Whales and dolphins
Through an executive decree issued by President Oscar Arias, Costa Rica became one of the first sanctuaries for whales and dolphins in Latin America. This means that all and any activities which involve the hunting, catching, hurting, or in any other way harassing or trading cetaceans are banned in all territorial waters, including those in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. In addition to being part of the migration routes of whales, Costa Rican waters –scientists have confirmed– harbor several areas where whales mate and give birth. The species confirmed include humpback whales, which are endangered, official sources said.
Costa Rica was ratified as the headquarters for the West Pacific Conservation Marine Corridor, which takes in the area of the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Cocos Island (Costa Rica), Coiba Island (Panama) and the Colombian islands Malpelo and Gorgona. Costa Rican Ricardo Meneses was confirmed at the top executive of the organization during the 16th Forum of Latin American and Caribbean Environment Ministers, held in the Dominican Republic.
Inflation over 10 percent
In November, December, and January, the yearly inflation –the average for the preceding 12 months–surpassed the 10 percent mark, according to the National Statistics and Census Bureau. This increase means that there is inflationary pressure on the economy of Costa Rica and that the Government and the Central Bank must take steps to control it, said economist Alberto Franco. However, he pointed out, inflation is also influenced by the prices of raw materials in the international market, and that is one aspect that local authorities can do nothing about. The Central Bank set 8 percent as the top inflation for this year, with an up or down 1-percent margin.
The Costa Rican Board of Tourism (ICT in Spanish) forecast that in 2008 the increase in the arrival of visitors will not follow the trend of recent years. It foresees that the ranks of tourists will increase by 6 percent, as compared to 2007, for example, when the number went 10.15 percent up. Last year, 1.9 million foreigners visited Costa Rica, 175,000 more than in 2006. Allegedly, Costa Rica will suffer a heavy impact from recession in the United States, the source of 54 percent of all visitors to this Central American nation. However, the chairman of the National Chamber of Tourism Alberto Lopez has a much more optimistic outlook. He said that the problems in the United States will not have as heavy an impact here.
The establishment of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China has resulted in the springing of a vast array of opportunities for Costa Rica, said Minister of Tourism Carlos Benavides. He pointed out that one of them is the declaration of Costa Rica as a tourist destination that the Government in Beijing recommends to its citizens. “Recommended destination” is a program that Chinese authorities use to suggest their citizens which countries they can visit. Until now, that privilege had been limited to Mexico, Chile, and Peru. Now Chinese travel agents can organize tours to Costa Rica which, in turn, can promote its tourist attractions in China.
Links with Palestine
Costa Rica acknowledged Palestine as a state. It did so by establishing diplomatic ties with the Palestinian National Authority, in spite of its historic territorial disputes with neighboring Israel. The diplomatic links with Palestine come year and a half after Costa Rica moved its embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. San Jose now has diplomatic relations with eight Arab countries, according to official sources.
Iron and steel
Arcelor-Mittal, the world’s leading firm in the steel and iron sector, bought Laminadora and Trefileria Costarricense, which manufactures 400,000 tons of steel rods for construction a year. In addition, its output includes 60,000 tons of screws, nails, and wire. Of the overall production, 55 percent goes to the domestic market, while the balance is sold elsewhere in Central America and the Caribbean. Arcelor-Mittal, which manufactures 130 million tons of products a year, plans to invest $7 million to improve the Costa Rican facilities this year.
Alexánder Otárola. Archivo.
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