Insight LATAM team up for new South America promotion

first_imgInsight, LATAM team up for new South America promotion TORONTO — Insight Vacations’ new South America deal, in partnership with LATAM, offers a $500 Economy Class air credit per couple or an $800 Business Class air credit per couple, plus 10% off land.The deal is valid for bookings made by Sept. 9, 2016 for travel Jan. 1 – July 1, 2017.Insight says it’s celebrating its expanded 2017 Luxury Gold South America portfolio. “We are pleased to be partnering with LATAM to offer these incredible air savings to South America for our Canadian travellers,” said Cris David, president, Insight Vacations Canada. “From the wonders of Machu Picchu, the spectacular Iguassu Falls, to the incredible wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, Insight Vacations guests will experience the natural beauty and vibrant culture of these regions and be there sooner thanks to this generous offer by our valued LATAM partners.”The limited time offer is valid on the following Luxury Gold journeys: Treasures of the Incas; Classic South America; Grand Tour of South America; and the Quito and Galapagos extension. For more information contact your local Sales Manager. Travelweek Group Share Tags: LATAMcenter_img Friday, August 19, 2016 Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

American Airlines follows Delta by bringing back free meals

first_img Posted by Share Tags: American Airlines DALLAS — American Airlines says it will offer free meals to everyone in economy on certain cross-country flights starting May 1.The decision at the world’s biggest airline copies Delta Air Lines, which announced a month ago that it would restore free meals in economy on a dozen long-haul U.S. routes this spring.American said Tuesday that it will open the kitchen on nonstop flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco. The airline says that passengers will get a continental breakfast or a sandwich wrap, chips and dessert, or they can pick a vegetarian meal or a fruit-and-cheese plate.That leaves United as the biggest carrier with no plans yet to bring back free meals on any domestic flights. United didn’t comment immediately on American’s announcement. American Airlines follows Delta by bringing back free mealscenter_img Travelweek Group Wednesday, March 15, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

Chug or check Man opts to check single can of beer for

first_img MELBOURNE — Nothing comes between a man and his beer, as one Aussie has undoubtedly proven.According to The Daily Dot, a male passenger flying from Melbourne, Australia to Perth with Qantas Airlines found himself in an unfortunate predicament at the airport: What to do with his unopened can of beer?Rather than toss the can in the trash (heaven forbid!) or discreetly chug it prior to passing security, the man (who wished to remain anonymous) did what any beer lover would do – he checked his single can of beer as if it were luggage.He told Daily Mail that he did it as a joke; “I half didn’t expect it to come out the other end,” he said. But not only did it arrive safely in Perth, it was situated front and centre – a place of honour – on the baggage carousel ahead of all other items.More news:  Can you guess the top Instagrammed wedding locations in the world?The beer can’s journey was photographed by amused passengers and uploaded to social media. We wouldn’t be surprised if it already has its own Instagram account and frequent flier card. Posted by Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >> Sharecenter_img Tags: LOL Chug or check? Man opts to check single can of beer for flight Wednesday, July 12, 2017 last_img read more

Goway opens up sun destinations with new offers plus a Seychelles fam

first_imgGoway opens up sun destinations with new offers plus a Seychelles fam << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Goway Posted by TORONTO — Goway is offering savings worth up to $1,650 off the cost of a 12-day Seychelles vacation, including air, plus the company is putting together a limited edition Seychelles fam so agents can check out the beautiful destination for themselves.Eligible Seychelles departures for clients are available Nov. 1 –Dec. 22, 2019, and again Jan. 6 – March 31, 2019.Meanwhile Goway is inviting its travel agent partners to discover the islands for themselves with a FAM trip to Seychelles in October 2018. Spots are limited and agents are asked to sign up for pre-boarding at is also promoting Moorea in 2019, with savings of up to $1,100 on the company’s popular eight-day Moorea vacation including airfare.Eligible departures run from February 16 to March 2, 2019.Fiji is another great option in the South Pacific, says Goway. Goway is offering a saving of $1,250 on this 10-day trip, with departures available Nov. 1 – Nov. 20, 2018, and January 21 – March 21, 2019.More news:  ‘Turn around year’ for TPI brings double-digit growthClients can also book the Maldives Escape including airfare. Globetrotters who book by Sept. 28 will receive big savings of $8,300 on this 11-day trip, with departures up until Sept. 28, 2018 and during May 2019.Closer to home Goway is also offering $800 off its 10-day Pride of America Cruise, a roundtrip itinerary from Honolulu that includes two nights’ accommodation in Honolulu, and a seven-night cruise, and departs Jan. 17, 2019.All savings are per couple, and eligible departures must be booked by Sept. 28, 2018, with the exception of the Fiji Escape including airfare which must be booked by Aug. 31, 2018.center_img Travelweek Group Share Thursday, August 23, 2018 last_img read more

Delta is the latest airline to raise checked bag fees

first_imgTags: Baggage, Delta Air Lines Share ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines is joining two rivals in raising fees to check a bag on a flight within the United States.Delta on Wednesday posted new fees of US$30 for checking a first bag and $40 for a second bag, increasing the previous fees by $5 each.The changes match increases recently imposed by United Airlines and JetBlue Airways. By midday, American Airlines had not increased bag fees.Southwest Airlines lets passengers check up to two bags free.Airlines have been pulling in more revenue from extra charges for several years. Last year, U.S. carriers raised $7.4 billion from fees on checked bags and ticket changes, led by American, Delta and United.Last month, both Air Canada and WestJet upped their fees for both the first checked bag (from $25 to $30) and the second checked bag (from $30 to $50). Air Canada’s fee hike kicks in on Oct. 5 while WestJet’s start Oct. 1.More news:  Beep, beep! Transat hits the streets with Cubamania truckWith files from The Associated Press Posted by Delta is the latest airline to raise checked bag feescenter_img Thursday, September 20, 2018 Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

VISIT FLORIDAs Ken Lawson is leaving his role as CEO

first_imgTags: Departures, VISIT FLORIDA << Previous PostNext Post >> VISIT FLORIDA’s Ken Lawson is leaving his role as CEO Share Tuesday, December 18, 2018 center_img TALLAHASSEE — VISIT FLORIDA’s Ken Lawson is leaving his role as CEO in January to take over the reins of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).As the new Executive Director, Lawson will serve under Governor-elect Ron DeSantis’ administration, and is tasked with helping the state “continue to be an economic powerhouse” and “bringing new businesses to Florida and creating jobs for Floridians,” said DeSantis.As VISIT FLORIDA’s president and CEO, Lawson led Florida’s official destination marketing organization in partnership with its Board of Directors and the statewide tourism industry. According to DeSantis, while under Lawson’s leadership, the state was able to create more than 1.6 million private-sector jobs and set new visitation records.VISIT FLORIDA said it is just beginning a search for Lawson’s successor. An interim CEO has yet to be named.Lawson first joined VISIT FLORIDA in January 2017 following a unanimous vote of its Board of Directors. His appointment came after the resignation of three Visit Florida executives in the wake of the Pitbull scandal, which resulted in outgoing Governor Rick Scott calling for the resignation of Lawson’s predecessor, Will Seccombe. Travelweek Group Posted bylast_img read more

Karen Gushue convicted on two counts

first_imgKaren Gushue convicted on two counts MISSISSAUGA — A Fort Erie woman has been convicted on two counts of operating as a travel agent without registration.Karen Gushue, also known as Karen Robinson was previously charged by TICO in 2017 while operating in Fort Erie and elsewhere in Ontario.She was also charged with a number of counts of fraud over $5,000 and fraud under $5,000 under the Criminal Code of Canada.Sentencing proceedings are scheduled to take place on April 12, 2019. Travelweek Group Tags: Conviction, Fraud, TICO Tuesday, February 12, 2019 Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

A new low for nofrills flying easyJet assigns backless seat to passenger

first_imgTags: easyJet, Funny Wednesday, August 7, 2019 LUTON, ENGLAND — Hello, welcome to easyJet. Would you like a window seat, aisle seat, or a backless one?Sounds odd, we know, but for one woman a seat without a back was her only option on a recent easyJet flight from Luton to Geneva.In a photo uploaded to Twitter by fellow passenger Matthew Harris, the unidentified woman is seen sitting onboard the plane in an aisle seat that was completely missing a back. In his tweet, Harris wrote: “#easyjet beats @Ryanair to have backless seats. This is flight 2021 Luton to Geneva. How can this be allowed.”#easyjet beats @Ryanair to have backless seats. @IATA @EASA this is flight 2021 Luton to Geneva. How can this be allowed. @GeneveAeroport @easyJet_press @easyJet— Matthew Harris (@mattiasharris) August 6, 2019The airline responded to his tweet, thanking Harris for bringing the situation to their attention. It then asked Harris to remove the photograph and direct-message them before they investigate further.More news:  Help Princess Cruises break the world record for largest vow renewal at seaHarris refused to take down the photo, replying with: “One has to wonder how safe the rest of the plane was. This was her seat. The lady was moved to a spare seat once the flight was fully boarded. Not sure what would have happened if the flight was full.”Hi Matthew, thanks for bringing this to our attention, before we can investigate this could I ask you to remove the photograph & then DM us more info regarding this, so we can best assist you. Ross— easyJet (@easyJet) August 6, 2019In a follow-up tweet, easyJet assured passengers that despite what the photo may suggest, its main focus is safety.“Be assured safety is our highest priority and passengers would have never been allowed to fly in these seats as they were inoperative. If the flight had been full then two passengers would have been offered an alternate flight as they would not have been permitted to travel in these seats,” tweeted the airline.More news:  Virgin Voyages de-activates Quebec accounts at FirstMates agent portaleasyJet further clarified in a statement reported by Mashable that the woman was not “permitted” to sit in the seat as it was waiting for repairs.So, we guess they’re chalking it up to one big mix-up? Or is this the new standard for no-frills flying? Travelweek Group A new low for no-frills flying: easyJet assigns backless seat to passengercenter_img Posted by Share << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

La EcoVilla Real Estate takes a green turn

first_imgFrom the print editionJust three years ago, Costa Rica was riding a powerful real estate boom, pulling in foreign investors by the planeload to buy condos, houses and lots as quickly as they could be built or laid out. And in a strong seller’s market, many of these developments were poorly planned and executed. When the bubble burst, the crisis affected Costa Rica’s real estate and construction industries more than any other sector of the local economy. Some developers lost their shirts, and to this day, a number of these boom-time projects remain unfinished.Some good news is that during the profound lull that followed the crisis, new thinking about the direction of real estate development in Costa Rica – based, fittingly, on the idea of sustainability – has taken root, and is beginning to blossom. While there are many examples of this trend around the country, the EcoVilla, close to Orotina near the Central Pacific Coast, is one of the clearest and most accessible.A Winning Formula?Located off a gravel road flanking the lush Río Machuca, just off the old Monte del Aguacate highway to the Pacific coast, the EcoVilla provides an alluring look at how many residents of Costa Rica might live in the not-too-distant future. Although Marcelo Valansi, the project’s low-key Argentinian developer, is careful to say that the form of living in the EcoVilla is not for everyone, he’s also clearly convinced that he and other green-thinking property developers have hit upon a winning formula, both in business terms and by providing an avenue whereby they and their clients can live according to their principles. As it turns out, the EcoVilla has so far appealed to a highly diverse, eclectic and international clientele. Out of a total of 14 lots sold, 13 countries are represented among the buyers, including Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Canada, England, Holland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, China and the United States. According to Valansi, most of the members of the EcoVilla are working professionals and businessmen and women, some with children, while retirees are also represented. To date, all consider that the EcoVilla will be their principal residence. To address the needs of the community’s children, the EcoVilla has entered into an agreement with the Tree of Life School of Santa Ana to provide private schooling. The hope, says Valansi, is also to offer this educational opportunity to children of nearby communities on accessible terms. The total area of the EcoVilla, which is organized as a condominium, is just over 17 hectares, including 14 lots with an average of size of 2,000 sq. meters each. Presently, the first three houses are under construction, while five more have begun the permitting process. The EcoVilla’s common areas are devoted to roads, gardens, a nursery, ponds and forested green areas along the length of the river. Living off the LandThe EcoVilla, like many other sustainable communities, is dedicated to the ideal of producing as much of its food as possible. The property is liberally planted with over 160 varieties of fruit trees, many of which are already producing, while a nursery provides a wide variety of both common and unusual spices and herbs. The property is also dotted by fish ponds in which Tilapia is being raised. Finally, Valansi mentions plans to plant vegetable gardens in the common areas lining the internal roads of the development. The EcoVilla has two sources of water: It uses well water for drinking and surface water collected from nearby creeks for other uses. Individual homeowners can collect rainwater and put this to use as well. Sewage and gray water (from sinks, baths and washing machines) are collected and piped to a biodigestor, which treats the water while producing methane gas. Once the wastewater passes through the treatment plant it is used for irrigation. The community has not yet decided how to use gas produced by the biodigestor, but is considering the options of generating electricity, powering vehicles to be used on the development, or heating water. A Diversity of ShelterThe EcoVilla’s creators, when facing the issue of regulating the construction of houses, chose to give optimum discretion to the homeowner, using the criteria of energy use as the only limiting factor. This, according to Valansi, was because lot owners and their architects proposed such a wide variety of sustainable building materials and designs, each with valid arguments supporting their cause, that it was too difficult to decide which to adopt.As a result, the EcoVilla will in all likelihood contain a wide variety of sustainable building types, with the consequence that it will serve as a real world laboratory, where owners can compare (and spend the coming years arguing over) the advantages of different types of houses and materials. Whatever the design, the restriction on energy consumption means that air conditioning will be prohibited, unless the house can generate sufficient energy to power it. TelecommutingValansi is especially proud of the fact that the EcoVilla is one of the few developments outside the Central Valley wired with fiber-optics for reliable access to high-speed Internet and other telecommunications services. This is in keeping with the founders’ vision of the EcoVilla as a place where people can be far away from the bustle and noise of the city, but connected to their work, family and friends in other parts of Costa Rica or the world. Telecommuting, in other words, is an element of sustainability that the EcoVilla seeks to promote. The EcoVilla is on-grid: Its lots are connected to the nationwide electricity service. According to Valansi, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute will install two-way metering at the development, whereby the value of electricity generated by homeowners through solar panels or by other means can be fed into the grid and deducted from their monthly electricity bill. A Working ModelUnlike many existing real estate developments where the environment is used as a selling point, but precious little is done to actually protect it, the EcoVilla is attempting to take solid steps to ensure environmental sustainablility at almost every turn. And while not everyone can afford to live at the EcoVilla – it’s aimed at the middle class or higher – it provides a working example of many ideas that can be much more widely applied. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Costa Rican fisheries institute VP fired over links to fishing industry

first_imgNine months after a complaint was filed to the executive branch’s Public Ethics Office denouncing Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca) Vice President Álvaro Moreno’s links to the commercial fishing industry, members of President Laura Chinchilla’s Cabinet on Tuesday fired Moreno from the government oversight agency.Communications Minister Francisco Chacón confirmed the Cabinet’s decision on Thursday.“The Cabinet decided Tuesday to terminate the services of Álvaro Moreno due to a report from the Public Ethics Office and the recommendation from that office that Moreno should be fired,” Chacón told The Tico Times.Chinchilla will announce a replacement for Moreno in the next two weeks, he said.The Tico Times attempted to contact Moreno, but he did not answer his cellphone.Incopesca President Luis Dobles said he had not received an official notice of Moreno’s sacking from the Chinchilla administration, but that he would “respect such a decision if it had been made.” Parallel to his duties at Incopesca, Moreno works as an attorney in the central Pacific coastal city of Puntarenas, where much of the country’s fishing industry is based. As a lawyer, Moreno represents fishing companies, including a group of fishermen who were detained in 2009 for fishing without using Turtle Excluder Devices, which is required by law. On several occasions, Moreno served as interim president of Incopesca while Dobles was out of the country, although Dobles said the longest Moreno had served as interim president was 10 days.As vice president of Incopesca, Moreno, who was appointed to the post by Chinchilla’s Cabinet in 2010, would have served a four-year term. He was also the vice president of Incopesca’s board of directors, a one-year appointment voted on by Incopesca board members. Tico Times reporter L. Arias contributed to this story. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Private sector jobs to see little growth in the first quarter of

first_imgOnly half of employers in Costa Rica expect improvements in revenue from their companies, according to the Index of Business Expectations released this week.The indicator measured by the Institute for Research in Economics at the University of Costa Rica shows how optimistic or pessimistic the country’s companies are for January-March this year.The final result was 53.1 points, indicating that “business optimism is at the lowest point of the past three years,” the institute’s analysis states.On average, 64 percent of employers expect to maintain their staff during the first quarter, while 23 percent said they may increase jobs. Twelve percent is considering layoffs for the next three months.The most positive sectors for employment are agriculture and construction, although 8 out of 10 employers in those sectors also said they don’t intend on investmenting, the study concluded. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Costa Ricas coffee harvest could drop by 20 percent due to fungus

first_imgExperts are warning that an ongoing plague of rust fungus could cause Costa Rica’s coffee production to drop by 20 percent in 2014.The fungus has already caused coffee harvests to decrease by seven percent in 2012, the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) said.Ministry officials expect some 1.8 million sacks – of 46 kilograms each – will be produced during the 2013-2014 harvest, a decrease from 2.2 million sacks in the 2012-2013 period. To help mitigate damage, some 33,000 coffee growers have received an agrochemical package provided by MAG and the Costa Rican Coffee Institue (ICAFE) to fight the rust, a fungus that attacks the leaves of a coffee bush until it completely dries the plant.But some 35 percent of coffee growers still have not received the agrochemicals. According to MAG officials, the gap in distribution of fungus-fighting chemicals is due to a lack of access to information and a delay in the arrival of one of the chemicals that is part of the package.ICAFE officials said the product will arrive in the country this week. They expect the number of coffee growers that will be covered to total 75 percent of all producers, and the aid program will continue through this month.According to MAG data, some 52,000 coffee producers in Costa Rica were affected by rust fungus, of which 92 percent is small producers. It has caused Costa Rican coffee exports to decrease by 13 percent in the last harvest season. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

How to take kids from a Guatemala dump and turn them into

first_imgBy taking snapshots of their everyday lives, children from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Guatemala city began to express themselves. Courtesy of Fotokids GUATEMALA CITY – Surrounded by 40 acres of toxic garbage in the middle of Central America’s largest and most dangerous landfill isn’t exactly where most people gain inspiration. However, for former Reuters photojournalist Nancy McGirr, the smell of burning plastic, combined with the sight of cardboard houses and gardens of sewage, is where Fotokids first began.Originally called “Out of the Dump,” the project was founded in 1991 with the aim of using photography to break the cycle of poverty.“I first went to the dump to photograph a story for an Australian magazine,” says McGirr. “There were 3,500 people living, working and scavenging for food. and 1,500 of them were kids who followed me wanting to see through my camera lens. The thought occurred to me: If they had the camera, what would they see through that lens?”Armed with three cheap, plastic cameras, the first group of six students aged 5-12 began their enrollment process: taking photos of everything and censuring nothing. The students, who all lived in Guatemala City’s sprawling garbage dump, took pictures of whatever fell beneath their lens: drugs, violence, death.McGirr soon realized their photographs could be used as a teaching tool to show the kids they didn’t have to be a part of a gang to be in a group, and that cameras are a more effective weapon against poverty than guns.By taking snapshots of their everyday lives, children from some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city began to express themselves. Children who at the age of 7 had been exposed to more pain and suffering than anyone should witness in a lifetime could start to dream.“I originally thought the project would last six months to a year, but it just took off,” McGirr says. “We started in July, and by September we had already appeared in The Washington Post.”A couple of months later, Konica Minolta Japan sent supplies and asked the kids to exhibit in Tokyo. The Fotokids became cover stories in several magazines around the world, and even had a film crew from London come out to record two TV episodes for a children’s arts show. From the initial six students who entered the after-school program, hundreds have now passed through it, each receiving a camera, food, photography classes and educational scholarships – while having their work displayed in exotic locations in the process.From meeting the Dalai Lama to working on the set of “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones,” and exhibiting alongside Brazilian master photographer Sebastian Salgado, Fotokids has created a future for many underprivileged children and is a tool with which they can escape their lives of perpetual poverty, drugs and gang violence.“I never imagined going on a plane,” says Evelyn Mansilla, who first started with Fotokids 20 years ago. “But at 15 I went to Spain, then to Australia and San Francisco.”Evelyn, who grew up near the garbage dump, now works as the administrative director of the project and believes the experience changed her life: “Without it I’d never have finished school, gone to university or been able to give back to my community.”Giving back is an integral part of Fotokids’ philosophy. Many of the students later become the teachers and work in the school in Guatemala City or in outreach programs across the capital or further afield in Santiago Atitlán and Honduras. The staff is made up of Fotokids graduates who often go back to their own communities, mentoring children and showing them what can be achieved if they work hard at school and stay in the program.“We all want to branch out and take the project to more places in the city. There are so many children of all ages here that need our help,” says Mansilla. “Around 7 years old is a good time to start – that’s when gangs start recruiting.”As well as dealing with the threat of gangs, one of the main challenges Fotokids faces is convincing parents to let their children stay in the project. Parents often fail to see the long-term benefits of keeping children in education beyond sixth grade and would rather they start contributing to the family income.To tackle this problem teachers have started working directly with communities,  going into some of the most dangerous barrios in Guatemala City and giving classes to children while building relationships with their families.“Of course they don’t all go on to become photographers,” McGirr says. “Photography just gives them a face and a platform” for other opportunities they would never otherwise have had.To read more, follow the Fotokids blog at: Facebook Commentscenter_img Related posts:Ex-dictator Ríos Montt to face genocide charges for 1980s abuses Reading between the lines: Reporting under threat in Guatemala Guatemala fights to retain favored trade status with Europe Extradited Guatemalan ex-President Portillo due in U.S. court Tuesdaylast_img read more

Industrial sector foresees low job growth this year citing high costs for

first_imgRelated posts:Procter & Gamble to hire 300 employees for new Costa Rica operations Job fairs seeking 1,300 employees Employment outlook slightly better for Ticos in coming months, survey finds Wanted: bilingual professionals in Costa Rica Increasing costs of electricity and raw materials lowered hiring expectations for this year in Costa Rica’s industrial sector as employers expect a slowdown in new job creation, a study released Tuesday by the Chamber of Industries of Costa Rica (CICR) showed.Some 70 percent of surveyed companies do not expect to create new jobs this year, 10 percent are considering layoffs and only 20 percent of business owners plan to hire more staff.CICR President Juan Ramón Rivera said associates see 2014 as a year of “little dynamism in industrial production and a year with a good chance for stagnation in hiring, mostly because of ongoing competitiveness problems the sector faces.”Employers cited high energy costs as the major factor affecting business, followed by increasing exchange rates and the high cost of raw materials.“This is the fourth consecutive year that the cost of electricity is the major concern for the industrial sector,” Rivera said.Among its main conclusions the CICR’s study proposed a “re-engineering of the Costa Rica Electricity Institute in order to lower financial burdens and to facilitate lower electricity rates.”The chamber also requested the elimination of taxes on fuels used for electricity generation, and called for greater private sector participation in energy generation.The survey interviewed 200 CICR associates between March 3-31 and has a margin of error of 5 percent, the chamber reported.Earlier this month, tech giant Intel and Bank of America announced 3,000 layoffs from their operations in the country, which will become effective by the end of this year. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Brazilian street artist creates World Cups first viral image

first_imgRelated posts:Brazilian police crack down on pre-World Cup protest Transport chaos, World Cup security fears hit Brazil Most Brazilians don’t want to host the World Cup World Cup fervor begins winning out over opposition in Brazil as tournament begins On May 10, Brazilian artistPaulo Ito posted this mural on the doors of a schoolhouse in São Paulo’s Pompeia district. Less than a week later, it has become an international sensation, drawing huge attention on Facebook. It has also taken off in Brazil — a post on the popular Facebook page TV Revolta has been shared and liked more than 40,000 times.I first saw the image when The Nation’s Dave Zirin posted it on Twitter. The portrait of a weeping, starving Brazilian child with nothing to eat but a soccer ball is so simple and evocative that you don’t need to know much about Brazil to wrap your head around it. All you have to understand is that despite massive gains made over the past decade, poverty levels are still appallingly high, and the World Cup is costing the nation billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere.“People already have the feeling and that image condensed this feeling,” the São Paulo-based Ito told me in an interview this week. He says he’s never created anything so popular in his 14 years as a street artist, and was surprised by the powerful response. “The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,” he explained via Facebook chat. “I didn’t mean [to say] nobody is doing anything against poverty,” he said of the mural. “But we need to show the world or ourselves that the situation is still not good.”Earlier this month, the populist Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced increases in welfare payments ahead of the World Cup and in anticipation of this October’s elections. And last year, after millions took to the streets to protest a hike in bus fares and other systemic problems including a broken health care system, the government responded quickly, abandoning the fare increase, importing doctors from Cuba, and reserving oil money for education. But in his new book “Futebol Nation: The Story of Brazil Through Soccer,” David Goldblatt describes that response as a half-measure, one designed to squelch the demonstrations. “It wasn’t much, but it was enough to take the sting out of the movement,” Goldblatt writes.Recommended: Transport chaos, World Cup security fears hit BrazilIto echoed the idea that the government’s response has been largely cosmetic. He mentioned two Brazilian aphorisms: tapar o sol com a peneira and leis para inglês ver. The first means to “cover the sun with the sieve.” The second can be translated as “just for show for the English.”Still, Ito doesn’t appreciate how his artwork has been used by conservative networks like TV Revolta to attack President Rousseff. He says the mural is a broader criticism of Brazilian society, and Rousseff — the chosen successor to populist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva — has done some good things for the poor.Ito initially wanted to put the image outside of the 70,000-seat Itaquerão Stadium, the site of the World Cup opener. He later changed his mind, thinking that the school, in what he describes as a largely middle class part of Pompeia, was more appropriate. He says he did not want to place it in a poverty-stricken district, such as one of São Paulo’s favelas, and that he has gone out of his way to avoid posting such images in those areas.“Two years ago I painted in an [abandoned] building and I was thinking to paint something about poverty, but when I went inside I changed my mind,” Ito told me. “They already live what I was supposed to paint.” Instead, he said, in those cases he painted what the people asked him for: football team symbols, and SpongeBob SquarePants.© 2014, Slate Facebook Commentslast_img read more

In landmark vote Costa Rica Social Security System guarantees samesex couples same

first_imgRelated posts:Same-sex couples in Costa Rica now have equal access to public health insurance, care HIV and AIDS patients in Costa Rica struggle to find work amid discrimination Costa Rica grants first gay common-law marriage in Central America Hundreds of gay couples sign up for expanded health insurance coverage in Costa Rica The Costa Rican Social Security System’s board of directors on Thursday evening unanimously approved reforms that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in public health care matters, including visitation rights, insurance coverage and the ability to make medical decisions, among other benefits.The Caja board had discussed the reforms ­– promoted by Costa Rica’s LGBT community – in recent weeks. Caja officials now will have three months to implement the measures.Giovanny Delgado, a Caja employee and member of the Diversity Movement, said that for the first time in Costa Rica, same-sex couples officially are recognized with the same rights as heterosexual couples.“It is an enormously important step. It is historical in Costa Rica,” Delgado said.Discrimination and access to benefitsThe reform proposals were initiated by Caja board member José Luis Loría, and will change Article 10 of the Caja’s health regulations, which defines a patient’s partner as a person – man or woman – who lives in a free, stable union “under the same roof with another person of the opposite sex.”The proposal would change that language to: “under the same roof with another person of the opposite sex or the same sex.” Geovanny Delgado, a caja employee and member of the Diversity Movement, speaks at a vigil in front of the Costa Rican Supreme Court last week. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesThe new measures will require the Caja to treat same-sex couples the same as other Costa Rican worker in terms of benefits and rights.“[Same-sex couples] are included in the salary pool of the economically active population, and as such, they pay into the [Caja] the same as everyone else,” Loría said. “So from the point of view of payments and premiums, they are paying for these pensions and for health insurance. There is no excuse to discriminate against them.”Marco Castillo, president of Costa Rica’s Diversity Movement, said the LGBT community faces difficulties because same-sex partners had not previously been given the same legal standing by the Caja as other family members.“We have seen cases where people’s own family members have beat them up and kicked them out of their homes. And after that, the [Caja] issues hospital visitation access to the same family members and not to the patients’ partners,” Castillo said. “We’ve seen cases where patients have died in the hospital 15 days after becoming ill and they were unable to be accompanied by their partners.”Castillo also said that gay and lesbian partners should be able to decide which medical treatments doctors provide their partners, and they should be allowed to make decisions in terminal illness cases.New regulationsLast Friday, members of Costa Rica’s LGBT community held a vigil in front of the Supreme Court in downtown San José. At the event, Luis Zamora Salas said the Caja reforms would provide him and others the right to make decisions about their lives.“The right to insurance empowers a person and allows that person to provide insurance to his or her partner. That strengthens a relationship, and gives more security to gay couples,” he said. Gay rights supporters spread candles and flowers on the sidewalk in front of the Costa Rican Supreme Court during a vigil Lindsay Fendt/The Tico TimesHowever, Zamora believes medical insurance should be regulated so that only long-term couples have access to the benefits.“There should be a mechanism that regulates these situations so that people don’t abuse the system, which would jeopardize the gains made by the gay community,” he said.Delgado said he has witnessed several human rights violations in public hospitals in Costa Rica.“Day after day people die alone, without protection of their rights, without the right to be visited by their partners in difficult moments,” he said.Delgado said he has seen patients’ family members deny these rights to partners and prohibit them from entering hospitals.Some family members “take advantage of the situation and prevent partners from entering the hospital to put their loved ones’ affairs in order, with the intention of taking over homes, cars and other assets. We’ve seen all types of abuse, and we’ve denounced it,” Delgado said.Little informationAn estimated 108,000 people are among Costa Rica’s LGBT community, according to a Caja study commissioned by lawmakers studying a same-sex rights bill. Of those, 54,000 live with their partners and 27,000 would acquire rights under a same-sex cohabitation bill being studied in the Legislative Assembly.But how are these numbers calculated? According to a report sent to the Assembly in July 2013, Costa Rica’s LGBT community was measured based on a Web page with 32 studies conducted in 12 countries, as well as Costa Rica’s 2011 census, and statistics from the Center for Research and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America, or CIPAC.However, the Caja has no information regarding the number of insured people who live with a partner of the same sex.According to the 2011 census, 1,114 gay and lesbian couples live together in a free union or through marriage in another country. 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Situation improving for communities near Costa Ricas Turrialba Volcano officials say

first_imgRelated posts:Despite acid rain and volcanic ash, most crops escape heavy damage Turrialba Volcano erupts again, raining ash over San José Ash from Turrialba Volcano keeps falling on the Central Valley Turrialba Volcano again spews ash and vapor Costa Rica’s Agriculture and Livestock Minister Luis Felipe Arauz confirmed Thursday morning that crops of carrots, cabbage, onions, cauliflower and potatoes grown north of the province of Cartago “have not been severely affected by the Turrialba Volcano’s activity.”Arauz is part of a group led by President Luis Guillermo Solís that early Thursday visited several communities affected by the volcano’s gases, ash and rock. Officials assessed local access roads and the condition of crops and livestock.Geologists and volcanologists from the National Seismological Network (RSN) continue to permanently monitor the volcano’s crater. Volcanologist Raúl Mora on Thursday said that Turrialba’s seismic activity has decreased slightly, and is less intense despite the continued expulsion of volcanic material.A preventive Yellow Alert remains in effect for local communities, and public access remains closed for farms inside a one-kilometer security perimeter around the crater.National Emergency Commission (CNE) officials said it is still safe to visit most of the communities north of Cartago, and access is only blocked inside the security perimeter. The Turrialba Volcano is located about 60 kilometers northeast of the Costa Rican capital.CNE President Iván Brenes said the agency is evaluating a downgrade of the alert level to Green in some communities.RSN staff is measuring gas emissions to evaluate the possible effects of acid rain in the surrounding areas. Officials from the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry have advised farm owners to spray animals and crops with calcium oxide to minimize the effects of acidity in the air.The ministry’s latest report indicates that 180 hectares have been affected on some level, but the ministry’s director of extension services, Felipe Arguedas, said there currently is no cause for concern about long-term consequences for human health. At a press conference Thursday, President Solís asked residents to remain calm, and to emphasize the point, he munched on a piece of fresh, locally produced broccoli. He also extended an invitation to travelers to visit local tourist destinations that are outside the security perimeter.Solís did express concern about the deteriorated conditions of a 25-km road that connects the volcano with the community of Pacayas, which emergency officials believe would be the best evacuation route in case of an emergency.Repairs of the road were included in a ₡400 million ($740,000) maintenance contract signed by the National Roadway Council, but only ₡290 million ($536,000) has been spent. “Yet the road shows no signs of progress,” Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Segnini said. The minister said he would order an investigation of the project.Also on Thursday, Education Minister Sonia Marta Mora reported that classes had resumed at nine public schools located northeast of Cartago. The ministry last week suspended classes in 19 schools as a preventive measure. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Oxcarts wheel through San José

first_imgRelated posts:Christmas cheer, oxcart parades, and other happenings around Costa Rica Bullfights, punk bands, and other happenings around Costa Rica PHOTOS: Bulls, beer and injuries at Costa Rica’s annual Zapote festival A chili festival, an ultra-marathon, and other happenings around Costa Rica A teamster drives his oxen down San José’s Second Avenue on Sunday morning during Costa Rica’s annual Oxcart Parade. The event is just one of countless celebrations taking place in December and January. The parade commemorates the elaborately painted oxcart, one of Costa Rica’s prominent cultural symbols. Thousands of people participated and watched the Nov. 30 event, including President Luis Guillermo Solís. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

What would joining the OECD mean for Costa Rica

first_imgTheOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development formally invited Costa Rica to apply as a candidate for membership this week, five years after it began its push to join the exclusive club of developed economies.The news of Costa Rica taking one more step closer to joining the league of developed economies came shortly after President Luis Guillermo Solís said he would lobby U.S. President Barack Obama for some of the $1 billion in proposed aid designated for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — countries that lag far behind Costa Rica in many social and economic indicators — during the Summit of the Americas in Panama Friday.Costa Rica’s economy is far smaller than many OECD nations and still relies on larger partners, like the United States, for security and development assistance. But the country’s long record of universal education and socialized healthcare has put it on par with many OECD nations in terms of social indicators, as seen in the 2015 Social Progress Index released Thursday.The Social Progress Index looks beyond gross domestic product when ranking nations, taking into consideration how well citizens social and environmental needs are met.The contradiction begs the question: Can Costa Rica present itself as an advanced, or at least, soon-to-be developed economy, while also keeping one hand out for foreign aid? Some analysts say yes.“It’s a tricky argument but one that is not so unusual for developing countries,” Latin America expert Michael Shifter wrote in an email. Shifter is president of the Washington D.C.-based Inter-American Dialogue, a thinktank.Costa Rican leaders were nothing but positive about joining the OECD. President Solís said the OECD application “marks a milestone in our development.”“It’s a decision that supports our aspirations to spark growth with a solid base of best practices, transparency and high standards of management that this administration has proposed,” he said in a statement.Casa Presidencial said that OECD membership would help improve public policies here as well as further sustainable development goals and grant Costa Rica a place at the table during global negotiations about climate change and financial transparency.The OECD is a club of 34 developed economies, mostly in Europe and North America, that works to improve governance and economic growth along with topical concerns like the environment and corruption. The OECD countries account for 70 percent of the global market, according to Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Ministry.OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría also issued a statement Thursday, welcoming Costa Rica’s and Lithuania’s applications for the club.“The opening of accession talks with Costa Rica and Lithuania and the interest by these two countries in joining our Organisation highlights the OECD’s growing role as the place where countries go to find answers to common economic challenges. Both Costa Rica and Lithuania come well prepared,” he said.In Latin America, Colombia is in the process of applying to the OECD, and Mexico and Chile are already members.Foreign Trade Minister Alexander Mora said that joining the OECD would “open great opportunities” for Costa Rica.But the payoff from eventual membership remains vague.“I think there’s been some hype about what joining the OECD will mean for Costa Rica,” Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a Latin America political analyst at the Cato Institute, observed.“Joining the OECD means you get a little gold star on your forehead,” Hidalgo said. “You get to boast that you belong to a club of mostly well-run countries. But that’s pretty much it.”Membership does not make any guarantees when it comes to trade access or investment, he said, and it does not mean that Costa Rica becomes a developed economy overnight.“It’s better to be inside the OECD than outside,” Hidalgo said, “but it’s not like we suddenly reached development status.”Costa Rica might not be a full-fledged developed economy but the country’s human wellness index is better than many OECD members. According to the Social Progress Index, Costa Rica, which ranked 26th in the world, outscored OECD member states Italy (31), Hungary (32), Greece (34) and Mexico (54).The armyless Central American country’s long history of redirecting resources that would have gone to its military into education and healthcare has helped it develop one of the best human resource talent pools in the isthmus.Shifter, from the Inter-American Dialogue, said that membership in the OECD would give the country a leg up in terms of its global economic strategy. The prestige that comes with OECD membership grants the country greater name recognition and shows that Costa Rica adheres to international best practices, he said.He said he saw no contradiction in joining the OECD while still receiving U.S. aid.Costa Rica began its application to join the OECD in 2010 under President Laura Chinchilla (2010-2014). The Legislative Assembly now must approve the application protocol. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica’s Solís calls for revival of free trade agreement with Canada Costa Rica president sets date for OECD application Is Honduras heading for the privatization of parts of its territory? As budget battles loom, Biden asks US Congress to approve aid for Central Americalast_img read more

Mexico hunts drug kingpin probes prison guards

first_imgMEXICO CITY, Mexico — Mexican security forces scrambled Monday to save face and recapture drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán as authorities investigated whether guards helped him escape prisonthrough a tunnel under his cell.For the second time in 14 years the head of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel managed to flee a maximum-security prison, dealing an embarrassing setback to President Enrique Peña Nieto.Troops and police were deployed to hunt down Guzmán after he vanished late Saturday from the Altiplano prison 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Mexico City, after just 17 months behind bars.Prosecutors questioned 30 prison employees of various rank, including the warden, the attorney general’s office said, signaling suspicions of an inside job.The guards in charge of the capo’s cell and those who monitored the surveillance cameras that look into the room were among those interrogated, an official in the attorney general’s office said.Authorities had already investigated a strange prison visit to Guzmán in March when a woman managed to see him by using a fake ID to enter the jail.On a state visit to Paris, Peña Nieto said Guzmán’s escape was “an affront to the state” and demanded an investigation into whether prison guards helped him.Guzmán, 58, who nurtured a Robin Hood image in his northwestern state of Sinaloa while running the most powerful and one of the most ruthless cartels in Mexico, was able to slip out even though surveillance cameras were trained on his cell.He went into his private shower and after he failed to come out guards found a hole 10 meters (33 feet) deep with a ladder in it.The gap led to a 1.5-kilometer tunnel with a ventilation and light system that was apparently dug with the help of a motorcycle mounted on a rail to transport tools and remove earth.The sophisticated tunnel led to a gray brick building on a hill surrounded by pastures in central Mexico State.Prosecutors released a video showing the hole inside the building’s dirt-covered floor. A bed and kitchen were in the facility, indicating that people had lived there.Against the clockAs investigators tried to figure out how Guzmán busted out again, police and troops manned checkpoints and searched cars and trucks on nearby roads.Mike Vigil, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) international operations chief, warned that if Guzmán is not captured in the next day or so he will vanish for good.“If he is able to make his way to Sinaloa, his native state, and gets into that mountainous range, it’s going to be very difficult to capture him because he enjoys the protection of local villagers,” Vigil told AFP.Recommended: How do ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s kids live? Follow them on TwitterSeveral states, including Sinaloa, set up checkpoints. Central Puebla state said it was using X-ray technology at toll booths to see through cars.Troops in Guatemala launched a special operation at the border with Mexico. It was in that country that Guzmán was first arrested in 1993.Guzmán’s first escape was in 2001, when he slipped past authorities by hiding in a laundry cart in western Jalisco state.Marines recaptured him in February 2014 in a pre-dawn raid in a condo in Mazatlán, a Pacific resort in Sinaloa state, with the DEA’s help.He was then jailed at Altiplano, which houses several other infamous drug capos captured during Peña Nieto’s administration.Peña Nieto setbackGuzmán’s second escape overshadowed Peña Nieto’s visit to France.The government has won praise for capturing a slew of kingpins and Guzmán, a diminutive but feared man whose nickname means “Shorty,” was the president’s biggest trophy.U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she shared Mexico’s “concern” and offered help for his “swift recapture.”Some U.S. prosecutors wanted to ask for his extradition following last year’s arrest, but Mexican officials insisted on trying him first.“This leads to a big problem with the U.S. government because they asked (for an extradition) and the Mexican government did not deliver him, claiming that he could be held in one of the country’s maximum-security prisons,” said Raúl Benítez Manaut, security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Facebook Comments Related posts:How do ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s kids live? Follow them on Twitter World’s top drug trafficker, ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán arrested in Mexico Adiós, El Chapo Mexico captures fugitive drug lord ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, says President Peña Nietolast_img read more