Your daily English-language news
|Mimi wants to know:
about Lizzardís diet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The Lizzard continues to prowl the A.M. Costa Rica classified pages.
A reader who is selling puppies said Monday that he received an e-mail from a man who wanted to purchase his puppies with a third-party certified check.
This is another case of someone shifting the classified with some kind of scam in mind. Usually such scamsters target automobile ads.
However, this is the first time that the individual identified himself as Lizzard Inc.
This generated a question in the mind of the A.M. Costa Rica reader/advertiser. He said he talked to the puppy, Mimi:
"I showed the reply to Mimi and she thinks that the deal sounds okay, you know "certified cashier check" and all, but she is concerned about being adopted by a person named Lizzard. She is of the impression that lizards gobble up little puppies? I donít know if there is any truth to this, however until I can check out this lizards diet, Iíll just hang on to the puppies . . . do you think Iím being overly cautious?
The scamster promises to handle the shipping of the dogs, just as in the past the same or similar scamster promised to handle the shipment of cars.
The scam is that the purchaser wants the seller to accept a foreign check in an amount much greater than the purchase price and to refund the difference via Western union immediately.
Girl struck down
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
A truck struck down a 5-year-old Limón girl and her 11-year-old school friend about 11 a.m. Monday near the entrance to that city. The younger girl died and her friend is in critical condition.
Neighbors were so angry at what had transpired they torched the truck tractor and flatbed trailer.
The driver had fled to escape the crowdís wrath, but police found him later. They later identified him by the last name of Vasquez.
The dead girl was identified as Jenny Ferrofino Chavarría. She was crossing the street from her school in Barrio San Juan at a traffic light. Her friend is Lizzette Arroyo Mercado, and she is in Hospital de Niños in San José.
The tractor and trailer, which was empty, were destroyed. Investigators are seeking the people who torched the vehicle.
Taxi driver spent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
A pirate taxi driver spent nearly all day Sunday and early Monday morning in the trunk of his vehicle after bandits put him there early Sunday morning.
The man, Alex Vargas Gutiérrez, told police two men contracted his services about 2 a.m. Sunday morning near Parque Central in San José. They wanted a ride to Santa Ana but pulled guns and robbed him of his wallet and some 20,000 colons (about $50) before they got there. That is when they put in him the trunk.
Later they parked the car in Ciudad Colón, some 20 kms. (12 miles) west of San José. The car was near the Gimnasio Municipal there. The man managed to free himself Monday morning and contacted police.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
LA PAZ, Bolivia ó President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada says he will not resign, despite two days of rioting that have claimed at least 28 lives near this capital city.
In a defiant televised speech Monday, Sanchez de Lozada said he will stand firm in the face of demonstrators angry over his government's natural gas export plans. He insisted the government will defeat those who he said want to "eliminate and disintegrate" Bolivia.
Labor unions and indigenous groups say the gas export plan would mostly benefit large foreign companies and not Bolivia's impoverished majority.
Earlier in the day, President Sanchez de Lozada suspended the plan, saying Bolivians should have a chance to voice their opinions. Observers say the program has become a lightning rod for groups angry over the president's policies.
Monday, at least four people died in fighting between protestors and soldiers around La Paz, the capital. Much of the fighting took place in El Alto, a working-class suburb of La Paz, the capital. Meanwhile, demonstrations took place in La Paz and other cities.
At least 42 people have been killed since a series of wider protests against the president's policies began three weeks ago.
Also, Vice-President Carlos Mesa broke ranks with Sanchez de Lozada
over his handling of the crisis.
Democrats to consider
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica will hear Francisco Cordero, an adviser to the Partido Liberación Nacional at its meeting Oct. 27.
Cordero will talk about the opposition to the proposed international law enforcement academy in Costa Rica and opposition to the proposed Central American free trade treaty.
The meeting is at 11 a.m. in the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. A political discussion is followed by lunch at noon and the speaker at 12:30 p.m.
Lunch is 3,500 colons (about $8.50) for members and 4,000 ($9.75) for nonmembers. To reserve a place, those interested should call David Sagel at 249-1856 or Ruth Dixon at 494-6260. Everyone in the community is welcome, the club said.
The non-confrontational, pleasant discussion by Robert Zoellick with Costa Rican reporters Oct. 1 has been described as a warning, a threat and even an ultimatum.
The reporters seemed to hear what they (or perhaps their editors) wanted to hear.
Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, met with reporters for a few minutes on his whirlwind visit to Costa Rica, but the interpretations of what he said about a proposed free trade treaty have lingered to color Costa Rican policy.
However, his office in Washington has released a transcript of his comments, and the transcript reinforced the opinion of an A.M. Costa Rica reporter who was at the press conference. The transcript is verified by the reporterís notes.
Zoellick did not insist that Costa Rica dismantle the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. In fact he said "We understand that ICE is an institution that has a particular place in Costa Rican society. We understand how, in the minds of many, itís associated with the social policies of the country. And as Iíve said to Minister Trejos and his colleagues, and to the President, weíre not seeking the privatization of ICE."
He was referring to Alberto Trejos, minister of Comercio Exterior and a key figure in the negotiations of a free trade treaty with the United States. Zoellick did say that for the good of the country and the future of its younger generation Costa Rica will need a better telecommunications system.
The closest Zoellick came to demanding access was when he talked about the service sector, an area far broader than just telecommunications. The service sector includes professional services and even insurance. He said:
"But Iíve been very clear: we need to open up the services market. That is necessary for me to bring back an agreement. The Central American neighbors are all willing to do that, but we need some more movement from Costa Rica. And weíll work with you in a problem-solving way."
Yet the impression has been left that Zoellick was talking only about the telecommunications monopoly maintained by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Diario Extra seems to have done the best job of the major Spanish-language newspapers in reporting the tone of the trade representativeís brief talk.
Foes of the treaty have seized on the interpretation that Zoellick issued an ultimatum.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
|Telecommunication workers are prepared
to march Monday to defend their cherished monopoly.
We have included below the text of his comments.
|Here is a verbatim text of the
short press conference held by Robert Zoellick at Casa Presidencial on
the afternoon of Oct. 1. He is the U.S. trade reprsentative.
The text is supplied by his office.
Zoellick: Well first I thank all of you for joining us today, and weíre trying to see about some other transportation arrangements, so Iíll try to be with you as long as I can. First, Iím very honored to have had the chance to talk with the President, and so many members of the Cabinet. Also a chance to meet today with members of the Legislature, and a chance to visit some of the businesses that have operated in Costa Rica with US investment to create additional job opportunities, because one of the messages that Iíve been seeking to convey is that for me this is a special opportunity with Central America.
When I worked as Undersecretary of State from 1989-1992, I worked with my Costa Rican colleagues on the peace processes of this region, in Nicaragua and in El Salvador. And so we know how important the accomplishment of democracy is in Central America.
And from the point of view of President Bush, the future of this Hemisphere rests on the strength of the commitment to democracy, to security, and to free markets. For us, the Central American FTA, or CAFTA, is the foundation of something much more important. Itís the foundation of how trade and economics can contribute to development, to opportunity, and to hope.
Now, weíve been making good progress this year on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. And we hope to complete that agreement by the end of this year. We have two more formal negotiating sessions. This is a good time for me to come down to the region, to visit Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua, and tomorrow, if I catch the plane, with five Ministers from the region to talk about the specifics. And tomorrow perhaps at a press conference we can speak a little bit more about that.
But let me just emphasize the four reasons that I think are most important for this agreement. First, the US already has about $23 billion worth of trade with the Central American countries. And much of this trade comes from the Caribbean Basin Initiative, where we offer trade preferences to the region. But we need to update those preferences, to make it more two-way and to lock it in. Because there are changes coming.
For example, in textiles and apparel--where the quotas that have existed for 40 or 50 years--these will end and we want to try to put in this trade agreement terms that will help Central America and the US to have combined competitive operations. But we also want to look beyond textiles and apparel. So I was at the Procter and Gamble business center today, where there are some 1,000 Costa Ricans that have jobs just over the past few years by providing business services to P&G employees all over the world. Thereís an Intel plant that has invested some $500 million in Costa Rica, making Costa Rica one of the leading-edge countries in technology development.
And indeed now, the $1.3 billion of technology exports from Costa Rica are 4 times your exports of bananas, which used to be a major export crop, and 8 times your exports of coffee. So we see this agreement as trying to help Costa Rica and its four Central American neighbors integrate but also be part of a global economy through a special relationship with the US.
And thatís the second benefit. This agreement is about more than economic efficiency. It about addressing poverty, itís about development, and itís about democracy. Itís about the rule of law, provisions for transparency that help counter corruption. Tomorrow in El Salvador, Iím going to see a very small business that works with Mayan employees to develop formulas to meet the interests of some in the Humane Society in the United States for special products.
Third, weíre trying to combine trade and aid in innovative ways. So today I announced a $6.7 million grant that comes from our Department of Labor to help work with a foundation in Central America to make sure that workers know about their rights, to make sure that thereís enforceability, and to make sure that there are new ways to resolve disputes.
And finally, what we achieve here can be a model for other developing countries, but also for the Hemisphere as a whole. So we see this agreement as something that we together with our five Central American partners want to be particularly proud of. Now, thereís serious work ahead. One of the reasons Iím down here is to identify some of those issues. Many of you are aware of them: the agriculture issues, some of the services issues, the intellectual property issues. But part of my visit is not just to discuss those with Ministers, but also to discuss those with businesspeople.
On my final stop Iíll discuss this with some business school students, because they are the ones who in the final analysis will make them into a reality for people. But also with legislators, workers, NGOs, and others. Because if weíre going to make this work we have to have the civil societies of all our countries understand what weíre doing. So, itís going to be a busy three or so days, but I was delighted to start this trip in Costa Rica with my good friend Minister Trejos, and I was honored to have the chance to talk about some of these issues with the President.
Question: Did you come here on a mission to twist the arm of the government of Costa Rica, especially on the issue of telecommunications, and to guarantee the rights of the US pharmaceutical companies?
Zoellick: Well, the last thing I would call it is arm-twisting. Because these are decisions that must be made by sovereign governments. Itís my view that we can have a win-win proposition. I met with workers at a plant today thatís owned by a U.S. firm that have some 900 jobs in Costa Rica. I went to the Procter and Gamble plant that has some 1,000 jobs.
|Economics and trade is not about
one side losing or one side winning, itís about trying to make it work
together. There are countries all over the world that want to do FTAs with
the United States. When I was in the State Department I had proposed that
we try to launch a free trade agreement with Central America. But I wasnít
the trade representative, so I couldnít make sure it happened. Now Iím
the trade representative, so it makes it easier to happen. I see this as
an opportunity for Central America, but obviously itís a choice for Central
Americas. On the specifics that you mentioned, letís take the telecommunications
We understand that ICE is an institution that has a particular place in Costa Rican society. We understand how, in the minds of many, itís associated with the social policies of the country. And as Iíve said to Minister Trejos and his colleagues, and to the President, weíre not seeking the privatization of ICE. We did in our Singapore agreement, where Singapore promised to privatize Singapore Telecom. Weíre not doing that here. Weíre not questioning Costa Ricaís decision to try to have a universal service requirement that would apply to any service provider. Itís Costa Ricaís choice.
But what we are saying, and Iíve made this point to people in the Legislature, is that for Costa Rica to compete successfully in the world, itís going to need a more efficient telecommunications system.
In your own newspapers this morning, I saw a report that ICE has a goal of 65 percent of mobile phone calls go through, and itís not reaching its goal. If Costa Rican mobile phones canít do better, then Costa Rica is going to have a hard time drawing the businesses of the future.
Indeed, this Procter and Gamble facility is an excellent example. Theyíre not just doing work for Costa Rica, theyíre doing work for employees of P&G all over the world. [This work] needs to come in on telecommunications linesÖ I watched how the communications come in. And one of their challenges is that their telecom costs are higher than some of their competing operations. So what Iíve said to the Minister is that the other four Central American countries agree on opening up telecommunications systems. We know itís a sensitive issue, but weíre going to have to figure out a way to deal with this issue in some fashion.
And obviously Costa Rica retains its right to decide what it wants, but we need this as part of the agreement if the agreement is going to go forward. In some fashion. And thatís what we need to discuss together. As I said, we think ó and particularly for those of you of the younger generation ó youíre going to need a better telecommunications system than your parents had.
Now, on pharmaceuticals and intellectual property rights. Again, itís a similar issue. And let me best say this with an example. We have an FTA with Jordan. I visited Jordan in June. I was there as part of a World Economic Forum meeting with King Abdullah. They put in better intellectual property rights, including in pharmaceuticals, and theyíre drawing investment. Theyíre creating jobs. Itís a growing sector. Their software sector is growing, theyíre getting investments from Microsoft.
Let me just give you an example of what it means in real life. Some people have said to me today, "why donít we stay with the World Trade Organization rules for IPR?" Those rules were developed in the course of the late eighties and early nineties. Just looking at most of you, just think about whatís happened in the world of digital technology since the early nineties. There arenít rules to protect against people downloading software or videos or other digital media to your computer, to your hard drive. So with Chile and Singapore and other agreements we have those provisions. So, this is obviously for all the countries of Central America to decide, but we believe these will help you have a stronger knowledge economy and have better jobs for your people.
Question: Costa Rica does not want to talk about at all about the subject of telecom. Are you disappointed? And what conditions does the US put on the subject of sensitive agricultural products?
Zoellick: Oh, Iím far from disappointed. Because the point of this visit is to have a dialogue, not only with government officials but also with others, and to explain what we think is important, and to listen to what others think is important. But Iíve been very clear: we need to open up the services market. That is necessary for me to bring back an agreement. The Central American neighbors are all willing to do that, but we need some more movement from Costa Rica. And weíll work with you in a problem-solving way.
Many people see trade negotiations as win-lose. Theyíre not. Everyone has to figure out how to solve problems together to win, and thatís what the discussions today I think help explain my perspective, and I hope Iíve learned from people in Costa Rica. Business as well as those on political side.
Agriculture is another good example. We have sensitive sectors together. We agree that these need to be liberalized in a very careful fashion. We agreed in the last negotiating round to, if necessary, take 15 years to liberalize. We agreed to a special safeguard for sensitive products. We need to get at some of the sensitive products in this region, as well as some of the sensitive products in the US, to discuss how to start to open them up. We can use things like tariff rate quotas and other things that trade people talk about.
So your questions together really are very helpful, because what youíre identifying is what Iím trying to identify on the visit. Weíre now at the stage in the negotiations where thereís been good work done, but weíve identified some difficult issues. Weíre going to need top-level political and senior guidance to try to solve these problems together.
And Iím looking forward to working with Minister Trejos, for whom I have the highest respect, and his colleagues tomorrow to have a fuller discussion about all these topics.
Malaria kills millions each year and sickens millions more. But progress is being made in the fight against one of mankind's oldest and deadliest enemies. New anti-malarial drugs and vaccines are being developed, and there's a decidedly low-tech approach to malaria prevention that's providing immediate relief.
Imagine living in a place where you dread to see the sun go down, where you dread hearing the buzzing sound of mosquitoes.
"They're waiting for the mosquitoes to descend upon them, and, you know, they see it as coming under attack," said David McGuire, the director of an anti-malarial program called Netmark. "People, particularly in rural areas, are desperate for some help here and telling us that they dread nightfall."
The mosquitoes that transmit malaria to humans are most active after dark. An unprotected person may get dozens of bites each night. Children under 5 and expectant mothers are especially vulnerable. Mothers because their resistance is down, children because they haven't yet developed resistance. But McGuire says there is an inexpensive, low-tech defense against these nightly attacks: insecticide treated bed netting.
"There have been a number of studies and they have demonstrated that insecticide treated nets are the best way to prevent malaria and decrease mortality rates, particularly in children under 5," he explained. "The mortality for children sleeping under treated nets can drop, on average, roughly 20 percent. It can reduce the rates of severe malaria by over 40 percent. It can also decrease the number of premature births among pregnant women sleeping under nets by 40 percent. So it is a very simple yet effective technology."
But even so basic a technology is often beyond the reach of the poor, especially those living in developing nations. That's where The Netmark Program comes in. Director McGuire says his organization financed in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development walks a thin line between aid and enterprise.
"What we're trying to do is strike the balance between a long-term sustainable activity that will not require donor funds that we'll set up a system
|in Africa that will provide access
to affordable high quality products over the long run regardless of funding,"
he said. "But at the same time trying to take the significant funds that
are available right now for malaria and target them towards the ones who
cannot benefit right now from commercial availability; pregnant women and
children under 5 who are the most susceptible to severe malaria."
Netmark has taken a three-fold approach to this developmental high-wire act. First, the group's local representatives provide startup funding for new bed net manufacturing and marketing enterprises in Africa. Second, they help existing bed net providers expand into as yet untapped markets. Finally, they provide free or heavily subsidized netting to the poorest of the poor, often through local neonatal health clinics.
"We have a number of clinics in Zambia and Senegal that we're doing this through," pointed out Mr. McGuire. "They will get their counseling and will be told that they need to be sleeping under an insecticide treated net. The health worker will then give them a coupon, which they can redeem, in a shop that is very close to that clinic. And they can pick the net of their choice and get a significant discount on the net."
Government agencies and private charities have donated quite large sums to the war on malaria in recent years. The United States recently announced a $15 billion commitment to battle malaria and the other two most deadly epidemics: HIV-AIDS, and tuberculosis.
McGuire says that public pressure will encourage governments to continue the fight. For those interested in getting even more directly involved, he suggests contributions to any one of several agencies at work in malaria prevention in general, and bed net distribution in particular.
"UNICEF, Red Cross, World Vision are organizations that are supporting malaria prevention in Africa," added McGuire. "Save the Children, Plan International, all these organizations work at the community level and are focused on preventing malaria and making sure that those who get infected with malaria get treated. So donations to those organizations can be very helpful."
The Netmark Program will continue to help those suffering from malaria through at least 2007.
WASHINGTON, D.C. ó Officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. State Department are expected to participate in an Oct. 27 and 28 meeting of the Consultative Group for Nicaragua, which supports the Central American nation's efforts to strengthen its democracy, improve its economy, and raise living standards for the poor.
A State Department official said the United States is a member of the Consultative Group, an international initiative which was formed in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in October of that year.
The two-day event, chaired by the Inter-American Development Bank, will be held in Nicaragua's capital city of Managua. The meeting will bring together delegates from donor countries and multilateral organizations and leaders from Nicaragua's government and civil society, who will examine, among other issues, the country's progress in fighting poverty.
Among the speakers at the event will be Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos and Miguel Martinez, the development bankís manager for the Central American region and the Dominican Republic.
At the meeting, Nicaraguan officials will discuss their country's progress in meeting the goals of the "Enhanced Strategy for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction" in Nicaragua. The officials will also outline a proposed national development plan and the financing that would be required to put the plan in motion.
|The development bank has also chaired
consultative group meetings in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch for El
Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Central America as a whole.
Following Hurricane Mitch, the Agency for International Development responded with $20 million in emergency disaster assistance to Nicaragua. Among its activities in that country, the agency is helping to rebuild water and sanitation systems for communities in areas affected by the hurricane, and helping in such projects as rebuilding roads, protecting watersheds, and reclaiming cropland damaged by floods.
The agency said its aid to Nicaragua enables that country to fully integrate in regional and global markets, consolidates democracy, and promotes economic growth and reconstruction. In addition, the agency said the assistance strengthens Nicaragua as a partner in the fight against the illicit drug trade and international crime, curbs opportunities for corruption in government, and reduces environmental degradation in order to protect hemispheric biodiversity and prevent natural disasters in the future while assuring sustainable development.
At the last meeting of the Consultative Group for Nicaragua in May 2000, the consensus was that poverty reduction was that country's most pressing and important development goal. Another important issue was transparency, with participants at the meeting citing the Nicaraguan government's statement that fighting corruption and fostering transparency "is everybody's responsibility . . . we will not be able to win the war against poverty if we lose the battle against corruption."
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