Friday, March 4, 2011

Need to Renew Your Tourist Visa?

¡A vestirnos de blanco por la paz este 8 de Marzo! In English, "Dress in white for peace this March 8th!"

Which also happens to be the date that the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) is due to render its decision on Costa Rica's request for temporary measures stopping Nicaragua from continuing the dredging of the San Juan river, and the removal of its troops from Isla Calero.

If the ruling does not go in favor of Costa Rica, Presidenta Chinchilla will walk away with egg on her face - and probably on her white clothing too - and Costa Rica will look weak for not taking a harder line in the opening days of the dispute. If the ruling does go in favor of Costa Rica, Daniel Ortega, who has stated that he will abide by the ruling - even after telling the OAS to stick their ruling in favor of Costa Rica up their culos - may not abide by it and keep his Nicaraguan troops there. That would force La Presidenta into a tougher position, and she may be forced to take a harder line, possibly by closing the border between the two countries. She has stated that she will not negotiate with Managua until the troops are removed.

So if any of you Gte. expats out there without residencia need to renew your 90 day tourist visas, you may want to bolt to San Juan del Sur or Granada in the next couple of days.

OH!! And be sure to wear white!!

¡Pura vida!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

¡Viva Beijing!

On June 6, 2007, President Oscar Arias (awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end civil wars then raging in several other Central American countries) severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan after nearly 60 years, and established relations with China - an act that has perplexed me ever since.

The Taiwanese sponsored infrustructure improvements and gifted the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública new police uniforms ($150,000), 24 motor cycles, six quad runners and about 100 new police pickup trucks, all brandishing the CR flag next to the Taiwanese flag. It was warm and fuzzy. Yeah, cops could feel proud again and people could have the peace of mind that the cops could actually "arrive" when called. But the warm and fuzzy feeling only lasted for a little while...

Taiwan also financed and constructed the $27 million Puente de la Amistad Costa Rica - Taiwan (Costa Rica - Taiwan Friendship Bridge) that spans 780 m. over the Rio Tempisque, shaving about an hour of road time from where I live to S. Jose, and giving greater access to the Nicoya Peninsula - one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica - from S. Jose. Tourism is a bigger industry than bananas, oranges, Hi-tech and anything else this country produces - combined! But ever since relations were cut off with Taiwan in favour of China, the bridge has been known, colloquially, as Puente de la Apuñalada (Back Stab Bridge).

As he was cutting ties with Taiwan with the right hand, our Nobel Laureate, Arias, was waving his left hand saying that Costa Rica needed to strengthen ties with China to attract foreign investment, and in virtually the same breath, established diplomatic relations with the PRC. A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Costa Rica and China was signed in April of 2010. Final approval of the FTA with China is eminent, if it hasn't already taken place as of this writing.

Now, did Costa Rica receive badly needed money for infrastructure and public service agencies like they received from Taiwan? I mean, this country's infrastructure... well... SUCKS! Bridges are falling down all over the country. 16 major highways were closed this winter (some sections are still closed) during an unusually wet rainy season (wettest in 60 years here in Guanacaste), crippling the country, driving up prices on food and other goods and resulting in the deaths of several unsuspecting motorists. And they're still trying to fix it all!!

The answer to the above question is, "No, hombre!". Both the Chinese and the former Arias administration (now, Laura Chinchilla - his puppet) know Ticos better than Ticos know themselves. So the Chinese government financed the construction of the new National Stadium (somwhere between $90 - $103 million), which will have a capacity of 35,093. The construction of the stadium forms part of the agreements signed between Arias and Hu Jintao, during Arias' first visit to the Asian country in October, 2007. The construction began on March 12, 2009 and is scheduled to finish right about now, 2011. The inauguration ceremony will take place from March 26 to April 3. The first fútbol match will be a friendly match played against China, followed two days later by another against Argentina. A concert by Shakira will end the inaugural week.

So while the nation's infrastructure is ashambles and front page news every day (San José - Caldera, ICE's 3g outages, the Virilla or “platina” bridge "reconstruction", etc.), shark finning is rampant, deforestation and forest fires out of control, gas/diesel prices are rising, food prices are climbing, and no government policy on sustainability exists in "the greenest country in the world", at the very least, the Costa Rican people can rest assured that they will be able to regale themselves in fútbol - the opiate of the masses in Latin America - at their new national stadium (but without a parking plan and only for those who can afford the ticket). And La Presidenta Chinchilla can check off another day on the presidential calendar and not have to think about the International Court's upcoming ruling on Nicaragua's "invasion" of Isla Calero. If that goes Nicaragua's way, stay tuned. It may look like Cairo here.

(Oh, look! A butterfly!) But, heck! Shakira is an exotic Colombiana, and sooooooo hot!!

Now... if I can just find a reliable route to get to the new stadium from here...