The View from Here

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Child "bomberitos" on Peru's most dangerous highway

Peru's Bomberitos to the rescue

Bomberito means "little fireman" in Spanish. In the Andes Mountains of Peru groups of them use their homemade carretas  to help stranded motorists and truckers along the highway.  The tips they earn help support their families. 

 Hevert (left) was a bomberito as a kid, helping rescue stranded motorists and victims of disasters.  They get their carretas up the steep highway through the Andes by attaching ropes, or just their hands, to passing transport trucks.  (Photos: Romi Burianova)

The photo that started it (below). Filmmaker Quincy Perkins saw this picture of two Bomberitos -- kids on their own in the mountains of Peru who make their way to mountain accidents and disasters. Our Dispatches contributor went with him to the Amazon valley as he made a film about them (Photo/StefanSonntag) 

It was one of those dinner party stories that sticks in your head. A rumour about kids racing homemade carts high in the Andes, acting as first responders during accidents and disasters.

They have a catchy name. They're said to do dangerous work in a dangerous region.

But are they real?  For Dispatches contributor Lori Chodos and a colleague, the voyage to find out was a story in itself.

 Lori's documentary

May 31 Dispatches









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Peace without justice in Liberia

Comfort Tokpah, 50, lost her husband and brother in Liberia's civil war and was forced to marry a child soldier. (Photo: Bonnie Allen)

Later this month, we'll hear a verdict in the case of the first African Head of State ever tried for war crimes.

Charles Taylor, a former President of Liberia, faces 11 counts for crimes he allegedly committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

They include murder and rape, and recruiting child soldiers

Remarkably enough, neither he -- nor anyone else -- faces any charges for triggering a war in his own country, which killed 1/4 million Liberians. 

The innocent now live side-by-side with people guilty of committing atrocities against them. Dispatches contributor Bonnie Allen tells us two of those stories.

Listen to Bonnie's documentary

And a cruel footnote to that story: Alhaji Kromah, the former rebel leader in charge of the state broadcaster where Moses works, just got a new, more important, government job.

The President's appointed him an Ambassador-at-large in the Foreign Ministry. Observers say it likely means his prospects for prosecution are even more distant. But on the upside, it means Moses won't have to look at him every day.

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Turkish minorities tread carefully in opening doors to multi-culturalism

People in Instanbul enjoy the newly-revived Baklahorani Carnival. What was once a pagan Christian rite, has morphed into one of the few celebrations of Turkey's multi-cultural past and present. Dominant Turkish nationalism has made its organizers tread with caution. (Photo/Meghan MacIver)

Dancing to the tune of reconciliation

With a history of conflict dating back more than 600 years, Greeks and Turks are not often found at the same party. As recently as the 90s, they sent warships into the Aegean in a sovereignty dispute over a tiny rump of rock cherished only by goats. And don't even get them started on Cyprus.

But now it seems, times are changing, ever so slightly.

Canadian journalist Meghan MacIver has found some Greeks and Turks dancing to the same tune at an unusual, and very historic party in Istanbul.

Listen to Meghan's dispatch

The April 5 Dispatches program

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Cape Town "car guards" offer "protection"

A few weeks ago, Anders Kelto told us about car guards in Cape Town

Listen to The Car Guard Song - Derick Watts & The Sunday Blues (Eminem feat. Rihanna Parody)


Lionel is a "Beach Buddy" in Muizenberg, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. They're licensed versions of the ubiquitous "car guards", who demand payment to watch over parked cars and (sometimes) guard against theft. (Photo: Anders Kelto)

Here's the Horatio Alger story: how to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, in a South African parking lot.
For a few rand, they'll make sure your car is safe where you parked it.  Car-guarding is a good way to rise it up from dire poverty.  Even if guarders aren't always effective,  

Listen to Anders Kelto's View from the car parks of Cape Town

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Liberian journalist hides, for reporting sexual mutilation

Mae Azango is a journalist in Liberia. She's in hiding fearing for her safety after breaking a national taboo and writing a story about a secret sect that practices female genital mutilation. (Photo: New Narratives)

On March 30 it was reported that traditional tribal leaders have agreed to a deal with the Liberian government to stop the practice of sexual mutilation of young girls.  This follows a brave expose by a Liberian journalist who went into hiding because of death threats for reporting the practice continues in secret. (link to Mae's follow-up piece below)
Last week and this week Dispatches covered the story:
At age 13, Ma Sabah was taken into the African bush and circumcised according to the tradition of her people.

When you put it that way, it almost sounds noble. But what Ma remembers is four women holding her down while another took a knife and hacked at her genitals.

That was more than 30 years ago. But for writing her story this month, reporter Mae Azango received death threats. She's now in hiding in Liberia, where we've managed to reach her.

Listen to Rick's interview with Mae Azango 

Journalist Mae Azango, is in hiding in Liberia. She's a reporter with the daily newspaper FrontPage Africa, and the website New Narratives.

The March 22 Dispatches program

March 29th: More from a Liberian journalist in hiding

Last week on the program, we heard from Mae Azango, a Liberian journalist forced into hiding after receiving death threats for a story she wrote about the tradition of female genital mutiliation.

As she told us, some Liberians believe it deters adultery.

Since then, the Liberian government has cautioned journalists to be careful reporting the story but urged tolerance for her.

It also says it sent out letters to those who perform the procedure four months ago, asking them to end it.

Mae's reaction?

For the record, this is the first time the Liberian government has said it wants to stop female genital mutilation.

But the Minister of Gender and Development - Julia Duncan Cassell - admits there's a big difference between asking traditional leaders to stop it, and getting them to actually stop it.

Her comment

Mae's follow-up piece:

Your comment

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Mexican tabloids: Black & White -- and dead all over

A typical front page for one of Mexico's biggest Nota Roja tabloids. The term means 'red press', referring to the bloodshed it features. Mexico's drug war has provided them with plenty to write about. (Photo/El Manana)

Surging drug violence brought Mexico together with the U.S. and Canada this week to talk about military co-operation to contain it.

But it took the Pope's visit to cause a temporary halt.  One cartel hung out signs welcoming Benedict and pledging not to attack rival gangs while he's in the country.

With his departure, the killing that's claimed more than 47,000 lives has resumed. And with it, the debate over how best to treat it in the Mexican press -- that ranges from black-and-white, to red all over.

Canadian journalist Myles Estey has been watching it at work in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Letters about violence in Mexico in Your Dispatches