Entries in Peru (13)


Missing California Cyclists Found on a Boat in South America

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- A young California couple thought to be missing for a month while on a cycling trip through South America has been located on a boat and were surprised to hear of the search for them, according to Peru's tourism ministry.

The couple was found on a slow-moving boat and are expected to arrive at the Ecuador and Peru border Wednesday, where they will have access to a phone, according to Miguel Antezana, the communications director of Peru's Foreign Commerce and Tourism Ministry.

The families and friends of Garrett Hand and Jamie Neal, both 25, had been concerned about the couple ,who had not been heard from in over a month.

The couple was found on the Napo River at a place called Angoteros, according to Antezana. There, they spoke to the police and were surprised by all of the questions. They eventually asked what was going on and the police told them that they were considered missing persons.

The ministry is sending people with video cameras to the location where the boat is going to dock to show that they are alive and well.

Antezana said that it appears that the couple simply did not want to communicate with their families because they could have done so in Iquitos.

Earlier Tuesday, Hand's mother told Good Morning America that the family had checked his bank records and found there was no bank activity since Jan. 25, the same day as the couple's last Facebook post.

"How is my son traveling without getting any money?" Francine Fitzgerald asked. "How is my son eating?"

The couple embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December.

As the couple cycled through the continent, they frequently posted updates and photos on Facebook, chronicling their journey. They posted photos of camping, the wildlife and the people they met along the way.

The last post was on Jan. 25 and said, "Finally found Kraft Mac 'n' cheese in South America! Stoked LOL." The couple had not been heard from since, which worried their families and friends.

"They would post sometimes several times a day, pictures telling us where they were and then we all noticed that his postings stopped," Fitzgerald said on Good Morning America.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


California Couple on Biking 'Dream Trip' Missing in Peru

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Two young bike enthusiasts from California have disappeared while on a biking "trip of a lifetime" through South America, according to the U.S. State Department.

Jamie Neal and her boyfriend, Garrett Hand, both 25, embarked on their journey at the end of November, or early December, according to Neal's boss, Jeff Jerge. Neal works at the Pedaler, Jerge's El Sobrante, Calif., bike shop.

"I'm beyond worried," Jerge told "I'm super concerned."

Jerge said that Neal and Hand had known each other for a while and began dating and planning their South American trip last summer.

"It's kind of like it was a dream trip for them," Jerge's wife, Kim Jerge, told "It's their first big adventure."

Neal has worked at the bike shop for more than two years. Hand is a fisherman in Alaska.

"They wanted to originally ride from here to South America, and we thought going through Mexico was particularly dangerous, so we talked to them about skipping that, and they did decide to fly down to South America and start their trip there," Jeff Jerge said. "We all felt it was potentially dangerous."

As the couple cycled through the continent, they frequently posted updates and photos on Facebook, chronicling their journey. They posted photos of camping, the wildlife and the people they met along the way.

The last post was on Jan. 25 and said, "Finally found Kraft Mac 'n' cheese in South America! Stoked LOL." The couple has not been heard from since.

Jeff Jerge called Neal "very knowledgeable and an extreme cycle lover" and a talented mechanic.

"They had all the right gear," he said. "[The trip] was really well-planned and thought out in terms of the bicycling part."

The U.S. State Department said that according to their families, Hand and Neal had been traveling from Cusco to Lima, Peru, and were expected to arrive in Lima on Jan. 26.

"There's potential that they could be out of service and there's potential they could have just lost contact, but the frequency of their posts before Jan. 25 was pretty close to one another, and certainly there's never been a gap like this," Jerge said. "It really doesn't look good."

A State Department official confirmed to ABC News that the couple had not been heard from in almost a month.

"The U.S. Embassy in Lima is aware of the two U.S. citizens who apparently went missing while on a cycling trip in Peru," a State Department official said in a statement to ABC News.

"Consular officers from the U.S. Embassy in Lima are in contact with the families and Peruvian authorities, and are providing all appropriate consular assistance," the statement said. "The Peruvian authorities provided us all assurances that they will do everything possible to locate this couple. Embassy officers will continue to provide all appropriate consular assistance and to follow developments closely."

On Feb. 13, the U.S. Embassy in Peru issued a warning to Americans to beware of a kidnapping threat in the Cusco area from a criminal organization, but the State Department official could not confirm that the couple had been kidnapped, saying only that an investigation was under way. The Cusco area is near Machu Picchu, and is a popular destination for tourists.

Jerge's bike shop has so far raised $4,000 as a reward for information on the couple.

"We don't know what to do," Jeff Jerge said. "What do you do when people are that far away and you're trying to help them?"

Flyers in English amd in Spanish have been made, and Jerge has made contact with other bikers in Peru to post the flyers. He is planning on reaching out to his distributors who have offices around the world to help get the word out.

"Both of them are just great people, and Jamie is just a good-hearted, fun-loving person with a lot of energy," Kim Jerge said. "She rode her bike to work from Oakland, which is about a 25-mile commute every day. She's a hard worker. She worked for us for two-and-a-half years. She's part of the family."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Did Joran Van Der Sloot Impregnate a Woman from Jail?

Sebastian Silva/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- The lawyer representing Joran van der Sloot shot down reports Monday that the Dutch playboy who is suspected of killing Natalee Holloway had impregnated a woman during a conjugal visit in his Peruvian prison.

Van der Sloot told Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, that a woman identified only as "Leidi" was pregnant with his child.

"A test has proved" the pregnancy, he told the paper.

But van der Sloot's lawyer, Maximo Altez, told ABC News the reports are not true and the Peruvian woman, whose real name he said is Carol Figueroa Uceda, told him she was not pregnant.

Whether the woman is pregnant or not, it came as a surprise to many that van der Sloot, convicted of killing a Peruvian woman and suspected of killing American Natalee Holloway, is granted conjugal visits in his prison.

Altez blamed the pregnancy rumors on his own client and said De Telegraaf had never contacted the lawyer directly.

Uceda, however, had been authorized to visit van der Sloot for conjugal visits, he said. Altez said he originally utilized the woman, who had access to the prison, to help him run errands there. Later, he helped make arrangements to grant her permission for conjugal visits with van der Sloot.

In June 2011, Uceda was also rumored to have become pregnant with van der Sloot's child.

Van der Sloot is serving a 28-year sentence in Peru for the murder of Stefany Flores. He was convicted of killing Flores in a Lima hotel in 2010, after meeting the young woman in a casino. Van der Sloot told police he killed her after she learned about his association to Holloway's disappearance.

Van der Sloot was never formally charged with the murder of Holloway, an American high school student who went missing in Aruba in 2005. He is currently wanted in the U.S. on charges that he attempted to extort Holloway's parents, promising to tell them where her body was in exchange for money.

Both Altez and American lawyers said van der Sloot could not evade extradition to the U.S., by fathering a Peruvian child or marrying a Peruvian woman. Peru says it will extradite van der Sloot after he has served his prison term there.

Copryright 2012 ABC News Radio


Joran Van Der Sloot Blames Lawyer for Long Prison Sentence

Sebastian Silva/AFP/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- In two letters, Joran van der Sloot blamed his lawyers for his nearly three-decade prison sentence, while he reiterated he had nothing to do with the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway and begged for forgiveness for the murder of Stephany Flores.

Van der Sloot, 24, is serving 28 years in a Peruvian jail for the murder and robbery of Flores, a 21-year-old business student whose body was found in a Lima hotel room in May 2010 -- five years after the disappearance of Holloway.

"I ask God every day that Stephany's parents can find it in their heart to forgive me," he reportedly wrote in the letters released by his attorney.

Van der Sloot, a Dutch citizen who spent the majority of his adolescence in Caribbean island of Aruba, is the main suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Ala., who was last seen leaving an Oranjestad nightclub with van der Sloot, then 17, while she was on a class graduation trip to the island.

He was arrested but has never been charged with a crime relating to her disappearance.

The letters, in which he refers to himself as a "psychological mess," were said to have been written in June and released this week by van der Sloot's attorney, Max Altez.  In the letter, he asserts that he has "nothing to do with" Holloway's disappearance, while blaming poor legal representation for his long prison sentence.  He says that a previous lawyer told him if he pled guilty he would only be jailed for 15 years.

"My rights have been constantly abused," van der Sloot reportedly wrote.  "After bad legal advice in which my lawyer promised me I would receive 15 years if I plead guilty, I did....I have a history of psychological problems which were never taken into consideration."

The Peruvian Supreme Court last month ruled that van der Sloot can be extradited to the U.S. to face charges that he extorted $25,000 from Holloway's mother, allegedly telling her that he could give her information that would lead to her daughter's body.

On Sept. 6, 2010, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that van der Sloot admitted to the extortion, saying, "I wanted to get back at Natalee's family.  Her parents have been making my life tough for five years."

Van der Sloot confessed to the murder of Flores in January.  He said that Flores had been using his laptop without his permission and discovered information linking him to Holloway's disappearance.  He is now appealing the 28-year sentence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pacific Mystery: What's Killing Dolphins, Pelicans in Peru?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Just what is killing dolphins and pelicans in Peru?

It's been a mystery for months on the Pacific coast of the South American country, where the local government says it has found 900 dolphin carcasses and approximately 4,500 pelicans.  It's been bad enough that Peru's health ministry ordered 1,500 miles of beaches closed.

Scientists from around the world have been watching the problem.  People in the area say the government has been slow to take up the bodies, and slower to solve the puzzle.

Every group has its own explanation for the animal deaths:

-- The government has said the dolphins died of disease.

-- Environmental groups say dolphins' inner ears were literally fractured by seismic blasts set off by U.S. oil prospectors: "The ears were soaked in blood.  That's not normal when you examine a bone," said Dr. Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, president of the activist group Orca.

-- Other scientists wondered about agricultural runoff or heavy metals from mining near rivers, though the Peruvian Sea Institute said it did not find unusual chemical concentrations in animals it autopsied.

Actually, more than one argument may be right; some biologists say the dolphins and the birds probably died for different reasons.  But the theory that's been gaining the most traction in recent days involves the global climate.

Remember the El Niño phenomenon?  An El Niño is a giant patch of warm water, thousands of miles long, that periodically appears along the equator in the Pacific.  It alternates with a La Niña -- a patch of unusually cold water.  They are large enough to alter weather patterns around the world. During El Niño periods, for instance, jet streams, picking up energy from the steamy Pacific, can tear apart hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The Pacific has just moved from a La Niña period -- cold water on the equator -- to a relatively neutral phase, but it did it unusually quickly, and that got meteorologists thinking.

"It's pretty warm out there," said Jim Andrews, an operational meteorologist at AccuWeather, the Pennsylvania-based private weather forecasting service.  "I'm not a biologist, so I can't draw a straight line from the ocean temperature to the birds' deaths.  But I wanted to offer the possibility that there's a connection."

Off the Peruvian coast, where it is now autumn, ocean temperatures have been reported to be 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year.  Sea animals can survive that -- but some have trouble adjusting.

Several biologists have suggested that because of the temperature change, anchovetas (a type of anchovy) have been moving into deeper water to stay cool.  That's fine for them, but they're a dietary staple of pelicans, who can no longer dive down far enough to reach them for food.

Carlos Bocanegra, a biologist at the National University of Trujillo, said he did analyses of 10 young dying pelicans, and found their digestive tracts were either empty or contained fish the pelicans don't normally eat.

The theory holds water because pelican die-offs have happened before.  Andrews said that in 1997, just as an El Niño period began, there was a major die-off.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Peru Mine Collapse: Rescuers Attempt to Free Trapped Miners

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images(ICA, Peru) -- Workers at the Cabeza de Negro copper mine in southern Peru are racing to rescue nine miners who have been trapped since a shaft collapsed Thursday nearly 650 feet below the earth’s surface.

None of the miners were injured at the time of the collapse, according to BBC News, but tensions are rising both below and above the surface, where the families of the trapped miners have gathered to await any developments.

Rescue workers are currently feeding them oxygen and liquid through a tube, according to BBC.

The Peruvian government is seeking not only experts, but also heavy equipment, to speed up the rescue. They say the operation to save the trapped miners could take another three days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


6.3 Magnitude Quake Strikes Peru; No Deaths, Damage Reported

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LIMA, Peru) -- A 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked the coast of central Peru early Monday morning, leaving a few dozen people with minor injuries, according to local media outlets. No deaths have been reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the tremor took place at 12:11 a.m., nine miles southeast of Ica. The quake was 24.4 miles deep and did not lead to a tsunami warning.

Although some hotels in the area experienced a brief power outage, no structural damage has been reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Joran Van Der Sloot to Be Sentenced in 2010 Peru Murder

Sebastian Silva/AFP/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch national long believed to be responsible for the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway, will be sentenced on Friday after pleading guilty to the murder of a Peruvian woman he had met in a Lima hotel five years to the day Holloway vanished.

The 24-year-old faces up to 30 years in prison for the death of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, although it's expected he'll get less time for the homicide after confessing to it on Wednesday.

Flores, the daughter of a wealthy and influential Peruvian businessman, was found strangled in van der Sloot’s hotel room on May 31, 2010.  The two had reportedly met at a Lima casino.

Van der Sloot reportedly claimed in a confession shortly after the slaying that he’d killed Flores because she found information linking him to Holloway on his computer.

Van der Sloot, a former Aruba resident, was the last person seen with the 18-year-old Holloway, who was on a high school trip in Aruba, before she vanished.  No body has even been found despite countless searches and probes by both Aruban authorities and private investigators hired by Holloway's family.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Natalee Holloway’s Suspected Killer Seeks Deal in Peru

Sebastian Silva/AFP/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- Joran van der Sloot, accused of murder in Peru and the prime suspect in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, appears to be considering a plea deal that could get him out of prison in a few years.

Van der Sloot appeared in a packed jailhouse court in Lima, Peru, Friday and agreed to make a confession before asking the court for more time to consider his options. The court agreed to another hearing next Wednesday.

Van der Sloot, 24, is charged in Peru with the murder of Stephany Flores on May 30, 2010. Conviction of a first degree murder charge would mean a possible 30 year sentence.

Flores, the daughter of a wealthy and influential Peruvian businessman, was found strangled in van der Sloot’s hotel room on May 31, 2010.

Friday’s hourlong courtroom session appeared to set up a situation where van der Sloot will plead guilty by reason of temporary insanity, which, under Peruvian law, carries a sentence of three to five years.

If he pleads guilty to temporary insanity and the court accepts that plea, he could be set free, according to statements his lawyers have made to ABC News.

They state that Peru has a two-for-one stipulation in its judicial system, meaning a prisoner’s time spent in jail awaiting trial is computed doubly. Van der Sloot has completed more than three years of jail time -- the minimum of the three- to five-year term if found guilty.

If given the maximum sentence of five years, he would finish that term in less than two years.

The Dutch national who lived in Aruba fled Peru and was arrested three days later in Chile, which sent him back to Peru.

Friday’s hearing took place at the Lurigancho prison about a mile and a half from his jail cell in Miguel Castro Castro prison. Lurigancho is considered one of the worst prisons in the world by human rights groups, with about 11,000 inmates in a space for little more than 2,000.

Castro Castro is considered a “country club” jail where prisoners pay their way in to not have to go to Lurigancho. Van der Sloot has a small room with an uncomfortable-looking bed and a nearby toilet. For a while he had special privileges that included a PlayStation, a computer, two cell phones and reportedly prostitutes and drugs. That has changed under a new prison administration.

Van der Sloot had twice previously been arrested for the disappearance of Holloway, a 19-year-old from Alabama who vanished during a celebratory trip to Aruba with her senior class in May 2005. Van der Sloot maintained that he’d left her on a beach, drunk. That’s the last anyone has seen of her.

If van der Sloot does get out of the Peruvian prison, he will likely be sought by the FBI which has accused him of fraud and extortion, demanding $25,000 from Holloway’s mother Beth Twitty. In exchange he promised to tell her where her daughter’s body was. After Twitty paid the money, van der Sloot pointed out a new house and said her body was encased in the foundation, a claim he later admitted was a lie.

Beth Twitty declined to comment on the proceedings Friday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Rado


Strong Earthquake Rocks Peru

Jason Reed/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A powerful 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook Peru on Wednesday.

The tremblor originated in the northern part of the country, approximately 90 miles below the earth’s surface.

Reports say the earthquake was felt across a majority of the country.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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