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These stories were published Monday, April 29, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 83
Jo Stuart
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Cindy Ceciliano Seguro, a seventh-grader in Manuel Antonio,  and her classmates were among those out in force Friday to plant trees to help the endangered monkeys.

See story, HERE

Photo by Scott C. Braman
Professor blames law for jump in murder rate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An increase in the rate of murders among couples is a direct result of a  7-year-old law that is stacked in favor of women, according to a senior researcher at the University of Costa Rica.

The reseracher is Leonardo Mata, a microbologist and public health expert who is the former head of the Instituto de Investigaciones de Salud where he still works. He said he has approached the topic of domestic violence by using public health techniques.

His comments are relevant because the National Assembly is considering another measure that would increase penalties for violence against women and shift the law even further in the direction Mata said is provoking violence.

He said he blames the assembly for passing a law in 1995 without considering the consequences. He said that 150,000 men have been expelled from their homes under the law on the unverified assertions of a woman. That’s of an estimated 550,000 homes in Costa Rica.

The domestic violence law requires police to remove the person accused of being violent, and that usually is the man, said Mata. The man must stay away until a judicial process takes place. That may be some time in the future in the clogged Costa Rican court system.

The key point, said Mata is that there is no penalty if the complaintant, usually the woman, makes up a story and lies. Sometimes a complaintant will make up stories to gain control of the house and assets, he said. And sometimes the complaintant, usually a woman, moves another man in the house while the law bars the husband, he said.

These are the situations the accused men perceive as unjust, and this causes them to take violent revenge, said the professor.

His data shows that 1995 when the law was 

passed was the safest for couples. The murder rate that year of one member of a conjugal couple was 1.27 per 100,000 individuals.  Mata noted that this was the year with the lowest rate, and that was the year deputies passed the domestic violence law.

By 1998, according to his figures, the rate had nearly doubled to 2.48 deaths per100,000 persons. And he said statistics he is collecting now suggest that the rate may have doubled again.

Mata has credibility in this area because he was the principal investigator in an expensive national study of urban family violence in 1992. About 1,400 randomly selected family members were interviewed face-to-face. The study, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, was prepared under the institute of health. And it shows a very low level of family violence in Costa Rica.

In response to one question 90 percent of the women and 92 percent of the men said that their family was tranquil always or almost always. Some 97.3 percent of the woman and 98.9 percent of the men said they never or rarely experienced violence in the family.

Based on these numbers, Mata said he wonders why the assembly passed a law that encourages women to become more aggressive against their men. "The laws have changed this country," he said. Mata said that he spoke in a national Assembly hearing in 1996 and predicted that the law would raise the murder rates. 

Mata has become somewhat of an icon of Costa Rican and North America men who are fighting for custody and a fair shake in the courts here. He, himself, has divorced twice. 

Meanwhile, deputies are waiting for a Sala IV constitutional court ruling on the new law, 13874, that would specifically increase penalties for men who commit violence against women. A constitutional problem might be that the law only protects women and not the aggressor in all cases, some deputies have said.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Facing the sculpture

Organizers transformed a soccer field in Escazú into a thriving market for more than 50 artists over the weekend. That outdoor market, something new for Escazú, attracted mostly painters.

But one sculptor, Marco A. Campos Villalobos, works in wood and then paints his creations in shocking colors. At left he describes one of his three-dimensional hangings to a customer while a passerby watches.

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Photo by Scott C. Braman
Serious business, this tree-planting, as Diego Jésus Salazar, Andres Vindas, and Marcia Serrano found out Friday.

More than 100 help
plant monkey food

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

More than 100 persons turned out Friday to plant trees to help save the endangered mono tití monkey. 

Sponsors of the Kids Saving the Rainforest pilot reforestation project are calling the event a hit. The focus of Friday’s event was to plant trees to provide food sources that will help save the monkeys.

Another focus was to educate people about the monkey that has been listed as critically endangered on the United Nation’s Red List. It is estimated that only 1,200 to 1,500 remain, sponsors said. 

Students from Colegio Ecotouristico del Pacifico (CEP) and El Nuevo Montessori, along with community members and Javier Herrera of the National Park of Manuel Antonio, showed up to help with the symbolic planting of over 300 saplings. 

The project took place at Finca Tranquila in Naranjito and began at 8:30 a.m. Shortly after breakfast Jennifer Rice, Ph.D, president of Kids Saving the Rainforest, told why humans cannot feed the mono tití and why the trees are needed. She also spoke of the many projects the non-profit organization is working on in the area, Chip Braman, administrative director of Kids Saving the Rainforest, spoke about monkey bridges across the roads of Manuel Antonio the group plans and its environmental summer camp. 

Lissy Rivera Villareal, the full-time forestry engineer, who is the manager of Kids Saving the Rainforest, was there to tell everyone which trees were being planted and the purposes they serve. She has conducted several studies on the soil and the area to determine which trees will flourish and provide not only the best habitat for the monkeys, but the best food source as well. 

Some of the trees chosen were the espavel, guayaba de mono, roble sabana, cortez negro, Panamá and corteza amarillo. 

Mayela Soliz, the director of Colegio Ecotouristico spoke about the school and its special educational program. Lenin Rosales, a local expert on the mono tití, discussed them. 

The group moved to an area near the planting site where they were greeted by Mario, a burro owned by Finca Tranquila. Mario was hooked up to a cart, which held a portion of the saplings to be planted. 

The saplings were placed in holes about 6 meters by 4 meters apart. The workers at Finca Tranquila were there to help. The forestry engineer made sure each tree was planted correctly and got off to a good start. 

This is important for trees like the baco, which is on the endangered list, workers were told. 

After the planting, Isaias Orias, an ecology professor at Colegio Ecotouristico spoke about the importance of saving the rainforest, and then the owners and developers of Finca Tranquila, Scott Herrington, Tania Muñiz, and Ann Pope were introduced. Also present were members of the Harris family who recently bought a homesite on Finca Tranquila. 

Their daughters, Diana, 8, and Cheyanne, 7, helped raise over $275 for Kids Saving the rainforest at Plantation Key School in the Florida Keys. 

The 177-acre finca was purchased in July with plans to sell one-acre homesites on a portion of the property. Then123 acres will be dedicated to reforestation and conservation. The project significantly began Friday, which is Arbor Day. The plan is to plant and grow more than 21,000 trees over the next three years. 

Kids Saving the Rainforest was founded in 1999 by two school children, Janine Licare Andrews and Aislin Livingstone, in Manuel Antonio. Their goals are to educate children about the preservation and protection of the rainforest, to ensure the survival of the tití monkey and to care for abandoned and injured baby animals until they can be reintroduced into the wild. 

Anyone who would like more information on the organization can visit the headquarters located at the Mono Azul Hotel in Manuel Antonio. Kids Saving the Rainforest can also be reached on-line at www. Kidssavingtherainforest.org or locally at 777-2592 (mailing address: Apartado 297, Quepos, Costa Rica 6350). 

The organization also has an adopt-a-tree program. For a $20 donation, the organization will plant a rainforest tree sapling in the donor’s name or the named of a loved one. All donations are U.S.-tax deductible and all proceeds go to saving the rainforest. 

The group said that special thanks was in order to Ms. Rice and Ms. Rivera Villareal for all their hard work and help with the project. 

No word available
on U.S. delegation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States has not yet selected the government official who will lead the country’s delegation to the May 8 inauguration of Abel Pacheco as president of Costa Rica.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said that the person chosen likely will be a member of George Bush’s cabinet. Other officials, such as Otto Reich, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, also probably will attend, the spokesman said. 

The swearing-in comes at a tough time for the Bush Administration because a number of high State Department officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, have been working round the clock to put the Mideast peace plan back on track. Powell just returned from a trip there.

The change of power ceremony will be in the Teatro Melico Salazar on Avenida 2, and Costa Rica’s citizens will watch the event from outside and on television because the theater will be filled by about 900 officials, invited guests and the press.

The event at the theater begins about 9:30 a.m., and officials estimate it will take from 90 minutes to two hours. Then the new president will walk east on Avenida 2 to the Teatro Nacional where a lunch will be held.

People watchers will be much in evidence, particularly because the Spanish prince, Felipe de Borbón, will be heading that country’s delegation. Several Latin American presidents also will attend.

The theater setting for the ceremony is a result of Pacheco’s austerity program. In the past, the event was at the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana.

Motorists will find travel difficult from just after evening rush hour Tuesday, May 7, until late afternoon Wednesday, May 8. Avenida 2 will be closed Tuesday night so workmen can set up the facilities, including portable toilets and television transmission centers.

By 6 a.m. Wednesday, side streets will be closed from San Juan de Dios Hospital on the west end of Avenida 2 downtown east to about Calle 7. Large numbers of police and firemen will be involved in security.

Yet another minister
for ailing Argentina

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Eduardo Duhalde has sworn in the country's sixth economy minister in one year in a bid to fix the nation's crumbling economy.

At a ceremony here Saturday, a trade expert and former ambassador to the European Union Roberto Lavagnam formally took up his new post. 

News reports quote Lavagna as saying he is organizing his own economic team, which indicates that major economic announcements may come next week.

The new economy minister is known as an advocate of strong trade and economic ties with the international community. One of his most pressing tasks is to help the economy recover from a four-year recession that has left Argentina with a $141 billion public debt.

He takes office amid growing public discontent over the government's handling of the economy. The concerns have led to widespread protests and a run on banks by nervous depositors who fear the peso's volatility could devastate their savings.

On Friday, banks opened for limited services following a four-day government-imposed bank holiday aimed at preventing a massive flight of capital out of the country. 

Ex-candidate Lebed
dies in copter crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MOSCOW, Russia — Alexander Lebed, 52, the former Russian presidential candidate and the man credited with ending the war in Chechnya, was killed in a helicopter crash in Siberia Sunday. 

An Emergencies Ministry official in the vast Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, where the tough-talking former general was governor, said Lebed died of injuries sustained when his Mi-8 helicopter hit a power line and crashed in bad weather.

There were 19 people, including three crew members, aboard the helicopter when it crashed. Seven, including Lebed, died and 12 were hospitalized in critical condition, the official said.

Among those dead is Krasnoyarsk's deputy governor, Nadezhda Kolba, and two local administration officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately telephoned Lebed's brother, Alexei, to offer his condolences.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Patriarch of Moscow and of all Russia Alexy II also offered condolences to Mr. Lebed's relatives and those of the other victims.

Meanwhile, President Putin here sent Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu to the scene of the crash to head the investigation

Bush again urges
fast-track approval

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George W. Bush urged the U.S. Senate to pass the trade promotion authority, which would give the administration the flexibility to negotiate trade agreements with other countries. The Congress would then have the opportunity to vote for or against the agreement, but could not amend it. this is the so-called "fast track" measure.

In his weekly radio address to the nation Saturday, Bush said, "I have traveled around the country and seen the value of trade, and foreign leaders have told me how trade will strengthen security and economic growth in our hemisphere."

Bush also cited the urgent need to renew the Andean Trade Preference Act. "Over the past 10 years, this law has given the four Andean nations more access to our markets, which they report has created 140,000 jobs. The law has also helped provide an economic alternative to the production of drugs."

Drug mix proposed
for malaria immunity

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The World Health Organization is urging African nations to adopt a new treatment for malaria in order to help the 800,000 African children afflicted with the disease each year. Warning that the cheapest and most frequently used medicines are becoming ineffective, the organization advises adoption of a new combination therapy.

Artemisinin-based combination therapies blend two different medicines that work in different ways. That combination, according to a press release, decreases the likelihood that the parasites can develop immunity.

Chloroquine has long been an inexpensive and reliable treatment for malaria, a mosquito-borne disease. Now, however, high levels of resistance to this medication are showing up in malaria patients in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, which may be leading to an increase in child deaths from the disease.

African nations face a difficult task in trying to treat the 800,000 children who contract malaria each year. The World Health Organization warned that the many malaria parasites represent another complication.

"Recent evidence also indicates that, due to rising levels of medicine resistance, almost half of the money spent on anti-malarial medicines is being used to pay for inappropriate treatments," according to the WHO release.

Surveillance plan
beings readied

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. officials say they are nearing a decision on how to help Peru and Colombia intercept drug smuggling flights without endangering innocent lives. 

The U.S.-backed surveillance flights were suspended in April of last year after the Peruvian military mistakenly shot down a missionary plane and killed an American woman and her infant daughter. 

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Friday in Washington that the United States wants to see the surveillance flights resumed under appropriate safeguards. He said administration officials are consulting with Congress, as well as Colombian and Peruvian officials, but could not say when the flights would resume. 

Under the suspended program, U.S. personnel flew surveillance planes over the Andean jungles, tracking small planes suspected of transporting illegal drugs. If a plane was believed to be carrying drugs, the local air force would be called in to try to force the plane to land. If the effort failed, the aircraft would be shot down. 

Hussein fetted in Iraq
as U.S. prepares for war

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BAGDAD, Iraq — this country has held government-sponsored celebrations of President Saddam Hussein's 65th birthday amid reports the United States is considering a military option to topple him. 

As many as one million people turned out across Iraq as crowds led by members of the ruling Ba'ath party took to the streets in various provinces.

President Saddam rarely is seen at such celebrations, but in a statement he expressed Iraq's solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

The celebrations took place as U.S. news reports said the Bush administration is focusing its attention on the potential for a major air campaign against Iraq followed by a ground invasion. 

Administrations officials say many options are being considered for dealing with Iraq but they say President Bush has not yet made a decision on a particular course of action. 

Speaking on U.S. television, the leaders of the U.S. Senate said there is broad support for toppling President Saddam. But Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott say it is too early to take military action against Iraq. 

The New York Times is reporting the Bush administration had until recently contemplated a confrontation with the Iraqi leader later this year. Under that scenario, the paper said U.S. officials would first demonstrate to the United Nations that President Saddam is unwilling to allow international inspectors access to suspect weapons sites. 

In Baghdad, the state-run news agency says President Saddam's birthday festivities are meant to show support for the Iraqi leader and to confront aggression. 300 couples gathered in the city for a mass wedding as part of Hussein's birthday celebrations. 

Colombian opinion poll
supports independent

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — A new voter opinion poll indicates Colombian presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe remains the favorite in the May 26 election, but that his support has dropped. Published Friday, the opinion poll says Uribe now has nearly 48 percent of voter support, compared with about 60 percent in March. Uribe is running as an independent. 

His closest challenger, former Interior Minister Horacio Serpa, has gained 3 percentage points, but trails with just over 27 percent. Serpa represents the Liberal Party. Other candidates are trailing the two leading contenders in the polls. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the balloting, a runoff will be held June 16. 

Candidates are campaigning against the backdrop of increased violence by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Rebel attacks have escalated since outgoing President Andres Pastrana ended peace talks with the insurgents back in February. 

Uribe has pledged to get tough with the insurgents known as the FARC. He has, however, cut back on public appearances after narrowly escaping an assassination attempt earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, Colombian gunmen have stormed a banana plantation near Panama, killing nine workers in an early morning massacre that authorities are blaming on leftist rebels. The attack may be linked to the election.

Investigators say the armed men raided the plantation Friday, selected their victims from a list of names, and shot them before setting the premises ablaze. Eighteen people were wounded. 

The motive for the shooting is not clear. Local officials believe the rebels are angry with the workers for supporting Uribe in next month's election. The shootings occurred just outside the northern village of San Jose de Apartado, near a paramilitary-controlled area. 

Musical legacy

About 42 musical groups, among them the Blind Pig Blues band right,  performed Sunday to honor the memory of José Capmany of the group Cafe Con Leche, who died in an automobile crash last fall.

The event also was a benefit for the well-known musician’s family.

In photo right, Dave Scott of Radio 107.5 handles the vocals.

Photo by Lance Carlson
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