Saturday, February 28, 2009

Michelle Obama's hairstylist will retire to Costa Rica

Michael "Rahni" Flowers, Michelle Obama's hairstylist, is building a house in Costa Rica and will move there with his partner when he retires, according to Chicago Tribune's Anne Stein.

Flowers and Daryl, his partner of eight years, will move to Caimital, near Nicoya and live in a house that will be powered by wind and solar energy. They also plan to raise fruits and veggies and have fish.

Flowers loves Costa Rica because the people are very gentle, kind and generous and "it's a very green country with a 97 percent literacy rate and one of the best health-care programs in the world."

He admits that his favorite Costa Rican hotel is the Four Seasons in Papagayo, Guanacaste, because it captures the culture and the environment of the place it's located in, and he considers it to be one of the most beautiful hotels in the world.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Plunge in crude prices delays Costa Rica's bid to Petrocaribe

San Jose (Miami Herald) - Costa Rica's bid to join Venezuela's Petrocaribe alliance, which provides subsidized oil to Central American and Caribbean countries, has been delayed by the plunge in crude prices, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said.

"I haven't heard of Petrocaribe for the last few months and don't really know where it stands these days," Arias said. "We need to ask Chavez if is he's willing to continue with it."

A 72 percent decline in oil prices since July has cast doubt upon Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's ability to sustain crude oil subsidies for international aid programs. Venezuela, the biggest oil exporter in the Americas, depends on oil for 93 percent of exports.

Chavez "isn't as enthusiastic as in the past about trying to broaden that program," Arias said.

Costa Rica applied for full membership after ministers attended a Petrocaribe summit in July. Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodríguez said Wednesday Venezuela will maintain the program, continuing to provide aid to "brother countries.''

Note:I may be one of the few Ticos that is happy about this delay. I have always criticized Arias for agreeing to join Petrocaribe last year. Arias has in the past criticized Hugo Chavez's politics and the way he spends his Petro dollars to influence the governments of the region, however he then agrees to join Petrocaribe?

I accept that joining Petrocaribe would have been benefitial to the country a few months ago when oil prices were soaring. The low prices and preferential payment options that Venezuela was offering were rather good, but now I don't think it's worth it. I sincerely think that the farther our government stays from any alliances with Chavez's dictatorial empire the better we will be in the long run.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Costa Rica exports take hard hit in January

By Alex Leff
Tico Times Staff

Costa Rican exporters sustained a considerable blow from the global economic crisis in January, grossing only $600.6 million, 19 percent below the January 2008 total, the Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX) reported.

The recession in the United States, the chief importer of Tico-made goods, continued to cut into company earnings here. Last month saw $220.7 million in goods exported to the U.S., down by 17.6 percent from January 2008.

Computer parts were hit the hardest, said COMEX, citing losses of as much as $56 million, or 30 percent.

“One of the principal causes of the lower level of operation of exporting companies is based on the difficulty in this sector to attain lines of credit,” Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said in a statement.

Amid the grim figures, the Foreign Trade Promotion Office found a ray of hope: Canada. Against the grain, exports to the U.S. northern neighbor rose by 9.7 percent in January compared with the same month last year, with ornamental plants, tires, pineapples and textiles driving the increase.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Global crisis threatens coffee farmers

Coffee farmer Federico Rodriguez inspects a new growth on a coffee plantation in La Ribera de Belen, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. Rodriguez said that loans for farmers have dried up over the last six months, and that coffee growers will suffer if the world-wide economic crisis continues much longer. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Costa Rica gets rest of $300 million loan from China

Finance Minister Guillermo Zuniga San Jose, Costa Rica, (Reuters) - Costa Rica has received the rest of a low interest loan granted to the country by China in return for the Central American nation's move to break diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize Beijing in 2007.

China used some of its $1.8 trillion in official foreign exchange reserves to secretly loan Costa Rica $150 million in January 2008 at low interest rates as part of the deal between the two countries.

China had committed to lending a further $150 million, but doubts about Beijing's commitment to the loan surfaced after the deal was leaked in the media.

China and Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, have long offered aid and development projects to small countries to try and win allies in their diplomatic struggle.

Costa Rica's Finance Minister Guillermo Zuniga told Reuters the funds were deposited on Friday.

"We are going to use it to pay debt. Expensive debt will be repaid with inexpensive debt," Zuniga said.

The 12-year loan carries an annual interest rate of 2 percent, Zuniga added.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Govt. aims to resolve Limon-Moin port concession by April

(Photo: Marvin Carvajal/La Nacion)By Renzo Dasso
Business News Americas

The Costa Rican government expects to make the final decision regarding the future of the Limon-Moin port complex concession in March or April this year, the general director of the public works and transport ministry's (MOPT) maritime and ports division, Hector Arce, told BNamericas.

The government will base its decision on a report carried out by Dutch consulting firm Royal Haskoning, which analyzed the best options to operate the facilities.

"The study only covered the ports on the Caribbean coast, not on the Pacific coast. The study will serve as the basis for the executive decision regarding the concession process," Arce said.

"Two options are currently being analyzed. Privatizing the port complex - which entails turning Limon city into a port town - or building a new facility right next to Moin," he added.

Arce also said that, in the event a new facility is built, the study specifies it should be a large container port. If this is the case, the new port would compete with Limon-Moin.

UNION TALKS

"A special government committee is currently analyzing the matter with (Atlantic port authority) Japdeva. This includes the resolution of pending labor issues," Arce said, referring to negotiations between Limon-Moin union Sintrajab and Japdeva.

The government originally proposed that the complex, located in Limon province, be offered in concession to a single private developer.

However, Sintrajab rejected the proposal, arguing that the privatization implied firing 6,000 of the 7,000 workers employed at the facility.

On October 31 last year, the union suggested that the facility either be turned into a tourist complex or that the government pay the entity $700 million in compensation to allow the privatization process to be carried out.

Later, on November 3, the government responded by calling the request "absurd" and offered Sintrajab $80 million. That same day, the union sent the government a letter rejecting the offer and demanding pending labor compensation owed to the workers.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias plans for the port complex to be operating under the new model before his term ends in 2010.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New monitoring stations detect 'silent earthquakes' in Costa Rica

Professor Susan Schwartz (Photo: University of California - Santa Cruz) Chicago (EurekAlert) - After installing an extensive network of monitoring stations in Costa Rica, researchers have detected slow slip events (also known as "silent earthquakes") along a major fault zone beneath the Nicoya Peninsula. These findings are helping scientists understand the full spectrum of motions occurring on the fault and may yield new insights into the events that lead to major earthquakes.

A slow slip event involves the same fault motion as an earthquake, but it happens so slowly that the ground does not shake. It can be detected only with networks of modern instruments that use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to measure precisely the movements of the Earth's crust over time.

Susan Schwartz, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, leads a team that has installed a permanent network of 13 GPS monitoring stations and 13 seismic stations on Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula.

"At least two slow slip events have occurred beneath the Nicoya Peninsula since 2003," Schwartz said. "When we recorded the first one in 2003, we had only 3 GPS stations. By 2007, we had 12 GPS stations and over 10 seismic stations, so the event that year was very nicely recorded."

The 2007 slow slip event in Costa Rica involved movement along the fault equivalent to a magnitude 6.9 earthquake. But it took place over a period of 30 days rather than the 10 seconds typical for an earthquake of that size, and such slow motion does not radiate the seismic energy associated with normal earthquakes.

To read the whole article click here.

Contact: Tim Stephens
Email:
stephens@ucsc.edu
Phone: 831-459-2495

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seagal wants to bring Hollywood to Costa Rica

(Photo: Marvin Caravaca/La Nacion)San Jose, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Action movie star Steven Seagal told Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Wednesday he wants to help the Central American country build a filmmaking industry to put its dramatic landscapes to use.

Seagal, known for his martial arts roles of the 1980s and '90s, met Arias in San Jose and offered to use his Hollywood connections to help Costa Rica get started in movie-making.

"Costa Rica has everything -both rain forest and dry climate. What it lacks is an infrastructure to make movies," Seagal told a news conference.

Seagal said he had a positive conversation with Arias but did not elaborate on the size of any investment he planned or give a timeframe for his project.

Apart from a handful of small-budget independent producers, Central America's film industry is almost nonexistent.

Despite its reputation as a stable, relatively crime-free country with lush and varied landscapes, Costa Rica is rarely used by U.S. filmmakers, who often opt to shoot in Canada.

Costa Rica was the backdrop, however, for the 1992 film "1492: Conquest of Paradise," starring Gerard Depardieu, about the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.

Actor and director Mel Gibson, who has a vacation home on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, had his production team scout the country's jungles for his 2006 epic "Apocalypto" about the decline of the Mayan civilization, but ended up shooting it in more-accessible Mexico.

Costa Rica sets date for trade talks with Singapore

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias (AP Photo/FILE)By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times Staff

Costa Rica and Singapore will begin negotiations in mid-April on a free-trade agreement, a key piece of President Oscar Arias' plan to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with Asia.

A team from the Foreign Trade Ministry will visit Singapore April 20 to 22, after the second round of trade talks with China April 14 to 17, the ministry announced Thursday in a press release.

Arias, an avid free-trader, has led Costa Rica into free-trade pacts with the United States and Panama, and the country is expended to sign an agreement between Central America and the European Union early next year. Arias recently told the weekly newspaper El Financiero he also hopes to pursue free-trade deals with India and South Korea.

A tiny and densely populated city-state with a largely ethnic Chinese citizenry, Singapore has a per capita income of more than seven times Costa Rica's. Manufacturing and services are the main engines of Singapore's powerhouse economy, according to the U.S. State Department Web site.

Arias announced plans to negotiate a free trade deal with Singapore during a visit there last December. Costa Rica's exports to Singapore last year totaled $31.5 million, while imports totaled $26.4 million.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jeremy Lusk dies in Costa Rica from injuries suffered in FMX crash

(LA Times) - Jeremy Lusk, star of a daredevil sport known as freestyle motocross and a popular action sports hero, died early Tuesday from head injuries suffered during a crash Saturday at the X-Knights competition in San Jose, Costa Rica. He was 24.

Lusk, a Temecula resident, had been in a medically induced coma, with swelling of the brain, at Calderon Guardia Hospital in San Jose. A spokesman at the hospital said he suffered severe brain damage and a possible spinal cord injury.

The Temecula rider passed away in his hospital bed early Tuesday night in San Jose, Costa Rica, while surrounded by his mother and father, Chuck and Gina Lusk; his wife Lauren, and mother- and father-in-law Lynne and Larry, along with fellow Metal Mulisha riders Brian Deegan, Ryan Hagy, Cameron Steele and Erik Apple.

Nicknamed "Pitbull" because of his tenacity on a motorcycle, Lusk was injured after failing to fully rotate a back-flip variation while soaring over a 100-foot jump.

He slammed headfirst into the dirt on the landing ramp's down-slope. It was reminiscent of a similar crash he endured while attempting the same trick during the 2007 X Games at the Home Depot Center in Carson, but Lusk walked away from that incident.

The trick involves extending the body away from the motorcycle and grabbing the seat as the motorcycle is upside down, then pulling back aboard as the motorcycle is righted before landing. Lusk clearly had trouble getting back on the seat, and some witnesses said swirling winds within San Jose's Ricardo Saprissa Stadium may have been a factor.

Despite the danger associated with freestyle motocross, Lusk is believed to be the first pro rider to have died from injuries suffered in an FMX contest, though several have incurred serious injuries.

Lusk, who was born in San Diego in 1984 and had been riding motorcycles since he was 3, turned pro at 19. He was coming off his most successful year.

He won his first X Games gold medal in the freestyle motocross competition last summer at the Home Depot Center, and won a silver medal in the FMX best-trick contest.

Also in 2008, Lusk won two gold medals in an X Games Mexico competition; he finished third in the Dew Tour series standings, and he was never lower than fourth in a string of high-level international events.

The X-Knights competition Saturday in Costa Rica was not affiliated with the X Games.

Of Lusk, X Games General Manager Chris Stiepock said: "He was really starting to emerge as one of the premier freestyle motocross riders in the world.

"He was a great kid and a great athlete. I think he represented his sport very well. He was very passionate about what he did, and I think it's a great loss for the freestyle motocross community for sure."

Stiepock said he did not believe the increasingly risky maneuvers attempted by freestyle motocross riders have pushed the sport over the line. "I think there's a whole lot more that can be done with freestyle motocross, and we're going to continue to feature it strongly at the X Games," he said.

Lusk was on a team of star FMX riders called Metal Mulisha, founded by the sport's most iconic figure, Brian Deegan.

Deegan was in Costa Rica and unavailable for comment but released a statement through his publicist: "Jeremy motivated me to be a better person; he was my best friend. The bond of this team is one that will never be broken."

Funeral services will be held Monday, Feb. 16, at 1 p.m. at the Revival Christian Fellowship Church at 29220 Scott Road in Menifee, Calif.

The Jeremy Lusk Trust Fund has been set up within the Athlete Recovery Fund. Donations can be made via the website http://www.athleterecoveryfund.com/.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Updated Jeremy Lusk information

Here's more information on Jeremy Lusk after his horrific crash:

- He made it through the surgery which was great because they only gave him a 5 percent chance of that.

- X-rays were done to the neck and spinal column and no breaks were reported by the hospital.

- When asked about injuries to other parts of his body, the hospital did not report other injuries at the time.

- Lusk was attended to by the head of neurological surgery, Dr. Jorge Ramirez.

- Close friends and Metal Mulisha teammates, Brian Deegan and Ryan "Fluffer" Hagy left Southern California early this morning bound for the Calderon Guardia hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica.

- A few hours after the surgery they were able to finally close his skull when the swelling of his brain went down enough.

- If they can air-vac him out it will be to Miami with the family, hopefully by the end of week.

- There seems to be no breaks in his neck and jaw. They will not be able to do a CT scan of his spine for a few days, but once they stabilize him the CT scan will be done.

For more info on Jeremy Lusk and updates of his condition visit:
http://prayforjeremylusk.blogspot.com/

Jeremy Lusk suffers horrific crash and sustains major injury while performing in Costa Rica

Screen capture from Costa Rica's channel 7(ESPN) - Metal Mulisha's Jeremy Lusk is in stable, but critical condition where he remains in a medically induced coma at Calderon Guardia Hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Lusk, who has been unconscious since his crash, was riding the X-Knights contest in San Jose when he under-rotated on a backflip variation, causing him to slam into the ground head first.

Post-crash, suspected brain trauma required immediate surgery to treat a subdural hematoma on his brain.

He underwent emergency surgery that lasted for four hours and thirty minutes. The purpose of the surgery was to release pressure from his skull, which was caused by accumulation of blood between the brain and the skull due to a dangerous shift of his brain.

Doctors report that they will know more Jeremy's future prognosis within the next crucial 36 to 48 hours. Jeremy's wife and family are now in Costa Rica by his side.

After the operation, Jeremy was placed in Surgical Intensive Care, where he is undergoing analysis with a neurosurgeon.

Doctor Alejandro Hernandez was quoted saying:"It is too early to say predict the severity of his injury, but he was breathing on his own. Furthermore, he was totally unconscious", added the doctor.

Note: Here's the video of the horrific accident. Viewer discretion is advised. This event was being broadcasted live on Costa Rica's channel 7 when it happened. If you want to see that channel's footage in Spanish, that shows not only the accident but Jeremy being attended to and taken to the hospital click here.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Carl Davis loses in technical decision against Chagaev

Ruslan Chagaev from Uzbekistan, right, punches contender Carl Davis Drumond from Costa Rica, left, during the WBA world boxing championship heavyweight title bout in Rostock, northern Germany, on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. Chagaev won the fight by points after 6 rounds. (AP Photo/Frank Hormann)

Note: the 12-round fight was stopped after round six due to a severe cut over the left eye of Chagaev from an accidental headbutt by Drumond that occurred in round three. At the end of that round the fight was sent to the scorecards, which Chagaev won by a six-round technical decision over the previously unbeaten Drumond. The score cards read as follows: 60-54, 58-56, and 58-56 in favor of the defending champion Chagaev.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Sylvania closing plant in Costa Rica

Al Dia newspaper is reporting that The Sylvania company announced yesterday that it would be closing its one of its two plants located in Pavas and laying off workers, although the exact number has yet to be announced.

Oscar Vega, regional manager for the company in Brazil, confirmed yesterday the closing of the plant that manufactures consumer lighting products.

Vega said that the number of people that will be laid off by the closure is not yet known, but will all be paid their severance pay.

"We do not not have the exact number of people, but believe it will be about one third of the ucrrent workforce", said Vega.

The company said it will keep open only one of the two plants it operates in Costa Rica, the closure being a result in the slow down in the construction industry due to the world economic crisi and the demand for its products.

The Sylvania plant in Costa Rica exports products to both North America and Europe.

Translated by Inside Costa Rica

Problems caused by the strong winds could have been avoided

(Photo: La Nacion/Carlos Gonzalez)By Uri Ridelman

Strong winds in Costa Rica this week have caused havoc. They have not only affected the electrical power supply to the houses of 200,000 people, but caused accidents and ignited fires. Sadly most of these problems might have been avoided if our government had dealt with electric posts sooner and expanded a project to eliminate them.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sudan UN envoy slams Costa Rica over Darfur remarks

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. (Photo/REUTERS)United Nations (Reuters) - Sudan's U.N. envoy on Thursday blasted Costa Rica as a "banana republic" after its ambassador said there was no justification for suspending any war crimes indictment of the Sudanese president over Darfur.
"The issue here is bigger than the small minds ... of some ambassador who talked with you just some minutes ago," Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem told reporters after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sudan.

He said the Costa Rican envoy was trying "to inflame and inflict damage" on the stalled Darfur peace process.

Speaking afterward to Reuters about Costa Rica, Abdalhaleem said, "It is a banana republic."

His Costa Rican counterpart, Jorge Urbina, who is in his second year as an elected member of the 15-nation council, told reporters he saw no justification for Security Council intervention to suspend any indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for suspected war crimes in Darfur.

The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Luis Moreno Ocampo, asked the court's judges last year to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir on suspicion of orchestrating a campaign of genocide in Darfur.

U.N. diplomats say the judges will most likely decide in favor of indicting Bashir and expect the decision to be announced later this month. If Bashir is indicted, Sudan has urged the council to use its power to suspend the prosecution in the interest of getting a lasting peace deal for Darfur.

Urbina said the idea that peace and justice might be incompatible was "absolutely false." He compared the discussion of Bashir and Darfur to the war in the former Yugoslavia when some argued against indicting suspected war criminals.

"At that time, very often politicians, diplomats and analysts were arguing that justice was interfering in the path to peace," he said. "We learned that it was different."

'Crazy Prosecutor'

Abdalhaleem was clearly furious about the comparison.

"We need no lessons and lectures from ambassadors like the Costa Rican," he said. "He has no ... justification whatsoever to appear before you and to talk about Article 16 and the need to leave this crazy prosecutor do what he's planning to do."

He was referring to Article 16 of the ICC statute, which gives the council the right to suspend ICC prosecutions.

U.N. officials have repeatedly expressed concern there might be a spike in violence in Darfur if the ICC indicts Bashir. Sudan has promised to continue cooperating with U.N. peacekeepers but has warned the world body there might be widespread public outrage across the country.

Abdalhaleem said permanent Security Council members Russia and China and other non-permanent members support invoking Article 16. Diplomats say the council is divided on the issue.

The Sudanese envoy also spoke disparagingly about any future indictment of Bashir, saying it would be like giving "birth to a dead rat that is smelling and no use at all."

U.N. officials say as many as 300,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Khartoum in 2003, accusing it of neglecting the development of the region.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Domino's pizza closes its doors in Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) - Without notice to employees and customers, the Mexican owners of the Domino's Pizza franchise in Costa Rica decided to pull up stakes and close its nine store on Saturday, leaving its 130 employees, unemployed.

The order from the head office in San Francisco de Dos Rios, San Jose, went out that all stores to be closed, all equipment and inventory to be pulled, without any explanation as to the why.

Employees told the press that the move (closing) was surprising, though not totally unexpected, as the company had been losing money, estimated at $2 million by the employees of the pizza chain.

Employees now hope the owners will at least pay all salaries and the severance pay that is owed to employees.

All the Domino's Pizza stores were located in the Great Metroplitan Area (San Jose and its surroudings).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Tico Carl Davies will fight for WBA Championship

Uzbekistan's WBA world boxing champion Ruslan Chagaev, left, and his contender Carl Davis Drumond from Costa Rica, right, are seen during a press conference in Rostock, northern Germany, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. Chagaev and Drumond will have a WBA world boxing championship heavyweight title fight in Rostock on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Frank Hormann)

Well everyone here in Costa Rica has pretty much accepted the fact that the Tico has little or no chance against Chagaev, but the fact that he is already fighting him is something especial and we'll be cheering for him from the distance. I'm no boxing expert, but in all my life I can't recall another boxing fight of such high profile involving a Costa Rican boxer.

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