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ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE/WORLD, three stories from a small planet.

First, in Iran, a dangerous assignment.

JANE KOKAN, Reporter: I’m going undercover to bring back the story a Canadian journalist died trying to tell.

STEFAN HACHEMI: I don’t want the death of my mother to be in vain.

ANNOUNCER: Students confront a brutal regime.

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: The Iranian government are killers and they are really dangerous.

ANNOUNCER: And in Spain, the story of one of the worst oil spills in history and new evidence that the disaster could have been prevented.

And finally, in Belize, the descendants of slaves reclaim the past through music.

AURELIO MARTINEZ: [singing] Africa, oh Africa—

Iran: Forbidden Iran

Reported by: Jane Kokan

 

JANE KOKAN, Reporter: [voice-over] I’m on my way to Iran, traveling undercover as a tourist. The country is in the grip of a growing student dissident movement that’s taking on the Islamic fundamentalists who rule Iran. The regime has violently repressed the students.

I’m following in the footsteps of another Canadian journalist, Zahra Kazemi, who was beaten to death in Tehran six months ago while trying to report this story. I want to find out what happened to her and investigate the story she died trying to tell.

It was a journey that began months earlier on the streets of London. Thousands of young Iranians now live in exile in the West, and most support the students inside Iran. At this demonstration last July outside the Iranian embassy in London, there was real anger against the regime. At the demonstration, we met a passionate young leader of the independent student movement.

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: [subtitles] My friends are sacrificing themselves. They’re giving up their youth, their dreams. Their wish is for freedom for you and me as Iranians.

JANE KOKAN: Iman Samizadez says he was smuggled out of the country two years ago after he was tortured in prison. He tells us his flat in London has been attacked, and I know that exiles have been targeted by agents of the regime. So we decide to meet in secret.

On his Web site, Iman says the student movement is fighting for freedom of speech, true democracy and an end to the Islamic state.

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: I’m looking for a free Iran, without a religion, without any religion. The people, they can have religion as a private thing. But in a political way, we are looking for a free country.

JANE KOKAN: Iman shows me the two very different faces of his Iran. President Khatami, the smiling reformer. He’s elected, but is subject to the power of this man, Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader. No one elects him, but he and the mullahs control who can run for office, all public speech, and they control the courts, the prisons and the security forces. The students want the mullahs out.

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: They want basic human rights. They want freedom.

JANE KOKAN: For several years in Iran, the students have taken to the streets to demand those freedoms. It is a young country: 70 percent of Iranians are under the age of 30. These students are the children of the Islamic revolution, but now they want religion out of their lives. They want change, but the price of change has been paid in their own blood.

In June, Islamic vigilantes controlled by the mullahs attacked these dormitories at Tehran University. They smashed their way in, locked the exits and attacked 80 students while they slept. They used machetes, metal pipes, chains and butcher knives. It was 18 hours before anyone could escape. No one knows exactly how many died here.

Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian who had emigrated to Canada, came back to Iran to report on all of this. She knew the ropes. She had an official press pass. But by daring to talk to the students, she was risking her own life. Kazemi’s story was the crushing of the student movement: 4,000 arrested in June, 500 still in jail. International observers say it’s probably more.

And in jail, violent punishment is the hallmark of this regime. On Iman’s Web site, there is a gallery of pictures of Iranian students who’ve been arrested and tortured. Iman himself is there, and a young woman, known as Kati, jailed and tortured for her writings as a student journalist, and Amad Batabi, sentenced to 15 years because he publicly displayed the bloody shirt of a friend who had been beaten.

JANE KOKAN: [on camera] So who’s this?

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: This is Amir Abbas Fakhravar, my friend.

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] Amir Fakhravar, arrested 17 times, is now serving 8 years in prison for student activism and calling for democracy in Iran. To the students, he’s both a leader and hero. This video of Fakhravar and his mother was filmed secretly just before he went to prison last year.

AMIR FAKHRAVAR: [subtitles] Mother, never forget that I have chosen my way of fighting, and I am following it with all of my strength. I want you not to sigh, not to cry, and not to have such a sad face. I have told you many times that when they are hanging me, I want you to proudly say, "I am proud of my son."

JANE KOKAN: Two days later, Fakhravar was taken to Qasr prison in Tehran, where he’s been regularly beaten and tortured. But they haven’t silenced him. In February, he smuggled a letter out from prison asking all Iranians to boycott elections that March, elections he claimed were a sham.

"Our goal is to reveal the unmasked face of the Islamic Republic and for the whole world to see the level of its unpopularity among Iranians. We have borne the burden of endless tortures. We actually witnessed the executions of our friends. Others have plunged to their death and been thrown off dormitory buildings. Some have been in solitary confinement for years at the hands of the regime. We have faced these perils without fear. In return, we expect nothing, just that our people do not lose hope."

JANE KOKAN: Fakhravar’s appeal matched the popular mood. In the elections, turnout in Tehran was only 12 percent.

[on camera] Are you able to communicate with him?

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: Yes, sometimes.

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] Iman tells me if I can get into Iran, he can arrange for me to secretly meet Fakhravar’s comrades and perhaps I can even speak to Fakhravar himself. But he warns it will be risky.

IMAN SAMIZADEZ: The Iranian government, I can say they are killers. And they are really dangerous.

JANE KOKAN: But I am still determined. And although it took months, I eventually did find a way into Iran, as a tourist on a group tour out of Slovenia. Because foreign reporters are so restricted in Iran, I decide to tell the Iranian consulate I’m an archeologist, not a journalist.

[on camera] OK, I have the visa. It looks like I really will be able to go to Iran.

[voice-over] And by mid-September, I’m on a tour bus crossing the Turkish border into Iran. The organizers of the trip have no idea who I really am or the real story I’m trying to investigate. To them, I am just Jane Kokan, archaeologist, on holiday to tour the historic sites of Iran. I’m with a friend, who’ll back me up getting pictures.

[www.pbs.org: Read about the reporter undercover]

It’s a low-budget overland trip, but we still have an official Iranian minder.

[on camera] You know your stuff, don’t you?

MINDER: Thanks.

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] It’s his job to keep tabs on all of us.

Even posing as a tourist, filming students is going to be a big problem. Iran is a police state. You can never forget who’s really in control here. Hotels are watched, phone calls monitored. So I have to slip out at night and find an Internet cafe to set up my contacts. I’ve been warned if I miss my curfew, the hotel receptionist will report me to the police. Other journalists were caught when their emails were tapped, so I’ve made up a code that should be hard for anyone to crack.

We’re now in Isfahan, the jewel of ancient Persia. I’m anxious to begin talking to the Iranian dissidents we’ve arranged to meet through our contacts in London, but my tour is getting in the way. I’m playing the tourist as well as I can. My cover means I should study with care the Islamic architecture of this showcase city. But I’m worrying about a meeting tonight.

I wait until night falls to leave my hotel. I want to shake off anyone trailing me, like my minder, who’s been asking awkward questions about my occasional disappearances. I head for an address a few streets away, another cheap hotel.

The man I’m sneaking off to meet is a friend of Amir Fakhravar, the student leader sentenced to eight years in prison. If this man is caught meeting me, he could be arrested and tortured. He doesn’t want me to show his face or reveal his name.

ACTIVIST: [through interpreter] I’ve been arrested several times. I’m not worried anymore. I know living in Iran itself is dangerous. To tell the truth, we don’t live as such here, we just pretend we live here. Even the ordinary people who are not political and go about their daily business are not really living.

The security forces are watching. They’re everywhere. When I was in prison, one of the guards said to me, "Wherever you go, we will know what you’re doing, and we are watching you." The police are fascists. Nothing can happen internally. Everything is suppressed. Every demonstration, every opposition is severely suppressed.

[www.pbs.org: More on the struggle in Iran]

JANE KOKAN: This secretly shot film of a demonstration by teachers and students was smuggled out to us last November.

ACTIVIST: [through interpreter] Our dream country is one where human rights are respected, where people aren’t sent to prison and tortured for their ideas, for their writing, for their work. That’s our dream country.

JANE KOKAN: Several days later, as evening approaches, I snatch another visit to an Internet cafe to contact my team back in London. They tell me to break away from the tour in Shiraz, if I can. Shiraz is the city where Zahra Kazemi was born and where she is now buried. Away from my minder, I secretly visit the shrine at Shiraz, where no cameras are permitted inside.

MINDER: [subtitles] Please go there with her. I can’t go in with her. It’s the women’s section. She wants to see the altar.

JANE KOKAN: But I don’t want really want to see the altar inside the shrine. I want to see something else. I want to see Zahra Kazemi’s grave. Kazemi’s family back in Canada has told me they want her body returned, but the Iranian authorities have refused. And in the end, I can’t get into the locked graveyard where they buried her. Even in death, it seems, Kazemi is still imprisoned by the regime.

It’s now three weeks into the tour, and we’re finally entering Tehran. This is where I’m hoping to make contact with Amir Fakhravar. But hooking up with student leaders could be very tough. Security here is tighter than anywhere else in the country.

But in this suburban park, I managed a few minutes with a friend of Iman’s, a student called Kianoosh. He’s been arrested four times, the first when he was 17, for writing an article criticizing the government’s treatment of the students.

KIANOOSH SANJARI, Student Activist: [through interpreter] When you’re first arrested, you’re put in solitary for months. In these solitary cells which are one meter by two meters, one is left alone for months, and there they force you to make false confessions.

JANE KOKAN: Kianoosh tells me that student activists are disappearing every day, taken away by the mullahs’ vigilantes.

KIANOOSH: [through interpreter] They are supported politically and financially, and they are able to easily abduct people who are taking part in protests and demonstrations and take them to secret hideouts.

JANE KOKAN: Kianoosh says the students want political help from the West, but they don’t want an Iraq-style invasion.

KIANOOSH: [through interpreter] The free world, including America, can put pressure on the ruling clerics so that they accept holding a referendum to decide the future democratic structure of Iran. But they cannot interfere militarily. We are not after America’s military intervention.

JANE KOKAN: The same day, I’ve arranged to meet my most important contact in Iran, a man we’ll call Arzhang. He’s been a political activist since the late ‘70s, when the shah was deposed, and now he’s helping the students take on the mullahs. It’s brave of him, like Kianoosh, to insist that I show his face. Arzhang has set up a telephone interview for me with the student leader Amir Fakhravar from jail.

[on camera] Do you think we’ll see a new democratic Iran sometime soon?

[voice-over] Amazingly, Fakhravar has gained access to a phone line inside one of Iran’s toughest prisons.

[on camera] Will you, the students, win? What do you think? Will you win the battle? OK, I’ll pass you back to Arzhang. OK.

[voice-over] Fakhravar’s English and my Farsi aren’t exactly perfect, so I ask Arzhang to act as our interpreter.

[on camera] How many students are currently locked up in prison?

ARZHANG: He says that there are thousands of students all over Iran that have been put in jail or they have been expelled from universities.

JANE KOKAN: Since the crackdown, how many students have been murdered and how many are still unaccounted for?

ARZHANG: This is something that everybody knows, that students disappear, they’ve been killed. There are many people he knows. He has seen 19 people with his own eyes, but the government didn’t let the families to have ceremony for them. And plus, they had to pay for the bullets in their bodies.

JANE KOKAN: [on camera] Is he not afraid that he will not leave prison alive?

ARZHANG: We are disconnected.

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] It’s the last I’ll hear from Amir Fakhravar.

Arzhang drives me to a secret location on the outskirts of Tehran. He wants to tell me what he’s heard about the death of Zahra Kazemi at the hands of her interrogators.

ARZHANG: She expected them to be easy with her, but there is a procedure that they do for everybody, like insulting and pushing you around and making you stand up for a few hours. We are used to this sort of procedure, but Zahra Kazemi was not and she fought them back. She criticized them. She shouted. They cannot endure critics, and she fought them back strongly. And then they wanted to do something immoral with her. They really wanted to abuse her sexually.

JANE KOKAN: [on camera] Is this common practice in Iranian prisons?

ARZHANG: Yes. For the ladies it is. Yes.

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] After 26 days in Iran, my trip — official and unofficial — is almost over. The students are having my interview tapes smuggled over the mountains into Turkey, where I’ll pick them up. I’m destroying any last evidence linking me to the students.

I’ve learned a lot about their movement and the repression, but I’m still not satisfied I have the full story on the death of Zahra Kazemi. Four weeks after I left Iran, I come to Amsterdam to meet a man who might know what really happened to Kazemi.

[on camera] I’m on my way to meet Hamid Zakeri, a former Iranian intelligence officer who defected over a year ago. He’s been on the run ever since, but he’s agreed to meet me at a safe house here in Amsterdam.

[voice-over] Hamid Zakeri worked directly for the Supreme Leader and says he’s now under the protection of the FBI and security agencies in Europe.

HAMID REZA ZAKERI, Former Intelligence Agent: I have information from the people who are in Iran right now and who were my colleagues before.

JANE KOKAN: He says Zahra Kazemi was taken to one of the mullahs’ secret detention centers, an unofficial prison without a name, only a number.

HAMID ZAKERI: There is a place right now. It used to be 325. And they are taking there people who are special people, like Zahra Kazemi and the others.

JANE KOKAN: And he names the interrogator his former colleagues say actually beat Kazemi.

HAMID ZAKERI: Jafar Nemati. He’s the one who punched her, who hit her. He’s the one who beat her up until she was unconscious.

JANE KOKAN: He says what really drove the interrogator wild was that Kazemi took everything and wouldn’t flinch.

HAMID ZAKERI: She was not accepting what he wanted from her. That’s why Jafar Nemati was upset and beat her, beat her on the head and lots of different kinds of beating.

JANE KOKAN: Zakeri says after she was beaten unconscious and near death, the mullahs’ men tried to hide their responsibility. Saeed Mortesavi, a top judge in the mullahs’ justice ministry, ordered her transferred to the custody of their rivals, the reformers. In their care, she died.

Kazemi’s death caused an international uproar. And now Iran’s most famous champion of human rights, Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has agreed to investigate the case.

SHIRIN EBADI, Nobel Peace Prize: [subtitles] In addition to the punishment of the murderer in this case, I also want, as a result of the investigation of these events, to ensure that there will not be another Zahra Kazemi.

JANE KOKAN: Finally, at the end of this journey, I’m back in Canada, in Montreal. It’s where Zahra Kazemi’s son, Stefan, lives. I’ve come to tell him what I’ve learned about his mother’s death. He says he’s still trying to get her body back from Iran.

STEFAN HACHEMI: This was a picture she really liked herself, actually.

JANE KOKAN: [on camera] What are the reasons your mother’s body wasn’t repatriated back to Canada?

STEFAN HACHEMI: Well, she has been beaten. She has been tortured. She has been pushed to false declarations. To have the body sent back to Canada, it would have all the evidence of the treatment she received in prison, I mean, while she was detained.

JANE KOKAN: [voice-over] As for his mother’s alleged murderers, I ask him about Jafar Nemati and Saeed Mortesavi.

STEFAN HACHEMI: The guilty is not one man. Responsible is the Iranian government. Responsible is Khamenei. My mother’s dead, but there is other journalists and there is other people who get such a treatment. I don’t want the death of my mother to be in vain.

JANE KOKAN: Zahra Kazemi lies in her grave in Shiraz. Amir Fakhravar is still in prison and tells friends he’s being tortured. And we’ve heard that Arzhang was arrested and jailed. They all suffered to get this story out to the world in the hope we would all listen.

 

ANNOUNCER: Coming up later: Garifuna music, the sounds of Africa in Central America.

But first we investigate the secret history of a notorious shipwreck.

 

Spain: The Lawless Sea

Reported by: Mark Schapiro

 

MARK SCHAPIRO, Reporter: [voice-over] Northwest Spain, Galicia, the edge of Europe, a wild stretch of jagged coast and some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. To locals, this is a holy site. A church commemorates the place where the Virgin Mary is said to have come ashore in a stone boat.

There’s another monument here depicting the cracked hull of a more modern ship, recalling a tragedy just off shore. In November, 2002, a Greek-owned oil tanker called the Prestige broke apart in a storm. Twenty million gallons of oil began to pour from the ship as it sank into the freezing Atlantic.

On shore, the people of Galicia watched and waited, braced for what might be coming. A terrible black tide began to arrive, devastating the coast of northern Spain all the way into France. It was one of the worst oil spills in history.

The story of the wreck of the Prestige begins in Russia, where the ship is loaded with oil in the port of St. Petersburg. The oil tanker has a shady and complicated history. Her owners are Greek, but they have registered their ship through a front company in Liberia. It’s a strategy that limits taxes and liability.

At 26 years old, the rusting single-hulled tanker is well past the age of retirement. But that doesn’t stop the owners from loading the aging ship with crude oil number four, one of the most toxic fuel oils in the world.

On October 30th, 2002, the Prestige sets off, not certain of her destination or who will buy her oil. The Prestige passes through the narrow Straits of Denmark. She sails across the North Sea and through the crowded English Channel. As the ship enters the Atlantic, the captain receives word of a buyer in Asia.

The Prestige is entering the area off Spain known as Costa del Muerte — the Coast of Death — just as a winter storm is building into a force nine gale. The captain, Apostolos Mangouras, hears a loud bang from the starboard side. Suddenly, the ship begins to take on water. Her hull is battered by 20-foot waves, and her engines shut down. The Prestige is overwhelmed.

Captain Mangouras issues a call for help. Rescue copters hurry to evacuate the Filipino crew. In the tradition of the sea, the captain and his two top officers remain on board. He wants to bring the ship into a safe harbor. Already leaking oil, the ship drifts to within four miles of the coast.

Spanish authorities dispatch a man to take control of the Prestige, 68-year old Captain Serafin Diaz.

SERAFIN DIAZ: [subtitles] I boarded the copter and they took me to the ship. This was in the middle of a storm, with waves and strong winds. The boat looked like an alligator in the middle of quicksand. They dropped me onto the deck of the ship. It feels like you are a pendulum moving side to side, no time to think. I started to feel real fear.

MARK SCHAPIRO: As Diaz reached the deck, he realized it was covered with oil. The ship was dead in the water, crippled by a gaping 50-foot hole on the starboard side. The steel had been ripped away, and the ship was flooding.

SERAFIN DIAZ: [subtitles] I climbed up to the bridge, and I saw an old man, who looked startled.

MARK SCHAPIRO: It was Captain Mangouras. Diaz explained that the Spanish government had ordered him to restart the ship’s engines and steer the Prestige out to sea, away from Spain. But Captain Mangouras refused, saying the ship should be brought out of the storm, into port, where the leaking oil could be contained. The two men argued for hours. Finally, Diaz threatened the captain.

SERAFIN DIAZ: [subtitles] I told the captain to start the engine. He said no. He rebelled against me, and he told me he was the captain and he was in charge of the ship. I told him, "Look, you are the captain, but in 10 minutes, I can get the navy to come on board and replace you." Then, he went like this, "OK, OK, OK." He said, "I’ll start the engines, but don’t go too fast."

MARK SCHAPIRO: The Spanish plan was to get the wounded ship out to deep water in the middle of the Atlantic. But after several days of sailing and only 130 miles off the coast, the Prestige breaks in two and it sinks. Captain Mangouras was airlifted to shore the night before the ship sank and immediately arrested. He was charged with negligence and resisting Spanish authority.

The oil started coming fast. It came in sheets. Massive clumps of oil washed in with the tides. The entire northern coast of Spain was devastated, as the oil killed everything in its path. Millions of fish and birds were suffocated or poisoned by the black tide. The Spanish government was completely unprepared.

GALICIAN MAN: [subtitles] It is covering everything. We’ve been here all night with the boat covered in fuel. There is nothing, no equipment, no help. They’ve promised nothing. We have to do it all ourselves.

MARK SCHAPIRO: The people of Galicia had to clean the poisonous oil by hand. The damage stretched along 350 miles of coastline, with almost twice the oil that spilled out of the infamous Exxon Valdez in Alaska.

For people in the United States, this was a one-day story just before the war in Iraq. For the people of Galicia, the Prestige would be an enduring nightmare.

BELEN PINEIRO, Environmental Activist: All of us who’ve been cleaning the beaches, we know that even if we get everything clean, our environmental land is going to be dead for many years. Maybe our children aren’t going to be able to enjoy the beaches and this land. So I don’t know. I don’t know. Sorry, but I don’t want to talk anymore.

MARK SCHAPIRO: For the next six months, the beaches were like a scene from science fiction. High-pressure hoses blasted sticky oil from the rocks. The clean-up will cost an estimated $2 billion dollars. The ship’s insurance only covered $25 million. And the toxic oil doesn’t just disappear, it washes down into the sand and will remain there for decades.

Spain imposed a six-month ban on fishing along most of its northern coast. Only recently have Galician fishermen returned to the sea. The clams and mussels here used to be sold all over Europe. Now environmentalists question whether people should eat shellfish from this region at all. But Galician fishermen are anxious to reassure me that the fish is OK.

[www.pbs.org: Read an interview with the reporter]

FISHERMAN: [subtitles] Very good shellfish!

MARK SCHAPIRO: Rafael Mouzo is a fisherman and the mayor of a coastal village, Concurbion, hard hit by the oil.

RAFAEL MOUZO: [subtitles] This was an act of terror, a criminal act. We need an international tribunal to judge everyone— from the oil merchants to the flags of convenience, to the ship owners, to the government. We need to judge them all for an enormous crime against humanity.

MARK SCHAPIRO: On the first anniversary of the Prestige disaster, 100,000 people took to the streets in the Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela. A new movement has emerged, Nunca Mais — Never Again. Like Mayor Mouzo, people here want to know exactly who was to blame and who should pay.

The Spanish government says they have found documents that show the Prestige should never have been at sea. Just before the Prestige sank, the Spanish government sent Serafin Diaz back onto the ship in a risky mission to search for evidence. Lowered onto the ship once more, Diaz ran up to the bridge and began to grab everything he could.

SERAFIN DIAZ: [subtitles] Everything that I found on the bridge — documentation, papers, so on — I put them in a black plastic bag. Then, as if I was a beggar, I carried the bag on my shoulder.

MARK SCHAPIRO: The documents reveal the secret history of the Prestige. It turns out that while the ship was in St. Petersburg, another captain was in command, Esfraitos Kostazos. He sent a series of urgent messages to the Greek shipowners, warning that the Prestige was in unsound condition. In fact, he threatened to quit unless the ship was repaired.

The Greek owners’ response was to replace Captain Kostazos with Captain Apostolos Mangouras. Now awaiting trial, Mangouras has refused to talk about the case, including the condition of the ship.

The warnings from Captain Kostazos did not stop the owners from taking a huge risk — sending an ailing ship out to sea with a full load of oil. There were no rules of international shipping to stop them.

In Madrid, when the Spanish government began their investigation, they wanted to question the owners. But at first, they couldn’t even tell who the owners were.

ADOLFO MENENDEZ, Lead Investigator: [subtitles] There is long line of companies that change their names, that change their locations, are located in different countries. As our lawyers say, we are working to get the data on all the players, like the ship owner.

MARK SCHAPIRO: The mysterious owners of the Prestige have now been identified as a Greek shipping family. The Coulouthros family were able to disguise their ownership by creating a front company in Liberia. The only thing that company owned was the Prestige. When the ship sank, there were no other assets to pursue.

The Prestige tore open in a storm that other ships plowed through. The investigators wanted to know if the ship’s inspection company had been aware of any problems that might have caused the catastrophe. The company responsible for inspecting the Prestige was the American Bureau of Shipping, ABS.

This is their corporate video. For over 20 years, ABS had the contract to monitor the Prestige’s condition. In May, just six months before it sank, ABS certified that the Prestige was seaworthy. But the original captain, Captain Kostazos, inspected the ship himself in St. Petersburg and sent this fax to ABS.

In this hand-written note, the captain alerts ABS to nine serious deficiencies on board the Prestige. The problems include: boilers "in very bad condition," leaking pipelines, and cracked and corroded beam parts in the ballast tank.

We contacted ABS at their corporate headquarters in Houston. They are a well-respected ship inspection company with offices throughout the world. But they declined to be interviewed on camera and sent us this written response.

"ABS has no evidence that the fax was ever transmitted" to them. They say that the role of ship inspectors is very limited. They form "only one part of a maritime safety net in which the ship owner is the most important member." They say their inspection of the Prestige last May was a limited one and that it was the ship owner’s responsibility to inform them of any problems.

ADOLFO MENENDEZ: [subtitles] This is the reason we are suing American Bureau of Shipping, so that they will answer for doing a bad job, for creating a false image of the ship and for letting a ship go to sea that should never have been at sea.

MARK SCHAPIRO: Menendez says it won’t be easy. They are battling powerful forces in the maritime system.

ADOLFO MENENDEZ: [subtitles] I want you to remember the Spanish have a special characteristic. We are like Don Quixote. We don’t mind battling windmills, no matter how gigantic. We have time, we have patience, and we are right.

MARK SCHAPIRO: Meanwhile, the only one the Spanish are prosecuting is Captain Mangouras. In jail, one of the captain’s few visitors was Jose Manuel Ortega, a maritime union official who believes Mangouras is being singled out unfairly.

JOSE MANUEL ORTEGA: [subtitles] In this case, there was a huge social catastrophe. There were 900 kilometers of contaminated coast. So there was a lot of political and social pressure and there was a need for a scapegoat. And for me, Captain Mangouras is the scapegoat.

MARK SCHAPIRO: Ortega says the people most responsible for the Prestige disaster are protected by the way the system works.

JOSE MANUEL ORTEGA: [subtitles] The system that permits substandard ships to sail the sea, poorly maintained ships, poorly paid crews, companies that only care about profit and not safety, and the nations that permit such conditions.

MARK SCHAPIRO: There are still 150 aging single-hulled vessels like the Prestige at sea. After the disaster, the European Union banned them from entering their ports, but they can’t control international waters.

Mayor Mouzo is furious that not enough has been done to protect the Galician coast.

RAFAEL MOUZO: [subtitles] In this shipping lane at Finisterre, 152 ships pass by every day. Ten percent of them are bad ships, pirates. At any moment, there could be another accident. Even if the accident is far away, the oil will end on the coast again. So moving the shipping lanes is not the answer. We need to control how much the ships can hold, the condition of the ships, and what exactly they are carrying.

MARK SCHAPIRO: The Prestige lies 130 miles off this coast. Some days, its oil still washes ashore. The Spanish and French have sent submarine robots down to the shattered vessel. Two miles below the surface, the ship’s rusted hull still contains 13,000 tons of oil. They use the robots to seal the leaks. One day, they hope to extract the remaining oil.

Above this graveyard, along the Costa del Muerte, the oil tankers keep passing.

 

ANNOUNCER: Finally tonight, a musical discovery in Central America.

 

Belize: The Exile’s Song

Reported by: Marco Werman

 

MARCO WERMAN, PRI’s The World: [voice-over] "He’s gone. He’s gone away, Mama. This stranger, he’s not from here."

This is the song of the Garifuna. I first heard the music of the Garifuna 10 years ago on a trip to Central America. It stayed with me. I’ve come back to Belize for the radio program The World to see how much roots music like this is still being played.

Belize is a small country. It’s mostly jungle and mountains tucked between Mexico and Honduras. Some 10 percent of the population are the Garifuna.

I arrived on a national holiday marking the day the Garifuna settled in Belize. It’s a cause for big celebration here in the south, where the Garifuna have lived for nearly two centuries. The marching bands recalled the days of British rule. But that night, the sound and feel here reminded me of West Africa.

MAN AT CELEBRATION: It’s beautiful because you come here, you hear all the cultural music. You hear the songs. You hear the rhythms.

MARCO WERMAN: The Garifuna are the descendents of African slaves who arrived in the Caribbean some 400 years ago. They lived freely on the island of St. Vincent and created their own Afro-centric culture until they were exiled by the British.

IFASINA IFANYEME: We are Africans in the diaspora. We are Africans away from home.

MARCO WERMAN: Ifasina Ifanyeme is a local journalist. She’s trying to trace the Garifuna’s history in Central America and the Caribbean. But she’d also like to reconnect with her original ancestors.

IFASINA IFANYEME: [singing] Oh, Africa, oh, Africa—

That’s the main message in that song, "How could I forget Africa?" It’s the place, it’s the roots, it’s the mother of all Garinagu. It’s the mother of all black people.

MARCO WERMAN: The mournful ballads of the Garifuna are called Paranda. One of the last great singers of these songs is still alive, and I went looking for him.

[on camera] Well, we’re in the town of Punta Gorda, and we’re going to the house of Paul Nabor, hopefully, if we can find him. We need some good information here, some good intelligence from the locals.

MAN IN ROAD: Just take a right here, and you take a left.

MARCO WERMAN: OK. Thank you.

We’re looking for a man named Paul Nabor.

I’m looking for Paul Nabor’s home. Which one?

Hi. How are you? Do you know the guitarist Paul Nabor? No? So you don’t know where he is? No.

[voice-over] This is how I imagined the home of an old parandero. And then, from inside a chicken shack, he appeared.

[on camera] Paul Nabor? Hello. My name is Marco, Marco Werman.

[voice-over] On the day I met him, Paul was tired and his guitar was in rough shape, but he slowly came alive when he began to play a Paranda. The

song was about love and loneliness and longing for home, the themes of Garifuna music and Paul’s life.

PAUL NABOR: That was the first song that I made when I was young. And right up to now, I didn’t forget them.

MARCO WERMAN: Paul used to travel the country performing, but no longer. He hopes that the rich history of this music will not die with old paranderos like him.

This is Aurelio Martinez. He learned Garifuna music from elders when he was a boy. Now he’s trying to bring the music to his own generation.

AURELIO MARTINEZ: [subtitles] The lyrics of Garifuna music, of Paranda, are very often tragic. It’s tragic music. The songs are about the problems of everyday life for people. Sometimes you don’t understand it, but you feel it. If you can’t feel it, you can’t sing Paranda.

MARCO WERMAN: Aurelio has had some success recently with this music. He’s recorded songs for a Paranda CD that’s been popular with world music audiences. But locally, he says, it’s an uphill battle.

AURELIO MARTINEZ: [subtitles] The music is in danger. The music is in danger because this generation no longer exists.

MARCO WERMAN: If there’s an audience for Garifuna music in Belize, it’s not for Paranda ballads but for the more up-tempo "punta rock." This is what Aurelio was playing when we caught up with him later that night. Punta rock takes traditional punta drumming and soups it up with some Caribbean thump. It’s what you’ll hear in the clubs. And here at the first-ever punta fest, the turnout was huge and Aurelio put on quite a show.

With the crowd warmed up, Aurelio slipped in a more traditional Paranda ballad. That’s Andy Palacio on the right. Andy is perhaps the best known Garifuna musician.

ANDY PALACIO: There’s a certain style of poetry. There is no composition in Paranda. We don’t— we don’t sing the way we speak in Garifuna. Songs tend to do something— something musical to words. Punta rock does not accurately reflect that, the way Paranda does.

MARCO WERMAN: Palacio made his reputation with punta rock, but now Paranda is the music he really loves.

Andy and Aurelio are deeply inspired by the old paranderos like Paul Nabor. They also know that without Paul, they’re the ones who will take Garifuna music into the future.

[www.pbs.org: Hear more Garifuna musicians]

 

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