Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chinese ambassador admits asking Costa Rica not to allow Dalai Lama visit

(Inside Costa Rica) - The government of China has admitted that it has asked countries with friendly ties to it not accept the visit of the Dalai Lama, like it occurred in Costa Rica.

"We are against the Dalai Lama realizing international political activities around the world. For such we always ask those governments where the Dalai Lama will visit", said China's ambassador to Costa Rica, Wang Xiaoyuank, to the daily La Nacion.

The Chinese ambassador added that the Tibetan spiritual leader is not only a religious person but a political one as well and is always spearheading campaigns to separate Tibet from China.

The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was to have visited Costa Rica on September 10 on an invitation by the Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association.

The Dalai Lama cancelled his visit at the suggestion of Costa Rican president and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, Oscar Arias, suggesting the trip be postponed for next year when a meeting of Nobel Prize winners will be held in Costa Rica.

Arias drew criticism at the request amid allegations that the decision was in preference of the visit of the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, in October.

Arias denied the accusation.

According to Maritza Pacheco, president of the Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association, assures that Arias called her by telephone on August 22 to ask her to cancel the invitation to the Tibetan leader.

"What he said to me exactly was that if the Dalai Lama comes, Hu will not come and that is not convenient for Costa Rica at this time", said Maritza.

Costa Rica established diplomatic relations with China in June of 2007, abruptly cutting all diplomatic ties with the government of Taiwan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dengue fever tormenting Parrita

By Nick Wilkinson
Tico Times Staff

Costa Rica's central Pacific town of Parrita and its environs are suffering a dengue fever epidemic that so far has reached 223 cases this year –more than five times more than all of last year.

The outbreak is blamed largely on Tropical Storm Alma, which inundated the region in May, creating standing water that served as rich breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that spread the virus.

Last year, health officials reported just 40 cases.

“It's an extremely high increase,” said Dr. Edgar Carrillo of the Max Teran Vals Hospital in Quepos. “We're seeing an average of at least one patient per day. We're exhausted.”

Carrillo said the anti-dengue mobilization includes the work of the Social Security System, Health Ministry, and the Wal-Mart and HOLCIM companies.

“We're going door to door, educating people and giving them mosquito repellant,” he said. “And we're going out and trying to drain any areas with standing water, often times garbage containers.”

While dengue has become serious in Parrita, the doctor said he has only seen one possible case of hemorrhagic dengue thus far this year.

Dengue has no cure aside from bed rest. It normally takes a week to recover from, Carrillo said. Hemorrhagic dengue, sometimes fatal, is a strain of the virus that causes bruising and bleeding of the nose, gums and other orifices.

The Parrita area has also seen a resurgence of whooping cough, Carrillo said, an illness authorities thought they had previously eradicated.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Serial killer might be on the loose in Costa Rica

Police detectives observe the body of a murder victim that was found near the Tobias Bolanos Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, August 20, 2008. Costa Rican authorities are trying to determine if four recent murder cases were commited by the same person. (Photo: Francisco Rodriguez/La Nacion)By Uri Ridelman

Costa Rican authorities are investigating whether four murder cases have any connection and were commited by the same individual after eery similarities were found at the crime scenes.

All the victims have been killed near the 19th day of the month, with a shot to the head, the bodies abandoned in places where it's easy to find them and the crimes have all taken place in the Western area of San Jose.

Also the victims had valuables and cash with them, which leads police to believe that robbery was not the motive in these cases.

To read the whole story click here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

President Arias admits asking the Dalai Lama to postpone visit

Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, admitted yesterday that he wrote a letter to the Dalai Lama asking him to cancel his visit to Costa Rica on September 10.

The president, however, denied that his decision was realted to the planned visit for October of China's president, as alleged by the Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association, organizers of the Dalai Lama visit.

Arias said that he will be on a tour to the United States and Europe and lamented he would not be in the country greet him.

"I will be on tour in the United States and Europe and regret that I will not be in the country to greet you. I would be very disappointed to miss your visit, and I hope that by hosting the meeting in 2009 with several Nobel laureates, I am writing to beg to postpone your trip", wrote Arias to the Dalai Lama in a letter dated August 5.

A copy of the letter was distributed to the press by Casa Presidencial.

Arias is expected to leave on September 1 for a trip to Spain, France and the United Kingdom, according to a preliminary report on the president's tour outside Costa Rica.

However, the Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association that the postponement request is related to the Chinese president visit in October.

Maritza Pacheco, president of the Association, said that the explanation is not rational. The visit by the Dalai Lama was not an official visit nor an official invitation and that it would have been nice for the president to greet the Dalai Lama's arrival, but not necessary.

Pacheco added that the Dalai Lama has visited many European and Asian countries and without having been greeted by the presidents of those countries.

Pacheco also refuted the explanation of asking the Dalai Lama to postpone his trip until next to coincide with the meeting of the Nobel laureates in Latin America, saying that "it is difficult to understand what one thing has to do with the other as this is a private visit of a spiritual and cultutal nature."

Costa Rica's opposition legislators have also criticized the Arias decision.

Arias has rejected all arguments contrary to his own, saying that he has a close friendship with the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people.

Chinese leaders have blamed the Dalai Lama of stirring religious conflict in Tibet.

The Dalai Lamas continued to rule Tibet until the People's Republic of China invaded the region in 1949 and then took full control in 1959. The 14th Dalai Lama then fled to India and has since ceded temporal power to an elected government-in-exile.

The current 14th Dalai Lama seeks greater autonomy for Tibet.

Costa Rica beats El Salvador 1-0

Costa Rica's Alvaro Saborio celebrates after scoring against El Salvador during their CONCACAF 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier soccer match at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, August 20, 2008. (Reuters / Roger Benavides)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Forward Alvaro Saborio scored on a penalty kick in the first minute of the second half Wednesday to give Costa Rica a 1-0 victory over El Salvador in the semifinal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Saborio got his chance when Salvadoran Alfredo Pachecho was penalized for knocking down midfielder Alonso Solis.
El Salvador had dominated for most of the first half and Eliseo Quintanilla had a chance to score in the 40th minute, but his penalty shot was blocked by goalkeeper Ricardo Gonzalez.

The Costa Ricans came back strong and played better football in the second half. Alejandro Alpizar had a chance to score when he found himself alone against goalkeeper Montes, but his shot went over the crossbar.

A minute later, Quintanilla squandered a similar chance for El Salvador when his shot went high.

Costa Rica now leads Group 3 of CONCACAF qualifying after a 2-2 tie between Suriname and Haiti.

Costa Rica faces Suriname Sept. 6 in the second game of the semifinal round.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tibetan group says Arias asked Dalai Lama not to visit Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) - The vice-president of the Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association, Milagro Rodriguez, claims that the "unofficial" visit of the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, to Costa Rica planned for September 10, was cancelled at the request of Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias.

"The visit is totally ruled out", said Rodriguez, who assures that the decision is tied to the official visit of China's president, Hu Jinato, planned for October.

"The government considers the presence of the Dalai Lama in September will provoke a cancellation of the Chinese president", said Rodriguez.

The visit of the the Chinese president has been in the planning stage for some time after Arias visited China last October, following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

For the time being the Foreign Ministry is being quiet on the Dalai Lama decision.

Nery Brenes gets national record, fails to qualify

(Photo by Emilia Naranjo / EFE)Tiquicia's sprinter fails to advance by 0.12 seconds

By Nicolas Ruggia
Tico Times

Costa Rican sprinter Nery Brenes was eliminated yesterday in Semifinal 1 of the men's 400-meter race in the Beijing Olympics.

Brenes ran a personal best and national record time of 44.94 seconds, finishing fourth in his semifinal event and 10th overall, just 0.12 seconds behind the final wildcard qualifying time.

Jeremy Wariner of the United States won in Brenes' group with a time of 44.15 seconds, and Bahamian Christopher Brown also advanced to the finals.

Brenes was Costa Rica's consensus best shot at Olympic hardware. Brenes won his heat in round one with a qualifying time of 45.36, finishing 18th among all first round runners, tied with Tabarie Henry of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Kristopher Moitland, the second-time taekwondo entry, could also make some noise at 11 p.m. on Friday when he enters the ring.

Mountain biker Federico Ramirez will wrap up the Olympics for the Tico team at 1 a.m. Saturday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Irving Saladino wins first gold ever for Panama!

Panama's Irving Saladino celebrates after winning the gold in the men's long jump final during the athletics competitions in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Monday, Aug. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)Congratulations to our Central American brothers of Panama!

Our southern neighbors have won their first Olympic gold medal ever and the third Olympic medal overall.

Panama's Irving Saladino won the gold in the men's long jump final during the athletics competitions in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Monday, Aug. 18, 2008. Saladino is the first Panamanian in 60 years to win a medal for the country of Panama.

Track sprinter Lloyd Labeach brought Panama its other two Olympic medals at the 1948 London Games, two bronzes in both the 100m and 200m.

Felicidades Panama!

Video of Nery Brenes 400 meter victory

Here's the video of Nery Brenes' victory during the third heat of the men's 400 meter event competition in Beijing. The Tico advanced to the semifinals and will compete on Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. Costa Rican time.

This video is mainly for the Ticos abroad that haven't seen the race. I hope you enjoy this video wherever you are. Hopefully there will be more victories and videos of Nery Brenes to come!

Video is in Spanish (sorry for any inconvenience this may cause), as broadcasted by Costa Rica's Channel 11.

A high-speed internet connection is recommended to watch this video.

Nery Brenes wins 400 meter heat!

Nery Brenes of Costa Rica leads the third heat of the men's 400m competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 18, 2008. Brenes won the heat and advanced to the semifinals. (Photo by Getty Images)Costa Rican sprinter advances to men's 400 meter semifinal

By Nicolas Ruggia
Tico Times Staff

Limon's Nery Brenes' performance Sunday in the third heat of the men's 400 meter race at the Beijing Olympics is so far Costa Rica's shining moment at the 2008 games.

Brenes won his heat with a time of 45.36 seconds, sending him into the semifinals. Bahamian Christ Brown had the fastest qualifying time at 44.79. U.S. runner Michael Johnson set the 43.18 world record in 1999.

Brenes' personal bests put him seventh out of the nine runners slated in the first semifinal, the slowest of the three semifinal events, which will take place on Tuesday at 21:45 Beijing time or 7:45 a.m. Costa Rican time.

The top two finishers in each heat will advance to the finals, as well as the two runners with the next-best times.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oscar Arias popularity plummets in Costa Rica

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. (FILE Photo / Reuters)(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - The popularity of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias has fallen considerably in just three months, according to a poll by Demoscopia published in the Spanish language daily, Al Dia.

Only 27.5% of the respondents think Arias has done a good or very good job as head of state, down 16.5% since a high of 44% in April.

The president's slip in popularity can attributed to a scandal that hit his government hard during the last month.

On Aug. 5, the Housing minister, Fernando Zumbado, tendered his resignation amidst accusations of corruption. Zumbado had stepped aside from his duties in July as authorities investigated his handling of a $1.5 million donation from Taiwan for the country’s poor. The sum was sent through the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE). The investigation is still ongoing.

Zumbado, until his resignation, handled most of the current government’s social policies. Arias himself is being accused of contracting friends and associates as consultants for the government and being paid high fees.

The president, who also headed the government from 1986 to 1990, defended his actions saying they are not favours or political payback and that one has to govern with friends and not enemies. Arias ran into a similar scandal 20 years ago during his first term in the presidency.

In 1987, Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in a peace deal that ended years of bloodshed in Central America.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Moody's improves Costa Rica's outlook

MUMBAI - (Thomson Financial) - Moody's Investors Service revised the outlook on Costa Rica's key ratings to positive from stable following 'significant improvement in fiscal and debt positions and the likelihood of the improvement continuing in the medium term'.

Moody raised the outlook on Costa Rica's 'Ba1' foreign and local currency government bond ratings.

The outlook on the 'Baa3' foreign currency country bond ceiling and on the 'Ba2' foreign currency bank deposit ceiling was also revised to positive from stable.

'Costa Rica's remarkable fiscal performance over the past few years has been driven by significant expenditure restraint and an improvement in revenues, reflecting not only the business cycle but also a concerted effort to enhance collection,' Moody's said.

'As a result, the fiscal and debt positions have improved to such a degree that it would take a major crisis to reverse the virtuous debt dynamics seen in recent years,' Moody's added

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Amazon to open Costa Rica call centre

(AP Photo / Mark Lennihan)By Jonathan Birchall in New York Financial Times

Amazon, the world's largest internet retailer, is to establish a customer contact centre in Costa Rica, as its steps up its efforts to woo Spanish speaking customers both in the US and in Latin America.

The retailer is planning to open a Latin America contact centre in San Jose in Costa Rica, with between 100 and 150 staff, in its first direct presence in Latin America.

Costa Rica, which has wages well below those in the US, has attracted several call-centre operators who use it to service customers in the US, Latin America and Spain.

Amazon's planned investment in Costa Rica comes as the retailer expands the Spanish language offerings on its US site. This week the retailer launched a Spanish-language software store, and it plans to add a Spanish-language DVD section alongside its existing Libros En Espanol books section.

Amazon is one of the most popular internet retailers in Latin America, in spite of currently selling to customers there only via its predominantly English-language US site.

According to figures from ComScore Media Metrix, an estimated 5.9m Latin American users visited its sites in May, trailing the 7.5m visitors to the retail, entertainment and travel sites of B2W, a subsidiary of Brazil's Lojas Americanas.

The traffic to its US site from Latin America exceeds traffic to Amazon's independent French website, according to Media Metrix figures.

Amazon has not expanded into new territories since 2004, when it acquired China’s site.

(AP Photo / Mark Lennihan)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nery Brenes: Costa Rica's biggest Olympic hope

Costa Rican sprinter Nery Brenes is Costa Rica's biggest olympic hope since three-time olympic medallist Claudia Poll.

Brenes will compete in the men's 400-meter event and even though his odds of winning a medal are slim he's our country's biggest and most realistic chance of winning any medal at all.

Brenes, from the Caribbean province of Limon, was recently featured by the BBC in the "Against the Odds" series, where they portray athletes that reached the Olympic Games only after overcoming huge obstacles.

In Nery's case, and as the BBC wrote, he "struggled for years to get the funding to race professionally."

Here's Brenes personal information and his career achievements:

Nery Brenes Profile:
Date of Birth: Sep. 25 1985
Height(cm/ft in): 174cm / 5'9"
Weight(kg/lbs): 66 kg / 145 lbs
Place of Birth: Limon
Sport: Athletics
Event: Men's 400m

Nery Brenes' competition highlights
2007 World Championships
Semifinal 400m
Osaka, Japan
Time: 45.14

2007 NACAC Championships
3rd place in the 400m event
San Salvador, El Salvador
Time: 46.00

2008 Golden League
3rd place in the 400m event
Oslo, Norway
Time: 45.21

2008 World Indoor Championships
4th place in the 400m event
Valencia, Spain
Time: 46.65

To read the BBC story on Brenes and watch the accompanying video click here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

No conjugal visits for gay inmates in Costa Rica: court

SAN JOSE (AFP) - Homosexual inmates in Costa Rica do not have the right to conjugal visits, the nation's highest court has ruled in a case that could be revisited if Congress passes a bill legalizing gay marriage, newspapers reported.
The Constitutional Tribunal rejected a former inmate's appeal in a lawsuit against prison authorities who suddenly stopped his weekly conjugal visits to his partner, a current inmate he met when both served time in the same jail.
The high court's brief ruling said the prison authorities' decision "falls within the scope of their rights, duties and powers."

The court, however, is still debating another appeal in a similar case that challenges prison rules restricting conjugal visits to heterosexual couples as violating the basic right to sexual freedom of all inmates, including homosexuals.

The high court's ruling could also be affected if Congress votes and passes bill currently under debate that would legalize gay marriage.

Meanwhile, the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal is considering a request to hold a referendum on gay marriage so the Costa Rican people can decide on the matter.

Same-sex marriage is legal in six countries -Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Norway, South Africa and Spain- and is a top issue in the United States, where Massachusetts in 2004 became the first US state to allow it, followed by California this year.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tiquicia's flag bearer

Allan Segura carries the flag of Costa Rica during the opening ceremonies for the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Note: I boycotted the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games for personal reasons, this however doesn't mean I won't report about them in case a newsworthy story comes out or in case Costa Rica accomplishes something relevant (highly unlikely though). That's why I posted this pic and why I will post news and photos in case Nery Brenes, or any other Costa Rican athlete, wins a medal.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tortuguero's threatened sea turtles video

Here's an interesting short video that takes a look into Tortuguero's turtles and the problems they face due to climate change. The video was produced last year by Andy Nelson of the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, but it was just a couple of weeks ago that I found it online. It's really short and worth watching.

To read the article on the same subject click here and for a photo gallery click here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Costa Rican flag already at the Olympic village

National flags of South Korea, right, and Costa Rica are prepared during the flag rising ceremony at the Olympic village three days prior to the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Tuesday, August 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

La Negrita devotion in pictures

Costa Ricans made the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago, Costa Rica, to pray to the 'Virgin of Los Angeles' a.k.a "La Negrita," who first appeared to a local girl in 1635. As many as two million Catholic faithful are making the religious pilgrimage this week to pay their respects to Costa Rica's patron Saint who is believed to perform miracles. (All photos by AP/Kent Gilbert)

Catholic faithful hold up dresses they made for the Virgin of Los Angeles or 'La Negrita' at the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago, Costa Rica, Friday, August, 1, 2008.

A replica of the Virgin of Los Angeles or 'La Negrita' is seen as Catholic faithful attend a procession at the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.

A Catholic woman cries as she holds her baby and prays to the Virgin of Los Angeles or 'La Negrita' at the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.

A Catholic man holds up a replica of the Virgin of Los Angeles or 'La Negrita' as he prays at the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago, Costa Rica, Friday, August, 1, 2008.

Catholic faithful pray to the Virgin of Los Angeles, know as 'La Negrita,' at the Basilica of Los Angeles in Cartago, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 30, 2008.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Costa Rica vacation homes hit by crisis

By John McPhaul

San Jose, Costa Rica (Reuters) - The U.S. mortgage crisis has hit Costa Rica's once booming vacation home market, with sales plummeting as Americans who dream of buying a tropical getaway struggle to find financing.

U.S. retirees and vacationers often pay for beach homes along Costa Rica's jungle-fringed beaches by taking out mortgages on their homes in the United States, but trouble in the banking sector has made that more difficult, realtors say.

To read the whole story click here.

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