Ska Festival in Costa Rica

November 26, 2009

The racetrack in La Guácima, Alajuela will change from a place for drag races to a venue for urban music during the sixth edition of the Skatedra Festival 2009 on Saturday, December 12.

National and international groups will play on the stage located on the inner area of the racetrack.

NOFX will come from the United States, Mojiganga from Colombia and Capitan Ponche from Panama.  They will be accompanied by national bands such as MILIXIA, Calle Dolores, Sulalakaska, Askatasuna, Adaptados and DoGandul.

“Skatedra was born as a window so that thousands of young people of different ages and backgrounds, both from Costa Rica and the rest of Central America, can share a day filled with live music, sports, art and urban culture,” said Luis Arias from Flevent productions, organizer of the event.

The presale has already begun on the website and at Hallmark stores.

They are priced at ¢16,500 for preferential seating and ¢28,000 for Ska  Pit (closer to stage).  The event will start at 4 p.m. and the doors will open one hour earlier.

Therefore all ska music fans are invited to this live event in Costa Rica and we hope you can let us know what you thought of it afterward.


3G Will Only Have Basic Services

November 26, 2009

The third generation (3G) cellular phone lines that the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) will start selling in mid-December in Costa Rica will only have basic services.

If you want to enjoy the sophisticated and innovative options promised by the Institute for two years, you are going to have to wait indefinitely.

This situation was recognized by ICE just three weeks before it is to begin marketing the 950,000 3G connections that it procured from the Chinese company Huawei Technologies.  The total amount of contract is $235 million.

The agency reported that delivery of services offered through the new technology will be divided into three stages.  In December, when it starts selling the connections, users will receive a basic package.  “It provides basic services such as messaging, voice, data, better coverage and a wider bandwidth that enables Internet navigation at greater speeds than usual,” said institute spokesman, Elbert Duran.

He did not specify how much Internet speed for cell phones in Costa Rica will increase.  Currently, ICE’s Internet service for cell phones has a very limited speed, around 64 kbps.  For example, it can take about eight minutes to download a song to a cell phone at that speed.

Meanwhile, one of the great benefits of 3G wireless technology is that it allows customers to have a broadband Internet connection.

The Institute had reported that each 3G mobile line would be able to transmit data at speeds from 128 kbps to two mbps.  However, it was not specified when the speeds would be available.

When questioned about its decision to split the delivery of services, the Institute argued that it was due to the complexity of the project and that it was being done faster (in less than a year) than what we are used to in Costa Rica.

The contract with Huawei was signed in January and it was approved by the Comptroller General of the Republic in late March.  Huawei declined to give any statements on the issue.

During the second phase, planned for March 2010, services that were already tested will be consolidated and others will be tested as pilot projects.  The institute did not give any details as to what these pilot services would be. 

During the last phase, whose date is unknown, “all of the services available through this technology will be offered,” said the ICE spokesperson.

Some of the services promised by ICE are video calling (you can see the person who you talk to on the cell phone’s screen), sending photos and music from one phone to another, prepaid services and number portability.

ICE did not say whether the latter will be available when it starts selling 3G connections in Costa Rica.

The introduction of this technology is crucial to the Institute to expand its cellular market before the entry of new competition.  There are currently 1.8 million mobile connections in the country.

What might be really disappointing to some is that access to all of the services will be done in a phased manner.  People argue that they would be paying for services that they are not receiving.  ICE did not specify whether it is contemplating a lower fee for services offered due to the fact that it will not be offering complete 3g services in Costa Rica.

Very Close to the Finals

November 25, 2009

Two concerts is what separates Costa Rican representative Eduardo Aguirre from the Latin American Idol grand finale.

The young man from Esparza, advanced to the group of five semi-finalists and he will sing two songs in order to fight to keep his place among public’s favorites.

“I’m Proud of the support from my country and what I have shown.  I am going to sing a ballad by Juan Luis Guerra.  If I move on to the seventh concert, I will sing two pop songs, but none by Cristian Castro,” he said.

Aguirre noted that the hardest part is coming and he does not care if the judges sometimes tell others that they are among their favorites.

“The pressure is with myself.  We all have our minute and a half on stage.  All I need is a little push to reach the final.  I only ask people to continue believing in me and the will hopefully be satisfied with the effort,” he said.

The Chilean, Ruben Alvarez and the Dominican, Martha Heredia, two of his strongest rivals on the show, also made their predictions.

“I am very happy with what I’ve been doing.  People have seemed receptive, but now we five are starting from scratch.  I’ve shown a lot of dancing and now I will offer a more romantic mood,” said the Chilean.

The Caribbean said she is preparing vocally and emotionally.  She denies being overconfident, as the jury told her not long ago.

“Sometimes I seem arrogant, but I am really very simple.  What happens is that the I transform myself when I sing.  I am really preparing myself,” said the brunette, who calls Ruben her strongest rival.

The reprimand that the Costa Rican representative received during “Cantando por un sueño” (Singing for a Dream) where he was told by music producer Fabian Zolo that he must go from being  a puppy to being a man was not in vain.

The producer sees him as being more mature, but there are things he must still improve.  “Without fear of being wrong, I can say that he can get to the finals…but only if he changes his strategy. He has to take more risks, take over the stage.  He is in a comfort zone and he must come out of it.”

Zolo said that the young man has already demonstrated that he can sing, but he must now show himself, show more nuance and be the artist who wants to be the show.  Maria Jose Castillo, a finalist last year, said that she sees the young man from Esparza in the finals against Martha or Ruben.

“He is among the best, no doubt.  He should continue with ballads and vary a little with pop.  We need to see him in that genre to show different facets.  He’s doing a good job and he is paying attention to what the judges say, but I think Mediavilla (Oscar) is a little obnoxious when he makes his comments.”

But even when things seem to be all right, we must support our representative from Costa Rica.  We are asking for your votes so that he can reach the final.

AH1N1 Vaccines to Arrive Soon

November 25, 2009

Costa Rica will have the first 200,000 doses AH1N1 flu vaccine during the first week of December.

The announcement of the arrival of the first batch of vaccines to fight the influenza pandemic was made by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to the Ministry of Health and it was confirmed by the deputy minister of health, Ana Morice.

She added that PAHO has also announced that Costa Rica will receive another batch with 250,000 doses of flu vaccine in January.

Costa Rica made the purchase of immunizations through the PAHO Revolving Fund.

Initially, the price for each vaccine was $7 (approximately ¢4000) but PAHO increased the price and now the country must pay $7.50 (about ¢ 4,275) per dose.  The total cost of the 450,000 vaccines is about ¢1.725 billion.  Vice Minister Morice said that she did not know the reason why the price for the vaccines increased.

The increase in vaccine unit price means that the country will have to pay about ¢115 million more to the Fund.  This amount does not include payment for shipping and customs clearance.

Morice said that the vaccines come in vials of ten doses each, which makes the lots cheaper than if they contained a single dose.

The vaccines that Costa Rica will receive are from Novartis pharmaceuticals, which some weeks ago conducted a clinical study on almost 800 Costa Ricans to try the effectiveness of the AH1N1 flu vaccine.

Although drug companies will make a donation of several thousand vaccines to poor countries through PAHO, Costa Rica did not qualify.

According to vice minister Morice, this exclusion is beneficial because each country receiving a donation must sign a document which will immunize the pharmaceuticals from any litigation in case there are any severe reactions in the population due to the vaccine  .

“Given those conditions, it is better if they do not give Costa Rica anything,” said Morice.

The 450,000 vaccines that the country will receive account for a quarter of the total doses (1.8 million) that the Ministry of Health wants.

According to  the vice minister, a maximum period of 48 hours will elapse from the moment the vaccines arrive to the beginning of the anti-flu campaign.

“The doses will have to be dispatched immediately once they are in customs so as not to break the cold chain (vaccines should be kept under refrigeration),” said the official.

However, the doses must pass a short quality test conducted by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) on all drugs.

“However, since the vaccine is pretested, not much time will go by before it is distributed,” she said.

To move the process forward, the Ministry of Health and the CCSS in Costa Rica will request medical centers to identify patients with certain risk factors and they will be the ones who will first to receive the vaccine.

“Each local health center (EBAIS, clinics and hospitals) must identify how many people they have with risk factors such as asthma and diabetes and, based on these data, we will say:  ‘First vaccinate these people, then others’,” commented Morice on how the campaign will be conducted.

Hopefully, this first vaccination will have positive results because, after having paid such a high cost and after having clashed with the pharmaceutical company, the best thing for all Costa Ricans would be for things to turn out well.

Young Man from Costa Rica Gets Fourth Place in Videogame Competition

November 23, 2009

The young man from Costa Rica, Federico Beeche, won fourth place in the World Cyber Games (WCG) with the game, Guitar Hero.

Guitar Hero is a game in which a person must play a series of songs with a control that simulates an electric guitar.

As the player moves between different tracks and levels of difficulty, ever larger scenarios are presented as a symbol of a journey to becoming a rock star

The WCGs were held from November 11 to 15 in the Chinese city of Chengdu with representatives from 74 countries.  With nine years of existence, it is considered one of the biggest events of its kind.

Congratulations go out to this young man from Costa Rica.  Even though this is not a real sport to many, it shows that you can achieve great things through dedication and hard work.

ICE Continues to Invest to Compete

November 23, 2009

As part of its strategy to face competition, Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) is promoting an ambitious process and technological change to improve customer service.

The lifesaver would be a program called Plan of Development for Systems Supporting Business Operations (PESSO), whose implementation is in a race against time in Costa Rica.

PESSO includes seven projects that seek integrated solutions and represent an investment of $150 million.  The first phase should be ready in February.

“If we cannot complete this program, we will not exist.  That is how radical it is,” said Javier Leon, program director.

Leon explained that ICE currently has a potpourri of applications that reflects how the entity has been evolving with respect to technologies in Costa Rica.

Such applications were integrated with high difficulty.  However, they did not produce the expected results and they have huge support costs.

“This gives us an inadequate response for customers.  As we are now, if the competition offers the customer a product and ICE wants to react, it cannot do so in the time required.  Sometimes it can even take years to do so, so we need proper solutions,” he added.

ICE has lost more than ¢1,900 billion in the migration to SIMO and Gitel phone billing systems without positive results.  Among the problems in the current arrangement is that the platforms are proprietary or closed (dependent on a manufacturer to extend or renew).  This prevents the development of those applications in Costa Rica.

In addition, there is no data integrity.  This implies, for example, that if a customer purchases a service, it is recorded on one platform, but it is billed on another.  Ideally, everyone involved in providing the service should have a single view of the customer.

One of the main changes introduced by PESSO is that it is focused on the customer and not on the services.

PESSO projects include:  Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Planning and Network Design, Management Resources and Services, Income and Supply Chain Management, Vertical Billing and Business Applications.

The first and most urgent one is CRM, which focuses on the knowledge of the customers’ needs, service delivery and customer support.  Its implementation began in mid-2009 and it should end in February.

Meanwhile, Vertice, which includes the design and configuration of services, resource supplies, shipping and insurance, was launched this year and it will be finished by 2011 in Costa Rica.

Vertical Billing, which aims for an integrated billing solution for services, will be completed next year, while planning, network design and business applications projects are in the process of procurement and design.

According to Leon, this is not a software purchase, but complete business solutions.

With these projects, ICE is looking for a rapid introduction of new services and capabilities to respond effectively and flexibly to market, customer and competitive changes in Costa Rica.

From Model to Instructor

November 23, 2009

Costa Rican model Andreina Samudio will be a personal trainer soon.  She is studying the profession at Arena Trek gym.

“I go on Saturdays for four hours and I am doing very well.  I have been in classes for about 1 and 1/2 months.  I like to play sports and to help those who need it,” said the 21-year-old Chica Reef.

The beautiful brunette said her classes have not been complicated even though she has had to read and study every day.

“We’re studying anatomy and physiology.  There is a lot of material and you have to read a lot, learn all the muscles and bones in the body, their names and where they are located,” she added.

Ingrid Roldán, who is a personal trainer in Costa Rica just like model Pamela Cusi, advised her to get into this.

She expects to be working in a gym as an instructor in about four months. congratulates Andreína for her desire to get involved in and focus on something very different from modeling. .

Agricultural Sector Presents Plans to Candidates

November 23, 2009

The agricultural sector in Costa Rica presented a proposal to the presidential candidates regarding long term policy, with which it hopes to recover its presence not only in the Government’s plans but also in the Legislature and Municipalities.

The suggestions from agricultural groups are defined through 11 points within which increased investment in infrastructure and public services to export products, innovation and knowledge applied to agriculture and livestock, support for small and medium producers with limited assets, agricultural health and quality, food security, environmental protection and use of open trade take on greater significance.

For the first time, the National Chamber of Agriculture and Agro-industry (CNAA) of Costa Rica, which represents big agricultural producers, joined smaller groups such as the National Union of Small and Medium Farmers (UPANACIONAL) and the National Horticultural Corporation, to define the proposal.

The document was presented during a public ceremony, which was attended by five of the nine candidates for the presidency of the Republic; Laura Chinchilla from the National Liberation Party, Otton Solis from the Citizens’ Action, Rolando Araya from the Patriotic Alliance, Walter Muñoz from the National Integration Party and Eugenio Trejos from the Broad Front, signed the document at the request of the agricultural sectors.  Trejos and Solis emphasized that their signature of the document was done with reservations.

In general, the comments of the candidates were in favor of the industry proposal by the national agricultural sector and they commended the work that places emphasis on points that were considered essential for developing policies and actions specific to the sector.

The reservations of PAC candidate, Otton Solis, as he explained, are related to a assertion made in the paper about the benefits of trade agreements for farmers, which is something Solis says cannot be generalized.  He also criticized a point made in the text about the commercialization of agriculture.  He warned that he believes there should be subsidies and protectionism for small and medium producers “in everything that can be protected and subsidized,” he said.

Eugenio Trejos from the Broad Front in Costa Rica, who also had reservations about the document, said that it is “politically neutral” and that this makes it impossible to make a diagnosis as to what the country’s development vision has been and at the same time translate it into concrete action.  The other candidates signed without noting any specific reservations.

Laura Chinchilla said the sector’s proposal is well received and that it can serve as a basis to establish what her actions in a future government will be.  To that end, she added that she would suggest specific programs such as a Green Seal, which would be placed upon sustainable agricultural production and products, a specific risk program for key zones and another to support farming families.

Candidates Rolando Araya and Walter Muñoz agreed on the comment that the agricultural sector has been weakened and set side, which they believe are actions that go against what the bases or livelihood of any society are.  However, they did not assert any plans that they had toward strengthening these weakened bases.


Information About Airplanes is Hidden

November 19, 2009

The Ministry of Public Security of Costa Rica issued a report that hides information about people who have used government aircraft and the justifications for such travel.  The ministry has cleared a total of 692 flights for public officials during this Administration,  all of them classified as official.

Only the names of the person requesting use of the planes for these excursions were released.  The report does not detail the names of their companions, which are listed in the flight logs.

These logs air surveillance are still at Base Two in Juan Santamaria International Airport, although they were one of the data requested to be released.

A copy of the flight plans or the requests by public officials were also not released, where the reasons for which the officials requested the service in Costa Rica should appear.

This contrasts with the statements issued by Janina Del Vecchio, Security Minister, after delivering a report to the press:

“The flights have always been requested as official, that is the position of the Ministry of Security.  We have the responsibility of keeping flight, destination, time, cost and user logs.  That is the report that we are providing,” she said.

Del Vecchio emphasized that all approved flights were official, and only one requested by Representative Maureen Ballestero, from the National Liberation Party (PLN), was authorized verbally.

What the report indicates is that each of the 692 flights were for official business, which does not take into account humanitarian shipments.

The trip by legislator Ballestero, which took place on October 11, aroused interest on flights taken by public officials in aerial surveillance aircraft in Costa Rica.

The congresswoman had asked Deputy Director of Security and Air Surveillance, Oldemar Madrigal, for an aircraft the previous night.  She claimed that she had to go home for a passport.  Madrigal granted her permission and the legislator left the morning of October 11 from Juan Santamaria airport to Liberia.

Ballestero was in a hurry, according to what she later stated, because she had to return to the capital for a flight out of the country.  However, the legislator admitted that she also took the trip to go by and say hello at a cantonal assembly of the PLN and also vote in that activity.

Del Vecchio claimed that this trip was official “because that is how it was requested.”

A national daily newspaper published Thursday that Ballestero had also traveled to Liberia, accompanied by her daughter, on September 5 in a police aircraft.

She voted in the PLN cantonal assembly during that trip.  However, that activity was canceled due to some anomalies.  The Electoral Code prevents the use of public resources for partisan activities in Costa Rica.

In this regard, Del Vecchio said:  “We are not supervisors for any entity of the three supreme powers of the Republic.  Every government official who requests a flight is responsible for the proper use thereof,” she said.

In a situation like this, the use of public resources in Costa Rica is put to the test.  You would expect that it would have better monitoring because there must be sufficient resources to fund public works if there is money to be spent on flights of a dubious nature.

Amnet Begins to Sell Different Services

November 19, 2009

Amnet Telecommunications company in Costa Rica decided to enter the Internet services and corporate data business.  It has been offering these services to 30 clients, including stores, banks and small and medium enterprises for 5 months.

To enter the corporate segment, the company invested $3.5 million in infrastructure.  It is only serving customers in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM)at this time.

“We are taking advantage of fiber optic infrastructure in order to offer the corporate sector point to point and multipoint data link services and provide corporate Internet,” said Norman Chaves, the company’s corporate services manager.

The links offered by the company are symmetrical, meaning that they have the same megabyte sending and receiving speed, with up to 20 megabytes per connection.

Amnet was the first private company to receive the green light to operate in the Telecommunications market in Costa Rica after the opening of the state monopoly from the Superintendent of Telecommunications.

Five other firms are also allowed to provide Internet, voice over IP (Internet Protocol) and attend business needs.

Before the opening of the monopoly, Amnet was only focused on digital cable and Internet services via cable modem, through an agreement with RACSA.

Amnet invested $1.5 million in the fiber optic network infrastructure, which enables it to provide services only for business customers in the GAM, said Chaves.  However, $2 million more were added to this investment in order to achieve 65% coverage of the country, coast to coast, in the next ten months.

Optic fiber is a bundle through which data is transmitted at the speed of light.  Through this type of link, many companies transfer information with respect to their financial and administrative operations.  Chaves said corporate services are not new to Amnet in Costa Rica.  The firm has been providing it in the rest of Central America, where it also operates.

“We expect to achieve a submarine interconnection and reach an agreement with ICE because we can provide data and Internet corporate links to the rest of Latin America as soon as we do this,” Said the executive .  The official explained that this interconnection will enable a Costa Rican company to link to some of its offices in Guatemala for example.  We will be waiting to see whether this will actually happen.  In Costa Rica, most things usually take much longer to happen than they should.