Monday, June 30, 2008

Citizen appeals vehicular restriction to Constitutional Court

(Inside Costa Rica) - In typical Costa Rican fashion, a "recurso de amparo" (an appeal) has been made against the expanded vehicular restriction of San Jose. A Costa Rican identified only by his last name, Ulloa, made the appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Ulloa, in his appeal, says that the government directive that established the expanded boundaries infringe on the right of free transit and causes delays on his getting to work on time.

The man who is a vendor says in his filing that he cannot visit half of his clients when he needs to, a situation that affects him economicaly and places his job at risk.

The claim continues in criticizing the Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT) for not having a plan developed for a secure public transportation system, saying the government has failed in developing a concrete and real public transportation alternative that is secure and efficient.

Ulloa adds that the government has also failed to implement a work hour shift for public and private institutions and that the current measure has been implemented without carrying out an analysis that it will in fact reduce gasoline consumption, one of the main points of the government's plan for action.

While waiting for the Sala Constitucional (Constitutional Court) to hear the appeal, the restrictions continue and today applies to all vehicles with the last digit of the license plate ending in 1 an 2.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Transit police tickets about 1000 drivers for breaking new driving restrictions

National newspapers reported that during the first day of the new vehicular restrictions in and around San Jose the Transit Police issued about 1.000 tickets to drivers who decided to ignore the media campaign and took their chances.

Vehicles can trasit the Circunvalacion, the route that runs around San Jose, and La Uruca but they cannot get off to enter San Jose, where transit police is waiting with their ticket pad in hand.

Vehicles with plates ending with a 1 or 2 are restricted on Monday, those with a 3 or 4 on Tuesday, 5 and 6 on Wednesday, and 7 or 8 on Thursday. The fine for violating the restriction is ¢5.000 ($9.66).

Traffic was reported to be much lighter in many parts of the city during both morning and afternoon rush hours according to the electronic daily Inside Costa Rica.

According to the Tico Times the peak hour restrictions are being enforced on the Circunvalacion and everything inside it.

The restrictions today will apply from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m to vehicles with license plates ending in 9 and 0.

The only vehicles that are not restricted are motorcyles, buses, taxis, handicapped vehicles and of course emergency vehicles, like police, fire and ambulance.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Digicel to go after Costa Rican market

Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien, on the left, during a press conference. Listening next to him is Digicel Group CEO Colm Delves. (Photo: Andrea De Silva / The Trinidad Guardian) Subscriber base now tops 6.5 million people

Digicel Group has set its sights on Costa Rica, a market that telecommunications watchers say is ripe for exploration by big players, following passage of new legislation that paves the way for competition in mobile services.

Signals Telecom Consulting, which tracks regional developments in the sector, said in a June paper that Digicel, America Movil, Millicom and Telefonica were the most likely candidates to go after market share in Costa Rica, where spending is expected to surpass $5.9 billion within five years.

"Yes, Digicel is interested in entering the Costa Rica market as part of our overall expansion across Central America," said Maureen Rabbitt, group spokeswoman for the mobile company. "We see strong opportunities for growth in the Central American market with young populations, strong economies and low mobile penetration rates."

According to According to Elias Vicente, analyst for Signals Telecom Consulting, Costa Rica is a lucrative opportunity for major telecoms groups because its market already has the highest average revenue per user in Central America.

Reported by the Jamaica Gleaner News

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ICE finally breaks ties with Alcatel

Ice President Pedro Pablo Quiros (Photo by La Prensa Libre newspaper)(Inside Costa Rica) - The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) decided to end once and for all its relationship with Alcatel. The announcement was made yesterday by ICE president, Pedro Pablo Quiros.

Quiros added that ICE will also sue Alcatel for $60 million in damages, refusing Alcatel's offer of telephone equipment in lieu of the cash payment.

Quiros made it clear that the decision will in no way affect the 400.000 cellular customers who are connected to the GSM network installed by Alcatel and will ICE will take control directly of the maintenance and operation of the network.

The move is possible because the network actually belongs to the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), who purchased the equipment from Alcatel and is leasing it back to ICE.

"Customers will not see any difference in service as we are prepared to take over the maintenance and operation of the network", said Geovanni Bonilla, ICE's legal director.

The Alcatel network is one of two GSM networks installed in Costa Rica, the other by the Ericsson company.

Quiros said that the decision to break ties with Alcatel are based on the fact that Alcatel has continually not fulfilled its obligations in providing adequate service, specfically in the area of equipment maintenance, which has led customer complaints of poor service.

According to Quiros, Alcatel was willing to pay the fine imposed on it by ICE for non-compliance in return for ICE accepting that there were no problems with the network.

The actual final bill that ICE is presenting Alcatel is for $75 million. Of that sum $15 million will be drawn from a guarantee posted by Alcatel at the signing of the contract. Alcatel has proposed to install and additional 200.000 GSM lines to satisfy ICE's demands, an offer that was rejected by ICE's board of directors.

The original contract was for $149 million, which was supposed to end in December of this year, was the center of controversy. Allegedly it involved bribes and payoffs of ICE and government officials that led to charges brought against a number of ICE high ranking officials, Alcatel management and former Costa Rican president, Miguel Angel Rodríguez.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Costa Rican Olympian field now 8 athletes wide

(File Photo / La By Leslie Friday
Tico Times Staff

Two more Costa Rican athletes qualified for the Summer Olympics in Beijing, expanding the Tico team to eight competitors.

Marianela Quesada, who will participate in the 50-meter freestyle, and Gabriela Traña, a marathoner, qualified through Wild Card entries.

They will join Mario Montoya (200-meter freestyle), Nery Brenes (400-meter dash), Allan Segura (20-kilometer race walk), Kristopher Moitland (Taekwondo heavy-weight), Federico Ramírez (mountain biking) and Henry Raabe (road cycling) in the August games.

Most Costa Rican athletes qualified for the games through their performance at previous Olympic Games or tournaments. Wild Card entries are based on recommendations made by individual sports federations to governing Olympic committees, explained Josabeth Azofeifa, spokeswoman for the National Olympic Committee (CON).

Raabe and Ramírez were also Wild Card entries.

The committee estimated that 10 to 12 athletes would qualify for the Beijing Games, running Aug. 8-24. Azofeifa said more athletes could still qualify in the remaining month.

The Costa Rican government promised to provide 70 million colones ($136,000) to Olympians to pay for their training expenses in anticipation of the August games.

The Pan-American Sports Organization also offered ¢25 million (almost $50,000) for scholarships to help cover the athletes' costs, but have not delivered yet, Azofeifa said.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Costa Rican bank offers account in euros

By Leslie Friday
Tico Times Staff

Banco Nacional (National Bank) launched a new product that caters to the euro-toting crowd, combining the functions of a savings account with that of an interest-bearing investment tool.

The new product will join similar ones the state-run bank already provides in dollars and colones.

"The objective is to offer interested clients a greater diversification in currency for their investments and an additional alternative for the management of their funds," according to Violeta Fernandez, Banco Nacional's corporate relations director.

Those interested would have to maintain a €2,000 limit. All withdrawals must be for at least €500. Interest rates range from 1.15 to 1.40 percent.

Monday, June 16, 2008

U.S. Southern Command to build health clinic in Costa Rica

By Nick Wilkinson
Tico Times Staff

U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) announced it is constructing a health clinic in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica, near the Panama border.

A 345-square-meter clinic in Limon province will be built in the community of El Bambu, according to a U.S. Embassy press release. Construction is scheduled to start this month.

In recent months, Southcom has become increasingly active in Costa Rica. In February, the agency announced plans to double counter-narcotics funding to Costa Rica to $2 million.

In April, they announced a $250,000 contribution to the construction a new Coast Guard base in Puntarenas. Also that month, the U.S. Navy reactivated its Fourth Fleet, dormant since the 1950s, and placed it under Southcom's command to patrol waters off of Central and South America.

Southcom is a military office that coordinates the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard under the leadership of a four-star general. It is responsible for "contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation for Central and South America, the Caribbean, Cuba, the Bahamas and their territorial waters," according to its Web site.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Donation for victims of tropical storm Alma

Jackeline Chacon holds her 28 day old baby Surayi, as her son looks on in their flooded home after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Alma caused flooding in Parrita, Costa Rica, Friday, May 30, 2008. Tropical Storm Alma weakened to a depression and swept across Central America on Friday, dumping rain and leaving flooded coastal towns in its wake. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert) (La Nacion) - The Inter American Development Bank donated $200,000 to the National Emergency Commission (NEC) to ease at least part of the suffering of the victims of tropical storm Alma. Part of the funds will be allocated to lease heavy equipment to continue the cleaning up of roads, particularly those leading to communities that are still isolated. The money will also fund food and helicopters to take it to those areas that cannot be reached by land yet, NEC chairman Daniel Gallardo explained.

Friday, June 13, 2008

American drowns near Limon

Costa Rica police look at the body of U.S. citizen Steven Hershberger after he drowned in the ocean near Limon, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 12, 2008. Hershberger, 44, a high school teacher from Indiana, who was on a trip with a group of students from Indiana, drowned when a wave pulled him out to sea while trying to rescue a student who got caught in a rip tide, according to police. (AP Photo/Al Dia, Roger Amoretty)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Costa Rica's route to Caribbean reopens

Southern Inter American Highway still closed

By Alex Leff
Tico Times Staff

Costa Rica's Caribbean-bound Braulio Carrillo Highway reopened yesterday after transit officials had closed it Monday afternoon because of landslides, according to the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT).

Ministry spokesman Omar Segura said workers cleaned up the road and traffic is flowing back to normal, but that drivers should use Braulio Carrillo – also called Ruta 32 – with caution.

New landslides could occur so motorists should drive carefully, especially at night. It's recommended to go during the day, if possible, and to avoid heavy rain storms,” Segura said.

Braulio Carrillo runs from San Jose through mountains to Caribbean flatlands, and is an important route from the capital to the port city of Limon.

Another major road, the southern Inter American Highway, remains closed from Cerro de la Muerte (Death Hill) down to the Southern Zone canton Perez Zeledon after Tropical Storm Alma washed away major chunks of the road.

The MOPT spokesman said that workers managed to carve an emergency lane for vehicles to carry food and supplies to isolated communities particularly in Perez Zeledon.

Some 35 machines are working on the Inter-American Highway to get a commuter lane up and running by tomorrow or Thursday, said Segura.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Recycling programs helping cut down waste

Jose Porras takes apart a used computer at an electronics recycling center on World Environment Day in Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 5, 2008. Recent recycling programs in Costa Rica are helping to protect the environment by cutting down on solid waste in landfills.(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

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