Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biden rejects plea to slow C. American deportations

(REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday told Central American leaders pushing the United States to slow its record pace of deportations to be patient, because it will not change in the short term amid the U.S. economic downturn.

Biden's one-day visit was the first to Central America by a top-level U.S. official since President Obama took office in January, and he promised to work together with leaders to strengthen ties with a region that has felt ignored by Washington.

Central American leaders, who met with Biden at the Presidential Palace in Costa Rica, pushed for a slowing of deportations. A record 80,000 Central Americans were deported from the United States in 2008.

After the meeting, Biden told reporters that leaders must have patience while Washington devises a plan that will address the issue amid the U.S. economic downturn.

"There will not be an immediate response to deportations," said Biden, who arrived here late Sunday and left Monday afternoon after spending three days in Chile.

The deportations and U.S. economic downturn have hit the region hard. During the last quarter of 2008, money sent home by Central American migrants living in the U.S. fell four percent, compared with the same period in the previous year, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Biden, Central American leaders hold talks in Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Bruno Stago , left, greets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden upon Biden's arrival to Juan Santamaria International Airport near San Jose, Sunday, March 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)San Jose, Costa Rica (CNN) - Vice President Joseph Biden is meeting Monday with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and other Central American leaders to discuss U.S. aid to the area, the war on drugs and the global economic downturn.

Biden arrived Sunday from Chile. He met with seven Latin American and European heads of state at that two-day gathering.

Biden will meet privately with Arias before they are joined by current or incoming heads of state from Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Panama, officials said. Honduras and Nicaragua will send deputy foreign ministers.

The meeting comes ahead of this week's Group of 20 summit in England that President Obama will attend.

Biden made a short statement upon arrival in San Jose, where he was met by a Costa Rican delegation that included Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno.

"This visit is an opportunity to meet leaders from the region and strengthen the existing ties between the United States and Central America," Biden said. "This administration is looking for a productive and respectful relationship, and we know that type of relationship initiates listening to each other. That is why we are here. I expect to listen to and learn from President Arias and the other leaders with whom I will meet tomorrow."

Stagno expressed optimism about the new Obama administration.

"We think it's opportune for the United States to have a positive agenda with Latin America," Stagno said in a televised interview with CNN affiliate Teletica. "We need to turn the page on an agenda that was mostly negative."

Tomas Duenas, the Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, said the agenda for Monday's talks will include financial matters, economic development, human rights, security, immigration and other common areas with the United States and the region.

Biden is scheduled to return Monday evening to Washington.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

U.S. vice president arrives in Costa Rica

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco) (Xinhua) - U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden arrived in Costa Rica Sunday to attend a summit with leaders from Central American countries.

Biden traveled to Costa Rica from Santiago, Chile, where he met with South American leaders including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Biden was accompanied by his wife Jill and White House officials in charge of U.S. relations with Latin America.

The U.S. leader was welcomed at the Juan Santamaria international airport by Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno and Costa Rican Ambassador to the United States Tomas Duenas.

Biden's trip to Costa Rica is the first visit to Central America by a top U.S. official since President Barack Obama took office in January.

On Monday, Biden will meet with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, and later they will be joined by leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rican and Panama at the summit to discuss new U.S. aid to the region, measures for sustainable development and details of the "Merida Plan" to combat drug trafficking.

The possible agenda of the 5th Summit of the Americas, scheduled for April 17-19 in Trinidad and Tobago, may also be discussed.

Presidents Alvaro Colom from Guatemala, Antonio Saca from El Salvador, Martin Torrijos from Panama and Salvadorian President-elect Mauricio Funes will attend the summit.

Nicaragua's vice foreign minister, Honduras' vice president and Belize's prime minister will also attend the meeting.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mexico - Costa Rica presidents get together for WC Qualifier

Mexican President Felipe Calderon (R) smiles with Costa Rica President Oscar Arias during the CONCACAF soccer qualifier between Mexico and Costa Rica for World Cup 2010 at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, March 28, 2009. Mexico won 2-0. (REUTERS/Felipe Leon)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Report: Mel Gibson seen kissing another woman in Costa Rica

(Photo: GINSBURG-SPALY / SPLASH NEWS)Washington, (UPI) - Married film star and director Mel Gibson was allegedly spotted kissing a woman who isn't his wife near his family's vacation home in Costa Rica, a source said.

"It was near sunset. The two of them were playing in the surf, ducking into the waves. They put their arms around each other and kissed pretty passionately for about 4 or 5 seconds," a source told Huffingtonpost.com about Gibson's alleged embrace with a "stunning" brunette.

Gibson has been married to his wife Robyn since 1980 and they are the parents of seven children.

The actor has starred in the "Lethal Weapon" movies, as well as "Braveheart" and "The Patriot." He also directed "Braveheart," "The Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto."

He has been keeping a low-profile since his 2006 arrest for drunken driving, an incident that became even more newsworthy when he was quoted making anti-Semitic remarks to a Jewish police officer. Gibson has since publicly apologized for his behavior.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Casinos can now operate 24 hours in Costa Rica

Photo: Saray Ramírez Vindas)(Inside Costa Rica) - The Arias government has issued an executive order that allows casinos to operate on a 24 hour basis, at least until May 1, to avoid the possible layoff of some 2.000 or more casino employees.

The current order overrides another one issued last June that would have limited casino operating to only 8 hours daily, between 6pm and 2am, which should have been in effect last December 27.

The shortened hours never went into effect after representatives of the Casino Association objected to the short hours, asking that casinos be allowed to operate at least 16 hours daily or some 2.000 employees would have to be cut.

The government agreed to the extended hours, for now.

Minister of Tourism, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, who has carried the baton on the issue of decrees related to casinos, said the final hours of operation will be determined by a study of the ministry of labour.

Benavides denied that the work day will be 24 hours, but rather range between 8 and 16 hours.

There are 408 registered casinos in Costa Rica, most working 16 hours, while several like the Horseshoe in San Jose operates on a 24 hour basis.

Benavides pointed out that, other than the hours of operation, the regulations emitted in the June 2008 executive order are still in place, like the regulation that casinos operating in a hotel must belong to the same corporation that owns the hotel property and that gaming addiction is a public health problem.

Hotels that operate casinos that do not comply with the June 2008 order can lose their "tourism" declaration, said Benavides.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Texas A&M opens center in Costa Rica

Texas A&M has continued its efforts to expand internationally with the completion of the Soltis Research and Education Center in Costa Rica. The facility is designed to provide students with an international experience while protecting the unique ecological environment of the region. It was conceived by Charles W. Soltis, Class of '55, who approached the University with the idea in 2005.

The Soltis family donated 40 acres of rainforest land to build the center, along with 250 acres adjoining the building near the town of San Isidro, Costa Rica. The center will provide students with opportunities for study abroad, internships and community service activities in various fields of study including environmental conservation, education, architecture, engineering and natural sciences.

"Texas A&M University was very hands-on with the Center from the beginning," said Maria Claudia Alves, director for the Office of Latin American Programs. "We coordinated the different aspects of the project, starting from how the building will look to the research collaborations with various Costa Rican universities."

The Soltis Research and Education Center facilities were designed to be modern while staying true to the Center's eco-friendly mission.

"The Center includes state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories, and provides bungalows to accommodate up to 60 people," Alves said. "The vision for the Soltis Center was to be ecologically stable while providing up to date education and equipment."

An eco-friendly cafeteria, for example, uses modern techniques to air-condition the room without using machinery that could cause damage to the surrounding natural environment.

The Center will provide programs benefitting the residents of the San Isidro area, including teaching English to local residents and water management.

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