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Juan Valdez celebrates 50th anniversary, Dominican economy booms, Costa Rica wireless delays, Colombia BPO King.


Juan Valdez, the symbol of Colombian coffee, just turned 50. The Colombian Coffee Federation marked the anniversary last week at a ceremony attended by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. The idea of creating Juan Valdez came from U.S. advertising agency DDB in 1959 and the character was launched in 1960. Since then Juan Valdez has appeared in various ads, with or without his mule.  He also had a cameo in the popular Jim Carey movie Bruce Almighty, released in 2003, but still seen on DVD and reruns. The coffee federation has also used Juan Valdez to name a chain of coffee stores worldwide. Half of Americans view Juan Valdez as a symbol of Colombian coffee and just as many Americans view that coffee as the best in the world, according to research quoted by the coffee federation. Juan Valdez beat out Ronald McDonald, Charlie the Tuna and the Energizer rabbit as the most important advertising icon during Advertising Week in New York in 2005. “Thousands of brands in the world search for actors or celebrities to represent them,” brand expert David Altschul said in a statement. “However, the Juan Valdez brand is the oppositive – it found a typical coffee grower, who represents half a million coffee producers and made him famous representing those values.”


The Dominican economy, the largest in the CAFTA trade block, grew by 7.5 percent in the first half of the year, the central bank announced. “The robust performance was bolstered by the global economic recovery, the domestic fiscal and monetary stimulus, and the reconstruction effort in neighboring Haiti, and was underpinned by considerable surges in the construction (+15.2 percent oya), commerce (+14.3 percent oya), and public utilities (+10.6 percent oya) sectors, which significantly outweighed contractions in free-zone manufacturing (-11.1 percent oya) and mining (-0.4 percent oya) activities,” JP Morgan analyst Franco Uccelli said in a commentary. He expects the Dominican Republic will see full-year growth of 6.5 percent, which is higher than the newly revised forecast from the IMF of 5.5-6.0 percent growth. The news comes as a group of prominent investors, including Juan Bautista Vicini Lluberes of the Dominican sugar giant Vicini and media mogul Jose Luis "Pepin" Corripio, acquired the country's oldest daily newspaper and its radio stations after assuming its $51 million debt, according to AP.


Costa Rica, the richest CAFTA economy in per capita terms, isn’t doing that well.  And now comes news that the long-awaited auction on wireless spectrum that started this week is only the first step in a yearlong process. As a result, licenses won’t be awarded until September next year, at the earliest, according to La Nacion newspaper. Due to the lack of competition, Costa Rica has Latin America’s third-lowest wireless penetration rate, according to the 2010 Latin Technology Index from Latin Business Chronicle. Meanwhile, efforts to privatize services at the Limon-Moin port, the largest in Central America, are running into delays after the Constitutional Court annulled several agreements with labor unions that would allow the process to move forward. However, President Laura Chinchilla pledges to continue pushing for the planned private-sector concessions.


Colombian cities Cali, Medellin and Bogota topped a ranking of the most cost-effective cities for offshoring in Latin America, according to the Zagada Institute. Zagada's city datasets principally focuses on accessing and simulating the costs associated with launching and running a contact center or BPO firm across 13 cities in the region. Among the top five were also Dominican capital Santo Domingo and Nicaraguan capital Managua. Key metadata delivered include costs on: hourly wages, base payroll, fringe benefits, electrical, rents, equipment, management travel, and telecommunication. Also included are, micro economic - city data, teledensities, talent density data specific to BPO sector, education graduate stock, incentives summaries, attrition rates, union presence score, and each city's U.S cultural acuity scores. Colombia's call center business has grown significantly and is expected to expand revenues fourfold by 2012, Latin Business Chronicle reported recently.

Realizing there's a huge void in reporting on events in the region, Colombia-based NTN24 is launching a new English language web site ( http://news.ntn24.com ) with video clips and information focusing on Latin America. NTN24 is a 24 hour Spanish-language news channel with 6.2 million subscribers in the United States, Latin America and Europe. In the United States, the Channel is seen on Direct TV Channel 418. The new website's base of production will be in Bogota, with anchors there, South Florida, and throughout Latin America. NTN24's News in English is run by Brian Andrews, who spent the last three years running a similar venture called www.colombianews.tv for NTN24's parent company RCN Television. Prior to joining RCN, Andrews was a well-known South Florida newscaster who spent time at the CBS and FOX stations in Miami. Andrews will oversee content, sales and marketing  for the new site, in addition to anchoring a daily newscast. Kelley Mitchell, formerly of WPLG in Miami, will anchor an afternoon newscast from Miami. "We looked around on the web and realized there aren't many options for English-language news from Latin America. Plus, we believe people not only want to read it, but see it. Our new site will focus on online video clips," Andrews says. "We believe this will open a whole new window for the English-speaking world to better understand the events and business climate in the region." The launch of the site comes with a twist. Andrews was running the operation out of Bogota until just a few months ago, when a kidnapping threat intercepted by the U.S. Embassy and FBI, forced him to leave  Colombia for safety reasons. "It broke my heart to have to leave, but I wasn't about to let anything derail the project. With the internet, and changing technology, we can produce this content from just about anywhere in the world." "I still believe in the good things happening in Colombia, however, when you're a high profile journalist in the country, you become even more of a high profile target for the FARC."

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