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Solís outlines plans for Costa Rica in first Washington appearance as president

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first_imgRelated posts:President-elect Solís announces upcoming US trip to court investors President Solís seeks meeting with Intel reps during US trip President Solís claims quick victory in first US tour Costa Rica’s relationship with Nicaragua is complicated, says Solís WASHINGTON, D.C. – Luis Guillermo Solís made his Washington debut as Costa Rica’s 47th president Thursday morning, speaking on an array of issues ranging from honesty in government to Central American integration and the fight against drug trafficking.Some 130 people packed a small conference room at the Inter-American Dialogue – a Washington-based think tank – to hear the hour-long speech by Solís, who is wrapping up his first trip to the United States since his inauguration as president one month ago.“We need to strengthen the internal market in order to level the economy, which has been running only on one engine,” said the former history professor and Fulbright Scholar. “We are defining that market as not only Costa Rica – which is very small – but the Central American and Caribbean market as well. I’m paying a lot of attention to the Central American integration system and new opportunities in the Caribbean, and this is going to be one of the foreign policy priorities of my administration.”Solís, 56, is hoping to create jobs following announcements in April by Intel and Bank of America that they would dismiss 1,500 workers each. Intel, the world’s largest computer chip maker, accounted for 14 to 20 percent of Costa Rica’s total exports, depending on which government agency is cited. (The Costa Rican Investment Board, or CINDE, says 14 percent while the Foreign Trade Ministry says 20 percent.)“Prior to my swearing-in, Intel and Bank of America decided to partially leave the country. There was some question regarding Costa Rica’s capacity to compete, so I committed myself to an early trip to the U.S. to talk to investors and assure them of our commitment,” he said, adding that the California-based giant would, in fact, expand its San José testing facility, hiring 350 people in the process.“This is a landmark decision that takes investments to Costa Rica, moving from the manufacturing of highly sophisticated products to R&D,” said Solís, who met with top Intel officials in Santa Clara, California, before arriving in Washington.Accompanying Solís to the Inter-American Dialogue panel were several members of his Cabinet, including Foreign Minister Manuel González and Foreign Trade Minister Alex Mora, as well as Muni Figueres, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States, and Gonzalo Gallegos, chargé d’affaires, a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in San José.Strong mandateSolís, who was introduced by Inter-American Dialogue President Michael Shifter, was inaugurated May 8 after a runoff election in which he won 79 percent of the vote.“I was given a very strong mandate, but was also given the responsibility to use it in the context of a very divided Congress, and that was not accidental,” Solís told his audience, which included Fortune 500 executives, State Department officials, scholars and diplomats from 10 foreign embassies in Washington. “That’s the way the people wanted it to be. I understand this to be a very strong call for social dialogue. I want to be out there. People want that from the president, and I’m convinced you can do that without being a populist in the traditional way.”Solís, a relative newcomer to politics, also vowed to fight corruption from within.“Clearly there is a social challenge. Inequality has grown, and we need to take care of that,” said the president, a member of the center-left Citizen Action Party. “But most significant is the question of transparency, accountability and fighting corruption, which has special weight in the Costa Rican establishment. I was elected as a nonprofessional politician. This is the first time in 60 years Costa Rica is ruled by a party that doesn’t belong to the two blocs that have traditionally governed the country.”He added: “We have to be careful administering ethics in politics. As we all know, not everything that’s legal is ethical. You can get into a very complicated debate of where’s the frontier between ethics and legality. Having said that, I’m convinced there’s a lot to be done in terms of producing more transparency and accountability in the decision-making process.”Let the people knowDuring the Q&A that followed the president’s speech, someone asked Solís what he would do differently than his predecessor, Laura Chinchilla, who ended her term of office with only a 16 percent approval rating – the lowest of any leader in the Americas.“The first thing I’m going to do is provide Congress with a ‘state of the nation’ address, and tell them what I’ve found. It’s necessary for the people to know. President Chinchilla didn’t do that, and it was a political mistake,” Solís responded.“The second thing we’ll do is stimulate social dialogues with different sectors of society – and I will continue doing so. We have not been able to dialogue with each other for a long time,” he said. “There’s a sensation which we have to break that everything in Costa Rica adds up to a zero-sum game, where one group gains and the other loses. That’s the wrong approach. As a mature democracy, we should be able to look for win-win agreements.”Asked about fiscal policy, Solís said he supports switching from a sales tax to a value-added tax.“We have tried everything in the last 15 years,” he said. “Some people think we have to do it the usual way, which is simply to tax more. But when a country has a 6 percent deficit, I think a VAT is the right approach. We’re moving forward with a proposal which I hope will be ready by the second year.”Regarding foreign relations, Solís said he’d aggressively pursue Costa Rica’s membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development while expanding its influence in South America through the Pacific Alliance (which already includes Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia).Still friends with China“We also have a very intense agenda with China,” he said. “Costa Rica is the only country in Central America that has diplomatic relations with the PRC, and there are a number of projects that are important for both them and us.” The most important of those deals, he said, is a $465 million Chinese project to improve the highway that connects central Costa Rica to Puerto Limón, its main shipping port on the Caribbean.In 2007, then-President Óscar Arias Sánchez broke relations with longtime ally Taiwan and switched diplomatic recognition to China, becoming the first and only Central American head of state to do so.Nevertheless, China’s various economic initiatives in Costa Rica have become bogged down in controversy, ranging from improprieties associated with San José’s soccer stadium to allegations of corruption involving a $583 million contract to Chinese firm Huawei to build a nationwide 3G cellular communications network.“We are dealing with Chinese projects we inherited from previous governments,” Solís noted. “My experience with China is limited, but I would like to say that in many ways, Costa Rica’s relationship with China has been complicated by our lack of clarity in dealing in ways which may have been misinterpreted by the Chinese.”As the Q&A was wrapping up, The Tico Times asked Solís if his administration would follow the example of the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington and the country of Uruguay in legalizing – or at least decriminalizing – the smoking of pot.“I don’t see marijuana legalization happening in Costa Rica in the next few years. It’s not one of the things I’d propose,” he replied. “I want the issue discussed, because I don’t want it to be a taboo in Costa Rican society. But the biggest problems we have with violent crime are not associated with marijuana, and I don’t think it’s a wise thing to do.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Dear Emma Though Britons maybe aware of the 16 na

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first_imgDear Emma,Though Britons maybe aware of the 16 national parks in their home nation, and also the more famous ones in America (the likes of Yellowstone et al), little is known about European national parks. And as you rightly point out, Europe has some vast, protected areas of land that are ripe for an outdoorsy holiday.The joy of national parks is that the landscape feels untamed, the wildlife is genuinely wild and you will always be able to find peace and space if that is what you crave. The degree of development is specific to the park – some allow construction of lodging and dining, while others require you to bring your own tent, which means there will just be canvas (or the modern day equivalent) between you and the great outdoors.FranceI’ll start with a couple that I’ve been to. Firstly, France and the Vanoise National Park in the Tarentaise valley, part of the Savoie region in the French Alps. It is a park that many skiers will have driven through en route from Geneva to resorts such as Meribel and Val d’Isere, but many won’t realise the extent of the area.It was the first national park of France, covering 200 square miles across the central protected zone, and is home to a vast array of wildlife. I’ve seen chamois, a rather deft but sturdy mountain goat, and of course a huge array of wildflowers in the alpine meadows in spring. The keen-of-eye might also spot ibex, mountain hare, alpine marmots, and even golden eagles. The alpine setting makes it great, if challenging walking country, but exertions are rewarded with picture-postcard views of the alpine landscape.If you’re up for a real challenge, two long distance walking routes, or Grande Randonnie, go through the park. There’s the popular Bergen op Zoom to Nice walk, GR5, and the Vanoise walk, GR55. You can get more details from the French Federation of Hiking website, although it is in French only.Accommodation inside the park is limited to mountain huts and camping is not allowed. There is a broader zone around the strictly-protected central zone where you can find accommodation, as well as further huts. You can get meals in the huts but you should carry food and water, and huts should be booked ahead. You can do this through the local tourist board or its offices, and further details are on the Vanoise website. Related10 of the best national parks in the world to see autumn coloursBanff, Yellowstone and Zion are fantastic national parks to visit at any time of year. But here, we’ve chosen ten parks that have amazing foliage in autumn and are a little more off the beaten track, including leafy landscapes in the UK, the US and South Korea. Find out where…Where the wild things are: 10 wildlife-filled destinations to check outIf you’re after a holiday that’s all about the animals, look no further. From Australia’s iconic kangaroos to some of the more unique creatures (we’re looking at you, fossa) we’ve pulled together 10 of the best destinations for wildlife lovers. Best place to see orangutans: Borneo Photo credit: Anup Shah…Big adventures for small budgets – action-packed Western Australia toursWant to do more of Western Australia for less? With tours, you can cover grand attractions like The Pinnacles and Lucky Bay, discover hidden gems you would never have thought of, and share the experience with like-minded adventurers. SlovakiaThe High Tatras National Park, or Vysoke Tatry is in northern Slovakia, close to the Polish border – another first national park. In fact, one of the easiest ways to access the region is via flights to Krakow.The Regional capital Poprad is not an attractive city, but its Aquacity resort is music to the ears of weary hikers; a complex of pools, saunas, steam and treatment rooms that will soothe aching muscles before the flight home. Another sybaritic hotel is the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras, which opened in 2009 and offers extensive spa treatments alongside activities including cycling and hiking. There are plenty of do-able day climbs, or you can tackle longer multiple day hikes and stay at one of the High Tatras mountain lodges. There are also routes that take you between the lodges, including the one on top of Zelene Pleso, which overlooks a lake at 1,500 metres, with stunning views across the water. The hike to the top takes you through a changing ecosystem of alpine meadow to deciduous woodland, then thick evergreen forest, and finally a wild high alpine environment of fierce, steep streams and coarse scrub and bushes. There are many websites dedicated to the region, but I found Vysoketatry.org one of the more helpful, with links to other websites and accommodation details. Slovakia.travel is the national tourist office website and has some inspiring imagery and contact details. Find flights on Skyscanner to get the best deal, then go with a local specialist such as Mountainparadise.co.uk, which offers golf, cycling, photography and walking breaks.SpainSpain is a country we associate with beach holidays or lively city breaks, but large tracts of the country are unsung beauties that have much to offer. In the south-west, close to the Portuguese border is Coto de Doñana National Park, part of Andalucia. It is a wetland area of marshes and narrow rovers, and is hugely important for its migratory birds. Winter avian visitors come from northern Europe and summer ones to escape the heat of Africa.The one that the twitchers come to spot is the Spanish Imperial Eagle, although other striking species include grey herons, cattle egret and storks.Wildlife fans will love seeing fauna as diverse as fallow deer, wild boar and flamingo, although the prize trophy to spot is an endangered big cat, the Iberian lynx.Visitor access is strictly controlled, but like Vanoise, there is a central zone where regulations are more restrictive than the wider buffer zone. You can get information about what is and isn’t allowed from the visitor centres. There’s one at El Acebuche where you can get information on walking routes of all lengths, from an hour to a full day, plus maps, and a chance to stock up on refreshments.You can also book a four-wheel drive trip in advance with the Cooperativa Marsimas del Rocío (959 43 04 32), so you can tour the area with an expert. Andalucia.com has all of this information and more about other visitor centres under its ‘Flora and fauna’, then ‘National Parks’ links. It also offers advice on where to stay, including campsites, close to the visitor centres, and advises to book well ahead if you’re going in the peak summer months.You get there with flights to Jerez or Seville, which makes this a wonderful place to twin with a city break in one of Spain’s vibrant ‘second cities’.ReturnOne wayMulti-cityFromAdd nearby airports ToAdd nearby airportsDepart14/08/2019Return21/08/2019Cabin Class & Travellers1 adult, EconomyDirect flights onlySearch flights Mapcenter_img Dear Skyscanner,We’ve all heard about the national parks of the USA, but what about those closer to home? I’ve heard Europe has plenty of parks – which are the best ones to visit?Emma, Newcastlelast_img read more