Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before it came under Spanish rule in the 16th century. Once a backwater colony, since attaining independence in the 19th century, Costa Rica has become one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. It permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of a few sovereign nations without a standing army. Costa Rica has consistently been among the top-ranking Latin American countries in the Human Development Index, placing 62nd in the world as of 2012.
In 2010 Costa Rica was cited by the United Nations Development Programme as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, while in 2011, the UNDP also identified it as a good performer in environmental sustainability, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of their region.
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