Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Costa Rica loses eight places in global IT ranking

Click on graphic to zoom. Graphic by Uri Ridelman
By Uri Ridelman

Costa Rica ranked 69th in the "Networked Readiness Index" for 2005-2006, down eight places from the 61st position it occupied last year.

Costa Rica, which received a score of -0.37, is currently ranked third in Central America. El Salvador leads the way, ranked 59th; followed by Panama, ranked 66th; Guatemala, 98th; Honduras, 100th; and Nicaragua 112th.

Worldwide United States leads the way, followed by Singapore, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Canada, Taiwan, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

South America hosts the most advanced Latin American country in Chile, which ranked 29th. Brasil finished 52nd, Uruguay 65th, Argentina 71st, Venezuela 81st, Peru 85th, Ecuador 107th, Bolivia 109th, and Paraguay 113th.

In the Caribbean the leader is Jamaica, ranked 54th, Trinidad & Tobago 74th, Dominican Republic 89th and Guyana 111th.

Mexico, which received a score of -0.14, climbed five places to 55th.

The index of 115 economies is based on a survey of business executives and mesures the development of information and communications technology as ranked by the World Economic Forum.

The Networked Readiness Index (NRI) is a technological indicator that's important to make investment decisions. This index measures the propensity for countries to leverage the opportunities offered by information and communication technology (ICT) for development and increased competitiveness.

Rankings and stats provided by The World Economic Forum. Information from AFP newswires was used to write this article.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Monitoring the Poas volcano

Geologist Rodolfo van der Laat, left, Red Cross worker Abel Porras, center, and Geologist Carlos Murillo, right, monitor the Poas volcano for seismic activity, some 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of San Jose, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 28, 2006. The Poas volcano which rises 2,708 meters, began showing increased activity over the weekend causing Costa Rican authorities to close access to toursits. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Presidential meeting

In this photo released by the Presidency, Costa Rican President Elect Oscar Arias, left, speaks with Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco, right, during a visit to the Presidential House in San Jose, Costa Rica, Monday, March 27, 2006. Arias, a former president of Costa Rica and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, will be sworn in as president on May 8, 2006. (AP Photo/Presidency/Ronald Chacon, HO)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Picture of the day

Regina Matarrita (L), 74, throws a fishing line beside her sister Ramona, 67, in Puntarenas, Costa Rica's Pacific coast near the Venado Island on March 22, 2006. Fishing is the only source of income for the four hundred residents of this small 10-square-kilometer island as they struggle against large fishing operations. Costa Rica has approximately 9,000 fishermen, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Fish and Aquaculture. Picture taken March 22, 2006. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Biking on water

A french performer rides a bike on the water of the lake of La Sabana Park.An actor of the Ilotopie theater troupe of France performs at the lake of La Sabana metropolitan park their presentation known as Narcisse Guette' during the International Festival of Arts (FIA) in San Jose, Costa Rica March 18, 2006. Twenty six countries are taking part in the international festival which runs until March 26. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Parade of Fire in Costa Rica

Costa Rican artists perform a Parade of Fire during the opening ceremony of the 10th Annual International Arts Festival in La Sabana metropolitan park in San Jose, Costa Rica, Friday, March 17, 2006. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Tom Green cheats death in Costa Rica

Canadian comic pulled into ocean by huge wave and slammed into rocks

Canadian comic Tom Green is recovering from a brush with death in Costa Rica in which he broke two ribs.

“I nearly died yesterday in the ocean,” Green wrote in his blog after being released from hospital.

The Ontario-bred actor was fishing off the rocks on a secluded stretch of shoreline when he was swept into the ocean by a huge wave.

“I actually tried to lean into it, as if that would keep me in my footing. It was like leaning into a freight train. And I was gone. I felt my life flash before my eyes. I had no control. If I hit my head. It was over.”

Green, 34, recalled the terrifying moment he slammed into the rocks.

“I remember barrel rolling in the air, instinctively, the way I would when I wiped out on my skateboard,” he wrote. “And I slammed into the rock, on my side. And I could feel the cracking of bone. And then the water crashing down on top. Tons of it. Smashing me into the rock again.”

“I stumbled onto the shore. I still wasn't sure if I was dead. My mind instantly started trying to assess my injuries. There was blood on my leg. Blood on my elbow, coming out of a harge golf ball sized welt. And my ribs clattered in my chest as I gasped for air. I could feel them moving in my body.”

Another wave hit, knocking him to his knees, and he struggled to breathe.

Green returned to his vacation home, where a local man accompanied him to the hospital 90 minutes away. X-rays revealed two broken ribs and the actor was kept overnight for observation.

“A couple of the younger doctors recognized me, and wanted a picture,” said Green. “That was weird.”

Green, who had a testicle removed due to cancer several years ago, said the pain persists and he can’t stop thinking about his brush with death.

“I can't stop help but feeling really lucky, while I am lying in bed in severe pain,” he wrote. “Kind of strange, to feel this was a lucky thing. It just doesn't make any sense that I am not paralyzed, or broken in more places, or dead.”

Green told his fans the experience taught him an important lesson.

“The ocean is powerful,” he wrote in his blog. “I guess growing up in Ottawa … you don't really learn to read the waves. I didn't treat the ocean with the respect she deserves. I know better now.”

© CanWest News Service 2006

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Costa Rica police raid gambling billionaire's home

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Dozens of police barged into the Costa Rican home of Calvin Ayre, a Canadian online betting mogul featured on the cover of Forbes magazine's annual billionaire issue, Ayre said on Saturday.

Ayre, founder of the Costa-Rica-based bodog.com gambling site, told Reuters a television company was filming a party at his mansion as part of a celebrity poker tournament, but police thought unlicensed gambling was taking place there.

"They came in like they were raiding Al Capone's lair," said Ayre, 44.

Police seized a laptop computer and small files containing organizational material for the shoot in Friday's raid, said Peter Karroll, head of bodog.com's entertainment division.

Ayre said no one was arrested. Police were unavailable for comment.

Raised on a pig farm in Saskatchewan, Ayre founded bodog.com 10 years ago and runs it out of Costa Rica, where gambling laws are less strict than in North America. He was featured on Forbes' newly released annual list as Canada's newest billionaire.

The Web site takes bets on sports events and runs online poker games. Ayre's profile on bodog.com describes him as an "online entrepreneur, jetsetter, maverick, industry leader."

He said his appearance on the Forbes cover prompted local press speculation that he was organizing illegal gambling in his home. A judge then ordered the raid. "When you're on the cover of Forbes, you attract a lot of attention," he said.

Ayre said only party scenes were being filmed at his house for the TV show about a poker tournament. Segments featuring gambling were filmed at a local television station, he said.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Simpsons live-action introduction

Ok, every once in a while I post here some things that have nothing to do with Costa Rica as long as they're original, funny and/or newsworthy. This live-action video of The Simppsons is definitely worth it as it recreates the introduction of the popular American program with actors.

Crafted by Sky and its ad agency Devilfish, the video was originally intended as an on-air promotion for the Sky One network, which airs new episodes of The Simpsons in the UK.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Costa Rica's Arias insists on trade deal with US

Tony Saca, president of El Salvador announces that CAFTA goes officially into effect in San Salvador, El Salvador , Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Costa Rica has yet to ratify the treaty. (AP Photo/El Salvador's Presidential Office)By John McPhaul

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rica's president-elect vowed on Tuesday to get a free trade pact with the United States through Congress despite barely winning last month's election and failing to get a legislative majority.

Speaking shortly after he was formally declared the winner of the February 5 vote, Oscar Arias told opponents of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, he would not back down to promised street protests.

"You should not have the least doubt that in this, we will not cede," said Arias, who was Costa Rica's president in the late 1980s and won the Nobel Peace Prize for designing a peace plan that helped end civil wars elsewhere in Central America.

Arias, 65, had been expected to sweep back to power but instead he scraped out a narrow victory, hurt by popular opposition to CAFTA. Election authorities earlier on Tuesday declared Arias president-elect with 40.9 percent of the vote.

It was a formality after his main rival, former government minister Otton Solis, last week conceded defeat when the Elections' Supreme Tribunal rejected his complaints of vote irregularities.

Solis had promised to renegotiate the trade pact and won 39.8 percent of the vote, a much stronger showing than polls had predicted.

Costa Rica is the only country that has not yet ratified the agreement between the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Analysts say Arias, who takes office May 8, may struggle to pass CAFTA through the legislative assembly because his National Liberation Party is four seats short of a majority.

Much will depend on whether a simple majority or the support of two-thirds of congress will be needed for CAFTA's approval. The Supreme Court will decide that issue.

"If a simple majority is required, the government can easily obtain votes from smaller parties which have already said they favor CAFTA. If a two-thirds vote is required, it will be very difficult," said Rodolfo Cerdas, a political analyst.

Trade unions and civic groups have promised to stage strikes and street protests against CAFTA.

"We are going to follow the strategy of the referendum of the streets," said Albino Vargas, leader of the main public employees' union. "Obviously we have to impede its passage and (the protests) will come before that."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Arias oficially named president-elect of Costa Rica

SAN JOSE (AFP) - Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president Oscar Arias is the president-elect of Costa Rica, the country's top election official said, one month after a contested general election.

"From this moment forward, Oscar Arias has been declared officially elected as president of Costa Rica," Oscar Fonseca, the head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, said at a news conference.

Arias, of the social-democratic National Liberation Party (PLN), won 40.80 percent of the vote, while his rival Otton Solis, a center-left economist who had contested the election, garnered 39.92 percent, the tribunal said.

The voter abstention rate was 35 percent, one of the highest in the Central American country's history.

Solis conceded Friday that Arias had won the ballot.

Arias, 65, is to take office on May 8, succeeding Abel Pacheco.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal's announcement officially ended a month-long political impasse after the results of the February 5 presidential election were contested by Solis's Citizen Action Party (PAC), forcing a manual recount of the ballots.

Several hundred ballots were rejected because of voting irregularities or were determined invalid.

Arias, a former president of Costa Rica (1986-1990), campaigned largely on his 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end civil war in Central America in the 1980s, squaring off in the process with then US president Ronald Reagan.

He pledged to turn Costa Rica into Latin America's most developed nation.

Between his last term as president and the recent election campaign, Arias nurtured his Arias Peace Foundation, which promotes the demilitarization of society, as Costa Rica has done, and traveled globally speaking about human rights.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Solis recognizes Arias' win in Costa Rica

(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - The chief rival of former president Oscar Arias (pictured) acknowledged on Friday that Arias had won Costa Rica's razor-close Feb. 5 elections, and called on his countrymen to recognize the defeat.

Candidate Otton Solis — who lost by just 18,167 votes out of some 1.4 million ballots cast, according to preliminary tallies — had filed legal challenges to the vote count, but said on Friday that "I am accepting that Oscar Arias will be the next president of Costa Rica."

"I ask everyone to also accept him as the new president," Solis, candidate of the Citizen's Action Party, told a news conference.

Arias, 65, who served as president from 1986 to 1990, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work as a mediator to help end the bloody civil wars that wracked Central America in the 1980s.

Election officials rejected the vote challenges filed by Solis' campaign, and they now must fulfill largely procedural steps before formally declaring Arias the winner.

That move is expected as soon as next week. The winner takes office on May 8.

Arias supports a free trade agreement with the United States, arguing it would help revitalize the country's stagnant economy. But Solis argued that the pact, known as CAFTA, would hurt farmers if enacted, and said it should be renegotiated.

Twelve other candidates also sought the presidency in an election that officials said had a 64 percent turnout — the lowest in Costa Rican history.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Costa Rican election results may affect Jerusalem embassy

Oscar Arias might decide to move the Costa Rican embassy out of Jerusalem. (AFP/File/Yuri Cortez)By Brian Harris

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Feb. 28 (JTA) — Official election results have given 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias a narrow victory in Costa Rica’s presidential elections, throwing the future of the country’s embassy in Jerusalem into doubt.

Three weeks after voting, the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced last week that Arias had scored nearly 41 percent of the vote, defeating his closest rival in the 14-man field by slightly more than 18,000 votes.

Arias, who previously served as president from 1986-1990, has said he would move the embassy out of Jerusalem, leaving El Salvador as the only country with an embassy in the disputed Israeli capital.

However, Arias has not commented publicly on his stance on Jerusalem for more than six months, leading some to believe he may flip-flop on the issue.

Aida Faingezich, the only Jewish member of the current Legislative Assembly, which leaves office in May, said pressure from Christian groups may press Arias to back down from moving the embassy, though she admitted she is uncertain where the embassy will be when Arias’ four-year term expires.

Two members of the small Jewish community, Clara Zomer and Masha Ofelia Taitelbaum, won election to the next Legislative Assembly on his National Liberation Party’s slate and another member, former deputy Sandra Piszk, is widely rumored to be in line for a seat in Arias’ Cabinet.

National Liberation has traditionally enjoyed support from the Orthodox and staunchly Zionist local Jewish community since it was founded in the 1940s.

The embassy was not a factor in the race. Voters, who were expected to hand Arias a landslide, instead gave lukewarm backing to the former president, who made his support of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement the focus of his campaign.

Arias’ stance on the embassy has gotten the most attention in the Jewish community and among Israeli officials, who fear that since El Salvador’s president, Tony Saca, is of Palestinian descent, he would likely follow Costa Rica’s lead if Arias moves the embassy.

The Costa Rican embassy has been in Jerusalem since 1982, and during his first administration, Arias left it there. El Salvador’s embassy has been in the city since the mid-1980s, a gesture of gratitude by the right-wing ARENA Party for Israel’s military aid to the government during its bloody civil war with the leftist FMLN.

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