brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

April 29, 2007

‘Laundered money’ worth $ 47 mn recovered in Bangladesh

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 6:32 am

It’s raining money in Bangladesh as businessmen with political links and suspected of money laundering depositing an equivalent of $47 million with Bangladesh Bank (BB), the country’s central bank.

Amid a drive to nab those involved in illegal money transfers, the government hopes to recover Taka 30 billion (approximately $500 million), media reports said Saturday.

It has improved the foreign borrowing status of the impoverished nation, categorised as least developed country (LDC). The borrowings have come down from Taka 4.7 billion to Taka 4.3 billion as on last Monday, according to BB sources.

At least one of the seven businessmen involved has close links with former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s jailed politician son Tareq Rahman. The two are business partners, the Daily Star said.

The money deposited in two tranches of Taka 2.3 billion and Taka 40 million is, however, in local currency. But the government is confident of securing deposits in dollars, the newspaper said.

This is a ‘first’ for the nation that is rated high on the chart of corrupt nations by Transparency International and other watchdog bodies. Media reports say that the interim government’s drive against crime and corruption is bearing fruit.

Of the seven businessmen, who deposited the money through pay orders, names of three are known. They are Anis Ahmed Gorki of MGH Group, business partner of Tareq Rahman, Nader Khan, details about whom were not available, and Salman Ispahani of the Ispahani Group, who has been into tea cultivation and marketing before Bangladesh declared independence. However, Ispahani told The Daily Star that he had not deposited any money with the BB.

Gorki was earlier arrested and subsequently released upon his promise to cooperate in refunding the ill-gotten money.

A large portion of the money recovered is supposed to be from a single deal by a consortium of eight Bangladeshi businessmen purchasing 17 tea gardens from a British company for Taka 3.8 billion. The actual price was never disclosed and the payment was made through an unofficial channel illegally.

‘This recovery is almost nothing. But this proves the level of corruption in Bangladesh during the alliance government’s rule,’ the newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying.

The money was coughed up after investigations and raids conducted by ‘joint forces’, a combination of the police, revenue authorities, army and the paramiltiary Rapid Action Battalion.

The Bangladesh government lacks personnel with expertise in unearthing economic crimes of this nature and dimension. When the joint forces launched the anti-corruption drive in February, the US and Britain offered expertise in investigating international financial crimes, said a source. The government has not yet taken that help and the anti-corruption drive has slowed down, the source added.

April 28, 2007

Sri Lanka on alert after new air raid threat from Tigers

Filed under: global islands,sri lanka — admin @ 7:25 am

Colombo: Sri Lanka was on high alert yesterday over the threat of another Tamil Tiger air attack, the morning after a suspicious aircraft forced the closure of the island’s only international airport.

“We are on alert. In fact, every day we are on alert now and we have beefed up our measures,” air force spokesman Ajantha Silva said.

Overnight on Thursday, the sky over the Katunayake international airport near Colombo – where government warplanes are also stationed, sharing a runway with civilian passenger jets – was lit up with anti-aircraft gunfire.

Authorities also switched off electricity to the capital so that potential targets would not be illuminated.

“Sri Lanka’s air force engaged its air defence weapons at a suspicious aircraft observed in the Katunayake sky,” the defence ministry said during the night. It said the “suspicious air move” was also detected by radar, but there was no rebel attack using the aircraft.


However, military bases south of the frontline dividing rebel-held territory from the rest of the island opened fire on Thursday night to prevent any air attack, military sources said.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting the government for 35 years and run a mini-state in the north of the island, bombed the Katunayake air base a month ago in their first ever air strike.

The separatist rebels also carried out a second air raid on the Palaly military complex in the island’s north on Tuesday.

A total of nine security personnel were killed and 30 wounded in the two air attacks by the Tigers, who are believed to have a small fleet of Czech-made Zlin Z-143 single-engined light aircraft.

The planes are believed to have been smuggled in pieces into the north of the island by boat, and can be flown from tiny makeshift airstrips in the jungle. The defence ministry has said that the Tigers possessed at least five light planes.

The LTTE attacks have also caused havoc for international passenger flights.

Overnight, two incoming Sri Lankan Airlines flights were diverted to the nearby south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, before continuing their journey yesterday morning, airport officials said.

Flights delayed

A Singapore Airlines aircraft, which was at the airport at the time the runway was shut down, was also delayed.

The attack alert came the day after Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific resumed flights to Colombo, which had been suspended after last month’s attack.

Immediately after last month’s attack, Emirates airline also stopped night flights to Colombo.

To make matters worse for Sri Lankan authorities, a helicopter gunship scrambled to detect the suspect plane ran into technical difficulties and crash-landed just outside Anuradhapura air base in the government-held north, military sources said. No one was seriously injured.

Sri Lanka’s civil conflict flared up in 1983 when Tamil separatists began fighting the government to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have suffered decades of discrimination by Sinhalese-dominated governments.

A Norway-brokered ceasefire signed in 2002 prevented large-scale fighting, but a resurgence of violence since 2005 has taken the death toll past 69,000.

Colombo — Sri Lankan navy sailors and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels battled in the country’s east yesterday, leaving three sailors dead, the military said.

Military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said the rebels also suffered casualties. He gave no further details about the fighting.

The attack took place in the coastal village of Uppuveli in Trincomalee district, the site of a major Sri Lankan navy base and natural harbour.

On Thursday, soldiers attacked a car carrying Tamil Tiger rebels in the northwest, killing two insurgents, the military said.

The assault happened near the army’s defence line in Mannar district, said Lt Col Upali Rajapakse, a senior defence ministry official.

Rajapakse said he believed a local rebel leader was killed in the attack, but did not give his name. There was no immediate comment from Tigers.

Six die, 50 injured in Bangladesh storm

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:10 am

DHAKA, April 27 – Six people were killed and 50 injured in a storm that lashed Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, police and firefighters said on Friday.

“The victims died in a house collapse and also being hit by flying debris when a storm packing winds up to 85 kmh (53 mph) swept through the capital on Thursday night,” a fire service official said.

Several power, telecom poles and billboards collapsed and trees were uprooted blocking streets.

Storms kill many people, destroy hundreds of houses and damage crops in Bangladesh every year between March and May

April 27, 2007

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:34 am

Bangladesh bans 10 foreign TV channels

Filed under: bangladesh,global islands — admin @ 7:27 am

Bangladesh’s army-backed interim government banned 10 foreign satellite television channels, saying they were violating laws governing public morality. The Information Ministry said in a statement that local cable operators had been told to stop airing the channels because their programmes were “contrary to clause 19 of the Cable TV Network Operation Act, 2006.” It didn’t give more details.

A cable TV operator said the law prohibited broadcasters from showing vulgar and obscene programmes or those seen as violating local customs and sensibilities. The banned channels are – Channel V, AXN, Fashion TV, Zoom, Ren TV, Gcop, Music India, Cine Max, The Music and Zee Trendz.

Bangladesh’s interim administration has launched a crackdown on corruption and vowed to improve law and order, since it took office after emergency was imposed in January, media reports said.

April 25, 2007

Sri Lanka: Climate Change Worse Than Civil War – UN Expert

Filed under: global islands,sri lanka — admin @ 6:28 am

As the world prepares for yet another ‘scary’ report by the United Nations panel on global warming and climate change, a Sri Lankan specialist in the group says Tamil rebels and government troops are actually fighting over land due to be submerged as sea-levels rise.

”A major part of Jaffna and other northern areas (of Sri Lanka) will be submerged when the sea-level rises. So people are fighting and dying over areas that may soon not be there,” Prof. Mohan Munasinghe, vice-chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said in an interview.

Jaffna, seat of a revolt for an independent homeland for minority Tamils, lies on the northern tip of the island. Northern and eastern coastal areas, both claimed by the rebels as traditional Tamil homelands, are vulnerable to submersion as they are flatter than other coastal areas.

The vulnerability of the north and east was highlighted during the Dec. 26, 2004 Asian tsunami when these areas bore the brunt of the damage caused by the killer waves that hit the island, following an undersea earthquake off the coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island.

Munasinghe, known internationally for his work on energy and sustainable development, says climate change in Sri Lanka will have dire consequences on water, agriculture, health and the coast. “Already there are early signs of the impact which would assume serious proportions by 2025,” he said. “But unfortunately if the developed world doesn’t do anything to mitigate the impact, there’s little Sri Lanka can do.”

IPCC is releasing the third volume of its 4th assessment report in Bangkok on May 4. Since the first one came out in 2001, IPCC reports have been closely scrutinised by policymakers across the world, but action has been painfully slow in tackling the problem of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and carbon dioxide emissions that are said to cause global warming.

The biggest culprits are the United States and Europe through their fossil fuel industry and its powerful lobbies.

Providing a peek review of the forthcoming report Munasinghe, a former World Bank who has advised several Sri Lankan governments on energy issues, said among the key messages would be the need to take immediate action to mitigate or reduce GHGs.

The report will also focus on the methods and technologies to make this early start and provide clear signals to industry to develop the technologies to make such a change. “Industrialised countries should lead the way as they are the biggest polluters,” he said, adding that the Europeans clearly recognised these concerns earlier this year. “Thus there is now some action in the developed countries,” he said.

The IPCC vice-chairman is frustrated at the general apathy of countries in dealing with global warming despite the fact that some of the best experts in the world prepare the reports on global warming. The latest one has contributions from 3,000 scientists.

“No one takes it seriously because it is something that does not happen today or tomorrow. The biggest culprits are the rich countries…so it’s difficult to take action,” he said, adding that one of the weaknesses in the campaign is the inability of scientists to translate their jargon into language that is understood by everyone, including politicians.

The world response to global warming has been very slow. When IPCC’s first report, released in 1990, provided scientific evidence to show the existence of GHGs that can alter the climate, the public was sceptical. The second report dealt with the impact of GHGs, the impact on humans and need for mitigation.

The third report in 2001 focussed on vulnerability and adapting to situations. It said even if there were zero emissions, what is already in the atmosphere would cause global warming and impact mostly on tropical countries, and thereby the poor. Experts say even in rich countries it is the poor that are affected by global warming — as the impact of Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. has shown.

More than 80 percent of the emissions that cause climate change come from rich countries with lifestyles and development that cause the problems. The per capita emissions of countries like India or China, despite being large, are a mere 1/30th or 1/40th of what is emitted by the U.S. or Europe.

Munasinghe says his argument, made during a presentation at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, that there is a strong need for integrating climate change and longer term issues into sustainable development strategies has become a reality today. “Sustainable development is the way out… starting with the industrial nations,” he said.

In the Sri Lankan scenario, population shifts where the country would have a bigger aging population in 20 years will exacerbate the problem since health is one area where the impact would be high.

“Remember malnutrition and disease affects mostly children and older people. An aging population means there would be fewer people to carry the burden as well and all these would be vulnerable. Productivity will get affected because there are fewer young people,” he said.

Sri Lanka expects that over the next two decades the sea-level will rise by half a metre with dry areas becoming drier and wet areas becoming wetter, leading to floods in some areas and drought in others.

Earlier this month, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of IPCC, said at a press conference in New Delhi that up to 60 million coastal people in the low-lying areas of South Asia could be displaced by global warming by the end of the 21st century.

Especially vulnerable, said Pachauri, are the coastal metropolises of Mumbai and Kolkata which are already showing signs of strain on their drainage systems and infrastructure.

India could be most seriously affected by scantier rainfall and by glacier melt in the Himalayas which supply the river systems on which agriculture depends, Pachauri said, adding that glacier melt could also seriously affect China.

According to Pachauri the impact of global warming on India, where almost 700 million people are dependent on agriculture, would be really serious and trigger mass migration of rural communities to urban areas in search of alternate livelihoods.

The most frightening prospect for Sri Lanka is also in agriculture. ‘’We have done some studies with the meteorological department which show higher temperatures and less water,” said Munasinghe. ”This will result in paddy farming output falling by 20-30 percent in the next 20 to 30 years. The output will begin to drop gradually over the next few years.”

The other issue is that of equity, says Munasinghe, in the wet zone where the hill country is filled with tea bushes — the tea crop will increase making those workers well off. While paddy is cultivated mostly by farmer-families in which the cost of production is much higher than the selling price, tea workers are assured of their monthly wages even if tea companies find production costs higher than selling prices. Tea is generally a profitable crop.

He says in the hotter areas mosquitoes will be more rampant and even move into the more hilly areas. Thus the incidence of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue in endemic areas could increase in addition to diseases triggered by poor quality water that accompanies droughts.

Illegal wild bird trade found thriving in Nicaragua

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 6:06 am

Conservationists in Nicaragua are calling for urgent measures to help control the country’s illegal capture and trade in wild birds.

The call comes after a BBC journalist, posing as an interested foreign buyer, was offered a number of parrot species, many for sale on the roadside. The same journalist was later offered a Great Green Macaw Ara ambiguous, listed by BirdLife and IUCN as Endangered, meaning that it faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

“In the capital of Nicaragua, any tourist can buy all kinds of threatened species, in particular those from the Psittacid [parrot] family.” said Jose Manuel Zolotoff of Fundacion Cocibolca (BirdLife’s project partner in Nicaragua). “You can get a sense of how profitable the trade is when a Great Green Macaw and Scarlet Macaw can be sold in a buffer zone for an average of $200-$400 [USD], being sold in the US for up to $2,000 [USD].”

In 2004, a national monitoring study in Nicaragua found parrot numbers had decreased by 69%, compared to previous monitoring exercises in 1999. The decline was put down to habitat loss and exportation for trade. As a result of the study, CITES, the convention governing international trade in species, recommended a ban on all parrot exportations in Nicaragua.

Since the ban though, illegal capture and trade has become a critical issue facing the country’s birds.

In a BBC News article, Nicaragua’s Environment Minister, Cristobal Sequiera, expressed frustration in controlling the problem, citing economic pressure and lack of awareness as factors driving the illegal trade.

“These people are poor. They don’t understand that we are trying to attract eco-tourists and that those tourists want to see Nicaragua’s beauty.” Mr Sequiera is quoted as saying.

“When we tell the poachers they could get real jobs in the tourism industry, they don’t see it’s in their interests to leave the birds alone.”

“The other problem is the lack of financial resources of MARENA [Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources/Ministerio del Ambiente y Recursos Naturales] to hire rangers to cover extensive amount of protected areas and buffer zones.” said Zolotoff.

“But these are problems that we must address if we are to save many of these species from a near certain extinction.”

Fundacian Cocibolca are currently putting together Nicaragua’s first directory of Important Bird Areas, alongside another organisation, Alianza para las Areas Silvestres (ALAS, Alliance for Natural Areas).

Using BirdLife’s IBA programme, the organisations are working to form a foundation for site monitoring and protection – both of which will become crucial components in future efforts to control the country’s illegal wild bird trade.

April 23, 2007

Five people killed as Sri Lanka marks New Year

Filed under: global islands,sri lanka — admin @ 6:18 am

COLOMBO — Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead five people in eastern Sri Lanka on Saturday, the military said, as the country marked the traditional New Year and the president appealed for national unity.

Gunmen from the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fired at a residential neighbourhood in Eravur, in Batticaloa district, killing two people from a breakaway militant faction and three civilians, the defence ministry said.

Among those killed were a three-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, the military said, adding that police were probing the shootings.

However, Tiger rebels denied killing the five people and blamed the military for the deaths, according to the pro-rebel website The rebels added that those who died were all civilians.

Elsewhere, in the northern district of Vavuniya, residents were preparing to bury seven Sinhalese villagers who were gunned down by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels on Thursday, according to the military. The Tigers have denied responsibility for those deaths as well.

According to defence ministry figures, an average of just under four civilians have been killed each day since April 1, as government troops remain locked in combat with the guerrillas, despite a 2002 Oslo-backed truce.

The latest killings came as both the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil community marked their common New Year.

President Mahinda Rajapakse, in his New Year message, appealed for unity in the ethnically divided nation of 19.5 million people.

“The observance of New Year traditions and rituals leads to the unity of the nation,” he said. “We should all come together to observe the New Year traditions, irrespective of all differences.”

The Tigers on Friday vowed to hit back against an advance by government troops in the east of Sri Lanka, where a breakaway faction known as the “Karuna Group” is collaborating with security forces to attack the Tigers.

The LTTE denied military claims that they were retreating in the face of an onslaught in the Eastern Province, where they were ejected from a coastal stronghold in January, and said they would retaliate “very soon.”

“As far as the LTTE is concerned we have adjusted our tactics according to the needs and we have not withdrawn from the east,” LTTE political wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan said.

“I believe only our actions in the coming period will answer the propaganda (of the government) whether the Sri Lankan military has won a stable victory,” he said in an e-mail interview with AFP.

He said the Tigers had turned the tables on government forces in the past and inflicted heavy losses, adding, “I believe similar instances will be repeated in the east very soon.”

Violence has intensified since fighting erupted last April and Colombo has blocked journalists from travelling to rebel-held areas in the island’s north, where the LTTE has its military and political headquarters.

More than 4,000 people died between December 2005 and the first week of March 2007 across the country, including 675 civilians and 1,040 security personnel, according to defence ministry figures.

The LTTE has waged a 35-year campaign for independence that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

April 21, 2007

Filed under: Film — admin @ 2:27 pm

April 19, 2007

Nicaragua’s Crazy Sickness

Filed under: global islands,nicaragua — admin @ 5:55 am

I asked Padre Elvis if he gave credence to the bad spirits that Nicaragua’s Miskitu Indians blame for grisi siknis.” Before, I used to believe a lot,” he told me. “But now only a little bit.” Had my Spanish been better, I’d have accused him of copping out. As it was, I said to him, “Come on Father, either you believe or you don’t believe.”

We were sitting around a highly lacquered kitchen table, carved, no doubt, from some precious and endangered tropical hardwood. The ceramic-tile floor absorbed much of the days intense heat. Beads of sweat merged into rivulets on the fridge door. March in the Miskitu town of Waspam marks the end of the six-month-long dry season. But this was late April and the spring rains had yet to arrive, so I was glad to be inside the spacious two-storey cement-block home that housed both of Waspam’s Catholic priests. It provided some relief from the penetrating sun. The padre laughed. “You ask hard questions,” he said. “Put it this way, if I’m deep in the jungle I don’t cut the branch of the ceiba tree.” One of Nicaragua’s largest trees, the barrel-trunked ceiba has, according to Miskitu myth, powerful spirits that are not to be fooled with. I wondered if knowing that a Catholic priest believes in pagan spirits—even a little bit—would help me to understand what was causing indigenous communities up and down the longest river in Central America to suffer from the mass-hysteria-like ailment called grisi siknis.

The Miskitus, a group indigenous to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and Honduras, don’t have a word for mental illness. Instead, ailing people are thought to be out of balance with the spirits. Grisi siknis, the Miskitus’ best attempt at a phonetic spelling of “crazy sickness,” causes those afflicted—mostly young Miskitu women—to alternate between a trancelike state of semi-consciousness and periods of frenzied behaviour. During the latter, victims often rip off their clothes, flee into the forest or the murky, fast-flowing river, and appear to develop superhuman strength. In such a crazed state, these women are difficult to stop. With their eyes closed, and armed with machetes or sticks, they think nothing of attacking whoever or whatever stands between them and the mysterious force that beckons.

In this region, there are accounts of entire villages being ransacked during a grisi siknis outbreak, when as many as a quarter of a town’s inhabitants, including women of all ages and a few men, become afflicted and may remain so for months. Patients are tied up with ropes to prevent them from running amok. Dr. Philip Dennis, professor in the department of sociology, anthropology, and social work at Texas Tech University, lived among the Miskitus for more than a year. He described his most vivid memory of a grisi siknis episode as when “a young woman I helped hold down during an attack was obviously having an orgasm brought on, in her mind, by the spirits or devils.” When Dennis asked the woman’s husband if such a sexual experience was commonplace, he grunted an embarrassed yes.

I’d gone to Nicaragua fully expecting to learn that abject poverty, sexual abuse, and post-traumatic stress caused grisi siknis. After all, the Nicaraguan people are long suffering. Following forty-two years of brutal dictatorship under the Somoza family (father Anastasio followed by sons Luis and Anastasio), the country fell into a vicious war that pitted the US-backed Contras against the leftist Sandinistas. During that bloody conflict (1979-1990), the Sandinistas rounded up large numbers of Miskitu Indians and marched them into internment camps in Nicaragua and Honduras where they waited out the war. They returned home to find burned-out villages and fields littered with landmines. Today, Nicaragua remains one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, massively indebted to foreign lenders. And nowhere in the country is the poverty more acute than along the Río Coco, where most Miskitus live. Add the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (more than $1 billion in damages countrywide), when torrential rain washed away much of the topsoil in villages throughout northern Nicaragua, reducing crop yields to a third of what they’d been, and my theory of poverty-induced illness made some sense.

Many psychiatrists believe that grisi siknis belongs to a class of disorders commonly known as “culture-bound syndromes.” In the November 2001 issue of Psychiatric Times, Dr. Ronald C. Simons, professor emeritus of psychiatry and anthropology at Michigan State University, wrote, “In theory, culture-bound syndromes are those folk illnesses in which alterations of behaviour and experience figure prominently. In actuality, however, many are not syndromes at all. Instead, they are local ways of explaining any of a wide assortment of misfortunes.” Later he adds, “However, some culture-bound syndromes are indeed syndromes.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV of the American Psychiatric Association contains a glossary of twenty-five culture-bound syndromes. There’s pibloktoq, a disorder similar to grisi siknis unique to the Inuit, and the suitably named amok, which is particular to Malaysians and involves periods of brooding followed by outbursts of violent, aggressive, or homicidal behaviour. There’s dhat in India, characterized by large losses of semen in men, who feel weak as a result. In Japan, taijin kyofusho causes people to have an intense fear of their own bodies, and in Southeast Asia men and women suffer from koro, which is the fear that one’s sexual appendages are being withdrawn into the body and will be lost. Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are our very own Western culture-bound syndromes. Dr. Wolfgang Jilek, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, wrote about culturally related syndromes in the New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry. He told me that “these phenomena, although mostly not of organic causation, are of course “real’ in the sense that they are not “made up’ or “faked.’ What used to be labelled “hysterical’ symptoms are not willfully produced antics but are the outcome of mental dissociation processes, usually in response to stressful, traumatizing experiences.”

Grisi siknis among the Miskitus is not a new phenomenon. An epidemic that began in 1910 lasted for about twenty years, according to local reports. Decades earlier, Charles Napier Bell, an English ethnographer who grew up on the Miskitu coast of Central America, described a case after visiting a Miskitu village during the 1850s. In Tangweera: Life and Adventures among Gentle Savages, he wrote, “I have seen a young girl, who was shrieking hysterically in a dreadful manner, carried in a canoe a long distance to consult a celebrated sookia [medicine man]. All that the sookia did was erect round her painted sticks with charms tied to them, to blow tobacco-smoke over her while muttering strange words, to make a bubbling with a tobacco pipe in a calabash of water, which she was then made to drink, and to tie a knotted string round her neck, on every knot of which was a drop of blood from his tongue. For as many days as there were knots she must not eat the meat of certain animals, must suffer no one to pass to windward of her, and must not see a woman with child.”

The treatment Bell described hasn’t changed much in 150 years. Nicaragua’s best medical science did nothing to curb a grisi siknis outbreak in villages along the Río Coco in 2003. A prestigious team of psychiatrists, doctors, epidemiologists, and government health professionals called in Porcela Sandino, who claims to be the granddaughter of Augusto César Sandino, Nicaragua’s most famous revolutionary and Sandinista namesake. Porcela is a reputed curandera or shaman. Posing for a photo in the treatment room next door to her unassuming, brightly coloured wooden home in Puerto Cabezas, Porcela was surrounded by votive candles adorned with images of Jesus and the Virgen de Guadelupe. Simple wooden crosses hung on the painted white walls. A Catholic, Porcela assured me that grisi siknis “is not a sickness of God; it is a sickness of the bad spirits.” But she wouldn’t say exactly what she’d used to cure it. As is the tradition among Miskitu curanderos, the recipe came to her in a dream. It involved brewing up a stew of medicinal plants and other items, which those afflicted had to wash in, drink, and inhale the fumes of for ten days. Her assistants also spread the concoction in a ring around the village to ward off the bad spirits causing the outbreak. Carlos Salomon Taylor, another curandero who helped out during the 2004 outbreak, said in La Prensa, a Nicaraguan daily, that he needed the tail and horns of a black cow, a seashell, sulphur, needles, methylene, various herbs, and 11,000 cordobas (about $800) to work his magic.

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