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These stories were published Tuesday, July 27, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 147
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Four die in hostage-taking at Embassy of Chile
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
10:40 p.m. Tuesday

Four persons are dead late Tuesday at the Embassy of Chile in San José after a standoff of more than six hours.

One of the dead is the Fuerza Pública officer who took 10 hostages just before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The three other victims are all from Chile. They include the consul of the embassy, the first secretary and a clerical secretary.

The seven who were not harmed include Costa Ricans, citizens of Chile and a Nicaraguan.

The dead are Cristhian Juseff, the Chilean consul in the embassy;  Roberto Nieto, the first secretary and Rocío Sariego, the secretary.

The embassy is 200 meters north of Avenida Central in Barrio Dent in San José east side not far from Mall San Pedro.

The hostage taker is José Orlando Jiménez Jiménez, 54, who worked as the police officer assigned to guard the premises for  five years.

Popular Anglo-Gringo hangout gets the boot
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There may be political conventions, floods and earthquakes elsewhere, but the big news in the Central Valley is that El Che’s is being forced to close.

Co-owner Mark Sansom confirmed this Monday night and said the situation was basically an eviction that he and his partner, Lofty Tweedale, have been fighting for some time.

The bar and restaurant is a gathering place with a British atmosphere, mostly because both owners and a good number of the patrons are British.  The restaurant is well known for moderately priced steaks grilled on the outdoor fire Argentine style. 

The location is just south (up the hill) from Mas X Menos in San Rafael de Escazú. The pair have operated there for more than five years.

Sansom said the last night would be Saturday at which time he hopes to say goodbye to his customers — at least for awhile. Sansom said he was looking for a replacement location but that prices in Escazú have become expensive and that the municipality is placing additional restrictions on the sale and rental of liquor licenses.

"It’s and end of an era," he said. The pair were served legal papers Monday by the property owner who is believed to be considering development of the site. The two men ran a restaurant across the street for several years before experiencing a similar dislocation.


 
Robbery try near Juan Santamaría Airport ends in death
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two robbers tried to attack a couple stargazing from a pickup outside Juan Santamaría International Airport Sunday night, but one of the attackers ended up dead when the man in the vehicle pulled a gun and defended himself.
The operator of the pickup ended up in the hospital with two bullet wounds.

The Fuerza Pública was quick to point out that the couple was in an area where signs forbid parking vehicles. This is the areas between the Autopista General Cañas and the airport property frequently used in the daytime by persons watching aircraft come and go.

The Fuerza Pública said that the prohibition against parking is also to avoid robberies like the one that was attempted about 10 p.m. 

The dead man has not yet been identified, but he appears to be about 25. He suffered a stomach wound.

The driver of the vehicle was identified as Oldemar Solano Solórzano, 32.

The action took place on the north side of the chainlink fence that surrounds the airport. Solano was accompanied by a woman passenger who gave police a detailed account.

When the two men approached in a menacing way, Solano pulled out his own gun and began firing. His vehicle was riddled with bullets, and he suffered a wound in the chest and leg. He was in stable condition at the Hospital de Alajuela.

The second presumed robber fled.


 
Fiber optic link throughout Central America advances
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An agreement to advance with a Mesoamerican information highway was reached Monday between the Comisión de Telecomunicaciones de Centroamérica and development banks.

The project will route a fiber optic connection among all the capital cities of Central America and the southern part of México.

The lead lender is the International Development Bank, according to a release from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Costa

Rica’s telecommunications giant known as ICE.
The $680,000 agreed to Monday is for consultancy services in building the network.

The telecommunications commission is meeting in Costa Rica for its 33rd session.  Pablo Cobb, executive president of ICE, was nominated as director general of the Central American group. Joel Gutiérrez, head of TELCOR of Nicaragua, was nominated as vice president.

The commission was set up in 1966 to promote integration of telecommunication among the Central American nations.

 
 
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Belt-tightening ordered
by economic officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Banco Central acknowledged Monday what every Costa Rican already knows. Things are getting more expensive.

The bank said that it would tighten interest rates slightly and step up the rate of programmed devaluation of the colon currency.

The bank had predicted economic growth at about 4.5 percent for the year. The reality will be closer to 4 percent. Inflation, predicted to be 9 percent is running at an annual rate of 11 percent, the bank said.

Two factors have influenced the economy. The world price of oil has at least doubled and the effect is seen on fuel prices as well as other imports that use oil. Costa Rica has declined to exploit possible oil reserves in the Caribbean for environmental reasons.

Exports took a hit with lower demand for and exportation of microchips.

The central bank will ratchet up the daily devaluation from .15 colons to .17 colons a day, .01 higher than last year. This will make dollars slightly more expensive.

The bank also will increase by 1 percent to 11 percent the reserves which banks must maintain as of Sept. 1. An additional 1 percent will be required by Oct. 1. This will take more money out of circulation.

Costa Ricans have seen a flurry of price hikes, including almost weekly increases in gasoline. But water and electricity also have risen or soon will as well as basic foods.

Boy shoots himself
in Talamanca area

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 16-year-old Talamancan Indian youth died Sunday after he slipped and shot himself with a rifle in a remote, mountainous area. The youth’s 8-year-old sister hiked three hours to get him help, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The Fuerza Pública identified the youth as Freddy Ellis Vargas. He shot himself in the groin when he slipped while hunting, officials said. The area is known as Sakí Nawi in the High Talamanca.

When medical help arrived, a doctor found that the youth had died. The weapon was a .22 caliber rifle. Indians carried the body to Suretka, in Bri Bri de Talamanca where officials transported the youth to the morgue for an autopsy.

Government takes over
in case of sick kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children found last week to be infected by syphilis in a private shelter will be transferred to a governmental living unit, according to Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez and executive director of the Patronato National de la Infancia, the child welfare agency.

This measure follows a recommendation from Patronato advisers.

Minister Gil said the investigation continues to determine how the children became infected. The children were in a Cartago area home when doctors discovered the disease.

The investigation is expected to determine if the children were infected via sexual transmission or if they received the disease from their mother at birth.

Offshore quake felt in valley

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.2-magnitude earthquake took place Monday about 2 p.m. offshort from Quepos in the Pacific. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico said the depth was about 22 miles. The tremor was felt in the Central Valley.
 
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Zoellick says U.S. only wants trade deal with access
Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

The United States will agree to a new global free-trade deal only if it provides more market access in agriculture,  goods and services, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says.

 "We will not accept a deal to put the round back on track simply for the sake of a deal," Zoellick said in a statement issued by his office Monday, the eve of a World Trade Organization meeting that aims to put global trade talks back on track.

The talks, known as the Doha Development Agenda, were launched in Qatar in October 2001 but fell apart during a September 2003 trade ministers' meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Since early 2004, Zoellick has waged a campaign to break the deadlock, traveling more than 32,000 miles and meeting with more than 40 trade officials to discuss how best to move the talks forward. 

Zoellick met Sunday with the ministers of four West African nations, Benin, Burkino Faso, Chad, and  Mali, concerned with cotton trade issues.  The Doha negotiations are scheduled to conclude by the end of 2004.

The World Trade Organization General Council  meets today to discuss a proposed compromise to pave the way to full-blown negotiations on reducing trade barriers.

"To live up to the promise of Doha, there must be substantial new openings for trade in agriculture, goods and services," said Zoellick, who will represent the United States at the Geneva conference.

"Our goal now is to get back to where we should have been at Cancun by developing the frameworks to reactivate the negotiations," Zoellick said.

Zoellick said the United States had offered to make substantial cuts in farm subsidies but only if other countries also cut their subsidies and opened markets.

"The United States will work with others to find solutions to problems and to develop creative ways to address the  concerns of others. For example, we have worked to complement the EU's [European Union's] offer to eliminate export subsidies by removing the subsidy element in our food export credit programs."


 
U.S. citizens warned away from Cancun, México
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

CANCUN, México — Americans are being warned away from here. The U.S. State Department said that demonstrations and possible travel delays are possible there due to the resignation of the city council and the removal of the mayor a week ago.

July 16, after the resignation of the city council in Cancun and the removal of the mayor, there were violent demonstrations centered around city hall  and the Plaza de la Reforma in downtown Cancun, 

and demonstrations have continued throughout the week, the State Department said. 

Americans traveling to Cancun should use caution and avoid crowds, especially around the city hall and the Plaza de la Reforma, as there is a potential for spontaneous violence, the announcement said.

There is a possibility that members of the taxi unions or bus drivers might attempt to block the main road into the hotel zone as a sign of protest, the announcement said.


 
Rebels in Colombia kidnap a Roman Catholic bishop
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The nation’s second largest rebel group has kidnapped a Catholic bishop. 

Members of the National Liberation Army abducted Misael Vaca Ramirez, the bishop of the eastern city of Yopal, while he was near the village of Morcote Sunday. 

A Catholic official, Msgn. Fabian Marulanda, said 

the rebels have informed the church they will later release the bishop unharmed with a message for Colombia's government. They did not specify when.

Colombia has the world's highest kidnapping rate, with rebels and other insurgents holding civilians, politicians, police officers and members of the military. Unidentified abductors released a cousin of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe from their control Sunday. He had not been harmed since his Saturday capture. 


 
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AIDS report in Spanish warns of an epidemic here
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Most countries in Latin America still have not faced a large-scale AIDS epidemic, according to a new study by the World Bank and the Pan American Health Organization.

In a July 23 statement, however, the health organization warned that recent trends indicate that unless Latin American nations take adequate prevention measures promptly, the incidence of the disease could hit epidemic proportions.

Costa Rica was one of 17 Latin countries studied for the book.

The study said "effective interventions" can still prevent HIV/AIDS from turning into a health catastrophe, as has occurred in some Caribbean islands and elsewhere around the world. Results of the study are the focus of the World Bank/PAHO 316-page book in Spanish called "HIV/AIDS in the Countries of Latin America: The Challenges Ahead."

The Pan American Health Organization said the study, which surveyed 17 Latin American countries, addresses all parts of the AIDS problem: epidemiological surveillance, effective interventions, and national and international responses to the epidemic.

The study says there is significant under-reporting of HIV/AIDS cases, with the best estimates indicating that there are some 1.4 million people in Latin America living with HIV/AIDS.

Although the risk patterns that favor the expansion of HIV are very widespread, the majority of the countries of Latin America have still not faced a large-scale AIDS epidemic, according to a publication.

The study that led to the books was conducted in 2001. In addition to Costa Rica, 16 other countries were studied: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, República Bolivariana de Venezuela, and Uruguay. An English version was published last year.

The study encompasses all parts of the AIDS problem: epidemiological surveillance, effective interventions, persistent problems, and national and international responses to the epidemic.

"The most recent studies indicate that the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women is 2 percent or higher in six countries: Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. In contrast, the majority of the other countries of the region show a concentrated epidemic, particularly in the Southern Cone, where 

Brazil has the greatest number of people who live with HIV/AIDS," says the prologue by Dr. Mirta Roses, director of PAHO.

Although the book notes that there is significant underreporting of cases, the best estimates of Pan American Health Organization, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization indicate that in Latin America there are some 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS. During 2001, 130,000 adults and children contracted the infection and 80,000 people died because of AIDS.

The so-called feminization of the epidemic is shown by the increasingly equal proportion of men and women with AIDS, and by the growing rates of HIV infection in pregnant women and children, the book notes. The ever-growing numbers of cases of AIDS and HIV infection among women 20 to 29 years old indicate that adolescents are at high risk, it says.

"In most countries we see all the mechanisms of transmission, as well as risk behaviors such as early sexual initiation, unprotected sex with multiple partners, and injectable drugs used with contaminated syringes," according to Roses.

"Many countries have substantially improved the resources allocated to the struggle against HIV/AIDS. Alliances and successful projects with access to the Global Fund against AIDS have tripled existing resources. However, stigma, discrimination and gender inequalities that weaken women’s ability to negotiate continue to be the greatest impediments," Roses said.

Research shows that the level of knowledge and information is sufficiently appropriate, but, "We are not seeing behavioral change toward sexual practices of lower risk," she said. The challenge is to ensure that AIDS does not continue to devastate generations in the most productive stages of the life cycle, which could threaten the important achievements in life expectancy and quality of life that have been hit in recent decades in the region, she added.

The authors of the book, Anabela GarcÌa Abreu, Isabel Noguer, and Karen Cogwill conclude that Latin America has the infrastructure and the knowledge necessary for coping with the epidemic efficiently and effectively, if the required resources are provided. "The needs vary and, as a result, it is important to adapt the interventions to respond to the profile and the capacity of each country," they say.

International organizations and programs are in position to increase regional or subregional interventions in concrete areas, and "Cooperation will lead to multiple benefits from effective interventions, as well as positive costs-benefits," they conclude.


 
What the report said about Costa Rica and Central America
Compiled by the A.M. Costa Rica staff*

This is the text of the 2003 English report about Central America and Costa Rica:

Central America

In Central America HIV is overwhelmingly transmitted via heterosexual sex, making it more similar to the countries of the Caribbean than to South America or Mexico. The exception is Costa Rica, where sex between men is the leading mode of transmission. 

The three countries with the highest reported HIV prevalence in Latin America (Honduras, Panama, and Guatemala) are in Central America. 

The situation in this region is grim, and the ability of national health services to address it is inadequate, although Costa Rica is the notable exception. 

In most Central American countries, like the rest of Latin America, HIV/AIDS care is confined mainly to capital cities and a few other major urban areas, and it competes for scarce resources with other pressing health needs. 

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is unique among Central American nations in the predominance of men having sex with men among people living with HIV/AIDS. The prevalence of HIV in men having sex with men has been reported to be between 10 percent and 16 percent. 

Studies of pregnant women in Costa Rica as late as 1997 found HIV in 0.5 percent or less. Between 1 percent and 4 percent of sexually transmitted disease clinic patients in San Jose from 1990 to 1994 were infected with HIV, and seropositivity in commercial sex workers tested between 1989 and 1997 ranged from 0.1 percent to 2.0 percent. 

HIV/AIDS infections are concentrated in urban zones. Costa Rica is also unique in that its social security system covers all citizens and provides comprehensive HIV/AIDS care. CD4 cell counts, viral load testing, medications to treat TB and other opportunistic infections, and antiretroviral drugs are all available. 

A decrease in progression to AIDS and death from AIDS has been reported among Costa Ricans receiving antiretroviral therapy. 

Literacy is extremely high in Costa Rica, and the population is well informed about HIV/AIDS prevention. In 1995 the World Health Organization estimated that 96 percent of people had access to condoms, and the Pan American Health Organization reported that for men, approximately 75 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds, 55 percent of 20- to 29-year-olds, 47 percent of 30- to 39-year-olds, and 37 percent of 40- to 49-year-olds used condoms with casual partners in 2000. 

In another study, 55 percent of males and 42 percent of females reported using a condom for their last risky intercourse.

* Abreviations have been expanded and footnotes eliminated. The full text is available at www.paho.org.


 
 
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