Oct. 16 News Brief Central America/Caribbean

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Over 1,300 influenza cases confirmed in a single day: The new influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, which has come as the northern winter sets in, has produced a significant increase in the level of infection, with 1,311 cases and two deaths reported in just 24 hours. The figure was announced before the House of Representatives by Health Secretary José Angel Córdova, who confirmed that 39,489 cases and 255 deaths had been recorded in Mexico up to Oct. 13. Mexico will vaccinate high-risk sectors of the population against the virus, including pregnant women and diabetics, but vaccination will not be mandatory.

[Excélsior, Notimex]

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – Arias opposes Chávez’s peace bases: Costa Rican President Óscar Arias has declared that the peace base installed by the Venezuelan government in its embassy in San José “has nothing to teach” his country. The peace bases are discussion centers promoted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to give impetus to his political ideas in other countries in the region. Costa Rican authorities expressed concern over interference in the country and stated that the initiative violates the Vienna Convention, which governs international law.

[El Universal, Infolatam]

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Banking giant opens its doors: The opening of British bank HSBC has expanded regional business opportunities, given the group’s presence in almost every other country in the region. Employees with the Banks Superintendency (SIB) assessed the HSBC's arrival as a sign of confidence in the national financial system and the guarantees Guatemala has to offer foreign investors. HSBC is considered the largest banking group in the world, with 9,500 offices and 128 million customers in 87 countries.

[El Periódico, Prensa Libre]

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Government prepares plan to fight drought: The Nicaraguan government has assured that it will present a relief plan for regions of the country affected by a severe drought within a few days. The drought was caused by the El Niño climatic phenomenon. The government will receive aid to fight the drought from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which warned of the “difficult” situation for Nicaraguan agriculture. The FAO will provide support in the form of seeds for the Apante season, the final crop of basic grains that is planted in humid regions of the country this month.

[La Prensa, EFE]

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