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(506) 223-1327             Published Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 116                E-mail us   
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Country on alert for a day of heavy downpours
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials are bracing for the arrival of a tropical storm front that was predicted to hit Costa Rica early today. The main target of the storm is the Pacific coast, the Valle de El General, the western part of the Central Valley and the southern Caribbean.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias issued an alert Tuesday night, based on reports from the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The weather experts said that the storm front battered Colombia two days earlier and that it was taking its toll on Panamá before heading north.

The weather institute said it expected the storm to
be over Costa Rica for a day and that it would cause instability through the whole country.

The seasonal heavy rains have dumped a lot of water on Costa Rica, particularly in the mountain communities. Desamparados was hit by unusually heavy rains Monday. The proximity of some homes to waterways and the saturated ground could mean trouble.

Álvaro Brenes, the emergency commission meteorologist reported that the passing of the front will generate heavy storm clouds and heavy downpours, the commission said.

Since the storm is moving south to north, the first places to feel the effect will be the southern part of the country, including the Caribbean and the south Pacific.



Escazú bandits are doing surveys before they invade
By Arnoldo Cob Mora
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three to five times a week bandits invade homes in Escazú and Santa Ana. Frequently they end up leaving with portable computers and certain valuable household electronic items.

The head of the Fuerza Pública in the Escazú area said Tuesday that the robbers are not flying blind. They may have called the home or even visited it personally beforehand to find out what kind of electronic items might be there.

The policeman, Teniente Ronny Sánchez, said that the crooks pretend they are doing a survey. They call the home and ask persons there what kind of devices they might be using. They use the same technique when they visit in person, said the policeman.

The fake surveys give the bandits an idea of what loot they may encounter.
The latest home hit by crooks is in Urbanización Cerro Alto, Guachipelín de Escazú. This is the home of Yorleny Calvo Chávez, who was in the home about 7 p.m. Monday when three bandits burst in.

They had guns and tied up the homeowner as well as a minor who also was there. The bandits took two laptops, a video camera, two electronic agendas and a safe containing jewelry and dollars and colons worth about $740.

Sánchez said that residents have to be alert when someone calls or visits saying he or she represents a firm selling home appliances. Residents also should call police quickly when they see a vehicle being handled in a suspicious way.

The assessment of the number of home invasions every week in the western suburbs is based on a reporter's daily contact with police agencies in that area. The individual news stories usually are published in a day or two after the crime.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 116

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One step is eliminated
for construction approval


By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Salud acted Tuesday to simplify the approval process for new, single-family homes.

From now on, home builders will not need a separate OK from the health ministry. Instead, a sworn statement from the architect or engineer responsible for the work will be sufficient.

The ministry made the announcement the same day that a decree streamlining the official process found its way into the La Gaceta official newspaper. In the past, plans had to be presented to the health ministry, which could take up to 10 days to review them.

Plans still will have to go to the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos de Costa Rica. The submission can be in hard copies or via the Internet, said officials. Once approved there, the plans go to the municipality where the actual construction permit is issued.

Jorge Woodbridge, vice minister of Economía y Industria y Comercio, said that the reduction in the time of the approval process will save about 64,000 colons ($123) for a smaller home and about 190,000 colons ($365) for a larger structure. Among the reasons for the savings will be less time in the approval process, from 24 to 9 days, and because only one set of plans will have to be submitted instead of the previous three.

Drug search at high school
turns up only 'traces'


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than a dozen policemen and an anti-drug dog paid a surprise visit on a Cartago high school Tuesday in search of drugs.

The searchers found only what they said were traces that drugs had been in the institution.

The school was the Liceo Elías Leiva en Tejar, El Guarco, where the director had invited the police. Officials said they would make surprise inspections on more schools.

The policemen searched the backpacks of students. In addition to Fuerza Públicas officers, representatives of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia also participated. That is the child protection agency.

Cartago bus stop placed
in bad area, lawmaker says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawmaker said that bus passengers in Cartago are endangered because the bus stop has been moved five blocks south into an area of high insecurity.

The lawmaker is Carlos Gutiérrez Gómez of the Movimiento Libertario. He said that the bus stop was moved from the vicinity of Avenida 4 by construction work for the city's newest pedestrian walkway.

Now passengers are being robbed and women who use the bus are the object of catcalls and worse from the people who inhabit that area, he said. The lawmaker made his complaints in a letter to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The bus service is by Lumaca.

Gutiérrez asked that the ministry relocate the bus stop to a more secure area.

Sharing of frequencies
is fine, commitee is told


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión is ready to share its ferequencies with the Universidad Estatal al Distancia for the airing of cultural and educational programs.

That was the word Tuesday from Alicia Fournier, executive director of the radio and television system. She appeared before the Comisión de Ciencia y Tecnología where the sharing of the frequencies is being considered as part of a proposed law.

The university plans to use the transmission also to provide classes. As part of the deal, the radio and television system will have the right to use 25 percent of the time for its own programs.

The university uses the system's frequencies now, but the proposal will give it wider coverage, up to 95 percent of the national territory.


New Costa Rican consulate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is opening a new consulate in Rivas, Nicaragua, and the new office will be administered from San José. The office will be inaugurated Thursday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 116

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Latin initiative would work with local banks
U.S. Treasury plans to earmark $150 million for small firms

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The head of the U.S. Treasury announced a new program to increase the number of loans available to small businesses in Latin America Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said only one out of 10 small businesses in the region has access to bank loans and other financing, which makes it hard for them to expand, prosper and create jobs.

Paulson says this program will help banks develop the skills needed to properly assess whether or not small businesses will be able to repay loans.  It also offers to share some of the risks associated with loans to small businesses.

And it will make $150 million, or more, available to support such efforts across Latin America.

Banks are often more comfortable lending to larger companies that have collateral, formal financial statements and documentation, the Treasury Department noted.

The Inter-American Development Bank will work with selected interested and eligible banks to provide tailored
technical assistance to expand small business lending, said the department.

The Overseas Private Investment Corp., the U.S. government agency responsible for promoting social and economic development, will offer risk-sharing guarantees and loans to eligible banks to extend their financing activity for small and medium-sized businesses in the region, said the department.

The corporation will guarantee bond issues so financial institutions can raise funds for loans, and it will guarantee loan portfolios

The corporation said it expects that $150 million will be available for small-business loans through these vehicles.

The Treasury Department's Office of Technical Assistance will work with local officials to ensure that small business lending is not unnecessarily constrained by burdensome regulations or bureaucracy, said the department.

An estimated 80 percent of the volume of lending under this initiative will be composed of loans under $100,000, the department added.


Caja union worried about who will pay for job at Hospital Calderón Guardia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union of employees of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social expressed concern Tuesday that the government now has a $10 million deficit in the budget to reconstruct part of Hospital Calderón Guardia.

The Government of Taiwan promised $15 million but has only paid $5 million, said the union, the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social. Costa Rica broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan June 1, and that government said it would not make any more donations to this country.

The surgical wing and a significant part of the hospital was destroyed in an arson fire early July 12, 2003.
Luis Chavarría, secretary general of the union, said that after months of uncertainty Taiwan stepped forward to make a major donation for construction, and now he said he is not even sure what happened to the $5 million that was paid.

Meanwhile, the government is struggling to readjust its budget for next year in light of the break in relations with the Asian country. Officials hope that the People's Republic, which now is recognized as China by Costa Rica, will make some donations. Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister, has pledged to find the money that would have been paid by Taiwan.

As reported Tuesday, the government said it would guarantee the completion of the San Carlos highway, which also was being financed in part by Taiwan. Rodrigo
Calderon fire
A.M. Costa Rica file photo      
Calderón Guardia blaze destroyed this wing.

Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, met with northern zone leaders at Casa Presidencial. It appears that the government will seek to borrow some $15 million from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration. The project is continuing and the price tag is $90 million.


Just a favor for some friends turns out to be credit card fraud
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The latest credit card fraud was sort of an inside job involving a company that distributed the plastic devices.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that agents have arrested a 25-year-old man who used to work at a company that issued credit cards. He was let go in September and took a job with another financial institution, said investigators.

The man was able to convince a 35-year-old woman, a former coworker at the credit card issuer, to do him a favor. He said he had five friends who could not visit her institution because of work commitments. So he provided
what proved to be faked photocopies of identification documents, and the woman produced the credit cards as he asked, said investigators.

The man had other plans in mind, and took the newly minted credit cars and went on a spending spree and withdrew money on the strength of the cards, said investigators. He ran up a 2 million-colon tab, they said. That's about $3,850.

The man who was not identified immediately came into law enforcement hands Tuesday morning at his home in Barrio Pinto. He recently had left his new job. The woman involved in making the cards was fired by her employer, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 116

'The Secret' offers a shortcut for getting American dream
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new self-help craze called "The Secret" is sweeping the hemisphere. Like many other personal development programs, it aims to harness the power of positive thinking.

"The Secret" is introduced by a DVD, a Web site or a book. The intro says: "The secret was hidden, the secret was banned."

It looks like a promo for the "Da Vinci Code." What is "The Secret?" It is at least a concept that is winning the attention of the media and the loyalty of legions of devotees. Publisher Simon and Schuster say the book version is selling 150,000 copies per week.

"The Secret" also has been featured at gatherings in Costa Rica.

In Washington D.C. a group sprung up on the Internet so that like-minded fans of "The Secret" can discuss the ideas in depth.

One fan of "The Secret" is Tammy Phelps. She shares her reaction. "When I watched it on the DVD, it really just opened up my whole inner being about where I was, where I wanted to be, what I wasn't doing, what I needed to do."

Chris Wise started the group. He expects "The Secret" to enrich both his personal life, and his business endeavors. "It's a concept that I think many people may have heard of before but never really knew how to use it. And I think the way "The Secret" packages it and explains it really just simplifies it and makes people say. 'Wow, this does make sense'."

But what is "The Secret"? The entrepreneurs and authors featured on the DVD say it is based on something called the Law of Attraction.

It is as simple as this — if you focus on what you fear or dislike, say debts, for instance, that is what you will get.

But by focusing on what you want, you will attract those things — or manifest them — into your life. Some critics
secret DVD
Web sites offer the DVD instantly or for delivery.

say the message is selfish and encourages people to focus on their own needs, rather than the greater good.

But Wise disagrees. "It's not just me. It's not my will that is creating it. It is a co-manifestation or co-creation. It's realizing that it's not going to happen on my timetable, that I'm connected to a larger source and I'm connected to everyone else through this larger source. So it can be a very spiritual thing."

While some say it is spiritual, there is no mention of any kind of god in "The Secret."

Cultural critics such as Paul Smith say it has more to do with Americans wanting to have some control in their lives, and aiming for the material success that is part of the American dream. "If you actually manage to manifest that new Coach bag, then you've done some magic. But you haven't done it by praying, you've just done it by living in the world. And you are learning how to control the world. So the message really is — you can be a normal person living in the world and yet you can still get all those things out there that are promised to us."

In a country where abundance is the norm, perhaps it is no surprise that some Americans are looking for shortcuts — like "The Secret" — to get their piece of the pie.


Hugo Chávez makes another visit to be at side of recovering Fidel Castro
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban state television says Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has made a surprise visit to Cuba to meet with his friend and ally, Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

The media report Tuesday said Chávez also is to meet with acting Cuban President Raúl Castro, who has been head of the Cuban government since Fidel Castro temporarily transferred power to him last July after undergoing intestinal surgery.
Last week, Bolivian President Evo Morales was on the island for meetings with Fidel and Raúl Castro. He said Fidel appears to have recovered well from the surgery.

Cuban television recently broadcast Fidel Castro's first television interview since the surgery. In the pre-recorded piece, Fidel spoke slowly and did not say whether he plans to resume the day-to-day duties as president.

The 80-year-old Cuban leader has not appeared in public since the transfer of power last year.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 116


A lot of U.S. friends in the Middle East are major traffickers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and staff contributions

The State Department's annual report on human trafficking worldwide ranked several of the United States' Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, in the lowest category and subject to possible sanctions. In sheer volume of cases, India was said to have the world's worst trafficking problem.

The State Department's rankings, mandated by an act of Congress in 2000, authorize only mild sanctions for the worst offenders, and officials here say the main purpose of the exercise is to focus attention on the problem of human trafficking, including forced labor and the international sex trade.

At a news conference introducing the report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said partly because of the annual assessments more countries are beginning to see human trafficking for what it is, a modern-day form of slavery.

"I am proud that our office in just a few short years has brought global attention to this problem. Millions more people know about human trafficking today than when the first report was issued in 2001. And we hope that this greater awareness translates into greater prevention," she said

Rice paid tribute to several governments including Georgia, Hungary, Slovenia, Israel, Taiwan, Indonesia, Brazil and Bolivia which she said have moved to tackle trafficking problems raised in previous U.S. reports.

But she also lamented what she said was disturbing evidence that trafficking prosecutions around the world have leveled off over the past year, and she said in some countries with major problems only a couple of offenders have been prosecuted.

The 2007 report, rating 164 countries in all, lists 16 countries in its lowest "Tier 3" category, making them subject to possible cutoffs of non-humanitarian U.S. aid, if applicable.

Among countries getting the lowest grade for the first time were U.S. Gulf allies Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar along with Algeria, Equatorial Guinea and Malaysia. They joined long-standing offenders including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Burma, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.

Secretary Rice's new senior adviser on trafficking in persons, Mark Lagon, said the listing of the many wealthy Gulf Arab states reflects a chronic problem in the region, which imports large numbers of foreign workers.

"What we found as a general pattern in this report is an endemic problem in the way foreign workers are treated in the Persian Gulf, in Middle Eastern States," said Lagon.

"There is a recruitment pattern of unsuspecting people who are offered jobs as secretaries, maids. They end up being
 sex slaves or put into domestic servitude in an involuntary way. That is seen throughout the region," he continued.

Lagon said India has the world's largest problem with hundreds of thousands of sex trafficking victims, and millions of bonded laborers including children, and no national anti-trafficking effort.

India was ranked for a fourth consecutive year in the report's second worst category, the so-called Tier 2 Watch List. Lagon said India could be downgraded unless the New Delhi government, with which the United States has increasingly close ties, becomes more responsive.

Monitoring and making efforts against human trafficking are many non-government agencies, and this is big buisness.

For example, U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide are arranging screenings for foreign audiences of several films that "vividly display the evils of trafficking in persons, the modern-day equivalent of slavery," said the State Department.

This film program is designed to raise global awareness of how trafficking victims are used for sexual exploitation or forced labor, according to the State Department. One selection is a full-length feature movie entitled "Human Trafficking."  It was produced in 2005 by the Lifetime Channel and stars award-winning actors Donald Sutherland and Mira Sorvino. 

The movie tells the story of unsuspecting individuals who are lured into an international sex-trafficking ring by ruthless criminals.  The movie follows the investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (played by Sorvino and Sutherland), who break up an international human-trafficking ring and rescue victims.

Since fiscal year 2001, the United States has funded more than $448 million for international anti-trafficking projects, including some in Costa Rica, said the State Department.

Of Costa Rica, the report says the country "is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Russia, Bulgaria, and the Philippines are trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation.

"Young men from Nicaragua are trafficked to Costa Rica for labor exploitation. Costa Rican women and children are trafficked internally and to El Salvador, Guatemala, Japan, and the United States for sexual exploitation."

The State Department uses the broad term "trafficking" even for those persons who travel voluntarily to engage in prostitution or seek work.

However, in one recent case Costa Rican officials took action against what was an organized effort to bring Chinese nationals into the country to work at low-paying jobs working with Chinese-run firms..


Text of U.S. reports on Costa Rica and Nicaragua
Here is what the U.S. State Department said about Costa Rica and Nicaragua in its human traffickng report released Tuesday. The bulk of the material comes from local embassies.

COSTA RICA (Tier 2)

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Panama, Russia, Bulgaria, and the Philippines are trafficked into the country for sexual exploitation. Young men from Nicaragua are trafficked to Costa Rica for labor exploitation. Costa Rican women and children are trafficked internally and to El Salvador, Guatemala, Japan, and the United States for sexual exploitation. The government identifies child sex tourism as 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 also are trafficked within the country for forced labor in agriculture and fishing, and as domestic servants. Chinese nationals have been trafficked to Costa Rica for forced labor.

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. In 2006, the government took important steps to confront public complicity with human trafficking in a high-profile case, and increased trafficking prevention efforts nationwide. In the coming year, the government should intensify its efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and to convict and sentence trafficking offenders. The government also should work with the legislature to pass necessary amendments to prohibit all forms of trafficking, and provide greater protection for victims.

Prosecution
The Government of Costa Rica showed limited success in enforcement efforts against traffickers during the reporting year. Costa Rica does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, although Article 172 of its criminal code criminalizes transnational trafficking and prescribes a punishment of three to six years' imprisonment for this offense. Trafficking in minors is prohibited by Article 376, and carries penalties of two to four years' imprisonment. However, Costa Rican law does not adequately address the internal trafficking of adults, and while current penalties are sufficiently stringent, they are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the government has proposed legislative reforms to its anti-trafficking laws; the Costa Rican legislature should make every effort to pass such changes this year. During the reporting period, a variety of criminal statutes were used against traffickers, but data on trafficking convictions will not be available until later this year. However, since August 2006, the judicial police opened five investigations into international trafficking organizations, and continued a number of earlier investigations. In January 2007, authorities arrested eight people in connection with a Chinese organization suspected of trafficking people to Costa Rica for labor exploitation; importantly, immigration officials rebuffed attempts by this ring to bribe them, instead cooperating with police in an undercover sting operation to arrest the traffickers. Authorities cooperated with neighboring countries, Interpol, and U.S. counterparts on international trafficking investigations. No complaints of trafficking-related corruption were filed during the reporting period.

Protection
The Costa Rican government's efforts to protect trafficking victims remained limited during the reporting year. There are no specialized shelters for trafficking victims, although the government did fund an NGO working with victims of sexual exploitation. Protective services overall are severely lacking, and there are no formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons detained for prostitution or immigration violations. The government did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However officials treated some adult victims as illegal migrants and deported them without taking steps to determine if they were victims. Foreign nationals identified as trafficking victims could be repatriated, or apply for work permits or refugee status. Costa Rican authorities encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers.

Prevention
The government made additional progress on prevention activities during the reporting year. President Arias condemned human trafficking in public statements, and the government acknowledges the serious nature of the problem. Campaigns against child sex tourism continued, in addition to television, radio, and billboard notices designed to warn young women of the dangers of commercial sexual exploitation. With international assistance, the government launched a national hotline in February 2007 for potential victims to receive information about trafficking. The hotline project is accompanied by a widespread TV and radio campaign featuring Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.



NICARAGUA (Tier 2)

Nicaragua is principally a source country for women and children trafficked internally and across borders for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Exploitation of minors in prostitution is believed to be the most prevalent form of internal trafficking. Some Nicaraguan victims are trafficked to neighboring countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States; El Salvador and Guatemala are the primary foreign destinations for young Nicaraguan women and girls trafficked for sexual exploitation. Young men from border areas in southern Nicaragua also are trafficked to Costa Rica for labor exploitation; some Nicaraguan children are trafficked internally for forced labor as domestic servants. The government acknowledges that human trafficking for sexual exploitation and child sex tourism are significant problems; both phenomena appear to be growing in Nicaragua, especially in border towns and tourist destinations.

The Government of Nicaragua does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking;  however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During 
Secretary Rice
U.S. State Department photo
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discusses the release of the 7th Annual Department of State 'Trafficking in Persons Report.'

the reporting period, the government took strong steps to prevent human trafficking by sponsoring high-profile media and education campaigns, and expanding anti-trafficking training for police personnel nationwide. In the coming year, Nicaragua should intensify its law enforcement efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence human traffickers, especially in light of an increasing number of victims trafficked within the country. The government should also make every effort to bring its new anti-trafficking law into force, and continue to work closely with NGOs to improve victim services. Any identified acts of public complicity with human trafficking should be vigorously investigated, and any such corrupt officials should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.

Prosecution
The Government of Nicaragua increased efforts to investigate human trafficking during the reporting period, although its progress in bringing traffickers to justice remained uneven. Nicaragua does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though it criminalizes trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation through Article 203 of its criminal code, which prescribes punishments of three to five years' imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent. In April 2006, the National Assembly passed a bill, which will be codified as Article 182 of the Nicaraguan penal code, to prohibit trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation, in addition to other sex-related crimes such as child pornography and the sexual exploitation of minors younger than 18. However, these new laws are not yet in force because they must be passed by the Legislature as part of a larger package of penal code reforms. Nicaragua's proposed anti-trafficking law, Article 182, prescribes penalties of 7 to 10 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent, and commensurate with those for other grave crimes. However, current and proposed laws do not adequately prohibit the trafficking of adults or children for forced labor. During the reporting period, the government investigated 24 trafficking cases, all involving sexual exploitation - a three-fold increase from seven known investigations reported in 2005. Of these, the government prosecuted four cases, obtaining convictions of five defendants who were sentenced to a range of 4 to 10 years' imprisonment. However, the government experienced difficulties in other cases. For example, in a prosecution in Bluefields, a judge convicted two of three defendants for trafficking a 15-year-old girl, but the defendants fled before their jail sentences were imposed. Additional training for judges and prosecutors would likely aid prosecution efforts.

In 2006, the government rescued seven Nicaraguan children from trafficking situations in Guatemala and El Salvador. Police also raided 22 nightclubs and other establishments catering to Nicaragua's sex trade in an effort to rescue exploited children. However, there were reports that some police turned a blind eye to potential trafficking activity. Known corruption in the court system and lack of witness protection may deter some trafficking victims from seeking justice. Credible evidence also indicates that sensitive sex trafficking cases involving senior government officials may not be investigated or pursued. In 2006, Nicaraguan authorities made concerted efforts to extend anti-trafficking training to more than 700 law-enforcement officials across the country. However, the recent resignation of Nicaragua's director of anti-trafficking programs is of concern; her strong commitment to combating human trafficking led the government's actions on this issue.

Protection
The government's protection efforts remained inadequate during the reporting period. Nicaraguan authorities continued to rely on NGOs and international organizations for the bulk of victim services, although the Ministry of the Family operates a shelter for child victims of abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. There are no government-run or -financed shelters for adult victims of trafficking. Social stigma and anti-victim bias may be discouraging some victims from assisting in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, although Nicaraguan authorities do not prevent victims from doing so. Greater support services for victims and sensitization campaigns (especially for judges, police, and prosecutors) would help in this area. There were no reports of victims being jailed or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked Nicaragua has no formal procedures for identifying trafficking  victims among vulnerable populations, such as persons detained for immigration violations. The government does not provide temporary or permanent residency or other relief from deportation for foreign adult victims of trafficking.

Prevention
The government increased efforts to raise public awareness during the reporting period. High-level government officials, including the newly-elected vice president, have condemned human trafficking; the vice president was a key player in moving anti-trafficking legislation before the National Assembly. The government also worked closely with international organizations and the Ricky Martin Foundation to launch a broad anti-trafficking education campaign and a 24-hour anti-trafficking hotline in November 2006; the government provides resources and personnel to operate the hotline. Within two months of operation, 690 calls related to child trafficking were received. The government continued to sponsor an anti-child trafficking education program in Granada, a suspected site of child sex tourism. The government also installed closed-circuit televisions to show anti-trafficking videos at immigration centers in Managua; the government estimates these videos reach 1,000 travelers per day during peak periods.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 116



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