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Sunday 07 December 2008, San Josť, Costa Rica 

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Costa Ricans Soon To Get New Cedula
Costa Ricans will soon be getting new "cedulas" or ID cards if the Ministerio de Hacienda can find the us$18 million the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) needs to update and make the ID cards foolproof.

Every citizen of costa Rica is issued a cedula. The document is the legal identification instrument in the Country, as it contains the full legal name of the person, a unique number that is used for lifetime, as well as the signature, birth place and date.

The reason for the update is that, according to the TSE the current equipment used gives the cedulas a very short life span, six years, and has been found that it can be duplicated by criminal organizations.

Although the new cards will not look much different that the current ones in use, they will last longer and had added security features.  Some of the new features of the new cedula is the addition of the "digital signature" and fingerprint that is contained in a chip embedded into the card.

The cedula dates back to 1925, when the idea of an identity card first took shape and the establishment of the Ley de Elecciones, with the main function to identify the person to vote.

In the early years the cedula was only an instrument to identify a voter. In 1949 the TSE was created and given the task, due to the changing economic and political climate of the country, to produce an identity card that could used as a legal instrument, which became obligatory for citizens to carry and and present in legal matters such as birth registrations, contracting marriage and penal and administrative acts.

According to the early uses of the cedula, a Costa Rican who did not have or carry his or her cedula "was" practically a "capitis diminutio" or a dead person as they could not carry out any civil or legal act of any kind, including getting a passport, obtaining a government job, receiving social benefits and medical care by the Seguro Social, or get a drivers license and of course, not be able to vote.

The TSE has undergone a feasibility study for the modernization of the cedula and plans to introduce the new ID cards in about two years after it gets financing approval.

The history of the cedula in Costa Rica:

Proposed Document (front)

Proposed Document (back)

Current cedula (front)

Current cedula (back)

Cedula issued in 1997

Cedula issued in 1985

Cedular issued in 1952, in use until

The firstr Cedula issued in 1933:

Documents from the TSE website.

Editor's Note: The term "capitis diminutio" is used by the TSE document on the history of the cedula. We could not find an exact definition of the term, including on Wikipedia. The best we could could up with is, a person of lesser important, of minimal importance, a slave.





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