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These stories were published Tuesday, July 1, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 128
Jo Stuart
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Canadian Day parties
are tripleheader

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Canada Day, and Canadians here and elsewhere are marking the 135th anniversary of the creation of that country from a former British colony. They will have a third chance Saturday.

Canadians permanent residents in Costa Rica are probably more than the 3,300 estimated by the last census. That’s only about one-third of the U.S. citizens estimated to be permanent residents here. But the Canadians seem to be more than their numbers would indicate in business and social activities.

And they generally are generous when mistaken for U.S. citizens.

Canadians celebrate their day, too, with fireworks, although not here today. The Canada Day party was Sunday, typical of Canadian pragmatism and planning. The holiday was called Dominion Day through 1982.

The Canadians get a third chance because the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, which is housed in Casa Canada, plans a celebration for all nationalities July 5 near Playas del Coco.

Tickets are available at the gate and all proceeds earned from the festival go to the sixth-grade class of Ciudad Blanca Bilingual School for a trip to the United States this September. 

This is the second time that the residents association set up a Canada Day-U.S. Independence Day for residents of the Guanacaste area. The party  from noon to 7 p.m. is hosted by the Hahn and Brown families for the association.

Organizers are quick to point out that their event is open to everyone. A free event July 4 

White House photo
The best we can do for fireworks today

set up west of San José by the American Colony Committee is only for U.S. citizens. 

"There is something for everyone at this festival: a horseshoe tournament, longest drive, adult games, kid games, bingo, raffles, food, and more," said a brief release from the Playas del Coco organizers.

The location is several kilometers east of Playas del Coco on the main road into that beach community, and the event is located in a broad field and would be hard to miss. 

Tickets are 3,500 colons for adults and 2,500 colons for youngsters with a 500-colon surcharge for tickets purchased at the gate.

Tickets are available at: Brown Residence, Ciudad Blanca Bilingual School,
Nacazcol, Papagayo Do It Center, ReMax Coco, ReMax Hermosa and Villa Pescador, said organizers.

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President gives talk
catching up on issues

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco said that he is in good shape and ready to go back to work.

The president took to the airwaves Monday to bring his message to Costa Ricans after his week-long enforced rest.

"Costa Ricans, I am here again to serve you as I have done during all my life, always speaking the truth, acting with fondness for the Costa Rican values and with a sincere humanistic commitment for the causes of the Costa Ricans," Pacheco said.

But all was not well. Just a few hours earlier, the nation learned that one of his advisers, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, had quit. Arias is the brother of Oscar Arias Sánchez. the former president and Nobel Peace prize winner who is considering a second run at the presidency.

Rodrigo Arias got heat from associates of his brother for helping Pacheco. Oscar Arias would be less flexible in criticizing the Pacheco administration if his brother were still working there.

Pacheco made no mention of the defection in his talk.  Pacheco said his health was good for a man with diabetes and hypertension. He also praised the work of the Comisión de Control y Ordenamiento del Gasto Público that gave its report last Thursday.

The commission said it had found many weak spots in the nation’s financial controls. Pacheco said the findings must be submitted to a "serene debate" to determine how to act on the recommendations.

Pacheco also reviewed the results of two strikes, one by communication works and another by teachers.

The teachers went back to school Monday but the matter of changes in pensions still has not yet been resolved by the Asamblea Nacional. Pacheco said the communication worked, employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad now have the most investment capital ever to continue to build the country. He promised to continue to support the government monopoly.

Pacheco also urged those with medical conditions such as his to exercise regularly.

Louisiana delegation
promoting football

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Louisiana trade and tourism delegation is coming to town, and part of the plans include football workshops with representatives of the New Orleans Saints National Football League team.

Students between 8 and 15 years are invited to participate at a 10 a.m. session and a noon session both Wednesday and Thursday at the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana.

The visit marks the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase when Napoleon made what may be the worst real estate deal in history. He sold 800,000 square miles that later became parts of 15 U.S. states in a deal negotiated by Thomas Jefferson.

A release from the U.S. Embassy said the Louisiana visitors would hold a lunch about commercial opportunities in Louisiana Wednesday at noon in the Hotel Marriott west of San José.

The mascots for the Saints and the Hornets National Basketball Association team will visit the Hospital Nacional de Niños Wednesday at 2 p.m. There are other public appearances scheduled.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. state representatives will pitch tourism there to agencies here.

Deputies set priorities
for legislative action

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Political leaders from all parties in the Asamblea Nacional have given high priority to reforms in laws relating to security guards, to the criminal code, to crimes against women, to fighting sexual exploitation and to fighting corruption and illegal enrichment by public officials.

Lawmakers also said a free trade treaty with the United States, fiscal reform and external debt also had the top priority.

The listing of priorities, from the highest to the lowest, was done and submitted to a vote of deputies.

Castro urged to give
dissidents pardons

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The U.N. human rights representative for Cuba has urged President Fidel Castro to pardon 50 dissidents sentenced to long prison terms.

The United Nations says Christine Chanet made the appeal to Castro after Cuba's high court earlier in the week upheld their sentences of between six and 28 years. Another 25 activists have appeals pending.

Cuba began its latest opposition crackdown in mid-March, when 75 pro-democracy activists were rounded up and then given stiff jail sentences following summary trials. The government has accused them of conspiring with the United States to undermine Castro. However, the activists deny the charges. 

Ms. Chanet, who was appointed to her position in January, has yet to visit the Communist island. 

Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
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Rogelio Ramos wears a broad smile as he inspects some of the cocaine U.S. and Tico anti-drug forces snagged when they grabbed a Colombian boat (inset) in Costa Rican waters.

Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photos/Humberto Ballestero
Anti-drug patrols make big haul with Colombian fishing boat
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eight sailors captured when anti-drug forces boarded their fishing boat in Costa Rican waters probably will go to the United States for trial.

Costa Rican and U.S. coast guardsmen found 1,300 kilos (2,860 pounds) of cocaine hidden in the vessel, the Carlos David, which flew a Colombian 

flag. The seizure was made by the U.S. Coast Guard some 100 miles west of Punta Burica in the Pacific over the weekend, officials here said.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Seguridad Pública, made a trip to the Pacific Monday to inspect the cocaine. Officials were quick to point out that the joint Costa Rican-U.S. operation was part of a joint anti-drug agreement between the two countries.

Malnutrition answer: Let them drink rice bran
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A U.S. business has come up with a rice drink to help address malnutrition and other health conditions in Central America.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. will provide a $6 million loan to RiceX, a bio-tech company based in California, to establish a plant in Nicaragua that will be able to supply up to one million children in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador with a rice-based nutritious drink.

"This project offers an opportunity for a U.S. small business to help the people of Central America become self-sufficient in their ability to address malnutrition," Dr. Peter Watson, head of the investment corporation, said in a release.

The drink will be sold commercially to pre-school lunch programs as well as regional companies for use in diabetes and cholesterol treatments. The cost of providing the drink would be less than six cents per day per individual, the press release said. 

The release gave this summary:

RiceX has developed RiceX Proprietary Technologies equipment and processes which convert rice bran into highly nutritious, easily-digested foods. Rice bran is the nutritious outer portion of the rice kernel that is removed through the rice milling process during its conversion from brown to white rice.

During the milling process, enzymes found in the rice bran begin to break down the oil in the bran at a very rapid rate, resulting in rancid food. The RiceX stabilization process deactivates these enzymes, leaving virtually all of the nutrients intact and yielding stabilized rice bran with a three-year shelf life. 

Another RiceX product, RiceX Solubles, which is made from RiceX's stabilized rice bran, provides nutrients that can be used to address cardiovascular health, diabetes, cancer, and other health conditions, said the release.

RiceX has already provided RiceX Solubles to Guatemalan school-age children for a year. A subsequent study showed that 100 percent of the children classified with acute malnutrition improved to normal or 'low-risk' malnutrition state, the release said.

Conference will study vulnerability of Latin hospitals to disasters
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A conference next week in El Salvador will examine the difficulties of hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean located in areas prone to earthquakes and hurricanes.

The conference will discuss how to mitigate the effects of natural disasters on hospitals in high-risk regions. About one-half of the 15,000 hospitals in the region are in high-risk areas, said the Pan American Heath Organization, which is hosting the conference. In the last 20 years, more than 100 hospitals and at least 1,000 health-care centers in the region were damaged as a consequence of natural disasters, said the health agency.

Recent natural disasters in the Americas — including Hurricane Mitch, a landslide in Venezuela, and an earthquake in El Salvador — "have yielded valuable lessons regarding damage to health-care facilities and solutions to lessen the impact on critical infrastructure,"  the agency said. 

The direct cost of natural disasters in the Americas has been enormous, said the agency. Not only were

health services lost, including the interruption of urgently needed health services, but in some cases the collapse of hospitals caused the death of their occupants, the agency said.

Existing regulations concerning the design and construction of health-care facilities must be revised and enforced, reorienting them toward disaster mitigation, "with the ultimate goal of protecting the lives of patients, staff, and other occupants and ensuring that these facilities can continue to function during and after" a disaster, said the agency.

The U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and other international organizations are among those scheduled to participate in the conference, entitled "Hospitals in Disasters: Handle With Care."

The objectives of the meeting in San Salvador include making recommendations on hospital evacuation in disaster situations, and the use of field hospitals to provide immediate medical care to victims of natural disasters when regular hospitals are evacuated.

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