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Country Seeks Funds for Hospital Calderón Guardia

December 2, 2005

FOUR months after the governmentissued an emergency decree to finance thereconstruction of Hospital CalderónGuardia, the National EmergencyCommission (CNE) has only collected$1.5 million of the $50 million necessaryto rebuild the sections of the hospital thatburned down in July, the daily LaRepública reported.Faced with the shortage of resources,President Abel Pacheco proposed using a$15 million donation from the Taiwanesegovernment, intended for construction ofan international convention center, to helprebuild Calderón Guardia, according tothe daily La Nación.Pacheco announced that although heis excited about building the center, healthis among the country’s top priorities.The government of Taiwan had alreadydeveloped construction plans for the conventioncenter, to be built in San Antoniode Belén, near the highway from San Joséto Alajuela; however, it announced lastweek that it would evaluate Costa Rica’srequest.The Taiwanese Embassy in San Josétold La Nación the request for the changehad already been submitted to theTaiwanese government and is being studied.The tragic fire that raged at CalderónGuardia in the pre-dawn hours of July 12(TT, July 15) took the lives of 21 victims,including two who died after the fire, andconsumed the fourth and fifth floors ofthe hospital.A total of 147 beds were destroyed duringthe fire, La Nación reported last week.While the hospital had an original capacityof 514 beds, 367 are currently in use.Although the Judicial InvestigationPolice (OIJ) did not find material evidenceto support an arson theory, authoritiessuspected the fire was started withmatches at a storeroom on the third floorof the hospital’s oldest wing (TT, Oct.14). Last month, authorities arrested aman identified by the last name ofLedezma for allegedly starting the fire,according to a statement from theJudicial Branch.Ledezma, 24, worked as a nursingassistant at the hospital, La Nación reported.Four people saw him come out of thestoreroom where the fire began, JorgeRojas, chief of the Judicial InvestigationPolice (OIJ), told Channel 7 News inOctober.“He had a large number of falsedegrees,” Rojas said, referring to the suspect’sallegedly false background;Ledezma, now completing a six-monthpreventive prison order, is reported tohave indicated falsely that he studiedmedicine at a university and had studiedin various fields, including fire fighting.According to Rojas, no suspects otherthan Ledezma, arrested Oct. 28, exist inthis case.If Ledezma is found guilty, he couldbecome the person to have induced themost deaths in the country, according toChannel 7 News. For his alleged crime, thesuspect could face up to 20 years in prison.Police speculate that Ledezma mayhave started the fire in a desperate call forattention from his coworkers. Rojas toldLa Nación the suspect’s intentions werenot to kill anyone.“He had the idea of starting a fire hecould control, but it got out of hand,” hesaid.

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