India Sri Lanka Laos headline Trafalgars 2017 Asia brochure

first_imgIndia, Sri Lanka, Laos headline Trafalgar’s 2017 Asia brochure Monday, August 22, 2016 Tags: India, Laos, Luxury Travel, Sri Lanka, Trafalgar Travelweek Group Sharecenter_img Posted by TORONTO — Trafalgar’s three new Asia destinations – India, Sri Lanka and Laos – are showcased in the tour operator’s 2017 Asia brochure featuring nine new itineraries with savings of up to $1,745 per coupleGroup sizes top out at 26 travellers and itineraries feature an expanded range of Mini Stays, ideal for clients looking for an immersive city experience.Functioning as stand-alone four- day mini breaks or an add-on to a guided vacation, Trafalgar’s new Bangkok Explorer combines tuk tuks with Thai massages and reveals the secrets of Thai cooking. Other new options include the ‘Hong Kong and Macau Experience’, and a new ‘Tokyo with Mt. Fuji’ mini stay.“Travel to Asia has become an increasingly popular destination for Canadians and Japan continues to be a best-selling destination for our clients,” says Wolf Paunic, President, Trafalgar Canada. “With the value of the Canadian dollar going further in Asia, this continent should be on travellers’ bucket lists and clients can be rest assured that Trafalgar is by their side, stripping away language barriers and taking care of every detail so guests can be immersed in the glories and splendour of Asia.”More news:  CIE Tours launches first-ever River Cruise CollectionThe new 13-day ‘Leisurely Rajasthan with Mumbai’ is Trafalgar’s first India itinerary exploring cities including Jaipur and Mumbai. Trafalgar will also be heading across the Palk Strait on the new 11-day ‘Wonders of Sri Lanka’.Also new for 2017 is the 10-day Leisurely Japan journey from Osaka to Hiroshima, extended 14-day Treasures of Thailand with the Golden Triangle itinerary and the 17-day Classic China with Yangtze Cruise and Chengdu exploration.Clients can save up to 10% across Trafalgar’s Asia 2017 program with Early Payment Discounts of up to $1,745 per couple available when they book and pay in full before Jan. 12, 2017.  Past guest discounts of 5% per person (land only) are also available.For more information contact your Sales Manager or visit trafalgar.com. << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

G Adventures named as finalist in 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

first_img TORONTO — One of Canada’s biggest tour operators was among the 15 finalists at the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.Now in its 13th year and hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the awards showcases business practices of the highest standards that balance the “needs of people, planet and profits within our sector.” Finalists span across five continents in categories such as Community, Destination, Environment, Innovation and People.This year, G Adventures was named one of three Community Award Finalists, along with Cinnamon Wild Yala in Sri Lanka, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. All three were chosen for their commitment to sustainable tourism and leadership in local community development, empowerment and cultural heritage.Winners of the 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards will be announced during the Awards Ceremony at the 17th WTTC Global Summit, taking place in Bangkok from April 26-27.This announcement comes on the heels of G Adventures’ award for ‘Best Inca Trail Tour Operator’, presented by the Regional Direction of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Cusco (RDFTTC). The application process included interviews with RDFTTC, an on-site examination of G Adventures’ Inca Trail operations, and a presentation by the operator’s Cusco team. The award recognizes outstanding service, safety, technical operations and ethical business practices.More news:  Flight Centre Travel Group takes full ownership of Quebec-based agencyG Adventures’ Inca Trail operations employ over 560 local employees, including guides, porters, cooks, drivers and office staff. The company offers 29 trips on the Inca Trail.The WTTC currently estimates global Travel & Tourism to have grown by 3.1% in 2016. David Scowsill, President & CEO of WTTC said that the sector must “safeguard the environment, local communities and cultural heritage” and that the awards program “calls on tourism businesses to showcase just that.”Scowsill also noted that this year saw a 36% rise of applications, which shows “not only that more and more Travel & Tourism companies are looking to operate sustainably, but also an increased interest to share company best practices and thereby educate peers and governments.”The remaining finalists of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are as follows:Destination Award Finalists, who show commitment to supporting and delivering sustainable tourism best practices in their destinations:• Botswana Tourism Organisation, BotswanaMore news:  Honolulu authorities investigate arsons at 3 Waikiki hotels; no injuries reported• City of Bydgoszcz, Poland• Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, FinlandEnvironment Award Finalists, whose organisations and companies achieved environmental best practice through biodiversity conservation, protection of natural habitats, addressing climate change, and green operations:• Biosphere Expeditions, UK• Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil• Misool, IndonesiaInnovation Award Finalists, who provided innovative solutions to overcoming the challenges faced by Travel & Tourism in implementing sustainability in practice:• NATIVE Hotels and Accessible Tourism, Spain• Soel Yachts, Netherlands• The Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative led by the Nature Conservancy, USAPeople Award Finalists, who are dedicated to the development of capacity building, training and education to build a skilled tourism workforce for the future:• Desert & Delta Safaris, Botswana• STREETS International, Vietnam• The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation’s China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI), China Share Tuesday, January 17, 2017 Posted by Tags: G Adventurescenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> The Canadian Press G Adventures named as finalist in 2017 Tourism for Tomorrow Awardslast_img read more

Dominican Republic teams up with Explor VR to launch 360degree VR experiences

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> TORONTO — The Dominican Republic has taken a big leap forward into the realm of experiential marketing with the launch of six new virtual reality experiences that showcase the country’s breathtaking beauty.Currently available to travel agents via the Explor VR platform, the new campaign includes six unique island experiences: an overview of the entire island; the culture of Santo Domingo; the Cascade el Limon waterfall in Samana; the beach of Las Terrenas; golfing in Punta Cana; and kitesurfing in Cabarete. All six experiences have been captured in full 360-degree video and are available to use with virtual reality headsets.“Virtual reality is a totally essential new tool to promote our destination and we consider it to be the brochure of the future!” says Abdalah Castillo, Chairman, Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic. “It is a great addition to our campaign because you can be fully immersed in our destination, giving you a vivid experience of the island, even without actually being there.”More news:  War of words between Transat, Group Mach ramps upVirtual reality has gained traction in the travel industry as an exciting new way for suppliers to showcase their products and destinations, and for travel agents to sell to their clients. As a more engaging and immersive alternative to traditional brochures, VR has been well received across the board, something that has not gone unnoticed by the Ministry.“In today’s world, it is essential to be following the latest technological trends, especially those that can help increase sales,” adds Castillo. “We will continue to invest in the technology, push new boundaries and do whatever it takes to be on the cutting edge of marketing.”The Dominican Republic virtual reality experiences are available to agents to showcase the destination to their clients through the Explor VR website and app. For the full VR experience, download the app at Google Play or the App Store and purchase a headset (available at xplrvr.com/headsets). Alternatively, agents can visit the Explor VR website to view the tours in 360 degrees on their computers, tablets or mobile screens.More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North AmericaThe website also has all the training agents need to get up and running with the technology, as well as marketing directives about the Dominican Republic that agents can highlight on social media, through email and website channels.For more information visit explorvr.com/. Share Wednesday, February 15, 2017 Posted bycenter_img Dominican Republic teams up with Explor VR to launch 360-degree VR experiences Travelweek Group Tags: Dominican Republic, Explor VR, Xplr VRlast_img read more

Beaches offers choice of gifts with new family promo

first_img MONTEGO BAY – Beaches Resorts is offering families the choice between two signature on-property experiences – complimentary – as part of an exclusive Fall offer.For all new bookings of seven nights or longer at Beaches Negril, Beaches Ocho Rios and Beaches Turks & Caicos made now (and until further notice) for travel between Aug. 14 – Nov. 20, 2018 or 2019, families can enjoy a complimentary gift of their choice:A relaxing 30-minute Couples Massage at the resort’s Red Lane SpaORA special Sesame Street Tuck-In for Tykes (for children 5 and under) during which the youngest members of the family will be treated to a bedtime story and sweet lullaby from their favourite Sesame Street characters. Tags: Beaches Resorts, Promotions Posted by Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >> Beaches offers choice of gifts with new family promo Share Friday, June 22, 2018 There is a limit of one complimentary gift per stay, per family, per room. Additional terms and conditions apply. To be eligible for the free gift, travel agents on behalf of their clients must register their booking within 72 hours at beaches.com/fallintosavings-registration/last_img read more

Banner year for the Cayman Islands with 238 million arrivals

first_img Share Travelweek Group Tuesday, January 29, 2019 Tags: Cayman Islands, Statistics Banner year for the Cayman Islands with 2.38 million arrivalscenter_img GRAND CAYMAN — The Cayman Islands has maintained its market share with another year of record-breaking arrivals, including a 7% increase from Canada.At the close of 2018, total visitation surpassed all previous years of recorded visitation including 2006, which previously held the record for the highest number of total visitors in a calendar year, according to the latest figures from the Department of Tourism.Total arrivals for 2018 in both air and cruise visitation was 2,384,058, an 11.05% increase over the same period in 2017.  There were some 463,001 stayover visitors, an increase of 10.66% over 2018. This year marked the first time that the islands welcomed more than 450,000 stayover visitors.As a double accomplishment in ‘firsts’, over 50,000 stayover visitors travelled to the destination within a single month, in March 2018 and again in December 2018.The increase in visitation also positively impacted the local economy with an uptick in visitor spend, increasing by US$98.1 million versus 2017.  The estimated total visitor spend in 2018 was US$880.1 million, an increase of 12.5%.More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North AmericaDeputy Premier and Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell said:  “The mandate of the Ministry and Department of Tourism is to facilitate annual growth in visitation and economic contribution; my Ministry pursues this strategically each year.  Through creative promotions, partnerships, and continued collaboration with our industry stakeholders, we have maintained the significant accomplishment of continuous record-breaking years. Our government has committed to investment in our points of entry at the Cruise Port and Airports. These much-needed upgrades will benefit of tourism operators, businesses, visitors and residents. My focus is to ensure that all subjects in my ministry portfolio operate efficiently and effectively to support the tourism sector. These results are an excellent indicator of the work accomplished in 2018.”The U.S., Canada and LATAM all had the biggest impact on arrival numbers, he adds.  The countries with the largest impact on the overall performance in 2018 were:United States:  13.01%Canada:  7.46%Jamaica:  7.63%Argentina: 17.54%Bermuda: 21.10%More news:  Marriott Int’l announces 5 new all-inclusive resorts in D.R. & MexicoIn December 2018 alone Canada saw a 3.3% growth making it the best December in statistical history for Canadian stayover visitation.“The Department of Tourism goal of source market diversification coupled with the ongoing development of new routes to the destination and innovative marketing plans has continued to drive the record-breaking successes for the Cayman Islands and will continue in 2019,” says Director of Tourism Rosa Harris. “I would like to express my sincere thanks to all tourism partners for participating in our destination marketing campaigns, hosting of our visitors, journalists and travel agents in order to entertain, educate and transport the Cayman Islands brand worldwide.”For more stats see caymanislands.ky/statistics. Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Leaders debate drug strategy

first_imgNo related posts. President Laura Chinchilla announced on Wednesday her support for several major changes in Costa Rica’s approach to investigating and prosecuting drug-related crimes. Three new proposals would allow for extradition of Costa Rican nationals, change current wiretapping laws and increase penalties for criminals associated with drug trafficking and organized crime.“It’s hard to say when these proposals will pass in Congress,” Chinchilla said, “but they will send a clear message to criminal groups that Costa Rica is not a paradise for them to come and hide.”The president made the announcement at the opening of this year’s 52nd session of the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD, in Spanish), a coalition of anti-drug commissioners from the region. The summit was held at Hotel La Condesa in Heredia, north of the Costa Rican capital. Chinchilla called Central America a victim of “perverse geopolitics,” trapped between countries in South America that produce illicit drugs and the United States, the world’s leading consumer of cocaine. She called on the U.N. Security Council to designate drug trafficking and organized crime as international acts of terrorism, adding that her administration would prepare a formal petition to be submitted to the U.N.Aside from being symbolic, Chinchilla said the terrorist designation would help security officials track down drug lords and crime syndicate kingpins. Labeling drug traffickers as terrorists also would make it easier to shut down their bank accounts and block them from traveling, she said.“We want the Security Council to consider narcotics trafficking and organized crime as a threat to peace and security internationally,” Chinchilla said. “From our point of view, this definition makes sense because in our nations, [the effects of drug trafficking] are similar to acts of terrorism in other parts of the world.”Tougher Local LawsChinchilla called on lawmakers to pass reform allowing extradition of Costa Rican nationals, currently forbidden by Article 32 of Costa Rica’s Constitution. The proposed amendment would permit Ticos wanted for drug trafficking and organized crime in other countries to be extradited for trial. The president also declared her intention of changing privacy laws pertaining to wiretaps. Currently, Article 24 of the Constitution states that only a judge is permitted to listen in on phone conversations during investigations. It is then up to the discretion of a judge as to which parts of the conversation can be turned over to investigating officers.“Costa Rica is the only country that has the law this way,” said Mauricio Boraschi, Costa Rica’s anti-drug commissioner and CICAD’s newly appointed president. “We use this tool frequently in this country, but with the way the law is today, we have a lot of operative problems. This is the next step we need to take.”The proposed change would still require a judge’s approval for actual wire tapping, but would allow investigators to listen to entire conversations. According to Boraschi, this would help eliminate confusion that has brought many investigations to a halt.Although no specifics were named, Chinchilla also proposed changes to the Costa Rican penal code to increase the severity of punishment for criminals arrested for drug trafficking and organized crime.Her administration also is drafting a treaty at the Foreign Ministry requesting all Central American countries, along with Colombia and Mexico, to team up for sea patrols in search of drug smugglers. Currently, every country in Central America and most countries in South America allow the U.S. to assist in coastal patrols.What Is the Region’s approach?At the CICAD summit, which ended Friday, regional anti-drug commissioners discussed several issues, including the decriminalization of illicit drugs, public health, corruption, alternatives to incarceration and an integrated new approach to drug use and trafficking. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza joined the conference on Thursday.While CICAD Secretary General Adam Blackwell said Central American countries “have not sat idly by” in their efforts to defeat drug traffickers, some leaders expressed dismay over inconsistencies in Latin American anti-drug policy. Some countries – such as Uruguay – back legalization efforts, while other countries are looking to step up public security policy to better fight traffickers.“The magnitude of the problem that we are confronting is enormous, which leads us, the members of regional governments, to believe that it’s a battle that’s difficult to win,” Chinchilla said. “We’ve been paying a high price for valiantly confronting drug trafficking.”Blackwell, who was involved in solidifying a pact between rival gangs in El Salvador, submitted a report by the OAS on Thursday on the advances of alternative approaches to the illicit drug issue, as called for during the Americas Summit in Colombia last April.Chinchilla noted the “joint responsibility” of consuming nations, saying, “We’re never going to win if we don’t address consumption.”AFP contributed to this report. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Hospital Metropolitano expansion targets US Expats

first_imgNo related posts. San José’s Hospital Metropolitano now offers a series of expanded health care plans targeting U.S. veterans and seniors living in Costa Rica and covered by TRICARE, FMP and various commercial insurance programs, according to a press release from the hospital.The programs aim to treat flu, high blood pressure, diabetes, hearing problems and other pathologies. Doctor checkups include hearing tests, prevention of infections, metabolic control and weight control, the hospital said. Hospital Metropolitano is experiencing rapid growth and a significant increase in the number of patients, and has increased the number of services offered at a new medical office tower located in front of the hospital’s current location in downtown San José. Expansion includes 50 medical offices, commercial areas, a restaurant, bank, gift shop, physical therapy, audiology and an ophthalmology clinic.To coordinate an appointment with a bilingual doctor, call Ofelia Ramírez at 2222-4411, ext. 2243, or visit: http://clinicametropolitana.co.cr. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

First woman to vote in Costa Rica dies at 95

first_imgThe date was July 30, 1950, when Bernarda Vásquez voted in a plebiscite to determine if residents of La Fortuna and La Tigra would join San Carlos canton or San Ramón, in the province of Alajuela. She, along with 25 others, became the first Costa Rican women to vote in the country. Residents opted to join San Carlos.Vásquez died on Wednesday at Hospital México in San José at the age of 95.According to the daily La Nación, Vásquez’s niece Claris Durán said Vásquez was mourning the death of her brother, who died three months ago. On Monday, she fell, injuring her head, and was rushed to the hospital where she died two days later.Vásquez, born in Palmares, Alajuela in 1918, never married and had no children.On Oct. 7, 2007, La Nación reported, she voted against the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, in a national referendum. She voted for the Social Christian Unity Party in presidential elections held in February 2006. At the time, she said, “The worst a Costa Rican can do is not vote, because thanks to our political system, we’ve always had peace and tranquility.” Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Seven floors of Puntarenas hospital to be demolished

first_imgNo related posts. The Social Security System, or Caja, on Monday said that in coming weeks they will begin demolishing seven of the 10 floors of Monseñor Sanabria Hospital in the Pacific province of Puntarenas, which was severely damaged by a strong earthquake onSept. 5.Caja experts reached the conclusion that only three floors are safe enough to remaing operational, following the recommendations of technical reports conducted after the magnitude-7.6 temblor that hit the Nicoya Peninsula, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.The three floors will remain open to provide medical attention to patients in the Pacific region.Caja’s plans to build a new hospital in Puntarenas are still in an early stage, as officials announced that the process of purchasing of land where a new hospital will be built is continuing.Although only one person died during the Sept. 5 quake, it is considered the second biggest in the country’s history, behind a 1991 earthquake measuring magnitude-7.7. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Egypt army topples Islamist president

first_imgNo related posts. CAIRO – The Egyptian army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday after a week of bloodshed that killed nearly 50 people as millions took to the streets to demand an end to his turbulent single year of rule.The announcement, made on state television by Morsi’s own defense minister, Armed Forces Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, drew a rapturous welcome from thousands of protesters who have camped out on the streets of Cairo for days.Sisi laid out details of the roadmap for a political transition, saying the Islamist-drafted constitution would be frozen and presidential elections held early, without specifying when.The armed forces would “remain far away from politics,” he stressed.The din rang out immediately, and continued for hours, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital to celebrate, cheering, whistling, letting off firecrackers and honking car horns in joyous scenes.“It’s a new historical moment. We got rid of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood,” said one celebrator, Omar Sherif.In an amateur video posted online, Morsi declared “I am the elected president of Egypt” and urged people to “defend this legitimacy.”In the western city of Marsa Matruh, four Morsi supporters were killed in clashes with the army and police after they stormed the city’s security headquarters.Another Morsi supporter died in clashes in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, security officials said. An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egyptian Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Sissi delivering a statement on Wednesday as the army unveils a roadmap for Egypt’s political future, with state media reporting that the plan sets a tight schedule for new elections. A top aide to Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi slammed what he called a “military coup” as an army ultimatum passed and the security forces slapped a travel ban on the Islamist leader. AFP/Egyptian TVcenter_img Security forces also arrested two key Muslim Brotherhood figures, the group’s deputy leader Rashad Bayoumi and Saad al-Katatni, who heads the Brotherhood’s political arm.Warrants were issued for the arrest of a total of 300 Brotherhood officials, state media said. Morsi reportedly is detained in a military facility, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood said.“Morsi and the entire presidential team are under house arrest in the Presidential Republican Guards Club,” Gehad El-Haddad, the son of a top Morsi aide, told AFP. Haddad’s father, Essam El-Haddad, widely seen as Morsi’s right-hand man, was among those held, he added.However, the opposition Congress Party of former Arab League chief Amr Mussa insisted “this is not a coup.”“The 2,000-year-old Coptic Church, the 1,000-year-old Azhar mosque, the liberals, the Salafists (conservative Islamists), the police, the army are all behind the call for early elections,” said a Congress spokesman.Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, came under massive pressure in the run-up to Sunday’s anniversary of his maiden year in office, with his opponents accusing him of failing the 2011 revolution by concentrating power in the hands of his Muslim Brotherhood.The embattled 61-year-old proposed a “consensus government” as a way out of the country’s worst crisis since the 2011 uprising ended three decades of authoritarian rule by Hosni Mubarak.But it failed to satisfy his critics and the army stepped in.Its commander named the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly al-Mansour, a previously little known judge, as the new leader of the Arab world’s most populous country. He is expected to swear in on Thursday.U.S. President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” over Morsi’s ouster, urging a quick return to elected civilian government.Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and the heads of the Coptic Church and Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, sat alongside the armed forces chief as he announced Morsi’s overthrow on state television.The choreography was designed to show broad civilian support for the military’s move to topple Morsi, which dashed the hopes of supporters who had seen his elevation to the presidency after years underground as one of the key achievements of the 2011 revolution.Morsi’s camp had earlier denounced the army’s intervention as a coup.“For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: military coup,” Essam al-Haddad, Morsi’s national security adviser, said in a statement on Facebook.As tension mounted and crowds poured onto the streets to demand Morsi’s resignation, Haddad said: “As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page.”Egyptian security forces later pulled the plug on a Muslim Brotherhood television channel, a Morsi aide told AFP.Staff of Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian affiliate were also arrested after the channel aired a defiant speech by the deposed president, the aide added.Dozens of armored personnel carriers headed towards Islamist gatherings at Cairo University, Heliopolis and Nasr City where one official said they had encircled the pro-Morsi demonstrators to prevent chaos.But in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the security forces looked on as tens of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters rallied in a demonstration that dwarfed that of the embattled president’s supporters in Nasr City, on the opposite side of town.The crowd swelled at nightfall, after a scorching day that saw police officers hand out water to the demonstrators in the middle of Tahrir, epicentre of the 2011 uprising.The powerful military had issued a 48-hour deadline on Monday for Morsi to meet the “people’s demands”, a day after millions of protesters took to the streets calling for him to resign.Washington confirmed that it had ordered out all of its embassy staff just hours after Morsi’s overthrow. Most Western embassies had remained closed since before Sunday’s mass protests. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Costa Rican Coast Guard captures boat with 153 illegal shark fins

first_imgRelated posts:High-profile shark-finning trial continues this week Judge’s ruling opens the door to legalized shark finning in Costa Rica, conservation groups say Could tide finally be turning for shark fin demand in China? Illegal shark fins destined for Hong Kong seized at Costa Rica airport More photos from the Public Security Ministry At least 40 sharks were killed by an illegal shark-finning boat detained off the shores of Golfito in Costa Rica’s South Pacific. The boat was discovered during a two-day Coast Guard operation on Sunday and Monday.Shark finning – where fishermen catch sharks, cut off their fins and throw them overboard to die – was outlawed in Costa Rica in 2012 due to the devastating impact it has had on shark populations. The practice has grown in popularity parallel to the rise of shark-fin soup as a delicacy in Asia. Finners throw the carcasses overboard to save room in the hulls, killing more sharks. Depending on the animal’s size, a fisherman can get between four and six fins per shark.The Coast Guard seized 153 fins from a sack on the boat’s deck, and arrested the boat’s captain, who has the last names Chávez Chavarría. In the same operation, officials confiscated 700 meters of trammel nets – illegal in some Costa Rican waters – and intercepted a boat using live bait.Recommended: Could a shark-finning trial restore loophole in Costa Rica law?center_img Facebook Commentslast_img read more

In Costa Rica pride for La Seles historic World Cup play

first_imgOn Tuesday morning, Costa Rica began the day dressed in red jerseys. The destiny of this tiny Central American country of fewer than 5 million inhabitants would be to conquer the so-called “Group of Death” at Brazil’s World Cup 2014 and advance to an historic second round.None of the big shots had given Costa Rica a chance of advancing, much less winning Group D, which is composed of powerhouses England, Italy and Uruguay. But Costa Rican fans knew of their team’s talents, and they kept the faith.In San José, Costa Rica’s capital, workers at La Criollita Restaurant, near the historic Parque Morazán, began early in the morning preparing typical meat dishes, gallo pinto con natilla and fresh-squeezed orange juice. The rain didn’t stop fans from celebrating after Costa Rica tied with England 0-0 and qualified first in group D after the end of the World Cup’s first round, on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesLong before the 10 a.m. kickoff between Costa Rica and England, a long table already was crowded with employees from the National Insurance Institute (INS), a towering state-run building located just across the street. Anticipation was building, and La Sele fans began whistling, cheering and chanting – some even before the food was served.After the kickoff, the same fans chanted, “¡Vamos, vamos!” anytime star Sele striker Joel Campbell touched the ball.The English, who hadn’t won a single World Cup match this year, put up a strong fight, towering over the smaller Tico squad. “¡Metan la pata como los hombres!” – “Mess it up like men!” – Tico fans shouted each time England threatened to strike. Bimbo bread delivery drivers parked their truck in front of the restaurant and popped in to see the first-half play. A group of fans celebrate on San Jose’s Central Avenue. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesAt a nearby table, Margarita Miranda, from Cartago, and her friend Dinorah González, from Calle Blancos, shared a bowl of fruit. “Well played,” they commented at halftime, with the score still tied at 0-0. “A tough battle.”Like every other Tico on the planet, the two retirees said they were overwhelmed with joy to see their national team become the underdog story of the Cup.“This is truly significant – it’s global astonishment. But it’s not coincidence,” Miranda said.Another food supply truck arrives, horn blaring.With the English strongly attacking throughout much of the game, star goalie Keylor Navas kept busy, diving and swatting away direct shots. “¡Ay papá! Muestre lo que le enseñé!” – “Man, show ’em what I taught you!” – one INS worker shouts. La Sele fans painted their faces with Costa Rican flags to show their support for the team. Alnberto Font/The Tico TimesA few blocks to the west, Bar Poás has the game on six small TV screens. Bartender Elia Centeno greets her customers with a smile and a blue wig.A group of Scottish fans wander in to catch the match before heading to the airport for a flight back across the pond. When a beer distributor arrives with five plastic cases of Imperial, the Scotsmen and women cheer as if he were Wayne Rooney.In the 63rd minute, don Manuel arrives to sell Tico flags, but he ends up staying to see “como termina la cosa” – how the match will end up.“The referee keeps getting in the way,” the Ticos crowded around the bar gripe. Imperials follow several shots of whiskey while the matter is further discussed.But the most popular phrase of the scoreless morning match: “Hágase famoso”– Be somebody. A fan celebrates at the Plaza de la Democracia in San José after Costa Rica tied with England and took first place in group D in the first round of the World Cup in Brazil, on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Alberto Font/The Tico TimesYet without a goal, the Tico squad is somebody in a very big way. They were the group’s first squad to qualify for the next round. And today’s 0-0 tie puts them at the top of Group D with seven points, and in very good standing for the octavos de final.As the final whistle blew, patrons filed into the street, chanting, yelling and waving at the honking cars and buses that paraded by, with Costa Rican flags draped from their windows.Costa Rica has become a renewed pride of Latin America – even healing the historical (mostly political) animosity between Central American neighbors. Tico fans also celebrate Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy – it’s a Latin America thing.In Group D, Uruguay placed second with six points, and the party today is likely just as big in the South American country.Costa Rica’s next match is Sunday. Meanwhile, the party rages on as if it were payday. A young Sele fan with his face painted in the Costa Rican flag celebrates after Costa Rica ties England on Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Alberto Font/The Tico Times Facebook Comments Related posts:Snapshots from the Web of Costa Rica’s historic World Cup win A rebuttal to Wall Street Journal editor’s call for US World Cup fans to ignore Costa Rica VIDEO: Even in defeat, Costa Rica celebrates World Cup upsets focus fans on football instead of protestslast_img read more

Two fast food chains to open new locations in Costa Rica

first_imgRestaurantes Subs, the local franchise of Subway restaurants, this week reported they will add four more locations by the end of the year, bringing the total number of sandwich shops in Costa Rica to 63.In September the company will open its 60th restaurant with a location next to the University of Costa Rica’s campus, east of San José.The new Subway will have a capacity for 70 people and will be open Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., catering primarily to customers from the campus. The company currently is evaluating options for weekend hours.A new restaurant in Guachipelín, southwest of the capital, is scheduled to open in October, and two others will open later this year, but the company has not yet announced their locations. These openings will add to three more earlier this year, which follows a strategy to open seven new restaurants in 2014, Subway Costa Rica’s general manager, Isidro Perera, said.Along with Subway, by the end of September U.S. burger chain Johnny Rockets will add two more restaurants in the country after opening of its first location last December, the company’s first in Central America.New Johnny Rockets will open at Mall Multiplaza in Curridabat, east of San José, and at the Plaza Universal food court in downtown San José, according to local franchise owner Desarrollos Gastronómicos Internacionales.The Multiplaza location represents an investment of $800,000, and it will employ 35 people. The Plaza Universal investment totals $300,000 and will employ 15 workers.The company expects to continue its expansion through 2015 with another restaurant in Escazú, but a location has not yet been selected. The business group also plans to open restaurants in Honduras and El Salvador.Johnny Rockets has become popular for its “secret recipe” burgers, milk shakes and floats, and its 1950s theme. Facebook Comments Related posts:Wendy’s leaves Costa Rica Johnny Rockets opens third location in Costa Rica IHOP looking for investors to open in Costa Rica Another fast-food chain closes in Costa Ricalast_img read more

How Solís administration plans to turn one of Costa Ricas biggest slums

first_img Facebook Comments The negotiation skills of Luis Guillermo Solís’ administration were tested this week by protests on Tuesday in which hundreds of residents from several Costa Rican communities blocked main roads in three provinces for eight hours.The civic National Housing Forum organized the protest to call for the construction of more housing developments for the poor.Starting at 6 a.m., forum leaders representing 63 communities coordinated simultaneous roadblocks that caused several traffic jams, including on Route 27, which connects the capital with the Pacific province of Puntarenas. Other affected areas included the canton of Goicoechea, north of the capital, and the provinces of Heredia, Cartago and Limón.Another group of 60 protesters gathered at Casa Presidencial in the southeastern San José district of Zapote, where they blocked traffic and demanded to meet with President Solís. Officials responded by offering a meeting with Presidency Vice Minister Ana Gabriel Zúñiga, instead.Later, Casa Presidencial and Housing Ministry officials issued a press release highlighting “the administration’s determination to find solutions for these people.” The statement also noted that in the first three months since the administration took office, the ministry held 64 meetings with housing groups leaders, and from May 8 to Aug. 26, officials issued 2,804 housing subsidies for poor residents.“We have created sufficient opportunities for dialogue, to reach agreements, and the number of meetings we’ve held with groups and leaders across the country is proof enough,” Housing Minister Rosendo Pujol said. “We already have begun addressing those requests, and we’re eliminating barriers they [protesters] faced in past administrations when they applied for government assistance.”Administration officials say they have formed inter-agency commissions to seek housing solutions in several areas, including La Carpio, Triángulo de la Solidaridad and Finca Boschini in San José, Guararí in Heredia, Limón 2000 in the Caribbean, and Santa Marta in Puntarenas.“Through these commissions, the Housing Ministry has negotiated the relocation of families to new housing developments currently under construction in Upala in Alajuela, Matina and Guácimo in Limón, and Turrialba in Cartago,” Pujol said.No easy solutionSlum areas in San José represent a greater challenge, because most residents are reluctant to leave the capital in order to move to housing developments in rural areas.“We tried to find solutions in nearby areas to avoid difficulties, … but only a few families were willing to leave the Greater Metropolitan Area,” the minister said.Last month, residents of the southern San José canton of Desamparados grew hostile when a bus carrying residents from Triángulo de la Solidaridad – one of the capital’s biggest slums – arrived to inspect the area as a possible site for relocation.Local residents blocked the bus’ passage and gathered in front of their homes in a communal display of disapproval. They also filed complaints with the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, and the Environment Ministry (MINAE), arguing that the area, known as Mt. Tablazo, is the source of six potable water sources for a large number of residents in Desamparados and the Cartago canton of El Guarco.Last Friday, MINAE’s Administrative Environmental Tribunal ordered the mayors of Desamparados and El Guarco to refrain from issuing construction permits in the area until MINAE could guarantee the protection of local aquifers.Housing Ministry project director Marian Pérez Gutiérrez denied the ministry’s involvement in the transfer of Triángulo de la Solidaridad residents to Desamparados, saying that an owner of one of the Mt. Tablazo farms acted “on his own initiative” in bringing the group to the area. The landowner then hoped to sell his property to the government, she said.Pérez told The Tico Times that ministry officials met with community leaders on Friday to reassure residents that the ministry is not considering the area for future housing projects. According to Housing Ministry data, approximately 525 families live in the Triángulo de la Solidaridad slum. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesResident relocation is complicated, but the situation in Triángulo de la Solidaridad is urgent. Located northwest of the capital between the cantons of Tibás and Goicoechea, Triángulo de la Solidaridad sits smack in the middle of the government’s project to expand the Circunvalación, a belt route bordering the capital’s central canton.The project, known as Circunvalación Norte, entails construction of a 4.1-kilometer stretch of road connecting the northern and western sectors of San José. About 525 families live in the slum, including a large number of Nicaraguan immigrants, according to Housing Ministry data. Those residents must be relocated if the project is to move forward.The Housing Ministry already has begun notifying a first group of 191 families that they must leave by Dec. 15 in order for the project to begin on schedule. Families will be relocated in small groups of no more than 10-15 families per location, an effort by ministry officials to avoid another Mt. Tablazo incident.On Wednesday, Pérez said officials are interviewing families to determine who is willing to relocate.“We have 161 houses ready for those interested in moving right now to Acosta [south of San José], Puntarenas, Los Chiles [northern Alajuela] and Turrialba. We will finish interviewing families next Friday to evaluate how many will be willing to move to these locations. For the others, we have funds from the Mixed Institute for Social Aid to pay rent for a few months in order to begin work as planned on the Circunvalación,” she said.Pujol defended his office’s work during the first three months, saying, “Projects that have been stalled for several years are now moving forward.” Because of that, he said Tuesday’s protests are unwarranted.“We agreed on a Dec. 15 deadline for these 191 families because many have children and need time to finish the school year. But all of these families will be relocated,” Pujol said.According to ministry officials, Triángulo de la Solidaridad will disappear, with remaining residents relocated in the next two years. That, said both Pujol and Pérez, will give the administration time to build new housing projects.And in addition to a new road, one of the country’s biggest slums will become a park with a forested area, housing officials promised. A rendering by the Public Works and Transport Ministry of bridges, a park and a recreational area to be built where Triángulo de la Solidaridad currently is located. (Plan render by MOPT) Related posts:Government postpones project to expand Circunvalación beltway Desamparados mayor confirms construction in protected area despite cease-and-desist orders Housing Ministry again postpones relocation of San José slum Middle-income families still struggle to buy a home in Costa Rica despite more lendinglast_img read more

Keeping up with the Joneses Try the Chickens and the Crazies

first_imgThe Christmas season in Costa Rica is an embarrassment of riches. Where I come from, Christmas is a bright and festive light in the middle of the cold and dark – and that has its own, unparalleled beauty. Here, however, it’s everything good all at once: The rainy season is over and summer is here, with its sunny days and cool Christmas winds! School’s out! Theaguinaldo has arrived! Tax season is ending, time off is approaching, the streets and shops are full of lights, there are tamales and rompope and Tapitas Navideñas everywhere! Quick, get me some more exclamation points! It’s overwhelming, in the best possible way, like a fantasy. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for kids. I wonder if there’s a spike in hyperventilation rates at the Children’s Hospital.By the way, if you’re reading this in a place that involves scraping ice off your windshield, I know you just said, “You can take your ‘embarrassment of riches’ and stick it in a place where the sun don’t shine. As in, the place where I live.” I can hear you from here. But while I know from long experience that the rainy season doesn’t compare to a long, hard winter, it really is a whole lotta water, and the start of the dry season carries some of the same feeling of those precious first days of spring up north. Walking around without an umbrella on early December afternoons gives you that same sensation of being sprung from a cage, of being out after curfew.  You want to run and dance or sing, and do everything outside, and sit out on patios with your hot coffee or row of cold beers.The other day, as a neon sunset took charge of the sky over our neighborhood, I remembered spending an afternoon just as gorgeous on a front porch in another part of San José with my husband and his mother several years ago. It was one of the best afternoons I’ve spent in Costa Rica. All we did was drink our coffee, watch the world go by, enjoy the sun, and chat. And by “chat,” I mean that they told me all about how Costa Rican family nicknames work.See also: The amazing true story of ‘tuanis’ and ‘brete’One of them was  telling a story and referred to “las panaderas” (“the bakers,” female). I was confused, and they explained that since the mother is a baker, the whole family – mother and daughters – is known by that name. I asked, “Are there any other nicknames in the neighborhood?” And for the next hour or so, they came up with about 40 different names as I took copious notes. It turned out that every single home in the neighborhood had a special nickname floating above its roof, visible only to insiders. No wonder I had never understood directions around here. “You can’t miss it! Just go down by the Crazies’ house, turn left and keep going until you hit the Sausages.”The whole business of nicknames in Costa Rica could (and may well) take up several columns, but the family nicknames have a special place in my heart. In the United States, at least in the places I have lived, we had a certain neighborhood shorthand, but nothing like this. I won’t list the names I wrote down that day because I want to make sure my husband’s family doesn’t have to move, but some of the ones I’ve heard and read over the subsequent years included:Nicknames based on physical characteristics (“Los cepillo” is a family whose dad has sticky-up hair like a brush, or “Los pandulce” could be so named because the matriarch wears her hair pulled back into the shape of a sweet roll. These two cases, as it has been explained to me, mix plural and singular – “los” and “cepillo” –because while they describe a group, only one member of the family has the characteristic. See below).Nicknames generalized to the whole family because of the nickname of one member, usually the dad (A man called “Pollo” is of course the father of the family known as “The Chickens”).Nicknames based on professions (“The Bakers” falls into this category, or “The Carriage-Drivers,” which must either refer to taxi drivers or go way back).Nicknames based on personality or old neighborhood lore (“The Crazies” is such an example).Or, always my favorites, tons and tons of nicknames no one can seem to explain. Why “The Jars?” No idea. Did it have something to do with a story with the brother way back? No, we can’t remember. “The Sausages?” No idea.A conversation about these things is better than poring over a photo album. You hear the stories, the rumors, the unanswered questions. Uncle so-and-so or cousin tal fulano is called in to clarify just why that one guy whose actual name no one can remember earned the nickname of “The Bedcovers” for his entire family.Of course, nicknames must be used with care. They can create a sense of jovial familiarity, but they can also be problematic. I can honestly say that I have never heard a racist neighborhood nickname being used (or at least, one I recognized as such), but they must exist. A person who is alcoholic or addicted to drugs can earn a corresponding nickname for his or her entire family, thus codifying the already difficult legacy that the children have to bear. And while it’s one thing to make fun of a family’s unruly hair, there are nicknames that turn much more unfortunate physical characteristics into the butt of jokes.I love living in a neighborhood of Parrots and Tarzans rather than Joneses and Smiths, but it’s certainly incumbent on all of us – as neighbors, and especially as parents – to sort through these issues with sensitivity, seeking that sweet spot before humor becomes cruelty. Is this a nickname I would say to their faces? Or, more importantly, in front of the children? This is a judgment call every culture, maybe even every neighborhood, must make for itself, because standards are different in different places. Costa Rica is, without any doubt, much more open about all kinds of physical characteristics than we were in my own upbringing. If you’re fat, people will call you fat; it’s not a big secret or taboo. If you’re skinny as a rail, people will call you a flat board or say that you’re doing a handstand (that is, your legs are so skinny they look like arms). As a person who has always struggled with weight, I personally found this refreshing or even liberating, but mine is only one experience. This is a complex topic, especially when it comes to race or ethnicity, for example.Which is why I’d like to turn this one over to you. As the sun set on that early December day, at the end of the recounting of neighborhood stories and jokes, I asked my husband and his mother, “And what is your family called?”There was a thoughtful, surprised silence. It was obvious that this question had never before been posed.“Are you serious? A list the length of my arm, and you don’t know what everyone calls YOU?”They really didn’t. I found this both fascinating and mysterious (and I eventually got to the bottom of it. They are “The Sweet Rolls” mentioned above). So I ask you: Who are the families in your neighborhood? What are the nicknames you love – and the ones that should be removed from the lexicon? And what is YOUR family called? Do you know? Tell me true.Enjoy the Christmas breezes.Read previous Maeology columns here.Katherine Stanley Obando is The Tico Times’ arts and entertainment editor. She also is a freelance writer, translator, former teacher and academic director of JumpStart Costa Rica. She lives in San José. You can read more by Katherine at “The Dictionary of You,”where she writes about Costa Rican language and culture, and raising a child abroad. “Maeology” is published every other Monday.  Facebook Comments Related posts:Hablando paja: What if Jesus had been born in Costa Rica? Costa Rica, The Quiz: How much has your adopted country changed you? La horma de mi zapato: On love and taxis Costa Rica, The Quiz: How much has your adopted country changed you?last_img read more

Me and my people building – Fire and the future of the

first_imgSee also: Fire destroys Black Star Line building, a Limón landmarkOn Friday, April 29, at 6 am, devastating images came rolling into my Facebook and WhatsApp feeds of the burning UNIA/Liberty Hall Building on Calle 5 in Puerto Limón. I panicked. I could not reconcile the incredible social, cultural and spiritual loss of this historical landmark with its implications for the Limonese community.Then the positive words of one of my husband’s most famous songs, “Building,” came into my mind, countering my disbelief: “We go from seed to tree, me and my people building.”As I reached out to friends and family in Limón and San José, trying to make sense of this fire, I had to infuse hope into the situation. By the time I read the press release from President Solis’ office, I began to feel that the destruction could become a blessing in disguise. The Costa Rican government fully supports rebuilding the 94-year old structure made of wood and zinc.The significance of Limón’s Liberty Hall cannot be taken lightly, as its historical legacy is resounding. Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), known as the “Negro Moses,” was born in St. Anne’s Bay, Jamaica. With a background in printing, Garvey was also an electrifying orator who drew millions of people of African descent into his organization, the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), established in Jamaica in 1914. With his motto of “One God, One Aim, One Destiny,” Garvey encouraged black people to embrace their African heritage, take charge of their realities and dream of a future where they would never again face subjugation.Garvey is credited as being the leader of the largest organized mass movement in Black History through the UNIA. He was the originator of the “Black is Beautiful” and “Back to Africa” revivals in the 1960s and ‘70s in the United States. Yet, where did Marcus Garvey, international hero and icon of a critical Black sensibility, get his start? Puerto Limón, Costa Rica. Marcus Garvey. (George Grantham Bain/U.S. Library of Congress)He arrived in Limón from Jamaica in 1910 and began publishing a small newspaper. Though he went onto establish the formal headquarters of the UNIA in Harlem, New York, with the Liberty Hall as the pulse of the organization’s activities, 23 branches of the UNIA were established in Limón and the surrounding Caribbean coast.Garvey’s newspaper The Negro World gained consistent entry into the Limón population who participated in global dialogues on race, class and self-identity. By the 1920s, the newspaper’s circulation was between 50,000 and 200,000, and the Limón branches were deeply involved in the commentary of regional events. There were over 700 branches of the UNIA in the United States and the Caribbean, yet few of their buildings remain today.In 1922, Limón’s Liberty Hall was built on Calle 5 as a cultural center for UNIA activities. It was host to countless events, including cultural celebrations, academic conferences, community planning sessions, spiritual gathering/honoring of ancestors, international “mash-ups” for activists and scholars from around the planet and a space to educate children about their legacy found in the richness of Limón’s past.Friday’s 5:15 am fire took almost an hour to be put out by local fire fighters. Approximately 75% of the building was destroyed and the remaining structure will be completely removed. The Limón community continues to voice its shock. One Facebook post said, “Limón is crying,” alongside images of the burning building.My friend Kendall Cayasso Dixon, an educator, and journalist at Prensamerica International First, sent me a personal response; “My reaction when I arrived at Liberty Hall was sadness. I could not hold up my tears and felt frustrated that I could not do anything at the moment,” she wrote. “But I truly believe that God is showing us a better way with this situation that happened today. I assure you 100% that now the AfroCosta Rican community will work together to build back our home; build back our identity,” she werote. “The community is sad, but we were like this back in 1991 when we had the earthquake and today we still standing. As we came out of that one, tomorrow we rebuild – United we stand, divided we fall! Let’s make Marcus Garvey proud!”I am grateful for Kendall’s words, which sum up the sentiments of many of the people in Limón who bore emotion witness to the ending of a cultural era.  However, this community is resilient.Community activities took place on the second floor of the building, which had a wrap-around verandah painted with standout Caribbean green. The bottom floor housed the Black Star Restaurant, which boasted some of the best food in Limón. The losses to that business are also profound, as it was a frequent meet-and-share space for travelers and locals; a place to break bread in true Limón style. The Liberty Hall Center’s director, William Monge, admitted that they do not have insurance because they lacked a fire alarm system and access for those with disabilities. There have been several renovations with the government’s support, and Liberty Hall was named an architectural landmark in 2000.What is needed to move forward is a full assessment of the damage and a call to the local community of architects to envision a new space which commemorates Garvey’s activism and the celebration of AfroCosta Rican culture within an innovative, contemporary meeting space for conferences and other events.  The challenges are profound yet, already there are exciting ideas about building a new Liberty Hall which merges its 20th century origins with the 21st century.I am hopeful that this fire will ignite (pun intended) a cross-generational conversation where talent, vision, history and passion produce an inspirational new space on the corner of Calle 5 in Puerto Limón. Marcus Garvey once said that “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” I have every faith that the people of Limon will lead a national and international movement to support rebuilding. Their tree has fallen, yet they know all too well that the roots remain deeply entrenched in their community. It is time to plant another seed that will bear fruit for the generations to come.Read more of Natasha Gordon-Chipembere’s columns here.Natasha Gordon-Chipembere, a writer, professor and founder of the Tengo Sed Writers Retreats, moved to Heredia, Costa Rica with her family from New York in June 2014.  She is now accepting applications for Tengo Sed IV Writers and Yoga Retreat in Jan 2017. She may be reached at indisunflower@gmail.com. Her column “Musings from an Afro-Costa Rican” is published monthly. Facebook Comments Related posts:A look back at 1930s Limón and the real legacy of Afro-Caribbean immigrants A graceful life: Jeannette Boyd Rodríguez and San José’s Afro-Costa Rican history From a corner: Being Afro-Latina in Costa Rica The Black side of the story: Afro-Costa Rican MC Huba Watsonlast_img read more

Rights group criticizes Sudan media clampdown

first_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Comments   Share   New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathscenter_img Top holiday drink recipes KHARTOUM (AP) – The London-based Amnesty International is calling on Sudanese authorities to stop what it says is “relentless harassment” of journalists.The group said Tuesday that Sudanese authorities arrested a prominent syndicated columnist who reported last year on the alleged rape of an activist by state security officers.Amnesty says the columnist is charged with “crimes against the state” and “defamation” for reporting the alleged rape. Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Sponsored Stories Amnesty also points to repeated government seizures of Sudanese newspapers. It says editors are forced to stay in daily contact with state security agents.The group describes the moves by Sudanese authorities against the papers as an attempt to “silence any form of dissent.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

Convicted Lockerbie bomber dies of cancer in Libya

first_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Key to convicting al-Megrahi was the testimony of a Malta shopkeeper who identified him as having bought a man’s shirt in his store. Scraps of the garment were found wrapped around the timing device.However, a Scottish judicial body that carried out a major review of the evidence cast doubt on the shopowner’s ID of al-Megrahi and said there was evidence the shirt was purchased on a day when al-Megrahi was not in Malta.Al-Megrahi’s lawyers also claimed that British and U.S. authorities tampered with evidence, disregarded witness statements and steered investigators away from suggestions the bombing was an Iranian-financed plot carried out by Palestinians to avenge the shooting down of a civilian Iranian airliner by a U.S. warship. The airliner went down, killing some 290 people, several months before the Lockerbie bombing. The judicial body, however, discounted theories of intentional misdirection.“I had most to gain and nothing to lose about the whole truth coming out _ until my diagnosis of cancer,” al-Megrahi said in a statement after his release. “To those victims’ relatives who can bear to hear me say this, they continue to have my sincere sympathy for the unimaginable loss that they have suffered.” Associated PressTRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – He was the embodiment of one of modern Libya’s darkest chapters _ a man synonymous with horrifying scenes of wreckage, broken families and a plane that fell out of the sky a generation ago. His name, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was little known compared to the single word that his deeds represented: Lockerbie.Seven months after his patron dictator Moammar Gadhafi was slain in a revolution that began a new chapter for his homeland, al-Megrahi died Sunday of cancer, leaving behind countless unanswered questions about the midair attack in 1988 that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland. All 259 people on board _ mostly Americans _ and 11 on the ground were killed. Gadhafi handed over al-Megrahi and a second suspect to Scottish authorities after years of punishing U.N. sanctions. Four years later, in 2003, Gadhafi acknowledged responsibility _ though not guilt _ for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation of about $2.7 billion to the Lockerbie victims’ families. He also pledged to dismantle all weapons of mass destruction and joined the U.S.-led war on terror.The steps won Gadhafi quick rewards, with Western powers resuming diplomatic contacts and signing lucrative business deals.In 2001, the Scottish court convicted al-Megrahi of planting the bomb but acquitted his co-defendant, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, a Libyan Arab Airlines official, of all charges.The prosecution’s case was built around a tiny fragment of circuit board discovered among the airline wreckage that investigators determined was part of the timer of the bomb, hidden in a suitcase. Investigators said the suitcase was loaded onto a flight from Malta, booked through to Pan Am 103 via Frankfurt.An executive from a Swiss company testified he had sold timers of the same make to Libya. Investigators found that al-Megrahi traveled to Malta on a false passport a day before the suitcase was checked in and left the following day. In the months ahead of his release, Tripoli put pressure on Britain, warning that if the ailing al-Megrahi died in a Scottish prison, all British commercial activity in Libya would be cut off and a wave of demonstrations would erupt outside British embassies, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic memos. The Libyans even implied “that the welfare of U.K. diplomats and citizens in Libya would be at risk,” the memos say.Al-Megrahi kept a strict silence after his return, living in the family villa surrounded by high walls in a posh Tripoli neighborhood, mostly bedridden or taking a few steps with a cane. Libyan authorities sealed him off from public access, and on Sunday scores of fellow clan members surrounded his residence to keep the media away.Al-Megrahi’s son, Khaled al-Megrahi, confirmed that he died in Tripoli in a telephone interview but hung up before giving more details. Saad Nasser al-Megrahi, a relative and a member of the ruling National Transitional Council, said al-Megrahi’s health had deteriorated in recent days and said he died of cancer-related complications.Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of planting the bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 by a Scottish court set up in the neutral ground of a military base in the Netherlands and sentenced to life in prison. The bomb blew up the jetliner as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988. The New York-bound flight originated at London’s Heathrow airport and many of the victims were American college students flying home for Christmas. ___Hendawi reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Rami al-Shaheibi in Benghazi, Libya, Meera Selva in London and Deepti Hajela and Verena Dobnik in New York contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) The father of one of the Lockerbie victims said al-Megrahi’s death was “to a degree a relief” and said his release had little to do with his health.“If he had been that bad three years ago, he wouldn’t have lived this long. It was a political deal,” said Glenn Johnson of Greensburg, Pa., whose 21-year-old daughter Beth Ann Johnson was killed in the bombing.A spokesman for British families who lost loved ones in the bombing said he always believed al-Megrahi was innocent.“His death is to be deeply regretted,” David Ben-Ayreah said. “As someone who attended the trial I have never taken the view that Megrahi was guilty. Megrahi is the 271st victim of Lockerbie.”The Scottish government said Sunday that it will keep on investigating the bombing despite al-Megrahi’s death. Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, said prosecutors have always believed that al-Megrahi did not act alone in the bomb plot.Little was known about al-Megrahi before he was charged, but he became a central figure in both Libya’s falling out with the West and then its return to the international fold.Gadhafi’s regime presented his handover to Scotland in 1999 as a necessary sacrifice to restore Libya’s relations with the world. Top Stories Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches Comments   Share   New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like “I am an innocent man,” al-Megrahi insisted, most recently in his final interview in December, in the final stages of prostate cancer. “I am about to die and I ask now to be left in peace with my family.”But his death at age 60 leaves no peace for families who still question his guilt and whether others in one of history’s deadliest terror attacks went unpunished. Scotland’s government said it would continue to investigate the bombing even after al-Megrahi’s death.“He holds the key to what actually took place in Pan Am 103,” said Bert Ammerman, whose brother was killed in the bombing. “He knows what other individuals were involved and, more importantly, what other countries were involved.”His attorneys had argued that the Libyan intelligence officer was scapegoated to protect the real culprits: Palestinians acting on the behest of Iran.Al-Megrahi’s death comes about three years after Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds, to the outrage of victims’ relatives. At the time, doctors predicted he had only three months to live after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.Anger over his release was further stoked by the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Libya _ and by subsequent accusations that London had sought his release to protect business interests in oil-rich Libya. Britain and Scotland denied the allegations.last_img read more

Brazils Truth Commission to investigate church

first_imgThe creation of the commission stirred resistance from conservative segments of the military, who said the current left-leaning government would use it as an instrument of revenge.Advocates say that investigating who was involved in torture, murders and disappearances is essential if Brazil is to move forward.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Associated PressSAO PAULO (AP) – The Truth Commission investigating human rights abuses committed by Brazil’s former dictatorship will also look into the role Catholic and evangelical churches played during the 1964-1985 military government.Established last year by President Dilma Rousseff, the commission will investigate whether pro-dictatorship clergy committed human rights abuses or supported members of the military responsible for such abuses. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous ofcenter_img Rousseff herself is a former leftist guerrilla who was imprisoned for more than three years and tortured during the dictatorship. She signed the law establishing the commission, which was given two years to conclude its investigation into the torture, murder and forced disappearances of people opposed to the dictatorship.Brazil has never punished military officials who committed human rights abuses, unlike Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, which also had repressive military regimes. A recent study by the Brazilian government concluded last year that 475 people were killed or “disappeared” by agents of the military regime, far less than in neighboring Argentina or Chile.“The activities of the clergy who opposed the dictatorship as well as the actions of religious groups that backed the regime will be analyzed,” said commission member Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who will head the investigation.The church saw the coup d’etat as a strike against communism, which they feared President Joao Goulart would install in Brazil, said Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo.“The Roman Catholic hierarchy was involved in preparing the 1964 coup d’etat and at first openly backed the military regime,” Pinheiro said. Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day But the church decided it could no longer support the military government when it saw that the regime was imprisoning and torturing real and feared opponents, Altemeyer said. Members of the church also began suffering persecution, with at least 100 bishops, priests and nuns arrested and many tortured during the dictatorship, he said.The church then became an outspoken human rights defender and staunch opponent of the military regime, Pinheiro said.The role played by evangelical churches during the dictatorship is less well known, he said, “but like the Catholic clergy there were those who collaborated with the regime and those who opposed it and were arrested and tortured.”The commission has no prosecutorial power, but “depending on the outcome of the investigation it could denounce and determine responsibilities,” Pinheiro said.The commission’s final report won’t result in prosecutions because of a 1979 law granting amnesty for political crimes committed during the dictatorship era. The commission does, however, have subpoena powers, and public servants and military personnel are legally obligated to cooperate.“What we want is to have a comprehensive understanding of what happened. A truth commission cannot and must not avoid this theme,” Pinheiro said. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more

Suspected drug smuggler arrested in Venezuela

first_img Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuela’s top security official says authorities have caught an alleged drug trafficker wanted in neighboring Colombia on drug smuggling, kidnapping and extortion charges.Justice Minister Nestor Reverol says soldiers and officials from Venezuela’s National Anti-Drug Office detained Rigoberto Castellon on Sunday in the western state of Falcon.Colombian and U.S. officials say the majority of cocaine smuggling flights bound for Mexico and Central America pass through Venezuela. 0 Comments   Share   Four benefits of having a wireless security system Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img Reverol has repeatedly said Venezuelan authorities are doing everything possible to stem the flow of cocaine through the country.(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories Top holiday drink recipes Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top Stories last_img read more