Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
December, 2005 Vol.3 No. 12
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Words and Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

Elections 2005
A Struggle with Democracy
Every four years it is Christmas in November when for weeks before elections Bay Islanders are showered with free water, zinc, fried hog and promises of a better future.
If you think Honduras' 2005 elections weren't exciting, you haven't been to the Bay Islands. While Santos Guardiola, Utila and Guanaja, resorted to some old fashion campaigning: hog fries and rallies, the four politicians from Roatan Municipal had money and didn't hesitate to outspend themselves in setting up social programs, advertising and giveaways of goods and services to potential voters. Promises of ministry postings for some Bay Islanders were made by presidential candidates and free house construction, road cutting, roofing, plywood, and flights from/to La Ceiba, went up for grabs.
The last days before and the election became an exercise of each party's organizational skills, efficiency and their ability to take advantage of loopholes in Honduran election system. The last three days, including the Election Day itself were reminiscent of no rules wrestling match.
While in the Honduran national elections, the main issues were the reintroduction of death penalty, jobs for the 30% unemployed and anti-gang laws, Roatanians were deciding their elections based on candidate's personality and past record. The issues on the table were just as important here. Will Roatan become a Freeport? Can we migration to the islands be controlled? How to improve fresh water availability?
The campaign was filled with questionable tactics on the part of both major parties. Days were filled with news of anonymous flyers, accusations on TV shows and complaints of disenfranchised voters who lived for Roatan for years, but couldn't vote.
In the end Mel Zelaya, 53, a Liberal who at one time served as Honduras' investment minister, declared himself the winner in a close race. On the Bay Islands, Liberal Party candidates won the deputy post, Roatan and Utila mayoral seats while Santos Guardiola and Guanaja went to National candidates.

On Roatan, the final portion of the Liberal campaign for votes was jumpstarted on November 5, when around three thousand people gathered at Bojangles plaza to see and hear Mel Zelaya. "I want to declare Roatan a Freeport of Honduras and Central America," said Zelaya. The promises didn't stop there. "I promise to give you an island woman as vice minister of tourism. The ministry of fisheries will go to an islander," promised Zelaya to a flag-waving audience.
Still the biggest applause went to Tito Dixon, chief of Roatan Municipal police, for his singing praises to all-but-one liberal candidate. "The people wait for you Dale Jackson. The people love you Jerry Hynds. You are an honest person," sang in Spanish Dixon.
"History of the world is divided into before Christ and after Christ. History of Roatan is divided into before Jerry Hynds after Jerry Hynds," said Hugo Irias, a retired Roatan teacher and master of ceremony at the event.
A couple days later things heated-up even further when a leaflet was anonymously inserted inside the around 500 La Prensa editions distributed on the island. In eight points the "Group for the Betterment of Roatan" accused Mayor Hynds and mayoral candidate Dale Jackson of benefiting from financial kickbacks in Municipal contract work.
Another leaflet, encouraging voting for National Party candidates, was placed in the La Prensa on November 25. By that time the two authors of the leaflet didn't care about remaining anonymous. "We were keeping a low profile, but its not that we're scared," said Clive Ebanks, 35, who wrote the leaflets with James Woods, 39, sport and youth coordinator for Roatan's National Party. "We wanted Jerry and Dale to fight back, but they didn't," said Woods.
As the leaflets circled the island, many people questioned the manner how the information was distributed and the accuracy of the statements. The anonymous accusations may have had actually a reverse effect, than intended. "He [Hynds] walked into a broken municipality with a debt to pay. He fixed it and we are going to win a lot higher than people think," said Jackie Elwin, a liberal supporter.
Roatan wasn't the only Bay Islands Municipal that attracted controversy. Utila's HQTV station ran a story about National Party mayoral candidate, Richard Del Olmo, soliciting La Ceiba voters to register and vote for him on Utila.
For about two months Galindo and Hyde took part in Canal 4's "National Hour" and in a segment two weeks prior to elections, the discussions became heated and an anonymous caller threatened the National Mayoral candidate: "I'm going to box you-side-the head." "Let's meet after the show right outside of the studio," answered Galindo.
Two days before elections several hundred people queued in front of the Roatan Municipal to get a document granting them building material for damages suffered during the last storms. The recipients then traveled to Mayor Hynds' Island Shipping yard to pick-up their corrugated 12' by 2.5' metal roofing and plywood. "I do believe that some people need the help, but this is lowest of the low in campaigning," commented Ana Svoboda, a Coxen Hole business owner.
But don't tell that to Sula McKenzie, 60, of French Harbour. McKenzie said she lost five pieces of roofing in the October and November storms. "I only asked for four pieces because I thought they are not going to give them to me," said McKenzie. When asked if the giveaway is likely to influence her vote, McKenzie replied: "I think so."
"They just copied what we were doing," said Shawn Hyde. Hyde and Galindo bought and gave away 2,000 pieces of metal roofing only two weeks before, but used local activists to determine who should receive them in each community. According to Galindo, their island campaign bought a water truck, dug wells and opened community clinics, only to see their opponents do the same thing a few weeks later.
At 6am on November 27, 20 voting stations and 89 tables opened throughout the island department. In the 2005 elections, Bay Islands had 25,405 registered voters, 16,044 in Roatan alone. Honduran Navy protected the 267 ballot boxes and was responsible for their transport from and back to the mainland.
At 11:00am in front of the Los Fuertes voting station, Victor Garcia, 45, a painter from La Ceiba, waited for a paid by the National Party bus to take him back to the airport. He has come to Roatan the day before after two weeks ago his cousin living on the island told him about the opportunity to move his vote to Roatan and that someone from a National Party would pay for his airfare.
"I voted for someone here, but I don't even know who they are," said Garcia, a Garifuna, who considers himself a Liberal and claims to have voted for Mel Zelaya. "I never been here, but I like it and I maybe come back here to work," said Garcia.
The Bay Islands had no observers from American States present in the Department during the elections, but a ten person electoral observation group overlooked Roatan polls and another 16 observed elections in Santos Guardiola. According to one of the volunteers, Walter Calix, 23, from Sandy Bay, Supreme Tribunal of Elections offered a five hour course as part of the "Civil Movement for Democracy" program.
National Party took full advantage of a loophole in election law allowing the transfer of registered voters to anywhere in the country. Flight after flight of La Ceiba residents who often never set foot on Roatan arrived at the islands international airport to be then bused by National Party buses to polling stations throughout the municipal. There was even a National Party voter information table at the airport- the only one away from the polling stations.
While legal, the scale of the airlift raised concerns in the Liberal Party of falling behind in a close election. "Law says that you have to be a resident for some time before you could vote," said Dale Jackson who added that SOSA officials have informed him that 200 people on Saturday and 100 on the day of elections flew in to Roatan to vote from La Ceiba. Liberal Party candidates decided to take action.
According to Marlin Clark, Roatan Airport approach director, around noon 12 Liberal Party supporters and activists came to the airport tower and demanded to shut for its radios to be shut down. "Tower supervisor, Jose Moncara, told them that this would be an act of terrorism," said Clark.
At the same time, Jackson owned Diamond Jack Company bulldozers blocked access to the airport parking and dozens of police, navy and military officials left their posts at polling stations to guard the Airport terminal from dozens of angry Liberal Party supporters. Around 1:30pm, after agreement of both party candidates, Wilfredo Lobo, Civil Aviation director, ordered the closing of the Roatan Airport to all flights between La Ceiba until 4:00pm. "If the airport wasn't closed things would get out of hand," said Jackson.
The would-be voter of one of the La Ceiba flights were held in the airport's arrival area for over an hour and when they were finally let into the airport lobby they were quickly escorted by National Party activists to SOSA ticket counter. They were then given a voucher for a return flight to the coast. "They are all Hondurans. They just want to exercise their right to vote," said Hyde.
And that is all they came to do. None of the La Ceiba passengers carried any luggage or seemed disappointed that they couldn't stay on Roatan. They were intimidated not to talk to Bay Islands Voice as National Party official, handing them vouchers for a return flight to La Ceiba told them several times: "Don't talk to the press."
While hundreds of Ceibeños got to visit Roatan free of charge on the account of the Roatan's political candidates, hundreds of legitimate Roatan residents were left disenfranchised.
Juan Carlos Gutierrez, 39, a Coxen Hole schoolteacher and a five year Roatan resident was one of hundreds Roatanians who did all they were supposed to do to change their voting place to Roatan. Still, on November 27 his voting place still showed as Comayagua. "It was Murillo [head of Roatan's People's registry] who didn't send the voter transfers. He's a National," said Estada Caseres, a Liberal Party volunteer from Coxen Hole. Caseres said that she talked to hundreds of people with similar voter transfer problems.
Umberto Murillo, 35, said thousands of people registered to vote on Roatan since May. In fact there were additional 3,766 people who registered to vote on Roatan compared to 2001, an impressive increase of 31%. And if voter registration is any indication of population growth, Roatan should double its population in 10 years.
According to Gutierrez, a list of 144 voter registrations was returned from People's Registry Office in Tegucigalpa, but Gutierrez's name was not on it. "We were not late in sending the transferred votes to Tegucigalpa. Perhaps the people in Tegus [Central Office of People's Registry] were late in putting them in the system," said Murillo.
According to Emilio Silvestri, National Party Election Day coordinator, both parties received a copy of 255 returned registrations due to insufficient information, illegible fingerprinting, etc. Also, both parties did back door transfers, without going through people's registry office. In Gutierrez's case, he had an August 9 document stamped in Coxen Holes that said that he did file for changing of voting place to Roatan.
Walter McNeil, Mayor Hynds' campaign manager, estimated that close to 800 Roatan Liberal Party voters attempting to transfer their voting place were disfranchised. In many cases these people have lived on Roatan for years and had registered in the Department's People Registry well before the September 23 deadline, but according to McNeil were not processed because of their affiliation with the Liberal Party.
Other people were registered to vote on Roatan for years, but weren't allowed in because their old ID had no new security features. "I voted last time with this ID and now they say I can't vote," said Lily Elwin, a homemaker from French Harbour as she left the French Harbour voting station.
Just like a BGA bank, the biggest voting station in the Bay Islands- Coxen Hole's Juan Brooks School was closed 10 minutes to 4pm. The late voters will have to wait another four years to get their chance at democracy. Around 80 of them tried, but were turned back by the Honduran Navy and failed to get their try at democracy. "That won't stop anybody who supposed to win from winning," said Connie Wrights, 22, a Coxen Hole teacher who was turned away from the gate attempting to cast her first ever vote.
"The big parties are all the same. Only the color is different," said Manuel Lopez, 58, of Los Fuertes, who voted for Ramon Martinez, a presidential candidate for Christian Democracy party. Still, the Bay Islands department had not produced a single DC, PINU or UD candidate for deputy, or mayoral elections.
Despite all the problems and controversy, in many cases the elections brought out the best in Roatan people. Amalia Cevilla, 88 and sick with cancer, had to be assisted by her family to voting station in Juan Brooks school. "This is the last time I will vote. But no one can stop me," said Cevilla, a Brick Bay resident who as born on Roatan and voted here all her life.
Three days after the elections, National party presidential candidate Pepe Lobo, was holding out from admitting defeat. On the Bay Islands things have come down quite a bit. The loosing candidates accepted the election results and congratulated the winners. "Lets forget about attacking one another. (…) I'm ready to go to work at the Municipality as a city council member with a good attitude," said Galindo, in an interview on Canal 4's, Noticiero Insular.

Helping the National Party supporters find their numbers and places on November 26 were some Coxen Hole girls in blue. Around a table at the Cooper building in Coxen Hole: Ana Julia Lara, Karina Fuenes, Dalia Roguez, Zulma Almendarez (Coxen Hole coordinator), Francisca Garcia.

After casting his vote, an elector has his finger painted with a marker.

Bay Islands Liberal candidates: Mayor Jerry Hynds, Mel Zelaya, Dale Jackson and Alton Cooper listen to speeches at the podium of the Bojangles rally. They all won their elections.
Liberal Party supporters at the Mel Zelaya rally on November 5
Juan Carlos Gutierrez shows his August 9 voting card with re-registration to Roatan while the computer system shows him still registered in Comayagua. He was one of many Roatan residents who applied in vain for vote transfer.

 

Not A Perfect Election
Unethical, questionable, or unlawful Bay Islands' election practices in 2005
1. The buying of votes with gifts of items, food, or cash
2. Using public funds to influence votes thru gifts and programs
3. Attempt at holding public events 24 hours before elections
4. Use of tax exempt church property for political campaigning
5. No possibility of computerized confirmation of people having voted
6. Closing of voting station before given time
7. Purchasing of IDs from opponents, to prevent them from voting
8. Not transferring voter registration of Roatan residents from other parts of the country
9. Transferring voter registering of people who never been to Bay Islands
10. Paying for transport of voters on independent transport companies
11. Using independent media (La Prensa) as means of distributing anonymous flyers
12. Posting political posters on public property
13. Blocking access to and from international airport
14. Anonymous threats to politicians made on TV not followed by the police
15. Candidates and party information booths allowed on public property within less than 50 meters of polling stations
16. Lack of privacy at some voting booths
Two days before elections, hundreds of people queued at Island Shipping to receive their free zinc roofing

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Democracy- Honduran Style by Alfonso Ebanks

Every body knows that in this country we vote strictly according to tradition.
You might ask why is it then that in a specific area, the party that's in power during an election can end up losing that election.
As it implies, voting by tradition means that everybody always vote for the same party they were born into. Assuming that this is correct, then there should never be a power change whenever there is a public election in any specific place. That is not always the case and there are two reasons why it's not always so.
The first reason is that over the past few decades in places like the Bay Islands there has been a great influx of people that have come to stay. These people not only bring their families, but they also bring along their voting traditions and almost always have their voter registration listing transferred to their new place of residence. This has changed the outcome of many elections in Bay Islands in the last few decades.
The second reason is for something I guess could be called reverse "gerrymandering". As you know, gerrymandering is the process of rearranging of electoral districts so as to favor the party in power and this is accomplished by redistricting the area in question so as to bunch the electorate in favor of the party doing the redistricting.
This practice was severely restricted in the USA since its Supreme Court passed a ruling in which it stated that apportionment is to be based on its famous (or infamous) "one man, one vote" decision in 1962.
We do things a little different down here but the results are basically the same. First the interested political party must find a place that they are sure that this particular party will win the elections with no problems, and then they must calculate by how wide a margin they will win. This political party then proceeds to draw off the surplus voters leaving just enough to win by a fairly safe margin.
The voters that were drawn off from that one particular place are now available to be used wherever the party thinks that they are needed most. Before these surplus voters can vote in the new place, the party must legally transfer them there. The day before election day the party brings the transferred voters in by plane, by car, by boat, or by cayuco to perform their patriotic duty by casting their vote for the party.
This may seem a bit unorthodox and maybe just a little immoral but it is completely legal if the transfers are done in the allotted time frame allowed by the law before the elections. This kind of vote relocation will continue to occur until a law is enacted that will prohibit the practice by placing a voter residency requirement on the books.

There is another practice that I think is illegal because it creates an unbalance in supervisory ability at the voting tables. The small political parties do this and it's done for money. These small parties are authorized by law to have representatives at all the tables in any district. In some towns where there are only a few, or no voters, these small parties then sell credentials to anyone with the money to purchase them. These credentials entitle the holders to vote without having been registered to vote in that town.

The purchaser of those credentials can bring anybody from anywhere to sit at the voting tables. Their credentials identify them as representative of one party, but there are at the table to take care of the interest and vote for another party. In some cases there can be only two representatives from one of the bigger parties at a table. The remaining representatives at that table are working for the other large party in spite of the legitimate credentials they wear around their necks. This type of vote manipulation mostly affects the outcome of elections for diputados and alcaldes.
I remember on one occasion a certain candidate won the elections in a small town by thirty-eight votes and later the long time residents of that town came looking for favors from the winner. One of the townsmen remarked to the politician that without those thirty eight votes the election might have been lost, the politician agreed with him and then sent him on his way with the usual promise of looking in to the matter.
After the voters had gotten out of sight, the politician turned to his friend and said: "those fools believe they won the election for us, but what they will never know is that we (the party) placed forty floaters (transferred voters) in that town the day of the elections."

Crime Fighting Strategies

Islanders Look for Answers

A public meeting at the Outreach Ministries Church was held to discuss a perceived recent escalation in armed house robberies, and possible solutions to the problem. Even though the invited ex-security minister Oscar Alvarez didn't show up at the November 10 meeting, many of the key local politicians, judicial and police officials did. Some of the attendees weren't expected. "I saw a thief right there [at the meeting]. I thought he was in jail," said Congressman Evans McNab.
While several local Expats coordinated an effort to report all robberies to the preventive police, some results could already be seen. According to Jorge Carias, Bay Islands Preventiva chief, 12 people caught in two prior weeks were transferred to a jail in La Ceiba and prosecuted. "There is [still] a group working in Sandy Bay. With guns, in one night they robbed three houses," said Carias.
Stricter, yet voluntary control of documents of people arriving and leaving Roatan was announced. "We have contacted the airlines and [Galaxy] yacht and they are now requiring everyone's ID number before boarding. We will coordinate the same with merchant marine," said Mario Pacheco, Roatan immigration chief.
The panel discussed the complexity of the criminal system on the island. "On Roatan we have two kinds of thieves; those who rob and the ones who buy the stolen goods. We know who they are and we should prosecute both parties," said Joseph Solomon, Roatan Municipal Judge.

A security meeting discussing issues and strategies with the public took place in Coxen Hole on November 10. The invited panel: Joseph Solomon (Municipal Judge), Pordi Lainez (deputy director DGIC), Rita Lopez (Roatan Security Committee), Jorge Carias (chief of BI Preventiva), Evans McNab (BI congressman), governor Janice Johnson, Esperanza Menjivar (Roatan judge), Claudia Obando (prosecutor), Rita Silvestri-Morris (president BI Chamber of Commerce), Ana Svoboda (secretary CANATUTH-BI)
Answering accusations of police corruption Carias explained that in the last seven months eight Bay Islands' policemen were fired due to different disciplinary reasons. "This is not just a job for a judge or police. This is a job for the whole community," said Carias, giving out his number for emergencies: 992-2060.
According to Carias the police have no capability to easily share information of someone's criminal record between different parts of the country. The lack of understanding of the Honduran laws, and criminal investigation procedures complicates the matters even further.
The bottleneck of denouncements is only getting longer. According to Claudia Obando, Roatan prosecutor, of the 246 denouncements filed with the Roatan Fiscal in the past four months, 36 were investigated and 11 of these ended up in prosecution.
Many people see the revolving door reality for Honduran criminals as a result of poorly designed justice system, corruption, overloading the system with cases, lack of funds for the police, prosecution and undeveloped penal facilities. "This is a justice system for a different country than ours," said Mejia, chief of Roatan's Tourist police.

 

Teaching Teachers English

Bay Islands bilingual instructional program for grade school teachers aims to preserve English, but forgets Guanaja and Utila

Every Saturday 86 students from across Roatan meet at the Jose Santos Guardiola high school to train in becoming bilingual grade school teachers. They participate in national bilingual intercultural program that hopes to help in preservation and education of Honduras' local languages.
Six professors coordinated by Prof. Walter Watler teach the 86 future Roatan bilingual teachers. Each professor, teaching on average two courses, receives a Lps. 7,000 fee for teaching one five month course. Student's textbooks, teacher's salaries and coordination expenses are funded by World Bank, but in 2007 the program is expected to pass onto the government of Finland funding.
The future bilingual educators are expected to have the ability to teach any course in Spanish, or English to children in grades kinder through six. Some of the participants have taught Roatan youth without a certificate in the past and see the course as an opportunity to get credentials. At the end of the four year course, in 2007, the graduates of the program will receive a nationally recognized primary school teacher's certificate. After another two years of coursework the students can receive a teaching certificate as bilingual high school teachers.
Since the beginning of the program in 2003, Roatan Municipal has offered 25 Lps. 2,500 and Lps. 3,000 scholarships for students who are willing to teach at public schools across the Municipal.
One of the 38 Roatan Municipal students enrolled in the program, and one of only three men, is Byron Emile Brooks, 19, from Gravels Bay. "The women are more intelligent in our community," said Brooks, explaining the relatively little participation of men in the program. Brooks has been in the teachers program since March 2005 and receives a Lps. 3,000 scholarship in exchange for five days a week of teaching grades three through six at Flowers Bay Arnald Auld grade school.

Edwin Whittaker takes a general education exam at Jose Santos Guardiola School
Not so lucky are Roatan's Garifuna teachers who have to travel to San Pedro, to receive the bilingual Garifuna certificate. Another group missing out on the education opportunity is aspiring teachers from Utila and Guanaja. Roatan has no participants of English language teachers from the two smaller department's islands.
According to Linda Powery, a Guanaja schoolteacher with four years teaching experience, Santiana books publishing company offers a three weeks course for local teachers to develop their English teaching skills. Still Guanaja and Utila teachers wishing to expand their credentials and receive a Honduran teachers certificate have to travel long distance, to receive their accreditation.

Confessions of a Robber

Bay Islands Voice has reported numerous times on the crime in the Bay Islands. We talked to the victims, police, jurists, politicians, but the one on one perspective we haven't presented was the criminal's.
Bay Islands Voice was able to locate a career house robber and conduct a series of interviews. We were not interested in him in particular, but in the phenomenon that has been growing on Roatan and has plagued mainland Honduras for decades: armed house robberies.
What motivates someone to pursue this? How did they became involved in house robberies and what methods did they use to scope out and rob houses? What did they see on Roatan and what made their robberies most difficult? These questions are best posed not to police, but to the perpetrator himself.
We interview an eloquent, young man in his mid-twenties. Carlos (an assumed name) was neither ashamed, nor proud of his heists. He spent several years in prison in La Ceiba and had tattoos and scars to show for it. He was a member of the Mara Salvatrucha and majority of his operations took place in La Ceiba.
At 14 years old Carlos ended up in a youth detention center here he says he was bullied into joining the mara. "They beat me up until finally I decided to join." It was a way of survival and belonging to a group.
A few years later Carlos was convicted of an assault with a deadly weapon in which he lost several fingers, and was scarred on his hands and arms. He ended up in La Ceiba's notorious El Porvenir prison on a five year sentence. "They told me. 'Don't worry about it. The one finger you need to fire a gun, you still have." Carlos survived the April, 2003 gang clashes and fire where 66 inmates and three visitors were killed.
Some ex-mareros come to Roatan to escape the scrutiny of their bosses. Carlos was one of them, but while on Roatan he went back to what he knew best- armed robbery.

B.I.V.: Why do you rob houses?
C.M.: The biggest motivation is crack. I want to rob wherever and whomever to get drugs. The motivation is that many people are hungry, poor. They can't find work and have two, three children. (…) Sometime the professional will get together with the drug addict to do a robbery.
B.I.V.: How do you conduct a robbery?
C.M.: We use wire cutters to break through metal fences. We go through glass windows. We observe the house to see how many people live in a house. How many left a house. We rather go there when no one is there, or they are sleeping. When they come back home the house is empty. We find one big truck and get everything out of the house: refrigerators, TVs, computers. The truck is for someone allied with us. We call them up and for the use of the truck we give them some of the items.
B.I.V.: What do you do about dogs?
C.M.:
We come sometime one hour before to give a dog some [poisoned] bread, or meat. In 25 minutes they die. If the dog is inside the house, we manage the door open so the dog leaves the house. (…) The dog that we respect the most to protect a house is pit-bull.
B.I.V.: What about houses that have alarms?

C.M.: We try to find out if there are dogs, alarms, video cameras. We sometime spend three days looking at a house. We cut telephone cable, any cable we can find, before entering a house so no one can call police and we leave someone outside to watch. (…) [A lookout will] throw a rock on top of the roof if they see a car, or someone. (…) If we find people, they need to subordinate themselves. We wear masks so no one can see our faces. Some people are more brutal, we are not. 'Good evening. Excuse us, but this is an assault,' [we say]. If someone doesn't want to stop shouting, we tie them up, cover their mouths and blindfold them. [Sometimes] we are obliged to kill them.
B.I.V.: What about personal items?
C.M.:
We don't take personal items like photographs, IDs, passports, nothing of the sort. What interests us [most] are firearms and cash and drugs if we find them.
B.I.V.: What is the difference between security of homes and the attitude of the people in La Ceiba and Roatan?
C.M.:
In La Ceiba the people are more aware. They know when they see someone who doesn't belong on their street. (…) People here have more money and don't take their money to the bank and keep it in their houses. (…) Here people like to go out. That is why around Christmas and Holy Week, when people leave their houses more, is a good time for us.
B.I.V.: Are there robbers from Roatan?
C.M.:
There are people from here that rob. Especially young people- those who smoke crack.
B.I.V.: How do robbers from the coast see Roatan?
C.M.:
There is more work here. It's easier [here] and there's more money. (...) Some people are established here and contact people on the coast to come and do a job. Some people work for people with money here. They know how things are, how many guns they have. Then they contact people on the coast who come here for one, two days to do a job.
B.I.V.: Does the taking of ID numbers on the ferry, or at the airport make it more difficult for you?
C.M.:
Even if they take my ID number, I'm not nervous. They still have to look-up everyone [criminal record] one-by-one, and they don't do it.
B.I.V.: Can someone decide to leave the lifestyle of robbery? How can they do it?
C.M.:
If someone shoots him, breaks his both legs, arms, if that person becomes disabled, they stop. (…) Another way is if one enters someone's house and gets enough money that they decide is enough. He can buy a car, start a small store. [That is] if they can find an alternative to getting money by robbing.

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Legendary West End bar changes hands

Twisting a Toucan

Tanya Clemenson, from England and Danielle Gentilcore, from Florida were the founders of what is possibly the most recognized business name in Bay Islands- Twisted Toucan bar. While Mayan Princess, Fantasy Island and AKR all have marketing departments and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing budget to advertise their name, Twisted Toucan became a Mecca for backpackers and tourists throughout Central America by word-of-mouth. No need for Twisted Toucan to ad "world famous" in front of their name. They already are.

While dancing on the bar, Danielle serves free shots of alcohol to customers

It all begun in 1997 when Tanya and Denielle met while working at a bar in West Bay and decided to gather all their savings, the entire $500, and launch their own bar in West End. They subleased a space where Toni's Pizza used to be, decided to name their bar Twisted Toucan and the rest is history.

The first three years were tough as the two young women had to make known that not everything goes. "The men eventually learned that they can't do anything they want just because we were female," said Gentilcore.
In 2000 Twisted Toucan moved 200 feet north, to a more ample space by an old almond tree owned by Jewel Stanley. The business boomed and the two owners prospered until a personal conflict escalated and Tanya decided to leave Roatan. In 2002 Danielle bought out the other half of the bar from Tanya, who went on to start her own bar in Copan- Twisted Tanya's.

The Twisted's employees often became friends and the bar was able to retain employees over the years. Jason Peter Collins is currently the establishment's manager, while Dora Smith, Carlos Funes and Jenny Bodden tend to the bar. Carla Romero keeps the space clean. Not a simple matter as hundreds of gallons of alcohol has been spilled on every inch of the wooden 30 by 30 foot purple and brown structure.
Tee-shirts, stickers, murals, and business cards line every square inch of the bar's walls. Yet the true value of Twisted Toucan lies not in its real estate, or walls, but in the people that kept it pumping for eight years.
A dive tank bell was replaced by a brass boat bell rung whenever someone tips a bartender, or just for the heck-of-it. "The most fun we had been in the last three years for Halloween, Christmas, basically every weekend," said Gentilcore.
Over the years, the bar became known for its wild, sexy barkeeps that would climb onto the bar and pour free drinks into the open mouths of their customers. "We give clients attention and that's what makes the difference," says Gentilcore. In fact, Twisted Toucan was so successful that Genticore says few other bars managed to provide competition. "They all eventually ended closing down."
In December, Matt Powell, an American from Tennessee is expected to take over the ownership of the bar. While waiting for all necessary documents of the bar and beginning to build four apartments in West End, this ex-housing authority official, decided that he needed to find something to fill his time. "My goal is not to change anything in this high energy, youth oriented bar," said Powell.

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Read past issues of
Bay Islands VOICE

No. 4
May 8
2003

Vol2 No. 2
Jan.29
2004

Vol2 No. 3
Feb.12
2004

   

Vol3 No. 12
November
2005