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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, June 6, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 111        E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
In friendly
hands finally


Fernando Berrocal checks out one of the M-16 rifles recovered by police Monday.

The weapons were stolen from a Fuerza Pública station in Guácimo, and a police officer has been arrested. Story is HERE!



An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
That giant sucking sound is your tourism tax
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The tourism institute needs to get more training in advertising and promotion.
Every time the institute takes action to promote the country, workers there seem to get it wrong — and with the money raised from a tax on tourists.

The latest is a $4.2 million investment in promoting the country during the World Cup soccer championship in Germany. Last year 24,000 Germans came to Costa Rica. This new expenditure represents $175 for every German tourist.

How many new tourists will come when they see a handful of television commercials or perhaps a snazzy half-page ad in a German newspaper? The sad answer is: Not many.

The essence of advertising is continual repetition. A few expensive ads here and there just do not cut it. And certainly not when the public's mind is on World Cup competition.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo in the past has placed a $70,000 full page, one-day ad in The New York Times, contracted for an $830,000 Web page and kicked in $100,000 for the Luciano Pavarotti concert. These are not wise choices.
For $4.2 million, Costa Rica could have mounted a credible year-long promotional campaign in Europe. Forget the half page, full color ads.

A small print ad every Sunday in the travel section of major European newspapers or magazines would do the trick. A weekly media budget of about $81,000 would be available.

Of course, that assumes the purpose for the expenditure was to promote the country. We suspect the money was spent so assorted public officials would have an excuse to attend the World Cup opening game of Costa Rica against Germany.

We also suspect that the advertising agency commissions on the media placement were substantial. The  country dropped $2.7 million alone on television commercials.

Tourism officials say they are unable to calculate the effect of the promotional campaign.  But of course they can. They can count the number of new visitors to the institute's German-language Web page over the next two weeks and later they can subtract the number of Germans who come this year from the 24,000 who came last year.

They can. But we are sure they will not.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 111


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Stagno pushes Consensus
at OAS general assembly


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The Consensus of Costa Rica seeks to eliminate extreme poverty in Latin America by 2015, Bruno Stagno Ugarte told the  general assembly of the Organization of American States Monday.

Stagno, the Costa Rican foreign minister, expanded on what had been outlined in a press statement over the weekend. The consensus reads very much like the election platform of President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

Officials from the 34-nation Organization of American States are holding a series of meetings to discuss regional initiatives and bilateral concerns. The main theme of the meeting is good government and development in the knowledge-based society.

The Consensus of Costa Rica is an alliance for development to promote the opportunities on a hemispheric scale with equality and the necessary concerns for the most vulnerable countries and groups, Stagno said.

Among the initiatives is one to establish mechanisms so that rich nations can pardon the debts and help with financial resourses so that countries on their way to development can invest more in health, education and housing and less in arms and soldiers.

In Costa Rica, the Arias government has promised to increase by a third the budget for education, he noted. Education, he said, opens opportunities to attract investments, scientific research and the development of new technologies and tourism.

Costa Rica has proposed a resolution to attack the sexual exploitation of children as one step to create an understanding among the countries over the importance of eradicating this ill, and, he said, he was seeking the support of the assembly countries.

Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the organization, told delegates that a major concern is the lack of technological resources in many nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. He says expanding access to technology is a key step to improving education, governance and other social conditions. He also recognized recent disputes between some member states because of differences over trade, politics or human rights issues.

Insulza said organization members should be able to overcome their differences on trade issues and continue to advance regional integration, while recognizing each other's differences and holding a respectful debate.

One issue already dominating the talks is Peru's complaint that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez interfered in Peru's presidential election campaign. Peru accused Chávez of intervening on behalf of nationalist candidate, Ollanta Humala.

Nicaragua has also accused President Chavez of meddling in its internal politics ahead of presidential elections to be held later this year.


Early morning rain
expected in valley


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans in the Central Valley are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A storm front swept through the area between 6 and 8 p.m. Monday and dumped from a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch in some areas.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted yet another active front from the Pacific.

Meanwhile, both the weather service and the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias are urging citizens to stay on the alert. In fact, the emergency commission amplified its warnings Monday afternoon. An alert has been in effect all weekend.

The central and south Pacific were included due to the likelihood of unstable weather conditions.

The commission was expected another wave of rain to pass through the country early Tuesday with downpours again in the afternoon.

Heavy rains over the weekend caused some damage to homes in Alajuelita, Ipís de Goicoechea, Pavas and Desamparados, the commission said.  Two families had to be relocated in Isís de Goicoechea, the commission said.


Libertarians want change
to avoid salary windfalls


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Movimiento Libertario has called for a change in the law to avoid the kind of 15 million-colon windfall the son of former president Abel Pacheco will receive.

The son, Sergio Pacheco Muñoz, was fired from his director of development job at the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo de la Vertiente Atlántica. This is the government agency that runs the docks in Limón.

The younger Pacheco's $29,000 windfall includes not only vacation pay but a special amount because the junta broke his contract.

The Libertarians note that the firing took place just four days before the Pacheco administration left office. The Libertarians said that in the future such jobs should coincide with the political term of the president to avoid special pay.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 111


 

Discovery of stolen M-16 rifles is a relief to officials
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have recovered 17 of the weapons stolen from the Fuerza Pública delegación in Guácimo a week ago.

Still missing are five handguns that officials think may have been moved on the black market in the Provincia de Limón.

Officials were relieved by the discovery of the 15 M-16 military rifles and two handguns, but they were saddened that the first big case for the new government stemmed from what appears to have been an inside job.

Agents have detained a Fuerza Pública officer with the last names of Diaz Cascante. He is the man who was in charge of the weapons storage area at the Guácimo delegación when the weapons vanished. The theft took place May 27.

Officials are crediting the work of the Unidad de Zapadores for finding the weapons about 4 a.m. Monday. The firearms were buried in a field.  The zapadores, translated as sappers in English, are the officers who had the job of removing land mines from the northern border of the country. The mines were left from the Nicaraguan civil war that spilled over into the northern zone. They work with electronic instruments to find metals.

The Judicial Investigating Organization and the Fuerza Pública staged three raids Sunday in an effort to locate the weapons. Officials were anxious because the M-16s, which can be fired on automatic, are preferred by bank robbers and other violent criminals. Also recovered were more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition, magazines for the M-16s and two .45-caliber pistols.

When the weapons theft was reported, officials mounted an intense search of the area. There were 22 different roadblocks designed to keep thieves

Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Fresh from the earth, eight of the stolen M-16 rifles are displayed by officers.
 
  
from moving the weapons out of the area. During the crackdown, Fuerza Pública officers encountered 10 motorists carrying weapons illegally.

Fernando Berrocal Soto, the security minister, said that the Arias administration is determined to defeat criminality and corruption in the country. "This firm attitude with extreme determination is what is going to characterize this ministry for the next four years," he said.

Still unclear is how Diaz figured he would conceal the crime if he really was involved. As the officer in charge of the area when the weapons vanished, he was the prime suspect. One of the places searched Sunday was his home.

Borrocal's Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública still has a problem with the Arsenal Nacional in Coronado where years of quiet thefts of major weaponry are suspected.


Zoellick confident Dominican Republic will be ready for trade treaty soon
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A number of steps must be taken before the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement can enter into force in the Dominican Republic, but the United Sates hopes it will take place very soon, according to Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

Zoellick discussed the treaty with reporters in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where he attended the Organization of American States General Assembly.  Prior to the opening of the OAS session, he met with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez to discuss the steps necessary to implement the treaty. 

Zoellick, the former U.S. Trade Representative, said that issues relating to government procurement, intellectual property rights and agriculture need to be worked through, but indicated that the United States hopes the agreement can come into effect very soon.

The legislatures of six of the seven free trade treaty governments already have approved the trade pact. Only Costa Rica’s Asamblea Legislativa has yet to ratify the agreement.  President Geroge Bush signed
the bill into U.S. law in August 2005, and the United States has been working with treaty countries to review the status of their implementation efforts. 

As part of this process, U.S. trade officials met with a Dominican delegation in Washington the week of May 29 to discuss that nation’s efforts to implement the treaty. Basically the work in every country is to make adjustments in local laws so that they conform to the multi-national agreement. In Costa Rica this is called the complementary agenda.

“So as someone who was interested in trying to give birth to this free-trade agreement, I'm obviously impatient to get it done, but it's not surprising it takes a little time,” Zoellick said. “My main interest in implementing the free-trade agreement is to help strengthen the Dominican Republic's ability to sell to the United States because I want to help expand opportunity and prosperity in the Dominican Republic.”

Óscar Arias Sánchez, Costa Rica's president, supports the treaty, as do a majority of the 57 legislators in the assembly. The measure still is in a legislative committee for study.


Costa Rican stone sphere is going to Paris for new museum there
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican stone sphere will be part of the exhibits when the new  Museo del Quai Branly in Paris opens June 20.

The Museo Nacional said the new museum is a project of French President  Jacques Chirac, who seeks to
promote a dialogue among cultures.

The stone spheres of southwest Costa Rica are famous and range from baseball size to spheres with a diameter of two meters (6.5 feet).

The museum did not say which type of sphere would be on display in Paris.






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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 111




World Cup seen as stimulant for human trafficking
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The State Department's annual 2006 report on human trafficking around the world notes some progress on the issue last year, although it says the overall situation for what it calls "modern slavery" is still bad. The report also warns Germany over an influx of women being brought into the country to serve as prostitutes during the World Cup.

In introducing this year's congressionally-mandated report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said an estimated 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are victims of human trafficking.

"The harsh reality of human trafficking stuns even the hardest of hearts — stories of the sexual exploitation of young girls, stories of men and women toiling as slave labor in sweatshops, stories of children forced to kill as rebel soldiers," she said. "Defeating human trafficking is a great moral calling of our time."

This year's report lists Belize, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe as countries where governments fail to take effective action to combat human trafficking. 
Costa Rica continues to be listed as a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The State Department's John Miller said there is no way to definitively count the number of human trafficking victims around the world. But, he said an increase in the number of arrests of traffickers is "the start of progress."

"While several years ago, there were just hundreds of traffickers, last year there were about 3,000 convictions of traffickers worldwide," he said. "This year, it's up to around 4,700. That is sending a message, or more of a message anyway, and that is a good sign."

Miller said there is special attention being paid to Germany, even though the report gives the country its highest overall rating for compliance with efforts to stop trafficking.

The U.S. official said there are reports thousands of women are being transported to Germany to serve as prostitutes during the World Cup. He said the German ambassador to the United States has assured him that the government is taking measures to stop trafficking.


What the report says about situation in Costa Rica
Here's what the State Department's human trafficking report says about Costa Rica. For last year's report, look HERE!

Costa Rica is principally a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Cuba, Peru, China, Russia, and the Philippines are trafficked to the country for sexual exploitation; Costa Rican women and children are trafficked within the country for the same purpose.

The government acknowledges that child sex tourism is a serious problem. Costa Rica serves as a transit point for victims trafficked to the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Men, women, and children are also trafficked, usually within the country, for forced labor as domestic servants, agricultural workers, and workers in the fishing industry.

The Government of Costa Rica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Authorities investigated numerous reports of minors trafficked for sexual exploitation, cooperated on international trafficking investigations, and initiated a new public awareness campaign that targeted girls and young women vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.

The government should work with the legislature to pass necessary anti-trafficking laws. It should also improve services for victims and increase investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. When complaints are filed against officials allegedly involved in trafficking, they should be vigorously investigated. The government should also develop a national plan of action and designate an official to lead inter-agency cooperation.

Prosecution
The Government of Costa Rica showed only limited success in enforcement efforts against traffickers during the reporting year, and laws remained inadequate to address all forms of trafficking. Costa Rica lacks an anti-trafficking law; consequently, 
crimes that involve trafficking are difficult to track. A variety of criminal statutes were used against traffickers but the slow judicial system and the lack of trafficking-specific statutes prevented officials from confirming how many cases involving trafficking resulted in convictions in 2005. In practice, law enforcement anti-trafficking efforts focused on commercial sexual exploitation of minors, for which officials reported 37 new investigations during the reporting period.

Authorities cooperated with Nicaraguan and U.S. counterparts in trafficking investigations, but lack of Costa Rican internal government coordination generally hampered enforcement efforts. Although there were indications that some border officials have been involved in trafficking, no reported complaints of trafficking-related corruption were filed during the reporting period.

Protection
The Costa Rican Government’s efforts to protect trafficking victims remained extremely limited during the reporting year, largely due to the lack of resources. The government continued to punish some
victims for unlawful acts they committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. Identified trafficking victims did not face jail, but officials treated some adult victims as illegal migrants and deported them. Foreign nationals identified as trafficking victims could seek repatriation; alternatively, they could apply for work permits or refugee status. Most protective services were severely lacking. The government operated no shelters or health care facilities designated for trafficking victims and lacked the ability to provide even temporary shelter or services. Officials used no standard referral process to transfer trafficking victims to NGOs and the government lacked the capacity to fund NGOs that assisted trafficking victims.

Prevention
The government made some progress on prevention during the year. An existing campaign against child sex tourism continued and a new campaign was launched using television, radio, and billboard notices to warn young women of the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation. The government relied heavily on third parties to raise awareness and provide anti-trafficking training.


Police in Chile use water cannons, teargas against protesting students
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in Chile have used water canons and teargas to disperse student demonstrators calling for educational reform.

About 1,000 students attempted to march through downtown Santiago Monday. They were met by police who broke up the protest.

Students threw rocks at police vehicles and tried to block roads with burning tires.
The protest was smaller than one conducted last week by some 800,000 students. The students demanded free public transportation and fee waivers for college entrance exams. They also wanted reform of the education law created under former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Negotiations between the students and the government ended Friday with no agreement.
President Michelle Bachelet has promised to reduce fares for student bus passes, but rejected demands for free transportation, saying it is too costly.






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