Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Filming of "The Chosen One" in Costa Rica concludes

Rob Schneider pleased some of the locals and posed for a few pictures with them. (Photo by La Nacion / Carlos Hernandez)(La Nacion) - The Chosen One, starring Rob Schneider, included Los Chorros Waterfall, in Grecia, and Arenal Ecology Tropical Park, in La Fortuna, among its locations. The filming was successfully completed at these locations, a spokesperson for Costa Rica Production Support informed. The rest of the film, which is to be premiered in November –including in Costa Rica–, was shot in the United States.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Costa Rica protests US airport security

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rica has suspended legal cooperation with the United States and filed a diplomatic protest over what it called the "disrespectful" treatment of its attorney general at the Miami International Airport.

In a letter describing the incident, Attorney General Francisco Dall'Anese said a security officer at the airport allowed him into the United States on April 23, but accompanied him to an airline counter to make sure he arranged a return flight for the next day.

The official was traveling to meet his U.S. counterpart, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and to attend a court hearing involving a man implicated in a corruption scandal in Costa Rica.
He said that after the check, a U.S. agent accompanied him to airline offices "to make sure of our departure."

Dall'Anese said Friday he was suspending all cooperation with U.S. prosecutors on judicial cases, including extraditions, until those responsible are punished and his government is reimbursed for the cost of the trip.

Costa Rica's Foreign Relations Department said it filed an "energetic" diplomatic note and called the security stop "an offense against our attorney general, an offense to all Costa Ricans."

The U.S. government said Dall'Anese had been subjected to a "routine security check" that is common when a passenger's name matches or is similar to a person of interest. But officials apologized nonetheless.

"We are investigating the circumstances and we have expressed our apologies to the Costa Rican government," the U.S. Embassy in San Jose said in a statement. "We never intended any disrespect for Dall'Anese, the government of Costa Rica or its citizens. We value the close relationship we have and we will do everything in our power to make sure it continues."

The Embassy said if it had known of the trip, it would have ensured that "all entrance courtesies would have been extended to Mr. Dall'Anese."

But Dall'Anese responded that "the apology of the U.S. Embassy is not sufficient."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Colombia: Uribe's cousin arrested in Costa Rican embassy

Colombian former senator Mario Uribe (C) covers his face while being escorted by prosecutors after leaving Costa Rica's embassy in Bogota April 22, 2008. (Photo: REUTERS/John Vizcaino)By Patrick Markey

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian prosecutors arrested President Alvaro Uribe's cousin on Tuesday as authorities probed his suspected ties to paramilitary death squads in a deepening political scandal for the key U.S. ally.

The investigation of Mario Uribe, a longtime senator and presidential confidant, is expected to fuel concerns among U.S. Democrats who oppose a Colombian trade pact because of human rights abuses and lingering influence of ex-paramilitaries.

Jostling with screaming protesters, police spirited Mario Uribe away from the Costa Rican Embassy, where the former lawmaker had earlier sought political asylum after the attorney general's office ordered him arrested on charges he conspired with militia commanders.

The ex-senator had earlier asked for political asylum in the embassy, but San Jose rejected the petition as "inappropriate" because he had an outstanding warrant.

A second cousin to the president and a former congressional leader, Mario Uribe was ordered detained after testimony from paramilitary warlords that he asked them to back his senate campaign and help him secure cheap farmland.

The former lawmaker has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The arrest warrant for Sen. Mario Uribe hurts me, but it is a pain I will accept with patriotism and without avoiding the fulfillment of my responsibilities," the president said in a brief statement before his cousin's arrest.

(Additional reporting by John McPhaul in Costa Rica, editing by Philip Barbara)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Picture of the day

A man looks at a cow sculpture on display as part of the Cow Parade art festival in San Jose, April 21, 2008. About 200 cows designed and painted by Costa Rican urban artists are on display on the streets of San Jose during the exhibition. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Google denies plans for Costa Rica office

(Tico Times) - Following a media frenzy over its alleged intent to open an office in Costa Rica, the Internet giant Google yesterday denied having such plans.

“For the moment, we are not planning to open regional headquarters in Costa Rica, but we do wish to improve the attention to our customers (there),” Alberto Arebalos, Google's corporate communications and public affairs director for Latin America, told newswire EFE.

The statement contradicted a government news bulletin Wednesday, which made front-page headlines in some of Costa Rica's major dailies. The release said a top Google executive at the Economic Forum on Latin America in Cancun, Mexico, told President Oscar Arias of his company's “short-term” plans to base its regional operations here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Costa Rica closes three hotels for environmental damage

Playa Negra(ACAN-EFE) - Costa Rican environmental authorities have closed three hotels in a Caribbean wildlife preserve in this Central American country for causing environmental damage, officials said.

During a surveillance and inspection operation, local authorities decided to close a recently built hotel Thursday, since it was constructed on the wetlands of Playa Negra, 185 kilometers (115 miles) southeast of San Jose, and also closed the extensions of two other already existing hotels.

Officials at the Environment and Energy Ministry told Costa Rican press Friday that among the irregularities detected in the first case was the construction of a three-kilometer (two-mile) road across a land-sea zone that, according to the law, must remain in its natural state.

Construction works to enlarge another of the hotels were stopped when it was found that a large quantity of trees had been cut down for use in the building project.

Hotel Almendros y Corales (Almond Trees and Corals), with four "leaves" of Costa Rica's five-leaf sustainable tourism certification, has been implicated.

"We're going before the environmental tribunal to find a solution. The complete project measures 2,400 square meters (25,800 square feet) and we have worked 20 years for the conservation of the preserve. If we've done anything wrong, I take full responsibility and will offer a corrective plan," Aurora Game, spokeswoman for Almendros y Corales told the daily La Republica.

Jose Lino Chaves, president of the Environmental Administrative Tribunal – an agency of the Environment and Energy Ministry – warned of the impact that home and hotel construction is having on the preserve, located in the southern Caribbean region of the country, and said that the surveillance will continue.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Costa Rica to enforce new casino restrictions

(La Nacion) - The Government ruled that casinos will operate only eight hours a day from now on and that players not be served free drinks. These are part of the restrictions to the 48 casinos operating in Costa Rica. Vice President Laura Chinchilla had no qualms in asserting that this is an activity which the state does not want to encourage, but rather restrict. The measures are aimed in part at fighting the addition to gambling, Ms Chinchilla added. The Minister of Tourism Carlos Benavides explained that, according to the new approach regarding casinos, they are considered as a supplemental activity for hotels and not business in themselves.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bill Gates in Costa Rica

Microsoft co-founder and one of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates, 53, came to Costa Rica for a family vacation. He stayed for a week at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Guanacaste, a company in which he owns $1.9 billion in shares (5 percent).

When Gates bought the shares, his friend and partner Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who last year visited Costa Rica, and purchased $7.6 billion (22 percent) of the hotel chain.

According to the Immigration Service, Gates had last come to Costa Rica in 2006. This time, with his wife and children, Gates stayed in Guanacaste –in the Costa Rican northwestern Pacific. Gates arrived last Friday aboard a private jet and he left today.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cleveland and Costa Rica strike import deal

Cleveland Mayor Frank JacksonCLEVELAND (AP) - The city and Costa Rica have struck a deal to use Cleveland's Lake Erie port as an entry point for coffee, tea, pineapples and other imports from the central American nation.

Under the deal, a dozen Costa Rican companies will distribute their U.S. exports to the Midwest through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Cleveland.

Mayor Frank Jackson's office said Friday the deal was made when Jackson visited Costa Rica this week as part of a three-day trip arranged by the Cleveland Foundation to promote business.

The mayor said Costa Rica will open a Midwest trade headquarters in Cleveland with the goal of moving 25 percent of its U.S. exports through Ohio.

Adam Wasserman, president and chief executive of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, said the deal dovetails with plans to market the ports at Cleveland and Hamilton, Ontario, as distribution points for international shippers.

Wasserman said he envisions oceangoing ships docking in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or other East Coast cities and smaller ships bringing the cargo through the seaway to Hamilton and Cleveland.

Costa Rica exported $3.8 billion to the United States in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many Costa Rican goods are shipped to the port in Miami but Cleveland officials contend that Costa Rican companies can more efficiently export through Ohio.

Ships need an extra seven days to reach Ohio from central America, but the longer shipping time will be offset by Cleveland's less-crowded port and proximity to population centers, city officials said.

Jackson said he couldn't estimate the value of the trade deal and acknowledged that the trade office and operations of the export companies will create few jobs to start.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Antonio Saca visits Costa Rica

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, left, speaks with El Salvador's President Antonio Saca in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 8, 2008. Saca is in Costa Rica for a two-day official visit. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Costa Rica pulls Burger King ads

Commercials deemed violent

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - The Burger King is safe, at least in Costa Rica.

Government officials said Friday they have banned commercials for the hamburger chain that depict mothers trying to run over company’s plastic-headed signature character or hire a hit man to kill him because their kids prefer burgers to home-cooked meals.

The vice minister of the interior, Ana Duran, said the commercials on national TV trivialized violence.

The Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion on Friday published a letter from a mother asking how she was supposed to explain to her 5-year-old son why somebody was trying to kill the Burger King.

"It’s outrageous that companies like Burger King make commercials using the promotion of killings in this country," the woman, Ingrid Moya Aguilar, wrote.

Miami-based Burger King Holdings Inc. sent a statement to The Associated Press saying company officials have not been notified of the action by the Costa Rican government, but that Burger King is sensitive to cultural and geographic concerns wherever it operates.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Four U.S. passports stolen a day in Costa Rica

Photo by Getty Images(Tico Times) - Some 1,348 U.S. passports were stolen in Costa Rica during the 2006-2007 fiscal year – equal to almost four a day, the daily La Nacion reported.

As of the March of this year the number has already reached 556, according to the report, which cited information from the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica.

Tourists are the principal victims of such theft, the report said, but U.S. residents here too have been affected.

The figures put Costa Rica among Italy, France and Mexico as the countries reporting the highest incidence of U.S. passport theft.

Authorities recommend keeping a photocopy of your passport, including one of the page showing a valid entry stamp, at all times.

A passport from the United States can gross up to $7,000 on the black market.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Costa Rican Vice President named interim security minister

Costa Rica's Vice President Laura Chinchilla, left, speaks after being named as the new interim security minister by Rodrigo Arias, Costa Rica's minister of the presidency, in San Jose, Monday, March 31, 2008. Former Security Minister Fernando Berrocal stepped down Sunday, March 30, 2008, after alleging earlier this month that unnamed local politicians could have ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. (AP Photo/Carlos Borbon)

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