Friday, February 29, 2008

Foreign Ministry investigating Costa Rican consul in Nicaragua

Victor Lascarez (Photo by La Nacion)Victor Lascarez helped two Arab men obtain a visa to enter Costa Rica and drove them to the border.

Alvaro Murillo
La Nacion

The consul of Costa Rica in Managua, Nicaragua is being investigated by the Foreign Ministry for helping two Arab men obtain a visa to enter the country and then driving them himself to the Penas Blancas border post.

The Foreign Ministry and the Minister of the Presidency, Rodrigo Arias, confirmed that a report about the acts of the consul is being prepared, but they declined to give any additional information about te case.

Nicaraguan police is also investigating the case accrding to commissioner Alonso Sevilla but they haven't released any information yet.

Even though the two arabs entered the country separately, they did cross the border the same day: September 13, 2007.

According to a police report that is now in hands of the Foreign Ministry the Arabs, whose last name is Ziad and Owadely, were helped by Lascarez that day as he drove each of them to the border in his vehicle.

According to that same report Lascarez drove the Lebanese man to the border even though he had an irregular migratory status in Nicaragua. Whether or not Lascarez knew this is unclear.

Furthermore, it's been revealed that a Costa Rican woman is married to one of the Arabs although it hasn't been specified to which one.

Lascarez requested a visa for both men and since the immigration service failed to detect any anomalies in their migratory history the visas were authorized, something that has been confirmed by Mario Zamora, director of the immigration service.

When La Nacion called Lascarez he refused to comment on the situation, claiming that the press office of the Foreign Ministry told him not to talk with the media.

However, Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno said later that they had not prohibited Lascarez from talking to the press and that he is authorized to do so if he desires.

Lascarez did accept later over the phone that the decision of not talking to the press was his own and that the only way he will do so is through the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry press office also told La Nacion that the case is now in the hands of the President's Office, but Minister Rodrigo Arias declined to make any further comments.

"The Foreign Ministry is responsibly in the last stages of an ongoing investigation. Rest assured that we'll act accordingly as soon as we have the result of such investigation," Rodrigo Arias answered by e-mail.

Translated by Uri Ridelman

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ICE and Alcatel make up

ICE president Pedro Pablo Quiroz. Photo by La NacionICE president says "there is no other option"

Despite the scandals that rocked the country as alleged payoffs went as high as a former president, Costa Rica's state-owned telecommunications authority, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, or ICE, has awarded the French telecommunications firm contracts worth millions of dollars.

Even though Alcatel faces a judicial trial for bribery of public officials, last September ICE approved a contract for $1.8 million for Alcatel to adapt 70 percent of the fixed line telephone centrals and a cellular central for the move to an eigh digit telephone system that goes into effect March 20.

In addition to the ICE contract, Radiográfica Costarricense, S. A. (Racsa), a ICE subsidiary, awarded Alcatel a $440.000 contract to provide maintenance to their TDM node, according to Racsa spokesperson, Elbert Duran.

Duran added that Racsa has also awarded Lucent a $3 million dollar contract for the installation of high capacity data transmission network called metro ethernet. Lucent is now part of Alcatel.

Waldemar Nunez, ICE provider of services, added that the institution has awarded Alcatel a number of smaller contracts for parts and maintenance of various systems.

In 2004 Alcatel was uncovered to have made payoffs to high level ICE officials to obtain a mobile telephone contract to install 400.000 GSM lines in Costa Rica.

Former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez (1998-2002) was figured as have received a payoff and is now waiting his day in court after having to quit as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) only a month after being elected to the post and promptly arrested when he returned to Costa Rica.

There is a case pending as ICE filed charges against Alcatel and last year, Pedro Pablo Quiros, president of ICE, announced that it would be cutting all ties with Alcatel, especially with the problems of network coverage and service of that network.

ICE was also in the process of claiming some $60.6 million from Alcatel because of the problems with the 2002 purchase and installation. However, ICE agreed to drop the claim in exchange for some 200.000 additional GSM lines to be provided by Alcatel.

Quiros defended the recent contracts saying that 70 percent of the fixed line centrals are of Alcatel equipment and are strongly dependent on that company as it has been supplying equipment for the last 15 years. Quiros added that as the country moves to an eight digit system it had no other option but to purchase equipment from Alcatel to effect the change.

The problem it appears, is that the maintenance and upgrade of the equipment are of exclusive technology and that only the original supplier can provide maintenance and parts, explained Quiros.

The ICE president said that it was better to have committed to the present solution of exchanging more cellular lines and equipment rather than wait five or more years before being able to collect on its claim.

Giovanni Bonilla, ICE's legal director, added that the exchange of lines and equipment and the awarding of additional contracts to Alcatel does not eliminate the claim by ICE of $20 million that is before the courts for damage to its image caused by the Alcatel scandal of alleged payoffs to ICE officials.

Information provided by Inside Costa Rica, written and translated from a La Nacion newspaper article.

Costa Rica wins 7-month CAFTA deadline extension

President Oscar Arias salutes the crowd during CAFTA's referendum victory speech at the Presidential House, October 7, 2007. File photo (Associated Press)San Jose, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rica has won a seven-month extension from its U.S. and regional trading partners to pass laws required for its entry into the CAFTA free trade pact, President Oscar Arias said on Wednesday.

Costa Rica was about to miss a deadline on Friday to pass a dozen laws needed for it to implement the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement. It now has until October 1 to comply.

"We've won the extension from the Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and the United States so that the legislative assembly can get to know and approve the implementation agenda," Arias told a news conference.

Only half the necessary legislation has passed a first hearing in Costa Rica's Congress, held up by the Citizen's Action Party, or PAC, but Arias said opposition parties had now agreed to try and get the required laws passed in 90 days.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Washington would work closely with Costa Rica to complete the measures. "Today's agreement will give Costa Rica until October 1, 2008, although we hope that Costa Rica will complete its implementing process before that date," Schwab said in a statement.

Costa Rica narrowly approved CAFTA in a referendum in October, but lawmakers have been haggling over its terms.

A clause requiring the country's state-run telecommunications industry and its insurance business to open to foreign competition has proved particularly thorny. PAC lawmakers say the required laws will damage state-run companies, endangering welfare funding.

Arias said in January he would seek an extension to the CAFTA deadline as business leaders worried that unless Washington agreed to more time, Costa Rica would lose existing preferential tariff access to the U.S. market.

Sectors such as textiles and tuna, which provide around 20,000 jobs, could have suffered a crippling jump in U.S. import tariffs, while the fast-growing call-center market may also have been hurt without a free-trade deal in place.

CAFTA, the second-largest U.S. export market in Latin America after Mexico, includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica, a popular eco-tourism destination, would be the only CAFTA member not to have implemented the accord by the .

U.S. Assistant Commerce Secretary Christopher Padilla is due to meet Arias in San Jose today.

(Reporting by John McPhaul; Writing by Catherine Bremer)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Iron Maiden's concert in Costa Rica

These are three videos provided by La Nacion newspaper containing parts of Iron Maiden's "Somewhere Back in Time" concert at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose Costa Rica, February 26, 2008. The first one lasts over five minutes and shows the concert's opening song. Hope you like them.

Note: high speed internet connection is recommended to watch the videos

Iron Maiden's concert in Costa Rica: The Trooper

Here's a Youtube video by an Iron Maiden fan that filmed Bruce Dickinson performing the song The Tropper as part of their "Somewhere Back in Time" concert at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San Jose Costa Rica, February 26, 2008.

Costa Rica's Iron Maiden's concert: Eddie on stage

Youtube video filmed by a fan of Iron Maiden that attended the "Somewhere Back in Time" concert at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 26, 2008. This video shows a part of the concert in which Iron Maiden's mascot, Eddie, showed up on stage as the band played one of its smash hits. Enjoy the video!

Note: a high-speed video connection is recommended to watch the video

Photos of Iron Maiden's concert in Costa Rica

British heavy metal band Iron Maiden performed at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in Tibas, San Jose, Costa Rica, February 26, 2008. The legendary rock group surpassed the expectations of its Central American fans and ended its "Somewhere Back in Time" concert by promising to come back to Costa Rica in the near future. All photos taken by Monica Quesada from Reuters news agency.

For a photo gallery with the pictures of Iron Maiden's concert taken by La Nacion newspaper click here.

For a photo gallery with the pictures of Iron Maiden's concert taken by Al Dia newspaper click here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Iron Maiden lands in Costa Rica

The legendary British heavy metal band Iron Maiden arrives to Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria International Airport aboard their own private plane "Ed Force One," February 25, 2008. The British rockers will perform at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in Tibas, San Jose, on February 26. (Video by La Nacion)

Note: A high-speed internet connection is recommended to watch the video.

Did you know:
-The "Somewhere Back in Time" concert will be in San Jose, Costa Rica, but the fans attending it will be composed by more than just Ticos. Thousands of Iron Maiden fans from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will be at Ricardo Saprissa stadium to sing many of the band's hits.

-About 1,000 fans from El Salvador will arrive to Costa Rican territory in eight buses to watch the iconic's band concert.

-Almost 30 thousand fans are expected at the concert.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Israeli diplomat postpones meeting after Costa Rica recognizes Palestinian state

By Marianela Jimenez

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Israel has postponed a planned meeting with Costa Rican officials over the Central American nation's decision to formally recognize a Palestinian state.

The meeting between President Oscar Arias and an Israeli diplomat, scheduled for Wednesday, "was postponed, but we are looking to reschedule," Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno said Monday.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said Israel had summoned the Costa Rican charge d'affaires and instructed its ambassador to convey a message to San Jose.

"We would like to express our disappointment over this regretful decision of the government of Costa Rica to establish full diplomatic relations with the 'state of Palestine,'" Mekel said. "This act of Costa Rica totally contradicts the traditional friendship that characterized its relations with Israel since its establishment."

Stagno has said Costa Rica hoped to encourage peace talks on Feb. 5 when it recognized a Palestinian state - a key demand on the part of the Palestinians.

In August 2006, Arias' administration announced that Costa Rica would move its embassy to Tel Aviv from the hotly disputed city of Jerusalem.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but most nations don't formally recognize that claim. Costa Rica and El Salvador had been the only two countries with embassies there until announcing in the same month that they would relocate.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ticos went camping for Iron Maiden's concert

Costa Rican Iron Maiden's fans arrived outside of the Ricardo Saprissa stadium, in Tibas, San Jose, four days in advance of the concert and started camping there. They spent the day singing, just hanging together with fellow fans and eating whatever they could just to make sure they didn't lose their place in line. In the end the police arrived and convinced the fans to dismantle their tents and to camp farther from the stadium for both security and health reasons. Video is in Spanish, sorry for the inconvenience.

Note: A high-speed internet connection is recommended to watch the video.

Video by La Nacion

Former president Jose Maria Figueres now a citizen of Spain

Former Costa Rican president, Jose Maria Figueres Olsen (1994-1998), was granted citizenship by Spain, a member of the European Union, according to a statement by the Consejo de Ministros de España (Spain's Ministers Council). Figueres was granted citizenship on Friday, February 22.

With the Spanish citizenship, Figueres is now a Costa Rican, Spanish and Swiss national, who earlier this week said that he would be coming to Costa Rica, perhaps in June, to attend to family matters.

Figueres was wanted for questioning by a legislative committee into his admitted receiving payment of us$900.000 from the French telecommunications firm, Alcatel, which was embroiled in a pay off scandal that has involved former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez (1998-2002) and several top level government and Alcatel officials.

Figueres was never indicted and admitted receiving the payment for consulting fees, payment that was received well after he left the presidency.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lending a hand to Costa Rica's endangered animals

A three-month-old Howler Monkey calls out as it is held by a worker at the Endangered Wildlife Rescue Center near Alajuela, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. The baby Howler Monkey was brought to the center after its mother died, presumably when it was hit by a car, according to the Center. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Environmental meeting in Montecarlo

Prince Albert II of Monaco (L) and Roberto Dobles, Costa Rica's Minister of Environment and Energy and President of the Governing Council, attend the special session of the United Nations environmental Program (UNEP) in Monte Carlo, February 20, 2008. The meeting is the largest gathering of environmental leaders from around the globe. REUTERS/Pascal Deschamps

Monday, February 18, 2008

Macaw refuge in Costa Rica

(Reuters) - An American couple spends decades in Costa Rica providing sanctuary for Macaws. Some fear the Macaw, already an endangered species could disappear from Costa Rica in 10 years. Deborah Lutterbeck reports. Speakers: Richard and Margot Frisius

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Whales and dolphins protected by government decree

Whales and dolphins enjoy Costa Rican government protection now that President Oscar Arias has signed a ban on the “pursuit, capture, injury, netting or commercialization” of these creatures in the country's 640,000 square kilometer marine territory. While the decree makes the policy official, Costa Rica has traditionally never had a whale hunt, unlike nations such as Japan and Iceland, and dolphins have rarely been the target of commercial fishermen here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Costa Rican women can now remarry within 300 days

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rica's Constitutional Court struck down a law on Thursday that required women to wait 300 days to remarry after divorce.

Lawyer Kattia Umana challenged the law as sexist because the same rule did not apply to men.

Under the law, women were allowed to remarry within 300 days of a divorce only if two medical doctors confirm that they are not pregnant, or if they give birth within the restricted time period.

The law was designed to protect fathers' parental rights. But the court determined that there are other ways, such as DNA testing, of settling paternity disputes.

Congress now must change the law, and lawmakers are expected to act within the next few days.

Note: This was a historic day not only because of the law change but because for the first time ever the court allowed oral testimony, usually no such audiences are granted. Furthermore the case resolution was reached just 30 minutes after the session ended, a record time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Costa Rica's Grand Papagayo hotel under microscope

By Dave Sherwood
Tico Times Staff

Officials began investigating the Hotel Occidental Grand Papagayo this week to determine whether the 169-room hotel is pumping wastewater into the ocean fronting a coral reef.

Eduardo Cespedes, director of Health in Carillo, said inspectors from the Health Ministry, the Liberia Prosecutors Office and the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute took seawater samples for testing Tuesday.

Results could be available as early as next week, he said.

Like the Allegro Papagayo, a neighboring hotel that was closed last week when it was discovered pumping sewage into an estuary, the Grand Papagayo has been accused by its neighbors of pumping wastewater into ocean waters fronting a coral reef near Playa Buena, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

Both hotels are part of the government-run Papagayo Tourism Project, the largest such development in Central America.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Alejandro Sanz in Costa Rica

Alejandro Sanz, of Spain, gave a concert at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in San Jose Costa Rica, February 12, 2008. The singer returned to Costa Rica for the first time in four years and delighted thousand of fans. Here are a few pictures of his show. (All photos by REUTERS/Monica Quesada)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

FBI fugitive may be in Costa Rica

Daniel Andreas San Diego - WANTED BY THE FBI (OFFICIAL POSTER PHOTO)(AP) - An animal rights activist sought in the bombings of two California drug and cosmetic companies may be living in Costa Rica, the FBI said Tuesday.

Daniel Andreas San Diego, 30, of Berkeley, Calif., could be living and working with Americans or people who speak English in the Central American country, the FBI said in a statement released to Costa Rican media by the U.S. Embassy.

"He has links with animal rights groups in the U.S., and he could be linked with similar organizations in Costa Rica," the FBI said. A $250,000 reward is offered for information leading to his arrest.

San Diego is wanted in connection with the 2003 bombings in Northern California of the corporate offices of Chiron Corp., an Emeryville biotechnology firm, and at Shaklee, a Pleasanton cosmetic company. The explosions caused minor damages and no injuries.

A group calling itself "Revolutionary Cells" took responsibility for the blasts, telling followers in a series of e-mails that the firms had been targeted for their ties to a research company that conducted drug and chemical experiments on animals.

To see the official FBI poster click here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Picture of the day

Robbie Madissson of Australia performs with his motorcycle during the X-Knights International Freestyle Show at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 9, 2008. The event was won by Danni Torres, of Spain, for the second year in a row. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate (COSTA RICA)

For more information of the event click here. (Site is in Spanish, photos of the 2008 show have not been added)

To watch a Youtube video of American Caleb Moore during the event click here. (Video is in Spanish as broadcasted by Costa Rica's Channel 7)

Friday, February 08, 2008

IHG opens first Crowne Plaza hotel in Costa Rica

MIAMI - InterContinental Hotels Group has opened the Crowne Plaza Corobici in San Jose Costa Rica. The 213-room hotel is now the group's third hotel in the city of San Jose, after the Real InterContinental Costa Rica and the Holiday Inn Aurola San Jose.

“We are delighted to introduce the Crowne Plaza brand to Costa Rica,” said Alvaro Diago, area president, IHG Latin America. “We are certain that this property will have tremendous success.”

The Crowne Plaza Corobici has been fully renovated to meet Crowne Plaza brand standards. The changes to the property include new beds and bedding in all of the guestrooms, a fresh new look in the hotel’s common areas, and refurbishments throughout the hotel’s interiors. The Crowne Plaza Corobici features ten meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 1000 people for corporate and social functions.

“We are thrilled to become a Crowne Plaza hotel, as the brand is well-known in North and South America,” said Yukiko Nakayama, President of Desatur Corobici, S.A.

Guestroom amenities include: high-speed Internet access, dual-line data port phones with voicemail, coffee maker, hair dryer, mini bar, cable TV, refrigerator, iron and ironing board. The hotel features a spa and sauna, an outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, and a casino. It also offers two restaurants: Fuji, serving Japanese cuisine, and the Tropical Cafeteria.

The Crowne Plaza Corobici Costa Rica is situated in the heart of San Jose, five minutes from the financial zone, and only 20 minutes from Juan Santa Maria International Airport. The hotel is also located minutes from popular tourist attractions and recreational areas.

Information taken from IHG press release

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Allegro Papagayo hotel to start moving guests elsewhere

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guests will be evacuating the Hotel Occidental Allegro Papagayo in their hundreds over the next few days, after the Health Ministry gave the hotel the order to close on Monday afternoon.

Some 600 tourists will have their stay at the four-star hotel located on Playa Manzanillo in Guanacaste cut short, after a scandal emerged surrounding the methods used by hotel management to dispose of sewage and waste water.

“Hotel managers are soliciting a plan of the best way to handle the evacuation,” said Mario Calvo, a health official in Liberia.

The hotel staff of between 220 to 250 people will also have to be evacuated.

Blue flag certification is to be removed from Playa Manzanillo, according to officials of the Laboratorio Nacional de Aguas, who have recently done tests in the sea water outside the hotel.

The blue flag certifies that a beach is safe and clean for recreational use. Manzanillo is the second beach to lose the blue flag in the past three months. Tamarindo beach, also in Guanacaste, lost its certification in November.

Calvo added that the Health Ministry will be issuing a legal complaint against the hotel for acts of contamination.

The hotel has been accused of shipping hundreds of trucks full of sewage to an under-equipped sewage plant in the town of El Gallo, as well as running a sewage pipe from the hotel into a nearby stream

Hotel management was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but staff were no longer telling callers that the hotel was open and functioning normally, as they had been doing for the preceding three days.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Costa Rica establishes diplomatic relations with Palestine

Jorge Urbina, Costa Rica's permanent representative to the U.N (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)(Tico Times) - Costa Rica announced yesterday that it recognized Palestinian statehood and signed a bilateral accord with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to "strengthen" the governments' diplomatic relationship.

The arrival of a Palestinian ambassador is imminent, the statement said.

"The government of Costa Rica and the State of Palestine, in the hopes of promoting and strengthening their existing friendship and cooperation, have decided to establish diplomatic relations," said the press release from the Foreign Ministry, quoting a joint communique issued by both Palestinian and Costa Rican administrations.

"The government of Costa Rica and the State of Palestine" – the statement repeated – "reaffirm their mutual support of and commitment to the principles and proposals of the United Nations Charter and the norms of international law, particularly in the promotion of peace and international security, the respect for sovereignty and independence of states and the non-intervention in their internal affairs."

Costa Rica's fresh relations with the PNA is the latest step in the Central American nation's charm offensive in the Arab world, which has seen new Costa Rican embassies in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Yemen. These form part of the 15 new ties grown during the administration of President Oscar Arias since May 2006.

The decision "deepens our gradual normalization of diplomatic relations with the Arab and Islamic world, as part of a foreign policy of opening borders, geographically and mentally, which reinforces an intelligent insertion of Costa Rica in the world," said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, according to the release.

The agreement took place yesterday morning at Costa Rica's Permanent Mission to the U.N. office in New York, with signatories Jorge Urbina, this country's permanent representative to the U.N., and Riyad Mansour, of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine of the United Nations.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Allegro Papagayo hotel to be shut down today

Some 600 guests of the Hotel Occidental Allegro Papagayo may be forced to find other accommodations today as the Health Ministry is preparing to shut down the hotel following complaints of sewage water being dumped directly into the nearby river.

According to health minister, Maria Luisa Avila, the hotel had been duly notified and had a chance to clean up its act, but nothing was done.

Health officials had originally set yesterday as the deadline, but will be out this morning to ensure that the order is complied with. Hotel guests, once notified, will have 24 hours to vacate the hotel.

Area residents have been complaining of the foul smell for some time and an investigation led official to the Allegro hotel as the source.

Last Wednesday, the 300-room Guanacaste hotel – which houses almost 600 guests – was ordered closed in 24 hours by officials from the Health Ministry, who had discovered clandestine pipes dumping sewage into an adjoining estuary, which leads to the Pacific Ocean.

The hotel appealed, stalling closure for almost five days, but yesterday Health Minister María Luisa Avila confirmed the order and said appeals had been denied.

The hotel, part of the government-sponsored Papagayo Tourism Project in the northwestern corner of Costa Rica has long been hailed as “eco-friendly” by government officials and Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) promotion.

Health Ministry officials first discovered the hotel dumping sewage into the neighboring estuary via hidden pipes in April. Two weeks later, hotel manager Guillermo Guerra assured them in a written letter that the problem had been “definitely solved.”

However, over the next few months residents and government officials discovered the hotel was trucking its sewage to overburdened and often illegal dumpsites throughout Guanacaste, transferring the contamination from its own estuary to neighboring towns.

Last week, after months of foot-dragging, the Health Ministry called for the hotel's closure until the hotel could prove operation of a functioning sewage treatment plant, a stipulation required in its original contract with the government.

Occidental Resorts are not accepting any new reservations until after March 2, 2008. If you have a vacation booked with Occidental Resorts in Costa Rica and have concerns about your reservations call 1-800-858-2258.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Costa Rica joins protests against FARC

A Colombian holds a poster that reads "No More FARC" during a protest against the FARC rebel group in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 4, 2008. Hundreds of Colombians took to the streets across the country and around the world on Monday in a huge protest to demand FARC guerrillas free hostages who have been held for years in secret jungle camps. (REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Daddy Yankee returns to Costa Rica

Puerto Rican star Daddy Yankee performs during the Jaco Beach Music Festival in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, February 2, 2008. The concert was part of an 11-hour music festival that brought together reggaeton disc jockeys and artists from several countries including Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. This was Daddy Yankee's first concert in Costa Rica since 2006. (Photo by Eyleen Vargas / La Nacion)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Allergan to close Irish factory, move to Costa Rica

By Fergal O'Brien

(Bloomberg) - Allergan Inc., the maker of the wrinkle smoother Botox, will close a plant in Ireland, eliminating 300 jobs, and transfer production to a factory in Costa Rica.

The move probably will cost as much as $65 million through 2009, Irvine, California-based Allergan said in an e-mailed statement today. The closing "has been made necessary by the high level of investment required to maintain competitiveness at the Arklow manufacturing location" in Ireland, Raymond Diradoorian, vice president of Allergan's global technical operations, said in the statement.

Ireland has lost about 10 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the last six years, as labor costs climb. Jacob Fruitfield Food Group, the Irish maker of Mikado and Kimberley cookies, said on Jan. 25 plans to halt production at a Dublin factory at a cost of 220 jobs.

"Throughout the country we have had a series of announcements of job losses particularly in the manufacturing sector," said Liz McManus, a spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party. "This must ring alarm bells for the government."

Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin, who said he regretted the loss of Allergen jobs in Wicklow, said the company remained committed to its facility in Westport, western Ireland. While Allergan manufactures silicon implants in Wicklow, the company makes botox in Westport, where it employs 750 people.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Colombia and Costa Rica among top ten' for environment

Lisbeth Fog
Source: SciDev.Net

[BOGOTA] - Colombia and Costa Rica are among the top ten nations in a ranking of excellence in environmental performance.

The 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), conducted by US universities Yale and Columbia, was announced last week (23 January) at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Costa Rica was ranked fifth and Colombia ninth, behind the top ranking nations Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. In the first EPI, conducted in 2006, Costa Rica was ranked fifteenth and Colombia seventeenth.

"Ranking ninth amongst 149 countries around the world and second in America after Costa Rica is a great achievement for Colombia," says Marta Pizano, a Colombian biologist who last year received the Best of the Best prize from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPI looks at success in environmental protection based on two broad objectives: reducing environmental stress on human health, and promoting strong ecosystems and sound natural resource management.

The index measures 25 indicators in six different areas: environmental health, air pollution, water, productive natural resources, biodiversity and habitat, and climate change.

Costa Rica came out best in several categories, including tackling air pollution, water stress, irrigation stress and land-burning, and improving forestry.

It also scored well in reducing industrial carbon intensity, aiming for low carbon growth in industrial sectors by investing in energy conservation and clean technologies, and making other policy changes to help lower carbon emissions.

Colombia performed particularly well in forestry, fisheries, cropland use and reducing local ozone — or ground level ozone, a pollutant from human activities that causes significant health problems.

According to Jorge Sanchez, national coordinator of the Ozone Technical Unit at the Environmental Ministry in Colombia, improved performance in the ozone category was the major reason for Colombia's rise in the rankings.

Colombia reduced the national consumption of ozone depleting substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons in appliances like freezers, by 86 per cent between 1995 and 2007, says Sanchez.

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