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(506) 223-1327            Published Thursday, March 1, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 43             E-mail us    
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Officials worry about what treaty opponents may do
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Governmental leaders are worried that the fight against the free trade treaty will take an ugly turn.

Both Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia, and Francisco Antonio Pacheco, president of the Asamblea Legislativa, said separately Wednesday that they feared a reaction from opponents to the free trade treaty with the United States.

Opponents are reinvigorated by the turnout at a protest march Monday. They estimated that 100,000 took place. That was more than the 80,000 that A.M. Costa Rica estimated but more than had been expected.

Arias, speaking with reporters at Casa Presidencial, said that he deplored the call for a referendo de la calle or a "referendum of the street" that opponents are pushing.

Arias said that no more and no less than union leaders are saying that the Constitution can be violated, that the institutional system of the country can be ignored and that the decision of the Asamblea Legislativa can be made illegitimate and that the 38 votes, a majority in the assembly, can be overlooked.

Some 38 votes, exactly a two-thirds majority already are commited for the treaty in the assembly. The Costa Rican Constitution gives the job of ratifying treaties to the legislature.
In the assembly Pacheco said he was worried about opponents intimidating the 38 legislative deputies before a final vote can be taken. He said lawmakers were awaiting a decision of the Sala IV constitutional court before proceeding with action on the treaty. Opposing lawmakers have challenged a fast-track method being instituted by the pro-treaty leadership.

The concerns appear to have some justification.
For example on the Web site of the anti-treaty Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados an essay from a supposed student says "Oscar Arias and his mafioso allies are conspiring against the nation in many ways." The essay also says that the central government is acting against students with threats, spying, blackmail, a defamatory campaign and by characterizing them as "revolutionaries, bums, Communists and rebels."

In addition, the writer promises a sea of blood and new force that demands a real and total change of the alleged corruption by the Arais regime.

In general, opponents argue that the Arias administration has violated the Constitution, so they can, too.

In contrast to the rhetoric, the march Monday was peaceful. But marchers accomplished nothing because neither Arias nor the 38 lawmakers were moved by the public demonstration.

So the concern among officials is what will be the next step by the more radical opponents.


Sala IV constitutional court OKs fast-track for treaty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The free trade treaty is back on track in the Asamblea Legislativa although with some delay.

The Sala IV constitutional court has given a go ahead to changes approved by the assembly to speed the approval process of the treaty. However, the court also found a fault in the way the measure was sent out of committee.

The text of the constitutional court decision was released Wednesday night by the Poder Judicial press office.

The appeal had been made by opponents of the treaty which claimed that their rights were trampled by the way the process took place. The court appeal resulted in a freeze on the treaty while lawmakers awaited for what the court would say.
Court magistrates had until next week to make a decision, so the news Wednesday night came as a surprise.

The major point of the procedural change survived the court review. That allows the assembly leadership to impose a fixed period for discussing the treaty. That period will be from 22 to 28 sessions of the legislature. This avoids the kind of filibuster that has slowed legislation in the past.
The seven magistrates voted 4 to 3 on this point.

The magistrates unanimously did find that opponents did not get a fair shake in discussion and in proposing amendments in the Comisión de Asuntos Internacionales. So the measure will have to go back to that committee for reapproval.

Two-thirds of the legislative deputies, 38 persons, have said they will vote for the treaty.


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A.M.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 1, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 43

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Whooping cough presence
brings medical emergency


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will spend up to $1.2 million to provide shots for up to 70,000 children who may be in danger from whooping cough or pertussis. The bacterial disease is called tosferina in Spanish.

Four children have died from the disease in the last 30 days, said María Luisa Ávila, the health minister, as she declared a medical emergency Wednesday.

The disease usually attacks children 5 and under and the illness can last for several months.

Many youngsters get shots against whooping cough as part of their childhood series. But in Costa Rica poor families usually do not have that advantage.

The children who died were all under 2 years and all lived in humble surroundings, officials said.

The disease runs in cycles and most children are infected by their parents who probably have immunity. The disease is spread by contact.

The minister said that the Ministerio de Salud would first purchase 42,000 doses through the World Health Organization for $320,000. She anticipated a year-long campaign.

Since November 2005 11 children have died from conditions attributed to this malady. The disease usually begins as a light cold and then transforms itself into blockages of the respiratory system, causing the victim to breath deeply emitting whoops, hence the name. The disease may open the way for other diseases, like pneumonia.


Canadian found in gulf
tied to bag of stones


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fishermen found a 51-year-old Canadian floating in the Gulf of Nicoya with a bag of stones tied to his body.

The man is Wolfgang Broun, a long-time resident of Costa Rica. He lived in Paquera on the west shore of the Gulf of Nicoya.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man was found Wednesday between the Isla Cedros and Playa  Bandera in the gulf. The body was being examined in the hopes that investigators will have a cause of death.

Broun was separated from his wife of 12 years, Coralia Carranza Calero, who lives in Puntarenas. She said they had been separated for three years but not divorced.

Alberto Palma of the Judicial Investigating Organization office in Puntarenas is in charge of the investigation.


Mite from Chile found
in shipment of grapes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agricultural inspectors said Wednesday that they had encountered a shipment of grapes from Chile that was infested by a species of mites that can attack plants here.

The mite is the Chilean false red mite (Brevipalpus chilensis) which generally is happy sucking the juices from the leaves of grape vines.

Manuel Francisco Araya, chief of the quarantine station in Caldera said that the mite was found in a container shipment and that the ship bearing the container was refused entry to the port. Grapes are not a major crop here, but Araya said that the pest also attacks citrus plants.

The Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado of the Ministerio de Producción maintains quarantine stations at all entry points to Costa Rica.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 1, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 43




A technician from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad checks out some of the cables found Wednesday.

Humberto Ballestero/Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

Police intercept truckload of copper phone and power cables
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators found miles of copper cable hidden in a tractor trailer Wednesday after they pulled over the vehicle on the Autopista General Cañas in La Uruca.

The copper wire is presumed to have been stolen from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the telecommunications and electrical monopoly known as ICE. The wire was hidden amid other junk metal.

Investigators with the Miniserio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said they got a tip Tuesday night that the rented truck was ready to go. Police staked out the vehicle and followed it when it began to move Wednesday. Joining the pursuit were representatives of the the institute and agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization.
Once the truck was stopped, it was taken to an ICE plant in Colima de Tibás and the wire unloaded. Representatives of ICE said that the material belonged to their company. Investigators estimated the amount at about 1,000 kilos or about 2,200 pounds.

The theft of telephone and electrical cables is a new phenomenon related to the presence of drug addicts. Electrical cables are stolen sometimes with predictable fatal results on the thieves. The thefts, of course, result in an immediate loss of utility service, either telephone or power.
Lawmakers are considering measures to boost the penalty for such thefts.

The presumed owner of the scrap metal shipment has been asked to present himself to prosecutors, officials said. He was not identified further.


Prosecutor says tourists involved in death did not receive any special treatment
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prosecutor who supervised the investigation into the death of a robber at the hands of U.S. tourists Feb. 21 in Limón said that no one received special treatment.

The prosecutor is Edwin Retana. The case involved 12 tourists who were confronted by three robbers when they stopped to take photographs in a dangerous area of Limón.
Dead is Wagner Segura Herrera, 20, who had been investigated in the past for aggravated robbery.

The case made international headlines when The Associated Press reported an exciting tale of an elderly ex-marine snapping the neck of his assailant. That is not exactly what happened, said Retana.

He said that the robber fired two shots inside the minibus that was carrying the tourists and that the passengers acted as would be expected in such a situation: collective panic in the face of the aggression.

Investigators and prosecutors could not determine who was responsible for the death of the robber. He died of asphyxia from reasons that are still to be determined. Autopsy results are not yet in. One possibility is that he was choked with a fabric necklace he was wearing.

The tourists, who are believed to be from the U.S. State of Ohio, all concurred in their statements, said the prosecutor. In the investigation, prosecutors were able to find four or five persons who spoke English to help with translations.  One prosecutor also speaks English, and another prosecutor did interviews with an interpreter, Retana said.
After two hours of investigation, prosecutors agreed that there was no reason for any charges and that all the tourists agreed that the situation was one of self defense, said Retana, adding that:

None of the victims carried any weapons.  The majority were more than 70 years. One person had knowledge of self defense.

The prosecutor said that at least one of the tourists had spent some time in the U.S. Army.

Guillermo Bermúdez is head of the Judicial Investigating Organization in Limón province. He provided some of the names of the tourists involved.

He said that there was a couple with the last name of Clady, another couple with the last name of Rowe, and a third couple with the last name of Studer. In addition there was a woman also with the last name of Clady, a man with the last name of Wenner, a man with the last name of Famer and two persons who were not identified.  He could not say which of the tourists might have had contact with the robber.

In addition, The Associated Press talked with a woman identified as Clova Adams about the incident she said she witnessed. She was interviewed by telephone from the cruise ship, the Carnival liner Liberty, last weekend. But she was cut off in mid-interview.

The bus driver was identified as Roberto Francis Allen.

The tourists involved have avoided the press raising questions about what may have happened.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 1, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 43

Are you considering doing business with a burglar alarm company?

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Scientists equate loss of languages with loss of knowledge
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

There are nearly 7,000 languages on Earth, but experts say about half of them are endangered, meaning only a small and declining number of often elderly people speak the language. Major world and national languages crowd out smaller ones, and it's estimated that more languages became extinct in the 20th century than at any other time in history.

For scientists, the loss of a language represents a very real loss of knowledge. And that knowledge could save lives at a time when drug companies search tropical forests for biologically-based medical breakthroughs, and many, if not most, plant and animal species remain unknown to western science.

David Harrison of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania said saving endangered languages could help scientists harness knowledge that might otherwise be lost. He spoke at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"Vast domains of knowledge about meteorology, mathematics, weather cycles, plant and animal behavior, how to domesticate plants and animals, how to control genetic stocks exists," Harrison stressed. "It is out there, it is fragile, it is very rapidly eroding."

When a language goes, so does culture. The Miami are a native people that once thrived in the American Midwest. Three centuries ago, their Myaamia language was widely spoken. But the language began to die out as the tribe was forced from its ancestral homeland and its members became more assimilated in mainstream America. It was essentially extinct by the 1960s. However, the language had been well documented, and Daryl Baldwin and his Myaamia Project have been working to revitalize both the language and the culture it represents.

"For communities that have been socially disrupted, the language provides an avenue by which they can mend and heal," said Baldwin, "because embodied in that language is a great deal of information about how we relate to each other and how we relate to our landscape. And so language revitalization has been incredibly enriching. It's been daunting. Language loss is about social change. Language reclamation is also about social change.


First two lines of The Lord's Prayer in the Miami language

Na-wah-nassah-ti-lassah-yweh-liam

Al-kilson-twaf-sah Natishi-Kial wilah




Revitalizing an endangered language is never easy. In Hawaii, the U.S. state that was an independent monarchy until 1893, the culture is strong, but the language has faced severe challenges, such as a law that prohibited teaching it in schools until two decades ago. William Wilson of the University of Hawaii says it is important to expose young Hawaiians to the language, and the subject now is taught to school children.

"So that's increasing the numbers of speakers," Wilson said. "In 1986, when we started, there were less than 50 children in all of Hawaii that could speak Hawaiian fluently. Now we have about 2,000 in our school system. More importantly, there are actually
families that speak Hawaiian at home. And so we've started infant-toddler programs, where those children can come together before they go to preschool."

On the mainland, California has a tremendous heritage of language diversity with as many as 100 native languages having been spoken there. Many are now endangered or gone entirely. Leanne Hinton of the University of California says one-on-one intensive programs are helping sustain threatened languages.

"One of them is the master-apprentice language learning program, which pairs the last speakers of native languages with younger members of the tribe who want to learn it. And we teach them the fundamentals of language immersion, and they are supposed to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just living their lives together in the language and without recourse to English," Ms. Hinton explained.

Despite efforts like these, indigenous and other minority languages will continue to be threatened, and many likely will die off. But aggressive programs can help ensure the survival of other languages.


New report bashes Internet sales and cheap counterfeit drugs
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Unregulated sales — in places such as street markets and the Internet — of both internationally controlled and counterfeit drugs endanger the lives of people worldwide, according to a United Nations-backed annual report of an independent drug control body.

“It is important for consumers to realize that what they think is a cut-price medication bought on an unregulated market may have potentially lethal effects whenever the consumed drugs are not the genuine product or are taken without medical advice,” said Dr. Philip O. Emafo, president of the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board.

“Instead of healing, [these drugs] can take lives,” he added. The report was released Wednesday.
The 2006 report warns that unofficial drug sales, due to a lack of standards, result in substandard and even lethal medications going to unsuspecting customers.  The drugs sold on the black market are often stolen from legitimate health-care centres or retailers, illicitly manufactured or sold illegally on the Internet.

To combat this problem, the board urged nations to adopt at least one of the three main drug control treaties to strengthen their law enforcement mechanisms, as well as implement effective policies to combat the production and sale of counterfeit drugs.

The board urged U.N. agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, to assist countries with better understanding the ramifications of illicit drug sales on the unregulated market as well as preventing the trafficking of these drugs.


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