- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

JAMAICA

Sex tourism brings rise in AIDS rate

MONTEGO BAY — The sun-splashed Caribbean’s growing sex tourism industry is contributing to one of the region’s grimmest problems — the world’s second-highest rate of HIV infection.

A trend called “rent-a-dread” has helped push the Caribbean AIDS/HIV infection rate higher than in any area of the world save sub-Saharan Africa, regional experts say. The Caribbean AIDS crisis is an ominous one for the tourism industry, the region’s leading moneymaker.

Sex tourism involves people traveling to poor Caribbean nations, where the average annual income is about $3,000, in search of prostitutes. The beach boy, or “rent-a-dread,” phenomenon sees fair-skinned North American and European women seeking dark-skinned Jamaican men in dreadlock hairstyles for sex, Ian Edwards, a Washington-based spokesman for the Organization of American States, told a Jamaica tourism conference.

In the Caribbean, 2.4 percent of people age 15 to 49 carry the HIV virus, according to 2002 figures from the World Health Organization. In comparison, the infection rate in that age group is 0.3 percent in Western Europe and 0.6 percent in North America.

GUATEMALA

Nation slides back to tinderbox status

GUATEMALA CITY — Drug-trafficking is on the rise, activists and judges have been killed, former paramilitary fighters stage violent protests and an ex-dictator accused of human rights atrocities plans to run for president.

Guatemala’s human rights situation is at its worst since 1996 peace accords ended a vicious civil war, and some observers fear it is re-emerging as a Latin American political hot spot.

As President Alfonso Portillo’s government draws to a close, international investigators are probing a network of military officers blamed for a two-year resurgence of attacks and threats against rights activists and judges. This year, the United States decertified Guatemala as a partner in the war on drugs, and 10 days ago the ruling Republican Front chose retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, 76, as its candidate for Nov. 9 presidential elections.

PERU

Protesters defy emergency decree

LIMA — Labor unions and university students threaten to hold protests in defiance of a 30-day nationwide state of emergency, increasing pressure on embattled President Alejandro Toledo.

Mr. Toledo declared the state of emergency and put the armed forces in charge of restoring order in half of Peru’s 24 regions last week after protests by teachers, farmers, health workers and judiciary workers blocked highways.

The clashes peaked Thursday, when army troops fatally shot a university student and wounded dozens more in Puno, 530 miles southeast of Lima. But calls by unions and students for protests this week threaten to bring more violence and have many wondering how Mr. Toledo can retain power halfway through his five-year term.

Weekly notes …

A high-level Vietnamese military delegation arrived in Cuba on Sunday for a weeklong visit to renew military ties between the two communist states. Cuban officials said the delegation headed by Lt. Gen. Le Van Dung is expected to meet with its Cuban counterparts, visit military units and tour other sites. … Chilean Defense Minister Michelle Bachelet yesterday pledged her country’s commitment to the United Nations force on Cyprus before inspecting the first batch of troops sent by Santiago to patrol the divided island’s Green Line with the Argentine contingent. Mrs. Bachelet, a medical doctor, mother of three and Socialist Party member, was imprisoned during the 1973-90 military rule.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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