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Measles Resurgence Triggers Costa Rica Vaccine Campaign :



On January 11, Costa Rica confirmed a case of measles, signaling a serious health threat. Specialists underscored the gravity of the situation, categorizing measles as the most contagious virus known to humanity, with transmission occurring through both respiratory and physical contact.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alarming report, revealing a 30-fold increase in the number of people diagnosed with the virus in Europe by 2023.

Virologist Eugenia Corrales from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) explained, “Measles is a very contagious virus. In fact, if we talk about the R0 (basic reproductive number), which measures how many susceptible people become infected upon contact with an infected person, we are talking about 18.”

Costa Rican physicians expressed concern over the low vaccination rates among susceptible populations, coupled with the high influx of tourists into the country.

Álvaro Avilés, the head of the Infectious Diseases Department at Hospital México, lamented the resurgence of measles, emphasizing that the disease was on the brink of eradication before misinformation about vaccines escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vaccination program in the country mandates two doses at 15 months and 4 years of age, with a recommended coverage of 95%. Unfortunately, Costa Rica has fallen short of this target for the past three years, reporting coverage figures of 88% in 2020, 89% in 2021, and 93% in 2023 for the first dose. The coverage for the second dose was reported at 85%.

Dr. Leandra Abarca highlighted the critical issue of low vaccination coverage, pointing out that for three consecutive years, optimal coverage has not been achieved. This has left many children unvaccinated and more susceptible, while the second-risk group includes those who were vaccinated but did not attain the desired immunological protection, as well as individuals who cannot be vaccinated at all.

The most common symptoms of measles include a high fever (above 40 degrees), cough, runny nose (rhinitis), red and watery eyes (conjunctivitis), and a distinctive rash.

Costa Rican health authorities responded to the situation by announcing an immunization campaign for susceptible populations in April, aiming to address the immediate threat and protect public health.

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El Salvador’s Crackdown on Gender Ideology Draws Backlash :



The decision by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele to eliminate “gender ideology” from schoolbooks and guides threatens to increase intolerance and sexual violence in this conservative country, according to women’s rights organizations and the LGBTIQ+ community.

The Ministry of Education announced this week that it removed “all traces” of the gender perspective from school content, in line with similar decisions made in Argentina by far-right President Javier Milei, who banned the use of inclusive language in the national administration.

The decision was announced by the ministry days after Bukele, recently re-elected, participated in a conservative gathering in the United States, and was hailed by conservative groups but criticized by feminist and human rights organizations.

CONFIRMED: we have removed any use or any trace of gender ideology from public schools,” Education Minister José Mauricio Pineda wrote on social media X.

On the same network, the ministry published: “We clarify that all this content has been expelled from guides, books and other educational materials that were made and disseminated by previous administrations.”

The newspaper La Prensa Gráfica indicated this Friday that the Ministry “threatens” to fire teachers “if ‘gender ideology’ is disseminated.”

When he was a presidential candidate in 2019, Bukele appeared open to discussing the demands of the LGTBIQ+ community and feminist organizations, but in the presidency he made it clear that he would not make reforms on issues that are very sensitive in a very conservative country, which has draconian laws against abortion.

El Salvador banned abortion without exceptions in 1998, which is punishable by two to eight years in prison. But it is often classified as “aggravated homicide,” which carries sentences of 30 to 50 years in prison.

Regional trend

The measure was applauded by the Alianza de Padres de Familia SV, which posted on social media X: “Minister […] very good comment” and lambasted the “harmful indoctrination of gender ideology.” However, feminist organizations warned that the measure will stimulate “intolerance.”

“That decision has not been wise, the right to equality is being violated as discrimination is being made,” Silvia Juárez, from the Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz, told AFP. She fears that it will generate “more intolerance.”

“What comprehensive sexuality education allows is for other identities to be recognized, which allows there not to be violence that we have suffered when we were school age,” Karla Guevara, from the Alejandría Collective, told AFP. She described the measure as a “violation” of the rights of the LGTBIQ+ community.

For some NGOs, this measure implies a setback, as it eliminates a way to prevent sexual violence. “The reality and dignity of these people does not disappear because words are censored or content is prohibited from school curricula,” said Marcela Martino Aguilar, from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).

“Those most affected […] are girls at risk of experiencing sexual violence […] and of course LGTBIQ+ people,” Alejandra Coll, from the Center for Reproductive Rights, told AFP.

Conference in the US

The 42-year-old leader debuted in politics in 2012 as mayor of the party of the former leftist guerrillas but was expelled from its ranks in 2017. In the 2019 elections, Bukele ended the left-right two-party system that had prevailed in El Salvador since the end of the civil war in 1992.

His crusade against gangs, launched in March 2022, has won him followers across the continent, as it caused a radical drop in violence. But also critics, since many accused have been denied or delayed the possibility of due process.

Last week, Bukele and Milei participated in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the United States. Former US President Donald Trump, the favorite to win the Republican nomination for the November elections, also attended.

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Costa Rican Companies Lead Effort to Restore Coral Reefs :



Several companies joined forces to implement a marine ecosystem restoration project in Punta Cacique, Guanacaste, which allowed the planting of 1,500 coral fragments, thanks to the support of 30 volunteers.

Volunteers from Garnier & Garnier – a real estate developer of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Guanacaste – the Alianza Mar y Tierra, and the Center for Marine Science and Limnology Research of the University of Costa Rica (CIMAR), made this project possible.

According to CIMAR data, coral reefs are the backbone of the marine ecosystem, supporting more than 25% of life in the ocean, and around 500 million people in the world depend directly on them, in terms of food, protection, and income from fishing and tourism.

Therefore, this initiative, in addition to promoting marine conservation, seeks to mitigate the impact generated by bad practices of some hotels in the area in the past.

In this first stage, the volunteers placed 60 structures, which will be maintained monthly by experts to ensure that the corals have the best conditions. The investment during the first year of the project will be USD $50,000.

“We have placed healthy coral fragments in steel structures with six legs at different levels, which we call spiders, with the objective of artificially recreating a coral reef, and we have placed them in an area that has the ideal conditions for their growth. In the short term, they will attract the arrival of other species and will contribute to the economy and tourism in the area,” said Juan José Alvarado, CIMAR – UCR researcher.

The planting of corals in this province seeks to restore the marine ecosystem affected by various threats, such as the increase in temperature – a result of global warming – and the proliferation of red tide, and aims to inspire other companies and entities to join the fight for environmental conservation.

According to experts, 100% of the corals planted survive, and the growth rate is very high, as they grow between 8 and 9 centimeters per year, which allows them to continue reproducing.

A vital part of this project has been the non-profit association Alianza Mar y Tierra, a citizen’s platform for the management, creation, and implementation of maritime and land conservation/restoration projects.

“What happens in the sea impacts the land, and what happens on land impacts the sea, so we cannot see them separately. With this kind of actions, we hope for the increase of marine life,” commented Sea and Land Alliance co-founder Elsiana Luna.

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World Cup Heroes Highlight Argentina’s Squad to Face Costa Rica, El Salvador



The star Lionel Messi heads the roster of the world champion Argentine national team that coach Lionel Scaloni announced this Friday for the upcoming March friendlies against Costa Rica and El Salvador, to be played in the United States.

For these preparation matches for the next Copa América-2024, which will also be played on American soil, Scaloni called up 26 players who play abroad, including several members of the team that won in Qatar-2022.

However, the coach of La Albiceleste reserved some surprises, such as the call-up of young lateral Valentín Barco, who came through Boca Juniors and was recently signed by Brighton, who is coming off a very good performance with the U-23 national team that qualified for the Paris-2024 Olympics in Venezuela.

In defense, Scaloni called up central defender Marcos Senesi, who plays for Bournemouth, in place of the injured Lisandro Martínez (Manchester United), and also brought back Paulo Dybala, having a great season with AS Roma, who was absent from the latest matches.

Seeking to boost a renovation at some positions, the manager also called up Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton), Valentín Carboni (Monza, Italy) and Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United).

Without several world champions

On the other hand, other players were not called up due to physical problems or tactical reasons, among them Gonzalo Montiel (Nottingham Forest, England), Marcos Acuña (Sevilla, Spain), Guido Rodríguez (Real Betis, Spain) and Thiago Almada (Atlanta United).

The world champion Albiceleste will first play against El Salvador on March 22 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, and four days later they will face Costa Rica at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Originally, Argentina was going to play friendlies in China in March against the African teams Nigeria and Ivory Coast, but the Asian tour was canceled and at the last minute the Argentine Football Association (AFA) had to look for alternatives for the international window, which is why it found a response in the Central American teams.

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