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The executive branch declared a national emergency Tuesday to direct money to help victims of the Orosi landslide.
Officials also announced an all-out campaign against dengue, the mosquito-born virus that is likely to get a boost from the wet weather.
The dengue campaign will be headed by both the minister of health and the minister of tourism, reflecting the government’s concern that reports of a dengue epidemic could greatly reduce tourism to Costa Rica during the next six months.
The Saturday morning landslide, given good coverage on North American television, has prompted a spate of calls from there asking about the geological stability of Costa Rica.
In all, rains and flooding affected 411 persons. Seven still are missing below the hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of mud and debris in Orosi, and 163 houses suffered damage and 33 were destroyed throughout the whole country, said the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias.
The Minister of health, Dr. Rocío Sáenz, told the Consejo de Gobierno Tuesday afternoon that doctors reported 400 new cases of dengue during the last week. Some 5,612 persons have contracted the disease. The country is on the verge of a full-scale epidemic because the infected mosquitoes usually remain in the coastal areas. This year cases of dengue are popping up in the heavily populated Central Valley where many residents do not even screen windows.
Officials are about to enforce a section of the penal code that would
assess penalties to those people who do not vigorously seek out and
|property. Dengue contracted from
a mosquito bite can resemble a heavy case of the flu. Some cases, particularly
in persons who have had the disease in the past, can turn hemorrhagic and
sometimes lead to shock and death.
The declaration of emergency by Vice President Lineth Soborío
in the absence of President Abel Pacheco is a technical device that allows
the government to allocate money to distressed areas.
Acting President Saborío expressed concern about the expenditures
because the country is only about a third of the way through the rainy
season with the heaviest downpours yet to some.
In San José: Rositer Carballo, Las Gradas I and II, Los Anonos, Calle Morenos, Los Olivos, Las Rosas, Pueblo Nuevo, El Pochote and Alajuelita.
In Cartago: Orosi, Alto Loaiza, Tierra Blanca and Ujarrás.
In Puntarenas: Isla Chira.
In Guanacaste: Río Chiquito de Tilarán and Las Minas.
In Alajuela: Upala and Asentamiento Josuma.
Road damage was reported in El Guarco, Turrialba, Siquirres de Cartago, Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, Dominical de Pérez Zeledón, Cañas in Guanacaste and Tilarán.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States had repercussions in Latin America on several levels — diplomatic, political, and economic. The attacks further aggravated economic instability in the region.
Following the attacks, Latin American countries immediately expressed their solidarity with the United States and announced efforts to combat terrorism. A special session was held at the Organization of American States, where members voted to reactivate the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance — a Cold War relic that was stagnate.
However, the expressions of solidarity began to fade when the United States began its attacks on Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in October 2001. Public opinion polls in countries like Brazil showed widespread opposition to the attacks.
Nevertheless, regional governments did cooperate with Washington by stepping up surveillance of Arab immigrant communities in the hemisphere — especially in the tri-border region of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Long a hotbed of contraband and other illicit activities, Washington also considers the area a support base for Middle East terrorist groups.
After Sept. 11, Paraguayan police carried out sweeps in border cities looking for suspected terrorists. However, little concrete evidence turned up. By the end of the year, Brazilian security officials were openly contradicting Washington, saying flatly they found no evidence of terrorist activity in the area.
The Sept. 11 attacks also had an impact on Colombia by changing the nature of U.S. military aid to the war-torn nation. The former Clinton administration had provided Colombia with $1.3 billion in 2000 to combat the drug trade, which finances Colombia's largest leftist rebel group, the FARC, and other armed groups. More U.S. money will be provided to Colombia, and it will now be used more directly to help the Colombian military in its counter-insurgency campaign.
|But perhaps the greatest impact of
Sept. 11 in Latin America has been economic. Sergio Amaral, Brazil's minister
of trade and development, says several sectors were hit hard.
“I think the impact was very strong. Certainly, in the area of tourism
and the profitability in civil aviation,” he said. “It was very strong
also in increasing the level of uncertainty by investors. The attacks of
Sept. 11 increased what was already beginning to be seen — a sense of risk
Air travel in Latin America declined. The number of passengers on international flights dropped by more than 8 percent in the weeks following the attacks. South America's largest carrier, the Brazilian airline VARIG, is in financial trouble, partly because fewer passengers were flying after Sept. 11.
Tourism too dipped. In Rio de Janeiro, tourist arrivals fell by more than 16 percent in September 2001, compared to August. By November arrivals began to increase, but even by March of this year there were fewer tourists visiting Rio than in March 2001.
On the diplomatic front, Latin American officials believe Sept. 11 caused Washington to shift its attention away from the hemisphere. President Bush came to office promising to put relations with Latin America at the top of his foreign policy agenda. But diplomats in the region complain that since Sept. 11 the Bush administration has ignored Latin America, especially its growing financial problems.
Donna Hrinak, U.S. ambassador to Brazil, recently acknowledged this perception — saying the war on terrorism superseded U.S. relations with Latin America. However, she said, there is now the realization that the terrorism war will last years, and that there are other issues that need to be worked on — including expanding free trade. It remains to be seen whether this can happen, given the repercussions from Sept. 11, and now the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iraq.
|Major oceans initiative
unveiled at Summit
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A U.S. official at the World Summit here has announced the rollout of a major oceans initiative that offers a new approach to the management of coastal-marine ecosystems.
Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told reporters Monday that the White Water to Blue Water initiative is a large-scale partnership involving national, regional and local governments, as well as non-governmental organizations and private corporations.
"The object is to connect watersheds with the coastal regions," Lautenbacher said. "You have to remember that 80 percent of the pollution that we see in coastal areas comes from land-based activities in proximity to those coasts."
Lautenbacher said that 50 percent of the world's population live in these coastal zones. "So people who make decisions well inland are affecting our coasts — they're affecting the quality of life of those people."
The initiative will emphasize a cross-sectoral approach to ecosystem management beginning with the upstream regions — watersheds, agricultural areas and population centers — and extending to the oceans through wetlands, mangrove swamps and coral reefs, the nurseries for most of the commercial marine species on which human populations depend.
Lautenbacher said White Water to Blue Water is an innovative plan that engages governments and stakeholders on every level to more effectively manage coastal and marine resources.
"This inclusive approach looks beyond coasts to address the myriad of inland activities, such as agriculture and sewage runoff, that can degrade coastal environments and impact marine resources such as fisheries and coral reefs," he said.
Lautenbacher said that one goal of the initiative is to improve the national capacities of coastal states to manage entire coastal-marine ecosystems by engaging the full range of up-stream and down-stream stakeholders.
A second goal is to promote better regional and cross-border coordination between states, international organizations, and the private sector to make the best use of available resources.
The United States has agreed to take the leading governmental role in the first phase of White Water to Blue Water, which will focus on the Caribbean. The first phase will engage a wide range of partners and will begin with a U.S.-hosted kick-off conference in 2003. Similar programs could expand to Africa and the South Pacific in 2004 and 2005.
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services
BOGOTA, Colombia — A paramilitary leader linked to the kidnapping of a wealthy Venezuelan businessman two years ago has been found shot to death.
Authorities say Rene Acosta's bullet-ridden body turned up Tuesday near the town of Puerto Gaitan, 170 kilometers (105 miles) east of Bogotá. They also say a note attached to the body said Acosta did not deserve to be a paramilitary member.
Acosta belonged to the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a right-wing group fighting leftist rebels in Colombia's 38-year civil war.
He was accused of masterminding the July 2000 abduction of businessman Richard Boulton, who disappeared after armed men raided his ranch in central Venezuela.
Speculation initially focused on Colombia's leftist rebel groups, which often resort to kidnappings to finance their 38-year war against the government in Bogotá. The insurgents denied responsibility.
This past July, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia admitted holding the businessman. He was later handed over to the International Red Cross, two years to the day he disappeared.
Colombia has the world's highest kidnapping rate, with more than 3,000 people taken hostage last year. To offset this problem, the Colombian government has launched a program to reward informants whose information leads to the capture of rebels or paramilitary fighters.
Officials announced the program Monday and paid several masked informants about $2,500 each. The government says reward payments will be made each Monday.
President Alvaro Uribe, who took office last month, has vowed to crack down on illegal armed groups. Uribe will visit Washington later this month to meet with President George Bush where they will likely discuss ways to counter terrorism and narcotics trafficking in Colombia.
U.S. treaty to recoup
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush submitted a treaty with Honduras to the U.S. Senate that — once ratified — will facilitate the return of stolen U.S. vehicles and aircraft found in the Central American nation.
The Treaty is one of a series of stolen vehicle treaties being negotiated by the United States in order to eliminate the difficulties faced by owners of vehicles that have been stolen and transported across international borders.
wrap up poverty plan
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Delegates to the Earth Summit here have resolved a last minute disagreement between Western and Muslim negotiators, paving the way for final approval of a plan to alleviate poverty while protecting the environment.
The conference chairman announced Wednesday that an agreement had been reached on language relating to female circumcision, a cultural practice common in some African and Arab nations.
Activists and delegations, backed by Canada, wanted to include in the final document language to protect women against female circumcision.
Agreement was reached on a host of other issues, including access to proper sanitation, increasing the use of renewable energy resources and on a number of targets and timetables aimed at protecting or restoring ecosystems.
Nitin Desai, the summit's secretary-general, said Tuesday that the meeting had been successful in imparting a sense of urgency, and in creating partnerships in the five priority areas of water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.
The conference will end Wednesday with remaining speakers including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Honduras to investigate
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The government here says it has created a special force to investigate the deaths of street children. Oscar Alvarez, security minister, said Monday the group will begin its work immediately.
Casa Alianza, a non-profit group that works with street children in Honduras and has an office in San José, says nearly 2,000 children and youths have been killed in Honduras since 1998.
Asma Jahangir, an official for the U.N. Human Rights Commission, has
blamed security forces for the deaths of some street children. Honduran
officials say many of the killings, however, are a result of violence between
rival street gangs.
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