Unless you have been inside your own private bubble during the past several months, you are probably aware of the secrets that WikiLeaks splashed all over the newspapers, internet, radio and television. I was astonished at some of the reactions from prominent journalists whom I considered smart. They expressed surprise that American diplomats were not more discreet in their reporting. Discreet? I don’t think discretion is called for when you are asked for an honest assessment. I think candor would be more in order. Others expressed shock that American diplomats in general and ambassadors in particular were such liars. Really? Isn’t that part of their job description? According to Sir Henry Wotton, 16th Century British Author and Diplomat, “An ambassador is an honest man, sent abroad to lie for his country.”
As I see it, diplomats are supposed to lie to each other, politely shake hands, pretend to enjoy cocktail parties where sautéed chicken heads and fried pig snouts are served as appetizers. They are expected to laugh at stale jokes, slap each other on the back and act as though they like each other. This is why most people would not succeed as diplomats; at least not without the help of some illicit drugs or controlled substances. It is very difficult to be nice to people all the time.
The WikiLeaks affair got me thinking, what if I were the ambassador to the Bay Islands and were asked to do a confidential report, how would it read?
To: Sir (Madam) Secretary of State – The Republic of: Conjecture
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Subject: The Bay Islands Today
The Bay Islands are facing a series of challenges. From a police force with no investigative skills and uninformed malevolent judges, to a general absence of political willpower to make any meaningful changes in an atmosphere where much of the economy is off the books in order to evade taxes. This practice is the byproduct of a government tax policy so artificially high that strict compliance would force most businesses into foreclosure or bankruptcy. The near complete absence of law enforcement coupled with a culture of impunity and corruption make this environment ripe for exploitation by career criminals and narco-traffickers. There is real concern with the crime situation particularly on Roatan; it is hurting the island’s reputation at home and aboard.
Of the two major political parties (National and Liberal), the national party dominates at all levels of government. Its leader however, (the president) is plagued by chronic uncertainty and indecision. He straddles the fence on most major issues and cannot seem to make a firm decision about anything. The country as a whole is floundering aimlessly. The liberal party is in no position to capitalize, with its leadership so fractured from political in-fighting that it is struggling to remain relevant. Some members are still wishing for the return of their recently deposed chieftain, which appears highly unlikely. Current leaders seemingly prefer to remain in control of a party that loses, rather than lose control of a party capable of winning. They face a long road back to respectability. Unemployment is a major concern, and public schools are hemorrhaging; but the sharp increase in unsolved violent crime overshadows everything else at this time.
If the Bay Islands are to remain a viable tourist destination, they must show some tangible success against criminal activity. A potentially explosive situation exists here in the Bay Islands. Unless leaders using a blend of effort and optimism come together in search of common-sense solutions, things will get out of hand. It’s only a matter of time.
I have endeavored to provide a coherent narrative of conditions as I see them today in the Bay Islands. I hope you find the information useful.