Wednesday, April 30th 2003 - 21:00 UTC

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Santiago, second best; Respiratory diseases in Punta Arenas; Crime “boom” in Chile; Sea sciences congress in Magallanes; Sharks in Rio beaches.

Santiago, second best

Miami is considered the best city to make business according to a poll among 1,600 Latinamerican CEO and published by the America Negocios magazine. Almost half of the businessmen polled, 47%, catalogued Miami as the city with the "best business events", and for 37% the city has "the major technological innovations and the greatest financial competitiveness". Close behind come the capital of Chile, Santiago and Brazilian metropolis Sao Paulo. Miami figures in first place for the fourth consecutive year. A vast majority of CEO, 74%, confirmed Miami's predominance as the city with best links with Latinamerica, ahead of New York, 20%, Los Angeles 8%, and Madrid, capital of Spain, 15%. According to America Negocios, cities are the "great multinationals of the XXI century" since they have to appeal to top marketing techniques and take advantage of local conditions to attract business. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said that the combined efforts of the public and private sector have been crucial for the positive image of the city as an international business centre which fructified in hosting offices of the Inter-american Development Bank, and in the near future regional dependencies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Similarly Miami is pushing hard to become the permanent seat of the Free Trade of the Americas Association Secretariat.

Respiratory diseases in Punta Arenas

Although Punta Arenas health officials are satisfied with the recent SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) precautionary handling of an arriving vessel from China, that proved negative, they are now faced with an outbreak of respiratory diseases among local children as a direct consequence of the extreme weather conditions. Last Sunday the "Rubin Stella", loaded with 7,000 tons of cement from China, was not allowed to dock until Chilean sanitary authorities went onboard and checked that none of the thirty Asians had any symptoms of the rapidly spreading SARS disease. "Since they've been sailing for almost a month and SARS needs a week to manifest itself we're certain that there's no risk for the local population", indicated Punta Arenas Chief Health Officer, adding that "this was an excellent opportunity to test coordination and effectiveness with the different services for future operations". However local emergencies in Punta Arenas are packed with patients suffering infectious respiratory situations, particularly among the population below 15 years that has experienced a significant jump in the number of cases. "Of the 758 cases in emergency wards during the April 13/19 week, 62,4% were youngsters with acute respiratory problems", indicated Mr. Eduardo Velázquez head of the Epidemiology Unit of the Magallanes Health Services. Among those over 15, respiratory infectious cases totalled 18,7%. "This is a considerable increase from last year, mostly because of extremely low temperatures, and we have been surprised by its early appearance but in the coming days we'll have sufficient wards in different public hospitals and clinics to cope with the situation", said Mr. Oscar Vargas from the municipal Health Services. Mr. Vargas added that Magallanes sanitary system has been promised additional resources to cope with the unexpected situation.

Crime "boom" in Chile

Chile's capital Santiago is undergoing what is described as a "crime boom", according to the Citizen Peace Foundation, a NGO working from official Ministry of Interior statistics. In 2002 claims of crimes with major social connotation (armed or forceful robbery, theft, rape, homicide and attacks) reached 1,878 cases per 100,000 population. If this number is compared to 1997 figures when the collection of official statistics started, the number of crime claims has grown at an average 11% annually, equivalent to well over 70% in the six years period. Citizen Peace Foundation states that when a country suffers a crimes claim annual increase above 10% during three consecutive periods, the country is undergoing a "crime boom", as is the case with Chile with four years running growing at 13%. During 2002 crime against property (robberies and stealing) was the main factor 63%, relatively less than the 69% of 1997. This is explained by the fact that in the six year period crime against property increased at an average of 9,1% (always considering so many cases per 100,000 population), but crimes against persons (armed robbery, attacks, rape and homicide) was even greater reaching 14,6%. Actually the crime that has rocketed is armed robbery that with the exception of 2002 has consistently grown averaging 30% annually. Attacks, homicides and rape has grown at an average 10,2%, 5,2% and 4,6% respectively. Citizen Peace Foundation Manager Gonzalo Vargas states that every minute a Chilean is victim of a robbery or theft. Actually an attack occurs every eight minutes, a rape every five hours and a homicide every 28 hours. As to drug related crimes they have stabilized since 2000. The latest Chilean Ministry of Interior statistics also reveal that for the first time areas surrounding metropolitan Santiago have become more dangerous than the capital since crime growth averages a quarterly 4% compared to 3%. Historically in Chile metropolitan Santiago has led undisputedly crime statistics. Finally in Chile there are currently 36,000 incarcerated people, of which 6% arrested, 57% prosecuted and 37% awaiting prosecution. Interior Ministry Undersecretary Jorge Correa argued it was unfair to catalogue Chile as a country with "a crime boom" since the annual delinquency growth is below world average. Opposition legislators claim that the released figures show that Chile's situation is worth than that of New York in 1994, previous to the successful "Zero tolerance" program instated by former Mayor Giuliani.

Sea sciences congress in Magallanes

A Sea sciences congress organized by the Chilean Society of Sea Sciences will be taking place next week in the Punta Arenas campus of Magallanes University. Professor Carlos Rios from the Society of Sea Sciences said that so far 250 papers from Chilean researchers, as well as Argentines, Germans, Spanish and Italians have been registered. The main four topics of the coming event are: debate on the scientific activity and research in Antarctica; biodiversity in sea environments of South America; management and conservation of marine resources, oceanographic physics in austral oceans.

Sharks in Rio beaches

Rio do Janeiro's authorities have sent out a shark alert in all beaches following the capture by local fishermen of two specimens over two meters long. One of the sharks turned up in the nets of coastal fishermen who beat the squalid to death. Otto Reich, a marine biologist considered one of Brazil's main experts said the eighty kilos shark belonged to the "anequim" type that is not one of the most dangerous but on occasions can attack humans as happened a week ago with a surfer. Felipe Tavares, 16, was peacefully surfing in possibly the world's most famous beach Copacabana when he was suddenly surprised by an "anequim" shark that bit his hand and partly destroyed his board. Marcos Silva, head of the Fire Department of Rio do Janeiro said that the office has received hundreds of claims of shark sightings, and most of them proved incorrect but "some of them were correct including a sighting of a group of ten in the beach of Grumari". "If sharks are so close to the coast in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, it's because they are hungry and looking for fish schools", added Mr. Silva. Swimming restrictions are now extensive to all Rio do Janeiro's beaches and hundreds of bay watchers have been added to keep people from risking too far into the water. The last reported shark attack in Rio beaches occurred in 1999 when a diver practicing underwater fishing was attacked and bitten in a leg. The diver was saved by a near by fisherman in a rowing boat.

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