the
Colombian National Legislature," in Weston H. Agor, ed.,
Latin American Legislatures: Their Role and Influence
(New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971), p. 421.
7
Hennis, p. 70.
8Ibid., p. 76.
9
Bernard Crick, The Reform of Parliament as quoted m
Robert A. Packenham, "Legislatures and Political Development,"
in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legislatures
in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke University Press,
1970), p. 572.
^Peter Ranis, "Profile Variables Among Argentine Legis
lators," in Agor, ed., p. 180.
'^Hennis, p. 72 .
251


136
exist between those groups identified as "interest groups"
by the deputy respondents and those dealt with in most re
search that has dealt with interest-group behavior within
the context of the national legislature which has been
most closely studied in the past, that of the United States.
Such a comparison will help to sharpen our awareness of
the fact that interest-group related phenomena may vary
substantially from one national context to another.
Contextual Variation in the
Study of Interest Groups
Costa Rican interest groups are more reduced in
variety and number than those found at the national legis
lative level in the United States. But far more impor
tant, there are very substantial differences in terms of
the nature of these. Research focusing upon interest-group
behavior within the national legislative sub-system of the
United States leads, rightly or wrongly, to the impression
that the most relevant groups are national in scope, well
2
organized, and well financed. Yet the group referents
identified by the Costa Rican deputies fail to a large
extent to fall into categories which could be described in
this way, as is illustrated by the following listing of
the interest groups which these deputies identified as
those establishing contacts with them.
Though the groups classified under the heading
"national" would in large part fail to meet the organizational


115
role in the filtering out of potential candidates. Aspirants
in many cases must be in a position to devote all of their
attention to a campaign that lasts for six or more months,
depending upon how early the person in question starts devot
ing major attention to the preliminary hustings that precede
the national nominating convention. In doing so, they must
in a large number of cases be able to get along without any
job income. Candidates must also cover certain types of
local campaign expenses such as vehicle rentals and mainte
nance. It was impossible to estimate with any precision the
cost to a candidate of a campaign in terms of these two types
of expenses or sacrificed income, but clearly it is of a
magnitude and type which could not be sustained by the average
citizen. However, no candidate could justifiably view these
expenses as clearing him of a responsibility to the national
party for financial support of his campaign. The centralized
system of most campaign financing cannot help making the
deputies feel accountable to the national party.
Over and above what has already been mentioned, there
is another reason for arguing that the accountability of
deputies in Costa Rica is primarily to the national parties
and their leaders. It is significant to note that 48.0
per cent (24) of the fifty deputies interviewed indicated
that they aspired to a continued political career. An
uninterrupted political! career in Costa Rica is possible only
for individuals sitting in the Assembly if they can attain


69
somewhat left of center whereas the National Union Party
and the other mini-parties can be classified as right of
center.
The roots of this alliance can best be understood by
placing the major political parties within the historical
context of the "revolution" experienced by Costa Rica in
1948. A full explanation of this event would require an
extensive treatise and cannot be entertained in this brief
chapter. But in capsular form, and in somewhat simplistic
terms, it may be said that in 1948 constitutional order was
interrupted in Costa Rica as a result, among other things, of
the attempt of the leaders of the Republican Party in power
to nullify the outcome of the election held in that year, in
which they lost the presidential race. The leaders of the
revolution eventually became the leaders of the National
Liberation Party when it was founded in 1951. The reasons
for the basic antagonism between these two parties are to be
found in the events surrounding the conflagration of 1948.
It is somewhat more difficult to deal with or classify the
National Union Party. This party has traditionally repre
sented the more conservative sectors of Costan Rican society.
But it has not always been associated with the other main
anti-PLN party. Thus in 1948 one finds that this political
group was associated with the rebellion against the Republi
can Party then in government. In fact, the main leader of
the National Union Party was the victorious candidate whose


240
they of necessity be wealthy. Congressional elections are
held at the provincial level, the equivalent of the depart
mental level in Colombia, but the informal aspect of the
nomination process which allots preferential position on
party provincial slates according to specific cantonal pri
orities makes it quite different from the Colombian case.
These variations would seem to suggest that the systemic
characteristics which Hoskin finds related to the Colombian
congressmen's high degree of aloofness form constituency
relations need to be refined further before they can be used
to posit a comparative hypothesis.
Yet it should be noted that the Costa Rican case may
not be a good one to use in tes|ing the proposition that has
been examined. The presence of constituency-oriented
deputies who are quite genuinely interested in helping their
communities to solve their problems is clearly related to
what may be an idiosyncratic cultural variable. The aloofness
that prevails among elites in seme Latin American countries
is simply not acceptable in Costa Rica, where egalitarianism
is given at least symbolic lip-service. A politician in
this small country courts disaster if he separates himself
from direct contact with the public. In fact, the defeated
PLN presidential candidate in 1966 has recently stated that
one of the main errors which he made in his campaign was
that of being overly detached from the electorate at public


258
supplement the initial attempt of this study to identify the
context within which the systemic decision-making process
takes place.
The fourth area of research in the country-specific
category is all-encompassing. As stated in the introduc
tion of this study, research conditions made it impossible
to collect data covering a time span which would incorporate
more than one legislative term. Obviously follow-up studies
will have to be executed before it can safely be affirmed
that the findings reported here are not unique to a single
legislature of Costa Rica. Given the significance of parties
in the Costa Rican context, it may be inferred that any
follow-up studies undertaken should focus upon a term charac
terized by the presence of presidential-party-majority
legislature so that the findings may be compared with those
of this study, which deals with a presidential-party-
3
minority legislature.
Comparative implications
Contrary to what one might normally expect to arise
from a configurative approach to the study of a foreign
political system, the implications of this study are rele
vant to a broader comparative framework of analysis. The
findings reported can be utilized to draw three different
types of comparative inferences which may be categorized
under the sub-headings of relational, methodological, and
general inferences.


34
allocated by the Costa Rican political system. Legislative
decision-making is clearly not of the symbolic-legitimating
type in this country.


174
guaranteed in the first four. Two of the top committees
were given one more deputy than needed to obtain a majority.
In order to make this possible, only one party deputy was
assigned to the last committee, whereas the other parties
were given disproportionate representation on it.
Provincial considerations in committee assignment
appear to have been of negligible importance. No clear pat
tern or biases can be detected in the data available for the
period in question. Responses from the deputies who had
served as majority party leader or as president indicated
that, with one exception, provincial balance was not one of
the main criteria used in making assignments. The one excep
tion was related to assignments to the Comisin de Asuntos
Hacendarlos, the committee which deals with budgetary matters.
Within the caucus of the majority party, the presidents were
pressured not to assign more than one party deputy from each
province to this committee. The provincial interest evidenced
in respect to the assignments to this committee is unques
tionably tied to the desire of the deputies that their
provinces get their fair share of the pork-barrel distribu
tion made within this committee every year when the annual
budget is submitted to the committee for its study.
Despite the partisan nature of the membership of the
diverse committees, sessions were not characterized by any
considerable degree of political hay-making or dramatics.
Most of the time, a serious attempt was made to discuss bills


241
rallies. There is also a touch of the personalistic-
paternalistic syndrome which contributes to this pattern of
behavior. But, unlike the representatives of a traditional
elite, the paternalism of local deputies drawn from the local
populace is not based upon a superficial noblesse oblige.
Electoral Function
The accessibility of deputies, no doubt, is also related
to the fact that parties expect their deputies to gain or
retain the support of their constituents for future electoral
purposes. The fulfillment of this function is quite apparent
in the behavior of the deputies inside as v/ell as outside of
the Assembly. Hennis states that "the purpose of parliamen
tary debates . [is] to influence public opinion, and
7
thereby to determine the results or the next election" and
characterizes floor proceedings as "a permanent electoral
campaign.Bernard Crick notes the existence of this func
tion in Great Britain when he writes:
Governing has now become a prolonged election campaign.
Parliament is still the agreed arena in which most of
the continuous election campaign is fought and the
principal device by which parties obtain something like
equal access to the ear of the electorate in the long
formative period between official campaigns.9
Peter Ranis notes a similar phenomenon in the context of
Argentina in stating:
The Chamber of Deputies through its debates publicized
party positions and thus served an important electoral
(educational) function. The deputies, especially, as
political actors, performed the role of visible propa
gandists. J-0


31
a vote of censure was sought against one of them, but this
attempted censure did not receive the necessary votes to
pass. In all cases nothing but the most rudimentary cour
tesies were observed in cross-examining these high officials.
Partisan motivation tends to be a strong factor in the exer
cising of these powers. It was clearly present on the two
occasions in which the son of the president, who served as
minister of public security, was called before the Assembly.
But regardless of the motive, the fact remains that the
legislature does exercise this investigative power.
Miscellaneous and Latent Powers
There is one additional power granted to the Assembly
which should not be overlooked. Article 98 of the consti
tution prohibits "the establishment or functioning of parties
which, due to their ideological programs, procedures, or
international ties, tend to destroy the foundations of the
democratic organization of Costa Rica." The final inter
pretation of this article is placed in the hands of the Legis
lative Assembly rather than the Supreme Court. Thus, the
Assembly has the power to prevent certain types of parties
from participating in the general elections. It used this
power to proscribe what were considered to be communist-
front parties in the elections of 1953 and 1966. In 1969 the
Assembly was once again called upon to exercise this power.
In August of 1969 the registration of the Bloc of Workers,
Peasants and Intellectuals (Bloque de Obreros, Campesinos e


217
education. As in the case of previous legislative experience,
it is not difficult to imagine why the non-influentials
would rely upon the influentials given the low group educa
tional level of the former and the high level of the latter.
If examined in conjunction, the variables in question are of
even higher explanatory power.
TABLE 6.14
Previous Legislative Experience and Education of
Influential and Non-Influential Deputies
Previous
Experience
No Previous Experience
Influence
Degree
Non-Degree
Degree Non-Degree
Influentials
7
2
7 1
Non-influentials 1
4
9 19
Close examination of the table will help to uncover a
number of interesting relationships. First, it was indicated
previously that a high proportion (64.3 per cent) of the
deputies with previous experience fell into the influential
group. But why do some who have previous experience fail to
be included among the influentials? The answer seems to lie
in their lack of a formal university education, as all but one
of those not included were non-degree holders. It becomes
apparent that previous experience combined with a university
degree is almost an ironclad guarantee of influential status.
In fact, the only deputy who did not fall into the


290
quantification. The wisdom of such decisions often depends
upon the degree to which they reflect a knowledge of the
milieu within which one plans to work. Interviewing can be
a time-consumming process. In Costa Rica the author devoted
the better part of four and a half months to this activity,
and he was able to complete interviews with only fifty of
the fifty-six deputies who were sitting in the Assembly.
The vast proportion of this time was spent not in interview
ing but in trying to establish appointments for the inter
views, waiting for deputies to appear at the time and place
agreed upon, and trying to make new appointments in those
cases where the original ones were canceled. Part of this
time was also spent cornering deputies who had been inter
viewed but who had not completed the supplementary question
naires. In the long run, even frequent reminders to the
deputies in respect to the importance of completing the
questionnaires proved to be ineffective, as is evidenced
by the fact that only twenty-eight of the fifty questionnaires
were returned.
Clearly, if one is to devote this much time to these
activities, every effort must be made to assure that the
returns will be worth the efforts expended. The experience
of the author would indicate that in Costa Rica, and very
possibly in many other legislative contexts, there is a real
danger in placing excessive emphasis upon quantification.


140
congregations; local sports organizations; and local Red
Cross organizations. But on the basis of the distinguishing
characteristics mentioned by Almond and Powell, it would
not be possible to include many of these within the asso-
ciational category. It is apparent that, despite attempts
to overcome the developed-Western democratic bias present
in Almond's earlier formulations, it is still difficult to
use certain parts of Almondian classification schemes within
the context of less developed countries. In this case, it
is the full-time professional staff characteristics attri
buted to associational interest groups that proves to be
an excessively restrictive trait. No doubt, such research
staffs are present in many developed countries and even in
9
some partially industrialized nations such as Italy and
serve very important functions for groups and legislatures
alike. But in countries such as Costa Rica which have not
reached a high level of economic development and where
10
organized interest-group activity is a recent phenomenon,
it is not likely that many organized groups of any kind
will be in a position to afford the type of staffing which
characterizes such groups in highly industrialized nations.
In the case of Costa Rica, few groups have full-time pro
fessionals on their staff, if they have any professional
staff members at all. Yet it would not appear that this
absence alone is sufficient to justify excluding the Costa
Rican groups that have been mentioned above from the categor


38
had been initiated by the executive branch. Though it is
true that legislative bills accounted for more than three-
quarters of the "defeated" bills, the fact that a significant
number of executive bills were "defeated" indicates that
even if one were to rely exclusively on the Mijeski data, it
would have to be concluded that the Legislative Assembly is
far more than a symbolic participant in the allocational
process.
23
Though the legislature must show where the funding for
an increased budget will come from, it is usually not difficult
to obtain legally acceptable evidence that the executive has
underestimated the projected income for a fiscal year.
24
The municipal governments of Costa Rica have long
sought and obtained a dispensation on tax payments for pur
chases of such things as cement supplies. Many bills dealt
with by the Assembly requested such negligible exemptions.
2 5
Until a constitutional amendment was passed m 1969,
the Assembly had to authorize the executive to negotiate
foreign loans. This meant that the legislature could formerly
play a greater role in setting certain types of fiscal and
credit policies than it can eit the present time. It now
resorts to the introduction of certain enabling clauses which
limit the way in which the executive may utilize the funds
obtained through foreign loans.
^lt is of interest to note that in this case the agree
ment was ratified in 1970 shortly after the installation of
the Figueres administration, in which there is a presidential-
party majority legislature. This fact would suggest that the
influence which can be exerted by a president varies from
term to term. The style of each president and the conditions
under which he serves may well be just as significant or more
significant than the institutionalized aspects of the executive
legislative relationship.
? 7
Robert D. Tomasek, "Costa Rica," in Ben C. Burnett and
Kenneth F. Johnson, eds., Political Forces in Latin America
(Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1968), p. 112.
op
Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Government and Politics
(Ph.D. disseration, Emory University, 1965), p. 38.
29
Manuel Mora, the main leader of the Communist party
since its inception in the early 1930s, was nominated to run
in the first slot of the party ticket for San Jose province,
which is the preferential position on any party legislative
slate. The vast proportion of the PASO campaign focused upon
the election of Mora rather than on that of any of the
.legitimate PASO candidates.


Motes-
Osear Chacn Jinesta, "El Poder Legislativo Costarri
cense" (tesis de grado, Universidad de Costa Rica, n,d.)
and Rafael Obregn Loria, El Poder Legislativo en Costa
Rica (San Jos: Asamblea Legislative, 1966).
2
This report proved to be the product of one Assembly
employee and has been discontinued. ¡
3 . .
For a description of the criteria used m classifying
bills according to scope, see Chapter I.
i
4
Of the six deputies who were not interviewed, one
openly refused to speak to the researcher, two consistently
broke all appointments to carry out the interview, two were
evasive and put off setting an appointment, and one could
not be reached due to a long period of hospitalisation
following a heart attack.
5 |:'
The dimensions utilized m operationalizing the various
coded variables were in many cases highly idiosyncratic and
would not prove of use for purposes of replication in other
countries. Hence, a detailed description of the coding
scheme is not appended to this study.
^It was impossible to analyze individual legislative
voting behavior, given the fact that roll-call votes were
taken very infrequently. In the two years preceding
February, 1968, only twenty-one roll-call votes had been
taken. Eighteen of these did not meet the requirements for
utilization of roll-call analysis techniques. |
7 .
Jean Grossholtz, Politics in the Phillipmes, as
quoted in Richard A. Styskal, "Philiipine Legislators'
Reception of Individuals and Interest Groups in the Legis
lative Process," in Herbert Hirsch and M. Donald Hancock,
eds., Comparative Legislative Systems (New York: The Free
Press, 1971), pp. 63-64. !
^Styskal, p. 75.
9
John C. Wahlke, Heinz Eulau, et al., The Legislative
System (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1962.
^Robert Packenham, "Legislatures and Political Develop
ment," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legisla-
tures in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1970), p. 550.
297


253
from this study to generate or to give direction to future
research efforts. The second section demonstrates that
research on the Assembly is definitely justified as a means
of attaining a better understanding of political behavior
which has clear consequences for the political system of
Costa Rica.
Selected Research Implications
Definitive studies exist only in the minds of men.
Research inevitably leads to the identification of new ques
tions and perspectives. But the inferences to be drawn
from a study such as this one are largely dependent upon the
research interests of the reader. A person interested in
studying committee-related decisional phenomena in Costa
Rica might identify the following as the main implications of
interest to him. First, it is clear that the committees of
the Assembly play an important role in legislative decision
making and thus are worthy subjects of study within his
frame of reference. Second, it is clear that a study of
the committees should, among other things, give special
attention to: (1) the role played within the committees by
the "influential" deputies; (2) the relationship between
committee presidents and the majority caucus leader; (3) the
extent to which committee presidents utilize their discre
tionary powers to favor or to oppose, expedite or delay, bills
in committee; (4) the types of issues in which committee


153
of national scope, the process is reversed. Attempts are
made to draw the support of national party leaders or at
least of the legislative leadership in the person of the
president of the Assembly, the jefes de fraccin, committee
chairmen, and of a reduced number of other influential
deputies in the hopes that they will exercise their influ
ence to support or to oppose the bill. If such support
is obtained, few groups proceed to the type of informal
institutional lobbying that would encompass attempts to
establish personal contacts at lower levels or the other
means of access unless the matter in question is so contro
versial as to require that certain types of supports be
provided to their collaborators at the top. It is inter
esting to note within the context of such pressure teen- .
iques from above that 66.6 per cent (28) of the deputies
responding (42) indicated that there was at least a partial
and, at times, a significant difference between the interest
groups which were of importance to them and those of impor
tance to their parties. This would seem to indicate that
certain groups (it was impossible to determine which) resort
to pressures from above, at least in part, because they do
not have a favorably disposed audience within the Assembly
in the form of the individual deputies.
The direct-or elite-representation means of access,
the third category in Almond and Powell's scheme, is not
particularly evident in Costa Rica as far as the legislative


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Christopher Evans Baker was born .in Flint, Michigan,
on January 4, 1341. From 1944 until 1959 he lived in
i
Havana, Cuba, where he v/as graduated from Ruston Academy.
His undergraduate work was done at Middlebury College in
Vermont, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree with
a major in political science in June, 1964. Mr. Baker earned
his Master of Arts degree in Latin American studies at the
University of Florida in December, 3.9 66 After completing
his course work and preliminary examinations for a doctoral
degree in political science in November, 1967, he went to
Costa Rica to carry out doctoral research on the legislature
of that country. He worked as a graduate research assistant
at the Center for Latin American Studies of the University
I
of Florida from January through August, 1965, and held a
NDFL Title VI Fellowship at this institution from September,
j
1965, through May, 1969. !
From July, 1969, until June, 1971, Mr. Baker was
employed as a research associate of the Central American
Field Program of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.
¡
In this capacity he directed a research project on the munici.
pal government system of Costa. Rica, carried out in .col labor a
I
tion with the School of Political Science of the University
322


137
TABLE 5.1
Interest Groups Contacting Deputies
Interest Groups
Number of Deputies
Reporting Contacts
NATIONAL GROUPS
Industrial, commercial and agri- 26
cultural chambers
Labor unions 24
Teacher organizations 8
Professional organizations 5
Autonomous institutions 3
Women's organizations 2
Ideological interest groups 2
LOCAL GROUPS
Municipal governments 22
Semi-autonomous local government boards
(e.g., health and welfare boards, boards
of education, local roads boards) 25
Local community development organizations 21
Local cultural organizations 3
Local cooperatives 3
Local religious congregations 3
Local sports organizations 2
Local Red Cross organizations 1
and financial characteristics previously cited, they are at
least similar to their counterparts in the United States
in that they are not primarily localistically oriented
groups. But more than half of the groups identified would
fail to meet the requisite of national orientation as well
as fall far short of the organizational and financial
characteristics mentioned. This difference could be due to
the fact that the greater proliferation of groups to be
expected in a more complex society such as that of the


16
requirements. Votes are cast for entire legislative party
tickets within each province rather than for individuals.
The provincial seats are apportioned among the candidates
by applying a proportional representation formula intended
to favor small parties but not miniparties. The provincial
slates of national parties are formally determined by party
nominating conventions, consisting of ten delegates from each
province, in which all delegates have an equal vote in the
selection of the candidates that go on each of the slates.
In those few cases where a party is only registered as a
provincial party and thus seeks only to participate in the
election of the deputies of one province, the slate is deter
mined by a provincial party nominating convention, consist
ing of: five delegates from each of the cantons in the province.
Each of the five general elections held since 1953 has
given one party, the National Liberation Party (Partido
10
Liberacin NacionalPLN), a majority in the Assembly.
The traditional opposition to this party, however,, has won a
substantial number of seats in each election. In three of
the periods the predominant party has held a precarious
majority of one and has never held more than two-thirds of
the seats. The executive power, on the other hand, has changed
partisan hands with each election. The PLN won it in 1953,
1962, and 1970, and the opposition in 1958 and 1966. Thus,
the Assembly has had a presidential-party majority system
on three occasions and a presidential-party minority system


190
tends to delay the processing of a bill by one or more months.
This tactic, of course, may be used by any committee member,
but the chairman has the marked advantage of choosing to
subject a bill to a vote or not to do so in the absence of
unrequired information of peripheral importance.
The committee chairmen may also utilize their powers
toward the end of seeking the favorable or negative outcome
of a bill. Most frequently such ends are sought in one of
three ways. The fact that the chairmen usually are expected
to set up the specific public hearings on a bill, if in
fact any are to be held, means that they can load such hear
ings with interested parties who favor their position on the
bill. They may also choose to seek written opinions from
sources which they know will be favorably or negatively
disposed. And they may bring a bill to a vote at the most
propitious time for its acceptance or rejection. These
powers may be exercised in respect to amendments to a bill
as well as to the final bill as it is to be reported out
of committee. Yet it must be noted that with the exception
of the timing of a vote, all members of the committee are
in a position to follow similar tactics. The fact is that
few choose to do so. As a result, the predominant influence
of the committee ehai.rmen is at least partially due to the
absence of initiative on the part of the majority of committee
members.


22
by the deputies. The data for the seven-month period studied
indicate that the respective proportions were 59 and 62 per
20
cent. This small difference m favor of the executive
bills would not seem to indicate that they are given prefer
ential treatment and certainly does not suggest that the
Assembly rubber-stamps bills submitted by the executive.
It could also be posited that, if the proposition is a
valid one, the time span between introduction and final
action for the executive bills that are fully processed will
be shorter than that for similar legislative bills. Table
1.2 shows the distribution of the two types of bills accord
ing to time-span criteria.
TABLE 1.2
Time Span Between Introduction of Bills and
Final Decision, by Sponsorship Type
Per Cent of Per Cent of Legis-
Executive Bills lative Bills
Processed in Processed in
Time Span
Time
Span
Time
Span
Less than 1 month
14.3
( 3)
26.1
(37)
More than 1 but less
than 3 months
32.1
(18)
16.2
(23)
More than 3 but less
than 6 months
21.4
(12)
23.2
(33)
More than 6 but less
than 12 months
17.9
(10)
13.3
(26)
More than 12 months
14.3
( 8)
16.2
(23)


Page
APPENDICES
II. INTERVIEW SCHEDULE ... ..... 298
III. SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONNAIRE 303
BIBLIOGRAPHY ........ 311
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 322
vii


172
the period of study lasted much less than that. Most
sessions did not run for more than forty-five minutes to an
hour in length and some lasted as little as fifteen minutes.
The reason for the discrepancy between the observed and
officially reported durations is obviousall sessions are
formally reported to last two hours so that the deputies will
be entitled to their per diem payment.
Assignment of deputies to committee is made by the
president of the Assembly at the beginning of each session
year in May. The four deputies who served as presidents
during the 1966-1970 term, all members of the majority party,
discussed committee assignments with their majority leader
(PLN jefe de fraccin). In the case of disagreement, it was
the choice of the jefe that prevailed. The minority parties
were not formally consulted by the president in making these
assignments. The jefes of these parties did, however,
approach the president informally with certain requests.
These leaders were almost always assigned to the committees
of their choice, and other requests were acceded to as long
as they did not go against the interests or strategy of the
majority party. The assignments made are not final, as the
deputies who are not satisfied with their assignments may
switch off with deputies from other committees by mutual
agreement during the first month of the session. Several
such changes take place every year, primarily among the
members of the minority parties.


198
way other than outright approval, we find that only 20.3
2 8
per cent of the bills were so affected.
In Costa Rica the back-log on the floor agenda serves
to accentuate a slow process which starts at the committee
level, where it was found that 41.0 per cent of the bills
were held up for more than three months, with as many as
22.4 per cent being delayed for between six months and a
year or more. At the floor level 42.8 per cent of the bills
reported out of committee and processed in the period studied
sat on the floor agenda for anywhere from three to eighteen
months before being acted upon. The magnitude of the com
bined delays is evidenced by the fact that of those bills
that had received final action on the floor, 58.0 per cent
required anywhere from three months to more than two years
to be fully processed, with 27.4 per cent requiring nine or
more months and 17.8 per cent more than a year. The
problem becomes even clearer if it is observed that of the
remaining bills, those that were not fully processed at the
time that the research was terminated, 68.2 per cent had
been in the Assembly for at least three months with 29.1 per
cent having been in process at least nine months and 28.2
per cent more than a year. With this type of record, it
becomes apparent that bicameralism would come close to
paralyzing the government apparatus in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rican Assembly does not have an equivalent to
the Rules Committee of the United Stcites House of Representa
tives, nor does the majority leadership enjoy scheduling


245
of these tend to have special sections devoted to commen
taries on legislative activities. As it is generally
believed, apparently with some reason, that these programs
are listened to quite widely in rural communities, the
deputies value good contacts and relations with the radio
reporters who cover the Assembly as a means of obtaining
plugs which favor them and their parties. Such reporters
are usually cooperative as they value good relations with
the deputies as a means of obtaining inside information when
major issues are at stake. Though not true at the time
that this study was undertaken, at present the Assembly pays
several stations to guarantee the presence and broad coopera
tion of their reporters. A similar value is placed on good
relations with the newspaper reporters, but the extent to
which these can service the deputies is quite reduced, given
the fact that newspapers allot very little space and atten
tion to legislative matters unless there is a major issue at
stake or one in which they happen to be highly interested.
Though the propensity of deputies toward these forms of
electorally oriented behavior becomes more marked as active
campaign periods get closer at the end of their third year
in office, there is a marked feeling that it is necessary to
court votes throughout the entire period in office. Visi
bility is thus sought by the deputies and encouraged by the
parties.


230
observers' section and a desire to get a warm response from
them.
But in order to grasp the full implications of the
debate behavior of deputies on the floor and indeed to
understand this behavior, it is essential to take one cri
tical variable into account. All of the floor sessions of
the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly are broadcast by one
radio station which is contracted by the Assembly to provide
this service. In suggesting that the broadcasting of legis
lative sessions can have certain positive effects, K. C.
Wheare states:
Some legislaturesAustralia and New Zealand are
exampleshave . seized the opportunity provided
by radio to broadcast their proceedings or parts of
their proceedings. . Such arrangements could
produce an increase in the public interest in the
legislature, if not inevitably in the public esteem.4
He failed, however, to indicate what kinds of repercussions
this might have on the behavior of legislators. The re
sponses just mentioned are a good illustration of the kind
of behavior which is likely to be reinforced by the type of
action that Wheare seems to be recommending. It is more than
likely that the Costa Rican broadcasts have had a significant
impact upon the public interest in the legislature; it is
doubtful that they have had an entirely positive impact upon
public esteem for the institution. But wTithout any question
they have oriented many deputies toward participation in
debate as a means of reaching an external audience.


218
influential category, even though he met both of these quali
fications, wa^ a man with a degree in pharmacy who had not
even practiced his profession in the interim period of four
years between his first and second terms of office,but rather
had accepted a consular post abroad. The two influential
deputies who had previous experience but no degree also
proved to be highly exceptional cases. One of them had
served as Minister of Industry and Commerce in the interim
period between his first and second term in office. The
other was the son of a highly respected Costa Rican intellec
tual, who chose not to continue his education beyond the high
school (bachillerato) level due to a desire to embark upon
entrepreneurial activities, and who had done so quite effec
tively.
Unfortunately, the research carried out failed to
uncover the detailed knowledge required to explain why seven
degree holders with no previous experience were included in
the influential group whereas the other nine with similar
backgrounds were not. The same is the case of the lone
influential who had neither previous experience nor a univer
sity degree. Yet the strength of the relationship between
the influential deputies and previous experience and educa
tion is unquestionable. In isolation and in combination,
they account for no less than sixteen of the seventeen
deputies in the influential group, i.e., 94.1 per cent.
Though the status of these deputies may well be based upon


213
In providing the profile of this group two interrelated
factors will be focused upon. First, it will be determined
whether the members of this group tend to be drawn pre
dominantly from those having certain specific attributes,
e.g., whether they tend to be drawn from university graduates
as opposed to those with lesser education, or whether they
tend to be drawn from those with previous legislative ex
perience more so than from those without such experience.
Then it will be established whether these attributes are
unique to the influential group of deputies or are simply a
reflection of the predominant attributes of the totality of
deputies.
Given the existence of a group of decisionally influen
tial deputies and the heavy emphasis which has been placed
by some upon partisan influence in the behavior of deputies,
it would seem logical to posit that one will find a tendency
on the part of party deputies to look to members of their
own ranks for direction in decision-making. Since 52 per
cent of the deputies interviewed were from the PLN and 48
per cent were from the anti-PLN parties, if this proposition
were true, it would be expected that this proportional break
down would be approximately replicated in the case of the
party affiliation of the influentials. But this is not the
case. As is indicated in Table 6.11, the group of influentials
was made up of a much larger proportion of PLN than of anti-
PLN deputies (64.7 per cent as opposed to 35.3 per cent).


162
9
LaPalombara, pp. 201-207.
10
Carlos Jos Gutierres, "Las Bases de la Realidad.
Social Costarricense," Revista de Filosofa de la Universidad
de Costa Rica, 3 (Enero-Junio, 19617% p. 49.
11
Almond and Powell, p. 77.
12 ...
Charles F. Denton concludes that the public admini
stration is the only effective and consistent agent in the
articulation-aggregation conversion process, but his support
of such a claim is limited to the report that 79 out of
125 bills passed by the legislature in a given time period
had had their origin within one or another of the branches
of the public administration. See The Politics of Develop
ment in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Texas, 1969), p. 139.
13
The church hierarchy, though not powerless, is not
oriented toward participation in the political sphere. It
is significant to note, however, that it does speak out
occasionally and that it did play an important, if not
crucial, political role in the early 1940s in favoring the
establishment of social security measures and the passage
of the present labor code. The military, or what remains
of a military establishment following the disbanding of
the standing army and the creation of a small civil guard
in its place, can be said to play no significant role in
politics. The officers and a large proportion of the
guardsmen are shuttled in and out of service with each shift
in the partisan control of the executive branch. Many
Costa Ricans believe that this pattern is highly functional
to system stability and would be alarmed if it were to
change so as to allow for the creation of a military
mentality among a sector, however small, of the population.
14 .
Fred W. Riggs, Administration m Developing Countries:
The Theory of Prismatic Society (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin
Co., 1964), p. 153-164.
15
Almond and Powell, pp. 76-77.
16Ibid., p. 77.
~^Ibid., pp. 75-76.
18
K. C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1963), p. 76.
19
LaP alombara, p. 211.


202
were acted upon on the floor were covered by such procedural
floor motions. As might have been expected, all of the bills
granted waivers of committee processing were also granted
waivers on the floor. The effect of the floor expediting
procedure is illustrated in Table 6.9. It is evident that as
a group bills exempted on the floor tend to be processed more
rapidly in large part because many of these have previously
been waived at the committee level. But there is no ques
tion that the impact of waivers on the floor is substantial
even if not accompanied by previous committee waivers. In
order to support this conclusion one need only note that
whereas 57.7 per cent of the bills waived on the floor only
were processed in less than six months, only 8.8 per cent of
those receiving no waiver were processed in a similar time
lapse.
During the period studied, decisions related to the
preferential treatment of bills were found to be the subject
of discussions and buttonholing among all of the deputies. In
fact, the figures would suggest that unless one is resigned
to a long wait for passage of a bill of interest, it is
necessary to attain this type of treatment for the bill.
Floor exemption motions took two forms. In the first case,
preferential treatment wa.s requested for individual bills;
68.4 per cent of the bills waived at the floor stage of
processing were covered by motions of this type. In the
second case, accounting for 31.6 per cent of these bills,
preferential treatment was requested for a group of bills.


2
authors of a textbook used widely in the late 1950s, and
early 1960s may well have affected the outlook of many poten-
tial researchers in referring to Latin American legislatures
in the following way:
Although the constitutional systems of Latin America
have entrusted the legislature with the power to
enact laws and to determine public policy, the con
gress, in reality, is not the center of the political
life of these nations. . Logically, the weakness of
all legislative assemblies and their inferior prestige
are the consequence of the almost omnipotent role that
the legal systems and political customs have assigned
to the executive branch.1
Alexander Edelmann, author of a more recent textbook, is
even less encouraging, and minces no words in stating that
"the Latin American legislatures ordinarily kowtow to the
president, cater to his slightest whims, and enjoy no more
independence or popular respect than political syncophants
2
could expect to." Such generalisations have been given
further legitimacy through their incorporation into the lore
of the non-area comparativists. The following statement by
Robert Stauffer is a good example of this extrapolation.
The typical stereotype [of legislatures in developing
countries] is of a rubber-stamp body made up of indi
viduals drawn from a narrow elite or from the govern
ment bureaucracy. Such a stereotype is fully justified
for a large number of nations, especially those of
Latin America where institutional units called legis
latures have simply not been relevant to the mainstream
of political life.J
But the growing interest in studies of legislative behavior
experienced in the discipline has provided a number of polit
ical scientists with the motivation, long-dampened by such


228
room off the session hall. The extent to which deputies
absent themselves from the floor is reflected by the fact
that sessions are usually interrupted at least once per
session due to a lack of quorum, i.e., thirty-eight out of
the fifty-seven deputies.'*' Faced with this behavior and the
lack of interest of most deputies in the substance of much
debate related to decision-making, many Costa Ricans express
alarm. Indeed, several deputies created a furor among some
indignant members of the press in 1972 when they were dis
covered playing chess on the floor during the discussion of
the annual budget. The inevitable topic of the decadence of
legislative life is frequently heard by the foreign observer.
But such discussions tend to overlook the fact that a
number of important functions that have nothing to do with
the "responsible" discussion of legislative bills may be
fulfilled on the floor. Wilhelm Hennis, who is one of the
persons who has written most eloquently on the failure of
scholars and observers to place floor debate within its
proper context, speaks to this point in the German scenario
in stating:
It seems to me that the greatest fault of our dis
cussions about the proper functions of parliament lies
in the fact that in Germany we have no adequate con
cept either of the practical procedure or of the
political meaning of what is accomplished on the floor
of parliament.2
He goes onto say:
Are those critics right who detect merely boring, self-
righteous monologues and proclamations of unshakable
points of view on the floor of the house? I am sure


21
Mijeskis study differ only slightly from these. His sample
contained a slightly higher percentage of executive sponsored
bills in each committee and a slight edge in one of the two
18
most important committees. Despite these minor differences,
it may be concluded that if committee assignment is a valid
indicator of the importance of a bill, at best the executive
has a very slight predominance in the sponsorship of "impor
tant" bills.
Power of Enactment
The Legislative Assembly has the power to amend the con
stitution. And it has used this power to effect significant
constitutional changes over the years. The revised edition
of the constitution printed in 1968 indicates that 22 of the
19
117 articles in it had been amended since 1949. It must
be noted though that such amendments are usually,if not always,
carried out in close coordination with the executive.
The Legislature also has the power to enact, amend, repeal,
and interpret legislation. The form in which these powers are
exercised, as reflected in the processing of bills, might well
be used as an indicator of the extent to which the legislature
is subject to control by the executive. For example, it could
be posited that the procedure followed in processing and act
ing upon executive bills will reflect a tendency to give
automatic approval to such bills. If this were true, the
proportion of executive bills not fully processed in a given
time period should be much lower than that of bills
sponsored


8
in this chapter. Chapter i'v examines the recruitment and
election process as a means of determining what types of ob
ligations are incurred by deputies in seeking election and
what interests or groups would seem to have ready access to and
perhaps influence over the deputies. It also focuses upon the
background of the deputies as a means of discussing the na
ture of representation within the Assembly. Chapter V is
devoted to a description of interest-group phenomena and of
the relative impact that these groups may have on legislative
decisional behavior. Particular attention is given to an
evaluation of the various means or channels of access that are
available to interest groups in the articulation of their
demands.
After this discussion of some of the main external inter
mediate variables which were suspected to have some relevance
to the decisional behavior of deputies, Chapter VI focuses
upon the formal and informal processes by which the Assembly
reaches decisions. Emphasis is placed upon the significance
and characteristics of the committee and floor processes in
Costa Rica; the main actors in these processes are identified
and analyzed. The decisional cues utilized by these primary
I
actors and the supporting actors are also identified as a
means of suggesting what types of variables would seem to be most
pertinent to an explanation of legislative decisional outcomes.
The original research design for this study envisioned
a broad analysis of the non-decisional as well as the
decisional aspects of legislative behavior in Costa Rica.


APPENDICES


130
7
Though votes are tallied by province, all electoral
procedures are organized, directed and supervised by a
single authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal
Supremo de Elecciones).
8
Neil M. Cullinan, Candidate Recruitment within the
Costa Rican "Partido Liberacin Nacional" (Ph.D. disser
tation, University of Georgia, 1971).
9
Cullman originally set out to conduct a study which
would include both major parties in the 1970 election, but
he was not able to attain the cooperation of the Partido
Unificacin Nacional, the anti-PLN coalition. The diffi
culty of overcoming the suspicion of the anti-PLN parties
is one which has been encountered by most researchers in
Costa Rica. The prime example of this obstacle is that pro
vided by the work of Theodore Creedman, who carried out a
historical study of the period of government of Dr. Rafael
Angel Calderon Guardia, the main leader of the anti-PLN
group until his death in 1970. Despite the fact that
Creedman was carrying out a study which promised to clarify
some of the misconceptions and myths that have arisen in
respect to this period, he was denied access to the
ex-president. Research carried out by the author of the
present study has met with limited success whenever it
attempted to go beyond the superficial platitudes that most
anti-PLN leaders feel are adequate grist for the mill of
outsiders. Under such conditions it is extremely difficult
for the researcher to generalize on the basis of well-
founded knowledge of all major political groups. In this
section certain generalizations are made, but it must be
admitted that they are based upon impressions in as far as
parties other than the PLN are concerned. However, out of
fairness to the PLN, it must be stated that there is every
reason to believe that the other parties are subject to the
same types of "deficiencies" and usually to even greater
extents.
10
Cullman, p. 104.
'^'Ibid. p. 76.
12Ibid., pp. 133-134.
13 .
Four methods of control are identified by Cullman:
(1) establishment of requirements for delegates that few can
meet, (2) letting it be known that the national leadership
supports given delegate candidates, (3) printing up ballots
with the names of the favored candidates and having these
distributed at the time of the election, and (4) overt
coercion. See ibid., pp. 166-168.


99
requirements that must be met by all candidates are those
of being at least twenty-one years of age and of enjoying
full rights of citizenship through native birth or naturali
zation, though in the latter case it is further required
that the individual must have resided in the country for at
least ten years following the acquisition of this status. No
individual sitting in the legislature during the four-year
term, or any part of it, prior to the election is eligible
for candidacy. Other secondary limitations prohibit the
candidacy of persons who, within the six-month period pre
ceding the election, have served as (1) elected or acting
president of the Republic, (2) ministers of government,
(3) proprietary magistrates of the Supreme Court, (4) pro
prietary or alternate magistrates of the Supreme Electoral
Tribunal, (5) director of the Civil Registry, (6) members of
the armed forces on active duty, (7) functionaries having
civil or police authority over a province, and (8) general
4
managers of the autonomous institutions. Persons having
up to and including second-degree blood ties with the
president of the Republic are also excluded from nomination.
It should be noted that, unlike some other Latin American
nations, Costa Rican law does not prohibit the election of
5
members of the clergy to the Assembly. Once sworn into
office, deputies may not participate in certain types of
activities, but none of these prohibitive requisites bear
any relationship to representation.^


232
participation would be more serious." "It would prevent
speaking to an external public." "More abundant and serene
work would be carried out." "Discussion rather than speeches
would prevail." "Debate would be less lengthy and more to
the point." "There would be less demagoguery and politick
ing." "We would work in a calmer atmosphere as we do in
committees where sessions are not broadcast." "It would
eliminate the feeling that we are on a soapbox, and there
would be less unsubstantiated discussion." "Speeches would
be less flowery and more serious." "A large proportion of
the 80 per cent of the time that is lost politicking would be
eliminated."
Yet, some of the same deputies who expressed feelings
of this type were quick to point out that suspending the
broadcasts would have negative effects which far outweighed
the benefits to be accrued by such an action. Generally,
such responses focused upon the need to have a direct means
of access to constituencies and the strong protest that
would arise from the general listening public. These views
were expressed in diverse ways: "It would have a negative
impact on the public image of the deputy." "This is the
only means that we have of making ourselves heard, as the
written press provides us with little coverage." "It would
imply a lack of contact with the public." "It would bring
a strong protest because people have become accustomed to
it." "Broadcasts are important as a means of mobilizing


To Jane, Lisa, Jon, and Je


181
TABLE 6.6
Previous Positions Held by Deputies
Deputy in a previous term
30.0%a
(15)
Member of a board of directors
of an autonomous institution
18.0a
( 9)
Diplomatic position
R
O

r1
( 7)
Top-level post in a ministry,
other than minister
12.0a
( 6)
Ministerial post
6.0a
( 3)
Member of a municipal council
46.4b
(26)
aN = 50. Sum of percentage figures equals greater than
100% due to multiple responses.
bN = 56.
The deputies studied were undoubtedly politicized early
in life and had served extensive apprenticeship periods in
politics prior to election. A high 83.3 per cent (40) had
worked for their parties for at least fifteen years prior to
election and thus were far from being political novices when
14
elected. But the activity carried out by the deputies
prior to their election tended to have been at the local
rather than the provincial or national level. Though such a
finding tends to indicate that legislative representatives
elected to serve specific local constituencies are drawn
primarily from those who have worked within these, rather
than from political syncophants whose main qualification is
that of being able to contribute hefty sums to the party


206
It was found that 15.3 per cent of those bills which
were discussed on the floor were amended there; in the case
of an additional 2.1 per cent of the bills unsuccessful
attempts were made to this effect; and 3.8 per cent of the
bills were returned to committee. It is true that these
cases are the exception rather than the rule, but they are
nevertheless present. Thus it can be stated that, though in
the vast majority of cases floor debate has little to do
with the outcome of bills, the floor procedure cannot be
discarded as purely formal in nature.
Perhaps it is just as well that the main activity of the
floor is a priority-setting activity with only occasional
substantive alteration of bills. The nature of much sub
stantive debate on the floor is even less impressive than
debate or discussions in committee. If committee considera
tion is frequently characterized by a lack of any in-depth
study, debates on the floor are even more impressionistic.
In 1958, one deputy stated the following in closing an
argument on the floor:
Nobody has tried to demonstrate with figures, facts
or specific examples that it is really useless to
apply [the method that I have recommended]....
The discussion has instead been based upon pure
assumptions, upon simple generalizations, more
generalizations and then again more generalizations.
But I have not yet heard a solid argument based upon
quantitative proof . from those colleagues who
are attacking . the amendment that I have presen
ted 30
It is not unlikely that the speaker in question had also
failed to assume the burden of proof. Things have not


274
This is not to say that these tension-releasing con
sequences of legislative behavior need be viewed favorably
in all cases. Major changes in politiccil systems and in
allocational patterns are frequently the product of inade
quate or malfunctioning tension-release mechanisms. By
releasing tensions the Assembly may well contribute to
preventing significant, and to some, desirable, changes
from taking place in the Costa Rican society. But to use
such an argument against the Assembly would indeed be a
change, for it would be an admission that the performance of
the Assembly does have most significant consequences for the
political system and that in some ways it may operate too
effectively.
Legislatures have never been able to live up to the
idealized visions of democratic theoreticians. Today, as
in the past, the frustrations of normative theoreticians
and laymen are vented in statements much the same as that
of James Bryce, who in 1921 wrote:
Every traveller who, curious in political affairs,
inquires in the countries which he visits how their
legislative bodies are working, receives from the
elder men the same discouraging answer. They tell him,
in terms much the same everywhere, that the tone of
manners has declined, that the best citizens are less
disposed to enter the Chamber, that its proceedings
are less fully reported and excite less interest, that
a seat in it confers less social status, and that,
for one reason of another, the respect for it has
waned.10
The similarity between Bryce's observation and the complaints
of some Costa Rican elders is uncanny.^
The theme of


305
What kinds of projects generally bring forth such
action?
19. Do you deal with any party organization at the local
level?
Which?
How frequently do you have contact with this organi
zation?
a) at least once a week
b) at least once a month
c) less than once a month
Do you hold a position of leadership within this
organization?
Which position?
20. It has been noted that legislators in other countries
tend to carry out three different kinds of tasks. The
first is that of studying and discussing the bills that
are before the legislature. The second is that of pro
viding aid unrelated to legislation to constituents.
For example, a legislator might accompany constituents
when they have meetings with a government office, or
he might use his good offices to get a ministry to
complete a local project. The third is that of keeping
in touch with constituents and providing information
to them. How many hours per week would you estimate
that you devote to each one of these tasks?
21. Does your caucus group establish strategies to be
followed on the floor in respect to certain bills?
Hov; frequently are these strategies established?
a) very frequently
b) frequently
c) infrequently
What types of bills are usually the subjects of :such
strategies?
Who establishes these strategies?
Does your caucus group establish strategies to be
followed in committee in respect to certain bills?
22.


30
As the auditing agent of the legislative branch, it is fre
quently ordered to carry out specific investigations in this
area by the Assembly.
Though it is not true that the Assembly has the power
to impeach the president, as some have claimed, it is called
upon to rule upon accusations against the president, vice-
presidents, and other members of the executive, legislative,
and judicial branches. It is up to the deputies to establish
whether or not there is due cause for judicial processing in
such cases. If they find due cause, they place the case
before the Supreme Court and suspend the defendant from his
functions temporarily, or, in the case of deputies, lift
their congressional immunity. Several such accusations were
lodged against the members of the executive and legislative
branches during the period of study. In all cases but one,
due cause was found to be lacking. The one exception involved
a deputy who was accused of malfeasance. It seems more than
likely that the Assembly would exercise this power regardless
of the branch of government involved if due cause were in
fact found to exist.
The Assembly has the power to interpellate the ministers
of state. It may also censure a minister by a two-thirds
vote if it is found that he has acted in an unconstitutional
or otherwise illegal fashion or that he committed errors that
are obviously detrimental to the public interest. During
the period of study three ministers were interpellated, and


90
main party leaders within the Assembly and in some cases to
the national non-legislative party leaders. Such controversy
is most frequently the product of (1) unusual bills which
tend to benefit only one segment of the local population,
{
(2) equally unusual bills which would not only benefit the
local community but be in the detriment of other localities,
and/or (3) bills which call for the allocation of scarce
revenues which of necessity become part of a zero-sum game.
The only real bargaining threat which local leaders can use
with any real effect is that of an implied reduction in the
ability of the party to attain votes in the area in the next
election.
Summary and Conclusions
In evaluating the relative importance of political partie
in Costa Rican legislative behavior, it is important to take
the frame of reference of the reader into account. In this
respect it is important to point out. that there is a marked
difference between the contextual frameworks of Costa Rican
and North American readers. Costil Ricans have long been
bombarded with repeated statements to the effect that the
behavior of deputies is controlled almost exclusively, if not
exclusively, by the fracciones or by national party leaders.
North Americans, on the other hand, are not disposed to be
lieve that any single factor can be used to explain such
behavior.


CHAPTER VI
PATTERNS OF LEGISLATIVE DECISIONAL BEHAVIOR
Legislative sub-structures and procedures may, in most
cases, be attributed some degree of significance in the
legislative process in that they provide the formal means
for the legitimation of the decisions reached or ratified
by legislatures. But in the case of Costa Rica, as in that
of any legislature which does fulfill a decision-making func
tion, the significance of a study of these sub-structures
and procedures goes beyond that of describing the mechanical
processes followed in legislating. A study of these element
allows for the identification of the degree of independent
decision-making manifested through the behavior of deputies
within these sub-structures, of some of the determinants of
this decisional behavior, and of the nature of legislative
decision-making. It is on such matters that this chapter
focuses.
The Committee Structure
It is generally accepted that the characteristics of
legislative committee systems may be fruitfully analyzed as
one means of determining the degree of independent decision
making power that is or can be exercised by different legis
latures Strong committee systems are generally associated
164


189
The type of behavior and expectations described pre
viously clearly lead to the conclusion that committee
chairmen are in a unique position to affect decision-making
within the committee context. This position is further
bolstered by their ability to make use of their formal and
informal discretionary powers. The responses of the deputies
indicated that committee chairmen may exercise these powers
toward two ends.
The first end is that of accelerating or slowing down
consideration of a bill. There are numerous ways in which
a chairman may act in order to achieve either of these re
sults. The most important and prevalent tactics used are
those of including or excluding bills from the agenda of
extraordinary committee sessions, adjourning or failing to
adjourn sessions at propitious or unpropitious moments for
a given bill, and expediting or failing to expedite requests
for the opinions of autonomous or other state bodies when
seeking such opinions is required by lav/. This last tactic
is most frequently used to delay a bill and involves the
failure of the chairman to take the initiative in seeking
these opinions, i.e., waiting until somebody else on the
committee makes the request that the consultation be under
taken. The chairman may also delay a bill substantially by
undertaking consultations which may not be required. Since
consultations are usually made of institutions which do not
respond in an expeditious fashion, each added opinion sought


151
demagogic speeches whenever large crowds are present in
the public gallery. Discussions become even more heated
when both favorably and negatively oriented crowds are
present, with each side openly cheering on their knight
from behind the bullet-proof and sound-proof glass divider
that separates the public gallery from the floor. If the
effectiveness of pressure were to be measured by such
behavior on the part of the deputies, one would have to
conclude that such a strategy works well. The fact of the
matter is that such oratory has little or no effect on the
decisions reached by the legislature. In fact, such demon
strations at times are not really aimed at affecting de
cisions. The prime example of this was the massive demon
stration staged outside of the Legislative Assembly by a
university-centered group on the day that the ALCOA contract
was to be discussed in third debate. There was no doubt in
anyone's mind that the contract was going to be approved;
and, even if there had been any chance of having it turned
down, anyone seriously attempting to do so would not have
chosen the third debate as the time to apply pressures to
this end. In this case, demonstration was a means of seek
ing the limelight, boosting a self-image, and establishing
a myth of student activism and political relevancy. The
minor riot which broke out that day (the final vote was
taken as tear gas seeped under the doors of the' floor) has
been propagandized by some student leaders at the university


114
to rich partisans. Of the twenty-seven deputies who pro
vided data on the form of payment of such contributions,
twenty-one indicated that part or all of the payment was
made in the form of a negotiable I.O.U. (pagar). These
legal documents were delivered to the parties and sold by
them at a discount to loan sharks (prestamistas), to well-
heeled partisans, and were also accepted by the public media
in payment of political propaganda. Though the data on the
time and form of payment of these documents by the deputies
is, for obvious reasons, not as complete as would be desired,
it can be stated that more than half of the deputies either
took out commercial loans to redeem these or had a limited
embargo placed upon their salaries by which a certain pro
portion of their monthly checks from the legislature was
automatically withheld for payment to those holding the docu
ments in question.
It would be erroneous in light of the above to conclude
that the financial status of aspirants plays a determining
role in the nomination of the majority of deputies. Those
who do not have the necessary resources to make their contri
butions in cash can do so on what proves to be an extended
payment basis. For those who are in such conditions, as will
be shown later in this chapter, the increase in income
represented, by election to the legislature more than compen
sates for the financial obligations assumed. This, however,
is not to say that economic considerations do not play some


175
in an objective fashion. Log-rolling, which tends to take
place at this level rather than on the floor, usually cut
across party lines. In brief, the partisan element was not
called upon very frequently, although there can be no doubt
that it could and was mobilized whenever necessary in order
to support PLN fraccin strategies. The degree of consensus
within the committees is reflected by the fact that, though
minority reports may be issued by committee members who
dissent from the majority opinion, only 4.1 per cent of the
bills reported out of committee during the period studied
were known to have reflected such committee controversy.^
Though our description of the committee system would
seem to indicate that it is very strong, there are several
factors that tend to weaken it to a significant extent in
comparison with that of the United States Congress or the
only other Latin American legislative sub-system where com
mittees would seem to play a highly relevant decisional role,
i.e., that of Chile, where the power of committees is sup
ported by continuity in committee membership, member
13
specialization, and more than a clerical support staff.
Charles Denton makes mention of several of these weaknesses
when he states:
The fact that the deputies cannot seek reelection
until a four-year term intervenes tends to limit
the continuity of the body and discourages speciali
zation in particular policy-making areas. The com
mittee system, with its revolving membership, assures
that most issues will be acted upon in a piecemeal
fashion and on the basis of limited information.-2


83
TABLE 3.1(continued)
4. Coordinating tactics with presiding officers of the
Assembly
5. Providing main thrust and direction to political
debates on the floor
6. Serving as the main spokesman of party positions in
floor debates
7. Dealing with representatives of other fracciones in
negotiations
INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE
1. Providing direction to the fraccin on certain types
of bills of national interest and arranging for
external advisement if required
2. Coordinating fraccin as a group so as to make it
an efficient team
3. Promoting group cohesion and spirit
4. Serving as a conciliator inside and outside of the
fraccin
5. Enforcing fraccin decisions
6. Helping party deputies
7. Calling fraccin meetings
TABLE 3.2
Role Attributed to the Jefe de Fraccin by PR Deputies
EXTERNAL ROLE
1. Serving as fraccin spokesman with external groups
2. Keeping up with what the press is saying and providing
it with information for public consumption
INTERNAL TACTICAL ROLE
1. Making tactical decisions on floor
2. Being on watch for tactical surprises by the PLN
3. Providing tactical direction to debate on the floor
4. Being spokesman of party position on the floor
INTERNAL COORDINATION ROLE
1. Providing direction to fraccin by studying bills and
explaining pros and con's of bills
Coordinating the group for debate purposes so as to
achieve fraccin goals
2


159
use their good offices or influence in favor of or against
a bill of interest to a given group. These central govern
ment officials may also be sought out by interest groups
prior to the presentation of an executive bill in an attempt
to seek protection or furtherance of group interests in the
original draft of a bill, thus affecting the institutional
inputs that emanate from the executive branch. These types
of access are somewhat limited and depend to a large extent
on the ability of interest groups to tap friendship and
kinship ties. This is not to say that these ties are requi
sites for such access. The Costa Rican bureaucracy is not
characterized by the highly restrictive bazaar-canteen
. 30
structure described by Riggs. But as m all political
systems, whether it be that of the United States or that of
Thailand, friendship and kinship patterns are important
factors to be taken into account in evaluating the access
of diverse groups to the decision-making process.
Summary and Conclusions
Though interest groaps in Costa Rica are still in a
rudimentary stage of development, there can be no question
that some of these groups have established the type of
permanent structure which allows them effective partici
pation in the political process. Articulation of demands
through organized interest groupings is a common phenomenon
today in Costa Rica. But the effective mobilization of


58
This phase of executive behavior merits careful scrutiny in
future studies of Costa Rica. It is unlikely that Costa
Rican presidents have gone so far as to make law by executive
decree utilizing this subterfuge in very many cases, but it
would not be surprising to find that executive implementing
orders with some frequency reflect biases not specifically
contained in the law. But the discretionary power of the
executive in implementing legislation is not limited to such
orders. One additional prerogative of even greater import
is granted to the executive.
The budgets of Costa Rica establish ceilings on the
disbursements that may be made but in few cases make the
disbursement of authorized allocations obligatory. And
since virtually all budgeted funds must be disbursed by the
Ministry of Finance, the executive branch is in a position
to issue payments according to its priorities and to with
hold funds when it so desires. This power is used not only
to block certain types of expenditures which it may not deem
appropri.ate even though budgeted but also as a bargaining
mechanism in a process not unlike that which exists in the
Phillipines and is described in thefollowing terms by
Robert Stauffer:
Because in the centralized Phillipine system the
president has the authority to release or hold back
funds already appropriated, especially, funds for pork
barrel projects, much of the interbranch bargaining
operates on a quid pro quo level with the chief
executive following through on past commitments in


7
legislative decision-making, and political behavior in
general,.can be carried out in Costa Rica.
Chapters I and II place the Legislative Assembly within
a systemic decision-making context. In Chapter I the propo
sition that the legislature in Costa Rica participates
actively in decision-making is tested by examining the be
havior of deputies in the introduction, study and enactment
of legislation. Other miscellaneous powers of the legisla
ture, such as the powers of appointment and that of ratifica
tion of foreign loans or treaties, are also taken into con
sideration. Since the impact of legislative decision
making may be overestimated unless evaluated within the over
all institutional context of systemic decision-making, Chapter
II seeks to identify the limitations of the legislature as
an allocator of values which are a result of the distribution
of decisional power among the totality of governmental insti
tutions and of the relationships which exist between these
institutions. Toward this end, the roles in the decisional
process of local government, of the judiciary, of the execu
tive, and of the autonomous institutions are examined.
The next three chapters identify some of the main varia
bles which help to define the context of legislative decision
making. Chapter III focuses upon the role of political
parties in decision-making. The nature of the Costa Rican
political party system and the characteristics of the external
parties, as well as of the legislative parties,
are discussed


52
Interestingly enough, most of the pressure mechanisms
at the disposal of the executive were ones which could be
used most effectively vis-a-vis the majority party within
the Assembly. For example, it was able to push for action
on certain bills, given the fact that failure to act upon
them would have brought forth angry protests against the PLN-
controlled legislature rather than the executive branch.,
The executive was also in a position to negotiate passage
of certain bills by promising to exercise its power to dis
burse authorized funds for the pet projects of the PLN
deputies. Most such pressures by and negotiations with the
executive were largely limited to budgetary bills. The
fact that the PLN deputies were the ones who stood to benefit
most from negotiated bills and to lose most from failure to
act upon certain types of urgent legislation explains why
it was these deputies who acted as the main defenders of
certain executive bills in the presence of the lethargy of
the government deputies. Such lethargy was in large part
the product of the fact that the government deputies were
marginal to the entire bargaining process, and this fact
could only contribute to the alienation of this group.
But it would be a grave error to evaluate the impact
of executive inputs exclusively on the basis of the ability
of the executive to pressure the legislature into approving
its bills. Without any question, the power of a president
who lacks a majority in the legislature is relatively


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In seeking to provide a comprehensive and well-
substantiated evaluation of the Assembly and of the context
within which it operates, the study deals with seven inter
related topics:
1) the role of the Assembly in systemic, decision
making;
2) the limitations placed upon this role by the dis
tribution of decisional power within the other
governmental institutions;
3) the nature of the political party system and the role
of the parties in legislative decision-making;
4) the impact of the electora}, system upon representa
tion within the legislature;
5) the impact of interest groups upon, legislative and
other systemic decisional behavior;
6) the formal and informal aspects of the legislative
decision-making process; and
7) the non-decisional aspects of legislative behavior.
Contrary to the growing tendency to conclude that legis
lative structures in the lesser-developed countries do not
play a significant role in decision-making, this study
concludes that the Assembly does exert an important influence
upon the initiation, modification, and enactment of legisla
tion. This is true despite the fact that the allocational
influence of the legislature is limited by the powers
exercised by the executive branch and the autonomous institu
tions of the country.
x 1.


76
The caucus or fraccin of the PLN was by far the most
highly organized one in the Assembly. The party deputies
met in scheduled fraccin meetings twice a month, unless
unforeseen circumstances or recesses led to their cancella
tion or urgent matters led to the scheduling of extra
ordinary sessions. To the best knowledge of the author,
eleven such meetings were held between June and November
21
of 1968. It was difficult to establish how many times
the PR and PUN fracciones met during this six-month period
though it can be stated that they neither met jointly nor
did they tend to seek any coordination between themselves.
The PR caucus did not meet on a regularly scheduled basis
but did so only when special issues or needs for coordination
arose. It was quite apparent that it met far fewer times
than the PLN caucus did. Several deputies of the PUN
claimed that their caucus met weekly at the home of the
president of the national directorate of the party. Informal
conversations with other PUN deputies led to the impression
that this fraccin met once every three or four weeks for
a total of perhaps six to eight meetings during the period
in question.
The author was granted the unusual permission to sit
in on all of the caucus meetings of the PLN, but it was
impossible to gain access to the meetings of the other two
parties. Thus, in discussing the types of matters dealt
with in caucus meetings, primary attention will be given


304
13. Did you contribute to the campaign of your party in
the last elections?
Was this contribution made:
a) before you were nominated
b) after you were nominated
c) after you were elected
How much did you contribute?
Was this contribution in the form of an I.O.U. or
in cash?
14. Approximately how much did you personally invest in
your efforts to be nominated by the National Assembly
of your party?
Approximately how much did you personally invest in
your campaign?
Were the party funds for your campaign controlled by
the treasury of your party?
Did you receive any direct local contributions to help
cover your expenses in:
a) running for nomination
b) running for election
15. Where were most of your campaign activities carried
out?
16. Would you say that people in your area usually vote
for the same party on both the presidential and legis
lative tickets?
17. How would you classify the importance of your own
campaign activities in relation to those of the
presidential candidate of your party in terms of your
success in being elected?
a) less important
b) more important
c) similar importance
13. Plow frequently do your constituents urge you to take
certain positions in respect to the bills that are
before the Assembly?
a) in almost all cases c) in a minority of cases
b) in a majority of cases d) never


196
means that each deputy may address himself to a bill on
four separate occasions for a virtually unlimited period
of time. Motions to extend a speaker's allotted half-hour
time are seldom voted down. During these periods the
speaker is supposed to limit his statements to the subject
at hand, and it is up to the president of the Assembly to
exercise his discretion in calling a deputy to order. The
judgment is a difficult one to make and implement without
arousing a substantial amount of antagonism on the part of
the other deputies. Consequently, few deputies are ever
called to order for making extraneous comments. The same
procedures apply to the discussion of motions related to
non-statutory matters which may be presented under the daily
i
floor agenda chapters of "correspondence," "matters of
urgency," or "miscellaneous propositions." Such propositions
may range from calling for a special investigation to non
binding requests that the executive branch or the antonomous
institutions proceed in certain ways or that the Assembly
agree to censure actions taken within or outside the country.
The fact that bills are debated on the floor on three
separate occasions would suggest that great emphasis is
placed upon the detailed discussion of the strengths and
weaknesses of bills. The length of some debates on the floor
would, in fact, tend to strengthen this impression which is
further enforced by previous observations that "issues are
sharply debated"^ in the Assembly.- It is thus tempting to


Four specific findings of the study could be used to
focus any future research on the Assembly. First, the
study shows that, as would be expected, the political par
ties play a determinant role in legislative decision-making.
Second, it demonstrates that most effective decision-making
behavior is to be found within the context of the committees.
Third, it concludes that the cues used by most deputies in
reaching decisions on non-routine bills tend to emanate from
a reduced and identifiable group of influential deputies.
The characteristics of these deputies suggest that a modi
fied seniority system exists in this legislature despite the
fact that deputies may not be immediately re-elected. And,
fourth, the study demonstrates that the deputies play a
crucial role in the generation of specific and diffuse
support for the political system and that studies of legis
lative behavior in Costa Rica should consequently not be
limited to decisional phenomena. Contrary to what would be
expected, it was found that centralized parties and a
closed party list electoral system need not undermine the
responsiveness of legislators to the needs of their consti
tuencies.
X.11


178
scoring experience obtained in the committee of assignment
in 1968-1969 in at least one prior annual session, the
scores are PLN33, PR21, PUN10, and UCR5. Thus, it
would appear that the PLN deputies tended to attain prolonged
experience in the more important committees, whereas the
opposite was true of the deputies of the other parties.
This would suggest that the PLN had used its control of
appointments to assure that it had more experienced members
on the more important committees.
One recent researcher has implied that the existence of
the rotating committee membership system can be explained
by the fact that "most of the deputies use their committee
appointments as a method of making contacts in the various
interest areas, insuring themselves a more fruitful law
13
practice in the future." This interpretation is untenable,
given the fact that only fifteen of the fifty-six deputies
in the term studied were lawyers, and eight of these did not
move from the committee to which they were originally
assigned in 1966.
The basic explanation for the rotation practiced during
the 1966-1970 period is that it was decided upon by the
majority party caucus at the beginning of the term. Two
reasons were given for this decision. The first was that it
was a way of preventing any one or a few deputies from being
saddled with a dull or insignificant committee assignment
for all four years of their term. Being assigned to the


263
focus upon the possible existence and characteristics of
similar elites in other legislative contexts. And, though
it is impossible to identify or relate any specific issue-
area parameters with this type of elite predominance at this
time, further research might well lead to conclusions of
this nature which would be very useful in drawing struc
tured issue and interview samples in decision-making studies
As previously indicated, the research implications
discussed above are in no way exhaustive. They have been
selected for discussion with an eye toward giving the reader
some idea of the range of ways in which the material in this
study can be used. It is hoped that the reader will see fit
to draw upon the study to generate those questions and
inferences which are of greatest relevance to his or her
research interests. If this should prove to be the case,
the first basic goal of this study will have been attained.
Systemic Implications of
Legislative Behavior
In seeking to evaluate what significance may be attri
buted to any given legislative structure, it is advisable
to take the following observation of Gerhard Loewenberg
into account.
The long history of parliament helps to explain the
conflicting expectations of the institution which
have caused successive generations of observers to
conclude that representative assemblies [are] declin
ing in quality and public importance. Such judge
ments [are] often the result of applying the stan
dards of a previous stage of institutional development
to the parliamentary behavior of the moment.5


94
17
One of the parties in question, the PUN, lost its
significance and influence in coalition politics in the
election of 1970. The statements made in this section refer
in most cases to the state of affairs that prevailed at the
time that the research for this study was carried out in
1968.
18
For an example of such a description see English.
19
This situation is not markedly different from the
party phenomena to be found in the United States. The
main difference is that in the United States the parties
are reactivated more frequently due to midterm and staggered
state and local elections.
20
One of the PUN seats was vacant due to the fact that
its occupant was named Minister of Foreign Relations and
chose to take a leave of absence from the legislature
rather than resign.
21 .
The regularity of these fraccin meetings is some
what misrepresented by this observation, as it would seem
to indicate that sessions were indeed held twice a month
during the six month period of time in question. It should
be noted that only three of these meetings were held within
two weeks of a prior session. Three meetings were held
within one month or more of a prior session, and three were
held within one week or less of a prior session.
?2
Among other things see Charles F. Denton, Patterns
of Costa Rican Politics (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 197l]~.
p. 36.
23
It is interesting to note that whereas the fraccin
by-laws call for only an absolute majority vote, the more-
demanding two-thirds vote requirement was that actually
applied in all cases observed, thus making it far more
difficult to arrive at this form of control over the votes
of the PLN deputies in committee and on the floor.
24
These waivers were granted despite the fact that the
fraccin by-lav/s stated that the obligation to support party
line positions could not be relaxed under any conditions.
>5
One interesting exception to this was reported m
respect to a bill processed by the Assembly in 1967, prior
to the time of this study. In this case, it was decided
by the fraccin that it could not afford to support the
bill in question, which called for the institution of new
taxes. On the other hand, it was felt that if the bill
were defeated, as it would have been without a few favorable


Notes
C. Wheare, Legislatures (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1963), p. 64.'
2
Ronald H. McDonald, Party Systems and Elections in
Latin America (Chicago: Markham Publishing Company, 1971),
p. 151.
^Ibid., pp. 93-94.
^Costa Rica, Tribunal Supremo Electoral, Computo de
Votos y Declaratorias de Eleccin para Presidentes y
Vicepresidentes, Diputados a la Asamblea Legislativa,
Regidores y Sndicos Municipales (San Jos: Tribunal
Supremo Electoral, 1969), p. 179.
^Ibid. p. 269.
^In 1971 this party took on the party name used by
the coalition, and it is now legally registered as the
National Unification Party.
7
This situation has changed somewhat since the election
of 1970. There are now several opposition parties which
can be said to have some viability as organizations. Yet
the complexity of the present panorama makes it impossible
to discuss these parties in the context of this study.
8
For arguments to the contrary see Mario Carvajal
Herrera, Political Attitudes and Political Change in Costa
Rica: A Comparison of the Attitudes of Leaders and Followers
with Respect to Regime Values and "Party Identifica t'i on
(Ph.D. dissertation, University of Kansas, n.d.); and Burt
English, Liberacin Nacional of Costa Rica: The Develop
ment of a Political Party in_a Transitiona1 Society (Ph.D.
dissertation, University" of' Florida, 19 67) It is "possible
that this study contradicts the reports of these two studies
due to the fact that it applies the relatively restrictive
definition of ideology generated by Angus Campbell and his
associates. See The American Voter (abridged version;
New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1964), pp. 109-123.
9
This statement was made by the secretary-general of
the coalition. See La Nacin, September 4, 1970, p. 13.


321
Cullinan, Neil M. Candidate Recruitment within the Costa
Rican "Partido Liberacin Nacional." Ph.D. disserta
tion, University of Georgia, 1971.
I
Denton, Charles F. The Politics of Development in Costa
Rica. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1969.
Dix, Robert H. "Opposition and Development in Latin Ameri
ca." Paper delivered at the 63rd Annual Meeting of
the American Political Science Association, Chicago,
September 5-7, 1967. j
i
, I
English, Burt H. Liberacin Nacional of Costa Rica: The
Development of a Political Party in a Transitional
Society. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida,
1967.
I
|
Matthews, Donald R. and James A. Stimson. "The Decision-
Making Approach to the Study of Legislative Behavior:
The Example of the U. S. House of Representatives."
Paper delivered at the 65th Annual Meeting of the
American Political Science Association, New York,
September 2-6, 1969.
!
Mijeski, Kenneth J. The Executive-Legislative Policy Pro
cess in Costa Rica. Ph.D. dissertation, University"
of North Carolina, 1971.
Morales, Francisco. "Los Sectores Populares y el Sistema
Poltico Costarricense." Paper delivered at the
Centro de Estudios Democrticos de Amrica Latina,
La Catalina, Heredia, Costa Rica, November 29, 1963.
.

Partido Liberacin Nacional, Comisin de Investigacin y
Estadstica. Anlisis de la Derrota de 1966. San
Jos, 1967. (Mimeographed document.)
Stephenson, Paul C. Costa Rican Government and Politics.
Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1965.
Stetson, Dorothy. Elite Political Culture in Costa Rica.
Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1968.
Wells, Henry. "Party Finance in Costa Rica." Paper¡pre
sented at the 8th World Congress of the International
Political Science Association, Munich, September 1,
1970.
Worthington, Wayne L. "The Costa Rican Public Security
Forces: A Mode! Armed Force for Emerging Nations?"
Master of Arts thesis, University of Florida, 1966.


122
of the deputies had carried out studies beyond the secondary
level, only 2-0 per cent of the electorate had done so. Two-
thirds of the deputies were drawn from professional positions
or ownership positions in commerce, industry, and/or business,
but only 6.5 per cent of the electorate fell into these two
31
categories. The impliccitions of these differences are
somewhat different in each case. It would be hard to argue
that it is desirable to have the educational level of the
general electorate in Costa Rica reflected among those elected
to the legislature. Under-representation of the lower educa
tional levels would seem to have a positive implication. The
under- and over-representation along occupational lines
implied by the data shown would suggest that the recruitment
system has a built-in bias which does not allow for adequate
representation of the interests of what in very broad terms
might be referred to as the lower classes. This imbalance
in class representation, again speaking in very broad terms,
is further illustrated by the fact that whereas 98.9 per cent
of the active population of Costa Rica earned less than
//20,00o per year, 88.9 per cent of the deputies had been drawn
from higher income categories.
The degree of representativity of deputies according to
income groupings becomes even lower if this relationship is
examined in terms of the income of these individuals once in
office. Whereas only 25.5 per cent (7) of the deputies were
in the highest income bracket of more than //30,000 before
being sworn-in, all deputies fell into this category once they


113
Given this electoral structure, there is little ini
tiative for a financial contributor to contribute to
the cantonal organization which operates within his
area of residence. Particularly if a contributor seeks
a favor from the party, he will be inclined to donate
his money to the national headquarters for he realizes
this is where the decisions are made. Thus the lower
level organizations are denied a critical source of
revenue. In this way the electoral system itself
further increases the dominance of the national head
quarters while increasing the financial dependence of
lower parties.^4
It might also be added that there is a state subvention to
political parties every four years to help them cover com-
paign expenses and that these subventions go to the national
25
headquarters rather than to any lower-level organizations.
Given the necessary reliance upon national headquarters for
the funding of congressional campaigns, the contributions
made by the candidates should be viewed as the equivalent of
the personal campaign expenses that candidates must sustain
in seeking election in electoral systems characterized by a
higher degree of organizational decentralization.
These obligatory contributions were of // 20,000 in the
case of the PLN and /^30,000 in the case of the other two
parties. At the official rate of exchange of 6.65 to the
dollar these sums amounted to approximately $3,000 and
$4,500 respectively. But as all made these payments, it is
somewhat exaggerated to equate this with the buying of seats.
Furthermore, if the way in which these contributions were
made is taken into account, it is obvious that what is
evidenced is not the wholesale selling of legislative seats


177
The small percentage of deputies on each committee who had
served on the same committee in the prior session reflects
the degree to which the members could have been expected to
be aware of the status and background of carry-over bills
from the previous session. The figure related to those who
had served on that same committee in any previous session
reflects the extent to which the members had obtained previous
experience in the subject matter dealt with by the committee.
The percentage figure for those who had served on the commit
tee in all preceding sessions serves as an absolute measure
of continuity. As in each case a high percentage is an
indication of low turnover and a low percentage an indication
of high turnover, the data indicate that there was a very
high degree of turnover in the membership of the committees.
Given the partisan nature of appointment to committees,
it is of interest to note that the PLN deputies tended to
have proportionately less previous experience on the same
committee than had deputies from the other three parties.
This relationship is reversed, however, if one calculates
a weighted score based upon the importance of the committees
where such experience was obtained. For instance, if a
score of 5 is allocated for three consecutive years of
experience on the highest ranked committee, 4 for the second
highest ranked, and so one, we find that the PLN obtains a
score of 10, the PR a score of 7, UCR a score of 5, and the
PUN a score of 0. If the same procedure is followed for


121
A comparison of the age distribution of deputies with
that of the electoral population indicates that those be
tween the ages of twenty and thirty are the roost under
represented as they constitute 33.2 per cent of the electoral
population yet were not represented by any deputies in their
29
age category. Most over-represented are those between the
ages of forty-one and fifty. The statement that "the legis
lative recruitment process . tends to select the middle-
aged-men in their forties and fiftiesclearly holds true
in Costa Rica. This phenomenon is functional to the stability
of the Legislative Assembly in some ways but may be dysfunc
tional to the adaptation of the institution. It is functional
in that it tends to foster the election of those who are more
likely to have some understanding of and experience in poli
tical matters. It may be dysfunctional in that it tends to
exclude those who are less likely to have become status-quo
oriented. Observation of the behavior of the younger deputies
in two legislatures (1966-1970 and 1970-1974) suggests,
however, that youth and effective change are not necessarily
related. The younger deputies, i.e., those under forty,
in many cases lack the ability to use the system to achieve
change-oriented goals,and their participation more often than
not becomes empty rhetoric.
The discrepancies between the educational level and
occupations of deputies and those of the electorate are even
more marked than the age differences. Whereas 78.9 per cent


235
deputies to promote, expedite, and in general assure passage
of bills related to or of interest to their constituents.
But the representational demands made upon deputies are not
limited to demands for adequate representation of constitu
ent interests in the legislative decision-making process.
A large proportion of the demands placed upon the deputies
calls for the fulfillment of a representational function
outside of the Assembly, referred to in some literature as a
service or "errand-boy" function. The necessity of fulfill
ing such a function was expressed in terms of the role
played by deputies in providing a link between the central
government bureaucracy and the public. Particular emphasis
was placed on the role of the deputy in serving as a spokes
man of local interests before the executive branch dependen
cies.
Behavior related to this facet of the representation
function varied from accompanying groups to see the president
to using good offices and partisan contacts within the public
administration to obtain jobs for constituents or getting
free medical service for them from party-affiliated doctors.
One of the most visible forms of "errand-boy" service
activities on the part of the presidential-party deputies
comes in February when the Ministry of Education assigns
teachers to the temporary positions that are open for the
upcoming school year. The assignment of these positions is
not subject to the control of the civil service; and,


259
The relational category includes those findings which
have suggestive implications for comparative researchers
who might wish to test isolated hypotheses in an idiographic
manner. For example, one of the most significant conclusions
drawn in the preceding chapters is that in Costa Rica the
responsiveness of deputies to constituents would appear to
be relatively high. This finding has important research
implications because it contradicts several common-sense
hypotheses in respect to the relationship that is likely to
exist between electoral system and party centralization
variables on the one hand and the responsiveness of deputies
on the other. It would have been logical to expect that the
centralized nature of the political parties, the election of
the deputies at large by province, the closed-list party
ballot system, and the legal impediment to the re-eligibility
of the deputies would have resulted in a low degree of
responsiveness; as in each case the factors in question would
seem to be ones which would undermine the deputy-constituent
bond. Yet this did not prove to be the case. This finding
would suggest the merit of examining the relationship which
exists between responsiveness and these structural variables
in other legislative settings in order to determine whether
these independent variables are in fact unrelated to the
dependent variable of responsiveness or if the Costa Rican
case is unique and explainable primarily in terms of such
intervening variables as size of population, geographic


68
The crushing defeat experienced by the two largest
minority parties in 1962, when they chose to run separate
presidential tickets, provided ready evidence that there was
little hope in the immediate future of defeating the PLN
without resorting to coalitional behavior. In that election
the PLN candidate won by a margin of 57,317 votes; but, if
it is assumed that a single opposition candidate would have
received the combined votes of these two parties, it could
be argued that this could have been a close election given
the fact that the margin of victory of the PLN would have
been that of a precarious 2,577 votes.^ In 1966 a coalition
5
presidential candidate won by a margin of 4,220 votes. The
ant.i-PLN coalition reappeared in 1970 but suffered defeat at
the hands of the dominant party.
Anti-PLN coalitions have regularly chosen to register
under the name of National Unification Party (Partido Uni'fi-
cacion Nacional). Invariably the largest party in the coali-
6
tion has been the Republican Party (Partido Republicano).
Until the election of 1970, the second largest party in the
coalition was that known as the National Union Party (Partido
Union Nacional). Other nominal parties have been members of
the coalitions, but they have tended to be parties on paper
only and generally have been legal entities formed by a very
reduced number of people seeking to attain some bargaining
7
power in the nomination process of the coalition. Generally
speaking, it is possible to classify the Republican Party as


280
field. The second was that of undertaking other appren
ticeship activities which would allow the author to gain a
broader understanding of legislative matters through direct
observation.
Efforts to locate written or compiled sources of infor
mation on the legislature or legislative-related matters
were largely unsuccessful. Only two studies of the Assembly
were found, and both proved to be of a highly legalistic-
formalistic nature.'*' With these exceptions, no journal
acticles, books, or unpublished studies related to the
Assembly were found. Nor was it possible to locate sources
of bibliographical data such as congressional directories or
social registers. Newspaper reporting on the legislature
was found to be superficial and of little research utility.
Systematically compiled data on legislative proceedings,
bills, and other matters could not even be found in the
Assembly.
By the end of the second month in San Jos, it became
apparent that there were only two major sources of primary
data in written form which could be utilized in the research
to be undertaken. The first was that of the agendas and
verbatim records of the floor proceedings. The second was
a weekly report on legislative proceedings distributed by
2
the Assembly. Work within the congressional archives,
where all bill-related records are kept, had to be discarded
because of the absence of an adequate system of


281
cross-referencing the bill jackets filed there. Research
utilizing the archive materials would have been so time-
consumming as to preclude the possibility of drawing upon
other types of materials. As it was, the nature of the two
sources identified and the lack of any previous efforts to
systematically compile even the most rudimentary types of
data related to the Assembly clearly indicated that the pro
cedures which would have to be followed to extract usable
data from these sources would require expending a consider
able amount of time on this phase of research. This fact
indicated that there was no alternative but to abandon two
of the original goals which the author had in mind when he
went to Costa Rica: first to study several legislative terms
and second to analyze several facets of legislative behavior
in detail. It was evident that it would be impossible to
focus upon more than one trro of the legislature without
severely limiting the topical scope of the research to be
undertaken. And it was apparent that in the research to be
carried out it would not be possible to examine all facets
of legislative behavior in great detail; consequently, a
primary decisional focus was opted for.
The success of research in the Costa Rican context is
definitely affected by the steps that the researcher takes
to gain the respect and confidence of the people that he.
intends to work vjith. A natural inclination found among
many researchers is that of wanting to get right down to


Ill
necessarily the same as those which give the state's
or district's support to a candidate for president.
This situation is accentuated at the national level by
the staggered terms of senators, representatives, and
president. A senator elected at the same time as a
president must face re-election in an "off" year, and
vice-versa; a representative must "gc it alone" at
least every four years. In consequence, as Herring
has put it, "Most congressmen are still independent
political entrepreneurs."21
At this point it would be v/ell to examine one additional
aspect which some have attributed to the Costa Rican nomina
tion process. It is not at all uncommon to hear the charge
that many deputies have in fact bought their seats. The
following unusually candid remark made by the defeated presi
dential candidate of the PLN in 1966 will serve as an illus
tration.
The way in which deputies are selected, to be objec
tive, realistic and frank, is conditioned by a number
of factors. It is conditioned by what is referred to
as "the finger" (el dedo) of the presidential candidate;
it is conditioned in some parties by the financial
contributions of_aspirants; it. is conditioned by local
leadership . .22
As this statement makes no indication as to how prevalent
this practice is, there is the danger of misinterpreting it.
In the period of time-spent executing the field research for
this study and in the interim period between that time and
o
1972, the author has had the opportunity to attain a fairly
detailed knowledge of what went on and goes on behind the
scenes in nomination struggles. There is ample evidence to
indicate that the buying of seats is still present, but this
occurs relatively infrequently, though it is quite possible


93
For a detailed analysis of the contradictions between
party actions and ideological statements see Suzanne
Bodenheimer, "The Social Democratic Ideology in Latin
America: The Case of Costa Rica's Partido Liberacin
Nacional," Caribbean Studies, 10 (October, 1970), pp. 49-96.
^Charles W. Anderson, "Politics and Development Policy
in Central America," in Robert D. Tomasek, ed., Latin
American Politics (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.,
1966), p. 549.
12
Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change
in Latin America (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc.,
1967), p. 280.
13
In 1961 a respected Costa Rican academician indicated
that a heated discussion on the question of state inter
vention in the economy prevailed at the time and that this
w'ould probably lead to a larger ideological cleavage among
Costa Ricans. See Carlos Jos Gutierrez, "Las Bases de la
Realidad Social Costarricense," Revista de Filosofa de la
Universidad de Costa Rica, 3 (Enero-Junio, 1961), p. 62.
14_
xt xs generally accepted that the PR and PUN have
been highly personalistic parties. The fact that the PLN
won the presidency by a landslide in 1953 and was not able
to reverse a decline in its proportional share of the vote
after that election until 1970, when it again ran Jos
Figueres as its candidate, suggests that the appeal of the
personalistic leader is very strong in this party also.
15 .
One way of determining the extent to which different
class interests are represented by the parties is to analyze
the manner in which elected party representatives choose to
use the extractive power of the political system. Though
it is true that the rich are taxed more in Costa Rica than
in most other Latin American nations, the progressive income
tax rate is still quite low. The highest rate paid is
30.0 per cent, and that is paid on any amount earned over
the equivalent of $75,500. There has been a tendency on
the part of all parties to favor indirect schemes of
taxation rather than increases in the progressive rates of
direct taxes.
^Suzanne Bodenheimer, "The Bankruptcy of the Social
Democratic Movement in Latin America," New Politics, 8
(Winter, 1969), p. 48. A similar, though less damning,
statement about the PLN can be found in a pro-PLN study
published by one of the young intellectuals of the party.
See Carlos Araya Pochote, Historia de los Partidos Polti-
cos: Liberacin Nacional (San Jos: Editorial Costa Rica,
1969), pp. 191-192. ~


166
a bill. Generally, discussions in committee consisted
of informal conversations which led to a general con
sensus among the members of the committee. Frequently,
committees did not meet over a period of several months
due to the urgent personal business of its members or
to a lack of interest.1
The modifications introduced in 1962 have substantially
altered the effectiveness of the system. The reduction of
the committees from fifteen to six and the increase in the
number of members in each has had a very salubrious effect
upon the work of the committees. It may now be stated that
committees come much closer to functioning as they do in
strong committee legislatures in that they tend to dominate
much of the legislative process, as it is there and not on the
2
floor that bills are studied and most compromises worked out.
The high impact of the committees upon legislative decision
making is evidenced by the fact that during the period
studied, 82.6 per cent of the bills reported out of committee
3
were approved on the floor without any modification. It is
also evidenced by the responses given by the deputies when
asked what tactics they employed in seeking to guide a bill
through the legislature. Though there were a few deputies
who mentioned seeking support at all levels and stages, such
as the one who lyrically stated thc\t obtaining passage of a
bill of interest was like courting a woman and no leaf could
be left unturned, the responses of the vast majority of the
deputies focused upon efforts at the committee stage of the
processing of bills.


132
23
The ability to contribute or obtain large contri
butions may be an extremely important consideration in the
choice of many presidential candidates. For example, it
is reported that Mario Echandi won the approval of the
main anti-PLN coalition leaders as presidential candidate
in 1970 due to the fact that he could guarantee to bankroll
most of the campaign.
24
Cullinan, p. 189.
25
For a description of this aspect of party financing
see Henry Wells, "Party Finance in Costa Rica" (paper pre
sented at the 8 th World Congress of the International
Political Science Association, Munich, September 1, 1970).
2 6
Fifteen of the fifty-seven deputies elected to the
1966-1970 Assembly had served previously in an elected
legislative capacity.
27
Such a proposition is indirectly suggested by
Lee C. Fennell, "Congress in the Argentine Political System,"
in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legislatures; Their
Role and Influence (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971),
p. 164; and by R. Lynn Kelley, "The Role of the Venezuelan
Senate," in Agor, p. 5G6.
28
Samuel Patterson, "Comparative Legislative Behavior,"
Midwestern Journal of Political Science, 12 (November,
1968), pp. 602-603.
29
The age data provided reflects the ages of the
deputies at the time that the research was carried out,
i.e., two years after the deputies took office. At the
time that the deputies were sworn in there was one deputy
age twenty-nine, which is to say that even at that time
less than 2.0 per cent of the deputies fell into the 20-30
age category.
"^Malcolm Jewell and Samuel C. Patterson, The Legis
lative Process in the United States (New York: Random
House, 19 66)', p. 114.
31 ...
Over-representation of lawyers m legislatures is a
common phenomenon. Costa Rica is no exception in this sense;
sixteen of the fifty-seven deputies elected to serve from
1966 to 1970 xvere lawyers. But the degree of over-represen
tation here is minimal compared to a country such as Colombia
where 123 out of 186 members of the Chamber of Deputies were
found to be lawyers. See Ernest A. Duff, "The Role of
Congress in the Colombian Political System," in Agor, p. 390.


173
The assignments made between I9b6 and 1969 indicated
that partisan considerations were the strongest determinants
of assignment. The strategy followed by the majority party
was that of assigning party deputies in such a way as to gain
control of as many committees as possible and to load the
most important committees with as many party deputies as was
possible without sacrificing the first goal.
An examination of Table 6.1 will provide clear support
for this statement.
TABLE 6.1
Party Distribution in Committees in the 1968-1969
Legislative Session
Committees (in descending
Number of
Deputies per
Party
order of importance)*
PLN
PR
PUN
UCR
Economic Affairs Committee
7
2
1
1
Budgetary Affairs Committee
8
2
2
0
Governmental and Adminis
trative Affairs Committee
6
5
0
0
Social Affairs Committee
6
3
].
1
Judicial Affairs Committee
1
6
3
0
*The method used to rank
scribed in Chapter I.
order the
committees is
de-
In order to control all five
committees,
the
majority
party
would have needed a total of thirty-one deputies rather than
the twenty-nine that it had. Thus, one committee could not
be controlled by them, although majority control could be


182
coffers, or from national politicians with the support of
the party leadership, it does not indicate that a large
proportion of the deputies bring to the Assembly the type of
expertise which might be generated if there were more con
tinuity in the membership of the committees. However, there
is some indication that the deputies in general tend to have
acquired some decision-making experience as a result of the
previous positions that they have held. This experience might
indeed qualify them as specialists in certain issue areas,
but the very fact that they are moved from committee to
committee indicates that little is done to maximize the con
tribution that deputies could make in whatever areas of
expertise they have.
A second factor which tends to weaken the committee
system is that of the multiple career pattern of many depu
ties. This variable has been found to be operant in a
number of other legislative sub-systems and thus is not
particularly unique. Kelly describes its existence in
Venezuela in the following terms:
Another variable which influences the activity and
output levels of the Senate is what has been called
the Latin American tradition of multiple career
patterns. Evident to a greater or lesser extent in
most Latin American countries, the multiple career
pattern simply means that a man is likely to be, for
example, simultaneously a practicing lawyer, a poet,
and a politician, with several offices, dividing his
time between his three "professions." In the
Venezuelan Senate this is the rule rather than the
exception. In fact, a senator attains that office
because of his success in political-party, economic


155
ways to reflect cognition of Truman's statement that
"whether a group is able to exploit the advantages of its
position or not will depend in part on the size of the
. 22
public concerned at the time." But it should be added
that the goal of interest groups is more often that of
giving the impression of general public concern rather than
effectively broadening the scope of such concern. The criti
cal question is not whether these publications have any
substantial impact on the molding of public opinion on the
issue but rather whether legislative decision-makers can
be led to believe that they represent the views of a sub
stantial sector of the public. The various chambers utilize
this means of access quite frequently as a means of bolster
ing their personal contact access route as do the various
labor, teacher, and professional organizations. Certain
well-financed ad hoc interest groups also resort to this
channel. For example, it is reported that the committee
that was formed to support the executive bill which called
for the abolition of the state monopoly in banking used this
method in massive quantities. The institutional interest
groups represented by the autonomous institutions also rely
to some extent upon this channel. Local institutional
interest groups in most cases cannot afford to do so.
The industrial, commercial, and to some extent, the
agricultural interest groups, are at a distinct advantage
in respect to the use of the press, given the fact that


317
Kornberg, Allan. "Parliament in Canadian Society," in
Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legislatures
in Developmental Perspective. Durham: Duke University
Press, 1970.
. "The Rules of the Game in the Canadian House of
Commons," Journal of Politics, 26 (May, 1964), pp. 358-
380.
LaPalombara, Joseph. "Parsimony and Empiricism in Com
parative Politics: An Anti-Scholastic View," in
Robert T. Holt and John E. Turner, eds., The Method
ology of Comparative Research. New York: The Free
Press, 1970.
Lehnen, Robert G. "Behavior on the Senate Floor: An
Analysis of Debate in the United States Senate,"
Midwest Journal of Political Science, 11 (November,
1967), pp. 505-521.
Loewenberg, Gerhard. "Comparative Legislative Research,"
in Samuel C. Patterson and John C. Wahlke, eds./
Comparative Legislative Behavior: Frontiers of;Re
search. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1972.
. "The Role of Parliaments in Modern Political
Systems," in Gerhard Loewenberg, ed., Modern Parlia
ments Chicago: Aldine-Atherton, 1971. ¡
Martz, John D. "Costa Rican Electoral Trends, 1953-1966,"
Western Political Quarterly, 20 (December, 1967),
pp. 888-908.
Mecham, J. Lloyd. "Latin American Constitutions: Nominal
and Real," Journal of Politics, 21 (May, 1959),
pp. 258-275.
I
Meller, Norman. "The Identification and Classification of
Legislatures," Phillipine Journal of Public Admini-
stration, 10 (October, 1966), pp. 308-319.
i
. "Legislative Behavior Research, Revisited: A
Review of Five Years! Publications, Western Political
Quarterly, 18 (December, 1965), pp. 776-793.
Moneypenny, Phillip. "Introduction," in H. R. Mahood, ed.,
Pressure Groups in American Politics. New York:
CharIes Scriber's Sons, 19 67.
La Nacin, September 4, 1970, p. 18.


23
If a weighted average is calculated, assigning each bill
in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth categories
scores of one, two, three, four, and five, respectively, we
find that the average score for legislative bills is 2.83 and
that for executive bills is 2.86. If the same weighted
average score is computed for processing time in committee,
the legislative bill score is 1.48 and the executive is 1.51.
The differences evidently are very small. But, if anything,
since the lower the weighted average the less the processing
time, the differences indicate that legislative bills were
processed slightly more rapidly than were the executive bills
An additional indicator which might be used to test the
proposition in question could be based on the bills that are
rejected. An examination of such bills indicates that the
frequency of outright rejection was so low as to make a com
parison meaningless. Out of a total of 207 bills which were
21
fully processed, only 8 were rejected; 5 of these were
22
deputy sponsored and the other 3 were executive bills.
However, it is revealing to note that, during the 1966-1970
Assembly, an executive bill which called for the demise of
the nationalized banking system was rejected by the Assembly.
This bill was a measure which had been promised during the
campaign by the victorious presidential candidate. Of course
it should be recalled that his party did not have a majority
in the legislature. But, nevertheless, this example serves
to illustrate that the legislature is by no means a pawn of
the president.


CHAPTER I
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND SYSTEMIC DECISION-MAKING
In the past, the relevance of many of the questions
raised by legislative researchers has been posited upon the
assumption that legislatures universally play a significant
role in systemic decision-making. But recently a number of
scholars have pointed to the necessity of overcoming the
knee-jerk reaction of researchers in making such an assump
tion. Robert Packenham, in fact, has gone so far as to argue
that most legislatures do not play an important, if any, role
in decision-making."'' The warning which has been issued is
well-worth taking into account in the case of Costa Rica, in
which it has become all too prevalent to assume on the basis
of highly impressionistic evidence that the Legislative
Assembly is a significant decision-making structure. The
question which needs to be answered is whether there is any
substantive empirical evidence that would support this assump
tion.
The powers granted to the legislative branch of govern
ment in Costa Rica suggest that the Assembly was meant to be
an active and direct participant in the decision-making
2
process. But these are only formal powers. In attempting
to determine whether a structure plays a role in this process


placed within a specific propositional context. But, on the
other hand, they must face the possibility that such research
will lead to the type of failure identified by Hunt, Crane,
and Wahlke in the absence of substantial prior knowledge of
the institutions which they wish to study. Research in
countries where adequate descriptive studies have been carried
out can well afford to focus on very specific research ques
tions, because investigators have good reason to believe that
in doing so they may identify meaningful patterns of behavior
or relationships. In Costa Rica the spadework that would
lead to the identification of factors which could be used in-
generating a useful series of research propositions is yet to
be done, as is that required to determine which research
instruments can be used effectively within the Costa Rican
context. Under such conditions a broad and largely descrip
tive study is called for as a first step toward more precise
research at a later date. This study, admittedly a configu-
rative probe, seeks to build a bridge between the highly
impressionistic research that has preceded it and a more
systematic and scientific form of research.
In broad terms the goal of this study is to attain a
better understanding of Costa Rican legislative behavior and
of the significance or consequences that this behavior has
within the context of the national political system. The
study is a preliminary probe which seeks to do some of the
initial spadework required before more rigorous studies of


314
Sa 1 orna John S. III. Congress and the New Politics.
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969.
Stephenson, Paul C. Costa Rican Election Factbook,
February 6, 1966. Washington, D. C.: Institute for
the Comparative Study of Political Systems, 1966.
Truman, David. The Governmental Process. New York:
hIfred Knopf, 1951.
Wahlke, John C., Heinz Eulau, et al. The Legislative
System. New York: John Wiley and Sons, inc., 1962.
Wheare, K. C. Legislatures. New York: Oxford Univrsity
Press, 1963.
Articles and Periodicals
Agor, Weston H. "Introduction," in Weston H. Agor, ed.,
Latin American Legislatures: Their Role and Influence.
New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.
. "The Senate in the Chilean Political System,"
in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds., Legis
latures in Developmental Perspective. Durham: Duke
University Press, 1970.
Anderson, Charles W. "Politics and Development Policy in
Central America," in Robert D. Tomasek, ed., Latin
American Politics. New York: Doubleday and Company,
Inc., 1966.
Astiz, Carlos A. "The Decay of Latin American Legislatures,
in Allan Kornberg, ed., Legislatures in Comparative
Perspective New York: David McKay Company, inc., 197
Bachrach, Peter and Morton Baratz. "Two Faces of Power,"
American Political Science Review, 56 (December, 1962),
pp. 247-952.
Baerwald, Hans. Review of Legislatures in Developmental
Perspective, ed. by Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf,
American Political Science Review, 66 (March, 1972),
p. 248.
Baker, Christopher E. "The Costa Rican Legislative Assem
bly: A Preliminary Evaluation of the Decisional
Function," in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American
Legislatures: Their Role and Influence. New York:
Praeger Publishers, 1971.


185
Observation of committee sessions cannot help giving
one the impression that Costa Rican deputies are not particu
larly well informed. Few committee members have even
looked at the text of a bill before it is opened for debate
in committee session. And even when a bill has been under
debate for several sessions, one gets the distinct impres
sion that few deputies have given the bill much thought or
study from one session to the next. This circumstance
might not be so significant were it not coupled with a third
weakening factor.
Costa Rican committees have no research staff at their
disposal. The staff of each is limited to one secretary,
who is in charge of taking care of minor administrative
details and typing up the minutes of each session. Further
more, Costa Rica lacks even the most basic legal research
tools. There is no codified version of Costa Rican law;
and, in fact, there is not even an adequate index to this
body of law. Consequently, the legislator frequently is
unaware of the effect which a bill may have on previous
legislation. The situation has led to the anomalous practice
of the tacit repeal of legislation. A clause is tacked
onto many laws which states that they repeal any previous
legislation contrary to them. Thus it is at times almost
impossible to determine what laws are in force and which are
not. In fact, this situation has led, in at least one
case, to the repeal of the same lav; on four separate occa
sions .


306
How frequently are these strategies established?
a) very frequently
b) frequently
c) infrequently
What types of bills are usually the subjects of such
strategies?
Who establishes these strategies?
23. Do you submit the bills that you are planning to pre
sent to your caucus leader for his approval?
24. Would you please indicate how you would rank order the
committees of this Assembly in descending order of
importance, according to the importance of the types
of bills that are processed through each of them.
25. How frequently does the President of the Republic con
tact you in person, in writing, or by telephone?
a) at least once a week
b) at least once a month
c) less than once a month
d) never
26. How frequently does the Executive or Political Committee
of your party contact you?
a)
at least
once a week
b)
at least
once a month
c)
less than
once a month
d)
never
THIS QUESTIONNAIRE HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR DISTRIBUTION TO ALL
OF THE DEPUTIES OF THE ASSEMBLY. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOME
OF THE QUESTIONS THAT FOLLOW WILL NOT BE RELEVANT TO THE
RESPONSES PROVIDED IN THE INTERVIEW WHICH YOU SO KINDLY AC
CEDED TO. IF YOU FIND THAT THE NUMBER BEFORE A QUESTION HAS
BEEN CROSSED OUT, PLEASE PROCEDE TO THE NEXT QUESTION, AS
THIS WILL INDICATE THAT THE QUESTION SO MARKED IS NOT RELE
VANT IN YOUR CASE.
27.You have indicated that the factors listed below will
be important in determining your success in pursuing
a permanent political career. Please indicate what
degree of importance you would attribute to each of
these factors.


143
as a decision-making function in that they are forced to
present those local demands which they are unable to resolve
before national structures of government. It seems proper
to conceive of them as behaving as interest groups despite
the fact that they often represent community-wide interests
when they undertake articulative activities, in that each
cantonal government unit or set of units competes with other
such units from other cantons in attempting to obtain allo
cations for their communities.
It is difficult to identify many interest groupings in
Costa Rica that would fall into Almond and Powell's third
category of non-associational interest groups. Such groups
are exemplified by kinship, lineage, ethnic, regional,
status, and class groupings, and closely approximate what
Fred Riggs has referred to as the manifestations of cornmu-
14
nalism in prismatic societies. These are said to be
characterized by "intermittent patterns of articulation, the
absence of any organized procedure for establishing the
nature and means of articulation, and the lack of continuity
15
in internal structure." There is good reason to believe
that such groups do exist at least at the ethnic and class
levels. The black population, largely concentrated in the
Atlantic coastal province of Limn, would be one such group.
But within the total context of interest groupings in Costa
Rica, this non-associational interest group is at present
of minimal importance. Ethnic consciousness is without any


158
within the Assembly indicates that the Chamber of Industry
not only drafted the law passed in 1959 which sought to
provide additional investment incentives, but also provided
the Assembly with the only data and arguments presented in
2 6
the consideration of this bill. Under these conditions,
there can be no doubt that formal institutional means of
. 27
access can m some cases be used very effectively. Yet,
few interest groups are able to provide the type of infor
mation and research function fulfilled by interest groups
. 28
m some other countries. Truman has noted that "one
important factor among the informal determinants of access
is created by the legislator-politician's needs of infor-
29
mation and the ability of a group to supply it." In
Costa Rica, interest groups are not in a position to gain
the gratitude of deputies through the provision of data of
interest to the deputies which is not related to a matter
of specific interest to the interest groups. It is possible
that the larger interest groups will attain the ability to
meet such a need in the future. But no significant progress
in this direction has been noted by this author in the four
years that he has spent in Costa Rica.
The use of channels of access to the Assembly through
the bureaucratic structure and/or ministerial level offi
cials is evidenced in two ways in Costa Rica. Ministers
and members of the bureaucracy are approached from time to
time by interest groups in an attempt to convince them to


186
The lack of expertise, the concurrent holding of
several positions and the lack of adequate research instru
ments, as well as of a research staff, means that frequently
the information provided by interested parties in appearances
before the committees is not checked out against information
from independent and/or unbiased sources. Even in those
cases where such information is requested, it is all too
frequently found that replies from independent external
sources are either much delayed or are simply never received.
The disadvantage of this situation becomes particularly
marked when the committees are dealing with bills of interest
to the executive power. Without any question, the control
of information that can be exercised by the executive places
it in a highly advantageous position vis-a-vis ^the legis
lature. The Assembly, through its committees, may make
effective demand of most information of interest to it
known to be held by the executive; but in Costa Rica, as
elsewhere, this power is not equivalent to that of holding
the information.
The one factor that made committee consideration of
bills relatively meaningful was the fact that within each
committee there were two or three individuals at any given
time who could bring a certain amount of expertise to bear
upon matters before the committee and who also tended to
carry out a certain amount of research on such matters.
These individuals led most, of the substantive discussion.


51
legislative liaison officer on its staff, but his role in
smoothing things out was peripheral at best as is indicated
by the fact that none of the deputies interviewed even
mentioned his existence. Under such conditions, the con
clusion that the representatives of the executive power were
not in a strong position to ask special favors of the depu
ties is obvious. The caucus leaders of the coalition par
ties at times sought to convince their deputies that they
should toe the line on some matters for the sake of the
coalition's record in power but very frequently found this
to be an extreme3.y distasteful and difficult task. In
general, the government deputies came to feel that, given
the treatment that they received from the executive, they
had no responsibility to it. In fact, some of them seemed
to enjoy watching the president and his ministers struggle
to get themselves out of hot water without any significant
help from the legislative sidelines. Though this feeling
of detachment from the executive was clearly affected by
the personal style of the president, it could be posited
that in countries, such as Costa Rica, where presidents
attain office without having elaborated or campaigned on
a specific programmatic platform, presidential-party depu
ties will feel less obligated to go along with executive
branch initiatives than would be the case in countries where
these deputies have committed themselves in campaign to
support specific or even general types of measures.


249
the explanation for the development of stable and relatively
democratic government in this "Switzerland of the Americas."
Summary and Conclusions
Scholars have yet to agree on a proper definition of
"legislature." But, then, the academic community is well
known for its propensity to while away its time consider
ing such matters. Recently it was suggested to the author
that semantic and conceptual hairsplitting need not go on
that a simple method for identifying legislatures was at
hand. "Go to any country," it was suggested, "and ask the
local populace what institution is most inefficient,
irresponsible, useless and in most obvious decadence, and
you will be led to the local legislature." Legislative
bodies are, no doubt, easy objects of criticism and the
source of endless jokes. But even an incomplete listing of
the non-decisional aspects of legislative behavior present
in this chapter gives one very good reason for hesitancy in
evaluating a legislative structure in unfavorable terms
simply because it does not live up to expectations based
upon the assumption that it is desirable that the legisla
tive decision-making process be "efficient," "responsible,"
and "well pondered." The value, or worthlessness as some would
put it, of legislatures must clearly be viewed in terms of
the non-decisional as well as the decisional consequences
that siach institutions have within their societies.
In the


117
of representing local interests so as to assure the favorable
disposition of local constituencies toward the party list
in the next election. Should the voters express their dis
pleasure at the polls, the chances of a deputy being named
to an appointive post and of returning to the Assembly after
2 6
the enforced four-year wait will be substantially diminished.
Such a phenomenon! would seem to contradict the proposi
tion that closed-list party ballot electoral systems tend
to reduce the accountability of individual representatives to
their constituencies and to increase their accountability to
27
national parties. But to speak of a reduction m the
accountability to constituents is not to suggest that such
accountability disappears. What is most important to note is
that even with the type of indirect accountability to con
stituents that has been identified, it is the party interests
that are most likely to prevail if there is a clash between
constituency and party interest.
The Product of the Electoral Process:
The Characteristics of the Deputies
The preceding section clearly indicates that, if an
active and direct voice in the nomination and election of
deputies is considered to be an essential requisite for
representation and accountability to exist, Costa Rica falls
short of having an effective system of representation. But
if such a premise were indeed accepted, it would be difficult,
if not impossible, to find a system in which it could be said


307
a) Factor #1
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
b) Factor #2
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
c) Factor #3
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
d) Factor #4
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
e) Factor #5
i)of the utmost importance
ii)of great importance
iii)of some importance
PLEASE CIRCLE THAT FACTOR WHICH YOU CONSIDER TO BE MOST
IMPORTANT OF ALL.
28. Please indicate what degree of importance you would
attribute to each of the following factors which you
reported to have contributed to your success in seeking
nomination.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 28]
29. You have reported that you take the following factors
into account in reaching decisions in respect to bills
under consideration by the Assembly. Please indicate
what degree of importance you would attribute to each
of these decisional factors.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 28]


25
executive branch and will be the subject of further comment
in another chapter.
The Mijeski study does allow us, however, to draw some
specific conclusions on the significance of the committees
in the modification of executive bills. Table 1.3 reflects
the findings reported therein based upon the comparison of
the text of the bills reported out of committee favorably and
the original text of these bills. Again, though legislative
TABLE 1.3
Committee Modification of Bills Given
Affirmative Committee Reports
Degree
of Modification*
Sponsorship of Bill
None to
Slight
Moderate
Significant:
to Complete
Legislative
61.4% (51)
26.5% (22)
12.1% (10)
Executive
73.0 (46)
22.2 (14)
4.8 (3)
Source: Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legisla
tive Policy Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation",
University of North Carolina, 1971), p. 81.
*The operational definitions of the degree of modifica
tion utilised were the following: (1) no change: the
verbatim acceptance of the original bill; (2) slight change:
mostly rearranging words rather than changing substance;
(3) moderate change: rearranging and modifying both words
and substance, but with general intent of bill unchanged;
(4) significant change: much substantive modification which
would affect some of the bills original intent; and
(5) complete change: original intent of bill modified com
pletely, with no resemblance to the original proposal.
bills were found to have suffered more substantial modifica
tion in committee than executive bills, the fact that 27 per


288
Content analysis format
Of the four methods used, the least fruitful was the
attempt to generate valid indicators of deputy interest and
influence through content analysis of the floor records.
The time expended in executing this phase of the research
was most obviously not justified. It had been assumed that
debate participation could be used as an indicator of the
prevailing interest of deputies. But experience showed
that this assumption was not well founded. The behavior of
deputies varies substantially, and it was found that indi
cators based upon debate participation were very misleading
in the case of legislators who were not predisposed to
speak on the floor. It had also been assumed that it would
be possible to evaluate the relative influence of deputies
by determining whether their positive or negative positions
in debate on the floor were supported or not in the final
outcome of bills. But,again, it was found that this
influence indicator was most misleading, because the main
supporters or opponents of bills and bill amendments often
acted behind the scenes.
The fact that the author chose to ignore the findings
generated through content analysis of floor debate records
raises an important question of subjective bias. Should
subjective criteria and impression be used in judging the
validity of objective behavioral indicators? The answer
in this case must be in the affirmative. Researchers


10
It is important to mention by way of introduction that
the bulk of the material presented is limited to a single
legislative period, that of 1966-1970. The absence of
substantive prior studies of the Assembly and the difficulty
of obtaining comparative data covering an extended period
of time made it impossible in most cases to obtain the in
formation required for even the most rudimentary comparisons
between the characteristics of the particular legislature
in office at the time that the research was carried out in
1968 and any preceding one. Therefore, this study must be
viewed as a baseline case study. General conclusions are
drawn from the data presented, but the reader should keep in
mind that these need to be subjected to further verification
in future studies.


48
counterpart in another Latin American country, but he is
still a dominant factor in the Costa Rican setting.
It is impossible to evaluate adequately the effective
ness of the executive-branch inputs into the legislative
sub-system of Costa Rica in isolation of party-related con
siderations. The means available to a president to affect
the decisional behavior of deputies are without doubt
determined in large part by the presence or absence of a
presidential-party majority in the legislature. It may also
be affected to a lesser, yet significant, extent by the
style and personality of the person occupying the presiden
tial post. The fact that the occupants of legislative and
executive positions are changed every four years and that
presidential-party majority and minority legislatures have
also alternated in power during each of the last five terms
has in fact prevented executive-legislative relations from
becoming highly patterned. It is very likely that the
inputs into the legislative sub-system emanating from the
executive branch have been subject to substantial variation
from one term to another. The reader should keep in mind
that the discussion which follows is based almost entirely
upon observation of the behavior of one set of executive
officers vis-a-vis a presidential-party minority legislature.
It is also significant to note that the president in power
during the period studied lacked one of the most important
traits which has tended to characterise Costa Rican chief


130
TABLE 6.3
Age at Which Deputies First Became Interested in Politics
Prior
to age 13
17.0%
( 8)
13 to
18
36.2
(17)
19 to
23
27.7
(13)
After
age 23
19.1
( 9)
TABLE
6.4
When Deputies
First Became
Active
in Party Activities
1948 or before
50.0%
(24)
1953
33.3
(16)
1958
12.5
( 6)
1962
4.2
( 2)
1966
0
( 0)
TABLE 5.5
Primary
Levels of Party Activities of Deputies
Prior to Election
Cantonal
72.9%a (35)
Provincial
37.5 (18)
National
39.6 (19)
aN =20.
than 100% due
Sum of percentage figures equals greater
to multiple responses.


246
Cathartic Function
It was most interesting and surprising to find that as
a whole the deputies interviewed tended to have a highly
developed and relatively sophisticated conception of the
cathartic function which members of a legislature can and
do fulfill individually and as a group. More than one
deputy, in fact, referred to this function in the exact terms
used by some writers in labeling this function, i.e., as a
"safety valve" (vlvula de escape) function. It had been
anticipated that this function would not be identified by
many deputies, given the fact that the concept behind it
might be excessively abstract. But there is one very good
reason which should have led to positing that there would,
on the contrary, be a high level of awareness of this func
tion and its significance. This reason is that the Civil
War of 1948 created a society-wide polarization of political
groups characterized by a high degree of antagonism. The
fact that these divisions have not led to any significant
violent confrontations between the groups, with the possible
exceptions of the small invasions of 1949 and 1955, would
suggest that a lot of this antagonism must have been released
through some cathartic mechanism. And the facts that the
Legislative Assembly has been a focal point of attention
since 1949 and that both contending forces have had repre
sentation within the Assembly further suggest that much of
the built-up pressure was probably released through this
structure.


109
17 '
provided by the national party.. Legislative candidates
are expected to give some attention to local issues and
problems in their formal speeches and informal contacts/
but ironically these prove to be of relatively little inter
est to local constituencies. Costa Rican campaigns at all
levels have tended to focus upon the personalities of the
presidential candidates, mudslinging, and references to the
unfortunate events surrounding the Civil War of 1948. One
foreign observer of several electoral campaigns has sug
gested, only half in jest, that in the absence of annual
carnival celebrations, Costa Ricans hold an election every
18
four years instead. Many of those who attend the political
rallies which are held throughout the country seem to seek
entertainment, and the more scurrilous and aggressive the
attacks the happier the observers are. Attempts to speak
to substantive issues and proposed programs are often re
ceived with foreboding silence. Some observers, in fact,
attribute the defeat of the PLN candidate in 1966 in part to
his attempt to campaign on the basis of a concrete program
19
and to his inability to warm up the rural crowds. In 1970
the party's presidential candidate attempted to focus his
campaign on the issue of widespread poverty but was forced
in the long run to fall back on the traditional bogey-man
approach.
Under such conditions and given the straight party-
ticket voting for provincial legislative slatesv it is


244
his constituents know that he had tried the impossible. The
case of the duplicate bill is not seen too frequently as
deputies from the same area will usually collaborate in
order to attain the desired goal of the community that they
represent. Such collaboration in many cases is essential if
a minority-party deputy wishes to reap at least some credit.
An electoral-mobilization function is fulfilled by
local deputies on each visit that they make to their respec
tive communities and when they utilize their good offices
in fulfilling an "errand-boy" or service function. Accessi
bility tends to be viewed by constituents as a significant
indicator of how well the deputy is serving his community.
Thus, it was not surprising to find that of those deputies
who had cantonal responsibilities and did not reside in
these cantons during the periods of the legislative session,
sixty per cent traveled to their cantons at least once per
week and the other forty per cent did so not less than once
a month. Most of those returning at least once a week
tended to spend their weekends in their cantonal constituency
areas.
The local deputies also tend to rely heavily upon the
cooperation of the radio media reporters who cover the
Assembly in order to assure the projection of a favorable
image of.themselves and their parties at the local level.
In Costa Rica there are a number of radio stations which
broadcast news spots referred to as radioperjodieos. Most


120
TABLE 4.2(continued)
Deputiesa
Electoral
Population
Occupation
Professional
48.3%
(27)
5.2%C
Ownership in commerce, industry
and/or business
17.9
(10
1.3
Other
33.9
(19)
93.6
Income per year ($1 = p/6.65)
Less than jt/ 20,000
11.1
( 3)
d
&20,000-30,000
7.4
( 2)
Over 0/20.000 1..
/>31,000-40,000
44.4
(12)
xm, 000-50,000
11.1
( 3)
^I50,000-//50,000
25.9
( 7)
The total number of duputies covered under each data
category varies due to the fact that not all deputies pro
vided complete data.
^The age groups provided by the census are 20-29, 30-
39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60 and over. These, however, are close
enough to the categories used in the research carried out to
allow for meaningful general comparisons. All population data
in this table have been computed from data found in Costa Rica,
Ministerio de Industria y Comercio, Direccin General de
Estadsticas y Censos, Censo de Poblacin 1963 (San Jos:
Seccin de Publicaciones, Direccin General de Estadsticas
y Censos, 1966).
The nature of the categories used in the census tend to
exaggerate the proportion of the population falling in our
categories of "professional" and "ownership in commerce,
industry, and business." The data in question also reflect the
characteristics of the employed population rather than that
of the electoral populations.
^The data reflect the income of deputies prior to taking
office.
eThe- data reflect the income level of the active popula
tion, not of the electoral population, which reported having
an income.


170
some cases, the Assembly is obligated by law to seek the
opinion of certain institutional representatives. For
example, the board of directors of an autonomous institution
must be consulted in respect to any bill related to it; but
the opinions issued by these are not binding upon the Assembly.
The committees are also obligated to seek the opinions of the
Supreme Court and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal on matters
dealing with the organization and functioning of the judicial
system in the one case, and electoral matters in the other.
In both cases, these opinions are binding unless overruled
7
by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.
Committees may amend any part of a bill by majority
vote. Once all amendment motions have been dealt with, a
final vote on the bill is taken in committee. The president
of the committee then appoints one member to draw up a
report reflecting the favorable or negative decision taken
by the majority of the members. Should any individual or
group within the committee be in disagreement with the
majority decision, he or they may draw up one or more minor
ity reports. Such minority reports, however, are considered
on the floor only if the majority report is rejected. A
favorable majority report does not always reflect support
for the original bill submitted. Amendments to a bill
acted upon favorably in committee are incorporated into the
final committee text of the bill, and this revised version
of the bill is what is acted upon on the floor. At times


191
Despite the weaknesses inherent in the committee system
of Costa Rica that have been pointed out, this system is
still a highly significant one. This is no purely formalis
tic committee system. As can be determined from Table 1.3
in Chapter I, 33.6 per cent of those bills studied by
... 20
Mijeski were found to have been modified m their substance
in committee. And given the fact that 82.6 per cent of the
bills reported out of committee were passed on the floor as
reported by committee, it is apparent that the committees
not only do exercise more than a formal decision-making
function but also that their decisions are seldom challenged
on the floor. It is also to be noted that committees can
have a significant impact on the time priorities given to
legislative bills. Denton reports that "bills are studied
by one ... of the principal Assembly standing committees
for approximately one week and are then reported back [to
21
the floor]." This report is not only fallacious but tends
to underestimate the significance of the power of the commit
tee to affect the priorities to be given to bills. As
Table 6.7 shows, the amount of time taken to report bills
out of committee was found to fluctuate substantially.
Given this type of spread, it is apparent that the committees
do play a role in setting priorities. This power is, in
fact, even more prevalent than the table indicates as it was
found that of the 587 bills at various stages of processing
during the period studied, 337 of these, or 57.4 per cent,


284
was a content-analysis' format to b used in classifying
the behavior of each individua], deputy as reflected in floor
proceedings. The third instrument generated was an inter
view schedule. And the fourth was a hand-out questionnaire,
which was to serve as a supplement to the interview.
Codification of the bills, drawing upon the sources
mentioned, was carried out in two phases. First, the follow
ing types of data on each bill before the Assembly in the
period studiedMay through November 1968--we.re compiled:
(1) sponsorship, (2) procedural history> and (3) nature of
debate on the floor. These data were then used to classify
each bill within a data profile consisting of twenty-six
variables. The more significant variables utilized were:
(1) the nature of bills according to national-local scope
3
criteria, (2) the source of sponsorship of bills, (3) the
committee assignment of bills, (4) the processing time,
(5) the presence or absence of procedural motions to expedite
committee and/or floor consideration, (6) the type of
committee report rendered, (7) the controversy of bills as
reflected in floor debate, (8) the presence or absence of
modifications on the floor, and (9) the outcome of the bills.
The content-analysis format used made it possible to
codify the following behavioral data on each deputy:^
(1) participation in the introduction of bills? (2) partici
pation in debate on bills? (3) favorable or negative stands
taken on bills? (4) introduction of motions calling for the


63
independence and allocations! power of the autonomous
institutions, however, have been found to be a limiting
factor upon this role. Thus an objective evaluation of
the decision-making role of this legislature must indicate
that the legislature of Costa Rica shares its decision
making role with the above-mentioned institutions and may
in some cases have a lesser impact upon decision-making
than these other institutions do. But the existence of
these limitations does not contradict the finding reported
in the previous chapter that the Legislative Assembly does
play a significant role in the allocation of systemic
resources in Costa Rica.


256
V in respect to these institutions. The first indicates
that the autonomous institutions are most independent and
that neither the executive nor the legislature has the means
necessary to control or to give direction to them. However,
Chapter V shows that they act as interest groups. If they
are as independent as reported, why is there a need for
exercising pressure upon the legislature? Is it that these
institutions, or the bureaucrats who run them, have devel
oped a set of interests that go beyond their attributed
spheres of activity? Certainly this is not an impossibility.
Indeed, there is good reason to believe that bureaucracies
do develop a life and interests of their own and frequently
pursue these interests independent of purely institutional
concerns.
This line of questioning leads to a second useful area
of inquiry, that of the role played by the members of the
executive bureaucracy in influencing decision-making in the
legislature. It has been indicated in Chapters II and VI
that representatives of this bureaucracy provide inputs of
some importance into the legislative sub-system. But in
both chapters they were conceived of as spokesmen of the
executive. Do they in fact act as instructed and obedient
agents of the executive? Or do they frequently pursue their
bureaucratic or other interests independent of the elected
and appointed hierarchy of the executive? In a political
system which is characterized by an absolute lack of


CHAPTER III
THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
K. C. Wheare has aptly stated that
We would misunderstand profoundly the working of
legislatures if we thought of them as bodies which,
between elections, thought things out in isolated
tranquillity, independence, free to initiate or to
decide matters as they thought fit, influenced only
by members' contacts with each other. -1*-
The institutional setting described in the preceding chapter
is clearly one of the set of factors which limit the degree
of independence that may be exercised by the members of the
Costa Rican legislature. But many Costa Ricans believe that
the most limiting factor in this context is that of the con
trol exercised over the deputies by supposedly monolithic
party structures. If one were to accept what is written by
some local reporters, the conclusion would have to be drawn
that the deputies of the Legislative Assembly behave like a
herd of cattle and vote at all times according to party
lines and instructions.
Though it is safe to state that many aspects of politi
cal behavior in Costa Rica must be analyzed within the con
ten t
most
party
of party politics, the view that the behavior of ill or
of the deputies of the Assembly is ruled by monolithic
structures is open to question and empirical verifica-
The purpose of this chapter is
tion.
to exair.i ne the


269
behavior has most significant implications for the genera
tion of diffuse support also.
Many Costa Ricans who criticize the Assembly because
few wise and eloquent men get elected as deputies have
failed to perceive the importance of the role that is played
by many of the deputies that they criticize. The legis
lature, according to them,is composed in its majority of
individuals who cannot see beyond the immediate interests of
cantonal constituencies. This, in fact, is largely true.
A vast majority of the deputies tend to view themselves
primarily as the spokesmen of their constituents. Their
attention and efforts are directed largely toward obtaining
the necessary funding and authorization for the construction
of small bridges, waterworks, schools, community and health
centers desired by the people in their cantons, and toward
providing these constituents with the "errand-boy" services
which they demand. This orientation, no doubt, reduces the
amount and quality of attention they give to "more important"
national matters. It is true that there are few deputies
that have the statesmenlike qualities and interests that
the aforementioned critics would wish to find. But it is
highly questionable that the Assembly could play the impor
tant role that it does in generating specific support for
the political system if the critics' wishes were to be
satisfied, for in a very real sense it is the country-bumpkin
(or maicero) deputies who serve as the key links between


106
of national deputies. But in the case of those who must
compete for cantonal slots on a provincial ticket, success
in many cases depends first upon one's ability to obtain
sufficient support at the local level to be considered as
one of the effective contenders. In fact, such nominations
force the national leadership to deal with an equivalent of
what Bachrach and Baratz have referred to as the second
15
face of power. The national leaders do play an important
and, indeed, predominant part when interested enough in
determining which of a series of local aspirants with ade
quate local support will be nominated. But their choices are
usually, though not always, restricted to aspirants who have
done their preliminary groundwork in obtaining the support
of local leaders, attaining visibility among the local elec
torate of the party, and getting favorable delegates elected
16
to the cantonal, provincial, and national assemblies.
Though one could cite a number of cases where national leaders
have used their influence and control over national assem
blies to nominate an individual to a cantonal slot who has
not fought out the local and provincial battles, this is the
exception rather than the rule. Thus, though it may be
argued that national leaders do have the final say when they
wish to have it, the preferences of local party leaders and
groups are definitely taken into account in the nomination
of cantonal legislative candidates. To conclude otherwise
is to underestimate the obligations of these deputies to their


234
necessarily dysfunctional to the political system. Some of
the non-decisional activities undertaken on the floor of
the Legislative Assembly are highly functional for the
stability of the Costa Rican political system.
Analysis of the interview and questionnaire items
related to the perception that the deputies have of their
functions as elected members of a legislature and observa
tion of their behavior inside and outside of the Assembly
indicate that there are some clear non-decisional functions
which Costa Rican deputies seek to fulfill. For the purposes
of this chapter they will be dealt with as falling within
the following four main functional categories: (1) repre
sentation, (2) information, (3) electoral mobilization, and
(4) catharsis.
Representation Function
The representation function was by far the most fre
quently mentioned by the deputies and that most evidenced
in the behavior observed. It has already been noted that
a large proportion of deputies seek to fulfill this function
through the introduction of local demands in the form of
localistic or parochial bills. In doing so, they are no
doubt fulfilling articulation and/or aggregation functions
as well, but this type of behavior is viewed by the deputies
as an essential means of fulfilling their representational
function. Behavior related to the fulfillment of the
representation function is also evidenced in the efforts of


CHAPTER VII
PATTERNS OF NON-DECISIONAL LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR
Any attempt to provide an encompassing evaluation of
the role played by the Legislative Assembly in the Costa
Rican political system would be incomplete if it were re
stricted to the decisional aspects of legislative phenomena
discussed in the preceding chapters. One need only observe
the activities of the deputies inside and outside of the
Assembly for a few days to realize that their behavior is
oriented toward far more than direct participaton in the
systemic decision-making process. In fact, the behavior of
some deputies would seem to support the view that decision
making is not what they are most interested in, nor is it
what they devote most of their attention and energies to.
This chapter is devoted to a discussion of the most
salient aspects of non-decisional behavior which were iden
tified by the Costa Rican deputies as being related to their
responsibilities and behavior as members of the legislature.
This chapter is not meant to be exhaustive or all-encompass
ing. As was indicated in the introduction to this study,
the research priorities of the author and the field and time
limitations present made it impossible to research this phase
226


67
characteristics of the political party system as a means of
drawing some informed conclusions in respect to the signifi
cance that party structures have within the political system
of this country and more specifically within the legislative
sub-system.
The Political Party System
The political party system of Costa Rica has been clas
sified accurately by Ronald McDonald as a multi-party domi-
2
nant system. There is a dominant party, the National
Liberation Party (Partido Liberacin Nacional), which will be
referred to as the PLN, and a number of smaller parties, most
of which can be classified as anti-PLN parties. Yet, despite
the predominance of the PLN, these smaller parties in coali
tion are capable of challenging PLN control of the govern
ment. Such anti-PLN coalitions have been formed in three of
the four elections held between 1958 and 1970, a fact that
would seem to support the proposition that
As one party grows increasingly dominant, incentives
arise for opposition coalit.ional party activity, which
are based rationally in the aspiration to maximize
party influence against a strong opponent.3
They have run common deputy slates as well as a common presi
dential candidate in the last two elections and v/ere success
ful in wresting the executive branch from the dominant party
in 1958 and 1966, though they have never been able to deprive
the PLN of an absolute majority in the legislature.


165
with legislatures having a relatively high degree of
decision-making power, whereas those with weak committee
systems are believed to reflect weak decision-making power.
Given these assumptions and the data presented in Chapter I,
indicating that the Legislative' Assembly in Costa Rica is
far from being a rubber-stamp legislature, it would seem
reasonable to posit that the Assembly is more likely to have
a strong rather than a weak committee system.
The committee system of the Costa Rican Legislative
Assembly has changed radically since 1962 when the by-laws
were amended to make this system more operant. Prior to
this time, behavior within committee was of limited signifi
cance, and the traits of the system were certainly not those
of a strong committee system. There were fifteen committees
in existence, each consisting of only three members. Though
bills were channeled through these committees for detailed
study prior to their discussion on the floor, little seems
to have been gained by this procedure, as the reduced size
of the committees and the absence of a support staff made it
unlikely, if not impossible, for them to function effectively
The general ineffectiveness of the committee system prior to
1962 has been described in the following terms:
Operating without any staff, the members of the commit
tee had the exclusive responsibility of studying those
bills submitted to them and of issuing the reports that
accompanied all bills when submitted to the floor for
debate. ... It was unusual for the members of the
committee to carry out a systematic study of the text of


Notes
Robert A. Packen'nam, "Legislatures and Political
Development," in Allan Kornberg and Lloyd D. Musolf, eds. ,
Legislatures in Developmental Perspective (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1970), p. 522.
2
The Constituent Assembly, which drew up the constitu
tion, placed a great deal of emphasis on the need to establish
an effective checks-and-balances system which would reduce
the abuse of power on the part of the executive.
3
Supra, p. 2
4
Martin Needier, "Mexico: Revolution as a Way of Life,"
in Martin Needier, ed., Political Systems of Latin America
(Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, Co., Inc., 1964), p. 17.
5
Kenneth J. Mijeski, The Executive-Legislative Policy
Process in Costa Rica (Ph.D. dissertation, University of
North Carolina, 1971), p. 32.
^Unless otherwise stated, the data presented in the text
and tables of this and subsequent chapters are those collected
by the author.
7
In the elections of 1953 and 1958 constitutional pro
visions called for the election of forty-five deputies and an
additional number of alternates to serve as substitutes
(suplentes) in the temporary absence of the proprietary
deputies. As of 1962, the number of deputies v/as increased
by constitutional amendment to fifty-seven. This amendment
also eliminated the previous system of temporary alternates.
^The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Supremo Elec
toral) redistributes the fifty-seven seats in the Assembly
among the provinces after each census is taken, i.e., approxi
mately every ten or twelve years.
9
A description of the specifics of this formula may be
found in Paul C. Stephenson, Costa Rican Election Factbook,
February 6, 1966 (Washington, D.C.: Institute for the Compara-
Study of Political Systems, 1966). The system is established
by Articles 134-138 of the Costa Rican Electoral Code.
35


Notes
Bernard Hennessey, "On the Study of Party Organi
zation," in William J. Crotty, ed., Approaches to the
Study of Party Organization (Boston: llyn & Bacon,
1968) p. 26.
2
"Oduber Revela como se Escogen los Diputados,"
La Nacin, October 11, 1971, p. 8.
3
Ronald H. McDonald, Party Systems and Elections in
Latin America (Chicago: Markham Publishing Company,
1971), p. 154.
4
All of those who occupy these positions, with the
exception of the elected president, may qualify.for nomi
nation by resigning six months prior to the election.
Though such resignations are not uncommon, they are usually
not so massi.ve as to affect the efficiency of the insti
tutions in question.
5
It is not true as Edelmann has stated that legislative
candidates must be literate, have property valued at
500 colones or an annual income of 200 colones, though it
is true that these requisites did exist at various times
prior to 1949. See Alexander T. Edelmann, Latin American
Government and Politics (rev. ed.; Homewood, Illinois:
Dorsey Press, 1969), p. 454.
g
Deputies may not hold any positions within a ministry
or autonomous institution with the exception of those -who
are named ministers of state and retire temporarily from
the Assembly while they hold this position; those who are
named by the executive as members of delegations to inter
national conferences; those who occupy positions in chari
table institutions and those who are professors of the
national university, which is an autonomous institution.
They are also prohibited from participating directly or
indirectly in a contract with the state; they may not
obtain public concessions nor may they serve as directors,
administrators or general managers of firms which are con
tracted by the state for purposes of public works or for
supplying certain products or providing certain types
of public services.


TABLE 6.9
Comparison of the Total Time Required to Process Bills Granted Procedural Exemptions
Related to Floor Proceedings and Those Bills That Were Not Granted Such Exemptions
Period of Time
Required to
Proportion of
Floor Exempted
Bills Processed
Proportion of
Floor Exempted
Bills Processed
In Time Period
Excluding Bills
Granted Committee
Proportion of
Non-Exempted
Bills Processed
Ftilly Process
in Time
Period
Exemptions as Well
in Time Period
Lass than 1 month
24.9%
(49)
3.1%
( 4)
0 %
( 0)
More than 1 but less than
3 months
20.8
(41)
21.3
(27)
5.9
( 2)
More than 3 but less than
6 months
23.3
(46)
33.1
(42)
2.9
( 1)
More than 6 but less than
9 months
9.1
(18)
13.4
(17)
5.9
( 2) '
More than 9 but less than
12 months
8.6
(17)
11.8
(15)
11.8
( 4)
More than 12 but less than
IS months
3.0
( 6)
4.7
( 6)
50.0
(17)
More than .18 but less than
24 months
2.5
( 5)
3.9
( 5)
5.9
( 2)
More than 24 months
2.5
( 5)
3.9
( 5)
11.8
( 4)
Lack data
5.1
(10)
4.7
( 6)
5.9 >
( 2) ;
\
Sum of percent?iges not equal
to 100%
due to
rounding procedures.
203


100
The power to decide which qualified individuals will
run for office on the various legislative provincial tick
ets is formally in the hands of the national assemblies of
those parties registered nationally and of the provincial
assemblies of those which are not. The members of these
nominating assemblies or conventions are selected by what is
supposed to be an open process which starts at the district
level. All party members of a district are members of the
district assembly of their party, which elects the five
district delegates that participate in the cantonal assembly
which in turn elects the five cantonal delegates that partici
pate in the provincial assembly. The ten delegates from each
of the seven provinces that make up the national assembly are
chosen by these provincial assemblies. But provincial dele
gates have no special formal prerogatives in the nomination
of the candidates that will run on their provincial ticket,
as all delegates have an equal vote in the selection of
candidates regardless of province. This relatively contra
dictory form of selecting provincial candidates is established
not by the parties but by the Electoral Code, which stipu
lates that the delegates of each national assembly have an
equal voice in the formulation of all provincial tickets.
This feature of the process can be interpreted as being
restrictive in representational terms if the provincial form
of election is interpreted as implying a provincial represen
tational concept. But it must be noted that a strong


187
They not only expressed their views in respect to given
questions but identified most of the pertinent questions to
be raised as well. And although it was the eleven or
twelve members of the committee who resolved the questions
by vote, they did so under the guidance of a few who were
relatively well versed in the general or specific subject
matter at hand. These few deputies in each committee were
predominant in influencing the decisions of the committees
and in providing at least a modicum of sophisticated evalua
tion to committee deliberations.
The responses of the deputies to the question "Which
members of your committee do you consider to be subject-
matter experts?" tend to support the description provided
above. There was a high degree of consensus on the indivi
duals mentioned by the members of each committee. Mentioned
in each case was the chairman of each committee, the person
on whom major responsibility for guidance falls.
Without any doubt, the committee chairmen are the key
figures within the committee system. This is true not only
because they have certain powers associated with their
positions, such as that of establishing the agenda for
extraordinary sessions, but also because the other deputies
tend to rely upon them heavily. For example, when asked
to describe the perceived role of the committee chairmen,
the deputies mentioned not only such things as directing
debate with equanimity and seeking to expedite the study


270
constituents and the system; it is they who are most willing
to seek to satisfy the needs of constituents. It is
evident that the deputies in Costa Rica clearly serve as the
primary aggregating agents of demands emanating from local
constituencies, demands which otherwise might never be
introduced into the system.
Certainly there are other institutional actors in Costa
Rica who respond to the needs of the political community and
in doing so contribute to the generation of specific support
for the system. But an examination of the sponsorship of
local bills before the Assembly during the period studied
suggests that the responsive role of these actors is secon
dary to that of the deputies. During that period, eighty
per cent of the bills of local scope were sponsored by the
deputies, and only twenty per cent were sponsored by the
executive. Admittedly many local demands seem to be of
peripheral importance compared to those demands which are of
a national scope. But before jumping to the conclusion that
the satisfaction of these minor demands is likely to generate
an insignificant amount of specific support for the system,
the reader should recall Nelson Polsby's admonition that
"it is entirely possible indeed likely that, taken together,
all 'unimportant' . decisions affect more people and more
9
resources than the few 'important' decisions." The signifi
cance of responding to relatively minor demands takes on an
added dimension in the Costa Rican context, given the absence


315
Balutis, Alan P. "Legislative Security: An Overview,"
in James J. Heaphey, ed., Legislative Security.
Albany: Research Center, Graduate School of Public
Affairs, State University of New York at Albany, 1972.
Bodenheimer, Suzanne. "The Bankruptcy of the Social Demo
cratic Movement in Latin America," New Politics, 8
(Winter, 1969), pp. 40-61.
. "The Social Democratic Ideology in Latin America:
The Case of Costa Rica's Partido Liberacin Nacional,"
Caribbean Studies, 10 (October, 1970) pp. 49-96.
Boynton, G. R. et al. "The Missing Links in Legislative
Politics: Attentive Constituents," Journal of
Politics, 31 (August, 1969), pp. 700-721.
Bryce, James, "The Decline of Legislatures," in Gerhard
Lcewenberg, ed., Modern Parliaments. Chicago: Aldine-
Atherton, 1971.
Caas, Alberto. "Chisporoteos," La Repblica, December 12,
1967, p. 9.
Creedman, Theodore S. "The 1970 Costa Rican Election,"
SELA, 13 (March, 1970), pp. 3-4.
Duff, Ernest A. "The Role of Congress in the Colombian
Political System," in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin
American Legislatures: Their Role and Influence.
New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.
Eulau, Heinz and Katherine Hinckley. "Legislative Insti
tutions and Processes," in James A, Robinson, ed.,
Political Science Annual. Indianapolis: Bobbs-
Merrill Co., 19 66..
Fennell, Lee C. "Congress in the Argentine Political
System," in Weston H. Agor, ed., Latin American Legis
latures : Their Role and Influence. New York:
Praeger Publishers, 1971.
Fitzgibbon, Russell H. and Kenneth F. Johnson. "Measurement
of Latin American Political Change," in Peter GJ Snow,
ed., Government and Politics in Latin America. New
York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967. j
Frey, Frederick W. "Cross-Cultural Research in Political
Science," in Robert T. Holt and John E. Turner, eds,
The Methodology of Comparative Research. New York:
The Free Press, 1970.


12
in 1962. See Harry Kantor, Patterns of Politics and Political
Systems in Latin America (Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1969),
p. 219, and Charles F. Denton, Patterns of Costa Rican
Politics (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1971), p. 37.
8
Edelmann, p. 445.
9
Newspaper reporters covering the Assembly informed the
author that about one year prior to his arrival in Costa
Rica there had been a brief physical scuffle on the floor of
the Assembly between two deputies. But this incident, like
that mentioned by Busey, is hardly indicative of behavior on
the floor, and devoting extended attention to it would only
distort things. It may be interesting as a side note or as
the subject for study as aberrant behavior but not as a major
section in a general description of the institution. No doubt,
allusion to this incident will lead some readers to jump to
the conclusion that this is an obvious manifestation of
traditional Latin American machismo. But, before reaching such
a conclusion, it would be well for the reader to consider the
cases of similar aberrant behavior which have taken place
within the United States Congress and within state legisla
tures. See Alan P. Balutis, "Legislative Security: An
Overview," in James J. Heaphey, ed., Legislative Security
(Albany: Research Center, Graduate School of Public Affairs,
State University of New York at Albany, 1972), pp. 9-19.
"^Samuel C. Patterson, "Comparative Legislative
Behavior," Midwest Journal of Political Science, 12
(November, 1968), p. 600.
11 .
Joseph LaPalombara, "Parsimony and Empiricism m
Comparative Politics: An Anti-Scholastic View," in Robert T.
Holt and John E. Turner, eds., The Methodology of Comparative
Research (New York: The Free Press, 1970), p. 136.
12
'William H. Hunt, Wilder W. Crane and John C. Wahlke,
"Interviewing of Political Elites in Cross-Cultural Compara
tive Research," in Samuel C. Patterson, ed., American Legis
lative Behavior (Princeton:- D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1968),
p. 420. The need for prior knowledge of phenomena under in
vestigation is also emphasised in Frederick W. Frey, "Cross-
Cultural Research in Political Science," in Holt and Turner,
eds., pp. 257-260.
^Supra, p. 2 .


192
to the best of our knowledge had not been reported out of
committee. And, though it was not determined how long these
had been in committee, it appeared that the vast majority
had been awaiting committee processing for well over a month.
TABLE 6.7
Time Transpired Between Submission of Bills to
Committee and Issuance of Committee Reports
Length of Time Percentage of Bills*
Less than 1 month 27.9
More than 1 month but less than
3 months 31.0
More than 3 months but less than
6 months 18.6
More than 6 months but less than
9 months 9.9
More than 9 months but less than
12 months 5.6
More than 12 months 6.8
*Sum of percentages equals less than 100% due to round
ing procedures.
The Floor
Prior to the introduction of the reforms of 1962, much
of the effective decision-making and debate on bills seems
to have been carried out on the floor. With the modification
of the committee system, however, it would be reasonable to
assume that the role of debate on the floor in decision
making would, come much closer to approximating the situations


254
decision-making is relatively free of party pressures and
those in which definite party pressures arise; and (5) the
extent to which committee decisions are affected by inter
ested deputies who are not members of the committee. A
person interested in the role played by the executive in
the legislative decision-making process would, no doubt,
concentrate upon another set of inferences. And a third
person interested in cross-cultural comparative studies might
focus upon yet another set of inferences.
Listing the findings relevant to a wide range of re
search interests is impossible within the context of this
chapter. Listing the implications of this study for a single
area of research interest would be most limited. Thus, in
discussing the research implications of this study, it will
be best to speak in more abstract terms and focus upon the
types rather than the specific implications of this study
for future research.
Two broad categories can be used in grouping these
implications. The first category is country-specific and
incorporates those research questions which the study sug
gests warrant further attention in future studies carried
out in the Costa Rican legislative context. The second
category encompasses those inferences relevant to legisla
tive research in a broader comparative context.
Country-specific implications
Four broad research questions of particular significance


80
from the external party leaders tended to take place at the
individual level, though this was more marked in the case
of the PR than of the PLN.
It is difficult to generalize about the extent to which
external party leaders in Costa Rica can be said to exercise
control over the behavior of their party deputies. During
the period studied, it appeared that PR deputies tended to be
more highly influenced by such leaders than were the PLN
deputies. In the case of the PR, it seemed theit a word from
the party president or one of his lieutenants was sufficient
for consensus to arise on any given: issue. No specific cases
of independence in the face of concerted efforts from above
were identified within the PR. The PR deputies argued that
the views of the national leadership were not imposed upon
them. But at least it can be said that these deputies were
not very prone to analyze and evaluate the "word" from above
in a critical fashion. In fact, on several occasions there
were indications that a phone call from one particular national
leader, the brother of party president, Dr. Rafae.3. Angel
Calderon Guardia, during a floor session was all that was
needed to establish the line to be followed by the legisla
tive party. The PLN caucus, on the other hand, did stand
behind the independent judgment of its members in some cases
in the face of strong pressure tactics by individual external
party leaders. Efforts in 1968 on the part of party president,
Jos Figueres. to get the PLN deputies to approve the San


37
of private and deputy bilis, i.e., the identification of the
source of the idea, is lost. In most cases private bills
are introduced as such not because the sponsors find it dif
ficult to have them presented by the deputies but because
for one reason or another they want to have their names
associated with the bill. See Mijeski, p. 66.
16
Mijeski utilized the same operational definition of
"national" and "local" bills used in this study and found
that legislative bills accounted for 52.8 per cent of the
"national" bills and 80.3 per cent of the "local" bills.
17
If one were to use a more sophisticated classifica
tion scheme, it might be found that a majority of the
"crucial" bills sent to the Assembly have their origin in
the executive branch. Even if this assumption were made,
the data available would still indicate that the deputies
play a significant role in the introduction of bills.
18Ibid., pp. 77-78.
19 .
Costa Rica, Asamblea Legislativa, Constitucin
Poltica de la Repblica de Costa Rica (San Jose! Imprenta
Nacional, 1968).
20
Mijeski's study does not focus on this and several
other questions raised in this section. In those cases
where comparisons are not made, it will be due to the
absence of comparative data.
21
It will be noted that this figure (207) does not
match the total figure (198) which would be obtained from
Table 1.2. The discrepancy is due to the fact that time-
span data were not available for nine bills.
22 .
Though Mijeski has utilized an indicator of rejection
in his study, he has operationalized it differently than in
this study. His rejection figures cover not those bills
voted in the negative on the floor but those bills which
were not passed. Consequently they include bills which for
a variety of reasons died before they reached the final vot
ing stage. Given the fact that ail bills must be reintro
duced (puesto a despacho) at the outset of each annual session
in May, many bills fail to obtain approval not because of any
negative action by the Assembly but because of a lack of
interest on the part of the sponsors who fail to reintroduce
their bills. In effect, then, Mijeski has tapped, perhaps
unconsciously, a dimension which is not really related to the
rejection of bills by the legislature. It is worth noting,
however, that even if his indicator is utilized it is found
that 23.7 per cent of the "defeated" bills that he studied


124
not promote representation, to whatever extent it exists,
by outsiders. For example, 91.4 per cent (32) of these
deputies were residents of their areas at the time of their
35
election. Of the areal deputies, 55.5 per cent (15) had
lived in the area since birth or for at least ten years
prior to election. And it is to be noted that of those who
were not residents of their areas at the time of election,
11.1 per cent (3), all but one had resided in the area pre
viously and had kept close ties with the people in it. Only
35.9 per cent (14) maintained their residences in their
areas of origin once sworn-in, but in most cases this was
due to the physical impossibility of commuting to the Assembly
in San Jose on a daily basis. In those cases where residence
in the capital became inevitable, areal deputies tended to
travel to their cantons very frequently.
Recent studies in Canada and the Phillipines have indi
cated that representation within these countries is heavily
biased toward a traditional elite. Allan Kornberg reports
that data collected in Canada seem to support the claim that
high public office in the Province of Quebec has been monopo-
3 6
lized by a small traditional elite. And Robert Stauffer
indicates that there is evidence that party politics in the
Phillipines would seem to be the product of factional strug
gles between elite families that Ccin be traced back to the
37
late 19th century. Much to the surprise of those who have
long argued that Costa Rica is characterized by a high de
gree of egalitarianism, there i
evidence in Costa Rica that


255
to the author may be used to illustrate the country-specific
variety of implications present in this study.
The first and one of the most obvious questions which
this study indicates is worthy of further research is that
of the role played by the autonomous institutions in the
systemic decision-making of Costa Rica. As was indicated in
Chapter II, studying and evaluating this role would be of
extreme significance, given the fact that at the present it
is impossible to evaluate adequately the relative impact
that either the executive or the legislative branches have
upon the allocation of systemic resources in the absence of
any concrete understanding of the full-fledged implications
of the autonomous institutions. This topic need not be
restricted to an evaluation of these institutions within
the legislative context. Certainly any group of independent
structures that controls over fifty per cent of the public-
sector budget can and should be studied as possible decision
making centers and not just as the initiators of inputs
into, or as the subjects of outputs from, the legislature.
Yet to evaluate the role of the autonomous institutions in
the legislative context would of itself be a useful and
most urgent pursuit. In Chapter V it has been indicated
that these institutions are capable of mobilizing and exer
cising effective pressures upon the Assembly, but it is not
clear why they need or choose to do so. In fact, there is
an internal inconsistency in the findings of Chapters II and


101
probability exists that this procedure makes it more difficult
for a clique within a province to distort representation in
other ways.
In general, the formal procedure established by the
Electoral Code for the nomination of legislative candidates
is meant to support an open system in which a large number of
people can have a voice in the selection of the .individuals
who will select the candidates. But there is quite a diver
gence between theory and practice in nomination procedures.
For example, lower-level assemblies, particularly those at
the district and cantonal levels, are not closely supervised
by the delegates of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. This has
led in the past to the practice of some parties of not hold
ing them at all in some cases, especially in the case of
the district assemblies. The delegates to the higher-level
assembly are chosen in these situations by a few local party
leaders in coordination with the predominant national party
leaders. Such choices are legitimized by the submission of
fallacious notarized documents that indicate that the selec
tion of delegates for higher-level assemblies was the product
of a duly constituted assembly. Though this practice has
become the exception rather than the rule, due in part to a
growing desire for effective participation by party members
and in part to the more pervasive penetration of the electoral
authorities, it is still accurate, for reasons that will be
discussed later, to state that nominations are in many cases


56
other. The full committee made only minor changes in the
report of the sub-committee and was equally hamstrung as
far as executing a detailed analysis of expenditures. It
is thus apparent that executive budgetary inputs are modi
fied only slightly by the legislature in the process of
converting them into outputs.
The power of the president to affect the allocational
process in Costa Rica is not, however, limited to the for
mal decisional process which ends once a bill has been
approved or disapproved by the Assembly. As in most politi
cal systems, it is the executive branch that must implement
most legislation. This power is potentially significant in
an area of the world where, from colonial times, the phrase
"laws are issued but not followed" (la ley se dicta pero no
se cumple) has been oft repeated. In Costa Rica this is
not a widespread rule, but one can certainly find numerous
cases where it would apply. No doubt, many of these cases
involve what Charles Anderson has referred to as "poetic
laws" or "the grand proyecto.The laws are not imple
mented beca\ise it is simply not feasible to do so. For
example, the law passed in IS)69 dealing with the protection
of forested areas comes close to being a model law, but the
cost of hiring the manpower needed to guarantee that it not
be violated is prohibitive. In other words# there are some
laws which, could not be implemented even if the executive
were highly disposed to do so. But in many cases laws go


282
the business at hand, the collection or data. This inclina
tion, however, must be held under controla fact clearly
attested to by the bad reputation earned by some students
who had previously undertaken research projects in Costa Rica
and succumbed to this temptation. A few false steps in the
first weeks of field presence can do more to reduce the
chances of success of a project than any other single factor.
From the outset, the author considered that immediate
contact with the deputies would entail the danger of being
labeled as just another naive North American student who
was going around asking stupid questions. Consequently, in
the first two months of field presence, the author restricted
himself to observing committee and floor sessions and to
establishing rapport with and obtaining information from the
reporters who covered the Assembly. It was not until the
third and fourth months of research that initial contacts
were established with some of the deputies. In seeking
these first contacts, an attempt was made to choose a sample
which duly represented all parties. Special emphasis was
also placed upon contacting those deputies whose training
and sophistication would allow them to understand what the
author was trying to do and to help him generate the most
useful research instruments possible.
This cautious approach proved to be very effective.
In fact, the original contacts with the' deputies chosen
caused a sufficiently positive impression that they


148
these groups cannot be ignored by those who must worry
about future campaign contributions. Yet it is well to
recall LaPalombara's warning that "when one is attempting
to assess the relative legislative power of an interest
group, it is vital to steer clear of the facile generali-
19
zation that money equals power." Concern over future
contributions to campaign chests is, no doubt, a factor
taken into consideration in legislative decision-making,
but it is not an all-prevailing consideration in Costa
Rica.
Local associational interest groups are the least
capable of articulating their demands in an instrumental
fashion. Non-associational interest groups may resort to
threats of reduced voter support as in the case of the
black ethnic groups of Limn, but the lack of organization
of the black community does not provide such threats with
much credibility. The upper- and upper-middle-class elite
can, however, make quite credible threats in respect to
reduced campaign contributions. Institutional interest
groups represented by the autonomous institutions have
little specific threatening power vis-h-vis the legislature,
although it is always understood that they may resort to
propaganda techniques aimed at generating the feeling that
it is or is not in the interest of the nation to act in
favor or against them. Local institutional interest groups
may also bargain on the basis of implied losses or increases


49
executives. President Jos Joaquin Trejos was not a
national leader of any of the coalition parties which
backed his candidacy; he was a relatively obscure university
professor at the time of his nomination. It is quite likely
that this obscurity and previous non-involvement in politics
was useful to the coalition in projecting an image of a
candidate who was uncorrupted by previous participation in
politics; he was referred to as the candidate of the clean
hands (manos limpias). But once in office he was not able
to call upon the normal loyalty ties that have usually
existed between presidents drawn from the national leader
ship ranks and the deputies. All of which points to the
fact that this one experience is not particularly represen
tative and that generalizations based upon it may not be
accurate or applicable in many cases.
The relationship between the executive and legislative
branches was, to say the least, strained during the period
studied. Active coordination and collaboration between the
two branches was the exception rather than the rule. But
what is most important to note is that this was the product
not only of expected partisan conflicts inherent in a
presidential-party ininority situation but also of a high
degree of discontent among the deputies of the coalition
that elected the presideixt. In a country where personal
relationships are valued highly and where many feel that
they must go to the very top in order to achieve anything,


184
who can go to the Assembly without a relative degree of
17
risk to their long-run financial well-being.
The fact that the multiple career pattern predominates
in the Costa Rican Assembly is evidenced by the fact that
66.1 per cent (37 out of 56) deputies held other positions
concurrently with their legislative posts during the period
of our study. And though the professionals among the
deputies were more prone to follow this pattern, with 76.0
per cent holding concurrent positions, non-professionals
were also highly disposed to do so, with 48.0 per cent
holding such positions. It is important that a sizeable,
proportion of the deputies, 30.0 per cent, held what would
normally be considered full-time positions. The medical
doctors continued to practice much the same as they had be
fore, possibly adjusting their hours to allow for attendance
at committee and floor sessions. Most lawyers continued to
practice as well. One was not only a practicing lawyer but
Dean of the Law School and deputy as well.
Moonlighting is not an uncommon practice in Costa Rica.
It is not unusual to find professionalsf for example, who
hold down three or more half-time jobs at the same time.
Thus it comes as no surprise that this practice should be
reflected in the Legislative Assembly as well. In this
sense, if in few others, the deputies are truly representa
tive. But the implications of this phenomenon, inside or
outside of the Assembly, are the same. It is difficult to
give adequate attention to any one job.


142
bureaucratic apparatus. The bureaucrats of these insti
tutions jealously guard the broad prerogatives and indepen
dence of their respective domains and generally refuse to
view themselves as part of an integrated state apparatus.
This posture leads them to view themselves instead as the
trustees of certain types of public as well as institutional
interests and to defend these interests much the same way
that groups in the private sector would defend theirs.
Whereas this type of behavior is also present on the part
of the central power ministries, specially in so far as the
defense of the interests of the bureaucratic segment are
involved, the difference between these and the autonoriKms
institutions is that in the central government all are sub
ject to a high degree of centralized orchestration on the
part of the president. No such control exists in the case
of the autonomous institutions, which at times even wage
open battle against the central government.
The second type of group is that consisting of various
units of the local government complex and certain community
wide oriented groups of a semi-public nature. As was indi
cated previously, local government structures are weak
intermediary government structures, and the solution to
many local problems can seldom be provided by these insti
tutions alone. Thus, municipal councils and the various
types of local semi-autonomous boards and community develop
ment organizations tend to fulfill an articulative s well


308
30. You have reported that your caucus group at times
urges you to take certain stands in respect to bills
before the Assembly. Please indicate how frequently
this happens.
a) in almost all cases
b) in a majority of cases
c) in.a minority of cases
How important are these urgings within your decision
making context?
a) of the utmost importance
b) of great importance
c) of some importance
d) of no importance
31. You have indicated that the Executive or Political
Committee of your party at times urges you to take
certain stands in respect to bills before the
Assembly. Please indicate how frequently this
happens.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
How important, are these urgings within your decision
making context?
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
32. You have indicated that your constituents urge you to
take certain stands in respect to bills before the
Assembly. Please indicate how frequently this happens.
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
How important are these urgings within your decision
making context?
[SEE RESPONSE FORMAT OF QUESTION 30]
33. You have indicated that on the floor you tend to listen
to the opinions of certain deputies. Please indicate
how frequently you tend to reach decisions on bills on
the basis of these opinions.
a) in almost all cases c) in a minority of cases
b) in a majority of cases d) never
34. In studies carried out in other legislatures, it has
been found that a number of factors tend to be


150
This channel of access, as indicated previously, is the
least frequently used and generally of relatively low
effectiveness in the case of the Legislative Assembly. To
21
utilise Anderson's model of Latin American politics, it
can be stated that the threat or actual use of violence is
not acceptable within the rules of the game and consequently
is not a means of attaining a position as an acceptable
power contender. Resort to such tactics is generally a
sign of weaknessan indication that the group utilizing
it has exhausted or does not have access to more legitimate
ways of supporting its interests. During the period studied,
it was found that demonstrations were used most frequently
by ad hoc interest groups, i.e., those that generally
lacked more effective means of access. It was also found
that such demonstrations frequently were ready evidence of
the fact that interest groups had not done their homework
and had not become aware that their interests were in
question until it was too late to do anything else. The
impact of filling the public observers' section of the
Legislative Assembly with people carrying placards for or
against a given bill being discussed on the floor could,
however, be easily misinterpreted by an occasional observer.
A packed gallery presents a strong temptation to the egos
of the deputiesa temptation that does not go unattended
very frequently. Consequently, it is not at all unusual
to find deputies delivering flowery oratory and largely


55
out the preliminary study of the 1969 budget. This sub
committee met daily for periods of up to eight hours to
analyze the budget submitted by the executive. They had
only two staff members working with them, and their efforts
were largely reduced to the time-consuming process of
checking the budget line item by line item against the bud
get of the previous year and against the requests made by
each ministry to the budget office of the executive branch.
They were thus able to cut out new positions or to lower
certain line items which were felt to be detrimental to the
PLN in an upcoming election year, e.g., the funds to
ministries for publicity purposes. No significant attempts
were made to evaluate general programs, a task which would
have been impossible, given the fact that only two out of
the eight members of the sub-committee had any economic
training or understanding of budgetary analysis. In fact,
the main interest of the majority of the members was to work
out the details of the pork-barrel funds built into the
9
budget at this stage. Thus, though this group was able to
add approximately ten million colones to the budget in
pork-barrel funds for the PLN deputies by cutting or re
ducing certain items in the budget and by obtaining an
opinion from the Comptroller General's office that the exec
utive had underestimated its income, it did not and could
not come to grips with an evaluation of the desirability of
authorizing funds for one type of program rather than some


216
experience was by no means a necessary requisite for in
fluential, yet it is highly significant that approximately
two-thirds (64.3 per cent) of the deputies with previous
experience were included in the influential group. From
the above could be drawn a most surprising conclusion. It
would indeed appear that, despite prior indications that
little value is placed upon the acquisition of expertise, a
modified seniority system may be present in the Costa Rican
Assembly.
The high degree of association between university
education and influential status would also seem to indicate
that the members of the Assembly do value expertise.
TABLE 6.13
Educational Level Attained by Influential and
Non-Influentiai
Deputies
Not
University
University
Influence
Graduate
Graduate
Total
Influential
(38.9) 14 (83.4)
(11.5) 3 (17.6)
17
Non-influentiai
(61.1) 10 (30.3)
(82 .4) 23 (79.7)
33
Total
24
26
50
As can be seen in Table 6.13, influentials tended to be drawn
almost exclusively from the deputies who had attained a
university degree. Non-influentials on the other hand,
tended to be drawn largely from those without such an


163
20
Almond and Powell, pp. 80-86.
21
Charles W. Anderson, Politics and Economic Change
in Latin America (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc.,
1967), pp. 87-114.
22
David B. Truman, The Governmental Process (New York:
Alfred Knopf, 1951) p. 357.
23
Oscar Arias Snchez, Grupos de Presin en Costa Rica
(San Jos: Editorial Costa Rica, 1971), p. 77.
2^ibid., p. 99.
25
La Palombara, p. 203.
2 6
Lorin Weisenfeld, "La Ley de Desarrollo y Proteccin
Industrial de 1959: El Proceso de su Creacin," Revista
de Ciencias Jurdicas, 14 (Diciembre, 1969), pp. 41-111.
27
It should be noted, however, that the potential for
such high effectiveness was made possible due to the exis
tence of an ineffective committee system which has since
been supplanted.
For a discussion of the fulfillment of these func
tions in other national contexts see Truman, pp. 333-334,
and La Palombara, pp. 201-207.
29
Truman, p. 333.
30 .
Riggs, pp. 100-121.


to evaluate the influence of the committee system in the
United States Congress. Polsby suggests that committee
strength is associated with continuity in committee member
ship, seniority, expertise and the presence of permanent
professional support staffs.^ The presumption is that
committees having these characteristics are likely to be
strong, i.e., influential in decision-making; whereas
committees which do not have these characteristics are likely
to be weak, i.e., not very influential in decision-making.
Application of these indicators in the Costa Rican case
would lead to the conclusion that the committees of the
Legislative Assembly are weak and thus not influential. But
this conclusion, as has been demonstrated in Chapter VI,
would not be valid. It would be misleading to infer that
this is the case when eighty per cent of the bills reported
out of committee were found to have been approved on the
floor without any modifications and when it was also found
that most bill amending was carried out within the committee
structure. It should also be recalled that most deputies
reported that they considered the committee phase of
processing to be most crucial, the phase that should be
focused upon most carefully when they seek to affect the
outcome of decisional matters before the Assembly. Clearly,
researchers seeking to utilize compcirative methodology in
executing their studies abroad must exercise a high degree
of discretion in utilizing indicators generated in other


17
twice since 1953. These two factorssubstantial opposition
representation in the Assembly and fluctuating control of the
executive branchhave led Robert Dix to classify Costa Rica
as one of the three Latin American countries that have gone
farthest in legitimizing the opposition role in politics.^
No doubt, they have also been crucial in placing Costa Rica
consistently within the top three Latin American nations in
12
Russell Frtzgxbbon's "democracy" rankings.. Within the
Latin American context, the fact that the incumbent party has
turned over the executive power in a peaceful manner after
each election is a strong indication of the development of a
relatively stable political system. The gracious acceptance
of defeat, despite early morning grumblings of electoral
fraud, by the incumbent parties has without any doubt been
related to the fact that they have been guaranteed continuing
significant political participation as an opposition force
within the legislature.
Though the Assembly only meets in ordinary session six
months out of each year, it may also meet in extraordinary
session if convened by the president of the Republic. Such
sessions are an essential part of the legislative calendar
and usually keep the Assembly in session an extra five months
out of each year. Were it not for these sessions, the legis
lative backlog of bills would reflect a marked inability on
the part of the Assembly to cope with the matters that are
presented before it.


271
of any provincial legislative structures, which might other
wise deal with these demandsthat may well be of the utmost
importance to individuals, groups or local communities.
In brief, stating that the Assembly is irrelevant to
the generation of specific support for the political system
would be totally erroneous. Stating the same in respect to
the role of the legislature in the generation of diffuse
support would be absurd.
There are a number of ways in which the Assembly helps
to generate diffuse support for the system. For example, it
can justifiably be argued that it does so by providing
information to the public through its debates and through the
frequent contacts that deputies have with their constituents.
It may also be argued that the electoral mobilization con
sequences that legislative behavior has may well help to
generate such support. But in order to understand why this
is the case, it is necessary to focus upon the general role
played by the legislature in creating the impression that the
institutional structures of the state are relevant and
accessible to the population.
In many developing countries, and certainly in many of
those in Latin America, one of the most difficult tasks faced
by politicians is that of making the political process rele
vant to the lives of broad sectors of the population. It
is possible to posit that at least in some of the countries
of Latin America, e.g., Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala,


86
not work with committee or other coordinators. His exercise
of discretionary tactical decision-making was, perhaps as a
consequence of this, viewed by some as being somewhat arbi
trary and, in fact, seems to have contributed to the generation
of a dissident group within the fraccin.
The presence of this dissident goup was made particularly
apparent in the dynamics of negotiation between the PR and
PLN fracciones. In the case of the PLN, the jefe was the only
person empowered to negotiate with the representatives of the
other party groupings, though he could delegate this authority
to others. He tended to represent the congressional party not
only in negotiations with other congressional party groupings
but also with the executive branch as well. The PR jefe,in
theory, enjoyed equal power, but the PLN exploited and sought
to accentuate the schism in the PR caucus by negotiating with
other competing leaders of the caucus in certain cases. The
magnitude of the schism and the lack of cohesion in the PR
caucus was nowhere better evidenced than in the fact that most
budgetary negotiations involved in the passage of the 1969
annual budget were channeled through one of the dissident
leaders who sat on the budgetary committee. This strategy led
to a unanimous favorable committee report on the budget. This
report was viewed as being politically inconvenient by the
executive branch and the jefe de fraccin, given the fact that
it condoned the modifications which the PLN--controIled committee
had introduced into the budget bill submitted by the executive.


73
integrated ideological formulation on the part of the
13
parties. The PLN has tended to favor more state interven
tion in the past, but even it has become more conservative
in this respect in recent years. It is certainly not true
that party affiliation is based to any significant extent
on ideological positions. In fact, the interviews carried
out for this study indicate that few PLN or PR deputies
felt that there were any significant "ideological" differ
ences between these two parties. Party affiliation related
nrnch more closely to a sense of loyalty to or repudiation
of the leaders of the two main groups which participated in
14
the 1948 civil war, though changes m this highly person-
alistic pattern are becoming evident with the attrition in
the ranks of these leaders due to age.
The main parties of Costa Rica are very similar in the
sense that they are all multi-class parties in terms of
the class composition of their voters. The absence of
clear-cut social cleavages among the major parties contri
butes to the fact that pressures for substantial realloca
tion of systemic resources are not strong enough to lead
to action on the part of the political decision-makers.
Upper- and middle-class interest, which tends to be status
quo oriented, tends to predominate in the parties, even
though the largest proportion of Costa Rican voters is of
L S
the urban and rural lower class.-' Though Suzanne


126
all, it was Aristotle who first observed that elec
tions are essentially oligarchic affairs.44
The type of participation and more direct representation of
the public in decision-making advocated by critics of
45
"democratic elitism" is, if not beyond the reach of most
systems, certainly difficult to attain. Representation, as
noted before, is subject to an endless number of filters
which tend to dilute the nature of this phenomenon in all
contexts. Perhaps these goals will be part of a new partici
pation crisis that will require adjustment of the entire
nomination and electoral system. The magnitude of this
adjustment is clearly of immense proportions. But in the
Costa Rican case it is significant to note that party domi
nance at the nomination and election stages and the moderately
elitist, though by no means oligarchic, composition of the
Legislative Assembly do not prevent deputies from having a
definite sense of responsibility for responding to the
demands of their constituents. Evidence of this
responsiveness is provided in Chapters VI and VII.
Summary and Conclusion
In this chapter two factors, the electoral system and
the background characteristics of the deputies studied, have
been evaluated in tenas of the implications that these
factors have for the representativity of legislators and of
legislative behavior in Costa Rica. The electoral system,
it has been found, would seem to be heavily biased toward


168
will be called upon to study the bill. Although the subject
matter of the bill is supposed to serve as the primary
criterion for assignment to committees, the president can
use his discretion in making these assignments. He is
consequently in a position to expedite or kill a bill by
assigning it to a committee whose members are known to favor
or oppose it. Usually such decisions are based exclusively
upon the judgment of the president, although in some in
stances he consults with the caucus leader of his party.
Once the bill is announced and assigned to committee,
a copy is submitted to the national printing office for publi
cation in the national register or Gaceta. Proposed legis-
i
lation cannot be placed on the agenda of the appropriate
committee until five days after its inclusion in the Gaceta,
which is usually published six days a week. This procedure
usually represents a time-lag of approximately ten days.

¡
Once a bill is placed on its agenda, a committee may
choose by a two-thirds vote to discuss it before the preced
ing bills on the agenda. The president of the committee may
also expedite the processing of a bill by calling for an
extraordinary meeting of the committee, since he is the one
who draws up the agendas for such sessions. It is entirely
possible to pigeon-hole a bill by systematically agreeing
to deal with other bills in a preferential fashion.
According to the by-laws of the Assembly, committee
I
reports are to be issued no later than fifteen days after


179
lowest-ranked committee was referred to by the deputies as
being "assigned to Siberia." The second, and probably the
primary, reason for the rotation was that almost all of the
party deputies wished to be given the opportunity to serve
on the budgetary committee. This desire was motivated by
two considerations: (1) the deputies who serve on the
committee draw a higher salary because many extra sessions
are held by the committee when the ordinary budget or annual
budget is being studied, and (2) they have a better oppor
tunity to introduce special items of interest to their
communities into the budget. The necessity of satisfying
the desire to serve on this committee, or as one deputy put
it, to be assigned to the "Blue Coast," at least once during
the four-year term, helps to explain the fact that the
Budgetary Affairs Committee was the only committee in the
1968-1969 session which had no carryover members from any
of the previous sessions.
It is possible that the previous experience and exper
tise brought to the Assembly by the deputies might help to
make up for the apparent lack of specialization evidenced
in the data presented above. But an examination of Tables
6.3, 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6 indicates that this would not tend
to be the case.


193
which prevail in strong committee legislatures in which
floor behavior is a means of legitimating decisions already
reached within the committee structures and of fulfilling
other non-decisional functions.
Debate on the floor is prescribed by the following
procedural stipulations. Bills reported out of committee are
placed at the bottom of the floor agenda two days after the
relevant reports have been published in the Gaceta. As in
the case of the committees, on the floor bills are handled
according to their order of appearance on the agenda, unless
the deputies agree to consider a bill in preferential fashion
this action requires a two-thirds majority vote of those
present. Bills are frequently relegated to extremely long
delays unless such preferential treatment is requested and
obtained for the first of the three debates required to
enact them.
The constitution and the by-laws of the Assembly estab-*
22
lish that all bills should receive three separate debates.
Each debate must be held on a separate day. The first debate
is for the discussion of the substance of the bill and for
the introduction of amendments to the text reported out of
committee. Amendment motions which have been rejected in
committee may be reconsidered in first debate and need only
receive a majority vote to be adopted. Though passage of
other amendment motions also requires a majority vote, these
amendments must be cleared for discussion by approval of a


18
The main powers granted to the Assembly by the Constitu
tion of 1949 are those of legislative initiative, enactment,
ratification of international agreements and loans, and
certain appointive, investigatory, and oversight powers. These
will now be considered in some detail.
Power of Initiative
The power to introduce bills before the Assembly is a
shared one. Bills may be introduced by the executive as well
13
as by any deputy. An examination of the sources of bills
can be revealing. If one were to find that most of the bills
originate in the executive branch, it could be argued that
the executive is predominant because the subject, scope, and
nature of the lawmaking input would be determined by the
executive. This, however, was not found to be the case.
Over a seven-month period,^ 72 per cent of the bills on the
docket of the legislature had been introduced by the deputies,
and only 28 per cent by the executive. The bills covering
the twelve-year period analyzed in the Mijeski study support
the conclusion that legislature initiates a majority of the
bills considered. It was found that over that period of time
64.1 per cent of the bills were initiated by the legislature
15
as opposed to 35.9 per cent by