story / editorial
/ local news
and Photos by Thomas Tomczyk
Islands go through its toughest weather since Hurricane Mitch
tropical depression Wilma became a record setting 21st hurricane
of the season, Roatan got mostly soaked with rain. Wilma set
a record for the fastest forming category five storm in history.
The storm had the smallest, two mile, eye and fastest, 225 mile-an-hour,
wind gusts ever recorded.
Crawling through the Gulf of Honduras
at five miles-an-hour, Wilma's eye wobbled North-West towards
Cancun passing almost dead center through Honduras' Swan Islands.
It seamed that the Bay Islands have dodged a bullet. What some
Roatanians found out is that sometime the shrapnel can be just
as dangerous as the bullet itself
on Thursday morning Hurricane Wilma found itself 200 miles due north
of Guanaja, its size expanded from a 250 mile diameter to 400 miles
with its outer rims overlapping Roatan. While the outward, counter
clock swashes of the hurricane battered the northern and western
shores of the Bay Islands, the south and eastern sides remained
out of harms way.
After 36 hours of hard rain, life was returning back to normal in
Coxen Hole and French Harbour. Meantime West End, West Bay and Punta
Gorda were going through its worst moments. Most people were caught
off guard by the sudden escalation in waves and wind. "Everyone
said we're going to get the tail, but this storm has two heads,"
said Kevin Wesley, charter boat captain from West End. In anticipation
of worsening weather several boat owners moved their boats from
West End to piers in Flowers Bay and Brick Bay.
By midday there was no rain and people ventured outside their homes
and hotel rooms in search of water, food and news. Debris, fallen
palm trees and boats littered whatever was left of West End road.
There was no running water and only a few places had generator power.
On Wednesday night, the Purple Turtle restaurant ran out of beer,
most West End residents went across the street. With its own generator,
fully stocked, enclosed kitchen, and supply of beer Blue Channel
restaurant was the only one open and served as a refuge for people
looking for a hot meal and little bit of company.
Still, spirits were high. People were smiling, joking and helping
one another. And there were emergencies that needed help all around.
When a 500-gallon butane tank, started leaking gas and begun floating,
several people took it out of the stormy water. A dozen people helped
to beach to safety boats tied-up next to Lighthouse point. A two
person deepwater gliding submarine belonging to Karl Stanley got
loose and was anchored to shore. By Thursday midday the Half Moon
Bay Cabins dock supporting the bigger, three-person Stanley sub
was leaning in the waves, its access walkway completely gone and
By late afternoon the wind and waves strengthened. In West Bay wind
gusts reached around 60 miles-an-hour and waves off West End point
and Mangrove Bight point reached 40 feet. West Bay beach disappeared
under the surf and two of its docks were destroyed, other two damaged.
Sueño del Mar building lost part of its structure and Foster's
building was cut-off from the island. "We tried to save everything
we could, but the water washed over the walkway," said Marie-Claude
Pieriehumbert, a salesperson at Sueño Del Mar.
"It's worst than Mitch," said Lily Tatum, manager of Casa
Calico, a West End hotel that lost a $6,500 dock. According to Tatum
during Mitch only Fosters and Seagrape Plantation lost their docks.
With Wilma, hardly any dock was left undamaged. "What can you
do? No one got hurt. No one is missing," said Jeff Kuken, owner
of Casa Calico.
West End got pounded. Its infrastructure severely damaged: water
and several lines were broken, septic tanks and leach fields were
exposed. Power line poles foundations were exposed and in several
places the West End road eroded to the point of being impassable.
The power of the storm was both destructive and fascinating to West
End residents who took souvenir photos of themselves with the background
of huge waves, streets littered with boats and debris. "I think
it's just beautiful. We even got to dive yesterday [in Brick Bay],"
said Bert Lary, 60, a West End tourist from Houston who came to
Roatan for a week long holiday.
Few businesses decided to board-up their doors and windows. Mayan
Princess placed a few sandbags in front of its palm trees, but too
little avail. Luna Beach in West End lost its dock and the resort's
employees were scrabbling to salvage as much lumber as possible.
The structure wasn't insured, but Chuck Aberle, the resort's owner,
tried to stay up-beat. "Our dock needed rebuilding anyway,"
he said smiling. Palm trees uprooted by wind and water littering
the beaches. "This is the worst I've seen it in almost four
years," said Aberle.
Dr. Andy Gygi, who purchased West End's Bungalow 7 less than a year
ago had even bigger problems on his mind. Forty foot waves began
battering the walls of his oceanfront resort on Wednesday. At 9pm
Gygi with his wife evacuated their house and resort. "I've
seen how fast a storm surge can happen and decided to leave,"
said Gygi, an ex Key West resident, who believes that two of his
four Bungalow 7 buildings and the bar will be a total loss. As waves
were beating and spilling into the resort's walls, the remains of
the bar: furniture, grills, and lumber floated inside its gates.
"When I moved here I thought I was far enough south and west
not to see a hurricane," said Gygi.
Seven years ago 30-year-old Barrio Birinche in Mangrove Bight survived
hurricane Mitch by heeding advance warnings. Wilma gave no such
courtesy and in the middle of the night on Wednesday, 22 Birinche
families abandoned their homes when the water reached their doorstep.
The storm surge reached eight feet above sea level. People took
shelter at the two classrooms in West End Elementary School and
at the nearby Church of God.
On Friday morning, while wind and surf were still hitting West End
hard, around 30 municipal workers came with picks and shovels to
clean-up the mess left by Wilma's tail. They piled garbage, stabilized
eroding road and drained salt water pools left by the storm. "We
can't afford to waste time. We'll be back in business by Monday,"
said Mayor Hynds.
Some West End businesses worked hard to re-open that Friday. Captain
Van's scooter rental was completely inundated with sea water that
came over the West End road. "[To stop the water from coming]
was like putting a finger in a dike," said Murray Russ, the
business's owner. The next day Captain Van's staff dug a ditch to
drain the water and brought 15 barrels of sand to raise the ground.
In the end, the lack of disaster preparedness on the island was
exposed not by a Hurricane, but by its tailwind. "This was
no hurricane. This was just a bad Northern," said Mayor Hynds.
Few people sandbagged, or boarded-up their property. Many scrambled
to get their boats out of the water at the last minute when the
waves were already dangerously strong.
Also the authorities had not announced, or decided on shelter locations
thought the islands in case the Hurricane did hit the island. There
was no sandbags provided to the public, or fuel storage for emergency
vehicles and the island was left without fuel for five days. It
was everyone for themselves.
Still, affects of Hurricane Wilma was not all bad. According to
Jennifer Keck, Marine biologist from Anthony's Key Resort, the storm
had a positive effect on the Bay Islands reefs. "The same thing
happened with Mitch. The reef got scoured and a bleaching effect
took place," said Keck. "Flesh eating algae covering the
reef in warm water were washed off." According to Keck, the
biggest damage the reef suffered during Wilma was the run-off due
to intense rain.
In Punta Gorda, wind and waves hit the north shore town hard and
displaced piles of sand that were its unfinished beach project.
A dozen houses in lost their roofs, but most people there were smiling.
"We have a great beach now," said Tito Leiva, a local
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
Sadness and Despair by
Until 1960 Bay Islands had three
municipals, each one on a separate island. Under the presidency
of Ramon Villa Morales, people of eastern side of Roatan petitioned
the central government to separate from western part of the
island. The reason for self determination movement was the
islands vast distance and inaccessibility of the municipal's
capital. The fishing and packing industry in Oak Ridge was
booming, east-west road didn't exist, and confidence in determining
future of Roatan's east end was high.
45 years later tables have turned. Packing plants have closed,
banks have left, resorts moved out and jobs evaporated. More
and more people travel long distances, across the border to
Roatan to work.
For the past four years the only source
of any activity organized festivals, road building, etc.,
in the Santos Guardiola municipal was organized by patronatos.
While LAFISE and BGA are opening second ant third offices
in Roatan Municipal, for the past four years SG officials
have failed to attract a bank back to Oak Ridge. There just
isn't enough money.
The pride and wish of self determination of Santos Guardiolians
had long given way to feelings of despair and malaise. Salaries
are low, jobs are scarce. If not for Parrot Tree plantation
employing several hundred construction and security workers,
the biggest employer would be the Oak Ridge's last packing
plant where packers earn as little as Lps. 10 an hour.
As apathy and glum rules, there seems to be little excitement
about either political candidate in the SG 2005 elections.
Voters seem disillusioned and disinterested in voting as the
candidates themselves show little interest in serious campaigning.
With around 16 people on the SG municipal staff, their salaries
are the Municipal's biggest budget item. With SG mayor receiving
a salary of Lps. 15,000 and vice mayor Lps. 10,000. There
just isn't enough money left over to undertake any major projects.
One could say that Santos Guardiola has lost its independence
and is no longer in control of its destiny. Every first of
the month Santos Guardiolians take long journeys by bus just
to cash their paychecks. Even the land registry is located
There is a good side to this disparity
of development. Perhaps thirty years from now, when Roatan's
west side will be covered in dense grid of houses, condos
and malls, Santos Guardiola will be still relatively little
developed, saved from the indiscriminate development rush.
Then Santos Guardiola's turn will come. The question is: are
the people of SG willing to wait that long to see their community
One way out for Santos Guardiolians
to take control of their destiny is too merge with Roatan
municipal. Their mayor could become the vice mayor of joint
municipal, a satellite office could still be still be kept
in Oak Ridge for locals to conveniently check the catastro
documents, pay local taxes, etc.
Roatan municipal would benefit from the merger as well. The
island would develop in a more uniform way and local laws
and law enforcement would be standardized. A mayor speaking
for the entire island with one clear voice would improve the
islands position in front of the central government.
Economical, population growth and geographical reasons are
the main reason for looking to merge, or divide a Honduran
municipal. The only municipal merger until this date was Municipio
del Distrito Central. Splitting of Municipals in Honduras
is more common. The booming Municipal of San Perdo Sula was
divided in two in 1990s and in 1999 Municipal of Nueva Frontera,
in Santa Barbara was divided in two.
According to Oswaldo Montoya, technical assessor of Desarrollos
de Utila, who has worked as technical assessor for Municipals
of Utila, Santos Guardiola and Roatan, the several unsuccessful
attempts to merge municipals happened in more remote parts
of the country. An attempt at a municipal merger in Gracias
a Dios in 1980s failed in part because there were no specified
government procedures to follow. In 1990 a guideline step-by-step
process was established by the central government and a way
for merging municipals was set. Till now no two Honduran municipals
have merged. Mr. Montoya's letter in the letter to editor
section explains the procedure to follow if Roatanians decided
to pursue their future united.
GET LOTS OF HELP
foundation is created to construct an urgent care center in French
60 people, medical professionals, politicians and supporters,
gathered at the French Harbour's Church of God on October 13 to
announce the vision and goals of Little Friends Foundation. A
month before, on the 17 of September, Little Friends Foundation
was established. The death of a 2 ½ year old French Harbour
baby in September mobilized the community to action. "Unfortunately
someone close to us had to die for us to start this effort,"
said Kandy Hyde, president of the foundation. In less than a month
the organization has secured five acres of donated land, an ambulance,
and architectural plans for an urgent care center (UCC).
Members of the French Harbour community established an ambulance
and emergency service three years ago through Paramedics for Children
(PFC), but ran into difficulties of compensating ambulance staff.
"The organization [PFC] had certain bylaws that we couldn't
follow. Now our own board of directors can set bylaws," said
Hyde. Five committees were organized to tackle issues ranging
from public relations to clergy.
The envisioned UCC will be able to treat severe trauma cases and
plans to establish an island wide network of ambulances staffed
with emergency medical technicians.
UCC will house an intensive care unit, ambulance, diagnostic laboratory,
radiology, and possibly a blood bank. Roatan does not have a blood
bank and patients have to arrange the transport of blood from
the mainland paying Lps. 900 per pint, or, in emergency cases,
find a donor willing to donate.
issue of having a blood bank is complex as a blood transfusion and
falls in Honduras under the jurisdiction of Honduran Red Cross.
Still, the foundation expressed desire to work through the Honduran
Red Cross to acquire the blood bank on the island. "If a hospital
like D'Antoni has its own blood bank, then I don't see why we can't
have one here," said Dr. Gomez.
Hyde said that the foundation has a goal to provide low cost medical
care and in order to do that additional sources of income will need
to be found. The UCC wants to establish alliances with clinics and
private physicians throughout the island to share resources and
refer patients to primary care doctors and specialists.
During the meeting, people whose work and donations made the foundation
a reality were recognized. Recognition was given to Pastor Roberto
Brown for his dynamic Spanish translation of the presentation. However,
the key to the project was a donation of five acres of land close
to French Harbour Adventist School by Rita Silvestri-Morris. Several
people stood up and volunteered their help and advice right there
and then. Clark Johnson, director of Roatan's Hondutel, has offered
to install a telephone line to the UCC. Dr. Gomez volunteered to
donate Lps. 5,000 monthly towards the foundation for a total up
to Lps. 50,000.
I had to select the qualifications that would enable persons to
acquire the privilege of casting a vote, I would not base these
requirements on race or color, neither would religion play a role
in my decision. I would grant the right to vote to sentient, literate
and fairly intelligent people, they would not have to be rocket
scientists, but they would have to understand the importance of
the process and they would have to possess the ability to make decisions
based on reason and logic and not on sentiment. Most importantly
they would have to be taxpayers (and I don't mean a sales tax payer),
because in my opinion people that do not contribute to the wealth
of a nation should have no rights when it comes to deciding its
Maybe we should make the poll tax a requirement again. Well so much
for that, and I know that what I consider to be as a voter's utopia
would probably be considered by others a politician's nightmare.
Would you let the crew on the back deck of your boat select your
captain? Let's get back to reality and let us all turn out on the
Novembers 27 to vote. Let us not forget the real issues and try
hard to refrain from personal attacks on our candidates and remember
that a vote left blank is a complete waste of time and an insult
to your dignity.
By the way, if your man wins don't come around later expecting gifts
and favors in exchange for having been permitted by the law the
privilege of casting your vote.
is always about this time every election year that we hear people
saying things like: I'm not going to vote because neither party
is going to give me anything! Another popular trite expression
is: I'd rather not vote than vote for either of them!
In spite of all this negative language, most of us do make the
sacrifice and end up casting our ballots. More than ninety percent
of us however will vote according to tradition because the way
we vote is predetermined at birth it is like something genetic
that we inherit from our parents.
Most people take the privilege of voting for granted, they don't
realize that this whole process is not a right, but a privilege.
They must remember that suffrage is a relatively new experience
in human social evolution and it can best be defined as a political
privilege granted by law and in so being it is subjected to qualification.
These qualifications have been liberalized in some parts the world
in the last part of the previous century, but there are still
countries that have restrictions towards some of the voting public.
Some of these countries deny the vote to women and there are other
nations that often make literacy a qualification for the privilege
of voting in a public political election. The majority of the
free countries of the world have only two requirements: you must
be a citizen of that particular country and have lived long enough
to acquire a minimum voting age.
I believe that in all countries there should be more than just
a citizenship and age qualification. These two requirements are
an oversimplified approach to a very important political decision
that can have a detrimental effect on an entire country and its
Because of the consequence of making a bad choice in this process
I have come to believe that the privilege of determining a country's
future should only go to qualified persons and not left to individuals
that acquired that "right" merely through an accident
of birth and the fact that they did not become a statistic of
our high infant mortality rate.
story / editorial
/ local news
WAY TO THE TOP' an interview
with Honduras' presidentail candidate- Pepe Lobo
February 20, National Congress president Porfirio Lobo
Sosa defeated Tegucigalpa Mayor Miguel Pastor with 69.1
per cent of the vote to become the National Party (PN)
nominee. Manuel Zelaya, former minister of the Honduran
Social Investment Fund won the Liberal Party (PL) nomination,
beating businessman Jaime Rosenthal with 55.3 per cent
of all cast ballots. A June CID-Gallop poll had Pepe Lobo
with 39 per cent and Mel Zelaya with 34 per cent.
Islands VOICE met with Pepe Lobo during his campaign visit
to Roatan on October 8 and 9. Unfortunately we were unable
to obtain an interview with Mel Zelaya before going to
Islands VOICE: What do you think about the Central government
getting Bay Islands its own University?
Pepe Lobo: This is very important. You guys are living
on the islands isolated and you should have everything that you
need: a university, good hospitals. The youth should have everything
they need to develop and obtain a job. The University that you
guys can plan for should be oriented towards careers that could
be practiced and are fundamental here, especially tourism, and
B.I.V.: This year the lobster diving ban should have gone
into effect. As president would you ensure that the ban is enforced
and how would you compensate the Mosquitia divers that will lose
a source of income?
P.L.: The management of natural resources should be done
in a sustainable manner. If we can't have a medium and long term
perspective of developing our natural resources, we won't be able
to generate income for the majority of the population.
why it's important that in Honduras we develop these short, medium
and long term plans. Once one of the parties wins the elections
there will be a way of reaching compromise with others, particularly
the use of our natural resources. This has to be both sustainable
What about the lobster divers in particular.
P.L.: We have international agreements that we signed. If
we can't live up to this the risks for Honduras are huge. We have
a law and we have to respect it. If the law is in conflict with
national interests we have to reform the law so it is not subordinated
to just small interests.
B.I.V.: What are you planning about potentially, or limiting
P.L.: We have talked about this issue a lot with our friends
here on Roatan. Limiting the internal mobility of people within
the country is a difficult subject and something that has to be
analyzed in detail. On Roatan, a tourist destination important for
all of Honduras, a way of life here should be treated differently.
I don't have an answer what should be done, but it is important
to create ways of resolving this problem through administrative
means not to create a risk for tourism. The subject of security
is fundamental. If you have a high concentration of population the
vulnerability to crime becomes higher. We should create ways of
controlling that the island doesn't receive a lot of unemployed.
B.I.V.: Bay Islands are on a transit route for drug trafficking.
After several drug-busts in 2003 and early 2004, we have seen no
results of drug policing on the island. How would you improve the
P.L.: When Alvarez was security minister, we substantially
increased drug seizures in the country. I know that this is continuing.
We are on the bridge between Columbia and US. Bay Islands are one
route, Mosquitia is another and to control drug trafficking we need
international cooperation. It is important for all population to
be vigilant because other than the risk of trafficking, there is
a risk of developing drug addiction among the general public, something
very dangerous. We need to attack the drug issue directly.
B.I.V.: Dou you think that for a small country with few educated
people, presidential term limit of four years should be extended?
P.L.: What is more important is a vision of a country in
which Hondurans find a compromise, because it's impossible to have
a party without an absolute majority in congress, to change anything.
What causes a problem is not the four year limit. What is the problem
is that each government comes and changes trying to pursue a politics
of government, not politics of the state. We need to have a stability
of direction that transcends the politics of individual governments.
The reform of some individual articles in the constitution is practically
impossible to change, especially in the case of fundamental ones:
375 and 376.
B.I.V.: You want to reinstate the death penalty. Did you
find support for this idea among Bay Islands politicians?
P.L.: I'll tell you what it is all about. For example in
El Progresso a whole family was killed: father, mother was tortured
and decapitated. Her organs were dragged-out. The daughter was decapitated
as well. This is the type of crime in which I maintain my personal
attitude of having a death penalty for. The human rights organizations
don't agree with my position, but this [issue] will go to congress
and have to pass with required majority votes. If this won't succeed
in front of congress it will appear as a referendum issue. People
will have a chance to decide in these clear cases how to apply justice.
I haven't talked about this with local politicians. This is my very
personal opinion. I think the people in cases of these abominable,
satanical crimes will decide that they want [the death penalty].