Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Costa Rica opens 28th National Park

(Inside Costa Rica) - The Costa Rican government has declared the Los Quetzales region the country's 28th National Park. The 4,000 hectares of reserve were first created in 2005 in one of the rainiest parts of the country.

According to officials, the park owes its rich biodiversity to the seven different levels of altitude which house 25 different local species, 116 types of mammals and wetlands such as seasonal lagoons from the glacial era.

The Costa Rican government said the new Quetzales National Park would not only help to protect the diverse wildlife in this area, but also allow flourishing oak trees to continue to grow without being in danger of becoming extinct.

The new park boosts Costa Rica's protected territory from 25 to 26 per cent.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Costa Rican bullfights in Zapote

Las corridas de Toros a la Tica (Costa Rican bullfighs) were held once again in the traditional location of Zapote.

The fans were delighted as they saw the Costa Rican bullfighters (which are nothing but the average Ticos you see on the street) enter the ring to try to touch the bull's horns without getting killed.

The Costa Rican bullfights have the peculiarity that no bulls are injured or killed during the celebration, as opposed to the Mexican and Spanish versions.

Since the middle of the 19th Century, people from all over the country attend this kind of rodeo at the end of the year as a traditional celebration to say farewell to the old year.

The event was held during the last week of December and the first week of January. Here are some photos by Juan Carlos Ulate from Reuters news agency:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bush clears way for Costa Rica to join CAFTA

Washington (Reuters) – President George W. Bush cleared the way on Tuesday for Costa Rica to formally join a regional free trade agreement between the United States, the Dominican Republic and four other Central American countries.

Bush issued a proclamation that brings the pact into force between the United States and Costa Rica on January 1.

"This step marks an important milestone in our relationship with Costa Rica, building on our strong economic and political partnership," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

Costa Rica began negotiations with the United States on the agreement in January 2003, along with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and later the Dominican Republic.

It was the last of the five Central American countries to strike a deal with the United States, and then the last of all the CAFTA countries to ratify the pact.

Costa Rica's voters narrowly approved the trade deal in a referendum in October 2007, but the nation's lawmakers continued to haggle over its terms. The legislature finally voted to implement the agreement in November.

U.S. exports to the Dominican Republic and the five Central American countries hit a record $22.4 billion in 2007, Schwab's office said in a statement.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Costa Rican president asks businessmen to forgo salaries

San Jose (Xinhua) - President Oscar Arias has urged the businessmen of his country to forgo their salaries instead of cutting jobs, a newspaper reported Monday.

Arias made the call in an interview concerning the global financial crisis published Monday by local daily Diario Extra.

The president said that businessman could do without their salaries or reduce profits instead of making massive dismissals.

Arias also suggested that some sectors work less days to avoid the loss of jobs.

"I have suggested, and this is a good moment to show the generosity and solidarity of the Costa Rican people, that the owner of a company does not begin by dismissing people, but to begin by reducing expenses, cutting salaries by the half, even to reject it," Arias said.

Arias said his government has taken urgent measures to deal with the global crisis, including the approbation of a law allowing the capitalization of state-owned banks so that they can provide credit to the production sector.

The president said that 2009 will be a difficult year but he affirmed that Costa Rica is in a good position to face it because of a reduction of the country's debt during the past two years.

"Europe and U.S. are on recession. It is not the case of China nor India, neither ours, China will grow half of what it has been growing, Costa Rica will grow half or less of 3 or 3.5 percent," Arias said.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Aid for Limon floods in

Policemen, Red Cross workers and local kids help unload trucks and pile up donations earlier this week in Cuatro Millas, one of towns affected by recent flooding. The Costa Rican Red Cross this week has gone from door-to-door to bring aid to flood victims in the Caribbean province of Limon. (Photo: Lindy Drew / The Tico Times)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Jersey family chosen as Tiquicia's 2 millionth tourist

The Biedron family from New Jersey, from left, Mark, father; Matt, 18; Loring, 11; Laura, 20; Rose, 8; Henry, 9, and mom Gretchen, at Juan Santamaria International Airport yesterday listening to a translator detailing the reasons why they were chosen as the symbolic 2 millionth tourist to arrive, a Costa Rican record. (Photo: Ronald Reyes/The Tico Times)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Low coffee prices threaten farmers

Marcos Rivas picks ripe red coffee beans at a plantation in Atenas, 28 miles (35kms) west of San Jose December 17, 2008. Costa Rica's coffee farmers need international coffee prices, which have fallen because of the global financial crisis, to rise or else they face stiff losses this harvest.
(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Digital Arbor chooses Costa Rica for expansion

The financial crisis has forced many companies to hold back their expenditures, some even cutting jobs. However, there is good news for Costa Rica. DigitalArbor is doing exactly the opposite and setting shop in Costa Rica and creating some 500 new jobs.

DigitalArbor offers production services across a full range of digital communications, offering creative agencies and marketing corporations dramatic cost savings and rapid scalability in digital production.

According to CINDE - the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency - the company is expected to provide 500 jobs over the next two years and invest $2 million.

DigitalArbor said it chose Costa Rica because it's a country that has a good supply of trained human resources, an educational level at world standards, an adequate communications technology and a government that supports foreign investment.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Festival of Light illuminates San Jose

Floats parade during the 13th Festival of Lights held in Downtown San Jose, December 13 2008. The parade also included marching bands, cheerleading groups, and fireworks. (Photos: Inside Costa Rica)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Authorities arrest man that stabbed ex-wife 17 times

By Uri Ridelman

Agents of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) in Quepos, Puntarenas, arrested yesterday a man that on November 24 tried to kill his ex-wife by stabbing her 17 times.

Minor Morales, 51, was arrested around 12:40 p.m. after authorities received an anonymous tip alerting them of the location where the suspect was working. Apparently the tip was provided by a co-worker of Morales who saw his "wanted" photograph in a local newspaper

Morales had been released on November 25 by judge Rosa Castillo Cordero after spending just a day in jail. The conditions for the release forced him to stay away from the victim and her family, leave the town where the victim lived and attend a judicial dispatch to sign every two weeks.

Despite those orders, in recent days Morales used two payphones to place several calls to a phone used by the victim, Ana Campos Esquivel, to threaten her once again. Those calls, along with the anomymous tip, helped the authorities locate Morales.

Morales' recapture had been ordered on November 27 after an appeal was presented to a judicial tribunal and accepted by the three judges.

Ironically, Morales was released on the day that the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was being celebrated.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

IMF chief: Costa Rica well positioned for global slowdown

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn talks to the media next to Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias at Presidential house in San Jose December 11, 2008.(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)Washington (Dow Jones) - Costa Rica is in relatively good shape to weather the global economic slowdown, but the country's central bank should remain ready to act, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said Thursday.

Following meetings with President Oscar Arias, Finance Minister Guillermo Zuniga, and central bank chief Francisco de Paula Gutierrez, Strauss-Kahn said there was general agreement that a combination of domestic policy adjustment and external financing are needed to help the Costa Rican economy and people deal with the slowdown.

"In this regard, the country can confront the challenging global environment from a position of relative strength," he said in a statement. "The prudent fiscal stance of recent years provides the authorities with some room for maneuver."

The central bank must remain "vigilant" to ensure "a smooth adjustment in domestic demand and the current account deficit, maintain the attractiveness of local currency assets, and ensure that inflation expectations converge toward the central bank's inflation target," he said.

The IMF stands ready to help Costa Rica or other Latin American countries manage the difficult global environment, he said.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Costa Rica's Caribbean at risk for disease

(Photo: AFP/HO/File)By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times Staff

After days of record rain, the Caribbean is highly vulnerable to dengue and other diseases, health authorities say.

People wading in flooded areas risk contracting leptospirosis, a bacterial disease caused by contact with animal urine. Limon is also the province most susceptible to dengue, a viral disease carried by mosquitoes that lay eggs in pools of rainwater.

"As soon as the water recedes, we will begin to see the full problem in Limon," said Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila.
Leptospirosis and dengue have similar symptoms, including high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever, a more series form of the disease, can be fatal. While leptospirosis should be treated with antibiotics, there is no medication for dengue. Those infected should rest and drink fluids.

Health officials are now advising people to wear rubber boots to protect cuts from exposure to contaminated water. People should also treat or boil their water before drinking it, said Maria Ethel Trejos, who works at the ministry.

The Pan American Health Organization (OPS) is seeking a $45,000 donation from a foreign government to help control and prevent disease in Limon, said Andres Calvo at OPS. He said there is a “high probabil ity ” that the money will come through.

The Health Ministry, the OPS and the National Water and Sewer System (AyA) will decide how to spend the funds. The money could pay for testing drinking water, buying hydration powder for residents, or buying the chemical Abate to kill mosquito larvae, Calvo said.

Oscar Arias celebrates annual weapon-destruction ceremony

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, left, destroys an AK-47 rifle with the help of William Hildalgo, director of weapons for the Ministry of Public Security, at the presidential palace in San Jose, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008. Arias destroyed weapons seized from criminals to commemorate his 21st anniversary of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Picture of the day

The irony of life reflected in the poverty of Costa Rica: a homeless man sits outside the National bank in San Jose, December 9, 2008. The sign at the back reads "Your dream made a reality."
(Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

25 Africans, en route to U.S., deported from Costa Rica

(Tico Times) - Immigration Police have deported a total of 25 African nationals who had entered Costa Rica illegally in recent weeks on their way to the United States.

In the most recent arrest, four men from the northeastern African country of Eritrea were arrested in Liberia, Guanacaste, in northwestern Costa Rica, en route to Nicaragua. The four men, all construction workers whose ages range from 26 to 35, are already back in their country in eastern Africa. Two of the men had identification cards from Italy and the other two from Malta.

Immigration Police Chief Francisco Castaing said in a statement that African migrants often first enter Italy illegally. While their immigration status is being resolved, they are issued an ID card that permits them to travel through the European Union. They then travel from Italy to Spain, and from there to Costa Rica, with the ultimate goal of continuing north to the United States.

Other routes include leaving Europe from Malta and entering Costa Rica by land, traveling from Venezuela and Panama.

Immigration officials believe the recent arrests indicate the existence of a network dedicated to transporting African nationals to the United States, according to a Public Security Ministry press release.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Destructive Koobface virus turns up on Facebook

Note: ok I know this isn't a Costa Rica-related article, however due to the popularity of Facebook all over the world I decided I had to post this here to let my friends, family and blog readers know about this cyber threat. Better to be safe than sorry, take care! ~ Uri R.

Boston (Reuters) - Facebook's 120 million users are being targeted by a virus dubbed "Koobface" that uses the social network's messaging system to infect PCs, then tries to gather sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

It is the latest attack by hackers increasingly looking to prey on users of social networking sites.

"A few other viruses have tried to use Facebook in similar ways to propagate themselves," Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in an e-mail. He said a "very small percentage of users" had been affected by these viruses.

Koobface spreads by sending notes to friends of someone whose PC has been infected. The messages, with subject headers like, "You look just awesome in this new movie," direct recipients to a website where they are asked to download what it claims is an update of Adobe Systems Inc's Flash player.

If they download the software, users end up with an infected computer, which then takes users to contaminated sites when they try to use search engines from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Live.com, according McAfee.

McAfee warned in a blog entry on Wednesday that its researchers had discovered that Koobface was making the rounds on Facebook.

Facebook requires senders of messages within the network to be members and hides user data from people who do not have accounts, said Chris Boyd, a researcher with FaceTime Security Labs. Because of that, users tend to be far less suspicious of messages they receive in the network.

"People tend to let their guard down. They think you've got to log in with an account, so there is no way that worms and other viruses could infect them," Boyd said.

Social network MySpace, owned by News Corp, was hit by a version of Koobface in August and used security technology to eradicate it, according to a company spokeswoman. The virus has not cropped up since then, she said.

Privately held Facebook has told members to delete contaminated e-mails and has posted directions at www.facebook.com/security on how to clean infected computers.

Richard Larmer, chief executive of RLM Public Relations in New York, said he threw out his PC after it became infected by Koobface, which downloaded malicious software onto his PC. It was really bad. It destroyed my computer," he said.

McAfee has not yet identified the perpetrators behind Koobface, who are improving the malicious software behind the virus in a bid to outsmart security at Facebook and MySpace.

"The people behind it are updating it, refining it, adding new functionalities," said McAfee's Schmugar.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle, Additional reporting by Emily Kaiser; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Costa Rica ousts top two intel officials

DIS director Roberto Solorzano resigned after the scandal  (Photo: La Nacion/FILE)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) – Costa Rica has replaced its two top intelligence officials because a government password apparently was used to loot private bank accounts.

Prosecutors have accused the deputy director of the Intelligence and Security Directorate (DIS), Roberto Guillen, of helping steal from private bank accounts after accessing credit reports through a government account with a private data company.

The president's office on Wednesday announced that the agency's director, Roberto Solorzano, had resigned after acknowledging the agency's "negligence in the handling of the password." Jose Torres, a top adviser to President Oscar Arias, will succeed Solorzano, who has not been accused of any crime.

Prosecutors say Guillen was part a ring that used falsified checks to steal at least $360,000 from Costa Rican businessmen. Guillen allegedly used the password to access credit reports on the victims. Guillen was arrested in November but is free pending further investigation.

Cabinet Chief Rodrigo Arias said the government will propose legal reforms to the intelligence agency to better define its jurisdiction.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Costa Rica, Singapore start trade talks

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias (AP/File Photo)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is in Singapore to start talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.

The accord will cover investment, services, telecommunications and tourism, among other areas.

Arias has long lobbied for greater economic ties with Asia. He hopes the trade accord will encourage Singapore to invest in and develop Costa Rica's Caribbean ports.

The president on Tuesday met with Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore has trade agreements with Chile, Peru and Panama.

Costa Rican exports to Singapore totaled $31.5 million and imports reached $26.4 million in 2007.

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