IN THE NEWS
Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
Costa Rica’s Irazú Volcano appears anxious to join the chorus of earthquakes in the region, with an early-week series of temblores (tremors) that rattled nerves and caused anxiety among the people of the region. The mountain, on the outskirts of Cartago, east of San José, registered a number of tremors, beginning Monday night, with magnitudes of 2 to 3.6, according to the Costa Rican Volconology and Seismology Observatory at the National University (UNA) in Heredia. Experts said the shakes were caused by a local geological fault and likely will continue for the next few weeks. Meanwhile, in midweek, Arenal Volcano, in the north-central region, spit incandescent lava flows on the mountain’s south side.
4Ever-Expanding Wal-Mart Expands
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., confirmed this week that the huge retail chain will invest more than $2 billion in Latin America this year. This investment will include the opening of 26 new stores, two warehouses and two supermarkets in Central America. According to Eduardo Solórzano, new president and CEO of Wal-Mart Latin America, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will continue to buy textiles from Guatemala and Nicaragua and agricultural products, such as pineapple, from Costa Rica to be sold in the United States and other countries where the giant chain operates.
4No Java From Guatemala
Guatemalan coffee is yet another victim of the recent worldwide recession. Starbucks, the world’s most popular chain of coffee shops, announced this week that it would not buy coffee beans from that Central American country during the 2009-2010 harvesting season (October to September). Officials estimate that in the last few years Starbucks has bought 20 to 25 percent of the coffee exported from Guatemala. Costa Rican coffee growers reported large cutbacks in their usual Starbucks sales earlier this year.
4Panama Finally Gets to Join
Panama got the green light this week to join Central America in Association Agreement negotiations with the European Union (EU), according to Mendel Goldstein, head of the delegation for the European Commission for Central America and Panama. Goldstein said on Wednesday in Managua, Nicaragua, that the EU had agreed to approve the move the week before. This means Panama will join Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua in trade talks with the EU.
4Passport Day in the USA
In efforts to accommodate the traveling public, the United States government has designated Saturday, March 27, as Passport Day in the USA. According to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, passport seekers throughout the country may walk that day into any passport agency without appointments and without having to show proof of imminent travel. Additionally, passport acceptance facilities, including those operated by the U.S. Postal Service, will be open for extended hours to assist travelers. Customers can find addresses of the nearest passport agency or participating passport acceptance facility at www.travel.state.gov.