South Americans Rescued Near Costa Rican Island

June 3, 2005

AFTER sending a message in a bottle,88 South Americans stranded at seawere rescued Saturday night from anameless ship that sprang a leak nearCosta Rica’s Isla del Coco, located inthe Pacific Ocean a 36-hour boat-ridefrom mainland Costa Rica.The passengers were headed towardthe United States in search of jobs andbetter living conditions, they told officials.Each would-be immigrant paid$3,000 to human smugglers, or “coyotes,”who promised travelers they would disembarkin Guatemala and continue thejourney to the United States over landthrough Mexico, according to NicolásAguilar, spokesman for the PublicSecurity Ministry.The 40 Peruvians and 48 Ecuadorianswere rescued Saturday after Capt. JuanVenegas of the boat Rey de Reyes founda bottle stuck to his fishing line containingthe message “Auxilio, por favor ayúdenos”(help, please help us) and reportedit to park officials from the Isla del CocoMarine Conservation Area.Authorities believe the coyotes abandonedthe ship and took the communicationequipment with them, leaving thepassengers stranded.The South Americans, including somewomen and several youth, stayed at Isladel Coco – where their boat was towedby a ship from the nonprofit marine conservationorganization MarViva – untilyesterday, when an Ecuadorian ship tookthem to the Galapagos Islands, part ofEcuador, to be repatriated.A ship from the Costa Rican CoastGuard station in the southern Pacific porttown of Golfito arrived at the islandTuesday with provisions, including 320kilograms of food and items for personalhygiene, a Red Cross doctor, immigrationofficials and police officers from Golfito,according to a statement from the PublicSecurity Ministry.This event is similar to an incident ayear and a half ago, when an Ecuadorianship carrying more than 100 people sufferedan accident near Isla del Coco. Theship’s passengers also were headed forthe United States.

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