Thursday, January 31, 2008

Costa Rica's Hotel Allegro Papagayo ordered shut down for sewage problems

By Dave Sherwood
Tico Times Staff

Health officials ordered the Hotel Occidental Allegro Papagayo to begin preparations for closure yesterday after discovering pipes dumping unidentified wastewater into an estuary adjoining its grounds.

Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila confirmed that the 300-room all-inclusive hotel, located in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, had received the orders and would soon be required to escort guests from the premises.

The announcement comes after repeated warnings and sanitary orders from local officials, who had kept tabs on the hotel since April, when an inspection revealed the hotel's sewage treatment plant had failed.

Shortly after the discovery, hotel manager Guillermo Guerra, in a letter signed and dated April 24, wrote that the problem had been "corrected," and that officials could “rest easy” knowing that it "would remain definitively eliminated in the future."

Following Guerra's assurances, officials discovered trucks leaving the hotel at the rate of 50 or more a day, carrying and depositing sewage in small-scale, sometimes archaic treatment plants that either lacked permits, or lacked the capacity to handle the loads.

The foul-smelling deliveries reached fever pitch in December, as sunny skies ushered tourists to Guanacaste's hotels.

Residents in the nearby towns of El Gallo and Santa Cruz, where the sewage was being delivered, cried foul, filing dozens of complaints, holding protests and blocking roads to prevent passage of the often unmarked trucks.

"The hotel was desperate," said Liberia municipal environment inspector Augusta Otarola, who last month outlined its seemingly panic-stricken activity in a meticulous detailed summary. "It should have been shut down long ago."

The issue was the lead story in Friday's Tico Times, which revealed the chain of events and the government foot-dragging that had allowed the hotel to operate despite countless irregularities.

Copies of The Tico Times article were forwarded by activists and concerned Costa Rican citizens to Health Minister Avila, as well as Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, and a Spanish-language translation was distributed to municipal officials.

The Allegro Papagayo, part of the global Spanish chain Occidental, is one of 25 concessionaires in the government-sponsored and directed Papagayo Tourism Project, the largest such development in Central America, and one which for decades has touted itself as "eco-friendly."

Activists have long decried the government's plans to up the total number of rooms in the 2,000 hectare (7.7 square mile) project from the originally proposed 1,500 to 26,450. They question whether the region could sustain the pressure.

Gadi Amit, of the well-established Guanacaste Brotherhood Fraternity, a local environmental group that has long highlighted lack of water and sewage problems in the region, said the recent discovery and closure puts the development situation in perspective.

"This kind of growth is simply not sustainable, and this is proof. Before the government invites more investors here, it needs to regain control and put a more realistic plan in place," he said.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Iran and Costa Rica tie in soccer friendly

Tehran (Mehr News Agency) - Wednesday's soccer friendly between Iran and Costa Rica at Tehran's Azadi stadium ended in a goalless draw.

The Iranian national football team met the Costa Rican team for its final preparation before the start of the Asian region qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Iranian team scored no goals in its three previous World Cup qualifier warmups and the dry spell continued on Wednesday.

The Iranian players played well in the first half but missed several precious opportunities to score. Iran's substitutes, brought on in the second half, were unable to breathe life into the team.

As a matter of fact, the Iranian team's form actually deteriorated in the second half.

Iran will compete against Kuwait, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates in Group Five of Asian region.

For the first time in Iranian football history, an international match was played without spectators because a broken water pipe made the stadium's lavatories unusable.

The 100,000-seater Azadi stadium, the main venue for Iran's international matches, has been unusable for more than a week and the technical problems could not be fixed in time for the Costa Rica game.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Costa Rica requests trade-pact delay

BY Marianela Jimenez
Associated Press

Although Costa Rica approved CAFTA late last year, it said it still hasn't passed necessary accompanying laws.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - President Oscar Arias said Tuesday he will ask the United States to delay implementation of a free-trade agreement to give the country time to pass several necessary local laws.

Costa Rica approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement in October, but its Congress has only passed four of 13 laws needed to launch it, Arias told Channel 7 news.

The deadline for implementation is Feb. 29, and Arias acknowledged that his administration would not be ready by that date.

"It is obvious that we aren't going to be able to go ahead, and that in the month of February we will have to ask for an extension," he said.

Costa Rica is the only one of the six countries in the region that has not yet ratified the treaty. The pact already has taken effect in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

A thin majority of Costa Ricans backed the pact in a national referendum on Oct. 7. Arias signed it into law in November.

The White House fought a bruising battle to get the deal ratified by the U.S. Congress in 2005, when it passed the House of Representatives by just two votes.

Among laws that still require approval in Costa Rica are the strengthening and modernizing of state telecommunications monopolies.

Arias estimated that lawmakers would need until at least the second half of February, but said to know for sure, he would need to speak with congressional leaders.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Moderatto and Enanitos Verdes close Palmares 2008

The Mexican rock group Moderatto performs during the 2008 Palmares Festivities in Alajuela, Costa Rica, January 27, 2008. Moderatto and the band "Enanitos Verdes," from Argentina, closed the two-week event. Here are some photos of Moderatto's show.

(Photo by Jorge Arce / La Nacion)

Photo courtesy of Detector de Metal

Photo courtesy of Detector de Metal

Photo courtesy of Detector de Metal

(Photo by Jorge Arce / La Nacion)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Twins will return to Costa Rica

By Barbara Feder Ostrov
Mercury News

After six months of doctors poking and prodding, multiple surgeries and daily physical therapy sessions, it is time for Yurelia and Fiorella Rocha-Arias to go home - not as one, but two.

Born joined at the chest and abdomen, the 2-year-old twins were successfully separated at Stanford University's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in November.

Now fully recovered, they are expected to return to their native Costa Rica with their mother and oldest sister as soon as their doctors clear them for travel.

"I feel very happy and content," said their grateful mother, Maria Elizabeth Arias, at a news conference Tuesday. "My girls were born anew in this hospital."

To read the whole story click here.

For more information on the twins click here. To access a photo gallery and watch videos released by the hospital click here.

Information and photo provided by the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alvaro Uribe calls FARC guerillas "terrorist mob"

Photo by Carlos Leon/La NacionBy Alvaro Murillo
La Nacion

San Mateo, Costa Rica - Colombian president Alvaro Uribe strongly criticized the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colmbia (FARC) while visiting Costa Rica.

Uribe called the guerilla group a "terrorist mob," four days after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged European and Latin American governments to stop branding the Colombian Marxists guerrillas as terrorists.

As he exhibited a never-before seen collection of photographs, showing hostages in precarious conditions that were published yesterday in Colombia, Uribe said there are no reasons to change the government's position towards the FARC.

"From Costa Rica I ask to the international community: can the people that torture like this be branded as aything else but terrorists? They will not fool us."

Uribe was in Costa Rica to celebrate the opening of an agricultural park founded by Colombian investors in the Central American nation.

While visiting the park in Alajuela Uribe also thanked the Costa Rican government and it's people for all the help that they have provided the Colombian refugees that have migrated there.

"Thank you for the hospitality that you have provided to these Colombians who, in darker days that we are now leaving behind, were able to find a warm reception in this country," Uribe said during a 27-minute speech.

Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias on the other hand said that it was an honor to welcome to the country such an outstanding Colombian that is fighting to bring back peace to Colombia

"Today Colombia can dream again, and can once again feel that it is possible to build a country where there will be no shots in the jungle, nor bombs in the city; a country where families won't be torn apart by kidnappings and the people will not be divided by weapons," Arias said.

Although he didn't mention Chavez's name during the speech, the Colombian President refused to give his opinion on the call of the Venezuelan leader to stop branding the FARC as terrorists.

Uribe simply urged the international community to keep the Colombian guerillas labeled as a terrorist group.

"Do you know when the guerrilla will sit down and negotiate?" Uribe asked. "When they feel that they have no allies left in the world."

The United States, France and Germany have already declared that they will keep the FARC labeled as terrorists.

The French government declared on Tuesday thru spokesman Pascale Andreani that they won't consider lifting the FARC's terrorist label until all the hostages held by the group are released.

Content from AFP Newswires was also used in this article.
Translation by Uri Ridelman

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sweden defeats Costa Rica in soccer friendly

Costa Rica's Ronal Gomez (C) fights for the ball with Sweden's Samuel Hormen (L) and Stefan Ishizaki during their friendly soccer match at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose January 13, 2008. Costa Rica lost 1-0. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Coco's Island among New 7 Wonders of Nature candidates

Costa Rica’s Coco's Island, which is a national park, is a strong candidate to become one of the world’s seven natural wonders, since the sponsor of the election, the Swiss foundation New7Wonders, has enlisted it among on of the favorite spots around the globe.

If chosen, the island would get a boost from donations and research. The island is home to a vast array of marine and land species which are found nowhere else, therefore its outstanding condition.

Anybody can cast his or her vote in the election of the new natural wonders by accessing, which will be receiving ballots through December 31, 2008.

In January 2009, a panel of experts will establish a list of 21 sites for the public to vote through the balance of that year. Finally, in mid 2010, the seven natural wonders chosen will be announced.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

More corridas de toros a la Tica

Here are some more pictures of the traditional toros a la Tica (Costa Rican bullfights) that take place in Zapote every year. More than 250 bullfighters participated in the traditional end and the beginning of year bullfight known in Costa Rica as "corridas a la tica". Pictures taken on January 1, 2008. (Juan Carlos Ulate / Reuters)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New dwarf salamander found in Costa Rica

Photo by Alex Munro / LiveScience( - Two new pinky-sized salamander species and one the size of a fingernail have been discovered crawling around in a remote Costa Rican forest.

The new species, found by botanist Alex Munro of the Natural History Museum, London, and colleagues while on expedition, are among 5,300 plants, insects and amphibians recorded during three explorations of La Amistad National Park on the Costa Rica–Panama border.

La Amistad is the biggest forest reserve in Central America, yet it remains one of the least explored places in the continent. These new discoveries, announced today, increase the number of salamander species in Costa Rica from 40 to 43, making it a center of diversity for these amphibians.

"Finding so many new species in one area is exciting, particularly as this is probably the only place in the world you can find these animals," said Monro, leader of a project to explore La Amistad and record its biodiversity. "It shows we still have a lot to learn about the variety of wildlife in this region. We have four more expeditions planned this year — who knows what we could find when we go back?"

Salamanders are amphibians, not lizards, with slender bodies and short legs, the latter of which they can regenerate if lost. They keep their skin moist, by living near water or swamps.

Two of the new salamanders are from the Bolitoglossa genus and are nocturnal, coming out at night to feed. The first Bolitoglossa species is 3 inches (8 centimeters) long and black, with a bold red stripe down its back and small yellow markings on its side.

The second Bolitoglossa species is 2.3 inches (6 centimeters) long and deep brown with a pale cream underside.

The third salamander is from the Nototriton (dwarf salamander) genus and is a mere 1 inch (3 centimeters) in length, with red-brown coloring and black markings on its side.

The specimens will be studied and named later by scientists at the University of Costa Rica, where they will form part of the national collections.

The expeditions are part of a project funded by the UK government’s Darwin Initiative to provide baseline information to underpin the conservation of La Amistad National Park. The Natural History Museum is working in partnership with Costa Rica’s national biodiversity institute, INBio, the University of Costa Rica, the University of Panama and Panama’s national parks authority.

La Amistad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it represents the most remote part of the Talamanca Mountains, mainly due to the treacherous terrain and lack of roads. It has been estimated that two thirds of all Costa Rica’s native species live there, including more than 250 species of reptiles and amphibians, 600 species of birds, 215 species of mammals and 14,000 species of plant.

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