San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Death Toll Rising from Poison Nica Moonshine

MANAGUA – Health-care authorities,  police, politicians, the private sector and international organizations all rallied to offer assistance to a “health emergency” in Nicaraguan caused by poison moonshine, which has claimed the lives of some 35 Nicaraguans and hospitalized some 340 more, according to weekend statistics.

The number of affected people was at 600 on Monday, and officials expected it to grow throughout the week.

The victims, mostly residents in the northern department of León, reportedly thought they were drinking a popular moonshine made of sugarcane (Guaron, as it’s known here), but in fact were drinking a lethal combination of methanol (wood alcohol) mixed with water, according to the Health Ministry.

The combination, when consumed in large quantities, results in death, destroying the victim’s brain, intestines and liver. Those who consumed smaller doses complained of strong headaches, blurred vision, stomach pains and temporary paralysis.

Health Minister Margarita Gurdian told reporters Saturday that the Pan American Health Organization, or PAHO, would provide a some 300 antidotes to treat people poisoned by the methanol, following the ministry’s declaration of a health emergency Sept 7.

Authorities have prohibited the sale, distribution and consumption of homemade liquor in León until the investigation by police and Health Ministry officials into the poisonings is completed.

The health emergency covers the municipalities of Achuapa, El Jicaral, El Sauce, Larreynaga-Malpaisillo, La Paz Centro, León, Nagarote, Quezalguaque, Santa Rosa del Peñón and Telica, all in León province.

The emergency decree also includes a prohibition on shipping homemade liquors into the province.

Police already have arrested several suspected of having mixed the deadly concoction, although the Minister Gurdian said she thought it might have been done by accident.

Authorities have also seized some 61,055 liters from household and various other points of sale in León


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