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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion

    Surviving fishermen deny eating others

    Surviving fishermen deny eating others
    August 23, 2006 - 6:10PM

    Three Mexican fishermen who spent nine months adrift in the Pacific deny eating two companions who did not survive, and reject allegations they may have been running drugs.

    But their homeland is insisting on an inquiry into the drug allegations, and the fate of the two men who lasted just two months of the harrowing voyage.

    "There's no doubt there will be an inquiry," said Ruben Aguilar, a spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox.

    "This case merits an investigation ... we need to explain a series of circumstances on how the two fishermen who were in the boat disappeared."

    The five men set off from the central Mexican port of San Blas on October 28 on what the three survivors said was a shark fishing expedition.

    But their small boat ran out of fuel and drifted 8,000km westwards before they were rescued near the Marshall Islands in the south Pacific earlier this month.

    Few doubt the men, who are due back in Mexico on Friday, spent nine months lost at sea, but questions hang over other parts of their story.

    Salvador Ordonez, 37, and Jesus Vidana Lopez and Lucio Rendon, both 27, have already rejected speculation in the Mexican media that they feasted on the bodies of their two colleagues.

    They said the dead men, hired help identified only as Mr Juan and a man with the obscure nickname El Farsero, could not stomach the meagre diet of raw birds and fish they were forced to eat to survive.

    "They could not eat the raw fish and birds. They kept throwing up and eventually they vomited blood," Ordonez said, adding that their bodies were thrown overboard.

    They also deny claims they may have been involved in running drugs along Mexico's Pacific Coast - a notorious drug trafficking highway.

    "They are wrong because we went out to catch sharks," Vidana Lopez said in a TV interview after they returned to land in the Marshall Islands.

    Thin but smiling after their arrival, the three survivors were given a clean bill of health by doctors in Majuro, capital of the tiny Pacific state.

    "They were okay," said Neijon Edwards, of the Marshall Islands foreign ministry.

    "Their physical check-up was fine, and they even passed their psychological examination."

    Swollen feet appeared to be the main legacy of their ordeal.

    "We bought them shoes but they can't wear them," Edwards said.

    The three men were due to leave for Honolulu and expected to be back in Mexico on Friday.

    The men said they had spent most of their time at sea fishing, praying and collecting rainwater to drink.

    "We spent most of the time reading the Bible," said Vidana Lopez.

    "Fishing and praying mostly. God really helped us because we were at sea for so long."

    After their rescue they were able to telephone their families, and Vidana Lopez discovered he was the father of a six-month-old baby girl born while he was adrift.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian503a's Avatar
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    May 2005
    California or ground zero of the invasion
    16,029 ... -headlines

    First, Lost at Sea -- Now the Squall
    Were they smugglers? Did they eat their two comrades? What about those fingernails? Three Mexican fishermen get the media's third degree.

    By Héctor Tobar
    Times Staff Writer

    August 26, 2006

    MEXICO CITY — When three fishermen returned home Friday after a miraculous ordeal at sea, the questions from this city's boisterous press corps didn't focus on the Hemingway-like details of their nine months adrift, an accidental 5,000-mile journey from the Mexican port of San Blas.

    The story captivated Mexico when first reported last week. Having disappeared in October, family members said, the fishermen and their 27-foot skiff turned up two weeks ago in the central Pacific halfway between North America and Australia, a blip on the radar screen of a tuna vessel north of Baker Island.

    But the 100 or so journalists who greeted the survivors at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport are more used to reporting crime and scandal than heroism. They grilled the three men at an often chaotic news conference that ended in a melee between producers and cameramen from rival television networks.

    Is it true that you guys are really drug dealers on a failed smuggling mission, the reporters asked. What happened to the two other men who you say were on board with you? Did you eat them? If you were at sea for nine months, why aren't your fingernails longer?

    "To those who don't believe us, all I can say is that I hope that what happened to us never happens to you," Lucio Rendon, 27, said after denying that he and his comrades were either "narcos" or cannibals. "I just thank God for being here."

    Like many of the tragedies that befall the poor in Mexico, the full story of the three lost fishermen has turned out to be a complicated and hazy affair. The saga of Rendon, Salvador Ordoñez and Jesus Vidaña involves illegal immigration, suspicions of unlicensed fishing, petty theft and two "ghosts."

    Mexico's attorney general said this week there was no evidence that the men were drug smugglers — though smuggling is common along the stretch of coastline where they set out.

    In their native villages, meanwhile, Roman Catholic Masses were being planned for the men as they caught connecting flights for hometowns in the coastal states of Nayarit and Sinaloa. In the fishing hamlet of El Limon, just outside San Blas, the relatives of two of the men were slaughtering sheep for a feast.

    Family members say the three are typical fishermen from a stretch of coast dotted with hardscrabble fishing hamlets. When they left San Blas with two other men on Oct. 28, they didn't notify port authorities, or even many members of their family — not an unusual practice in an area where many fish illegally.

    Local authorities say the federal government has declined to issue licenses to most of the small-time fishermen in the San Blas area, citing the threat of overfishing.

    "That's why no one tells the port authorities when they set out, because they could be prevented from leaving, or they could even go to jail for being pirate fishermen," David Lara Plasencia, a municipal official in San Blas, told the newspaper El Universal this week.

    The survivors have said in interviews that they set off in search of shark, but have not said whether they were licensed. Their first night out, they lost a fishing line. While they tried to find it the next morning, their onboard engines ran out of gas. They began to drift.

    One of the men, known to the others only by the nickname "El Farsero," died in January. Fifteen days later, a second man, known to the others as "Juan," died. The men either wouldn't eat or couldn't hold down the raw fish the others were eating to survive.

    In a television interview Friday, Ordoñez, 37, said that after months adrift the men had no idea where they were. "One day I saw a plane pass and I said, 'Where is that plane coming from?' " Ordoñez recalled. " 'I think it's coming from China. And that's where we're headed.' "

    The men read a Bible they had on board. When a storm ripped out the Apocalypse chapters, they said, they took it as a good sign.

    They collected rainwater to drink. Ordoñez remembered advice from a government-sponsored survival course: Eat as little as possible and drink fish blood to stay hydrated. (Officials in San Blas confirmed that Ordoñez completed the course in 2004.)

    Back ashore, some relatives had already recited a series of Catholic prayers for the dead.

    Upon hearing of his presumed death, Ordoñez's 15-year-old daughter, Gladiola, gave up her dream of being a teacher, dropped out of school and set out for the United States, the newspaper La Cronica de Hoy reported Thursday.

    "My father is dead," Gladiola told her brother Angel. "What will I do here? I don't even have money for a notebook." Gladiola crossed the border illegally and reportedly is working in a Los Angeles factory, the newspaper reported. The account could not be independently verified.

    The three drifters were asleep when they were spotted Aug. 9. The Taiwanese crew of the Koo's 102, based in the Marshall Islands, found the men. For 12 days, until the boat pulled into port, the skinny and sunburned survivors recuperated, sharing meals of rice and noodles with the crew.

    On the Marshall Islands, a doctor found the men were suffering from various minor ailments, including swollen limbs and ear infections. But otherwise, they were healthy.

    As the men began the long journey home via Honolulu and Los Angeles, the news media went to work investigating their past.

    Rendon, it turned out, was on probation on charges of stealing shrimp from a fishing company. A mortgage company was about to foreclose on the family home of Vidaña, 27. Vidaña's wife had given birth to their baby, a girl — Juliana is now 4 months old. And while talking with Ordoñez in a phone call broadcast live by the Televisa network, his family in Oaxaca learned that he had moved in with a woman in San Blas.

    But little has emerged about the two men said to have died at sea. "Up to now they are only ghosts," the newspaper El Universal wrote Tuesday. "No one knows their full names or where they're from. It's as if they never existed."

    At Friday's airport news conference, a radio reporter asked the three men whether they would take lie detector tests to prove that their story was true.

    Yes, the fishermen answered.

    After the news conference, producers from the rival Televisa and Azteca television networks engaged in a shoving match over who would get the first "exclusive" interview with the three men: Televisa ended up with two of the survivors, Azteca with one.

    Reporter Carlos Loret de Mola prodded Ordoñez and Rendon until they acknowledged that, yes, at one point they had drunk their own urine to survive.

    Carlos Martínez and Cecilia Sánchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.
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