Friday, July 31, 2009

AH1N1 deaths keep climbing in Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) - A 60-year-old woman has become the 22nd death from the AH1N1 virus in Costa Rica, while the Health Ministry investigates the death of a 25-year-old man, which could become death number 23.

The health minister, Maria Luisa Avila, explained the woman was asthmatic and suffered from heart problems. Avila said the woman had been in isolation in the intensive care unit of a San Jose hospital but did not disclose which hospital.

An anonymous source to Inside Costa Rica says the woman was at the Hospital Mexico, where a number of deaths suspected of the AH1N1 virus are being investigated.

The death of the 25-year-old man is being investigated as the man was very obese and displayed many of the symptoms of the virus before his death on Tuesday.

The number of cases and suspected cases of the virus is taxing the ability of the health system to properly deal with the pandemic.

For instance, the San Isidro de Heredia Clinic is at full capacity and does not have adequate space to handle the influx of people.

Ana Virginia Leal, director of the clinic, said that last week they had to use the gymnasium of the local school located in front of the clinic. The school was closed last week due to the extended mid year school vacation period.

The health minister confirmed that the school had been used as a makeshift clinic until the school principal asked them to leave.

However, Avila, explained that people in San Isidro are now being more aware of the virus. She said the number of people arriving at the clinic in Heredia is now 20 a day, half of the 40 daily they had been receiving over the past several weeks.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crocodile makes a lunge for German tourist

 Crocodile attack on tourist boat in Costa Rica (Photo: PAUL STODOLNY / BNPS)A crocodile lunged out of the water at a terrified German tourist on the Tempisque River in Costa Rica with its jaws open to expose its razor-sharp teeth.

By Murray Wardrop
The Daily Telegraph

With her camera in hand, the unnamed holidaymaker was poised to capture a close encounter with the reptile during a boat trip in the Central American country.

However, when a tour guide banged a stick against the side of the boat to attract the crocodile, the creature leapt out of the water just inches from the woman's face.

While the woman was left in shock by the near death experience, a tourist on another boat managed to capture the crocodile's menacing profile.

Paul Stodolny, 29, got his camera out when he spotted the lazy-looking crocodile drifting in the water and continued taking photos as it jumped out of the water

Mr Stodolny, from Toronto, Canada, said: "I couldn't believe it even happened, let alone that I caught it on camera.

"The tour guide of that boat was luring the crocodile closer by tapping a stick in the water.

"It started to get really close and as the tour guide pulled the stick out of the water, the crocodile followed it.

"Before we knew it, this croc just leapt out of the water and seemed to lunge at this poor woman – I think her face says it all.

"Everyone on the boat gasped and bolted backwards – it was much too close for comfort.

"After the croc had shown them who was boss, it disappeared back into the water as the woman tried to catch her breath."

Mr Stodolny, who works for an animation studio, said it was not until later that he realized how lucky the woman was to escape uninjured.

He said: "It all happened so quickly, it was only when I got a chance to look at my photos that I saw how close it actually got.

"We didn't know the woman before this, but we actually bumped into her at a restaurant later on in the trip and showed her the photo.

"She said she'd never experienced anything so scary in her life. All she could see was teeth coming at her.

"I was thrilled to get the photo, it really was a once-in-a lifetime shot."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Picture of the day

(Photo: InsideThe rise in AH1N1 infections and deaths in Costa Rica has raised the concerns of many, some taking to wearing masks to avoid or spread infection, like this man in the La Sabana park on Sunday. A 20-year-old man suffering from serious health problems became the 17th victim of the AH1N1 flu virus in Costa Rica, as the Health Ministry warns the peak period for the pandemic will continue for at least two more weeks. (Photo: Inside Costa Rica)

Friday, July 24, 2009

AH1N1 flu virus deaths in Costa Rica now 16

(AFP/File/Leon Neal)(Inside Costa Rica) - Despite deaths students back to school on Monday

The number of deaths from the AH1N1 flu virus keeps on climbing in Costa Rica, now reaching a total 16. The latest victims include a 28-year-old man who was a drug addict and homeless.

A health official explained that the man was admitted to a hospital for physical aggression, but once examined doctors detected that the man was infected with the virus.

The official said that the homeless community is at grave risk of infection as they live theirs lives in stress, poor hygiene condition and suffer from malnutrition.

Another victim of the AH1N1 is a 75-year-old man who had chronic pulmonary problems and was recently operated for gastric cancer.

To date, Costa Rica has recorded a number of 560 cases of confirmed infection, 110 of which are in isolation and 22 cases in intensive care in the metropolitan area (San Jose).

Health Minister, Maria Luisa Avila, confirmed Thursday morning that the one million students and teachers will go back to the classroom on Monday, July 27, putting an end to an extended mid-year school vacation.

The school vacation was extended an extra week as Costa Rica reaches the peak of the AH1N1 pandemic.

Schools were closed this week after health officials decided it was best to keep children home another week to avoid risk of infection.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More than 1.200 tickets in first day of restrictions

A driver is fined in La Sabana area in front of the National Gymnasium in San Jose, July 21,2009. Over 1,000 drivers were fined yesterday after the vehicular restriction was reinstated in the Metropolitan area and its surroundings. (Photo:Inside Costa Rica)(Inside Costa Rica) - On the first day of the reinstatement of the vehicular restrictions in San Jose, more than 1.200 drivers were fined by Transit Police officials.

The vehicular restrictions in San Jose were struck down by the Constitutional Court on June 12. The Transportation Ministry, citing the importance of limiting access to San Jose, prepared a new decree which went into effect at 6am Tuesday.

In the first hours of the restrictions, the Transit Police reported fining 215 drivers with vehicles with license plates ending in 3 or 4, taking a chance on entering the restricted area.

According to German Marin, director of the Transit Police, the high number of tickets issued is due to the lack of culture by Costa Ricans and drivers who refuse to heed to traffic controls, paying no attention to the fine of only ¢5.000 colones (less than $10), plus court costs.

However, come September 23, the fine will be ¢34.700 (about $60), an amount transit officials hope will be enough of a deterrent.

Marin explained that some 75 transit officials were dispatched to the detail of controlling the plate restriction, as well as other traffic violations.

"We want drivers to know that we are not interested in writing up a lot of tickets, but rather to improve the congestion problems", said MarĂ­n.

Oscar Arias seeks Zelaya's return to Honduras by Friday

(VOA News) - The chief mediator in the Honduras crisis talks is proposing that ousted President Manuel Zelaya return to the Central American nation as its leader by Friday.

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has been trying to narrow the differences between Mr. Zelaya and the forces that ousted him nearly a month ago, said the president's return to Tegucigalpa would be one part of a new 11-point plan he has sent to both sides.

The interim government in Honduras, led by Roberto Micheletti, has previously rejected any possibility of Mr. Zelaya's return to power. However, news reports late Wednesday, by Reuters, indicate the caretaker administration will send the Arias proposal to Congress and the judiciary for review.

There was no immediate comment by Mr. Zelaya's representatives.

The Costa Rican president's announcement of a new plan for Honduras followed a breakdown in the talks on Sunday.

The interim government is under intense international pressure to accept a deal that would allow Mr. Zelaya to return to power. He was forced out of office in a June 28 coup and is now in exile in Nicaragua.

The political deadlock has sparked demonstrations on both sides of the divide.

The caretaker administration previously rejected a seven-point Arias proposal that would have allowed Mr. Zelaya's return in a unity government. The interim leaders say Mr. Zelaya illegally tried to change the constitution to extend his term and has threatened to arrest him if he returns home.

No country has formally recognized the caretaker government, and many nations have been demanding Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement.

Mr. Zelaya tried to return July 5, but the Honduran military prevented his plane from landing. One person was killed in clashes between soldiers and Zelaya supporters.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Third round of Honduras talks under way in Costa Rica

San Jose (Xinhua News) - Representatives of deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government met again on Wednesday with chief mediator Costa Rican President Oscar Arias for a third round of talks.

A "Declaration of San Jose" was proposed by Arias on Wednesday as a solution to Honduras' on-going crisis.

Costa Rican presidency confirmed to Xinhua that the declaration to be signed by the parties in conflict demands Zelaya's return to Honduras within 24 hours.

Other media also cited sources with the mediator that a "government of national unity and reconciliation" remains one of the modified proposals aimed at a peaceful end to the crisis.

Arias also suggests international community to drop economic-financial sanctions on Honduras, according to the sources.

Minutes ago, the Costa Rican presidency confirmed the news saying the Honduran interim government's delegation has entered Arias' Presidential House to meet the mediator.

Zelaya's representatives flew in on Wednesday to hear Arias' new proposals for a solution to the on-going crisis started on June 28.

Honduran interim Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez said his government will not give in to the demands of allowing Zelaya’s return to power.

"This hypothesis of a possible return of Mr. Zelaya to occupy the presidency is completely ruled out," Lopez said.

It is expected that the designated mediator, Arias, the Nobel Peace Price Laureate in 1987, will read "Declaration of San Jose" or a modified reconciliation plan later Wednesday, as a 72-hour term he set to convince post-coup leaders on Zelaya's reinstatement expires.

The interim government had rejected the seven points proposed by Arias last week to allow Zelaya's return in a power-sharing government.

Meanwhile, Zelaya said he will return to Honduras with or without agreement between the parts in conflict once the 72-hour term finishes.

Costa Rica cancels annual pilgrimage to Cartago

(AFP) - Ongoing concerns about the AH1N1 virus forced the cancellation of a 227-year-old traditional pilgrimage in Costa Rica, where 16 people have died from the flu and authorities have confirmed 560 cases of infections.

The Ministry of Health and the Catholic Church in the country agreed to suspend the annual pilgrimage ("Romeria") for devotees of the Virgin of Los Angeles.

Each year, some two million people walk to the Basilica de Los Angeles, in Cartago, the country's first capital, to pay religious tribute, but authorities fear up to 20,000 people could contract swine flu if the pilgrimage goes ahead.

The unprecedented cancellation prompted a statement from Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who called for understanding and said it had been a "very difficult and painful decision."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oscar Arias warns of civil war in Honduras after talks collapse

(Photo: REUTERS/FILE)By Ana Fernandez (AFP)

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Costa Rican president Oscar Arias warned of civil war in Honduras after talks broke down between representatives of the country's rival governments.

Representatives of the de facto rulers on Sunday rejected a proposal by Arias, the international mediator, to let deposed leader Manuel Zelaya return as president in charge of a "reconciliation" government.

Arias, who has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work resolving conflicts in Central America, warned that Honduras is at the brink of "civil war and bloodshed".

"We have started organizing internal resistance for my return to the country," Zelaya told reporters in Nicaragua, where he has been based since he was forced out by the army on June 28.

Arias pleaded for talks to resume after a 72-hour break but there was no sign his appeal would be heeded, though sources close to the negotiations said the two sides might meet again on Wednesday.

Neither Zelaya nor acting president Roberto Micheletti, a congress leader who heads the de facto government, were in Costa Rica for the talks.

Micheletti backers took exception to the use by Arias of the words "civil war". One, Honduras deputy foreign minister Martha Lorena Alvarado, accused the Costa Rican president of "taking us towards a situation of near-panic".

Alvarado welcomed the call for 72 hours' reflection, but ruled out allowing Zelaya to return as president.

Micheletti's government has promised to arrest Zelaya if he does come back and prosecute him for treason and 17 other charges.

Zelaya's supporters in Honduras, however, said they would intensify their protests pressing for his reinstatement. They called a strike for Thursday and Friday.

The leader of the National Front Against the Coup d'Etat, Berta Caceres, told AFP her group opposed Arias's proposed plan for a reconciliation government.

A statement issued late Sunday by acting US State Department spokesman Robert Wood urged more energetic efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.

"This weekend's talks produced significant progress, and created a foundation for a possible resolution that adheres to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the decisions taken within the Organization of American States," Wood said.

Without mentioning Venezuela and its allies by name, Wood also called on OAS states to "underscore their commitment to the peaceful resolution of political disputes" and "remain mindful of the principles of non-intervention and self-determination."

Washington has backed the OAS demand that Zelaya be returned to power, and frozen military aid to the de facto government. But it has also warned Zelaya against rash moves that might jeopardize dialogue.

Zelaya has vowed to go back to Honduras with or without agreement from his rivals. He tried to fly back on July 5 on a plane borrowed from his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but aborted the landing when Honduran military vehicles parked on the runway.

Many Honduran lawmakers, judges and military leaders believe Zelaya triggered the crisis by organizing a June 28 referendum, without congressional approval, on changing the constitution.

They fear the wealthy rancher, who swerved sharply left after being elected in 2005, wants to lift the one-term limit on Honduran presidents to prolong his mandate.

Such a move has been adopted by several left-wing leaders in Latin America, all following Chavez's suit.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa this year changed rules to enable them to stay in power.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega chose Sunday -the 30th anniversary of his leftist Sandinista revolution- to declare he too would seek to change his country's constitution to seek reelection.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Costa Rica now with 11 deaths from AH1N1 flu virus

(Photo: Reuters/File)The number of deaths from the AH1N1 flu virus in Costa Rica has now reached a total of 11, continuing the one death per day average of this week.

The latest victim is a 38-year-old woman from Heredia that been showing symptoms of the flu since June 28, but did not visit the local clinic until July 8, said the health minister, Maria Luisa Avila.

The minister explained that the woman was in the high risk group, suffering from asthma and diabetes.

"When she visited the clinic, she was in a delicate condition and was immediately transferred to a hospital, where she remained in intensive care", explained Avila, who refused to specify at which hospital the woman was treated prior to her death.

To date 102 people have been admitted to hospitals, 82 of those are in isolation and 20 in intensive care units.

At the Children's hospital, officials said that 240 children have been suspected of being infected, while only 40 have been confirmed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Honduran conflict talks to resume in Costa Rica

(Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)By Noe Leiva (AFP)

Tegucigalpa, Honduras — Representatives of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the country's de facto government were to hold talks in Costa Rica tomorrow as thousands of Zelaya supporters blocked roads demanding his reinstatement.

With protests in high gear a team representing Zelaya was set to leave for San Jose, where talks were to begin tomorrow mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the 1987 Nobel peace laureate.

It is the second round of talks after a previous round of meetings was adjourned last week without reaching a breakthrough.

Arias told Costa Rican radio late Thursday that he would propose a "government of national reconciliation" in a bid to resolve the crisis gripping Honduras.

But Honduras interim president Roberto Micheletti quickly rejected the idea.

"We do not accept that any country impose absolutely anything on us," he said in Tegucigalpa. "We have a position and we will remain firm and will not change in any way."

Zelaya said he still held out hope of resolving the crisis, although he reiterated his vow to return home if the talks failed.

Micheletti reimposed a late-night curfew on Thursday in a bid to curb disturbances by Zelaya supporters that have shaken the country following the June 28 military-supported coup.

Micheletti and his entourage have staunchly rejected accusations that removing Zelaya was a coup, and instead accuse the president of defying a Supreme Court ruling and ignoring the constitution.

Earlier this month, Zelaya tried to fly into the capital Tegucigalpa aboard a Venezuelan airplane, but was prevented by military units deployed on the runway. Since then rumors of Zelaya crossing into Honduras by land have swirled.

Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who moved to the left after taking office in January 2006, rattled his country's ruling elite by trying to bypass Congress to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

AH1N1 deaths now at nine in Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) - Costa Rica health officials have confirmed nine deaths from the AH1N1 flu virus. The confirmation of the latest two deaths was made by the health minister, Maria Luisa Avila.

The minister explained that victim number eight is a 20-year-old man suffering from congenital defects and a limited thorax that made it difficult for him to breathe once inffected with the virus. The ninth victim is a 51-year-old man with high blood pressure and was diabetic.

The minister confirmed that Costa Rica now has 428 confirmed cases, of which 85 are hospitalized, 65 of which are in quarantine.

Avila said Costa Rica is at the highest peak of the pandemic.

Measures announced this week to combat the spread of the flu virus includes the extension of the mid-year school break by one week and strict health measures for the "romeria" (annual pilgrimage to Cartago) in two weeks.

Avila explained that the romeria is a go, but health officials will be updating their advisory in the days before the walk, which may be cancelled if the situation in the country does not improve.

To date health officials have investigated some 4.500 reports of infection.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Costa Rica seizes 1.4 tons of cocaine, arrests four Colombians

San Jose (EFE) – Costa Rican authorities seized 1.4 tons of cocaine being smuggled on a speedboat in the Pacific and arrested four Colombians, who were turned over to prosecutors, Security Minister Janina Del Vecchio said.

The speedboat was stopped some 17 nautical miles off Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, thanks to a joint Costa Rican-U.S. surveillance program, Del Vecchio said in a statement.

The vessel’s crew threw several bales of cocaine overboard when they realized they had been spotted, but authorities recovered the drugs.

A large security operation has been launched in southern Costa Rica, especially around Golfito, a port town in Puntarenas province, where the cocaine and suspects were taken, Del Vecchio said.

The suspects face drug trafficking charges, which carry prison terms of up to 20 years in Costa Rica.

So far this year, Costa Rica has seized at least six tons of cocaine, with the majority of the seizures occurring in the Pacific, which is the main smuggling route from South America to North America.

Since President Oscar Arias took office in 2006, Costa Rica has seized nearly 90 tons of cocaine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

World Court sets rules for San Juan River traffic

Costa Rica's Vice-Foreign Minister Edgar Ugalde, left, shakes hands with agent for Nicaragua, Carlos Jose Arguello Gomez, center, as Nicaragua's ambassador to the Netherlands Ian Brownlie, right, looks on, in the Great Hall of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, Monday, July 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Cynthia Boll)The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — The United Nations' highest court set travel rules Monday for the Nicaraguan river that borders Costa Rica, affirming freedom for Costa Rican boats while upholding Nicaragua's right to regulate traffic.

The decision by the International Court of Justice was applauded by both countries, which must now consult on how to carry out the lengthy ruling that left room for both sides to claim victory.

The judgment ended a four-year legal battle and defined navigational rights on the San Juan River, which have been the subject of disputes for nearly two centuries.

Under an 1858 treaty between the two Central American countries, the entire river belongs to Nicaragua up to the Costa Rican bank, but Costa Rican ships have freedom of navigation for commerce.

In 2005, Costa Rica complained to the U.N. court, also known as the World Court, that Nicaragua was infringing on its navigation rights by imposing unfair restrictions, including a requirement that passengers and tourists obtain Nicaraguan visas, pay travel fees, and that all boats stop at Nicaraguan police posts for inspection and identification.

The court affirmed Nicaragua's rights to set timetables for when Costa Rican ships can use the river, to demand the identification of passengers — though not visas — and to insist that all vessels fly the Nicaraguan flag.

The 14 judges said, however, that Nicaragua was wrong to charge fees from Costa Ricans and tourists, calling that an impediment to Costa Rica's treaty rights to use the river for profitable commerce.

Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister Valdrack Jaentschke called the decision a "victory" because it recognizes Nicaragua's sovereignty and bans Costa Rica from patrolling the river with armed police.

"It's been made extremely clear: The waters are Nicaragua's, and that's one of the arguments that Nicaragua wanted to confirm," he said.

Nicaraguan sovereignty was never at question, but Costa Rica challenged a series of restrictions imposed by Managua in recent years to assert its authority.

Costa Rica's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgar Ugalde, who led his country's legal team, said in The Hague he was satisfied with the judgment, which he said would improve relations between the two neighbors.

"We didn't have any rights when we came into the court," he told The Associated Press. The judges had given Costa Rica "around 70 percent of what we asked for."

In San Jose, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno said he, too, was pleased. "I would say the most important thing about this ruling is that Costa Rica recovers its navigational rights and where the main beneficiaries will be the population in the zone," he said.

The judges, drawn from all areas of the world, showed unusual unanimity in issuing 21 different rulings. Their widest split — 9 votes to 5 — was on whether Nicaragua had the right to demand visas.

The court ordered Nicaragua to lift restrictions on Costa Ricans living on the southern bank to fish and travel on the river for their daily needs.

Costa Ricans had been fishing for their livelihood "undisturbed and unquestioned for a long period," and had earned the "customary right" to continue, the judgment said. But it forbade commercial fishing from boats in the river.

It said the Costa Rican government can use the waterway to provide essential services, but not for police vessels.

The river bank is thick with jungle and part of it is set aside as a wildlife reserve, making overland travel in the region long and arduous. Costa Rica had argued that people in the area needed boats to send their children to school and to reach medical services.

The International Court of Justice was created in 1949 to settle disputes among U.N. member states. Its judgments are binding and not subject to appeal, although the court has no enforcement arm.

Use of the river has been a source of conflict since Central America became independent of Spain in the 1820s. An arbitration settlement by U.S. President Grover Cleveland in 1888 resolved most outstanding problems until the Nicaraguan civil war erupted in the 1980s, when traffic was largely halted.

Costa Rica complained that Nicaragua began tightening its regulation of the river in the 1990s, which amounted to a violation of its treaty obligations.

The court agreed that Nicaragua failed to live up to the treaty when it required passengers to obtain visas and pay fees, and when it sold tourist cards to foreigners on Costa Rican boats.

But the judges rejected Costa Rica's request for an unspecified amount of financial compensation.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Honduras rivals agree on more talks to pursue solution

Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias (R) speaks with Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti (L) after a preliminary meeting in San Jose July 9, 2009. Arias held mediation talks on Thursday with the rivals for power in Honduras as international pressure grew for the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya after last month's coup.<br />REUTERS/Juan Carlos UlateBy Patrick Markey

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - The rivals for power in Honduras agreed on Friday to hold more talks in Costa Rica to seek a solution to the crisis created by last month's coup, keeping alive hopes that dialogue would prevail over confrontation.

The talks' mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, made the announcement after chairing a first round of discussions between teams representing ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the man put in his place by the June 28 coup, Roberto Micheletti.

"Both sides have agreed to continue talks in the shortest time possible and not rest until they reach an agreement to resolve this crisis," Arias told reporters in the Costa Rican capital San Jose, saying the date for the next meeting would be set in coming days.

Both sides had committed to solving the dispute with "words not gunpowder", he said, but the task could be tough to reconcile the entrenched positions of the parties.

Mediator Arias won a Nobel Peace Prize for helping resolve Central America's Cold War conflicts of the 1980s.

While the Organization of American States and President Barack Obama's administration have thrown their weight behind Arias' mediation, leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez condemned the Costa Rica talks as "dead before they started". He called for a total trade embargo on Honduras.

Chavez said Zelaya, who had angered his country's ruling elite and military by increasingly allying himself with the Venezuelan leader, was determined to return to his country "by air, land, I don't know where, but he's going to enter".

In a contrasting view of the Costa Rica talks, U.N. General Assembly president Miguel D'Escoto on Friday expressed optimism over a solution to restore Zelaya to office.

"I hear we may be very close to a solution for the restitution of President Zelaya," D'Escoto told a U.N. news conference, saying his belief was based on "conversations".

But Micheletti, installed by Honduras' Congress after the coup, has shown no signs of yielding to international pressure to give power back to Zelaya. He has said if Zelaya returns it will be to face justice, arguing the deposed president violated the constitution by trying to scrap presidential term limits.

Micheletti said in Tegucigalpa on Friday the talks would resume next week and added Honduras was "preparing for the worst" by cutting back government budgets to confront the suspension of credits and aid by foreign governments.

Chavez said in Caracas Obama's administration had made a "crass error" in engineering the Costa Rica talks, and that there could be no negotiations with "a usurper" in Honduras.

But Washington played down Chavez' comments. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Arias by telephone on Friday to get an update on the negotiations and to discuss how the United States could help.

Zelaya said he was working on "peaceful, non-violent methods" to return to office. He spoke in the Dominican Republic and was due travel to Guatemala on Saturday before returning to Washington.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Costa Rica hosts rival Honduras leaders

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will host talks between the rival claimants for the Honduran presidency later today.

Mr. Arias says he wants to improve communication between deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the interim leader, Roberto Micheletti.

The Honduran crisis erupted a week ago when Mr Zelaya was ousted by the army after Congress and the Supreme Court accused him of violating the constitution.

The Costa Rican President says it will take time to create trust between the two sides.

"What I want to start is a dialogue between the two parties in conflict in Honduras," he said.

"You can call it a negotiation os simply a talk, a conversation, a dialogue. But I want the two parties to sit around the table and discuss the issues."

- BBC News -

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Clinton: Costa Rican President to mediate in Honduras crisis

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya arrives at the State Department in Washington to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday, July 7, 2009. Zelaya is back in the U.S. after his failed attempt to land in Honduras last Sunday. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)Washington (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will serve as international mediator in the Honduran political crisis.

Clinton made the announcement at the State Department after meeting privately with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

She said Zelaya as well as the politician who took over as defacto Honduran leader, Roberto Micheletti, agreed to the Arias role as mediator. She said Arias would work on the problem from Costa Rica, not in Honduras.

Clinton noted that Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for helping broker an end to Central America's civil wars. She said she spoke to him earlier Tuesday.

"He is the natural person to assume this role," she told reporters.

Clinton also called on all parties to refrain from further violence in an effort to resolve the political crisis.

She said her meeting with Zelaya was productive.

"I reiterated to him that the United States supports the restoration of the democratic, constitutional order in Honduras," she said.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Costa Rican health minister calls for extreme alert for AH1N1

Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila (Photo: Prensa Libre)(Inside Costa Rica) - Following the confirmation of the third death from the AH1N1 flu virus in Costa Rica, health officials have intensified the alert.

The Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila said "we will follow with phase six and for anyone who believes we are exaggerating, this is a call for extreme measures".

According to the minister, who is in Mexico for world conference on the AH1N1 flu virus, the case of the 55-year-old man with pulmonary problems shows he was affected aggressively by the virus.

Avila explained that those who smoke and suffer from pulmonary problems, obesity, hypertension or diabetes, suffer greater risks if infected.

"A setback is when we have a death without any other health problems", said Avila.

The minister said that at the conference three main questions that will be addressed are: what will happen with the virus, who will we vaccinate if it begins to kill those without risk and, how can we continue for the next year or more without panicking.

In Costa Rica four people are currently in hospital, two of which are in delicate condition.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Costa Rica confirms third A/H1N1 flu death

(screen capture - Teletica News)San Jose (Xinhua News) - Costa Rica health authorities on Sunday reported the nation's third A/H1N1 flu death of a 55-year-old man, who died on June 29.

The man had been hospitalized in San Jose with severe pneumonia, and had been suffering from lung blockages before catching the flu, the Health Ministry said. He had been a smoker since age 13.

Costa Rica's first death was on May 9, and its second on June 23 was that of a very obese woman who had severe health problems due to her weight.

Authorities are testing samples taken from people with serious cases of pneumonia, even after they have died, for traces of A/H1N1, Costa Rica's health minister, Maria Luisa Avila, told Xinhua News. The country currently has 229 confirmed cases and 77 samples of possible cases awaiting test results.  

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Costa Rica ranked happiest nation in the world

London (Reuters) - Costa Rica is very nearly paradise, not just for holiday-makers lounging on its beaches, but for its citizens who are extremely satisfied with their lot and also have a tiny carbon footprint.

The combination has earned the Central American country first place in a new Happy Planet Index (HPI) published on Monday.

the second edition of the HPI lauds alternative standards that provide a new twist on the old adage that wealth does not buy happiness.

Costa Rica stands out for the highest levels of reported life satisfaction, a long life expectancy of 78.5 years and because 99 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources.

Latin American nations generally fare well, bagging nine out of 10 of the top spots and Sub-Saharan Africa performs very badly, with Zimbabwe taking bottom place. It scores 16.6 out of 100, compared with Costa Rica's HPI total of 76.1, according to an advance copy of the report.

Somewhere in between are the world's wealthiest economies.

The United States is placed 114th out of the 143 nations surveyed, with an HPI result of 30.7 and was found to be "greener and happier" 10 years ago than today -as were China and India, ranked respectively 20th and 35th, with scores of 57.1 and 53.

To measure the efficiency with which countries convert the earth's finite resources into their citizens' well-being, the HPI takes three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life-expectancy, and then carries out complex calculations.

First published in 2006 as "a radical departure from our current obsession with GDP", the HPI's sums have been criticised for not taking sufficient account of issues such as political freedom, but the index has also found followers.

Within two days of the launch of the first HPI, it was downloaded and read in 185 countries worldwide.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Arias attends Martinelli swearing-in Ceremony

Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli, right, shakes hands with Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, left, as ousted Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya, second right, and Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe look on during a swearing-in ceremony in Panama City, Wednesday, July 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

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