A Race to The Municipal
The race for Bay Islands’ most coveted political leadership position is on again.

August 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] The race for Bay Islands’ most coveted political leadership position is on again. The same main competitors take their place again as last year: Dale Jackson of the Liberal Party and Julio Galindo of the National Party. But the Democratic Unification Party (UD) is posting a candidate that could throw a rod into the spikes of the election wheel. Elmer Santa Maria, a Patronato secretary and one of the leaders of the recent street protests, is UD’s Mayoral candidate. So far PINU and Christian Democrat parties have not decided on their candidates for Roatan mayor. Bay Islands Voice spoke to all three Roatan mayoral candidates.

Julio Galindo, 65, is the National Party's candidate for Mayor of Roatan. Galindo has been Roatan Mayor in 1970s and served as the department's congressman. In 2005, he lost an election for Roatan Mayor to Dale Jackson and for the last four years sat as the Roatan Municipality's highest ranking city council member. The island changed tremendously in the past four years and Galindo is back again in quite a different electoral context. He is currently the president of Bay Islands Chamber of Tourism and sits on the board of ZOLITUR. Bay Islands Voice spoke to him only a couple weeks before the June 28 coup and some of the references in the interview reflect the old, rather then new government in Tegucigalpa.

Julio Galindo, 65, is the National Party's candidate for Mayor of Roatan. Galindo has been Roatan Mayor in 1970s and served as the department's congressman. In 2005, he lost an election for Roatan Mayor to Dale Jackson and for the last four years sat as the Roatan Municipality's highest ranking city council member. The island changed tremendously in the past four years and Galindo is back again in quite a different electoral context. He is currently the president of Bay Islands Chamber of Tourism and sits on the board of ZOLITUR. Bay Islands Voice spoke to him only a couple weeks before the June 28 coup and some of the references in the interview reflect the old, rather then new government in Tegucigalpa.

Bay Islands VOICE: Four years ago you said you will not run for office again. Why did you change your mind?
Julio Galindo: I see things are worse than they were four years ago and it worries me. We need direction here and we are completely lost.
B.I.V.: You lost to Dale [Jackson] four years ago. What are you going to do differently this time to win?
J.G.: [I will] work harder and hope that the people get smarter. Try to work with young people, with migrating people. [In 2005 elections] we won West End, Sandy Bay, Coxen Hole, but lost Barrio Los Fuertes. We are going to ask them a question if they are better off now then they were four years ago. I am sure that they are not.
B.I.V.: The cruise ship companies stated that they would pull out if riots took place again after they happened in October and November 2008. If the riots took place again what would happen?
J.G.: Right now we don’t know what the cruise ship industry is going to do. I think the [Zelaya] government is taking this very cool. I sat with the president [Zelaya], Minister of Tourism [Martinez], some of our local authorities and representatives of Royal Caribbean and Carnival. These [cruise ship] people want a plan about increasing police force on the island, building them [police] facilities, expand roads, building a hospital; And they have not received this yet. Sometime the only thing this [Zelaya] government wants to do is create instability, it doesn’t want to see progress, but create chaos.
B.I.V.: You lost to Dale four years ago, what are you going to do differently this time to win?
J.G.: We’re in a [slowdown] on the island. We have a lot of unemployment, [and] we are creating more. If you don’t have investment you can’t create labor, and you can’t have investment if you are not stable. We still have a few cruise ships coming here, but we don’t know for how long. We have lost one of the few labor generating factors that few look at: the real estate business, people who come to the island to buy and build property. Construction is where most cuts were made. [Next year] we are looking at 1 million [tourist] passengers if everything went right, but we could lose that in a flash.
B.I.V.: Beyond just the security issues, do you have a plan to reduce the polarization of different groups on the island: racial, cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious, that has build up here over time?
J.G.: I don’t think anyone does [have a plan]. I believe there isn’t a problem with people that live here. The people that you have seen on the streets have been financed to create that instability that we are living in. We had some of these guys in jail. There was a process against these people and we were ordered to turn them loose. Nobody respects anything and if we don’t have the president [Zelaya] respect our decision, we have nothing.
B.I.V.: The island has grown rapidly over the last 10 years, do you think that people running for office today are competent enough to represent Bay Islands, and tackle issues that face them?
J.G.: I don’t want to talk about these guys, but they’ve been around for almost four years and things have gotten worse. Everything is growing really fast, but not in any disorderly manner: the schools, the education, the public health, the traffic, the roads, it’s all a big disaster. Carnival Cruise line will finish a dock able to handle two ships, and in Coxen Hole they are talking about doing a second phase and handling two ships. What are we going to do when we get four ships on Roatan on one day? We won’t be able to move these people. The cruise ships constantly are asking us for ICU, intensive care unit. Local people are dying for the need of this. We are destroying the environment. There are around 100,000 people on the island, nobody knows exactly [how many], and we don’t have a working sever system on the island. We are destroying what we have and destroying it fast.
B.I.V.: The people who should know how many people live on the island are ZOLITUR as they did the census.
J.G.: Zolitur has been begging people to register, but people haven’t shown up to do that. The municipality had to do a census. The tighter things get on the mainland the worse things get for us.
B.I.V.: You are sitting on the board of ZOLITUR. What should ZOLITUR do to improve its image?
J.G.: One of the problems was that ZOLITUR wasn’t registering people who came in. They were asking for too many requirements. We have to register everybody. I asked people personally: ‘How does ZOLITUR offend you.’ They would say: ‘I pay one dollar to come here.’ So I asked the board to eliminate that and we are in the process of doing that. Foreigners and real estate people have a problem with the 4% capital gains tax, but the law has improved because it was 10% [before], but no one used to pay it. (…) A lot of people don’t have records for things they built years ago, so we have to appoint people that would go to give the true value of their improvements. I talked to Pepe [Lobo] about this and he likes the idea… We have to make Roatan a [tax] free zone. If we have a place for people to go shopping and have a law where they would have to stay at a hotel for two nights before they would go shop, we would have benefited a lot. People think that this is a [ZOLITUR] law [is] benefiting rich people only.
B.I.V.: The biggest projects funded by World Bank have not been used, not opened, or mismanaged: the dump in Santos Guardiola, sewage plant in Coxen Hole. Is it worth for these projects to be built if the local mayors won’t incorporate them into their budget?
J.G.: What has happened is that we had not had a combined effort the way it should be. The central government, the local government, when these people come in they need to show the contract [explaining the projects]. This is the way it needs to be done. We have not had a combined effort and the only way to do that is with good leadership.

Mayor Dale Jackson, 42, overlooks a monthly Municipal budget of around Lps. 3 million that pays for the garbage pick up, payroll, black water, water subsidy, hospital subsidy, and school scholarship. Over the course of the last three-and-a-half years, Mayor Jackson overlooked the municipal road paving of over 10,000 lineal feet (3 km). He currently overlooks the completion of the road construction in front of the airport, funded in 50% by SOBTRAVI. According to Mayor Jackson, only 30 days after getting into office, Roatan Municipality has begun paying around Lps. 200,000 a month for running the black water treatment plant in Coxen Hole. It's a high maintenance operation that reduces the impact on the reef around Coxen Hole and Mayor Jackson says that more then 50% of Coxen Hole houses now are connected to the black water system.

Mayor Dale Jackson, 42, overlooks a monthly Municipal budget of around Lps. 3 million that pays for the garbage pick up, payroll, black water, water subsidy, hospital subsidy, and school scholarship. Over the course of the last three-and-a-half years, Mayor Jackson overlooked the municipal road paving of over 10,000 lineal feet (3 km). He currently overlooks the completion of the road construction in front of the airport, funded in 50% by SOBTRAVI. According to Mayor Jackson, only 30 days after getting into office, Roatan Municipality has begun paying around Lps. 200,000 a month for running the black water treatment plant in Coxen Hole. It's a high maintenance operation that reduces the impact on the reef around Coxen Hole and Mayor Jackson says that more then 50% of Coxen Hole houses now are connected to the black water system.

Bay Islands VOICE: Why are you running for office again?
Dale Jackson: Politics is something that will not separate my friendship with Julio Galindo we created in the last three-and-a-half years. I will not cross the line to insult or benefit in any way. When this election term is over I will have less then when I started. What is important is security, health and education. Security- we made some accomplishments. Now we need more independence of taking decisions here. Zolitur has done a great job of getting that to us, but we still have to see this get off the ground. We have a great security committee. We’re still one of the 18 departments of Honduras and we are still under them. But where do I go from here? I will continue to work along people. We need a lot of social help. We need to create a better image in our communities if we are to be a better tourist destination.
B.I.V.: What is your biggest accomplishment, failure during the last 4 years in office?
D.J.: We had infrastructure that was seriously out of date: the schools, roads. We lack three schools of the 27 to remodel, or rebuild, or add on classrooms. I’ve taken education on like no mayor has ever done in the past.
B.I.V.: But the funds for these schools come from a national fund [FIHS], municipalities pay for only a portion of the work.
D.J.: FIHS has not given one penny to this municipality. I haven’t accomplished this with them. There is too much bureaucracy. We start with a figure [estimate] and when you start with an engineer there is nothing left [for construction]. Every school bathroom tile was provided by Roatan tax payers.
B.I.V.: Should the funds for this have come from central government?
D.J.: I cannot sit and wait when my people are starving for education.
B.I.V.: What are your failures, some things that you were not able to accomplish?
D.J.: Perhaps not failures, but due to certain laws, we have two years-and-three-months working on the hospital project. It’s frustrating the way the government works, when you depend on other people. When we had the matter about the reconstruction of the Roatan airstrip, we called the president [Zelaya] down and said we needed a $5.5-6 million grant and it was granted in five minutes. Setbacks are not a great amount. The [new] hospital- we’ve done our part, we’ve turned the property over to them.
B.I.V.: You were seen as being supportive, at least passively, and some say financially, of the protesters in October and November riots. Is that true?
D.J.: No sir. I’ve never supported a riot. On the first one [September 2008], I’ve never financed a riot. That’s dirty politics, that’s not raw politics. The riots with RECO last year- I saw people of all races, all cultures, and all religions out there. I saw all Roatan out there represented. I’ve thought that there is something that both sides could do. I was accused because I was acting as a mediator.
B.I.V.: Could you, or should you have provided a security presence of the Municipal police to safeguard public property and safety during the riots?
D.J.: We are limited at Municipal level what we could do legally. Our municipal police is down as far as support. Before the ZOLITUR came into effect we had a beautiful income of $1.50 per cruise ship passenger for security issues. That was then taken over by ZOLITUR. I am not blaming ZOLITUR for not being there, but they are using issues to where I had to decrease the Municipal [spending on policing]. This question should be asked not only of me but other 11 council members.
B.I.V.: You have initiated the biggest single purchase this Municipality has done in its history: a one million dollar purchase of a property in Dixon Cove for the hospital and stadium. Why there has not been a public bidding that would have ensured a cheaper, flatter, better suited site for these projects? Why has the entire municipal corporation not been involved in that purchase?
D.J.: All the documentation is there. This is not true. I have the authority as mayor to declare a direct purchase. It’s totally legal and it is a good deal. No one at the corporation was not involved. Everyone knew of the purchase and supported it.
Its up in value today and I am proud of that. 8.5 acres has been transferred to the Ministry of Health. The stadium is a flat area. There will be parking for 500 vehicles – where else do you have that in Honduras?
B.I.V.: Do you feel you have been getting enough support from your own Liberal Party in this election cycle?
D.J.: I have the Congressman’s [Jerry Hynds] total support. I am not going to get into raw politics. All I want is what is good for Roatan.
B.I.V.: Four years ago in your campaign we asked you about your plans for helping Roatanians addicted to drugs. You mentioned inviting DARE program to the island. What have you done as far as social programs on the island?
D.J.: It’s a very delicate situation. We are operating with two drug assistance programs in the country: Teen Challenge and Casa Victoria. We have three-and-a-half years working with them.
B.I.V.: Roatan society has been polarized more then ever before: ethnically, linguistically, economically, even on religious grounds. What will you as mayor do to bridge these divisions?
D.J.: It all goes back to the schools. I am a firm believer in education, in preparing a child when he’s young and when he’s old. This is a benefit that was planted in his mind when he was young. Sad to say, at this level certain percentage of population cannot be changed. We have to live through this stage and prepare for a better tomorrow. Sometimes life puts these obstacles in our road to make us think and realize who we are and where we are in life.
B.I.V.: How do you feel the current crisis will affect Roatan: cancelled Blue Panorama, desalination plant project. What would happen if there were street protests during a cruise ship day? Would that be a nail in the coffin?
D.J.: That would be the burial of the coffin.

Santa Maria, 32, is Democratic Unification Party (UD) candidate for Roatan Mayor. Many islanders think that eventually the Mayor of Roatan will be Spanish, the only question is how soon? Santa Maria was born in Atlántida, but for the last 11 years has lived on Roatan. He was the coordinator for the FUNDEVI development project in Dixon Cove that bears his name and is coordinating the construction of an FUNDEVI affordable housing project in First Bight. Santa Maria is a teacher at Santos Guardiola High School and Juan Brooks School.

Santa Maria, 32, is Democratic Unification Party (UD) candidate for Roatan Mayor. Many islanders think that eventually the Mayor of Roatan will be Spanish, the only question is how soon? Santa Maria was born in Atlántida, but for the last 11 years has lived on Roatan. He was the coordinator for the FUNDEVI development project in Dixon Cove that bears his name and is coordinating the construction of an FUNDEVI affordable housing project in First Bight. Santa Maria is a teacher at Santos Guardiola High School and Juan Brooks School.

Bay Islands VOICE: What makes you different from what Dale Jackson or Julio Galindo can offer as mayoral candidates?
Elmer Santa Maria: We come from the people (el pueblo) and we are here at their request. Our main objective is providing housing, a basic necessity here. (..) We won’t offer money and building materials like other candidates have done day before elections in the past. We are responsible and won’t do it like that.
B.I.V.: Will you be a candidate of Spanish voters, or as well Islanders?
E.S.M.: We are for everyone and supported for everyone. People need change. We need tourism and will support tourism.
B.I.V.: You are part of the Committee for the Defense of People, that organized the street protests and affected the cruise ships not coming to Roatan. How can you support tourism if your actions damage tourism image of the island?
E.S.M.: Its not that with the strikes we are against tourism. You can see that the demonstrations right now are calm and peaceful. Unfortunately other things have happened in the past, but they did not come from our leaders. You can see that the country is practically in a state of revolution and we have had meetings, but we have remained peaceful.
B.I.V.: RECO is increasing energy rates again. Can we expect people who can’t pay they bills to demonstrate on the streets again?
E.S.M.: Unfortunately authorities couldn’t resolve this issue. It would be different if political leaders and patronatos would meet. Before we would call the president [Zelaya] and he would come personally or would send his minister Rixi Moncada [ENEE manager] or Arcadia [Lopez, staff minister] and they would lower the bills from Lps. 8,000 to Lps. 2,000, like that. We had great help before, but we’ll see what will happen. This needs to be a job for current authorities to talk with RECO, because people are upset.
B.I.V.: You were in charge of distributing and administering ‘la cuarta urna’?
E.S.M.: Other people were in responsible for that. [/private]

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