Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alunasa restarting operations, won't close

Hugo Chavez assures continued operations of plant

Venezuela-owned aluminum processing plant Alunasa (based in Costa Rica) is restarting operations after an agreement was reached between plant workers and Venezuelan officials.

Jesus Paredes, Venezuela's Vice-Minister for Basic Industries and Mining, explained that a group of Alunasa workers who visited Venezuela voiced their concerns during a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who ensured continued operations with a focus on social issues.

Paredes stressed that Alunasa is resuming operations, "now focused on using aluminum as mechanism of integration between Latin American countries," official news agency ABN reported.

Paredes expects some changes to be introduced in Alunasa will allow the plant to work differently from other Central American companies "that are only pursuing profits, regardless of workers' living standards."

Furthermore, instead of closing the plant and moving it to another country, Paredes said that Venezuela plans to open more aluminum plants in countries like Nicaragua and Panama to cover the Central American and Caribbean market.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Costa Rica promises to tighten security at Limon

Costa Rica's Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides, right, accompanied by Costa Rica's Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal speaks about increased security measures during cruise ship stopovers in the Caribbean port city of Limon in San Jose, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007. Last week, a retired member of the American military killed an armed assailant who tried to rob about a dozen tourists who were arriving at a local beach. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican authorities pledged Tuesday to increase police patrols in a Caribbean resort town after a U.S. tourist in his 70s killed a mugger with his bare hands there last week.

In a joint press conference Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavidez and Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said they planned to double the number of police on patrol during stopovers by cruise ships in the port city of Limon, a surfing, fishing and diving destination. The government also plans to install security cameras around the city and have police to keep a closer eye on vehicles carrying tourists.

Last week, three armed assailants held up a bus ferrying about a dozen tourists from a docked cruise ship to a beach. A retired member of the American military put one of the attackers in a headlock, breaking his collarbone, officials said.

The would-be mugger, Warner Segura, 20, was later declared dead, apparently from asphyxiation.

Costa Rican police did not press charges, and the unidentified American tourist was allowed to return to his cruise ship to finish his vacation.

A spokeswoman for Costa Rica's Tourism Ministry, Marcela Villalobos, said that between October and February some 40 cruise ships dropped off a total of 85,000 tourists in Limon. Over the same period, four security incidents were reported to authorities.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, Costa Rica's Tourism Minister, dismissed the rumors that Carnival Cruise Lines had suspended all cruises to Limon and replaced it with the Island of Roatan in Honduras.

"That's not true, Carnival announced that on March 8 the cruise ship 'Legend' will arrive to Costa Rica and will continue to operate normally," said Benavides.

Benavides said that Carnival agreed to continue operations in Costa Rica after government officials met with the cruise company representatives and explained the new measures that would be taken to improve security at the port city.

Villalobos pointed out that between October of last year and February of this year 40 cruise ships have arrived to Limon with approximately 85,000 tourists. During that span only four crime incidents were reported, which she says amounts to less than one percent of the tourists being attacked.

The Costa Rican cruise season started on October 9, with the arrival of the ship "Silver Shadow," which brought 1,300 visitors to Costa Rica.

On Monday a cruise ship was cancelled, but that was due to the CAFTA protests taking place all over the country. Villalobos explained that Costa Rican authorities were afraid that tourists could get stuck in street blockades and miss the ship.

Tourism is Costa Rica's biggest source of income, generating $1.6 billion last year.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Thousands in Costa Rica protest free-trade deal

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of students and teachers opposed to a free-trade pact with the United States marched in Costa Rica's capital on Monday, while the deal itself remains bogged down in Congress.

The protesters, part of a coalition of hundreds of unions, student, environmental and community groups, said the march was a show of strength to be followed by a nationwide strike.

Costa Rica is the only participant of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA, not to have ratified the measure, and the government hopes to have a deal passed by the end of the year.

The treaty is in Congress, slowed down by a legal battle over whether President Oscar Arias can use a fast-track system to limit debate.

Smaller protests also took place across Costa Rica, and several people were arrested when police broke through a protesters roadblock in the town of Siquirres.

Albino Vargas, general secretary of the National Association of Public Employees, conceded the march would not stop the passage of the deal when Congress finally votes on it.

Arias looks likely to win enough votes to approve the deal.

The treaty would create a free-trade zone between the United States and Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Some in Costa Rica worry the trade deal will lead to the privatization of the state-run telephone company, ICE, and hurt the social security system.

At the protest, Eddie Sandi, 23, a farmer, led one of three traditional carts drawn by teams of two oxen.

"What is a farmer going to do if they pass CAFTA?" said Sandi. "It's good for the millionaires who have money to invest, but not for the small farmer."

In the United States, the measure only barely passed Congress in 2005 in the face of strong opposition from lawmakers and unions who feared the pact would lead to job losses there.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cruise passenger kills mugger in Limon, Costa Rica

(Photo by Marvin Carvajal/La Nacion)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - An American tourist who watched as a U.S. military veteran in his 70s used his bare hands to kill an armed assailant in Costa Rica said she thought the attempted robbery was a joke - until the masked attacker held a gun to her head.

The tourists who were mugged were visiting Costa Rica on the Miami-based Carnival cruise ship Liberty. The cruise line said the mugging took place during an outing organized by a group of passengers.

The cruise ship was expected to return to Miami on Sunday.

"I thought it was a skit. But then he pointed the gun at my head and grabbed me by the throat and I thought I was going to die," Clova Adams, 54, told The Associated Press by telephone Friday from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

The assault occurred during a ship stopover Wednesday in Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose, Costa Rica's capital.

Adams was with 12 American tourists who hired a driver to explore Costa Rica for a few hours. They were climbing out of the van to visit a Caribbean beach when three men wearing ski masks ran toward them, she said. One held a gun to her head, while the other two pulled out knives.

Suddenly, one of the tourists, a U.S. military veteran trained in self defense, jumped out of the van and put the gunman in a headlock, according to Limon police chief Luis Hernandez.

Hernandez said the American, whom he refused to identify, struggled with the robber, breaking his collarbone and eventually killing him. Police identified the dead man as Warner Segura, 20. The other two assailants fled.

"I was very scared at the moment," Costa Rican bus driver Roberto Frances Allen said in an interview in Limon.

"The bus was shaking and women were screaming," he recalled. "There were two shots and I heard him (Segura) try to fire more, but the gun didn't fire. Luckily, the tourists had forced his hand up and the shots hit the roof of the bus."

Sergio Lopez, a Red Cross auxiliary, examined Segura's body and said he died from asphyxiation. Lopez also treated Adams for a panic attack.

"She was very nervous after the assault, but she had not been physically hurt," Lopez said.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed the account, but refused to release the name of the American who defended the group, citing his right to privacy.

Costa Rican officials interviewed the Americans, and said they wouldn't charge the U.S. tourist with any crime because he acted in self-defense.

"They were in their right to defend themselves after being held up," Hernandez said. He said Segura had previous charges against him for assaults.

Ligia Herrera Mendez, the mother of the dead assailant acknowledged Segura's past problems. "I know my boy wasn't staying out of trouble, I knew that any moment I would get bad news."

Segura was buried Friday in the town of Liverpool, about 10 miles outside Limon.

The cruise ship delayed its departure until the group boarded the ship, which was set to return Sunday to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Adams spoke freely with the AP until a man who identified himself as her fiancee said they didn't want to talk to the media. He said the group might release a joint statement later and hung up the telephone.

Officials on the ship refused to pass an AP reporter on to other members of the tourist group, and several attempts to reach Adams' room again failed.

Costa Rica has struggled with growing violence and crime in recent years. University of Kansas student Shannon Martin, 23, was stabbed to death in 2001 after she left a nightclub in Golfito, 105 miles south of San Jose.

Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed in a statement that one of the ship's guests had killed the Costa Rican assailant, but refused to name those involved.

"All of the guests involved, who had booked the cruise together as a group, have opted to continue with their vacation plans. Carnival is providing full support and assistance to the guests," the statement said.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Costa Rican Government rejects Chavez' statements

Costa Rican President: I have not offended Venezuela

The Costa Rican Government Wednesday dismissed as "inappropriate" the comments of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' on his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias, reported DPA.

Likewise, Costa Rica announced that it would analyze "every possibility" in order to prevent a shut down of Venezuelan state-owned firm Alunasa.

Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Stagno and Minister of the Presidency Rodrigo Arias -brother of President Arias-, rejected strongly Chavez' remarks, who suggested that President Arias was showing "servility" to the United States policies.

Both Rodrigo Arias and Stagno ruled out that the aluminum plant shut down is due to "technical" instead of "political" reasons, as stated Wednesday by Chavez.

Arias Friday said, "I have not picked on the Venezuelan Government or offended anyone," but he warned that he would not remain quiet because of "blackmail or fears," reported DPA.

Arias, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, told a Nicaraguan TV channel that he does not want to argue with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who on Wednesday hinted that Arias was showing "servility" to the United States policies.

Chavez, who on Wednesday said that Arias "offended the Venezuelan people," was reacting to the strong criticisms the Costa Rican President made to the Venezuelan ruler regarding the special powers bestowed upon Chavez by the National Assembly

Friday, February 23, 2007

Heredia to become Costa Rica's first smart city

The city of Heredia, some 6 miles north of San Jose, will be the first in Costa Rica to be digital, thanks to a cooperation agreement with Ariel, a smart city in Israel. The chairman of the Heredia city council, Manuel Zumbado, and the Mayor of Ariel, Ron Nachman, made the announcement. “Through this initiative, in the mid term, we plan to have digital cameras in every corner in Heredia, in order to control traffic, and also to prevent crime,” Zumbado said. An intranet, Internet by telephone, and many other features are part of the project, according to the Israeli official.

Factory closure strains Costa Rica-Venezuela relations

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Adding to weeks of diplomatic bickering, Costa Rica criticized Venezuela Wednesday, saying it had closed an aluminum plant in the Central American nation for "political reasons."

Relations between the two countries were strained earlier this month when Costa Rican President Oscar Arias criticized his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez for assuming extraordinary powers.

Last week, the Venezuelan government announced plans to close the 10,000 ton annual output CVG Alunasa plant, which employs 400 workers. (Read how Venezuela's congress granted Chavez new powers)

Arias' chief of staff, his brother Rodrigo Arias, linked the closure to the recent war of words and rejected the official Venezuelan explanation that the CVG Alunasa plant was not economically viable.

"It seems to us that there is a political motivation," Rodrigo Arias told reporters at a news conference.

He pointed out that Alunasa had increased its exports from Costa Rica to $47 million this year from $26 million in 2000. The Venezuelan plant has operated in Costa Rica for 25 years.

Venezuelan newspapers quoted Chavez on Wednesday as saying Arias sought to curry favor in Washington by criticizing the Venezuelan president, a harsh critic of U.S. President Bush. (Read about tensions between Venezuela and the United States)

Venezuela's Universal daily cited Chavez as saying Arias and other critics of his rule seek to please Bush, "so they get invited to the ranch in Texas."

At the news conference on Wednesday, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno rejected the criticism.

"When Costa Rica defends these noble principles and purposes by all countries who love liberty and democracy, it has always done so in a sovereign manner," he said.

Arias has also criticized Cuba's communist government in recent months, likening Cuban leader Fidel Castro to Chile's late right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet. Arias said each was "savage, brutal and bloody" in his own way.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chavez: Arias is offending Venezuelans

(El Universal) - President Hugo Chavez Wednesday said that his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias "is offending the Venezuelan people" when he claims that the Enabling Law endorsed by the National Assembly to grant Chavez special ruling powers for 18 months is a denial of democracy.
According to Chavez, Venezuelan people "have decided to take a path and nobody is taking them away from this path."

Chavez suggested that Arias' statements and other remarks made by his critics are intended to seek approval from Washington. "All they want is an invitation to a ranch in Texas," Chavez said in a reference to US President George W. Bush' estate.

The Venezuelan ruler claimed "some people" are slashing out at him "with no reasons." "What have I done to the Costa Rican President? Absolutely nothing. I have never picked on him, until now."

Chavez added that following Arias' statements he is "absolutely free to answer back. We need to respect each other. 'Dictatorship in Venezuela,' who knows what he meant! They are old friend of (former Venezuelan President) Carlos Andres Perez," whom he branded as "part of the stinky history of this country (…), the putrid pages of history."

Costa Rica blames plant's closure on Venezuela spat

By Adam Thomson in Mexico City and Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas
Finacial Times

Costa Rica's government has accused Venezuela of closing down an aluminium plant and relocating it elsewhere because of a political spat between the two country's leaders.

Rodrigo Arias, the chief of staff and brother of Oscar Arias, Costa Rica's president, said of the decision: "It seems to us that there is a political motivation." The comments late on Wednesday night followed Venezuela's decision to close the plant and move it elsewhere in the region.

The Alunasa aluminium plant has been operating for more than 25 years and was bought by Venezuela's state-owned heavy industries conglomerate, the Corporación Venezolana de Guyana, or CVG, in 1990. Bienvenido Venegas, a Costa Rican lawmaker, claimed on Thursday that the decision by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to close the plant, which produces about 10,000 tonnes a year and employs 400 people, could not be economically motivated.

"It's a completely crazy idea to remove the company from Costa Rica. Last year it had record production," Mr Venegas said.

If you want to read the whole article click here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ricky Martin joins campaign to stop human trafficking

Puerto Rico's pop star Ricky Martin, left, speaks with Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, right, during a ceremony to launch the project called 'Llame y Vive' , Call and Live, against human trafficking and slavery being launched in Costa Rica and Latin America at the Presidential House in San Jose, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)GENEVA (DPA) - World-famous Puerto Rican pop singer Ricky Martin and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez launched a campaign aimed at combating human smuggling, the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration announced yesterday.

A message from Ricky Martin is at the center of the six-month TV and radio campaign, "Llama y Vive" ("Call and Live"), unveiled in the Costa Rican capital on Tuesday.

The project will provide information and highlight a new 24-hour telephone hotline to operate throughout Central American countries to alert potential victims of trafficking and protect children and young people.

The International Organization for Migration joined forces with the Ricky Martin Foundation in May 2006 to highlight the problem of human trafficking. The Inter American Development Bank and UNICEF are also partners in the campaign.

Costa Rica is a country of origin, transit, and destination for people smuggling. The majority of victims are forced into sexual servitude, according to IOM.

Costa Rica unsuccessfully tries to solve impasse with Venezuela

(El Universal) - Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Stagno over the weekend made unsuccessful attempts at meeting with Venezuela's Vice-Minister of Basic Industries and Mining Jesus Paredes to clarify the situation of the aluminum processing plant Alunasa which Venezuela owns in Costa Rica.

"Unfortunately nothing could be done," Stagno said on Monday on his attempts at meeting with Paredes.

Paredes arrived in Costa Rica over the weekend precisely to address issues related to the Venezuelan state-owned aluminum plant CVG Alunasa S.A., which operated in Esparza, 100 kilometers west San Jose, and which employs 400 workers.

According to different sources, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez intends to close the plant because he is mad at his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias (pictured), who last February 1st harshly criticized the Venezuelan ruler.

Meanwhile, Costa Rican Minister of the Presidency, Rodrigo Arias Monday was scheduled to meet with Alunasa representatives who have voiced concern about the likely shutdown of the plant.

Late on February 16th, President Arias hoped Chavez did not close the site. "We hope the fears of workers do not come true, as it would be regrettable to deprive some 400 workers and their families (they add up to some 2,400 people) from their living," Arias said in a brief statement.

Arias also said he is willing to Chavez if it helps avoid closure and transfer of Venezuela-owned aluminum plant Alunasa, which would result in 400 workers losing their jobs.

"We are making every possible effort to avoid transfer of this company by the Venezuelan Government to Nicaragua or Panama. The (Costa Rican) Foreign Minister is talking to his Venezuelan counterpart. If possible, I am talking to President Chávez," Arias told AFP.

According to Arias, equipment and machinery in Alunasa plant are hard to transport to far sites, and such a move could cost some $25 million.

If the Venezuelan government is hoping that Oscar Arias will in any way retract the comments made about Chavez they can go ahead and close the plant. Oscar Arias will never say he is sorry about those comments and will not yield publicly to a South American megalomaniac dictator.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ricky Martin in concert

Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin performed at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium as part of his new tour 'Blanco y Negro' (White and Black) in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 19, 2007. Here are a few images of the show. All photos by Monica Quesada/Reuters.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Costa Rica wins UNCAF Cup

Costa Rican national soccer team celebrates winning the 2007 UNCAF Nations Cup tournament at the Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador, 18 February 2007. Costa Rica won the championship after defeating Panama 3-1 in penalty kicks. Regulation time ended 1-1. AFP PHOTO/Yuri CORTEZ (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

This victory represents Costa Rica's sixth Central American title and the third straight since 2003. To win this trophy Costa Rica played four games: in the first one it defeated Honduras 3-1, then lost to Panama 1-0 and then defeated El Salvador 2-0 before a rematch in the cup final with Panama. The UNCAF Nations Cup is a Central American soccer tournament played every two years. This was Panama's first final in the history of the tournament.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chavez allegedly closing aluminum plant in Costa Rica amidst impasse with President Arias

Photo by La Nacion newspaper(El Universal) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is allegedly closing an aluminum processing plant Venezuela operates in Costa Rica because he is at odds with his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias, who has slashed out at the Venezuelan ruler, Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion reported, as quoted by AFP.

According to La Nacion, workers with Venezuelan company CVG Alunasa forwarded a letter to Arias showing their concern about the likely shutdown of the 400-worker plant based in Esparza, 100 km west San Jose.

The report claimed that Chavez is moving the plant to another Central American country, most likely Panama or Nicaragua.

The mayor of Esparza -the town where Alunasa is one of the largest employers- said the plant for several days now has halted imports of aluminum for processing.

Chavez is allegedly "mad" at the statements Arias made on February 1st, when he said that the special ruling powers the Venezuelan Legislature gave Chavez early in February were "a denial of democracy."

Note from Tiquicia's Blog Web master:
My dislike of this Fidel Castro wannabe was previously merely political due to his dictatorial ways, but now this has become a personal thing. This control-freak clown has decided to mess with my country and I find that absurd and unacceptable.

If with this move Chavez is trying to intimidate his opponents and tell the world not to oppose or accuse him publicly, even if the accusations are true, because he will make them regret it, he is daydreaming.

If he was hoping this move was going to prove his strength and power, he is proving the opposite: he is just demonstrating how weak and insecure he really is.
With this move Chavez is proving to be nothing but an egotistical bastard that was so badly offended by the words of Arias that he needs to react in a "strong" way to prove to his countrymen and the world that he still is "the boss" in Venezuela.

I guess the power of the oil and the dictatorial privileges he has in his country weren't enough to soothe his offended ego, so he needs to leave over 400 Costa Rican families jobless to comfort himself.

What a great leader he is proving to be - not! Chavez tries to model himself and his country after 19th Century Venezuelan freedom fighter
Simon Bolivar and his ideals. Well, Bolivar must be throwing up if he is watching from Heaven how this lunatic has distorted his ideals.

I feel sorry for the Alunasa workers and their families, but I feel even worse for the future of the people of Venezuela, condemned to live under the brain-washing repression and control of such a short-sighted and delusional human being.

Thank God I'm not in Venezuela. If I was under Chavez tyrannical grip I probably would not be able to write this since there is no freedom of the press in Venezuela unless you agree to publish the views of the "great" Hugo Chavez.

In fact I think that by now I would probably be in jail or at least under investigation by government agents for
showing "disrespect" to government officials. But I promise that since I live in Costa Rica, and we are still a democracy, I will continue to denounce this joker whenever he tries to mess up with my country.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Costa Rica probes deaths of 500 pelicans

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Authorities in Costa Rica said Tuesday they are investigating the mysterious deaths of about 500 brown pelicans along the country's Pacific coast over the last five days but do not suspect bird flu was the cause.

The first dead birds were spotted by a fisherman on Thursday on San Lucas Island, about 10 miles from the coastal city of Puntarenas. More turned up in the following days at nearby islands and rivers.

"This is a situation that is enormously worrisome," Costa Rican Environment Minister Roberto Dobles said. "But it is hard to know what happened, and so it is better not to speculate."

Investigators were collecting tissue samples from the dead birds, but tests to determine the cause of death may take several days, said National Animal Health Service spokeswoman Flor Aguero.

Costa Rican Coast Guard marine biologist Carmen Castro said investigators do not think the deaths were caused by bird flu, which is primarily spread by migration.

Brown pelicans are not migratory birds, and form stable, permanent colonies. They are not considered an endangered or protected species in Costa Rica.

Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila said while agriculture and animal health officials are in charge of the investigation, hospitals have been checked for possible cases of diseases like West Nile virus that could infect both birds and humans.

Mosquitoes can spread that disease by biting infected birds and then biting humans. Avila said no such cases have been found so far.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

63 percent of Ticos support CAFTA ratification

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Many adults in Costa Rica believe the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) should be implemented, according to a poll by CID-Gallup. 63 per cent of respondents who are familiar with CAFTA support its ratification.

In May 2004, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua agreed to the CAFTA with the United States. The Dominican Republic followed suit in August. The agreement—which would reduce or eliminate taxes and tariffs on imports—must be approved by each country’s legislative branch.

To date, Costa Rica remains the only country that has not ratified CAFTA. Former Costa Rican president Abel Pacheco postponed debate on the trade deal, hoping that the Legislative Assembly would approve a series of bills related to the country’s fiscal system.

Oscar Arias —a member of the National Liberation Party (PLN)— won the February 2006 presidential election with 40.92 per cent of all cast ballots. Arias headed the government from 1986 to 1990, and was able to run again after the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly opted to bring back presidential re-election in 2003. He was sworn in for the second time in May 2006.

On Feb. 7, Arias defended the CAFTA, saying, "I don’t think it’s the solution [to underdevelopment in the region], but I believe it’s an opportunity. It’s a step that has to be taken, but we won’t automatically become rich the day the agreement with the United States enters into force."

Polling Data

Are you familiar with the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)?


To those who are familiar - Do you support or oppose the ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)?


Source: CID-Gallup
Methodology: Interviews with 1,213 Costa Rican adults, conducted from Jan. 20 to Jan. 28, 2007. Margin of error is 2.8 per cent.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oscar Arias: Daniel Ortega is confusing our police forces with an army

Costa Rican President reacts to Ortega's statement

Alvaro Murillo
La Nacion

Published by La Nacion on February 4, 2007

Translated by Uri Ridelman

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said that the statement 'that Costa Rica has a powerful army', made by his Nicaraguan coleague Daniel Ortega, is "absolutely false."

"It makes no sense to confuse a civic police force, created for the protection of our citizens, with an army," said Arias a day after Ortega stated that Nicaragua can't disarm as long as its neighbors still own powerful military forces.

"We have armies in all of Central America, including Costa Rica, which has a powerful military force that they call 'Civil Force', and because of that Nicaragua won't disarm," Ortega said.

Ortega's comments were in response to U.S. government requests that Managua destroy its arsenal of Soviet-era SAM-7 ground-to-air missiles.

Arias added that instead of thinking about buying and preserving military equipment Central America should try to become the first army-free region of the world.

Arias and Ortega, two veterans of Central American politics, have not met since November, when the Sandinista Front of National Liberation (FSLN) won the Nicaraguan elections.

Back then, Arias said that he hoped to have a good relationship with Ortega because they already knew each other. However, they only talked for a short while during Ortega's swearing-in ceremony on January 10, the day that Ortega also publicly announced his support for the politics of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Two opposing visions on armed forces:
Nicaragua: the government defends the existence of its army and rejects to disarm it. Several Nicaraguan leaders have publicly stated their concern because they see an Ortega that is trying to hold more control of the army.

Costa Rica: In its 1949 Constitution, which is still in force, abolished its army. According to Article 12 the country can only have civil forces which will be created to protect the country citizens.

Note from Tiquicia's Web master:
Not only is Ortega already lying to Nicaraguans about their neighbors and clashing with the Americans about the destructions of the SAM missiles, but he has already pledged allegiance to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Those who hoped for a renewed, kinder Ortega will clearly be dissapointed.

And for those who are wondering why I refer to Hugo Chavez as a dictator, what else would you call a leader that was given the power by his opposition-free National Assembly to rule his country by decree for the next 18 months? He can now create laws at will, without having to depend on a congress to legislate. Probably after 17 months of rule he will create a decree that will allow him to stay in power and rule by decree for life. What a joke of a country Venezuela has become!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Satisfaction with Arias government increases to 55 percent

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - More Costa Rican adults are content with Oscar Arias Sanchez, according to a poll by CID-Gallup. 55 per cent of respondents rate their president’s performance as good or very good, up 11 points since August.

Arias—a member of the National Liberation Party (PLN)—won the February 2006 presidential election with 40.92 per cent of all cast ballots. Arias headed the government from 1986 to 1990, and was able to run again after the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly opted to bring back presidential re-election in 2003. He was sworn in for the second time in May 2006.

On Feb. 7, the government announced that the president would donate his full salary to charity starting next month in an attempt to teach Costa Ricans the value of generosity. Arias signed his decision into a decree, declaring, "The world needs more altruism and more philanthropy." The president said he was following the three principles of the French Revolution—"Equality, Freedom and Brotherhood"—with special attention on brotherhood.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Daniel Ortega says that Costa Rica has a powerful army

By Uri Ridelman

On February 3 Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega suggested that Costa Rica has an army as powerful as the others in Central America.

"We have armies in all of Central America, including Costa Rica, which has a powerful military force that they call 'Civil Force', and because of that Nicaragua won't disarm," Ortega said.

Ortega also said that the Costa Rican Civil Force has a very big budget, a lot of resources and a lot of weapons.

Ortega's comments were in response to U.S. government requests that Managua destroy its arsenal of Soviet-era SAM-7 ground-to-air missiles. Ortega also accused the United States of providing offensive military technology to Honduras to be used against Nicaragua.

But Wahington said that Honduras is buying eight small planes from the U.S., which are to be used in the fight against drug trafficking and help in natural disasters, not offensive military aircraft.

Washington says the shoulder-fired missiles should be destroyed because they could be used by terrorists against airliners.

Nicaragua destroyed 1,000 missiles in 2004 out of the 2,000 donated by the Soviet Union when Ortega's Marxist government was fighting a 1980s civil war against U.S.-backed rebels. Ortega's predecessor, Enrique Bolanos, offered to destroy 651 more.

But Ortega, who won November's presidential election, said Nicaragua should still not drop its defenses while Honduras and El Salvador had much stronger air power.

Honduras and Nicaragua have a dispute over maritime limits in the Caribbean that is being heard at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Newswires from Reuters, Associated Press, and information from La Nacion newspaper was used in this article.

NOTE: For those who don't know Costa Rican history or still believe a word of what Ortega says let me tell you that Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948. Legally the abolition of the military was introduced in the Article 12 of the 1949 Constitution, which still is in force. We haven't had a civil war since 1948.

Uri R.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

ICE ends commercial relations with Alcatel-Lucent amid bribery scandal

Photo by AM Costa Rica staff)( - Costa Rica's state power and telecom monopoly ICE will no longer work with French equipment provider Alcatel-Lucent after coverage problems and amid a deepening bribery scandal, local and international press quoted ICE's president Pedro Pablo Quiros as saying.

ICE will end its GSM mobile infrastructure rental contract with Alcatel-Lucent, purchase that infrastructure and not consider the equipment supplier for future contracts, Quiros said.

Alcatel, which merged with US based Lucent Technologies last November, won a contract in 2001 to install 400,000 GSM lines.

A former Alcatel executive, Christian Sapsizian, was arrested in the US in December on charges related to $2.5 million in allegedly paid bribes to an ICE board member to receive the 2001 contract.

In Costa Rica charges were levied last week against Hernan Bravo (pictured), a former ICE board member, who allegedly received $800,000 to facilitate the contract's approval.

ICE is planning on installing more mobile lines for its GSM network and said that the decision to break off its contract with Alcatel was also due to quality of service problems that the network has faced.

ICE had previously said it would buy 200,000 additional lines for the network, but now "is not planning a future with Alcatel." ICE estimates it has paid Alcatel $153 million since the network was installed in December 2002.

Alcatel-Lucent was notified on Tuesday. ICE expects to have completed the line buyback process in the next three weeks.

ICE has also said it will uphold its contract with Swedish equipment provider Ericsson to install 300,000 new lines, which were meant to be ready for service in April last year.

(Photo by AM Costa Rica staff)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Costa Rica to exhibit 2000-year-old indigenous pieces

San Jose, Costa Rica - The pieces of a 2,000-year-old indigenous cemetery found in Costa Rica will now be part of the national heritage and will be exhibited in a few weeks, informed Costa Rican archaeologist Juan Vicente Guerrero on Friday.

In a press conference, Guerrero revealed the cemetery proved the existence of national trade in pre-Columbian times with other peoples of Mesoamerica.

"The indigenous population to which the cemetery belongs is possibly a part of the Chibcha community, a group that lived in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Colombia," he explained.

The cemetery was found on a hill in Bahia Culebra, Guanacaste, a province in the northern Pacific region of Costa Rica.

A total of 77 graves with human remains and 140 objects made of wood, mud ceramics and jade were found here.

Other objects found included sharp utensils to cut or sculpt, and the graves were covered with big stones to avoid looting.

The analysis of the bones found in the graves might be useful to determine that at least 11 of the people buried there died when they were between 16 and 24 years of age.

One of the most outstanding finds is that of four pieces of art from Salvadoran indigenous people.

"We believe they arrived in Costa Rica through the trade between peoples," the archaeologist stated.

The cemetery, which is one of the oldest in the country, was discovered by American archaeologist Michael Snarkis. He made the discovery in March of 2006, after a private enterprise that wanted to develop a tourist complex asked him, in October 2005, to make sure that there were no archaeological treasures buried at the site .

Photo by Francisco Rodriguez of La Nacion newspaper. To see more of his cemetery photos click here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Costa Rica defeats Trinidad 4-0

Costa Rica's Rolando Fonseca, right, scores against Trinidad and Tobago's goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams during a friendly match in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007. Costa Rica won 4-0. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Since I recently removed my Tico Sports blog due to a lack of visitors, I decided that every once in a while I will post Costa Rican sports news here. I promise you the sport news will be few-and-far between unless you start requesting more of them. As for the game, it was a preparation match for a Central American soccer tournament called the UNCAF Cup, that will take place in El Salvador starting on February 8.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Costa Rican prosecutors present charges in Alcatel case

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Prosecutors in Costa Rica presented their first criminal charges after three years of probing alleged bribery involving the Latin American arm of French telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent, an official said.

Fabian Barrantes, a spokesman for prosecutors, confirmed charges were filed Thursday against Hernan Bravo Trejos, a former executive of Costa Rica's state-run telecom company, known as ICE, but said the law prevented him from confirming specifics of the charge sheet.

The Costa Rican newspaper Al Dia reported that Bravo Trejos was charged with corruption for allegedly accepting a payment of $1.05 million in exchange for his support for an Alcatel bid on a cellular telephone contract in 2001.

The scandal has mired former top officials, including former President Miguel Angel Rodriguez (pictured), who served from 1998-2002 and later resigned as head of the Organization of American States in 2004 to face corruption charges in his homeland.

Al Dia said that one of the witnesses who will be called in the case against Bravo Trejos is another former ICE executive, who has accused Rodriguez of demanding a cut of another $2.5 million bribe.

Rodriguez's lawyer, Eduardo Araya, told Radio Monumental on Thursday that he expects charges to be filed against his client "at any moment."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oscar Arias regrets Chavez' invested powers

( - The special ruling powers granted Wednesday to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are "the denial of democracy," said Costa Rican President Oscar Arias (pictured), Efe quoted.

"There is a simple difference between a dictator and a democrat. A democrat is set to create opposition if there is no one. A dictator, for his part, dreams of removing any dissent," the ruler, a laureate of 1987 Nobel Peace Prize, told local broadcaster Columbia.

Arias was at odds with the fact that Chavez will be able to rule by means of directives over the next 18 months.

The ruler pointed to "uprising over the past few years" in the hemisphere due to the comeback of "bossism and populism, which are Latin American diseases." In his opinion, they are inherent in the culture, history and way of thinking of the Latin American people.

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