Cubans fear new diplomatic relations with US could change special rights as immigrants

Published in Tico Times on 22nd of June, 2015

MIAMI, Florida – One result of the recent warming of relations between Cuba and the United States was a surge in “boat people” headed to U.S. shores. Following the recent announcement of historic talks between the two nations, many Cubans are concerned that the revised Cuban Adjustment Act and its “wet-foot, dry-foot policy,” which grants Cubans who reach U.S. soil automatic political asylum, will soon end.

According to 29-year-old Cuban immigrant Yuniesky Alcolea García, who recently made the journey by sea to Florida, the announcement of talks caused panic on the island.

Read on in Tico Times


Bluefields: the dream of independence for a forgotten colonial harbor

Published in Tico Times on 2nd of June 2015

BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua – To get to Bluefields from Nicaragua’s capital of Managua, first you take a bus for about six hours. At the last stop you move to a boat: either a speedboat that will bounce over the river for two hours or a slower one that takes six hours, Mark Twain-style.

It’s either that, or a ride on a bouncy dirt road that was supposed to be upgraded to asphalt years ago. As Bluefields residents like to say: “Them people in Managua will take another 20 years before that road is built.”

Once a thriving colonial harbor under British protection, and used for the export of coconut, banana and lumber, Bluefields now has a worn-down look of old wooden houses rotting away in the tropical heat.

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Beachcombing along the drug trail in Nicaragua

Published in Tico Times on 26th of May 2015

EL BLUFF, Nicaragua – It’s Saturday morning, and the beach by this southeast Nicaraguan village is full of seaweed and plastic waste. The waves of the Caribbean Sea are choppy because the rainy season has just begun. Conditions are perfect for a day of beachcombing, says 62-year-old Javier Duncan.

But he’s not talking about normal sea trash – he’s talking about drugs and cash.

“When the coast guard or DEA catches a runner boat, the smugglers throw as much as possible in the sea,” Duncan told The Tico Times. “This can be drugs, but also barrels full of dollars on the way back south. Many people in this village have found things like that.”

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In El Salvador, Nicaragua, abortion can mean death or jail

Published in Tico Times on 15th of May 2015

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — María was in her second year of university. She had a boyfriend and used the pill. Nevertheless, she missed her period for a month so she bought a test, which confirmed her pregnancy. Her relationship wasn’t a serious one, and her studies were very expensive. She wasn’t sure she wanted a child so, ashamed, she told her parents what happened.

Her father had a clear opinion about it: she had to get rid of the child, no matter what. But as María lives in El Salvador, this meant going to a clandestine clinic and risking up to 40 years in prison for murder — of a 6-week-old fetus.

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“Wij willen geen olie meer”

Gepubliceerd in OneWorld op 11 mei 2015


Costa Rica draait heel 2015 al volledig op duurzame energie. De duurzaamheid is vooral te danken aan geothermische- en waterenergie.


REPORTAGE – In 1884 was San José, de hoofdstad van Costa Rica, een van de eerste steden ter wereld met een elektriciteitsnet. Vijfentwintig straatlampen werden aangedreven door een waterkrachtcentrale. Ook nu, zo’n honderddertig jaar later, is Costa Rica nog altijd een koploper op energiegebied. Het land heeft zich als doel gesteld om in 2021 volledig op duurzame energie over te zijn gegaan. Het ziet ernaar uit dat zij een eind op weg zijn: vorige maand kondigde het staatsenergiebedrijf aan dat zij een record hadden gevestigd door de eerste vijfenzeventig dagen van dit jaar volledig op groene energie te draaien. De afgelopen jaren schommelde het aandeel aan duurzame energie in Costa Rica rond de 95  procent.
Rondero en marktkoopman

Vigilantes of the Andes

Published on website Contributoria on 1st of May 2015

A young man and woman are interrogated by a group of people. After some questions about their affair, they have to promise that none of this will ever happen again. The wife of the young man steps forward from the group and he has to publicly apologise to her. After that, he and his mistress bend over and are whipped on their backs by an old woman. This public shaming is videotaped and shown via YouTube.

The video shows a tribunal in Cajamarca, in the northern Andean region of Peru, and was made by the local vigilantes, who call themselves the rondas campesinas (farmer patrols). The rondas protect the cities and villages from criminals and use corporal punishment, whose roots are in the traditional indigenous society.

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How Nicaragua fights to keep the gangs out

Published in the Tico Times on 26th of April, 2015

SOMOTO, Nicaragua — Somoto appears to be a vulnerable place, an economically depressed border town, just 20 kilometers from gang-ridden Honduras. There isn’t much work here, so many people migrate to Spain in hopes of finding jobs. Children get left behind to live with grandparents or alone.

This close to the border, the town regularly sees people come through from Honduras and El Salvador for business or to visit family. Many locals fear that among them, there might be gang members looking to recruit young people in Somoto.

Read on in Tico Times

Fotografie: Eline van Nes

In San Salvador everyone has to pay the gangs

Published in Tico Times on 18th of April 2015

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — It all started with a phone call. The man on the line said he was part of the Mara Salvatrucha gang and asked for money in exchange for the gang’s protection. Carlos owns a car wash in one of the upper-middle class districts in the western part of the capital. He did not want his real name or the name of his business to appear in print for fear of retaliation.

Carlos said he couldn’t afford the $100 per week the gang demanded. The criminals had guessed his income too high. The man kept calling, though, so Carlos went to the police with his phone. The police’s anti-extortion unit listened in on one of the conversations and advised Carlos to change his number and forget about everything. As long as there was no culprit they could catch in the act, there was no case, the police told him.

Read on in Tico Times