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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 173              E-mail us
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Wave of shootings complicates security project
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In English it's called a stray bullet. In Spanish police say it is a bala perdida, a lost bullet.

In fact, it is not lost but usually fired without responsibility. The bullet might be the result of horseplay, a distant confrontation between gangs or just someone pegging shots without worry where they might land. The lost bullet represents one dimension of a growing wave of shootings.

The latest such incident was Tuesday night when a 9-year-old schoolboy suffered the fatal impact of a bullet in La Carpio in La Uruca. The child died in the Hospital Nacional de Niños, and investigators blamed a gun battle between rival gangs. A woman also suffered life-threatening wounds in the shooting.

Many expats might point to the deprived economic nature of the area and say that such tragedies are commonplace in what amounts to slums.

But then there is the case of Adelsio Gerardo Paniagua Castro, 25. He was in the company of a girlfriend Sunday night, Aug. 22, in front of the Teatro Nacional. This is about as close to the heart of San José as one could get. Two and a half blocks away on Avenida 6 two groups of bar patrons got into a fight that degenerated into a shooting match. One man suffered a leg wound. As one group ran from the other south on Calle 3, one turned and fired a shot at pursuers. It missed. Some 300 yards to the north the piece of lead found a vein in Paniagua's back. Rescue workers could do little.

Perhaps fueled by alcohol or drugs, perhaps stemming from a drug dispute, there is little citizens can do to protect themselves from these unintended tragedies.

Even at the school yard level there seems to be a growing lack of respect for firearms. Two weeks
ago a 7 year old was found to have a weapon at school in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. Wednesday a police search located a.22-caliber revolver at the Liceo Napoleón Quesada in Guadalupe. The student with the last names of Sánchez González told officers he needed the weapon for protection, they said.

These incidents plus a host of drive-by shootings and killings are encouraging the executive branch of the government to push harder for more restrictions on legal weapons. Such laws will do little to prevent killings such as that of a man named Granados and one named Núñez who were gunned down in La Colina, Limón, in the middle of last month by someone with an AK-47 rifle, something that already is illegal in Costa Rica. A third man was wounded in that incident.
 
Two men and a woman were in a car at a gas station in San Antonio de Desamparados Monday night when two men on a motorcycle pulled up and pumped 18 bullets into the vehicle. No one died in that attack.

Hospitalized early Tuesday was a 42-year-old man with the last name of Rodríguez who was gunned down when he left his León XIII home about 7:30 a.m. to go to work. He was in Hospital México.

The spike in shootings took security officials by surprise. They had been praising their work in Limón when statistics showed a decline in murder rate. That lull was temporary.

And no longer can observers say that the victims are just drug dealers killing themselves.

Within days, the Laura Chinchilla administration will be formalizing proposals that will be designed to guarantee citizens personal security on the streets and in the home. Such measures certainly will have to take into consideration the rising wave of gun violence.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 173

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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aerocasillas vehicle
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Packages appear to have been opened.

Delivery vehicle recovered
after chase in Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mail theft is one thing, but a crook took a vehicle filled with packages being delivered by Aerocasillas, the private mail and delivery service.

However, officers on patrol spotted the stolen vehicle near Universidad Nacional in Heredia Thursday and gave chase. After a brief foot chase, a suspect with the last names of  Ocampo Monge was detained. He is 29.

The contents of many of the packages in the vehicle appear to have been extracted.

There was no announcement of the theft of the vehicle by the delivery service. The Fuerza Pública reported the case because officers made an arrest.

Cell phone use predicted
to skyrocket with new firms


From The CAFTA Report

Costa Rica's telecommunications market offers opportunities with its new liberalization, opening the door for competition across all segments and boosting mobile penetration to 136 percent by 2015 with prepaid subscriptions, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

The report, "Costa Rica: Liberalization Will More Than Double Mobile Subscribers by 2015," offers a precise profile of the country's telecommunications, media, and technology sectors based on proprietary data from the firm's research. It provides detailed competitive analysis of both the fixed and mobile sectors, tracks the market shares of technologies and services, and monitors the introduction and spread of new technologies,said the company.

Costa Rica is the last country in Latin America to liberalize its telecommunications industry. Now, the regulator in Costa Rica has been quite busy with the liberalization of fixed and mobile services taking place. "Costa Rica is auctioning three mobile licenses over the next few months, and the process is expected to be completed before year end," said Jose Magana, senior analyst at Pyramid Research. "New regulation includes number portability and infrastructure sharing."

"Mobile penetration of the population closed at 52 percent in 2009, one of the lowest rates in Latin America and not consistent with the income level of the population," said Magana. "We forecast that after liberalization, mobile penetration will advance to 136 percent by 2015 with prepaid subscriptions accounting for 79 percent of the total, and that mobile revenue will advance to $831 million by 2015 from $603 million in 2009, with gains coming mostly from data services, such as mobile broadband."

Due to the competitiveness of the new liberalized market and the attractiveness of mobile data services, 3G handsets will quickly gain share in the total base, even ahead of Costa Rica's Central American peers. By 2015, 40 percent of all handsets will be 3G. "The lack of subsidies in Costa Rica make replacement of handsets very expensive for subscribers, but we forecast that competition will boost the adoption of advanced handsets, particularly among the high-end segment," added Magana.

The report was prepared before telecom officials in Costa Rica said Aug.31 that the concession of spectrums for cell companies might not be finalized for a year, if then.

The report is priced at $990. Readers may download an excerpt of this report HERE!

Quakes in Southern zone
come in bunches


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

September started off with three moderate earthquakes in the vicinity of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

The first was at 7:23 a.m. Wednesday. Another followed at 8:19 a.m. and the third was at 9:58 a.m. The quakes were along the same local fault that generated two quakes in August. The strongest was Friday with a magnitude of 3.7. The quakes Wednesday were 3.3, 2.7 and 3.1, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

The observatory also reported Wednesday that during August there were 155 quakes in the same general area. Only seven were strong enough to be felt by humans, it said.

The strongst was a magnitude 5 Aug. 15 southwest of Uvita.

Another local artist has
show at Hidden Garden


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

"Extraordinary Talent" premieres Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., as Guanacaste Costa Rican artist Juan Carlos Ruiz opens his exhibit at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery. With his impressionistic style, Ruiz combines elements of different worlds: the natural and the artificial, nature and civilization, to create a unique dimension to his artworks, gallery operators said. Ruiz studied with Juan Carlos Meana of the Universidad de Vigo de Pontevedra in Spain and has a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Gallery owner Greg Golojuch said he is thrilled with the talented artists that continue to join the gallery, now the largest in Guanacaste, with over 300 artworks comprised by more than 50 artists and that he will continue to strive to launch new exhibitions twice per month.

The gallery is five kilometers west of the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia on highway 21, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 to 3.

Raid in Playas del Coco
turns up drug smorgasbord


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained a man and a woman Wednesday in a raid in Playas del Coco. Confiscated were ecstasy pills, hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Judicial police said that the man was 31 and a citizen of Belgium. The Costa Rican woman, 26, also was detained, they said. The man is believed to be a businessman in the Pacific beach community and the woman is his companion.

Agents said they confiscated 71 ecstasy pills, a kilo of hydroponically produced marijuana, about a pound of dried mushrooms and five grams of cocaine. Also confiscated was a lighting system appropriate for growing plants, they said.

Agents said the pair were suspected of selling drugs in the area. The building that was raided also is used as a tour business and for the rental of jet skis, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Mexican newspaper shot up

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two masked men armed with high-powered rifles shot at the installation of the newspaper Noroeste in Mazatlán, México, Tuesday after dropping a leaflet at the main door accusing the federal government of protecting the Sinaloa cartel. The building was empty at the time, and there were no injuries, reported the Noroeste Editorial Group’s general manager Manuel Becerra. The attacks followed phoned threats over a report it published on gang warfare among local drug cartels.
The attack quickly was condemned by the Inter American Press Association, a hemispheric press advocacy group.

A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba      News of Venezuela
News of Colombia    
News of Panamá
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 173

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One hurricane, two tropical storms and a suspicious low pressure area march across the Atlantic.

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U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic

2010 hurricane season begins to grow in strength
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With three months to go in the 2010 hurricane season, activity is picking up in the Atlantic.

Hurricane Earl, two tropical storms and a likely storm or hurricane are making their way across the Atlantic. Earl is jeopardizing the Middle Atlantic states but still may take a turn to the north.

So far it has been the tropical waves and low pressure areas in the Pacific that have kept Costa Rica well watered.

The national emergency commission said Wednesday that 90 persons still are in shelters, refugees from a wave of low pressure systems. The latest, which hit the country Tuesday night and Wednesday morning took roofs off five houses in Hatillo and three in Escazú.  In Pavas, the commission said that homes were flooded. The winds reached hurricane strength. More than 20 incidents were reported, the commission said.

The commission asked residents to clean out streams and ditches that carry off water. And it also suggested that residents put aside some food, flashlights, batteries, medicine and personal documents in waterproof containers.

There also is an alert for high seas on the Pacific.

Many of the problems this year have been caused by landslides and blocked storm sewers or ditches. None of the hurricanes and tropical storms this season in the Atlantic have approached Costa Rica. But the tropical waves brought conditions that rivaled  brushes with hurricanes.
Weather officials in the United States and here have predicted an active Atlantic storm season. That season runs until Nov. 30. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says that today will also see a high degree of instability due to low pressure over much of the country. Afternoon rains are likely.

There has been little rain on the Caribbean coast, although areas there are jeopardized by rain in the mountains that swell the local rivers.

The institute said that the next five days likely will be the same.

Earl, the third hurricane of the season, is too far away to be a consideration here, the institute said. In the United States the National Hurricane Information Center said that hurricane warnings are in effect for North Carolina to the Virginia border. A lesser storm watch is in effect all the way up the Atlantic coast.

Tropical Storm Fiona is quickly moving northwestward from its mid-Atlantic location. It is expected to turn north, the Hurricane Center said.

Tropical Storm Gaston is beginning to slow down over the open Atlantic, the center said.  The storm is moving west.  There also is a strong low pressure area on the coast of Africa that is likely to develop as it moves into the Atlantic.

In the Pacific there is a low pressure system that has a high probability to develop into a tropical storm off the coast of México. It is too far away to affect the weather in Guanacaste. It is about 200 miles southwest of Manzanillo, México.


Police beef up preseence at key bridge with portable unit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials have a portable police station to the La Amistad bridge over the Río Tempisque while a more permanent structure is built near the bridge.

Fuerza Pública officers have been on patrol in the area along with representatives of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones since Aug. 3. 3. They patrol both the land and the river, which flows into the Gulf of Nicoya. The bridge is a main access point to the Nicoya Peninsula.
Among other activities the police attempt to prevent fishing off the brige, which is considered illegal. They said that some damage has been inflicted on the infrastructure by fishermen. Security officials also said they avoided a blockade at the bridge last week by university students who were demonstrating for higher school budgets.

Some 74 persons have been checked out as well as 44 vehicles in that time, police said.  Four officers are on duty in the mobile police station at any time, officials said. The decision grew out of talks with local officials over the last few months. Talks also were held with the local chamber.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 173

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


New study gives hope for better, safer mosquito repellents

By the Vanderbilt Unversity news service

It now appears that the malaria mosquito needs more than one family of odor sensors to sniff out its human prey.

That is the implication of new research into the mosquito’s sense of smell published in the Tuesday issue of the online, open-access journal Public Library of Science Biology.

The experiments described in the paper provide striking new evidence that Anopheles gambiae – the species of mosquito that spreads malaria, which infects some 250 million and kills 900,000 people annually – has a second independent set of olfactory sensors that are fundamentally different from the set of sensors that scientists have known about and have been studying for the last 10 years.

The discovery may help explain a puzzling question that has been plaguing scientists trying to develop new and more effective forms of mosquito lures and repellents.

The odorant receptors that were identified in the lab before do not respond to a lot of human odors, said Vanderbilt graduate student Chao Liu, who is the lead author on the paper.  “Now that we have a new set of receptors, we may be able to fill in the picture.”

“If this is the case, then it is quite likely that it will play a critical role in attempts to develop improved lures and repellents to control the spread of malaria.”There is a good chance that this new set of receptors may be specifically tuned to detect a number of the odorants given off by humans," adds co-author R. Jason Pitts, a senior research specialist and graduate student at Vanderbilt. “If this is the case, then it is quite likely that it will play a critical role in attempts to develop improved lures and repellents to control the spread of malaria.”

According to Pitts, they also have preliminary evidence that the mosquito’s olfactory system may include additional families of sensors as well.

Laurence Zwiebel, a professor who was the principal investigator on the study, heads a major interdisciplinary research project to develop new ways to control the spread of malaria based on mosquito olfaction supported by the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative funded by the Foundation for NIH through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“It’s not at all surprising that the mosquito’s olfactory system is more sophisticated than we thought,” says Zwiebel. “Olfaction is absolutely essential to the mosquito. If the female cannot find a host for a blood meal, she cannot reproduce. As a result, mosquitoes have developed an uncanny ability to detect odors. This is true of all species of mosquitoes, not just Anopheles. So it is highly likely that the mosquitoes that spread West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis also have similar sets of odor sensors.”

About 10 years ago, when the mosquito genome was first sequenced, scientists at Vanderbilt and Yale identified the genes and the structure of one set of Anopheles sensors, called odorant receptors. At first, they thought that these receptors had the same basic design as the sensors found in the nose of humans and other mammals. But recent studies have found that the mosquito receptors, along with those of several other insects, have a distinctly different structure.

Researchers have identified about 75 different odorant receptors that respond to a variety of volatile compounds.  These receptors are expressed on the surface of nerves located in tiny hollow spikes, called sensilla, located on the mosquito’s antennae.  When a target molecule wafts into the interior of one of these sensilla and comes into contact with the sensor designed to detect it, the receptor causes the nerve to fire, signaling the compound’s presence.
Earlier this year the Vanderbilt researchers and their colleagues at Yale succeeded in pairing more than 40 of the odorant receptors with the specific odorants that trigger them. In the process, the researchers discovered that these receptors are broadly tuned. That is, each receptor responds to a number of different compounds. They also overlap. More than one odorant receptor responds to individual odorants.

In the new study, Liu and Pitts combined gene-silencing techniques with a new behavioral assay to confirm that DEET, the most commonly used commercial insect repellent, activates a specific odorant receptor. Although the synthetic compound appears to affect mosquitoes in several different ways, there is no doubt that this olfactory effect explains much of its effectiveness as a repellent, the scientists say.

Despite all their efforts, however, mosquito researchers have been unable to find odorant receptors that react to a number of key human odorants, including ammonia, lactic acid and butylamine, all of which are given off by human sweat or breath. Scientists know that the mosquito can detect these compounds: When they “wire” the entire Anopheles antenna they can measure nerve activity when the antenna is exposed to these compounds. The researchers have traced the nerves that respond to several of these human odorants to a specific type of sensilla, called grooved pegs, which seem to lack odorant receptors.

As a result, last year when scientists at Rockefeller University announced they had discovered a second set of olfactory receptors in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, an animal model for basic genetics, “it was like a light switched on,” says Pitts. Because of the many parallels between the olfactory systems of the fruit fly and mosquito, the Vanderbilt researchers knew it was extremely likely that the mosquito had a second set of receptors as well. So they began searching for them.

The search was successful and the researchers identified genes that code for about 50 versions of the new type of receptor. The new receptors appear to have a slightly different structure from that of odorant receptors: They are called “ionotropic receptors” and they closely resemble the type of receptor found in the brain that responds to the common neurotransmitter glutamate.

At this point, the researchers can only speculate about what effect this structural difference has on the way that the ionotropic receptors function as odor detectors. However, they have managed to associate an ionotropic receptor with butylamine, a human odorant that odorant receptors do not appear to identify. Butylamine sensitivity is located in grooved peg sensilla.  The correlation of ionotropic receptors to butylamine could indicate that ionotropic receptors are responsible for grooved peg sensilla sensitivities to other human odors such as ammonia and lactic acid, an idea that the Zwiebel lab has begun exploring.

Determining the way that the ionotropic receptors work may be the key to identifying such a signature and that, in turn, could be the key to developing non-toxic, ecologically benign methods for combating malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses.The basic problem facing the mosquito searching for human prey – and the humans who are trying to figure out how it does it – is that none of the hundreds of odors given off by humans are necessarily unique. They are actually produced by the bacteria that live on human skin. But these bacteria live on other animals as well. So the current theory is that mosquitoes must identify a blend of different odorants that provide a unique signature for humans. Determining the way that the ionotropic receptors work may be the key to identifying such a signature and that, in turn, could be the key to developing non-toxic, ecologically benign methods for combating malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 173

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Flying in Third World
less safe than in First


By the Institute for Operations Research
and the Management Sciences news service

Passengers who fly in the developing world countries face 13 times the risk of being killed in an air accident as passengers in the First World. The more economically advanced countries in the developing world have better overall safety records than the others, but even their death risk per flight is seven times as high as that in First World countries.

These statistics are among the findings in the new study "Cross National Differences in Aviation Safety Records" by Arnold Barnett, which appears in the current issue of Transportation Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. Barnett is a professor the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a long-term researcher on aviation safety.

Using worldwide air-safety data, Barnett calculated that, over 2000-07, the chance of dying on a scheduled flight in a First World nation like the United States, Japan, or Ireland was 1 in 14 million (this statistic considers propeller planes as well as jets). At that rate, a passenger who took one flight every day would on average go 38,000 years before succumbing to a fatal accident.

On the airlines of economically advancing countries in the developing world such as Taiwan, India, and Brazil, the death risk per flight was 1 in 2 million. In less economically-advanced developing-world countries, the death risk per flight was 1 in 800,000. Barnett calculates that the risk differences in this three-group model “are not statistically significant within groups, but are highly significant across groups.”

All these statistics reflect major advances in safety in the last decade, and Barnett points out that the distinction he makes is “between safe and very safe, and not between safe and dangerous.” Indeed, Barnett notes that “it is not uncommon for a month to pass without any fatal passenger-jet crashes anywhere in the world.”

While the study ends in 2007, the patterns it depicts continue to persist. So far in 2010, there have been eight fatal accidents on scheduled passenger flights. All eight of them occurred in the developing world.

Prof. Barnett questioned why the economically-advancing countries in the developing world did not have safety records closer to those in the First World, given that they approach First-World standards in life expectancy and per capita income. He cites research that indicates that, in terms of deference to authority and “individualism,” the economically advancing developing-world countries are on average far from those in the First World but almost identical to other developing-world countries.

Barnett concedes that he should not get too caught up in speculation but notes that one possible explanation for why the economically-advancing countries did not fare better is that “their economic shift towards the First World has not been accompanied by a corresponding cultural shift.”


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 173



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Miners in Chile are on video
for families and local TV

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new video of the 33 miners trapped for nearly a month in Chile shows them apparently in better physical and emotional condition than they were in a previous video.

Family members viewed the footage at a private screening at Camp Hope, their base camp at the entrance of the San Jose mine, and it was later broadcast on Chilean television.

In the video, the miners appear cleaner-shaved and wearing red shirts, which were sent down to them with other supplies. Some of the men can be seen waving at the camera and displaying a Chilean flag. Music can also be heard in the background.

The new footage marks a stark difference from the first video released last Thursday, which showed them bare-chested and with beards.

The miners have been trapped more than 600 meters underground since a cave-in Aug. 5 in the gold and copper mine.

Chilean authorities have said it could take up to four months to rescue them.

Engineers began drilling the escape route on Monday. Officials say the drilling machine will excavate at a rate of about 6 meters per day. 

The drill will first create a narrow pilot hole, then a larger drill bit will be used to make the hole wide enough for a rescue capsule that will pull the miners to the surface.

A four-person team from the U.S. space agency NASA is helping in efforts to keep the men healthy while they are confined. The NASA experts met with Chilean authorities on Tuesday to discuss the plight of the miners. 

NASA has advised Chilean officials to be honest with the miners and not create false expectations about how long the rescue will take.

The drilling process will send up to 4,000 tons of rock and debris into the mine shaft. Officials say the miners will have to help in their rescue by clearing the rock as it falls. 

Rescuers first made contact with the miners early last week.  Owners of the mine have described the ordeal as a terrible situation. Speaking to a government committee looking into the incident, Alejandro Bohn, co-owner of the San Esteban mining company, appealed to the victims for forgiveness.

Officials say some of the men have begun showing signs of depression and that some have developed fungal infections and body sores from the hot conditions underground.

The mine has a history of accidents and was shut down in recent years for safety reasons before being reopened. The mining company has denied accusations that it did not properly implement safety guidelines.



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