Sunday, December 31, 2006

Costa Rican president won't retract criticism of Castro

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias refused to back off his harsh criticism of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and said Latin American countries need to help the communist-ruled island make a smooth transition to democracy following Castro's death, according to remarks published Thursday.

In interviews with the daily newspapers La Nacion and Al Dia, Arias also said he had "never heard so many rude epithets at the same time" as those the Cuban Government unleashed at the president, whom it referred to as an "opportunistic clown" and a "vulgar mercenary" of US officials on Wednesday.

The Cuban Government statement reacted to Arias' remarks last week comparing Castro to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The 80-year-old Castro governed communist Cuba without interruption for more than 47 years until he temporarily ceded his powers to his younger brother Raul following intestinal surgery on July 31.

The Washington-friendly Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1987 for helping broker an end to Central America's civil wars, has exchanged salvos with Cuban officials since he was elected earlier this year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Jolie and Pitt to spend New Year in Costa Rica

 In this photo released by United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie , left, meets with a Colombian refugee family in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 25, 2006. Jolie and spent Christmas day with Colombian refugees in the Costa Rican capital. Three and half millon people have been forced to flee the armed conflict in Colombia, and some 10,000 are in Costa Rica. (AP Photo/UNHCR/ Boris Heger)San Jose (AP) - Hollywood couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt can't seem to get enough of this tourist-friendly Central American nation.

After spending Christmas Day here with Colombian refugees, the actors are planning on ringing in 2007 at the exclusive Four Seasons Resort in Papagayo on Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast, La Nacion newspaper reported.

A telephone call to Pitt's publicist in Beverly Hills, California, was not immediately returned.

Accompanied by their three children, a nanny and a personal chef, the Jolie-Pitt entourage, registered as "the Black family," has been staying at the resort 250 kilometers northwest of the capital since last Friday, according to the report.

Pitt starred in the 1998 movie Meet Joe Black.

The hotel's website describes the facility as "spilling down a lush mountainside to an isthmus of golden sand" and says room rates range from $470 to $6 800 a night.

The two spent Christmas Day in Costa Rica with refugee children and families from Colombia, also part of Jolie's ambassadorship for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the agency said.

There are about 11 500 refugees in Costa Rica, most of whom fled Colombia because of the conflict between leftist guerrillas, soldiers and paramilitary forces.

"I am deeply affected by having had the opportunity to be with them," said Costa Rica's former Culture Minister Guido Saenz, who brought the two on a tour of the country's art museum. "They have a mixture of physical beauty, great talent and an altruistic attitude."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Horse parade takes San Jose

Thousands of Costa Rican riders took part in the traditional holiday "tope" or horse parade in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006. Here are some photos courtesy of the AP and La Nacion.

Costa Rican women watching the horse parade in downtown San Jose. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Costa Ricans ride their horses in the streets of downtown San Jose. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Costa Rican Mounted Police officers pose for a photohraph in Paseo Colon as they wear their gala uniform. The officers took part in the traditional horse parade in downtown San Jose. (Photo By Marvin Caravaca/La Nacion)

A horse wears a pair of plastic glasses during the horse parade in downtown San Jose. (Photo By Marvin Caravaca/La Nacion)

Costa Rican riders came out in mass and crowded the streets of downtown San Jose and the Paseo Colon area. (Photo By Marvin Caravaca/La Nacion)

Costa Rican Actress Maribel Guardia, center, and San Jose's Mayor Johny Araya greet an unidentified boy during the traditional horse parade in San Jose. (Photo By Marvin Caravaca/La Nacion)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Costa Rica

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited Colombian refugees living in Costa RicaIn this photo released by United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, second from left, and actor Brad Pitt meet with a Colombian refugee family in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, December 25, 2006. Jolie and Pitt spent Christmas day with Colombian refugees in the Costa Rican capital. Three and half millon people have been forced to flee the armed conflict in Colombia, and some 10,000 are in Costa Rica. (AP Photo/UNHCR/ Boris Heger)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Costa Rica's Arias says Castro like Pinochet

(FILE/Photo by Roger Cordoba - Diario Extra)Costa Rica's president on Friday compared Cuba's leader Fidel Castro to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, an ideological foe, saying each was "savage, brutal and bloody" in his own way.

President Oscar Arias, a Washington-friendly conservative who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for brokering deals to end Central America's civil wars, has traded barbs with Cuban officials since his election in February.

"Fidel Castro began with the (execution) wall, killing people those who opposed him," Arias said in radio interview. "There is no difference. The ideology is different but both were savage, brutal and bloody."

Nearly 3,200 people in Chile were killed in political violence and close to 28,000 people were tortured during the 1973-1990 right-wing rule of Pinochet, who died on December 10 at age 91.

Castro, one of the world's last communist leaders, overthrew Cuba's government in 1959 and ruled uninterrupted until July this year, when he temporarily handed power to his brother Raul following intestinal surgery.

Castro was last seen in public on July 26. Havana denies he is terminally ill, but Cuban officials no longer insist he will return as president of the country and leader of the party.

His prolonged absence has fueled uncertainty about the future of the Western Hemisphere's only communist state.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas in the hospital

Hospital employees dressed as Santa Claus visit Marcelo Lopez, 7, at the National Children's Hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 22, 2006. Lopez who was hospitalized with severe asthma attacks is one of dozens of children that will spend Christmas in the hospital. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

FARC member extradited to Colombia

In this photo released by Costa Rica's Ministry of Public Security, police officers escort Hector Martinez Quinto to an airplane for his extradition to Colombia at the Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2006. Martinez Quinto a suspected member of the Revolutionary Army of Colombia, FARC, is accused of participating in a 2002 rebel attack that killed more than 100 civilians.(AP Photo/Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security, Humberto Ballestero)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Costa Rican president to give salary to poor

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias speaking during the graduation of a newly formed tourist police division in San Jose, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. The same day Arias announced that he will give his yearly salary to the poor.(AP Photo/ Kent Gilbert) SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will donate his $102,000 yearly salary to the nation's most needy, his government said Wednesday.
Starting in January, Arias will donate his salary, which is 4.4 million colones a month, or $8,500.
"The truth is I will not live better or worse with my salary," Arias said in a news release.
The 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner said he would donate the money discreetly to organizations that help the elderly, children, disabled people and others in need.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Former Alcatel executive indicted for alleged bribes to Costa Rican officials

A federal grand jury in Miami has indicted a former Alcatel CIT executive on charges related to making corrupt payments to Costa Rican officials in order to obtain a mobile telephone contract from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), the state-owned telecommunications authority in Costa Rica.

The objective of the payments was to obtain a mobile telephone contract from the ICE, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the Department of Justice announced today.

The 10-count indictment returned today charges Christian Sapsizian, 60,a French citizen, with conspiring to make over $2.5 million in bribe payments to Costa Rican officials in order to obtain a telecommunications contract on behalf of Alcatel, making corrupt payments, and laundering the bribes through a consultant. Sapsizian was previously charged and arrested in Miami on a criminal complaint issued Dec. 1, 2006.

Until Nov. 30, 2006, Alcatel was a French telecommunications company, whose American Depositary Receipts were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Sapsizian was employed by Alcatel or one of its subsidiaries for over 20years. At the time of the conduct alleged in the indictment, he was the deputy vice president responsible for Latin America.

ICE was responsible for awarding all telecommunications contracts, including mobile telephone contracts. Prior to 2000, Alcatel had been unsuccessful in obtaining mobile telephone contracts in Costa Rica, repeatedly losing to a competitor which utilized a different technology than Alcatel.

The indictment alleges that from February 2000 through September 2004, Sapsizian conspired with Alcatel's senior representative in Costa Rica to make payments to a member of ICE's Board of Directors, who was also an advisor to a more senior official in the Costa Rican government.

The payments were intended to cause the ICE official to exercise his influence to initiate a bid process which favored Alcatel's technology and to vote to award Alcatel a mobile telephone contract.

Sapsizian is charged with offering the ICE official 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the value of the contract in exchange for the ICE official's efforts in assisting Alcatel to obtain the contract. The indictment further alleges that Sapsizian was aware that the ICE official intended to share the corrupt payments with the senior government official.

Alcatel was in fact awarded a mobile telephone contract in August 2001,which was valued at $149 million. According to the indictment, Sapsizian authorized one of Alcatel's Costa Rican consulting firms to funnel the payments to the ICE official.

Sapsizian is charged with conspiring to launder money for allegedly causing Alcatel CIT to wire $14 million in "commission"payments to the consultant. The consultant, in turn, wire transferred $2.5million to the ICE official. Thus, Sapsizian is charged with eight counts of violating the FCPA for allegedly causing those payments to the ICE official.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Festival of Light parade illuminates San Jose

Costa Rican folk dancers perform during the Festival of Light parade in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006. Thousands of Costa Ricas lined the streets of downtown San Jose to take part in the traditional holiday celebration. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Costa Ricans watch fireworks during the Festival of light on the main avenue in San Jose December 16, 2006. Thousands of spectators participated in the traditional end of year festival. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

A Costa Rican dressed as a sun god performs on a float during the Festival of Light parade in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006. Thousands of Costa Ricas lined the streets of downtown San Jose to take part in the traditional holiday celebration. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Costa Ricans dance to the rhythm of a 'comparsa' during the Festival of Light on the main avenue in San Jose December 16, 2006. Thousands of spectators participated in the traditional end of year festival. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Nicaraguan folk dancers perform during the Festival of Light parade in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006. Thousands of Costa Ricas lined the streets of downtown San Jose to take part in the traditional holiday celebration. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

A giant Hercules and other characters of the Roman mythology decorate the float of the Municipality of San Jose that participated in the Festival of Light parade on the main avenue in San Jose December 16, 2006. Thousands of Costa Ricas lined the streets of downtown San Jose to take part in the traditional holiday celebration. (Photo by La Nacion)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Satisfaction with democracy increases

(La Nacion) - The percentage of Costa Ricans who declare themselves “satisfied” with democracy almost doubled in the last 12 months, when it went from 39 percent to 75 percent.

Costa Rica ranks second in Latin America, after Uruguay and ahead of Argentina, while Guatemala and Paraguay are last in the 18 nations studied.

The number of Ticos who believe in the power of vote “to change things” also increased, from 48 percent to 62 percent. These are the findings of the Latinbarometer, which has been done yearly since 1995 by Latinbarometer Corporation, a non-governmental organization.

The study also includes how much to the "right" or to the "left" citizens declare themselves, ranging from 0 for extreme left to 10 for extreme right, and Costa Ricans also place second, at 6.3, following the Dominicans at 7.1, while Uruguayans are the most leftist, at 3.4.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Punta Piedra Island is not for sale

By Uri Ridelman

Costa Rica's Punta Piedra Island, which has supposedly been sold by a company called Private Islands Online for the price of $1.5 million and is being sold by another company called Tropical Islands at a price of $6 million, is not for sale.

That's what Andres Murillo, the person who paid for a permit to use the island, said to Diario Extra yesterday during an interview regarding the alleged sale.

All this mess is the consequence of the illegal business of selling Costa Rican islands online, which is nothing but a scam.

Murillo said that about eight years ago he paid for a permit to use the island to the Municipality of Golfito, Puntarenas, and that permit still belongs to him. He's also in the process of getting a concession for the island.

He has spent about $385,000 in the legal process of obtaining the concession and once that's achieved he plans to keep it. He won't sell the concession because he plans to build condos to rent to foreign tourists.

"I have not sold anything," Murillo said to Diario Extra, "despite what people are saying on the Internet."

Murillo said that a while ago an American that claimed to live in Nicaragua visited the island and asked him if he could take photos of the place, something that he didn't oppose to, but he plans to keep the island.

"I have not sold it, and it's not for sale," Murillo added.

Costa Rican islands can under no circumstance be sold because they are not private property. The islands belong to the State of Costa Rica, therefore can only be given away in "concession" for up to 20 years. However, only the Legistlative Assembly (Congress) is authorized to legally offer the government's islands in concessions.

No private company can claim it can legally negotiate a Costa Rican island with a potential buyer nor accept funds for the sale of an island.

The whole issue of the Costa Rican islands for sale on the Web has created a stir in the Costa Rican Congress and several of its members are calling for a judicial investigation.

Message from Tiquicia's Blog Web master:
Despite what Murillo says ads about the sale of the island pop-up every day on the Web. Today I found this Web site offering the sale of Punta Piedra for a price of $1.3 million. The ad refers those interested in the island to one Mr. Jorge L. Chavez. A reader of this blog also told me about an ad for Gypsy Island on a Web site called Luxury Real Estate, where the island is listed at a price of $4.5 million.

Chemical plant fire in Limon kills three

Costa Rican police officers watch a fire at a chemical plant outside the Caribbean port of Limon, Costa Rica ,150 kilometers east of the capital of San Jose, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006. Three people were killed and three people were transported by air ambulance to the capital, after suffering burns during the chemical plant fire in Limon, Costa Rica, located 150 kilometers east of the capital of San Jose. (AP Photo)

Costa Rican fire fighters use a chemical foam to try to put out a fire at a chemical plant outside the Caribbean port of Limon, Costa Rica, some 150 kilometers east of the capital of San Jose, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006. (AP Photo)

Air shot of a fire at a chemical plant outside the Caribbean port of Limon, Costa Rica, some 150 kilometers east of the capital of San Jose, Dec. 13, 2006. (AP Photo)

Costa Rican Red Cross workers attend to one of the burn victims from a chemical plant fire, as he arrives by air ambulance at the Juan Santamaria International Airport near Alajuela , Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Protecting the Osa Peninsula

(La Nacion) - The Osa Peninsula, in the Costa Rican South Pacific, is a unique place which, in only 160,000 hectares (some 395,355 acres), encompasses 2 percent of the world’s biodiversity and 50 percent of all the species in Costa Rica.

Its forests are home to at least 5,000 species of plants, over 700 species of trees, more than 8,000 species of insects, and 117 of reptiles. Also, there we find 375 species of birds, 124 of mammals, 40 of fresh water fish, and 28 species of dolphins and whales.

In order to protect that wealth, the Osa Campaign was launched in 2003, but it was not until now that the project was made public. It is a joint effort by the Costa Rica-USA Foundation (CRUSA), the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, Conservancy International, and The Nature Conservancy.

The goal is to collect $32.5 million, by the year 2008, to manage conservation and establish a trust. So far, $19 million have been collected and each Costa Rican is expected to donate at least $1, to add another $3.2 million in the coming months.

Several major Costa Rican firms, such as La Nacion, Intel Costa Rica, Holtermann, and Pipasa partake in the non-profit campaign.

Beware of the Costa Rican islands for sale scam!

By Uri Ridelman

Note: This article has been written mostly by translating an article published in the Costa Rican newspaper Diario Extra. I just added a few things that the original article didn't mention. If you want to read the original article (in Spanish) click here.

Journalist Marco Leandro of the Costa Rican Diario Extra newspaper revealed yesterday that there are several on-line companies trying to rip-off people from around the world by offering Costa Rican islands for sale, some of them for as little as $1.5 million.

'For that price you buy not only the island itself but the monkeys, gators, butterflies, birds, waterfalls and palm trees in it,' writes Leandro in the article. In other words you get the rights to everything.

One of those companies is Private Islands Online, a company that describes itself as "the largest concentrated island market in the world … a one-stop shop where you can access a worldwide island inventory."

The company, which also offers islands from all over the world for sale, states that although "foreigners can't buy islands in the territorial waters of Costa Rica they can lease, with some restrictions a private island for up to 20 years by using renewable leases called 'concesiones'."

This however is not true because according to Costa Rican laws the Costa Rican islands belong to the government, therefore there is no such thing as a private island in Costa Rica.

Furthermore, congresswoman Ana Elena Chacon of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) told Diario Extra that the country islands can under no circumstance be sold because they belong to all the Costa Ricans, they can only be given away in concessions. However, only the Legistlative Assembly (Congress) is authorized to legally offer the government's islands in concessions.

This means that no private company can claim it can legally negotiate a Costa Rican island with a potential buyer nor accept funds for the sale of an island.

Despite all this, Private Island Online announces on its Web site several "islands for sale in Costa Rica" including Gypsy Island for $4.5 million, Punta Piedra Island (which supposedly has already been sold) for $1.5 million and Isla de Cedros Island at a price that will be disclosed "on request."

Chacon told Diario Extra that this is clearly a scam, and it should be investigated by the Costa Rican authorities.

Private Islands Online even boasts the fact that these islands include several permits and licenses required to run businesses on them.

For example of Gypsy Island the company writes:

"The island has original ICT permits for commercial tourism, with 18 approved resort use building sites on the low lying area. Additionally, there is a (run down) dock for safe anchorage, and the remains of the original bar, restaurant, cabins which were developed by the original owner. The island has a liquor license, which in itself is worth over $100,000."

Jalile Esna, a congresswoman of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), told Diario Extra that she will personally start an investigation to find out what this is all about.

Other islands mentioned as for sale in the Diario Extra article are Violin Island and Jesuit Island.


Message from the Tiquicia's Blog Web master:
Even though Private Islands Online may be legally dealing with private islands in other countries around the world, what it is doing in Costa Rica is clearly illegal. People should be warned that no Costa Rican island is for sale because there are no such things as private islands in this country.

If someone owns one already, he/she must know that the papers they have claiming ownership of the island are a)probably fake or b)legitimate but obtained by bribing Costa Rican government officials.

Perhaps the best thing to do if you think you have been a victim of this scam is to contact your local Costa Rican embassy or consulate.

After doing some research on the internet I found out that there is another company called Tropical Islands that also offers islands for sale and has Punta Piedra in its listings for a price of $6 milllion despite the fact that Private Islands Online supposedly already sold it for $1.5 million.

Private Islands Online is located at 550 Queen St. East Suite 330 in Toronto, Canada; while Tropical Islands, according to the mailing address is located in Miami, Fla.

Uri R.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

World's largest coffee museum to be built in Taiwan

Coffee farmer pouring out a basket of coffee cherries in the Alajuela region of Costa Rica. (Photo: Image Bank's Chase Jarvis for Getty Images)Taipei, Taiwan (Asia Pulse) - The world's largest coffee museum is scheduled to break ground Friday at an agricultural park belonging to the Council of Agriculture in southern Pingtung County, Taiping Coffee Biotech Co. executives said Monday.

The officials said the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park will be inaugurated on Friday, with a ground-breaking ceremony for the museum also held that day.

Ambassadors to Taiwan from such coffee-producing countries as Panama, Costa Rica and Malawi will be invited to attend the ceremony, they said.

They said the company's premises will cover an area of 6,600 pings (one ping equals 3.3 square meters) with 2,900 pings given over to the coffee museum, which will feature five theme parks.

They said the museum will combine a coffee biotech factory, tourism and leisure facilities, showcasing coffee culture as well as coffee-making equipment.

In addition to a detailed introduction to the history of drinking coffee, several world-renowned coffee brands in cooperation with the company will also provide coffee-producing equipment and coffee sets, they said, adding that some of the equipment is dated to four or five hundred years ago.

The museum will take about a year to complete and is scheduled to open to the public in 2008, the officials said.

Protesting against DR-CAFTA

Costa Ricans protest against the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. outside the Legislative Assembly in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 11, 2006. Costa Rica remains the only country that has not approved the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Central America, and the Dominican Republic. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)




Monday, December 11, 2006

Tiquicia celebrates having no army for 58 years!

Ex-soldier Victoriano Aguillare takes part in a ceremony celebrating the 58th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Armed Forces of Costa Rica at the National Museum San Jose, Costa Rica, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006. Costa Rica has had no armed forces since 1948, following the civil war that led to the abolition of the army by then President Jose Figueres Ferrer. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Costa Rican folk dancers take part in a ceremony celebrating the 58th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Armed Forces of Costa Rica at the National Museum San Jose, Costa Rica, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006. Costa Rica has had no armed forces since 1948, following the civil war that led to the abolition of the army by then President Jose Figueres Ferrer. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Picture of the day

A Costa Rican woman walks through the streets in the Caro Quintero shantytown north-west of San Jose, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006. Poverty and unemployment could increase in Costa Rica if the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA) is not approved, said Jack Liberman, president the Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce. Costa Rica remains the only country which has not approved CAFTA. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Jobs to unskilled workers must increase

Costa Rican workers inspecting clothing for export to the U.S. at a textile factory outside San Jose, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006. Costa Rica needs to increase the number of jobs available to unskilled workers in order to reduce the number of people living in poverty, according to the International Labour Organization. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Costa Rican president sees CAFTA vote early next year

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., right, meets with Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006.(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Monday said he is hopeful his country's parliament will ratify a free trade agreement with the U.S. and five other nations early next year.

Trade and economic growth is the only way the small country of 4.5 million people will create jobs, Arias said.

The example of Chile, which has signed free trade agreements with the U.S., the European Union and many other countries, shows that trade is the most effective tool for cutting poverty, he said. Otherwise, the joke that Latin America will forever be the place of the future will always hold true, he added.

"Latin America will only make it to the future on time if it embraces globalization," Arias said in a speech to the Council of the Americas.

Costa Rica is the only signatory of the U.S.-Dominican Republic Central American Free Trade Agreement that hasn't ratified it. Legislative bodies in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic have approved the agreement, though not all of those countries have fully implemented it. The U.S. Congress approved it in July 2005.

Arias, who was elected president this year, said that without trade, Costa Rica will lose people to better opportunities in other countries.

"If we cannot export more and more goods, we will end up exporting more and more people," he said.

Meanwhile, Arias said for Latin American countries to compete in a globalized economy, governments must spend more money on education and less on the military. He said there has been a rapid escalation in military spending over the past year to a total of $24 billion for the region as a whole.

"Latin America has begun a new arms race," he said.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Former telecom exec charged with bribery in Costa Rica

The FBI has traced $2.4 million payments from Alcatel to a senior ICE official in Costa Rica and $2.56 million to the official's wife.

MIAMI (AP) - A former top executive for the Latin American business of the French telecommunications giant Alcatel-Lucent faces U.S. corruption charges for allegedly funneling millions of dollars in bribes to Costa Rican officials to win lucrative contracts.

Christian Sapsizian, a 60-year-old French citizen who was a senior vice president for Latin America for Alcatel-Lucent, was free Tuesday on $525,000 bail after making his initial appearance Monday in federal court. Sapsizian is scheduled for arraignment Dec. 18 on a charge of making corrupt payments to a foreign official.

According to an FBI affidavit, Sapsizian agreed in 2000 to make payments to an unnamed senior official with Costa Rica's state-owned telecommunications authority, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, or ICE.

In return, the official would "vote in favor of awarding Alcatel a contract'' and provide other valuable assistance, according to the FBI.

To read the whole article click here.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Lost forest coverage recovered

Monteverde cloud forest(La Nacion) - Today, half of Costa Rica has forest coverage, thanks to the fact that in the last 20 years the country recovered an area equivalent to 10 percent of the territory. This fact is confirmed by images analyzed by the National Forest Financing Fund and the University of Alberta, Canada.

Back in 1960, 70 percent of the territory of Costa Rica had forest coverage but, in the following three decades, acute deforestation lowered the forested area to 40 percent by 1986.

The forest loss recorded in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s was prompted by certain agricultural development policies, said Arturo Sanchez, director of the Scientific Center of Terrestrial Observation of the University of Alberta. According to the National Forest Financing Fund, it was in the 90s when the trend was reversed.

Fund director Jorge Rodriguez points out that half of the forested area is in private hands and that it would increase further if there were money enough to pay the owners for preserving standing forest and letting land regenerate without man’s intervention. He pointed out that the $14 million budget for this year was not enough to pay more land owners who wanted to join the program.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Incofer seeks to offer urban train under concession

Costa Rica's state rail administrator Incofer is looking to concession capital San Jose's urban train in 2007, local paper La Prensa Libre quoted Incofer president Miguel Caravaguiaz as saying.

Authorities came to the conclusion that the city's railway system needs further modernization, which would be possible through a concession scheme, Caravaguiaz said.

However, changes in the country's concession law are first needed before the train and other public infrastructure can be turned over to the private sector, a source from Costa Rica's national concession council (CNC) told BNamericas.

To read the whole article click here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ox-cart parade in Tiquicia

Here are a few photos from the traditional ox-cart parade in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006. This parade is part of the end-of-year festivities that take place in the Costa Rican capital every year. (All photos by AP/Kent Gilbert)


































Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Eyed Peas concert in Costa Rica video

I found a short video of the Black Eyed Peas's concert at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, on November 21, 2006.

I was at the concert and I have to admit that the sound was really crappy but otherwise the show was cool. Fortunately I didn't pay a thing to watch this concert because an uncle of mine handed me some free tickets, otherwise I would have been really mad about the crappy sound.

Besides, this was my second BEP concert as I had already watched them perform with the Pussycat Dolls this year at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida and that one was a thousand times better.

Note: a high-speed internet connection is recommended to watch the video

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Drug "submarine" off Costa Rica was disguised boat

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - A vessel carrying 3.5 tonnes of cocaine that was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard off Costa Rica last week was not a submarine as first thought but a speedboat camouflaged to avoid detection, Costa Rican officials said on Wednesday.

The 45-foot (14-metre) craft was "a cigarette boat", a sleek, fast vessel typically used by drug traffickers, that had an ocean-colored fiberglass covering intended as camouflage, said Costa Rican coast guard commander Rodrigo Peralta.

The Costa Rican coast guard had told reporters on Sunday the craft, found near the remote Coco Island, was a makeshift submarine that traveled 6 feet under the surface.

The boat rode low in the water because of the weight of the cocaine but did not actually submerge, said Peralta. It had traveled from Colombia and was on its way to the United States with the cocaine.

"It was covered with lead lamination to conceal it from radar," said Peralta.

Tubes protruding from the boat, which initially gave officials the impression it was a submarine, turned out to be exhaust pipes.

Two Colombians, a Guatemalan and a Sri Lankan were arrested aboard the craft and taken along with the cocaine to the United States, Costa Rican officials said.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Black Eyed Peas in Costa Rica

The Black Eyed Peas perform during their "Monkey Business" concert in San Jose, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006. The Black Eyed Peas were triple winners at the 2006 American Music Awards on Tuesday night. The hip-hop quartet was named favorite group twice, in the rap/hip hop and soul/rhythm & blues categories. They also won favorite rap/hip-hop album for "Monkey Business." The group appeared on the awards show via satellite before their concert to acknowledge their awards. (All photos by AP/Kent Gilbert)









Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Narco homemade submarine intercepted off Costa Rica

A Costa Rican police officer guards a homemade submarine captured off Costa Rica's Pacific coast, is under guard in the Pacific port of Puntarenas, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006. The 49-foot craft, which was packed with three tons of cocaine worth about $90 million, was spotted Friday, 166 kilometers (103 miles) off Costa Rica's coast near Cabo Blanco National Park on the Nicoya peninsula, according to Costa Rica's Security Minister Fernando Berrocal. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, FBI and Colombian officials aided Costa Rican authorities in the operation. Two Colombians, a Guatemalan and a Sri Lankan man were arrested and taken to the U.S., since they were captured in international waters. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Nobel gathering for Guatemala's youth

From Left: Nobel Peace Prize 1987 and Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize 1997 Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize 1992 Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Nobel Peace Prize 1976 Betty Williams, pose for photos during an event in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on Friday, Nov. 17, 2006. Nobel Peace Prize winners Rigoberta Menchu, of Guatemala, Jody Williams, of United States, Betty Williams, of Northern Ireland and Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, gathered in Guatemala to meet with young people.

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