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These stories were published Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 20
Jo Stuart
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Shark attacks on humans continue to decline
From the University of Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The number of shark attacks worldwide took a dip for the third straight year in 2003, in part perhaps because more people are realizing the ocean is a wild place instead of a backyard swimming pool, a new University of Florida study finds.

"I think people are beginning to get a little more intelligent about when and where they enter the water," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File housed at the university’s Florida Museum of Natural History. "There seems to be more of an understanding that when we enter the sea, it’s a wilderness experience, and we’re intruders in that environment."

Last year’s total of 55 unprovoked attacks worldwide dropped nearly 13 percent from the 63 reported in 2002, and was down considerably from the 68 in 2001 and the all-time record of 79 in 2000, said Burgess, who oversees the file, the world’s largest database of shark attacks.

More important, he said, the overall fatality rate continues to be lower than in the past, making up only 7 percent of the attacks that occurred in 2003, in contrast to an annual average of 13 percent during the 1990s.

Last year there were four deaths from shark attacks compared with three in 2002, four in 2001 and 11 in 2000. They occurred in the United States, Australia, South Africa and Fiji. 

The most highly publicized attack involved Deborah Franzman, a 50-year-old woman who was mauled to death by a great white shark on Aug. 19 while swimming alongside a group of seals off the California coast, Burgess said. Another high-profile incident that didn’t end in fatality was a Halloween attack off Kauai’s North Shore on 13-year-old surfing champion Bethany Hamilton, whose left arm was severed below the shoulder during practice.

Normally, scientists don’t put much stock in year-to-year fluctuations in the number of attacks. Such variations could be caused by a variety of changes in meteorological and oceanographic conditions, such as an upswing in numbers of bait fish swimming close to shore or by changes in people’s use patterns, Burgess said. 

But the three-year decline in attacks may be the result of factors that indicate a longer-term trend, such as the possibility there are fewer sharks and people together in the water where they could meet, Burgess said. "The first explanation that comes to mind is that there are simply fewer sharks out there in the water," he said. "We know that shark populations have declined internationally because of overfishing."

The overall downturn in the economy over the past several years may be another factor, resulting in fewer people being able to afford to travel to the ocean than in 2000, when there were so many more attacks, Burgess said.

"The number of shark attacks in any given year is directly related to the amount of time humans spend in the sea as well as the number of sharks living there," he said.

Burgess added the caution people may be exercising at the beach could be related to the 

Ross Menking didn’t make the University of Florida statistics, but he was a Costa Rican victim, attacked while surfing by a 7-foot bull shark at Playa Tamarindo Jan. 3, 2003. This set of file photos is the winner in spot news in our 2003 photo contest. Photos by John Lyman.

growing restraint in the public’s outcry for widespread fishing to kill sharks after attacks have occurred. "There has been a gradual learning curve among ocean users," he said. "We now understand that shark-human interactions, while very rare and occasionally serious, are part of the price we pay for venturing into a foreign environment."

As in recent years, the bulk of the 2003 attacks were in North American waters. The 41 attacks in U.S. territorial waters were fewer than the 47 reported in 2002, 50 in 2001 and 54 in 2000. Elsewhere, there were six attacks in Australia, two each in Brazil and South Africa; and one each in Fiji, India, Madagascar and Venezuela.

Florida continued to be the world’s shark attack capital with 31 reports, somewhat lower than the 2000-02 average of about 33, based on 29 in 2002, 34 in 2001 and 37 in 2000.

Outside Florida, attacks were recorded in Hawaii - 4, South Carolina - 3, and one each in California, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Johnson Atoll, a small island south of Hawaii. Surfers were the most frequent victims, involved in 29 incidents, followed by swimmers and waders, 20, and divers and snorkelers, 3. 

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Transit officer saves U.S. tourists from road bandits
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Tránsito officer on patrol spotted two vehicles not far from Juan Santamaría Airport Wednesday morning and correctly assumed that a couple driving the lead car were soon to be victims of a robbery.

The officer managed to bust up the latest of a long-running series of attacks on tourists who take rental cars away from the airport.

Robbers make sure that the tire of the rental vehicle has a slow leak and show up to assist when the tourist is forced to pull the car over.

That’s what happened Wednesday to the middle-aged couple believed to be U.S. citizens. But officer José Cubillo saw a Suzuki and a Daihatsu near the Villa Bonita de Alajuela bridge and called for help. Fuerza Pública officers from Alajuela and airport police responded. Arrested were two Colombians, identified by their last names of Osorio Patiño and Corte Ovalle,

Airport police confirmed that one of the tires of the Suzuki had been punctured just minutes earlier. It had been rented just a short distance away. This type of act is called a "pinchonazo" in Spanish.

Dozens of tourists are robbery victims each year, despite rental car company warnings to reject any help from strangers.

Police think that the two suspects were simply going to grab some bags while the North Americans were busy repairing the tire. But other tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or shot at.

Police report that they have maintained patrols to stop just this type of crime near the airport, but this is the first such arrest in more than three years. 

Officers also expressed uncertainty as to how the vehicle tires could be punctured while in the custody of rental companies minutes before tourists or visitors take them out on the highway.

Free trade treaty
prompts allegations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The verbage is beginning to flow at the Asamblea Nacional over the proposed free trade treaty with the United  States.

Most of Text Released: HERE!

Gerardo Vargas Leiva, a deputy with the Partido Acción Ciudadana, Wednesday questioned the patriotism of the country’s negotiators who worked on the treaty and asked that they be investigated.

"We are asking that an investigatory commission be set up to determine which public funcionaries and legislators on this parliament lent themselves to go to the United  States to sell the country," he said on the floor of the assembly. His party generally opposes the treaty.

Meanwhile, Edwin Patterson Bent, also of Acción Ciudadana, has sent letters to President Abel Pacheco, to the president of the legislature, Mario Redondo and to José Manuel Echandi, the defensor de los habitantes, seeking a public referendum on the treaty.

Juan José Vargas of the Bloque Patrótico Parlamentario said he would never vote to approve the treaty because the negotiations lacked transparency.

The treaty needs to be approved by two-thirds of the 67 national deputies to become effective. The measure will be presented to the legislators after it is formally signed by the presidents of the countries involved. That is expected to happen in April. 

Chavez says his talk
with rebels authorized

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says he met with Colombian leftist rebels during past efforts by Colombia to make peace with them.

But speaking to reporters Tuesday, President Chavez denied accusations that members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, once asked him to sell them weapons.

Chavez said he met with rebel leaders in Caracas only with the consent of Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who held office from 1998 to 2002.

The Venezuelan president was responding to allegations in a book recently published by former Colombian foreign minister Guillermo Fernandez de Soto. The book says Chavez told Pastrana that the FARC had asked to buy weapons but that the request was turned down.

President Chavez's comments came after holding talks in Caracas with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Carter and his Atlanta-based Carter Center have been monitoring the verification of signatures submitted in a petition calling for a referendum on Chavez's presidency.

President Chavez has dismissed the petition as fraudulent, and has called for international observers to monitor the verification process.

Carter has said he is satisfied with how Venezuela's national elections commission is conducting the process and urged voters to give the commission its full support. The number of signatures collected has been far more than the 2.4 million required by the constitution to force a vote on removing an elected president from office.

Opposition leaders in Venezuela are seeking Chavez's removal because they say he is ruining the economy and trying to model the oil-rich country after Communist-led Cuba. The president insists he is working to improve the lives of Venezuela's impoverished majority.

Lula visits India
with optimistic view

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW DELHI, India — Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva predicts the 21st century will belong to developing countries such as India, Brazil, Russia and China. 

Lula da Silva, on a four-day visit here, made the remark at a business conference Tuesday. He said the major trading blocks had been treating the developing countries as second-class citizens for too long. On Sunday in New Delhi, India signed a preferential trade agreement with the Latin American trade bloc Mercosur, which includes Brazil. The deal was signed in the presence of the Brazilian leader and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

After the signing ceremony, Lula da Silva told reporters that together, India and Brazil can build a force that could change the world's trade geography.  Both Brazilian and Indian officials said the pact could lead to an agreement for free trade in the future.

Also on Sunday, India and Brazil signed several cooperation agreements, including ones promoting tourism and cultural exchanges and for cooperation between the countries' space agencies.

One student died
in Haitian protest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — One student protester was killed as police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of angry demonstrators, who burned a coffin outside the U.S. Consulate here Wednesday.

The students had rallied to demand the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  The consulate was temporarily shut down, although the U.S. Embassy, one kilometer away, remained open. 

Haiti has been mired in turmoil since the 2000 legislative elections which observers say were flawed. In the past four months, at least 49 people have been killed and anti-government demonstrations have become frequent. 

On Monday, President Aristide said he supported the major points of a plan by the 15-nation Caribbean Community to resolve his country's prolonged political crisis.  The plan put together last week in the Bahamas calls for the establishment of a consensus government, a schedule for legislative elections, and the disarmament of gangs that have attacked  Aristide's opponents. 

Aristide says he would support the formation of a new government as long as it includes members of his Lavalas Party.  The opposition says it supports elements of the plan, but still wants Mr. Aristide to step down. The president says he will not resign until 2006, when his term ends. 

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Mobile wireless services would be opened, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has agreed to allow private companies to provide mobile wireless telecommunications services after Jan. 1, 2007, according to the proposed treaty between Central American countries and the United States.

The country also agrees to allow private network services no later than Jan. 1, 2006 and Internet services no later than Jan. 1, 2006. The specifications in the draft treaty seem to be broader than has been announced last Sunday when Costa Rica and the United States announced agreement had been reached.

Costa Rica did not accept the treaty when other Central American countries did last December because, among other things, the country wanted to protect the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Service providers also are allowed to use the technology of their own choice, which would seem to give an advantage to more technologically aware First-World providers.

Here is the relevante section of the proposed agreement:


Subject to Legal Review for Accuracy, Clarity, and Consistency

January 28, 2004

13-16 Annex 13

Specific Commitments of Costa Rica on Telecommunications Services

I. Preamble: 

The Government of the Republic of Costa Rica: Acknowledging the unique nature of the Costa Rican social policy on telecommunications, and reaffirming its decision to ensure that the process of opening the telecommunications services sector in the country must be based on its Constitution; emphasizing that such process shall be to the benefit of the user and shall be based on the principles of graduality, selectivity and regulation, and in strict conformity with the social objectives of universality and solidarity in the supply of telecommunications services; and recognizing its commitment to strengthen and modernize the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) as a market participant in a competitive telecommunications marketplace while ensuring that the use of its infrastructure shall be remunerated and to develop a regulatory body to oversee market development; undertakes through this Annex the following specific commitments on telecommunications services.

II. Modernization of ICE: 
Costa Rica shall enact a new legal framework to strengthen ICE, through its appropriate modernization, no later than December 31, 2004.

III. Selective and Gradual Market Opening Commitments:
 1. Market Access Standstill Costa Rica shall allow service providers of another Party to supply telecommunications services on terms and conditions that are no less favorable than those established by or granted pursuant to its national legislation in force on January 27, 2003. 
 2. Gradual and Selective Opening of Certain Telecommunications Services (a) As provided in Annex I, Costa Rica shall allow telecommunications services providers of any Party, on a non-discriminatory basis, to effectively compete to supply directly to the customer, through the technology of their choice, the following telecommunications services in its territory: 1 (i) Private network services,2 no later than January 1, 2006; (ii) Internet services,3 no later than January 1, 2006; and (iii) Mobile wireless services,4 no later than January 1, 2007. (b) Subparagraph (a) shall also apply to any other telecommunications service that Costa Rica may decide to allow in the future.

IV. Regulatory Principles: 
The regulatory framework on telecommunications services that the Government of Costa Rica shall have in force as of January 1, 2006, shall conform, among others, to the following provisions: 1. Universal Service Costa Rica has the right to define the kind of universal service obligations it wishes to maintain. Such obligations will not be regarded as anti-competitive per se, provided they are administered in a transparent, non-discriminatory, and competitively neutral manner and are not more burdensome than necessary for the kind of universal service defined. 

2. Independence of the Regulatory Authority Costa Rica shall establish or maintain a regulatory authority for telecommunications services, which shall be separate from and not accountable to any supplier of telecommunications services. Costa Rica shall ensure that its telecommunications regulatory authority is authorized to impose effective sanctions to enforce domestic measures relating to the obligations set out in this Annex. 1 If required, Costa Rica will make licenses available within the timeframes specified in this paragraph. 2 Private network services (closed-user group services) are defined as the networks provided for communications with no interconnection to the public switched telecommunications network at either end. 

Nothing in this Annex shall be construed to prevent Costa Rica from prohibiting persons operating private networks from using their networks to supply public telecommunications networks or services to third parties. 3 Internet services shall include electronic mail; retrieval and processing on-line information and databases and services of electronic exchange of data, and offering the ability to access the global internet. 4 Mobile wireless services are defined as voice, data, and/or broadband services provided by radio electric means in specifically allocated bands, using mobile or fixed terminal equipment, using cellular, PCS, satellite, or any other similar technology that may be developed in the future for these services. 5 For greater clarity, this section does not create market access rights or obligations.

This regulatory authority may include jurisdiction over spectrum management, universal service, tariffing, and licensing of new market entrants. The decisions and the procedures of the regulatory authority shall be impartial with respect to all market participants.

3. Transparency Costa Rica shall ensure that applicable procedures for interconnection to a major supplier as well as either its interconnection agreements or referenced interconnection offers are made publicly available. Costa Rica shall also make publicly available all licensing or authorization criteria and procedures, and the terms and conditions of all licenses or authorizations issued.

4. Allocation and Use of Scarce Resources Costa Rica shall ensure that procedures for the allocation and use of limited resources, including frequencies, numbers, and rights of way, are administered in an objective, timely, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner by a competent 

Free-trade treaty draft
released in English

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Office of the Trade Representative has posted the draft texts of the Central American Free Trade Agreement to the Internet in PDF format.

The treaty contains 22 sections with three sets of annexes and is subject to legal review for accuracy, clarity and consistency, according to the Web page. 

Not all the treaty has been posted. Explanations for specific countries will be posted by Feb. 2, said the trade office.

The text makes interesting reading even though it contains many references to existing trade treaties. For example there is this entry as Article 3.11 (1):

The parties shall recognize bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey, which is a straight bourbon whiskey authorized to be produced in the State of Tennesee, as distinctive products of the United States. Accordingly, the parties shall not permit the sale of any product as bourbon whiskey or Tennessee whiskey unless it has been manufactured in the United States in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States governing the manufacture of bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey.

There does not seem to be a reverse protection for guaro, Costa Rica’s national sugar cane liquor, although traditional handicraft is guaranteed tax-free entry into any country.

domestic authority.6 The Republic of Costa Rica shall issue licenses for use of spectrum directly to the service providers, in accordance with article 121 item 14 of the Constitution of Costa Rica.

5. Regulated Interconnection Costa Rica shall ensure that public telecommunications services suppliers of another Party are provided interconnection with a major supplier in a timely fashion, under non-discriminatory terms, conditions,7 and cost-oriented rates that are transparent, reasonable, and having regard to economic feasibility. Costa Rica shall also ensure that a service supplier requesting interconnection with a major supplier has recourse to an independent domestic body,8 which may be the regulatory authority referred to in paragraph 2, to resolve disputes regarding appropriate terms, conditions, and rates for interconnection within a reasonable period of time. 6. Access to and Use of the Network Costa Rica shall ensure that enterprises of another Party have access to and use of any public telecommunications services, including leased circuits, offered in its territory or across its 6 The competent domestic authority shall be separate from and not accountable to any supplier of telecommunications services. 7 Referred conditions include technical regulations and specifications, as well as the quality of interconnection. 8 The independent domestic body shall be separate from and not accountable to any supplier of telecommunications services.

6. Access to and Use of the Network Costa Rica shall ensure that enterprises of another Party have access to and use of any public
telecommunications services, including leased circuits, offered in its territory or across its borders, on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions and are permitted to: purchase or lease and attach terminal or other equipment that interfaces with a public telecommunications network; provide services to individual or multiple end-users over any leased or owned circuit(s); connect owned or leased circuits with public telecommunications networks and services in its territory, or across the borders of that Party or with circuits leased or owned by another person; perform switching, signaling, processing and conversion functions; use operating protocols of their choice; and use public telecommunications services for the movement of information contained in data bases or otherwise stored in machine-readable form in the territory of any Party. Notwithstanding the paragraph above, Costa Rica may take such measures as are necessary to ensure the security and confidentiality of messages or to protect the privacy of non-public personal data of subscribers to public telecommunications services, subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner that would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or disguised restriction on trade in services. Costa Rica shall also ensure that no condition is imposed on access to and use of public telecommunications networks or services, other than that necessary to safeguard the public service responsibilities of providers of public telecommunications networks or services, in particular their ability to make their networks or services available to the public generally, or protect the technical integrity of public telecommunications networks or services.

7. Provision of Information Services Costa Rica may not require an enterprise of a Party in its territory that it classifies9 as a supplier of information services (which supplies such services over facilities that it does not own) to: supply such services to the public generally; cost-justify rates for such services; file tariffs for such services; interconnect its networks with any particular customer for the supply of such services; or conform to any particular standard or technical regulation for interconnection other than that for interconnection to a public telecommunications network. Costa Rica may, however, take any of these actions to remedy a practice of a supplier of information services that it has found in a particular case to be anti-competitive under its law or regulation, or to otherwise promote competition or safeguard the interests of consumers.

8. Competition Costa Rica shall maintain appropriate measures for the purpose of preventing suppliers who, alone or together, are a major supplier from engaging in anti-competitive practices such as, not making available, on a timely basis, to suppliers of public telecommunications services, technical 9 The telecommunications regulatory authority will have the competence within its territory to classify the services included in the Information Services category. information about essential facilities and commercially relevant information which are necessary for them to provide public telecommunications services.

9. Submarine Cable Systems Costa Rica shall ensure reasonable and non-discriminatory treatment for access to submarine cable systems (including landing facilities) in its territory, where a supplier is authorized to operate such submarine cable system as a public telecommunications service.

10. Flexibility in the Choice of Technologies Costa Rica shall not prevent suppliers of public telecommunications services from having the flexibility to choose the technologies that they use to supply their services, subject to requirements necessary to satisfy legitimate public policy interests.

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