From Wed Aug 20 08:00:12 2003
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 09:51:30 -0500 (CDT)
Article: 163271
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Something magical happened in Costa Rica last month...

Casa Alianza, 18 August 2003

1,402,088 signatures for Kattia and Osvaldo.

Something magical happened last month in Costa Rica, a country of four million people. One million, four hundred and two thousand and eighty-eight men, women and children signed a petition organized by Casa Alianza, demanding that the National Assembly improve the laws to protect children in this Central American country.

Never in the history of Costa Rica had anything been done like this before and it took just little more than one week! But why?

During the first seven months of this year, more than 20 children have been murdered in a country that promotes itself as a nation at peace. There is no military and there are a lot of tourists. But this land of pura vida (pure life) as the local saying goes, is changing. Whether the politicians and spin-doctors like to recognize it or not, the country is becoming more and more violent for its children.

The straws that broke the camels back were the gruesome murders of Osvaldo, an eight-year-old boy who was kidnapped and abandoned to his death and that of Kattia, who at 9 years old was enticed into a neighbors house two homes down, where she was murdered. No one knew that the neighbor had previously been convicted for murdering children.

Casa Alianza, sensing the publics outrage and the politicians insensitive reaction, launched a campaign to collect one million signatures to change the current Costa Rican laws where you go to jail for 15 years for stealing a car yet for only two years for stealing a child the response was nothing less than amazing

During eight hectic days, hundreds of people housewives, adults who were victims of sex crimes when they were children, the Scouts, and many, many concerned parents started collecting signatures to petition the Costa Rican National Assembly to improve the laws. Casa Alianzas lawyers study legislation from some 12 countries and came up with a model law that would create a national register of child sex crime offenders and increase the levels of sentences for crimes against children.

The campaign hit a nerve of Costa Ricans who were frustrated and outraged over the injustice that reigns in the application of weak laws. And they reacted. The people of Costa Rica broke the one million goal and collected 1.4 MILLION signatures from every corner of the country!

The project for a new law was presented by Casa Alianza to the Commission on Children, Adolescents and Youth of the National Assembly three weeks ago and we are still waiting for the Commission to discuss and approve the proposed law and send it to the plenary for approval.

The people of Costa Rica have spoken with one clear and resounding voice they are demanding that the national Assembly improve the quality of the laws to protect children in Costa Rica, stated Bruce Harris, the Regional Director for Casa Alianzas programs in Latin America. We know that one law will not resolve all the root causes of violence against children, but it is an important step in setting the Costa Rican national priorities and placing children in first place.

Casa Alianza is also initiating a national awareness campaign regarding the root causes of violence against children, which will involve the Ministry of Education and the mass media.

The total cost of the 1 million signatures campaign was US$ 1,240 (approx 800 pounds sterling), which was borne by an anonymous donor.