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Published Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 211
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Mayors to meet to try and fix metro area's woes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mayors from the metro area are scheduled to meet for two days, starting Wednesday, to set up a developmental agenda.

Sessions will be at the Museo de los Niños.

Edgar Mora Altamirano, mayor of the Municipalidad de Curridabat, said that the goal is to construct an agenda that not only resolves problems but plans the city for the current century.

The 16 mayors from different political parties are seeking concrete solutions, he said, adding that they would be putting individual and  political affiliations aside.

He is scheduled to be joined by mayors from Alajuela, Alajuelita, Belén,  Desamparados, Escazú, Goicoechea, Heredia, La Unión, Montes de Oca, Mora, Moravia, San José, Tibás, San Rafael de Heredia and Santa Ana.

There are international guests including Mary Gordon, founder of the Roots of Empathy program that is an effort to reduce levels of aggression and bullying among school children.

Another guest was identified as Grey Wolf, the principal chief of Sovereign Cherokee Nation

Tejas in Fate, Texas. This is an unrecognized Indian tribe that U.S. Senate investigators said in 1993 is neither sovereign, nor Cherokee nor a nation. The tribe was involved in a $25 million insurance dispute over bonds bearing its name.

Grey Wolf was described in an announcement as being here to share his experience over a successful model of sustainable development based on autonomy and sovereignty. The tribe was formed in the 1970s when its founder claimed ownership of a sand bar in the Rio Grande River and claimed political autonomy as an Indian nation.

The federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina lists the Sovereign Cherokee Nation Tejas as one of more than 200 wannabe Indian tribes.

Tribal membership is restricted in the United States because there are some benefits. The Sovereign Cherokee Nation Tejas, for example, got into trouble because a promoter tried to use its name to set up an Indian casino in Texas.

Other topics scheduled to be addressed at the conference are river flooding, public transportation, tourism development, community violence and public parks.
A full schedule is HERE!

Lawmakers pass bill to discourage teen marriages
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers passed for the second and final time Monday a bill that discourages minors from contracting matrimony. The bill also assesses penalties for sexual relations with minors based on an age difference with the male partner.

Costa Rica now permits marriage of youngsters 15 and older and allows consensual sexual relationships at 13. The  age 18 marriage requrement is likely to generate court challenges.

The changes follow guidelines of the United Nations, and a Costa Rican committee with input from the Fundación Panimore.

Lawmakers heard that 98 percent of minors involved in long-term relationships are with men over 18. In fact, 10.2 percent of them are with men 30 years and older, according to the summary of the bill.

The bill also sets a three- to six-year penalty for sexual relations with someone between 13 and 15 if the other partner is five years or more older. The penalty would be two to three years imprisonment when the youngest partner is between 15 and 18 and the older partner is seven or more years older.

The bill also establishes a penalty of from four to 10 years for sexual relations by an uncle, aunt, brother, sister or first degree cousins. The penalty also applies to tutors, guardians and other persons of confidence or authority.

To become law, the bill needs the signature of President Luis Guillermo Solís. He is believed to support the measure.

A.M. Costa Ric graphic

As with other laws, passage is one thing but enforcement is another. Costa Rican law enforcement has not brought many cases in

the wake of pregnancies and births by very young women. About 9 percent of minor women have had one or more children, according to the 2011 census.

The bill summary said that 8.6 percent of women between 12 and 19 were in some form of union with a man, according to the same census. The percentage was higher in rural areas.

The bill might have some unidentified rough spots. At one point, a draft of the bill decriminalized rape. That omission was fixed during an internal review.

The bill only prohibits marriage by minors because it instructs the Registro Civil to refuse to file such documents. There is no penalty for contracting marriage while underage. And there would be no penalty for living together as long as the age range of the older partner were within the limits outlined by the bill.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 211
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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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Cold front creates a brief, fake dry season

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Moderate winds are supposed to continue this morning in Guanacaste and the Central Valley, but there is a chance of rain in the afternoon on the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone.

And there also is a chance of rain in the south and central Pacific and in west of the Central Valley, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The weather institute blamed the winds on a cold front, which was expected to cause a dip in overnight temperatures.

And although the rain is not exactly Mother Nature’s last gasp for the year, the prediction is that the transition to the Costa Rican summer will begin within the next two weeks.

That means high season, Christmas and plenty of tourists. There may even be some new residents fleeing the results of the U.S. election.

Summer means sunny, blue skies in the Central Valley and on the Pacific coast. The season on the Caribbean coast is reversed.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional should be coming out with a timetable for the arrival of  the dry season soon. The season begins in the north Pacific and marches south over four to five weeks.

Still, there continues to be a chance of showers through Christmas in the Central Valley and the central and south Pacific.

Plenty of residents are sick of rain because October is the wettest month of the year. But these same residents will be praying for rain in May.

Murder suspect no stranger to courts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have detained a man with the last name of Estrada Jiménez as a key figure in the shootings that have stemmed from turf wars for drug distribution.

Specifically, the man, 25, is believed to be behind the killing of five persons in a Sunday afternoon rampage on the beach at Cieneguita, Limón, Oct. 2.

The arrest raises questions about the effectiveness of the court system.  Estrada was convicted of murder and sentenced to three decades in prison in the 2010 shooting death of a little girl. She was an innocent bystander as were most of the individuals in the Cieneguita shootings.

The conviction was overturned on appeal, and a new trial is expected.

In addition, the man has another open murder charge stemming from a killing April 8, 2013, an attempted murder charge involving an incident March 19, 2015, and a lesser charge from Jan. 12, 2016. There also is a 2009 robbery charge for which trial is set for next August.

No judge appears to have determined the man should have been placed in preventative detention.

Estrada also is a suspect in the murder of a lawyer last October.

The man was detained Monday morning in Río Segundo. His brother also was detained as were suspected associates.

Investigators said they believe that the shootings stem from a struggle for territory by several drug distribution operations.

Farmers and producers due at legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agricultural activists will take over the legislature Wednesday, but they are expected.

Representatives from some 60 organizations are expected to show up Wednesday morning and actually take the seats that lawmakers use in the assembly hall. Lawmakers usually do not meet there until the afternoon.

The agricultural producers have a series of gripes. They have said they will express their opposition to the Pacific Trade Partnership and strongly support the Consejo Nacional de Producción, which among other responsibilities operates the various farmer markets.

University breaks ground for campus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Texas Tech University broke ground Monday for its $15 million campus. The location is in Avenida Escazú west of the capital.

The university expected to begin classes in a year. The school announced in August that it was opening a Latin American branch here for an initial 1,300 students.

Flamenco performance set for Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sofia Dávila, a Chilean dancer, will be the featured performer Saturday night for "Flamenco Sin Fronteras" in Casa de España at 8 p.m.  Also performing will be Allan Naranjo, operator of the Allan Naranjo Escuela de Flamenco. Álvaro Madrigal will be on the guitar, and José Fernández will sing.

Ms. Dávila has been in the city this week giving workshops.

The Spanish cultural center is 100 meters north of the headquarters of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in Sabana Norte.

Smithsonian reaches goal for slippers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Smithsonian officials have reached their fundraising goal to help preserve the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”

The Smithsonian launched a Kickstarter campaign last week to raise $300,000 to help preserve the slippers that whisked Dorothy back to Kansas at the end of the movie.

Officials say they reached their goal late Sunday night thanks to more than 5,300 supporters in 41 countries across six continents.

The slippers have been one of the most beloved items at the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian wants to put the money toward a technologically advanced display case that will preserve them for future generations.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 211
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Symphony orchestra will debut its new CD with concert Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional is coming out with a new CD Friday marking the 76th birthday of the musical group. This is Volume Two of  “Compositores Costarricesenses.” Volume one was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2014.

The orchestra will introduce the CD with an 8 p.m. concert Friday in the Teatro Nacional. A repeat performance will be Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

Costa Rican Eddie Mora was the conductor for the work, which was recorded last year. The works range from 1945 to 2010, and all are by Costa Rican composers.

Winnie Camila Berg, a Cuban violinist, was the soloist for  Carlos Castro’s 2010 piece “Serenata de la luna para viola y cuerdas.”

With this work, the orchestra has produced four CDs that are 100 percent Costa Rican, it said.

Art and design museum will close while workmen fight termites
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The termites are nibbling at the roof and other wooden parts of the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, so officials are closing the main hall for the rest of the year while restoration takes place. This is the large, 13 by 40 meter hall that used to hold all those aging oak barrels for rum. The museum is located in the Centro Nacional de la Cultura which use to be the Fábrica Nacional de Licores.

This is the sprawling compound on the east side of Parque España on Avenida 7 which also houses the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. The ministry took over for the state alcohol manufacturer in 1994 when that factory moved to a location on the Autopista Bernardo Soto in Grecia.

Other parts of the museum still will be open to the public, officials said. In fact, there will be an area where the public can watch the renovations.

Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud /Andrés Fernández
Barrels of the Fábrica Nacional Licores.

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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 211
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One in four U.S. cancer deaths attributed to smoking tobacco
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cigarettes contribute to more than one in four cancer deaths in the U.S. The rate is highest among men in southern states where smoking is more common and tobacco control policies are less strict.

The American Cancer Society study found the highest rate among men in Arkansas, where 40 percent of cancer deaths were linked to cigarette smoking. Kentucky had the highest rate among women, 29 percent.

The lowest rates were in Utah, where 22 percent of cancer deaths in men and 11 percent in women were linked with smoking.

“The human costs of cigarette smoking are high in all states, regardless of ranking,” the authors said.

They analyzed 2014 health surveys and government data on smoking rates and deaths from about a dozen smoking-linked cancers. Lung, throat, stomach, liver, colon, pancreas and kidney cancers were among those included, along with leukemia. The researchers estimated how many cancer deaths were likely attributable to smoking, and compared that with deaths from all cancers.

Results were published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

While U.S. smoking rates have been falling, 40 million U.S. adults are cigarette smokers and smoking is the top cause of preventable deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that at least 167,000 cancer deaths in 2014, about 29 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths, were attributable to smoking.

Most of the 10 states with the highest rates of smoking-attributable cancer deaths were in the South, while most of the 10 states with the lowest rates were in the North or West.

Among men, where smoking is generally more common, the cigarette-linked cancer death rate was highest in blacks at 35 percent, compared with 30 percent for whites and 27 percent

A.M. Costa Rica file photo

for Hispanics. Among women, whites had the highest cigarette-linked cancer death rate, 21 percent, compared 19 percent for blacks and 12 percent for Hispanics.

The researchers say nine of 14 states with the least comprehensive smoke-free indoor air policies are in the South. The average cigarette excise tax in major tobacco states, mostly in the South, is 49 cents, compared with $1.80 elsewhere. The tobacco industry heavily influences these policies and most of the U.S. tobacco crop is grown in the South, the researchers said. The region also has relatively high levels of poverty, which is also linked with smoking.

Hilary Tindle of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said the results reflect what she sees as a tobacco researcher and internal medicine specialist in the South. She was not involved in the study.

Smoking is more of a social norm there, and while her medical center has an indoor smoking ban, she said it's not unusual to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke outside the entrance. Dr. Tindle said the study results highlight the need for stronger tobacco control measures and show why doctors should discuss smoking at every patient visit, encourage smokers to quit and inform them about effective ways to do so.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.

George Lundquist

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Real estate for rent (paid category)

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 211
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U.N. agency says high levels
of carbon dioxide to endure

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Meteorological Organization reports the level of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere has reached a record high this year, driven in part by the powerful El Niño event, which started in 2015 and continued well into 2016.

According to the U.N. agency, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time in 2015 and surged to new records this year.

The organization’s  secretary general, Petteri Taalas, says this symbolic, but significant milestone bodes ill for the planet as these carbon dioxide emissions will stay in the atmosphere for generations.

“At the moment, we are not moving in the right direction. We are actually moving in the wrong direction and this warming potential of the planet has been growing," Taalas said.

Carbon dioxide results from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, among other things. Meteorologists say carbon dioxide accounts for 65 percent of the warming effect on our climate.

Two other greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide, contribute about 17 percent and 6 percent respectively to the long-lived warming of earth’s climate.

Taalas said it is not possible to tackle climate change without tackling carbon dioxide emissions because the lifetime of this greenhouse gas is very long.

“There have been some scientific studies estimating that the return back to pre-industrial levels may take tens of thousands of years. And, therefore, it is really urgent that we start reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and if we do not do so, then this problem will remain with us for thousands, even tens of thousands of years," Taalas said.

Taalas welcomes the Paris Climate agreement. But, he noted its impact may be limited as emissions reductions are voluntary and not legally binding. He says the world still has a chance to turn things around in the coming decades if it moves from political will to concrete action.

He says negative trends will continue for several decades. But, he adds improvements in the climate will be seen by 2060 if nations start reducing their carbon dioxide emissions now.

Trump disputes poll figures
and insists that he is winning

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, trailing in his run for the White House, accused Democrats on Monday of making up phony polls to deflate his vote and make it look like Democrat Hillary Clinton is ahead.

"They are phony polls, put out by phony media, trying to suppress our vote," Trump told several dozen farmers in Florida, a large battleground state essential to his hopes of winning the Nov. 8 election.

"We're winning this race. I really believe we're winning," Trump said, a day after campaign manager Kellyanne Conway acknowledged that he has fallen behind Mrs. Clinton, who is looking to become the country's first female president.

Earlier, Trump exhorted his supporters on Twitter, telling them, "We are winning and the press is refusing to report it. Don't let them fool you — get out and vote!"

Trump produced no evidence about fake media polls. A collection of national surveys shows him trailing Mrs. Clinton by about 6 percentage points or more. One major poll, released Sunday by ABC News, said its interviews with voters showed Clinton surging in recent days to a 50-to-38 percent lead, while polling analysts give her about a nine-in-10 chance of becoming the country's 45th president.

Mrs. Clinton, confident of her advantage 15 days ahead of the quadrennial U.S. presidential election, says she will ignore Trump's taunts against her that she is corrupt and unfit to be the U.S. leader and instead focus on helping elect Democratic lawmakers to the Senate and House of Representatives to support her legislative agenda.

Trump is continuing to tell his supporters that the election outcome is rigged against him in a conspiracy between the national news media and the Clinton campaign. With early voting already underway in many states, Trump has called on his supporters to monitor polling stations for fraud.

Trump has claimed that voters are impersonating dead people listed on voter rolls. Election experts say that U.S. voter lists are populated with millions of names of dead people, voters whose identification has outdated information and people who have illegally registered in more than one state.

Iran’s president says election
is between bad and worse

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Several leaders around the world have taken the liberty to pass judgement about the presidential election in the United States. Iran's president is the latest.

Speaking Sunday in a televised speech in the city of Ark, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he had no preference in the U.S. election and the choice offered to American citizens was between bad and worse referring to the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

"Did you see the debate and the way of their speaking, accusing and mocking each other? Do we want such a democracy in our country? Do we want such elections in our country?" Rouhani asked.

He went on to comment the United States "claims it has had democracy for more than 200 years," but the present situation indicates that the morality has no place there.

Rouhani said during his September visit to the U.N. General Assembly, he was asked which of the candidates he preferred and replied "should I prefer bad to worse or worse to bad?"

Iran's state TV has broadcast two of the debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in full. It has followed the campaign, often highlighting economic and social problems in the United States and the most confrontational debate segments.

Iran will hold its own presidential election in May 2017, and Rouhani is eligible to seek a second term. He faces an uphill battle against conservatives who dislike his overtures to the West and say the nuclear deal has failed to bring significant economic benefits to Iran.

Rouhani signed the nuclear accord last year with the United States and world powers that led to the lifting of sanctions and raised hopes that Iran would return to the international fold.

Trump says he would "tear up" the nuclear agreement and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has responded that he would happily burn the agreement if that was the case.

Tehran and Washington have not restored diplomatic ties that were cut after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover, despite the nuclear deal.

Voice of America photo 

iPod that changed the world
marks 15 years of production

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Fifteen years ago, Apple unveiled the portable music player.

The effect the portable music player had on how music is listened cannot be overstated. For example, it was June 2003 before Apple sold its millionth iPod, but by the end of 2004, 10 million had been sold.

The first iPod, which was released Oct. 23, 2001, had a 5GB hard drive and a rotating scroll wheel to browse the up to 1,000 songs it could hold. It sold for $399.

Despite the launch of iPhone, the iPod is still around, with three versions: the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano and iPod Touch. But in a sign of how things have moved along, the iPod is no longer listed on the company’s main navigation bar on its website.

The popularity of the iPod also made Apple’s iTunes music software a must-have. Over the years, it has evolved as an online store for buying music or opting for a paid streaming service.

iPod’s creator, Tony Fadell, left Apple in 2010 and went on to found Nest Labs, which makes smart thermostats. The company was bought by Google in 2014.

Female genital mutilation
comes to U.S. with refugees

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations estimates 200 million girls and women in more than 30 countries have undergone female genital mutilation.

Somalia has the highest rate in the world recorded by the United Nations, with about 98 percent of the country's female population between the ages of 15 and 49 affected.

Although the procedure is illegal in the United States, many Somali natives now residing in the U.S. underwent genital mutilation as girls and still live with pain. And, in some Somali communities, the practice is carried out in secret.

The U.S. state of Minnesota is home to a large number of refugees from Somalia. Fadumo Afi, who lives in the Twin Cities area, a 55-year-old mother of seven who complains of medical problems, remembers how she was mutilated with an unsterilized instrument. She said she underwent the procedure, along with another girl, when she was 6.

"It was too harmful to us because we have not even had anesthesia," she said. "We were living in the areas where medication wasn't available. We couldn't even pee."

Ms. Weli says she's unable to have children due to genital mutilation, which is why she founded Isuroon, a nonprofit organization that advocates for Somali women living outside Somalia and works with women who have life-threatening medical conditions as a result of having undergone genital mutilation.

Ms. Weli underwent what is considered the most dangerous type of genital mutilation, known as Type III, which includes the complete sewing shut of the vagina. She says she still has physical and emotional scars.

According to the U.N. Population Fund, which works with youth and women, there are three types of genital mutilation, and Type III, called infibulation, causes vaginal obstruction that can result in accumulation of menstrual flow in the vagina and uterus. Infibulation can also cause difficulties during sexual intercourse or childbirth, and can be fatal.

"Well, the complication is hard. You have a problem with sexual issues. You have a problem going to see the doctor . . . when they going to do pelvic exams," Ms. Weli said. "It really, really hurts. You are self-conscious about your sexual needs and you are asking yourself 'Why am I not normal?' Now we are living in America, second or third generations, and we are becoming friends with non-Somalis, so we discuss about this issue."

Genital mutilation is a traditional practice that has nothing to do with Islam, says Sheikh Hassan Jami'i, an imam in the Twin Cities area. He said he has four daughters and none have been subjected to genital mutilation.

"All scholars of Islam agree that FGM is prohibited," he said, "That's why I'm proud as a father that I have never practiced this harmful FGM. In Islam, there is a principle that says whatever is harmful, it's prohibited."

Khalid Mohammed, a Somali-American Twin Cities resident, agrees. He has seen his sisters suffer from the practice and wouldn't recommend that others go through the same ordeal.

"I have sisters who have suffered from FGM and because of the trauma and problems they have gone through, I see it as something too bad,” he said. “Their menstrual cramps last longer and they experience more pain and can't even afford to do their daily work."

Ahmed Roble, who runs a clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota, treats many women who have been subjected to genital mutilation.

"This is an aggression done to innocent girls at a very tender age, and sometimes even newborns," he said.

The average age that girls are subjected to genital mutilation is between 5 years old and 10 years old, he added. Roble said that women who live with the scars of genital mutilation suffer during childbirth.

"Because of the scars, they are not as elastic and stretching is difficult," he said. "You get more stitches to repair because this is not a normal opening."

Since the medical complications of genital mutilation are severe, even those who undergo surgery will not regain what they have lost in terms of health or appearance. Although there are now numerous campaigns and laws against the procedure in African countries, it is still widely practiced and causes untold problems and pain for women.

The World Health Organization says genital mutilation is performed for different reasons from one region to another. Among them is trying to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity, reducing a woman's libido to therefore help her resist extramarital sexual acts and increasing marriageability.

There are also "cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male."

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 211
Real Estate
About us

News from the BBC up to the minute

BBC news feeds are disabled on archived pages.

Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Pope Francis urges dialogue in Venezuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pope Francis met privately with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at the Vatican Monday and urged him to spark a meaningful dialogue with opposition leaders.

Maduro, who just ended a trip to the Middle East, is arriving back in Venezuela just days after his government blocked an opposition effort to remove him from office through a recall referendum.

Maduro’s political opponents have accused him of staging a coup d’etat by stopping the effort to hold a vote to remove him. There have also been calls for demonstrations to protest the decision.

In a statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis asked Maduro to engage the opposition in a sincere and constructive dialogue that will benefit all of the people suffering in Venezuela. Francis urged Maduro to promote a social cohesion to help Venezuela recover from its recent economic crisis.

Speaking in Caracas, Papal envoy Emil Paul Tscherrig said the two sides hoped to begin talks this week on the Venezuelan island of Margarita.

A spokesman for the opposition coalition later denied that the two sides agreed to the terms of the Margarita meeting, though he was encouraged by the involvement of the Vatican in the talks.

On Saturday, several thousand women marched on the streets of Caracas to protest the suspension of the referendum effort. Analysts have said violent unrest is more likely in Venezuela after the country’s economy crashed and people began looting due to shortages of food and basic health products.

Polls show around 75 percent of Venezuelans want to see Maduro removed from power and blame him for the collapse in the country’s standard of living. Maduro has called the economic collapse a capitalist conspiracy.

Invasion blocks congressional session

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's Congress declared Sunday that the government staged a coup by blocking a referendum effort that could have led to the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

During an emergency session, the opposition-majority legislature passed a resolution proclaiming the breakdown of constitutional order and a coup d'etat committed by the Nicolas Maduro regime.

Majority leader Julio Borges of the Democratic Unity Roundtable said "A continual coup d'etat has been perpetrated in Venezuela, culminating in the decision to rob us of a recall referendum. We're here to officially declare the regrettable and painful rupture of the constitution."

Legislators also proposed to replace Supreme Court judges and other national elections officials.

In the day's agenda, Congress also wanted to vote to put Maduro on trial, but legislators were stopped after protesters in favor of the government entered the heavily secured building.

Opposition spokesman Jesus Torrealba said what happened on the Congress floor was an example of how democracy has been struggling in the country. "The fact that lawmakers elected by 7.5 million people were silenced by 300 thugs sums up the situation better than any speech could," he said.

The legislature's resolution, however, is mostly symbolic as the Supreme Court declared the lawmakers in favor of the resolution in contempt of court for challenging the order.

But the opposition is still urging Venezuelans to build pressure in the streets and vowed to lead a nationwide protest Wednesday called "the taking of Venezuela."

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From page 7:

Chinese group will acquire stake in Hilton

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China's HNA Group is buying an approximately 25 percent stake in hotel operator Hilton from Blackstone affiliates in a deal worth about $6.5 billion.

HNA will have a stake in Hilton and its planned spinoffs of Park Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Grand Vacations, which are expected to take place by the end of the year. As part of a stockholders agreement with Hilton, HNA will appoint two directors to Hilton's board. This brings the Hilton board to 10 members.

HNA Group runs hotels, airlines, airports, and financial services and real estate businesses. Earlier this year one of its units agreed to buy Carlson Hotels. Chinese companies have been looking to diversify abroad to counter slowing growth at home while also scooping up foreign expertise and technology.

Blackstone will now have an approximately 21 percent interest in Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Blackstone will continue to have two seats on Hilton's board.

The deal is expected to close in 2017's first quarter.

Shares of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. rose 46 cents, or 2 percent, to $23.37 in morning trading Monday while the Blackstone Group LP shares rose 69 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $24.76.