SAN JOSE - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared Costa Rica free of Newcastle disease, which affects poultry, effectively opening the U.S. market to poultry products from Costa Rica, according to a press report released in Washington.
``This measure, by far the most important for the Latin American poultry industry in years, is a certificate of health for Costa Rican producers,'' according to Calixto Chaves, president of Costa Rica International, a firm based in the United States that controls Pipasa Corporation, the largest poultry company in this Central American nation.
In Latin America, the USDA has only declared Costa Rica and Chile free of the disease. Only five other nations (the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand) enjoy the same status, designating Chile and Costa Rica membership in a highly exclusive club.
The declaration implies that Costa Rican products meet the same control requirements as demanded of U.S. growers, and that there are no barriers for Costa Rican products to be imported into the U.S., Chaves added.
But obtaining the United States entry permit did not come easy for Costa Rica. It was granted after years of laboratory tests demonstrated that local poultry did not have the disease.
Researchers carried out their field studies in high-risk areas and in those parts of the country where there are large concentrations of poultry farms. The regions studied include: areas close to the Nicaraguan border in the north; the areas surrounding Juan Santamaría International Airport; and La Garita (Alajuela) and Belén (Heredia).
The studies consist of 426 farms, 405 of which are cottage businesses, 17 industrial ones, and four assorted ones.
Birds that acquire Newcastle die rapidly because the disease attacks their respiratory system, a Ministry of Agriculture expert explained.
Now that Costa Rica has been declared free of Newcastle, the official added, ``we can export our chicken and eggs not only to the U.S., but to any other market throughout the world.''
Central America, One Tourist Destination
By H. BARAHONA / G. CHAVES
SAN JOSE - Making of Central America and the Dominican Republic one tourist destination is the goal of the conference that the ministers of tourism from the region are to hold tomorrow at Radisson Europa Hotel, in San José, the chairman of the Federation of Chambers of Tourism of Central America, Mauricio Ventura, announced at a press conference yesterday.
This activity, which is sponsored by the Federation, with help provided by the Central American Secretary of Tourism and the Central American Institute of Business Administration, will focus on three major topics:
* Regional promotion: The idea is to promote the region as a multi-destination through strategic alliances between the countries.
* Providing ease to travelers: Immigration, customs, security and transportation within the region will be adjusted to make visitors as comfortable as possible.
*Fiscal incentives: Aimed at the benefit of the tourist sector, it will further the development of the sector.
``With this conference we are giving a body to part of the agreements reached at the 18th Central American Summit held in Montelimar, Nicaragua, where important decisions regarding the tourist sector were made,'' Ventura said.
Besides the announcement, the National Chamber of Tourism presented yesterday the first issue of Naturally Costa Rica, a magazine aimed at strengthening the promotion of Costa Rica abroad.
The magazine will be placed in the rooms of all hotels registered at the Costa Rican Board of Tourism, said Ventura, who also chairs the Chamber.
``We hope the tourists will take the magazine back with them, so thousands of people will get to see Costa Rica and will learn about our country.''
Minister of Tourism Carlos Roesch asserted, ``The tourist himself is one of the main means to promote the country. He can tell about his experiences here and, with the magazine, it will be easier for him to show the beauty of our country.''
Naturally Costa Rica, of which 100,000 copies will be printed for each issue, will not be limited to tourist attractions, because it will also carry information on investment opportunities here.
Experts Predict Failure
of Cuban Offensive
By J.D. GUEVARA / G. CHAVES
SAN JOSE - The diplomatic offensive that Cuba has launched against the toughening of the Helms-Burton Bill, which would further strengthen the trade embargo against the Caribbean island, has scant chances of success, three experts told La Nación.
Havana is making diplomatic efforts to enlist the support of several Latin American and European countries to oppose the stepping up of the embargo. To that end, Havana's Chancellor Roberto Robaina and several other top-echelon Cuban officials are calling on the governments of several nations.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Rodrigo Madrigal, the current director of graduate studies of the School of International Affairs at Universidad Nacional Jorge Cáceres, and attorney and columnist Jaime Daremblum were interviewed separately on the visit to Costa Rica that Chancellor Robaina paid last Monday, when he met with President José María Figueres and with Foreign Affairs Minister Fernando Naranjo. The three agreed on their negative forecast.
Robaina brought President Figueres a message in which the Cuban chief executive, Fidel Castro, warns about 10 ammendments currently discussed at the U.S. Congress to strengthen the Helms-Burton Bill. According to Cuban authorities, the ammendments would make the U.S. embargo an international issue, because they are aimed at establishing strong penalties for foreign companies conducting business in the island.
Eventhough the experts unanimously forecast failure for the efforts that the Cubans are making, they also agree that the U.S. bill is disputable because it involves third parties.
According to Rodrigo Madrigal, the U.S. is developing its international policy according to its domestic one, ignoring other countries' opinion.
Daremblum said that he regretted the fact that the Latin American nations have failed to see ``the lack of democracy in Cuba,'' which, in his opinion, is the true core of the problem.
``If the Castro regime launched a true process toward democratization,'' Deremblum asserted, ``there would be no Helms-Burton Bill.''
The Latin American rejection of the bill under analysis would have better chances of success to influence the U.S. Congress if it looked more like an independent position and not support for Cuban action, according to Cáceres.
However, Robaina's visit to the other Central American countries has not prompted major developments. According to analysts, this outcome is most likely if the Cuban chancellor's own words are taken at their face value.
``We have come to Costa Rica and to the other Central American countries to ask only for solidarity,'' Robaina said. ``We do not expect an immediate response; we are not asking that a stand be taken; we are not seeking diplomatic relations.''
The Cuban chancellor's visits to other countries in the region have prompted hazy comments, such as those from Salvadoran Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Víctor Lagos, who told the press that Robaina met privately and only for a very short time with his Salvadoran peer Ramón González. In Tegucigalpa, Chancellor Delmer Urbizo asserted that Robaina has not visited Honduras recently.
In an effort to ``avoid diplomatic friction'' with the United States, Nicaragua requested earlier that Cuba not disclose the date of Robaina's visit to Managua, but a government spokesman announced yesterday that Fidel Castro's messenger is meeting with President Arnoldo Alemán tomorrow.
ISTHMUS IN BRIEF
From La Nación wire services
Cold Shoulder to Dialogue
Managua - The proposal for a national dialogue made by President Arnoldo Alemán, aimed at seeking ``civic answers'' to the problems of the nation, received more rejection than support, according to press reports released in Managua.
The opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front reacted cautiously, while popular sectors openly rejected the proposal, which was supported only, however slightly, by the political and industrial sectors.
Disarmament Under Way
Managua - The North Front 3-80, the last remnant of the former Nicaraguan Contra guerrillas, began yesterday a disarmament process. Three of the guerrilla commanders symbolically delivered their rifles to the Minister of Defense Jaime Cuadra. ``We thank the Government for opening this door for us,'' former Contra Mario Herrera, chief of staff of the rebel force, said about the opportunity provided by President Arnoldo Alemán's for the guerrillas return to civil life.
Herrera and other rebel leaders had signed an agreement for the full disarmament of their 700-man force by June 15, a dateline Minister Cuadra said is going to be duly met.
Tegucigalpa - The director of the Honduran Immigration Service, Angelina Ulloa, announced yesterday that Nicaragua had released four Honduran fishermen who had been arrested by the the Nicaraguan Armed Forces, who claimed they had been working in Nicaraguan waters.
However, Honduran Chancellor Delmer Urbizo requested the release of six other fishermen who are still held in Nicaraguan prisons. He asserted that unless they are released the dialogue about the placement of buoys in the Gulf of Fonseca, to prevent further clashes regarding fishing rights, would be endangered.
Homicides, Car Thefts Increase
Tegucigalpa - Homicides and car thefts in Honduras have strongly increased during the first trimester of 1997 as compared to that of 1996, while also the incidence of other crimes have diminished, the Honduras Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said on Tuesday.
Between January and March of this year, there were 598 homicides, 192 more than the same months last year, while the amount of car thefts between the same time periods nearly duplicated from 360 to 635, according to CID.
Various social sectors claim that unemployment and an economic crisis significantly contribute to the increase in delinquency in Honduras.
Five Salvadorans Die from Rabies
san salvador - The Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday that the rabies virus killed five people, the most recent victim being an 11 year-old boy. Authorities have asked Salvadorans to assume prevention measures to avoid spreading the disease.
Health officials warned that they have detected some 80 dogs, so the vaccination campaigns for the species will be stepped up, as will the care provided to people who have been bitten by cats, dogs or bats. According to the Ministry of Health, approximately 500,000 of 750,000 dogs which are one year or older were vaccinated.
French Official Injured
guatemala city - Frenchman Pierre Bernard-Beroy, a European Union (EU) official, suffered injuries in the capital after thieves robbed his car, according to EU sources.
Now recuperating in a private hospital, Bernard-Beroy was shot in each arm after he relinquished the keys to his car while in a commercial district located in the southeast of the city.
The assault was commited in front of the offices of the Support Program to the Informal Sector of Guatemala (SPISG), which Bernard-Beroy co-directs and which is jointly sponsored by the EU and the government.
Rate of Exchange
Costa Rica (colón) 231.64
El Salvador (colón) 8.79
Guatemala (quetzal) 5.94
Honduras (lempira) 13.10
Nicaragua (córdoba) 9.38
A mix of sunshine and passing clouds. Warm and humid with just an isolated shower possible. High 33 (91.4), low 24 (75.2).
Extensive clouds and drizzle may keep temperatures down a bit. High 24 (75.2), low 17 (62.6).
Partial sunshine should return, although Pacific born showers may continue to brew in the area. High 32 (89.6), low 21 (69.8).
Showers may turn more scarce as a greater amount of sunshine develops. High 29 (84.2), low 18 (64.4).
Sunshine gradually regaining some territory in the sky. A few showers still possible.High 33 (91.4), low 24 (75.2).
A fair amount of cloud cover expected, as widely scattered showers fester in the area. High 27 (80.6), low 19 (66.2).
Warm and humid with partly cloudy skies and a few isolated showers. High 33 (91.4), low 24 (75.2).
Four Busy Bees
By V. Bravo
First, there were 800 contestants, but only 14 made their way through the first round toward the country's final competition to choose the four students who will represent Costa Rica in the Geography Bee International Olympics.
Now everything is ready: Rolando Estrada (14), José Luis Rivas (16), Luis Paulino López (15) and Rafael Acuña (13) will travel to Washington to take part in the event that is sponsored by the Natinonal Geographic Society and which is set for August 5-6.
Estrada and Acuña attend private schools; López and Rivas come from public schools.
Teams from Canada, the United States, Argentina, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, New Zealand and Australia, will vie for prizes which range from medals to $25,000-scholarships.
The Costa Rican representatives love geography and were encouraged by their relatives and teachers to enter the contest, which was organized in Costa Rica by the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Education.