Monday, July 30, 2007

Costa Rica lifts ban on gays donating blood

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias has signed an executive decree that ends a prohibition on Gays donating blood in the Central American nation. Activists say that Arias has been strong on GLBT equality, believing that all humans have the same rights. Alberto Cabezas, who led the fight, says that Costa Rica now has set an example for other nations to follow suit. In the United States, gay men may not donate blood.

Friday, July 27, 2007

NASA mission to study climate in Costa Rica

NASA pilot Dave Wright, left, Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, center, and NASA scientist Michael Kurylo, right, speak about NASA's TC4 Atmospheric Study Project at the International airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Friday, July 27, 2007. NASA's Tropical Composition, Cloud and Climate Coupling, TC4, field campaign project will be based in Costa Rica, to tackle challenging questions about Earth's ozone layer and climate using coordinated observations from satellites and high-flying NASA airplanes. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Peaceful Costa Rica wages war on drugs

Costa Rica is showing progress in its war on drugs, but concerns exist that the country is used as an exchange center for major drug trade.

BY BLAKE SCHMIDT
Special to the Miami Herald

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - Known abroad mostly for its political stability, pristine beaches and eco-tourism, this country without an army has suddenly found itself in the middle of the war on drugs.

During President Oscar Arias' 14 months in office, Costa Rican and U.S. authorities have set seizure records in increasingly spectacular drug busts - nearly 50 tons of cocaine, compared with 2003, when seizures didn't reach one ton.

To read the whole article click here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Costa Rica's oldest bridge

(Photo by Alexander Otarola / Al Dia newspaper)(Al Dia) - The bridge La Garita, located in Atenas, Costa Rica is one of the oldest bridges in the country and 161 years later is still standing and in use.

Built during the Jose MarĂ­a Alfaro (1842-1846) administration, the bridge was built to open passage to Puntarenas with money raised by a group of San Jose women from donations.

The bridge is also important from an historical point as on May 12, 1857, where president Juan Rafael Mora with his victorious army faced the filibusters of the 1856 national campaign.

The 1856 national campaign was the greatest political and cultural threat to Costa Rica as it faced the rising power of U.S. mercenary William Walker in Nicaragua, who after winning control of Nicaragua set his sights on Costa Rica.

The structure is made of stone and "algamasa" - a combination of egg white, sand and lime.

The narrow bridge, though still used today by area residents, receives a lot of tourists.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Costa Rica toughens sexual exploitation laws

San Jose, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rica toughened its laws against sexual exploitation of children on Wednesday, banning possession of child pornography and extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors.

Costa Rica has become something of a haven for sex tourism with widespread underage prostitution. Many foreign sex offenders have been arrested and extradited from the Central American country.

Signing the reforms into law, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said the country must face up to its problem with sexual exploitation.

“We are at the same time victims and accomplices of many of the evils that we complain of,” said Arias.

The reformed laws ban possession of child pornography for the first time and make sex with children under 13 punishable by up to 16 years in prison.

Sexual exploitation of minors, especially child prostitution, has grown over the last 20 years with Costa Rica’s tourism boom.

Police say efforts to crack down on child prostitution has driven it underground into the control of criminal organizations.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Economist named Costa Rica's ambassador to China

Costa Rica's former Economy Minister Antonio Burgues has been named the country's first ambassador to China, local daily La Nacion said on Sunday, quoting President Oscar Arias.

China and Costa Rica established diplomatic relations on June 1.

Burgues, 54, was the Economy, Industry and Trade Minister in Arias' prior government (1986-1990) and has been president of Costa Rica's Chamber of Exporters for the last 12 years.

Burgues' designation is now awaiting the due diplomatic paperwork, official sources said.

Burgues will use his experience to work in the "giant" market of China for Costa Rica's products, including coffee, the paper said.

Burgues will also help funnel Chinese investments into Costa Rica, promote tourism and strengthen contacts to guarantee China'ssupport for its foreign policy.

China has become an important destination for Costa Rica's products. Arias said earlier that Costa Rica's embassy in Beijing will be the second most important after its embassy in Washington.

Source: Xinhua News

Friday, July 13, 2007

Costa Rica and Panama to hold bi-lateral talks

Costa Rica's foreign minister, Bruno Stagno, announced yesterday that he will be meeting with his Panamanian counterpart, Samuel Lewis, in David, Panama, for their first bi-national meeting.

The meeting is schedule to take place on July 26 and 27 to discuss an intense agenda between the two countries.

Costa Rica and Panama share a border without military patrols, making it one of the most peaceful border in Central America.

Topics on the table of discussion are political affairs between the two nations, environment, tourism, infrastructure, border security and customs matters.

Costa Rica held a similar meeting last October with its neighbour to the north, Nicaragua.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mel Gibson offers to help Costa Rica's native indians

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, left, speaks with US actor Mel Gibson in his home in San Jose, Monday, July 9, 2007. Gibson met with Arias to discuss possible humanitarian projects in Costa Rica. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Actor and director Mel Gibson met with Costa Rica's president on Monday to discuss making a financial donation to help the Central American nation's Indians.

"He wants to help the indigenous population here and wants to know how to channel the funds," President Oscar Arias told reporters outside his home, where he met with Gibson for about an hour.

Arias said Gibson - who starred in such Hollywood blockbusters as the "Lethal Weapon" series and directed last year's Mayan epic "Apocalypto" - would return to Costa Rica in a month to arrange how much money he would donate and to which organization.

Gibson has avoided the press in prior trips to Costa Rica, but spent a few minutes answering questions from reporters.

Asked about Arias, the winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on a peace deal that ended Central America's civil wars, Gibson said: "I'm a fan."

The actor acknowledged buying a house in Guanacaste on the country's Pacific coast, and jokingly asked reporters if they wanted the address.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Color your garden with the copperleaf plant

The copperleaf plant (Acalypha wilkesiana) has foliage that is more colorful than many flowers, thats why in South Florida and tropical America, copperleaf is a popular outdoor plant that provides color throughout the year.

Copperleaf foliage varies in color and pattern from variety to variety and even on the same individual for that matter but is always bright and beautiful.

This plant is grown as an annual where it's spectacular foliage replaces flowers from late summer until frost. It's also used in mixed hedges and shrub borders and as a specimen shrub and grown indoors as a container plant. However, it must be maintained in a warm, humid, bright environment. Cut off the tips of growing shoots to get a bushier plant.

Copperleaf does fine in partial shade or sun. It prefers a position sheltered from strong winds, and a fertile, organic soil. Under ideal, frostfree conditions copperleaf grows as a spreading evergreen shrub with upright branches that tend to originate near the base.

This plant is native to Fiji and nearby islands in the South Pacific. It can get up to 10 ft (3.1 m) tall with a similar spread. The leaves are alternate, elliptic to oval, serrate, 5-8 in (12.7-20.3 m) long and multi-colored. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, hanging in 4-8 in (10.2-20.3 cm) catkinlike racemes usually hidden in the foliage.

Information taken from Floridata.com

Friday, July 06, 2007

Colombians accused of assassination plot freed at home

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Five Colombians deported from Costa Rica on accusations they plotted to kill members of that Central American nation's government, were set free on their return home, Colombia's secret police said.

The five were released after Colombian authorities found them to have no outstanding arrest warrants or criminal records, Oscar Galvis, spokesman for the secret police which also handles immigration issues, said Monday.

Costa Rica's minister for security, Fernando Berrocal, told local media that the five were part of a group planning "assassination attempts against the lives of high-ranking members of the government" of President Oscar Arias.

In an interview with Costa Rica's La Nacion, Berrocal said Costa Rica respected the decision by Colombian authorities, but said the investigation would continue by the two countries' police forces into the alleged plot.

Berrocal did not reveal who were the targets of the assassination plots, but the newspaper La Nacion reported that the targets included Berrocal and Rodrigo Arias, the brother of President Oscar Arias who serves as his representative in the Cabinet.

Berrocal said that the plot, allegedly organized by the Norte del Valle cartel, one of Colombia's largest drugs organization, could be a revenge for intercepting cartel drug shipments.
Last year, the Costa Rica seized around 40 tons of cocaine shipped out of Colombia.

After spending nearly two weeks in Costa Rica, the Colombians were captured on Thursday and Friday and deported Saturday.

Costa Rica did not offer any evidence against the five men. Colombian authorities gave no more details on the suspects.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Costa Rica's constitutional court backs CAFTA-DR

by Leroy Baker,
Tax-News.com

Supporters of Costa Rica's involvement in the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) were given a boost on Tuesday when the country's constitutional court voted 5 to 2 that the treaty did not breach Costa Rica's constitution.

While Costa Rica's ratification of the treaty remains an uncertainty, the court's decision clears the way for a referendum to take place on whether the country should participate in CAFTA, which is scheduled for October 7, 2007.

While all the other signatories of CAFTA-DR, including the United States, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, have signed and ratified the agreement, Costa Rica remains divided over the measures contained in the treaty, and is the only country to waver on its commitments.

Opponents of the deal, such as trade unions, argue that by opening up the country to more foreign competition, wages will be driven down and unemployment will rise. Other opponents fear that the agreement could lead to a loss of sovereignty, as Costa Rica would be required to defer to a multinational arbitration panel in the event of a trade dispute. There is also plenty of opposition to the deal in the legislative assembly, and in May, 19 lawmakers presented a 130-page document explaining why CAFTA-DR would be bad for Costa Rica.

President Oscar Arias and his government however, argue to the contrary and believe that CAFTA-DR will increase foreign investment in Costa Rica, thus spurring economic growth. Last month, Standard & Poor's supported this view, and said that ratification of CAFTA-DR would boost the prospects for the Costa Rican economy.

However, opinion polls earlier this year suggested that the majority of the public do not share the government's view, with only 40% expressing support for the trade deal.

CAFTA would immediately eliminate duties on more than half the value of US farm exports to the region, expand intellectual property protections, and open telecommunications and other markets. It would also eliminate tariffs on 80% of US exports of consumer and industrial goods in signatory countries, with the remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Costa Rica foils plot to kill top officials

Photo by La Nacion newspaperGovernment deports suspects to Colombia

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Police have detained and deported five Colombians accused of planning to kill top Costa Rican officials, the country's security minister told local media.

Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said the suspects were hired by the Norte del Valle cartel in Colombia to kill the officials in retaliation for the Costa Rica's seizure of about 40 tons of cocaine over the past year, in comments published Sunday in the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion.

Berrocal and other officials familiar with the alleged plot could not be immediately be reached.

"There was a group of hit men in Costa Rica with the aim of trying to kill several high-level officials in this administration," Berrocal told La Nacion.

Berrocal did not say which officials were targeted in the alleged plot, but the newspaper La Nacion reported that the targets included Berrocal and Rodrigo Arias, the brother of President Oscar Arias who serves as his representative in the Cabinet.

Mario Zamora, director of the country's immigration service, told La Nacion the men were much more violent than the criminal suspects Costa Rica is accustomed to, and that played a role in the decision to deport them to Colombia rather than put them on trial here.

Zamora and the country's immigration service did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

The men arrived in Costa Rica illegally 10 days ago, were detained on Thursday and Friday and were deported to Colombia on Saturday.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Commuter train plans additional runs to meet demand

The Costa Rica Railroads Institute (Incofer) - Costa Rica's train authority - says that its commuter train has become so popular with Costa Ricans that it needs to add an additional trip during the afternoon hours.

The commuter train began operating in October 2005, carrying passengers between Pavas and San Pedro during morning and afternoon rush hours.

Incofer says that in May the number of ticos buying tickets on the commuter train reached 70.000, representing a huge increase if compared to the period of October to December 2005 when the train carried 6.000 passengers each month.

When the service began operating, the locomotive pulled three coaches carrying 50 seated and 15 standing passengers. Today, the locomotives are pulling eight coaches during each trip, moving an average of 3.200 passengers daily, compared to 270 back in October 2005.

The commuter train makes 13 trips daily at a cost of ¢300 colones (about 60 cents of a dollar).

The trip between Pavas and the downtown station is only 17 minutes, while the same trip, at 4:30 p.m. by bus, would take more than an hour.

Miguel Carabaguiaz, president of Incofer, says that the train has become so popular that in the afternoon some passengers are riding on the steps of the coaches.

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