Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Costa Rica opens 28th National Park

(Inside Costa Rica) - The Costa Rican government has declared the Los Quetzales region the country's 28th National Park. The 4,000 hectares of reserve were first created in 2005 in one of the rainiest parts of the country.

According to officials, the park owes its rich biodiversity to the seven different levels of altitude which house 25 different local species, 116 types of mammals and wetlands such as seasonal lagoons from the glacial era.

The Costa Rican government said the new Quetzales National Park would not only help to protect the diverse wildlife in this area, but also allow flourishing oak trees to continue to grow without being in danger of becoming extinct.

The new park boosts Costa Rica's protected territory from 25 to 26 per cent.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Costa Rican bullfights in Zapote

Las corridas de Toros a la Tica (Costa Rican bullfighs) were held once again in the traditional location of Zapote.

The fans were delighted as they saw the Costa Rican bullfighters (which are nothing but the average Ticos you see on the street) enter the ring to try to touch the bull's horns without getting killed.

The Costa Rican bullfights have the peculiarity that no bulls are injured or killed during the celebration, as opposed to the Mexican and Spanish versions.

Since the middle of the 19th Century, people from all over the country attend this kind of rodeo at the end of the year as a traditional celebration to say farewell to the old year.

The event was held during the last week of December and the first week of January. Here are some photos by Juan Carlos Ulate from Reuters news agency:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bush clears way for Costa Rica to join CAFTA

Washington (Reuters) – President George W. Bush cleared the way on Tuesday for Costa Rica to formally join a regional free trade agreement between the United States, the Dominican Republic and four other Central American countries.

Bush issued a proclamation that brings the pact into force between the United States and Costa Rica on January 1.

"This step marks an important milestone in our relationship with Costa Rica, building on our strong economic and political partnership," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

Costa Rica began negotiations with the United States on the agreement in January 2003, along with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and later the Dominican Republic.

It was the last of the five Central American countries to strike a deal with the United States, and then the last of all the CAFTA countries to ratify the pact.

Costa Rica's voters narrowly approved the trade deal in a referendum in October 2007, but the nation's lawmakers continued to haggle over its terms. The legislature finally voted to implement the agreement in November.

U.S. exports to the Dominican Republic and the five Central American countries hit a record $22.4 billion in 2007, Schwab's office said in a statement.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Costa Rican president asks businessmen to forgo salaries

San Jose (Xinhua) - President Oscar Arias has urged the businessmen of his country to forgo their salaries instead of cutting jobs, a newspaper reported Monday.

Arias made the call in an interview concerning the global financial crisis published Monday by local daily Diario Extra.

The president said that businessman could do without their salaries or reduce profits instead of making massive dismissals.

Arias also suggested that some sectors work less days to avoid the loss of jobs.

"I have suggested, and this is a good moment to show the generosity and solidarity of the Costa Rican people, that the owner of a company does not begin by dismissing people, but to begin by reducing expenses, cutting salaries by the half, even to reject it," Arias said.

Arias said his government has taken urgent measures to deal with the global crisis, including the approbation of a law allowing the capitalization of state-owned banks so that they can provide credit to the production sector.

The president said that 2009 will be a difficult year but he affirmed that Costa Rica is in a good position to face it because of a reduction of the country's debt during the past two years.

"Europe and U.S. are on recession. It is not the case of China nor India, neither ours, China will grow half of what it has been growing, Costa Rica will grow half or less of 3 or 3.5 percent," Arias said.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Aid for Limon floods in

Policemen, Red Cross workers and local kids help unload trucks and pile up donations earlier this week in Cuatro Millas, one of towns affected by recent flooding. The Costa Rican Red Cross this week has gone from door-to-door to bring aid to flood victims in the Caribbean province of Limon. (Photo: Lindy Drew / The Tico Times)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Jersey family chosen as Tiquicia's 2 millionth tourist

The Biedron family from New Jersey, from left, Mark, father; Matt, 18; Loring, 11; Laura, 20; Rose, 8; Henry, 9, and mom Gretchen, at Juan Santamaria International Airport yesterday listening to a translator detailing the reasons why they were chosen as the symbolic 2 millionth tourist to arrive, a Costa Rican record. (Photo: Ronald Reyes/The Tico Times)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Low coffee prices threaten farmers

Marcos Rivas picks ripe red coffee beans at a plantation in Atenas, 28 miles (35kms) west of San Jose December 17, 2008. Costa Rica's coffee farmers need international coffee prices, which have fallen because of the global financial crisis, to rise or else they face stiff losses this harvest.
(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Digital Arbor chooses Costa Rica for expansion

The financial crisis has forced many companies to hold back their expenditures, some even cutting jobs. However, there is good news for Costa Rica. DigitalArbor is doing exactly the opposite and setting shop in Costa Rica and creating some 500 new jobs.

DigitalArbor offers production services across a full range of digital communications, offering creative agencies and marketing corporations dramatic cost savings and rapid scalability in digital production.

According to CINDE - the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency - the company is expected to provide 500 jobs over the next two years and invest $2 million.

DigitalArbor said it chose Costa Rica because it's a country that has a good supply of trained human resources, an educational level at world standards, an adequate communications technology and a government that supports foreign investment.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Festival of Light illuminates San Jose

Floats parade during the 13th Festival of Lights held in Downtown San Jose, December 13 2008. The parade also included marching bands, cheerleading groups, and fireworks. (Photos: Inside Costa Rica)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Authorities arrest man that stabbed ex-wife 17 times

By Uri Ridelman

Agents of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) in Quepos, Puntarenas, arrested yesterday a man that on November 24 tried to kill his ex-wife by stabbing her 17 times.

Minor Morales, 51, was arrested around 12:40 p.m. after authorities received an anonymous tip alerting them of the location where the suspect was working. Apparently the tip was provided by a co-worker of Morales who saw his "wanted" photograph in a local newspaper

Morales had been released on November 25 by judge Rosa Castillo Cordero after spending just a day in jail. The conditions for the release forced him to stay away from the victim and her family, leave the town where the victim lived and attend a judicial dispatch to sign every two weeks.

Despite those orders, in recent days Morales used two payphones to place several calls to a phone used by the victim, Ana Campos Esquivel, to threaten her once again. Those calls, along with the anomymous tip, helped the authorities locate Morales.

Morales' recapture had been ordered on November 27 after an appeal was presented to a judicial tribunal and accepted by the three judges.

Ironically, Morales was released on the day that the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was being celebrated.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

IMF chief: Costa Rica well positioned for global slowdown

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn talks to the media next to Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias at Presidential house in San Jose December 11, 2008.(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)Washington (Dow Jones) - Costa Rica is in relatively good shape to weather the global economic slowdown, but the country's central bank should remain ready to act, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said Thursday.

Following meetings with President Oscar Arias, Finance Minister Guillermo Zuniga, and central bank chief Francisco de Paula Gutierrez, Strauss-Kahn said there was general agreement that a combination of domestic policy adjustment and external financing are needed to help the Costa Rican economy and people deal with the slowdown.

"In this regard, the country can confront the challenging global environment from a position of relative strength," he said in a statement. "The prudent fiscal stance of recent years provides the authorities with some room for maneuver."

The central bank must remain "vigilant" to ensure "a smooth adjustment in domestic demand and the current account deficit, maintain the attractiveness of local currency assets, and ensure that inflation expectations converge toward the central bank's inflation target," he said.

The IMF stands ready to help Costa Rica or other Latin American countries manage the difficult global environment, he said.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Costa Rica's Caribbean at risk for disease

(Photo: AFP/HO/File)By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times Staff

After days of record rain, the Caribbean is highly vulnerable to dengue and other diseases, health authorities say.

People wading in flooded areas risk contracting leptospirosis, a bacterial disease caused by contact with animal urine. Limon is also the province most susceptible to dengue, a viral disease carried by mosquitoes that lay eggs in pools of rainwater.

"As soon as the water recedes, we will begin to see the full problem in Limon," said Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila.
Leptospirosis and dengue have similar symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a more series form of the disease, can be fatal. While leptospirosis should be treated with antibiotics, there is no medication for dengue. Those infected should rest and drink fluids.

Health officials are now advising people to wear rubber boots to protect cuts from exposure to contaminated water. People should also treat or boil their water before drinking it, said Maria Ethel Trejos, who works at the ministry.

The Pan American Health Organization (OPS) is seeking a $45,000 donation from a foreign government to help control and prevent disease in Limon, said Andres Calvo at OPS. He said there is a “high probabil ity ” that the money will come through.

The Health Ministry, the OPS and the National Water and Sewer System (AyA) will decide how to spend the funds. The money could pay for testing drinking water, buying hydration powder for residents, or buying the chemical Abate to kill mosquito larvae, Calvo said.

Oscar Arias celebrates annual weapon-destruction ceremony

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, left, destroys an AK-47 rifle with the help of William Hildalgo, director of weapons for the Ministry of Public Security, at the presidential palace in San Jose, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008. Arias destroyed weapons seized from criminals to commemorate his 21st anniversary of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Picture of the day

The irony of life reflected in the poverty of Costa Rica: a homeless man sits outside the National bank in San Jose, December 9, 2008. The sign at the back reads "Your dream made a reality."
(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

25 Africans, en route to U.S., deported from Costa Rica

(Tico Times) - Immigration Police have deported a total of 25 African nationals who had entered Costa Rica illegally in recent weeks on their way to the United States.

In the most recent arrest, four men from the northeastern African country of Eritrea were arrested in Liberia, Guanacaste, in northwestern Costa Rica, en route to Nicaragua. The four men, all construction workers whose ages range from 26 to 35, are already back in their country in eastern Africa. Two of the men had identification cards from Italy and the other two from Malta.

Immigration Police Chief Francisco Castaing said in a statement that African migrants often first enter Italy illegally. While their immigration status is being resolved, they are issued an ID card that permits them to travel through the European Union. They then travel from Italy to Spain, and from there to Costa Rica, with the ultimate goal of continuing north to the United States.

Other routes include leaving Europe from Malta and entering Costa Rica by land, traveling from Venezuela and Panama.

Immigration officials believe the recent arrests indicate the existence of a network dedicated to transporting African nationals to the United States, according to a Public Security Ministry press release.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Destructive Koobface virus turns up on Facebook

Note: ok I know this isn't a Costa Rica-related article, however due to the popularity of Facebook all over the world I decided I had to post this here to let my friends, family and blog readers know about this cyber threat. Better to be safe than sorry, take care! ~ Uri R.

Boston (Reuters) - Facebook's 120 million users are being targeted by a virus dubbed "Koobface" that uses the social network's messaging system to infect PCs, then tries to gather sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

It is the latest attack by hackers increasingly looking to prey on users of social networking sites.

"A few other viruses have tried to use Facebook in similar ways to propagate themselves," Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in an e-mail. He said a "very small percentage of users" had been affected by these viruses.

Koobface spreads by sending notes to friends of someone whose PC has been infected. The messages, with subject headers like, "You look just awesome in this new movie," direct recipients to a website where they are asked to download what it claims is an update of Adobe Systems Inc's Flash player.

If they download the software, users end up with an infected computer, which then takes users to contaminated sites when they try to use search engines from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Live.com, according McAfee.

McAfee warned in a blog entry on Wednesday that its researchers had discovered that Koobface was making the rounds on Facebook.

Facebook requires senders of messages within the network to be members and hides user data from people who do not have accounts, said Chris Boyd, a researcher with FaceTime Security Labs. Because of that, users tend to be far less suspicious of messages they receive in the network.

"People tend to let their guard down. They think you've got to log in with an account, so there is no way that worms and other viruses could infect them," Boyd said.

Social network MySpace, owned by News Corp, was hit by a version of Koobface in August and used security technology to eradicate it, according to a company spokeswoman. The virus has not cropped up since then, she said.

Privately held Facebook has told members to delete contaminated e-mails and has posted directions at www.facebook.com/security on how to clean infected computers.

Richard Larmer, chief executive of RLM Public Relations in New York, said he threw out his PC after it became infected by Koobface, which downloaded malicious software onto his PC. It was really bad. It destroyed my computer," he said.

McAfee has not yet identified the perpetrators behind Koobface, who are improving the malicious software behind the virus in a bid to outsmart security at Facebook and MySpace.

"The people behind it are updating it, refining it, adding new functionalities," said McAfee's Schmugar.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle, Additional reporting by Emily Kaiser; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Costa Rica ousts top two intel officials

DIS director Roberto Solorzano resigned after the scandal  (Photo: La Nacion/FILE)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) – Costa Rica has replaced its two top intelligence officials because a government password apparently was used to loot private bank accounts.

Prosecutors have accused the deputy director of the Intelligence and Security Directorate (DIS), Roberto Guillen, of helping steal from private bank accounts after accessing credit reports through a government account with a private data company.

The president's office on Wednesday announced that the agency's director, Roberto Solorzano, had resigned after acknowledging the agency's "negligence in the handling of the password." Jose Torres, a top adviser to President Oscar Arias, will succeed Solorzano, who has not been accused of any crime.

Prosecutors say Guillen was part a ring that used falsified checks to steal at least $360,000 from Costa Rican businessmen. Guillen allegedly used the password to access credit reports on the victims. Guillen was arrested in November but is free pending further investigation.

Cabinet Chief Rodrigo Arias said the government will propose legal reforms to the intelligence agency to better define its jurisdiction.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Costa Rica, Singapore start trade talks

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias (AP/File Photo)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is in Singapore to start talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.

The accord will cover investment, services, telecommunications and tourism, among other areas.

Arias has long lobbied for greater economic ties with Asia. He hopes the trade accord will encourage Singapore to invest in and develop Costa Rica's Caribbean ports.

The president on Tuesday met with Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore has trade agreements with Chile, Peru and Panama.

Costa Rican exports to Singapore totaled $31.5 million and imports reached $26.4 million in 2007.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Floods leave 46,000 people homeless in Costa Rica

A Costa Rican Red Cross member helps evacuate two residents stranded in the flooded Sixaola area. (Photo:Carlos Rodriguez/Al Dia Newspaper)(Xinhua) - The flooding caused by heavy rains during the past days has left at least 46,000 people homeless and caused at least $22 million in losses in Costa Rica, the National Commission of Emergencies (CNE) said Friday.

CNE President Daniel Gallardo told reporters that highways, roads and crops suffered damage, and economic loss is expected to rise as houses and aqueducts need to be repaired and water wells cleaned.

The CNE said that among the homeless, nearly 6,000 people remained at shelters until Thursday, and 35 towns isolated by water could only be accessed by air.

Landslides blocked the road linking San Jose and Limon. The Limon port, 150 km east of San Jose, is the main departure point of exports.

Because of the disaster, the authorities have decided to postpone the National Sports Games Limon 2009 until June.

The Costa Rican government is considering a declaration of "national emergency" to channel $4 million to the most affected areas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tribunal revokes freedom of man who was released after stabbing ex-wife 17 times

Ana Campos Esquivel is recovering in a Hospital in Osa,Puntarenas, after being stabbed 17 times. (Photo: Juan Diego Jara/La Nacion)By Uri Ridelman

The recapture of a man that tried to kill his ex-wife by stabbing her 17 times has been ordered after an appeal was presented to a judicial tribunal and accepted by the three judges.

Mainor Morales, 51, had been released by judge Rosa Castillo Cordero after spending just a day in jail under the conditions that he stays away from victim Ana Campos Esquivel and her family, leaves the town where she lives and goes to a judicial dispatch to sign every two weeks.

The attack took place in Osa, Puntarenas, and apparently the motive was a restraining order that Campos had requested against Morales. After their divorce and suffering physical abuse during their years of marriage Campos said that Morales had repeatedly threatened to kill her. Police expects to carry the arrest of Morales within the next few hours. Morales is believed to be staying with family members in the area of San Isidro del General in Perez Zeledon.

Ironically, Morales was released on the day that the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was being celebrated.

Information from newspapers La Nacion and Diario Extra was used on this story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One dead and more than 5,000 evacuated due to Costa Rican floods

Costa Rican Red Cross workers evacuate people from their flooded homes near Sixaola, Costa Rica, on the border with Panama, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008. Heavy rains have caused flooding and landslides in southern Costa Rica and western Panama forcing thousands of people to flee the area. One dead, some 5.000 evacuated in 39 communities, 17 towns cut off and 28 roads affected are the result of the rain that has been falling on the Caribbean coast for the last five days. (AP Photo/La Nacion, Marvin Carvajal)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Women protest against violence

Costa Rican women hold up signs with names of victims at a protest during the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in San Jose, November 25, 2008. Authorities from the National Institute of Woman said 30 Costa Rican women have died due to aggression by their partners this year. (Photo:Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Note: Ironically a female judge decided to celebrate this international day by releasing a man who just last Monday tried to kill his ex-wife by stabbing her 17 times. After spending a day in jail the man was released under the conditions that he stays away from the victim and her family, leaves the town where she lives and goes to a judicial dispatch to sign every two weeks. An appeal is being presented by the authorities to order the re-capture of this dangerous individual. More information to come as it becomes available.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Costa Rica arrests six for medicine shipments to US

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - A Costa Rican official says two Americans and four others have been arrested for allegedly sending restricted pharmaceutical drugs to the United States.

Security Minister Janina del Vecchio says the Americans were responsible for shipping the drugs, while two Costa Ricans led the group and two Colombians were in charge of managing a virtual pharmacy on the Internet and buying the drugs in Guatemala.

She said the ring sent at least 80 packages containing Lorazepam, Ritalin, Tafil and Arcedol, among other drugs, to the Unites States since February.

This is the second group arrested in the last 12 months in Costa Rica that allegedly shipped restricted pharmaceuticals to the U.S.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Costa Rica puts $15 tax on plane tickets

(Photo by Corbis)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) – Tourists flying into Costa Rica will soon have to pay a new $15 tax.
The new tax on plane tickets replaces a 3 percent tax on hotel rooms that generated just $10 million a year and was hard to enforce.

The new tax should generate $25 million a year to help the Costa Rica Tourism Institute attract more visitors.

Tourism is a $2 billion a year industry in Costa Rica. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the country known for its eco-tourism. The new tax was approved late Thursday by Congress and should take effect later this year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

6.2 quake strikes Costa Rica-Panama border

Graphic by La Nacion newspaperSan Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - A 6.2 earthquake has struck overnight on the frontier between Panama and Costa Rica, shaking people in their beds but causing no damage or injuries. Costa Rica's earthquake observatory says the quake struck just after midnight Wednesday, about 15 miles (25 kms) deep. Its epicenter was 7 miles (12 kms) north of the Panamanian frontier town of Puerto Armuelles. Red Cross officials say the quake felt quite strong but there were no injuries or casualties to report. Some border towns, however reported damage. At Ciudad Neily Hospital, where eight surgeries had to be suspended, a water tank and shelves fell over according to the daily La Nacion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chinese president leaves gifts behind in whirlwind tour of Costa Rica

(AP Photo)By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times Staff

Costa Rica and China signed 11 agreements yesterday on free trade, education, energy and aid during Chinese President Hu Jintao's first Central American visit, which lasted less than 24 hours.

The China National Petroleum Corporation agreed to help Costa Rica expand its refinery in Moin on the Caribbean coast at a total cost of about $1 billion, to be split between the two nations. The refinery, which could be completed in 2013, would be able to process 60,000 barrels a day, up from 25,000 currently, said Jose Leon Desanti, president of the Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE).

China and Costa Rica will also begin negotiations for a free-trade agreement Jan. 19 in San Jose. Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said he expected to complete talks by May 2010, when President Oscar Arias leaves office.

In addition, China has agreed to establish a Confucius Institute at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) to spread Chinese language and culture. The institute will open in the coming weeks with four Chinese language professors, said UCR president Yamileth Gonzalez.

China also pledged additional funds for the construction of a national stadium in La Sabana Park on the western edge of San Jose. China will now invest $83 million in the stadium, $10 million more than originally expected.

State banks Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional will each receive credit lines of $40 million from the China Development Bank.

Hu, the first Chinese head of state to visit Central America, signaled his readiness to further tighten ties with Costa Rica.

"China is willing to intensify our contacts with the Costa Rican government, Congress and political parties…to cooperate further in such sectors as the economy, commerce, finance, energy, science, technology, the reduction of poverty and tourism, among other issues," he said at a press conference, as Arias nodded slightly at his side.

During this Latin American trip the Chinese leader will also visit Cuba, Peru and Greece, and attend the Economic Leaders' Informal Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hu Jintao hopes legistalive bodies will help strengthen China-Costa Rica relations

Costa Rican presidential guards provide security as China's President Hu Jintao, unseen, visits the Legislative Assembly in San Jose, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. (AP Photo)(Xinhua) - On Monday, the second day of his visit to Costa Rica, Chinese President Hu Jintao said he hoped the two countries' legislative bodies would strengthen contacts and make efforts to promote mutual understanding.

Hu, the fist ever Chinese head of state to visit Costa Rica and Central America, met with Francisco Pacheco, president of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly.

The Costa Rican legislators come from different political parties, but they have the consensus on maintaining and developing the friendship between the two countries, Hu said.

He also expressed the hope that Costa Rican legislators would play a greater role as a bridge linking up the two countries' business groups, cultural bodies, scientific institutes, news media and local governments in efforts to consolidate and expand the social foundation for the friendship between the two nations, Hu said.

Pacheco said the establishment of diplomatic ties has helped promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples and also created a favorable environment for strengthening bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

After the establishment of diplomatic ties with China, Costa Rica now has an "important friend and partner" in the world, he said.

Speaking at the meeting, many Costa Rican legislators from different political parties agreed that the establishment of diplomatic ties is of strategic significance. They also thanked China for providing support and help for Costa Rica in its economic and social development.

Chinese, Costa Rican presidents discuss ties, pledging efforts to promote co-op

Hu Jintao meets with Oscar at the residence of the Costa Rican leader (Photo: Xinhua news agency)(Xinhua) - Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday spoke highly of the rapid development of China-Costa Rica relations and pledged efforts to further expand bilateral cooperation in various fields.

During talks with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez on the second day of his state visit to the Central American nation, Hu said mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields has been growing steadily.

Noting the fast growth in bilateral ties over the past year, the Chinese president said the two countries have also carried out fruitful cooperation in international and regional affairs.

"Facts have proven that the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Costa Rica conforms to the fundamental and long-term interests of both countries and peoples," Hu said. The two countries set up diplomatic ties in June 2007.

The two countries should make efforts to push for long-term and stable development of bilateral ties and cooperation, Hu said.

"China is ready to work with Costa Rica to open up a bright future for bilateral ties characterized by mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit, sincere cooperation and friendship for generations to come," he added.

On economic cooperation, Hu said the two countries should strengthen their cooperation mechanisms and expand areas of cooperation.

Hu hoped the two sides would reach agreement on a free trade pact at an early date, in the spirit of friendly consultations and mutual understanding and accommodation.

The Chinese government will continue to encourage competent Chinese enterprises to invest in Costa Rica, he said.

It will also support pragmatic cooperation between enterprises of the two countries in such key areas as infrastructure, agriculture, telecommunications and energy, he added.

Arias agreed with Hu's views and stressed the importance of strengthening trade and economic ties with China.

Costa Rica hopes to strengthen cooperation with China in port construction, development of high-tech parks as well as Chinese language teaching, he said.

Arias said he hoped the two countries would establish a dialogue mechanism at a higher level so as to further promote the development of bilateral ties.

The two leaders also exchanged views on the global financial crisis and agreed to strengthen coordination and cooperation in international affairs.

After their meeting, the two leaders witnessed the signing of 11 cooperation agreements on trade, economy, finance, energy, education and technology, and announced the launch of bilateral negotiations on a free trade pact.

China is Costa Rica's second biggest trading partner. In 2007, bilateral trade amounted to $2.8 billion, a 33-percent increase over the previous year.

The Chinese president, who is on a five-nation trip, flew into San Jose from Washington, where he attended a Group of 20 summit on the current international financial crisis.

He will later visit Cuba, Peru and Greece, and attend the Economic Leaders' Informal Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hu Jintao arrives to Costa Rica

Chinese president Hu Jintao arrives to Costa Rica 's Juan Santamaria International Airport, near Alajuela Costa Rica, Sunday November 16,2008. Hu Jintao is in Costa Rica to begin the first visit by a Chinese leader to Central America. During the visit his agenda will include a meeting with the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly and a private encounter with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias to sign 11 bilateral accords and talk about a free-trade agreement between the two nations. The Chinese president, who is on a five-nation tour, flew in on Sunday from Washington, where he attended a Group of 20 summit on the current international financial crisis. Here are some photos provided by Associated Press and Xinhua news agency.

(AP Photo)

(Photo: Xinhua/Li Xueren)

(Photo: Xinhua/Li Xueren)

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Placido Domingo provides outstanding performance in Costa Rica

Spanish tenor Placido Domingo performed at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, November 14, 2008. Here are some pictures taken from the newswires and a video of the concert provided by La Nacion.

(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Protesters block arrival of cruise ship

(Inside Costa Rica) - A cruise ship carrying 1,300 passengers that was scheduled to arrive at Costa Rica's Pacific port of Puntarenas had to be diverted to Panama because of a protest by fishermen that left three people arrested and caused an estimated $250,000 in losses, Costa Rican authorities said Thursday.

The detainees, according to a statement by the Security Ministry, were captains of small fishing vessels who barred the entrance of the Coral Princess in a protest over a new law banning shark finning, the controversial process of removing shark fins - often while the animal is still alive.

Fishermen now must unload the whole shark at docks to comply with the law.

La Nacion on Thursday reported that the Princess Cruises cruise line sent a protest note to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute over the incident. Tourists could have spent as much as $250,000 on handicrafts made by local artisans, food at restaurants, and guided tours offered by local tourism companies, he said.

During Costa Rica's cruise season, from October to April, some 125 vessels carrying 140,000 passengers are expected to arrive at Costa Rica's Pacific ports of Puntarenas and Caldera and an equal number at Atlantic port of Limon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Costa Rica's Congress passes final bill needed for CAFTA approval

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rica is finally ready to join the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

On Tuesday, lawmakers overcame the final intellectual-property hurdle by allowing schools and universities to copy some materials and by reducing prison time for those guilty of selling pirated goods.

President Oscar Arias said his office will quickly finalize the paperwork needed for CAFTA to take effect in Costa Rica on January 1.

The country signed the accord in 2004 along with the rest of Central America, the United States and the Dominican Republic.

But its implementation has been stalled for four years by opposition lawmakers who didn't want to open Costa Rica's powerful state-run telecommunications and insurance industries to competition. Others felt the required intellectual-property laws dictating jail time for violators were too strict.

Costa Ricans voted for the trade deal in a national referendum a year ago, moving it forward. But then it became stalled again as congress squabbled over the enabling legislation dealing with 13 different aspects of the deal.

"After more than four and a half years of debate, two extensions and one historic referendum in which the majority said they agreed with the free trade accord, we are finally closing this chapter," said the president's spokesman and brother, Rodrigo Arias.

Costa Rica's agriculture sector stands to benefit the most from the new agreement, particularly specialized fruits and vegetables such as pineapple and yucca. Costa Ricans are also hoping competition in the cellular phone industry will lower costs and offer more services.

Under the state-run monopoly, it was difficult to even get a new line.

While several telecommunications companies have expressed interest in starting up businesses in Costa Rica after January 1, there hasn't been the same level of interest in the insurance industry, mostly because of the global financial crisis.

Chamber of Commerce President Manuel Rodriguez said the accord "opens a window of opportunities for small businesses."

The pending deal has mobilized large protests in Costa Rica in the past, but Tuesday's news came with no public opposition.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Placido Domingo arrives to Costa Rica

Spanish tenor Placido Domingo speaks during a press conference in San Jose, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008. Domingo will perform in concert for the first time in Costa Rica on Friday. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hu to visit Costa Rica, first Chinese president in Central America

San Jose, Costa Rica (DPA) - Chinese President Hu Jintao is set to visit Costa Rica beginning Sunday, in the first visit by a Chinese leader travels to Central America. "It will be a historic visit," a Costa Rican Foreign Ministry official told German press agency DPA.

Central America has traditionally favoured Taiwan, but Costa Rica switched recognition to China in June 2007, after 63 years of ties with Taipei. Only 23 countries recognize Taiwan, and half of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The bilateral agenda between China and Costa Rica includes talks towards a free-trade agreement.

China has granted Costa Rica millions of dollars in financial cooperation, buying bonds from the Central American country and promising to build a modern football stadium in San Jose.

Taiwan has said that it accepts its allies recognizing China if they also maintain diplomatic ties with Taipei. But China, which sees Taiwan as its breakaway province, insists that foreign countries must first cut ties with Taiwan before they can open diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Construction sector hit hard by international crisis

Labourers work at a construction site in Escazu near San Jose November 10, 2008. The country's Construction Chamber said that 20,000 workers have lost their jobs due to the impact of the international financial crisis. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Red Cross tax approved

Red Cross workers wave their flags in front of the Legislative Assembly yesterday, cheering the approval by legislators of the plan of that will impose a special one percent tax on all phone bills to finance the work of the organization. The tax will be applied to all telephone bills - both fixed line and cellular - of over ¢5.000. The tax is expected to raise ¢2.5 billion colones a year for the Costa Rican Red Cross. The bill requires a second reading before it becomes law. (Photo: Pablo Montiel/Inside Costa Rica)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Costa Rica celebrates historic U.S. election

U.S. study abroad students, from left, Amanda Lawrence, 20, from Detroit, Michigan, Caitlain Kelly, 22, from San Francisco, California, Anna Rohde, 21, from South Dakota, Benjamin Weidman, 22, from New York, hold up a life-size poster of President-elect Barack Obama while celebrating in western San Jose. (Photo: Lindy Drew/Tico Times)By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times Staff

Tico leaders from across the political spectrum cheered Democratic candidate Barack Obama's victory yesterday after he became the first black president-elect of the United States.

Winning a large majority of Latino voters, Obama captured 349 electoral votes, compared to 162 for Republican candidate John McCain, excluding North Carolina and Missouri, tossups at press time.

"I think Barack Obama's election is huge – huge for the United States and also for the world," President Oscar Arias, who represents the social democratic National Liberation Party (PLN), said in a recorded statement. "He is new blood. He has some of the idealism of John F. Kennedy. He will no doubt do a great job directing U.S. policy, above all its foreign policy."

Obama's face plastered the covers of every major Spanish-language newspaper yesterday, and his name was on the lips of Ticos and expats alike. Many cheered his election as a welcome change after eight years of Republican President George W. Bush, who is little liked within the United States and around the world.

Epsy Campbell, president of the left-leaning Citizen Action Party (PAC), said Obama's election was "one of the most emotional events of my political life."

"He represents the change that the United States needs and that the world was waiting for," said Campbell, who is of Afro-Caribbean descent. "He broke the glass ceiling for African-Americans and Afro descendents in Latin America and across the world…I thought about all our black ancestors who fought for our people's rights. Barack Obama embodies (that) fight."

Ana Helena Chacon, a lawmaker for the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), was rooting for Obama, even though her party has historically aligned itself with the Republicans.

"I hope relations with Latin America improve," she said. "There have been few efforts at cooperation, except in the field of security."

Even Otto Guevara, leader of the Libertarian Movement (ML) party and a hesitant McCain supporter, saw a silver lining in Tuesday's results.

"McCain's speech was extraordinary," he said. "He put himself at the service of the new president and (promised) to work together for the good of the United States."

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