Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
November, 2005 Vol.3 No. 11
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Words and Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

Wilma's Tail
Bay Islands go through its toughest weather since Hurricane Mitch
As 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

When 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 future uncertain.
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 community leader.

Two tourists play in the waves at West Bay Beach on Wednesday.

Luna Beach dock is pounded by the waves as dive shop staff scrambles to salvage some of its lumber

West Enders scramble to rescue one of the boats threatened by worsening weather
A tree that fell on power and cable lines during the storm is cleared by a work crew from Island Cable Company
West End residents walk around the debris brought onto the main street by the storm


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Sadness and Despair by Thomas Tomczyk

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 Coxen Hole.

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 prosper?
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.


A foundation is created to construct an urgent care center in French Harbour

Over 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.
The 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.

The 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.



Right or Privilege

If 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 future.
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.

By Alfonso Ebanks

It 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 future.
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.

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'LOBO'S WAY TO THE TOP' an interview with Honduras' presidentail candidate- Pepe Lobo

On 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.

Bay 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 print.

Bay 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 real estate.
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.

That's 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 and planned.
B.I.V.: 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 migration.
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 situation?
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].

Read past issues of
Bay Islands VOICE

No. 4
May 8

Vol2 No. 2

Vol2 No. 3

Vol3 No. 9

Vol3 No. 10