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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 212       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica endorses Sen. John McCain for U.S. president
By the A.M. Costa Rica management

There is a long tradition of newspaper endorsements of candidates, even though the impact, if there is any, remains unclear.

Still A.M. Costa Rica strongly endorses John McCain, the Arizona senator, for president of the United States. We urge others to follow our reasoning and cast their votes the same way.

John McCain has his faults and some baggage. But John McCain is a proven patriot whose vision of America is of a strong beacon of freedom and personal liberty.

We would be happy to endorse his opponent as a premier used car salesman. After 45 years in the newspaper business, the editor knows slick, and that is what is being marketed by the Democratic campaign. He has seen candidates raise false
McCain for president
hope. His first presidential vote was for John Kennedy. JFK's inexperience almost got the United States into a nuclear war.

The editor also covered the Great Society and Medicaid, the current budget busters. He learned that government is not the solution. The solution always is the hard work, enterprise and creativity of Americans of whatever color.

The Me-Me Generation has risen to some degree of influence in the United States. The wholesale thefts and frauds that hit the country financial system show that. The need now is for personal courage and honesty, not some supergovernment, leftist quick fix.

This endorsement is sure to provoke whines from the disaffected expats who cut and ran. America does not cut and run. America finishes what it starts, including efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  America does not sit down with second-rate, authoritarian dictators. America does not whimper and beg pardon from the world for being great.

Given the options, George Bush was the best choice. But now the nation needs a coordinated, uniform effort to reinforce the cornerstone principles of America. And voters do not need to open the door to the terrorists and racists who seek to prove their hatred of the country.

December deadline is set for reconstructing plaza
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

City officials hope to have the restructuring of the Plaza de la Democracia finished by December. The job was announced in September 2007.

The project involved jackhammering out tons of concrete that provided an amphitheater of sorts. Now the area will become an entryway for the Museo Nacional that is to the east of the plaza between avenidas Central and 2 in San José downtown.

The job is being done jointly by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, which operates the museum, and the Municipalidad de San José.

In addition to the new entry to the museum, there are two other major changes involved in the project.

First, the mercado de artesania, which now is housed under a tin roof along the west side of the plaza, will be moved indoors to a building named the Frontón. This is several blocks to the south.

And the museum is taking the opportunity to do some major repair work of its own, including fixing the deteriorating north and west sides.
That's a 10 million-colon job, about $18,100, being done with donated paint. Employees also will try to fix some leaks that have closed a portion of the building.

The plaza project also includes installing ramps for wheelchair access to the museum and also more lighting. The job was supposed to be done a year ago.
plaza work
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Workers at the remodeling site

The cost of the Frontón project is about $545,000. The three-story structure is being remodeled, and the artisans and their souvenirs should be moved there within a year, according to Johnny Araya, the municipal mayor. Many of the persons who run the small businesses that cater to tourists are not happy about the move, but Araya said that making Avenida 4 a pedestrian mall has increased the foot traffic.

The Fontón building is on Calle 7 opposite the Parque de las Garantias Sociales, which is just south of the tall building occupied by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.  About 100 shopkeepers will be involved in the move, city officials estimated.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 212

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Arias deal with advisers
characterized as informal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Presidencia tried to put a positive spin Thursday on a report by the Contraloría General that found deficiencies in a series of consultancy contracts within the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

The money, which came from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, never lost its international character and, therefore, was not subject to the usual internal norms of the country, the Contraloría said and Casa Presidencial emphasized. The amount involved is about $2 million.

But the Contraloría report, one of several that are expected soon, also criticized what it said was the informality in the management of these contracts and the accounting weaknesses. For example, it not always was clear what the consultancy jobs were, it said.

La Nación, the daily Spanish-language newspaper, reported June 30 that the Arias administration was using money from the international development bank to give juicy contracts to former officials, some current officials and even a musician. The revelations raised the possibility that some officials were put under contract as a way of obtaining their support of the free trade treaty with the United States.

That possibility was reinforced a few days later when Epsy Campbell, president of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, was found to be on the payroll. She is a former lawmaker whose party opposed the treaty. She quickly resigned her connection with the Arias government.

Most of the contracts expired Aug. 31, Casa Presidencial noted in a release about the report. The Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica gets its money from Costa Rica and from other nations, including some First World sources.

Women meet to draft
fix for overturned law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unusual meeting of women in high government positions took place Thursday to try to devise alternatives to two sections of a law against violence that were found unconstitutional.

The meeting was called by a Corte Suprema magistrate, Zarella Villanueva Monge, who is coordinator of a gender committee of the Poder Judicial.

The Sala IV constitutional court in a split vote, announced Dec. 16, overturned two key elements of a law designed to protect women.

One section provides six months to two years prison for anyone who attacks or physically harms a wife or live-in companion when the event is too minor to be handled by other criminal laws. A second section provides the same penalty for someone who insults, devalues, frightens or embarrasses a wife or female companion in public or in private.

The law was passed May 30, 2007, after a series of murders of wives and live-in companions by men. At the time, the constitutional issue that the measure just covered women and penalized men was raised but the politics of the day prevailed.

The meeting Thursday included legislative deputies, the security minister and the defensora de los habitantes. They expressed concern that the retroactive nature of the decision freed men who might seek retribution from the women who put them in prison.  They urged that protective measures be taken.

A 2005 decree informs prosecutors that they can use other laws to punish those who beat their spouses, but the last that was overturned specifically penalized male violence against women.

Landslide keeps road open!

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport workers have delayed a project on the Interamericana Sur that would have closed a section of the vital highway because a landslide Thursday required their attention instead. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said Wednesday that the highway would be closed in the la Cangreja section about 36 kms. (about 22 miles) north of the Panamá border. The closure would have been through Sunday morning.

But Thursday a slope gave way undermining the highway near where the project, a drainage system, was to be installed. Officials said that the highway is not closed but that traffic is being regulated. The work on the project has been postponed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 212

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This little piggie went to the market, and this little piggie got stuck with a needle . . . .
needles in the feet
A.M. Costa Rica/Elyssa Pachico

So what is worse, the needles, the music or the questions?
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

So I don't do alternative therapy. In Brooklyn, where I lived before coming down to Costa Rica, pet dogs probably have more experience with yoga, herbal medicine or massages than I do. My preferred form of treatment is three Tylenol and an espresso. Maybe I'll award myself with a pedicure if I feel that my aura is out of whack.

But when my beloved editor at A.M. Costa Rica approached me with the chance to get a free acupuncture session from a local practitioner, I did what any broke college graduate working in the dying medium of journalism would do: I said I'd try anything once.

First I needed to learn a little bit about what I was getting myself into. Isn't Gwyneth Paltrow a really big acupuncture fan? Actually, no, that would be cupping, which apparently involves somebody placing heated cups over your back in order to encourage blood flow. I had to place a heated cup on my forehead just to process that bit of information. Acupuncture, apparently, involves using very thin needles or electrical impulses to stimulate certain parts of the body, in order to relieve pain or encourage healing. I tried to think about whether I had any body parts that were causing me pain. Do my credit cards count?

I show up to my appointment late. It's pouring rain as usual, and it's the last day of my period and I am feeling cranky. I visit Eugene Mc Donald, who graciously agreed to give a demonstration at his Escazú office. He's been licensed in Florida, and the walls of his office are covered in framed certificates. He smiles a lot, gives me three business cards and asks me whether I would like some grape juice. When I sit down and flip open my notepad to a fresh page, he goes into the next room and comes out wearing a white doctor's coat.

“People don't realize that acupuncture in the U.S. is four years of medical school and 800 hours of internships before you're even qualified for the board exam,” he says. “Someone who took a $200 weekend course in acupuncture would know as much about acupuncture as I know about surgery.”

His eyes are fixed on my pen, scribbling across the page. “Wow, it makes me nervous, the way you write everything down!” he says.

It makes me nervous the way you will shortly stick pins into me, I think. I ask why he thinks people get into acupuncture.

“For a lot of people, it seems to be the treatment of last resort,” he says. “First they try the M.D., then they try the chiropractor, then they try medication, then they try cortisone shots. After that, they're willing to try anything, even needles.”

First on the agenda is taking my pulse. He puts two fingers on my wrist and closes his eyes and exhales deeply. He looks a bit like a concentrating Yoda, in that scene where he uses his Jedi powers to lift Luke's spaceship out of that icky swamp. After about a minute Mc Donald opens his eyes.

“Pardon me, this is a bit of a personal question,” he says. “But are you menstruating?”

My jaw opens. I doubt that my tampon is showing, so my only other conclusion is that Mc Donald definitely knows a little something about this acupuncture business. Mc Donald gives a little delighted giggle at my expression, and says he could tell because the blood in my pulse “felt thin.” “I love doing that to women,” he says.

It's a better parlor trick than making a quarter disappear, I will say that. Next up is the tongue examination. I open my mouth and Mc Donald talks about all the different things he can tell, just by looking at a tongue. “A crack down the middle means a problem with the spleen or stomach,” he says. “If the tip is red and inflamed, you might be due for a heart attack in a couple of days.”

He pronounces me as young and healthy. “I'd give anything for a young, healthy body again,” he says. “I'd  even take yours, menstruating and all!”
needle in the arm
A.M. Costa Rica/Elyssa Pachico
And so the arm does not feel left out . . . .

I give my best fake smile. The number of times men have told me that, you can't imagine.

Finally we move into the back room, which looks like any doctor's office, including a diagram of the ear on the wall and a table covered in white crinkly paper. I lie down and Mc Donald gets to work on my ear, using a tool that he says will send small electrical impulses through my body.

“Acupuncture's really about three things,” he says enthusiastically. “If there's excess energy, you take it out. If there's deficient energy, you put it in. And if there's stuck energy, you move it.” Since the nervous, chemical, circulatory and emotional systems are all interconnected, he explains, pressuring a few precise points can affect the way my whole body feels.

I lie on the table, staring at the ceiling, and the tool buzzes at my left earlobe. From time to time, a jolt of goose-bumps suddenly runs down my right leg. It's a little painful but strangely satisfying, like pushing at a sore tooth. Mc Donald cranes over me and says vaguely discomforting things like “There's a real guitar-string of tension here!”

After the electro-impulses comes the pins. I get three in each arm, three on my feet, and maybe one or two others on each leg, except lying on the table I can't lift my head high enough to see. Mc Donald puts in each one with a little tap, and all I feel is a small pinch. Then he turns off the lights, tells me to relax for 20 minutes, and leaves the room, leaving the door open a crack so I can call for help if I start freaking out.

I do feel pretty relaxed, until Mc Donald starts blasting New Age music from the next room, the kind they play in yoga classes for pregnant women who plan to give birth underwater. I am forced to lie there and listen to the Peruvian woodwind rendition of “I Will Always Love You” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Needles I can handle, but for this, I'm going to ask for a raise.

When the pins are finally removed and I get up and walk around the office, I am surprised at how refreshed I feel. It's a sensation more usually experienced when I wake up from a 10-hour nap after pulling two all-nighters in a row. When Mc Donald eagerly asks how I'm feeling, I am being completely honest when I reply, “really, really good.” Mostly, I feel good by how happy he looks at my reply.

Quacky stuff like cupping aside, by the time I leave the office my impression of acupuncture is that it definitely takes years and years of serious study and training in order to sound like you know what you're talking about.

I don't know if it cures everything that Mc Donald claims it can, from cigarette addiction to insomnia. But if nothing else, it sure is a nifty way of guessing whether a girl's on her period or not.

Legal requirements for doing acupuncture are a little cloudy
By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Orlando Guillén first began practicing acupuncture in Costa Rica in 1981, he faced his share of skeptics. Some accused him of practicing “the Devil's work” for supposedly inflicting patients with stigmata, he said.    

“In Costa Rica, up until the 1980s acupuncture was called a pseudoscience,” said Guillen, whom Argentinean singer Orlando Bertarini has credited with curing his vocal problems through acupuncture. “But then beginning with President Calderón it went from being witchcraft to being a medical specialty.”  Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier was president from 1990 to 1994.

Regulation of safe versus unsafe acupuncture, an ancient form of Chinese medicine which involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body in order to relieve pain, varies by country. Since the Costa Rican health ministry does not formally recognize acupuncture as a medicine, there are no formal regulations for receiving a license to practice in Costa Rica – which makes it more difficult for patients to separate the legitimate practitioners from the frauds.

“Looking someone up on the Internet is really the only way to tell if they're really licensed or not,” said Guillen, who is also president of a Costa Rican acupuncturist association, Achichoa. He estimates there are approximately 3,000 practicing acupuncturists in Costa Rica, although currently there are only 150 licensed members of Achichoa.

As there are no formal university programs in acupuncture in Costa Rica, many practicing acupuncturists have studied the therapy and earned their license abroad. The formal process for getting their certificate recognized as legitimate in Costa Rica, however, is unclear. 

Martha Vargas Piedra, who practices acupuncture at El Florecer del Loto in Tibás, said she received her certificate from the Alternative Medicine College in Canada. She attempted to apply for an official license to practice acupuncture in Costa Rica through the Ministerio de Salud, she said, but was redirected to the Colegio de Medicos y Cirujanos.

“I haven't heard back from them,” she said.
Instead, she applied for and received a license to practice alternative therapy from the local health ministry office in Tibás.

Beny Lotringer, originally from Israel, has been practicing acupuncture for two years in central San José. He said he was trained in Canada, at a local branch of a Sri Lankan school which he would not name.

“It doesn't really matter where I learned it from,” he said, adding that he did not have a license to practice in Costa Rica because it was unnecessary due to a lack of regulations. 
Cristina Herrera, a representative from the health ministry, said acupuncturists who have been licensed abroad should have their certificates verified at the local health ministry branch, in whichever neighborhood the acupuncturist plans to practice.

“There are no official regulations for that particular kind of establishment,” she said.

The process is different for physicians seeking to practice acupuncture alongside other specialties in medicine. The Colegio de Medicos y Cirujanos will only approve a license to practice acupuncture in Costa Rica if it is presented by a licensed doctor, said an acupuncturist who refused to give his full name, but said that he received his license to practice in Costa Rica through the Colegio de Medicos. 

Guillén said he hopes someday an acupuncture school could be established in San José, or that the ministry would create stricter regulations for practitioners.

“I think it's necessary because that way you can't fool anybody,” he said.

Meanwhile, the therapy continues to grow in popularity among Ticos. Guillén said that he estimates about seven in 10 Ticos have been treated or know someone who has been treated by acupuncture. Meanwhile, Ms. Vargas Piedras said that her private practice, which treats about five to eight patients a day, has never been so busy.

“People are going to keep on looking for this kind of treatment, if they say they're tired of traditional medicine, and they're looking for alternatives,” she said.

Natural medicine practitioners seeking their own colegio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Practitioners of natural medicine techniques were before a legislative committee Thursday promoting two bills that would create a Colegio de Naturópatas separate from the colegio of physicians.

Jorge Luis Ramírez Solís, president of the Asociación Colegio Nacional de Terapias Alternativas, said the idea is to bring those practicing naturopathic and homeopathy medicine into the same organization along with acupuncturists and aromatherapists.

In Latin America a colegio is an organization of
professionals enshrined in law with authority to award and remove licenses. Ramírez said that various natural medicine practitioners had sought entry into the Colegio de Medicos y Cirujanos and one for microbiologists, but they were rejected.

He did not express any opinions between the two similar bills and said that still undecided was if the proposed colegio would accepted individuals who have just an   undergraduate degree or would demand that they be a licenciado, similar to a U.S. master's degree.

The committee, the Comisión Permanente Especial de Derechos Humanos, said it would study the measures.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 212

Saving money with time has been a Costa Rican technique
To quote H. G. Wells, “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”  If one is to believe investment advisor Nassim Nicholas Taleb and mathematician Benoit Mandebrot, catastrophe is galloping ahead.  And this catastrophe is going worldwide. It already is.  Both men said they are scared. They were discussing their fears about the future on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer Tuesday.

The idea of Taleb’s book, “The Black Swan” is that one incidence of a phenomenon that has never happened before can erase thousands of years of consistent observations to the contrary. And like a black swan that was found in Australia, just because a financial disaster of such proportions has never happened before, doesn’t mean it can’t happen for the first time.

Mandebrot, a professor, is one of the early proponents of the butterfly effect — the theory that a small happening in one part of the world can create turbulence thousands of miles away.  Both agree that this world is fragile and too complicated for the current financial system and that the banking system itself, because huge banks have replaced smaller ones, is a giant with feet of clay.
For more bad news, they say that although one change can occur without serious consequence, due to the network effect of globalization these many changes can bring terrible consequences that we can’t even imagine. Their conclusion is that we are entering the most difficult period since the American Revolution. As I said, they are scared.

Taleb has been warning that a market crash was coming for a number of years, and ironically, has benefited handsomely from his prediction. 

Simultaneously, former masters of the universe, the brokers who have lost their jobs that made them millions (one even has spent time in prison for his illegal behavior), are now writing books about how to enjoy life with less money.  I had to smile as I thought about how often I have written about living frugally.  You really don’t have to have had money to know that one can enjoy life without being rich.

Then there is the aging courtesan in Colette’s novel, Chéri, who finds herself unable to happily get “back into the bustling life of people with nothing to do.” 

Obviously, the gentlemen just mentioned have no problem with that, but I wonder how ordinary working people who have lost their jobs and reluctantly joining this bustling life are faring.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

 In fact there is a lot one can do when there is nothing one must do.  Those with more money than time spend their money saving time, and those with more time than money, spend their time saving money (and now I am quoting myself).  So that is what you do, if you can’t spend your time earning money, you spend it saving money.

My son is visiting this month and he watched with some wonder as I washed clothes in my little Mabe washer.  It is a high participation washer that saves both electricity and water. Then I hang the clothes to dry.  You can wash just about everything — even those items that say "dry clean only." Just don’t use water that will "shock" the material.  (I learned that from someone’s maid in Spain.)

Don’t throw out those tubes of toothpaste and shampoo, etc. that seem depleted – cut them open with scissors and you will discover several more applications in them. (I learned that from someone’s maid in Brazil.)
And of course, a major way to save money is to learn to iron and to cook and hope you learn to love doing it.  The latter means making recipes from scratch, eschewing prepared foods and using fresh instead of frozen. Buying food at the feria, not the supermarkets means savings and gets one into the fresh air. And of course, walking or public transportation whenever possible is a good way to save money. This is in Costa Rica. These are just a few suggestions.

I have long been an advocate of riding the bus — one reader who obviously is not, sends me every newspaper clipping he can find about bus accidents.  I never get statistics on people hurt or killed in car accidents.

Meanwhile back in the States, Suze Orman, the personal financial advisor, is giving advice to people who are hurting  from the financial debacle, so they are in good hands.

On a hopeful note, included in their assessment of the future Taleb and Mandebrot agreed that because of the difficulty in predicting human behavior “anything can happen.”  That means, well, just that, and maybe we will learn from this experience and education will take the lead again.

Cuba and European Union formally renew their relations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials from the European Union and Cuba have re-established relations, ending five years of diplomatic tension.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque and European development commissioner Louis Michel signed a cooperation agreement Thursday in Havana.

The talks follow the EU decision in June to lift sanctions
against Cuba. Since Raul Castro took over the presidency from his brother Fidel Castro earlier this year, the EU has worked to encourage democratic reforms on the island.

The bloc imposed sanctions in 2003 as punishment for Cuba's imprisonment of more than 70 dissidents. After the sanctions, Cuba refused to accept any European development aid.

While on his official visit, the EU development commissioner is expected to tour hurricane-damaged areas.

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Costa Rica
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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 212

A.M. Costa Rica

users 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 week day.

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.


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.


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.


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.


A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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.

Health and food supplies
running out, U.N. says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U. N. Children’s Fund warned Thursday that life-saving supplies are quickly running out in Honduras, where severe landslides and flooding caused by heavy rains have killed at least 14 people and affected some 130,000 others.

The flooding is so widespread that the Honduran government has declared a national state of emergency, and an estimated 75,000 others in six other countries in the region have also been affected. The agency named Costa Rica in addition to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. Costa Rica, too, is under a state of emergency while officials try to repair damage from storms generated by a low pressure system.

About 12,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes and moved to shelters across Central America and around one-third of the displaced population are children, the U.N. agency said.

The agency also expressed deep concern because many of the thousands of blankets, medical and hygiene kits, oral rehydration salts and other supplies it had pre-positioned prior to this year’s hurricane season have been used in the initial response to the emergency.

“The aftermath of a natural disaster like this one can be deadly for children, who are highly vulnerable to waterborne diseases,” said Nils Kastberg, the agency's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Children’s immune systems can also be weakened by poor nutrition. If we add in a situation such as this, massive damage to crops that exacerbates already high food prices, we’ve got a time-bomb in the making,” added Kastberg.

Honduras, where 25,000 people have already received emergency food aid, has requested urgent assistance from the children's fund to ensure recovery for children and families, focusing on the areas of water and sanitation, health and nutrition, and education, according to a press release.

A U.N. disaster assessment and coordination team, a standby group of disaster management professionals who are nominated and funded by member governments, is being mobilized to travel to Honduras.

At least 8,000 people in Nicaragua remained in shelters Thursday as a result of flooding in that country, although the government has not requested U.N. assistance. In Belize, an estimated 36,000 people were affected but mass evacuations were not required, U.N. officials said.

More rain is expected and officials fear the situation could get worse as the annual Atlantic hurricane season is not yet over in Central America, where a series of tropical storms have moved slowly and steadily across the region, dumping heavy rains.

The flooding is the latest in a series of natural disasters that have devastated parts of Latin America and the Caribbean during this year’s hurricane season. Earlier in the season 2.5 million Cubans were evacuated from their homes as the island was pummeled by consecutive hurricanes, and tens of thousands of Haitians are still living in temporary shelters more than a month after four successive storms battered the impoverished nation.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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