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The stories on this page were published Thursday, Aug. 23, 2001

Those from States, Canada

not big group, census says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The final report of the 2000 census shows that 9,511 residents here were born in the United States. Some 3,389 persons were born elsewhere in North America, the census showed.

Some 8,431 persons reported they were born in Europe.

But the final results of the census make it difficult to draw conclusions about English speakers and nationality. For example, those born elsewhere in North American could have been born in Canada or in Mexico. And many of the Europeans could have been born in Spain.

Plus the census only counted people who had lived here for six months or expressed the wish to live here for at least six months. Part-time residents who spend four or five months here each year thereby were excluded.

The census showed a total head count of 3,810,179 with 296,461 reporting they were born somewhere else besides Costa Rica.  The term "born" is not exactly used normally. Census takers reported where someone was "born" by noting the place of residency of the mother.  The methodology report said this was to avoid disproportionate listings of places where major hospitals existed.

So a person born in Canada of a Canadian father and Costa Rican mother would be listed as having been "born" in Costa Rica, according to the methodology. It is hard to say how vigorously this technique was followed. 

According to the data, those born in the United States comprise .249 percent of the population, less than one quarter of one percent. More than half live in the San José Province, the census reported.

Of course, the census did not reflect the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Costa Rica each year. And the count of the number of North Americans in Guanacaste seems low.

Here is the breakdown by region of persons who say they were "born" in North America or Europe:

                 North America           Europe

San José             6,882               4,745
Alajuela            1,733                  736
Cartago                624                  348
Heredia             1,578                  839
Guanacaste          674                  613
Puntarenas       1,064                  795
Limón                 340                  355

          TOTAL    12,895               8,431

The main census started in the last week of June with individual interviews continuing for the next three months. Someone over the age of 15 in each household was asked the questions.

The Spanish-language press was quick to point out that about 76 percent of those listed as being born outside the country were Nicaraguans. That number is 226,374. U.S. residents were but 3.5 percent of those who said they were born elsewhere.

The number of Nicaraguans was lower than earlier informal estimates that there were at least a million such immigrants here, although census efforts elsewhere show the difficulty of accurately counting illegal immigrants, and many Nicaraguans are illegal. Government officials said the real number of Nicaraguans probably is about 10 percent greater, not to mention the many persons born here listed as Costa Rican who have Nicaraguan parents and strong cultural ties to that country.

The National Institution of Statistics and Census did the study. The final report is on its website at http://www.inec.go.cr

The population in general was shown to be aging slightly since the last counting in 1984. The educational level has increased and living conditions are better. 84.9 percent of the households have color televisions compared to 19.1 percent in 1984.

Some 14.1 percent said they have microcomputers. That number in 1984 was so negligible that it was not even reported.

The sign still is up on the College of Journalists building in San José marking the number of days since the murder of radio talk show host and investigator Parmenio Media by gunmen near his Heredia home.  No arrests have been made.

Big military exercise

under way down south

About 400 U.S. troops and more than 700 military personnel from countries in Latin America are participating in "Cabanas 2001" a military exercise the United States characterized as peacekeeping practice. 

The exercise in Salta, Argentina, started today and will run through Sept. 22, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

The U.S. troops are with the 7th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C ., and
Special Operations Command-South, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

Cabanas 2001 is sponsored by the headquarters, United States Southern
Command, Miami, Fla., and hosted by Argentina.

More than 700 troops from the host nation, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay are participating, while Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela are sending observers.

The Defense Department said this exercise is the largest joint and combined service exercise held in the region and it focuses on a variety of
U.N. peacekeeping tasks including tactical troop movements, food
distribution, identification and marking of mines, civil-military liaisons,
security and police operations.

Power outage blamed on tree

The power outage that hit Costa Rica Tuesday night happened because a tree fell and  struck a transmission line at the hydroelectric plant at La Angostura, Cachí, reports the Costa Rican Electrical Institute.

Power was out for varying lengths of time in different sections of Costa Rica because the problem with the line disrupted distribution systems, the institute said.

Power was off from about 6:30 p.m. to about 8:30, but the length of the outage depended on where a customer was located.

Assistant secretary defends anti-cocaine spray program as safe

  WASHINGTON The United States cannot find any credible scientific evidence that the aerial drug-eradication spraying program  in Colombia represents a health hazard to humans, said Rand Beers,  assistant secretary of state. 

Beers said the United States will re-examine the Colombian government's spraying  program, which receives financial support from the United States, if damaging information can be found. But he rebutted newspaper reports that said an "epidemic" was occurring  in southern Colombia from the aerial spraying campaign to stop illicit  coca production. 

 Beers said the government is reviewing reports that the spraying has  killed animals in the region and is damaging human health. But as to why these reports keep surfacing, Beers said: "I can't answer that  question. I don't know. We are trying to find out the answer." The  assistant secretary said that glyphosate, the herbicide used in the  spraying program, kills coca and does not affect humans. He added,  however, that 

tremendous over-exposure to that chemical would  naturally cause health problems.
As to the motivation of farmers in Colombia who complain that the  spraying is damaging their health, Beers said that they might be  objecting because the program is hurting them economically. He also  said that many of the coca farmers are already living in "unsanitary  conditions" from their exposure to a precursor chemical used in  turning coca leaf into coca paste. This means, Beers said, that  these farmers might already have had pre-existing health problems even  before the first aerial eradication flights took place.

 Beers testified to the safety of the spraying program, saying that he  had himself stood in a field that was sprayed in Colombia and did not  suffer any damaging health effects. For the benefit of any doubters,  he said he would be willing to put himself through that test again.

Beers is assistant secretary for international narcotics and law  enforcement affairs.

Those who object to the spraying contend it causes vomiting in children, as well as damage to corn and other crops. Environmental  problems arise, critics say, depending on the dosage of glyphosate used, and whether or not the herbicide drifts during spraying onto neighboring lands.

Beers said reports that have been compiled by the Colombian  national health service show little difference between fields that  have been sprayed and those that have not, in terms of affecting the  health of humans. That report, and others that are being conducted,  Beers said, suggest that people who participate in the cultivation of coca could be having health problems whether nor not they were within the zone of the spraying program.

 "In that context," Beers said, "it becomes difficult to attribute the  health problems to the spraying."

 An April study conducted for the U.S. government also said concerns  about the 

effects of glyphosate on Colombia's environment are  "exaggerated," adding it presents no human health risk in the amounts  being used in the aerial eradication program.

The study, prepared by a  Virginia-based company called GRS Solutions, said that "attempts to  quantify adverse human health risks to the aerial eradication campaign  are fraught with emotion but unfounded in science." The study said the  "aggregate environmental impact of the spraying is not likely to have any added long-term detrimental effect that will prevent Colombia from achieving long-lasting sustainable development."

 Almost the entire world's cocaine supply derives from the Andean  region of South America, with 90 percent of total production and  distribution originating in Colombia. In 2000, Colombian drug  traffickers cultivated an estimated 136,200 hectares (365,000 acres) of coca and  produced 580 metric tons of cocaine.


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