story / editorial
been a busy year for the Bay Islands. The pace of events, development,
migtration and everything else seemed to have sped up.
took a long time for Roatanians to accept Arsenal
as 'their team.' 2006 was a breakthrough season
in this transition. The Arsenal tee shirts and taunts
at bad calls by referees have become almost standard.
In December 2006 Arsenal stood at wining one of
the season's two classifying tournaments "La
Apertura." The team came a heartbeat away from
winning the trophy against the other much more experienced
finalists- Deportes Savio. Arsenal almost won, almost.
Well, there is still the tournament of the 'La Clausura'
in the summer.
Baseball Championship- Almost
an unfulfilled dream, Bay Islands- considered one of
four Honduran baseball divisions, never hosted a national
championship and never won it- not in 12 years since
it joined FEHBA (Federacion Hondureña de Baseball
Afficionado). As island baseballers complained about
bad referees at mainland tournaments, things almost
looked like 2006 could be different. For a while it
seemed that in September entire Honduras baseball community
would finally come to Roatan for a championship tournament.
Unfortunately in the months preceding the deal, it fell
through-due to a money matter. Like many times before,
Roatan's champions, this time the Kool and the Gang
, disintegrated on a field in Tegucigalpa.
Utila and Guanaja have their usual middle of the night
dark landings and few people even bother to wake up
to witness the event. On Roatan things are a bit different.
When a tourist police took a stroll around his Coxen
Hole tourist police station, he was buzzed by a plane
landing on an unlit runway. With a fellow officer, he
rode on a motorcycle to investigate and asked airport
security if a plane had landed. The security said 'No,'
and the police looked anyway and the rest is history.
Two tons of cocaine in a stripped down and filled to
the brim plane became national news overnight.
Ambitions for creating a Freeport out of the Bay Islands
have been here for a while. It was 2006 that all the
stars aligned and all the political powerhouses agreed
and the plan was pushed full force from proposal to
committees, congress and the president. After many back
and forth changes, the document was voted in by congress
and in December signed by the President. Fast track
Land invasions and land conflicts run deep in Bay Island
history. 2006 provided a historical case where, after
several court rulings, a family accused of illegally
occupying a 27 acre Dixon Cove property was forced to
leave. After a legal and entrenched battle of attrition,
police moved in the early hours of the morning and after
four hours dismantled structures where the family lived
for 16 years.
Month by Month
new Bay Island mayors and a new congressman start their
terms. Utilans re-elect their mayor.
years of resisting a family of 13 is evicted from a land
Dixon Cove land
Caribbean and President Zelaya sign a 30 year lease of
a Coxen Hole cruise ship dock.
destroyer USS Stout comes to Roatan port on a publicity
roads and business are shut down as Protestors confront
12,000 people attend Roatan Internationa Shrimp Festival
Cuban refugees land on a Roatan Beach
throws a Carnival
September: Years biggest fire destroys 15 houses in La
Loma district of French Harbour
Congress Session takes place on Roatan
Mael Zelaya signs Freeport Law
Anything can happen in Palmetto Bay and usually does: from visits
of Hollywood stars like Richard Gere, to reality shows like
Temptation Island, to Columbians vs. Americans boat chases.
2006, again, brought a bit of everything to this usually laid
back location. With the news of Honduras looking the other way,
as 350 Cubans made a landfall to pursue their journey to US,
more and more 'balseros' braved the voyage south. 40 days into
the hurricane season a welded metal boat, a blue tarp for a
sail, an eight horse power engine and a Russian surplus compass
drifted into Palmetto Bay. After a week on the island and much
immigration shuffles, the 16 refugees- 12 men, 3 women, a 16-year-old
boy and an 11-year-old girl, continued on their way to Guatemala,
Mexico and US.
Roatan looked a bit like Woodstock as thousands of islanders
took to the streets to protest their high energy costs. There
was even country music, courtesy of the patronatos, blasted
from rigged-up speakers in front of the RECO gate. The merry
atmosphere took a turn for the worse when protesters began burning
tires and confronting American realtors trying to go about their
business. Protesters got their way and fuel surcharge was reduced.
(PHOTO: Protester's barricade in Brick Bay)
Way, Development Ahead
Building of condos and houses on Roatan and parts of Utila has
moved into full speed. As a result, within the next two years
Roatan will be getting 500 condos priced between $130,000 and
$900,000. Take your pick. Alongside housing, a whole array of
businesses are being developed: mid income housing, malls, storage
places, movie theaters, stores, you name it.
It was musical chair night as Blue party politicians took over
Municipal offices in Santos Guardiola and Guanaja. Utilans reelected
their Mayor and Roatanians voted red to give a congress seat
to a liberal party candidate. The Bay Island Congress seat,
like for the last eight years, matched the color of the presidency.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
vs. Iraq Or,
what happens when you find yourself fighting for your life
in a country whose name you can't pronounce
the first Iraq war in 1991 the percentage of women representatives
in Iraqi parliament was greater that in the US congress.
Today, after the second Iraq war, women are being covered-up
as Muslim fundamentalism takes hold of Iraqi reality. Welcome
to US imposed democracy- it will bite you back when you
least expect it.
Unlike what America would like to think, democracy is not
a top priority for all peoples around the world. In Iraq
for example the priorities are: Muslim faith, family ties,
tribal loyalty, pride, security and just maybe then
democracy. You can't force someone to take democracy while
depriving them of other priorities.
What looks like more and more like a realistic option is
scrapping "democracy at all costs plan" and bringing
in an Iraqi strongman to halt the violence with an iron
fist. Saddam Hussein is still available and probably willing.
I doubt he would be asked, but the fact is Iraqis might
have hated their dictator, but he was at least one of them.
Nobody wants a foreign oppressor.
Almost all Middle East leaders are dictators, but at least
their countries are kept under control. Saddam Hussein as
a leader was no more ruthless then Libya's Khadaffi, Syria's
Assad, or Tunisia's Ben Ali. As long as these dictators
are satisfied with oppressing small portions of their own
populations, this has been just fine with US.
Today's America, an out of equilibrium superpower, lacks
self restraint and its moral standing in the world has greatly
eroded. The US military personnel in Iraq is confused about
their purpose, which changed twice, and is desperately trying
to justify their risking their lives. US soldiers need to
believe in something and the one sacre santum remains the
president and the good will of its government.
For the last three years Americans found themselves dying
for reasons they don't understand in a country whose name
they can't pronounce. GIs and their families are in denial
and America will for generations have to deal and recover
from the trauma of the second Iraq war. In December 2006
there were 140,000 US troops are in Iraq and President Bush
is resolute to bring another 50,000 into the quagmire.
As US has spent more time in Iraq than it did in World War
II and World War I, a comparison with Vietnam becomes more
and more appropriate. In that comparison Vietnam begins
to look like a 'bearable' conflict. Here is why.
The US troops, journalists and volunteers are at risk anywhere
outside US military bases. In Vietnam, from 1955 to 1975,
66 journalists lost their lives. In Iraq, in only three
years, 78 journalists were killed.
In the 1959-1973 Vietnam conflict US had as many as 300,000
troops there. 58,209 American soldiers died there and for
every dead there were three wounded. In Iraq the number
of dead US soldiers stands at 2,932 with 22,032 wounded-
a ratio of 7.5 wounded per every dead. There were 247 UK
and coalition soldiers killed and if you include in these
statistics the killing of 647 US contractors working in
Iraq, whose work in Vietnam were carried out by US military,
that number goes up to 3,826 killed.
The only reason why more Americans don't die in the Iraq
conflict are the advances in medical sciences and efficient
helicopter med evacs that have allowed people who would
typically be dead in Vietnam, to live, no matter how horrific
Ironically the war is not all bad. There have been several
positive events that the Iraq war has created. America and
the world have become more educated about the dangers of
militant Islam, world terrorism, and have been taught a
lesson that simplistic answers to complex political situations
The oil price crisis that resulted from the war has woken
America from a 30-year malaise and already begun to stimulate
American ingenuity in coming out of its addiction to oil.
The US energy and automobile industry has begun a process
of transformation, only due to high oil prices.
story / editorial
/ local news
to the Free Zone by Thomas Tomczyk
President Visits Roatan, signs ZOLITUR law
the first brick at Coxen Hole cruise ship dock: Mayor Jackson,
president of Congress Micheleti, Congressman Hynds, John Tercek-
Royar Caribbean VP, President Zelaya, Minister of Torism Ricardo
Martinez, Michael Ronan- Royal Caribbean VP. (PHOTO: Averyl Muller)
in Teggucigalpa, COHEP (Honduran Council of Private Enterprise),
presided by Mario Canahuati, declared that the free zone strategy
is an excellent alternative for development and should be extended
to all 18 departments in the country. Bridge and Garbage dump for
Ricardo Martinez, Tourism Minister, traveled to Oak Ridge to inaugurate
a Pandy Town bridge and lay a foundation stone for the Santos Guardiola
garbage dump. The Lps. 32 million sanitation project is located
on a six acre SG Municipal owned site in Diamond Rock. "We
are working on similar projects on Guanaja and Utila," said
Mel Zelaya and Michael Ronan, Royal Caribbean Regional Vice president
broke ground at the Coxen Hole cruise ship dock on December 13. After
a delay in getting SERNA environmental permits and Phase I of the
project, work on the $15 million project has begun. The work will
begin with filling in the ground for the site, building shops, restaurants
and a reception center.
One of RC Dock
"This was a hardship not to have even bathroom infrastructure
at the cruise ship dock," said congressman Jerry Hynds. "Its
not an easy job to transfer something owned by the government into
Phase II, costing another $15 million, will include construction of
a second pier and expansion of reception center for tourists and Roatan
residents. Ronan announced Celebrity's Cruises Voyager to begin its
bi-weekly visit to Roatan starting in 2008.
F Few other times Bay Islanders sang the Honduran national anthem
as loud and committed as on December 13, when ZOLITUR (Bay Islands
Tourist Freezone) law was signed by president Zelaya. "I've never
heard Roatanians sing the anthem so enthusiastically," said Roberto
Micheleti, president of Congress. Even the officials who didn't know
the anthem's words tried to do the best job they could lip singing
It was a double duty as Zelaya took part in the ground braking ceremony
for phase I of the Royal Caribbean Coxen Hole cruise ship dock, then
traveled to Coral Cay to sign Bay Islands Free Zone Law (ZOLITUR)
that passed by Congress on November 28.
The president was given gifts: a plaque from pastor Joe Solomon, a
conch engraved lamp from Mayor Dale Jackson and half dozen commemorative
diplomas from island organizations. To honor the importance of the
day, Governor Arlie Thompson declared December 13, a day fee of work
in the department calendar.
"Finally someone came to the presidential house that made this
[Freeport] a reality. Please don't forget Guanaja like others done
in the past," said Guanaja's Mayor, Richard Hurlston.
The Shrimp Crisis- Again
dependency on the US shrimp market only complicates the Bay Islander
shrimp industry situation. With mainland Honduras sales still being
insignificant, the only licensed EU packing plant is in the south
of the country and shipping the product from the Atlantic is not
Europeans pay more for shrimp and they require a 'near perfect'
shrimp with its head still intact. A few packing plants attempted
to diversify and sell their product to Europe, but the switch requires
better quality shrimp and an expensive accreditation process of
a packing plant. One local fisherman did try to export shrimp to
Europe in 2006, but with around 70% of the shrimp being rejected
this ended up a losing proposition.
At Lps. 49 a gallon, the Honduran government official diesel price,
the fishermen are actually paying two Lempiras less than in 2005.
The abundance of the farmed shrimp has led to a drop in demand for
Another reason for the crisis is excessive competition dating back
to 2005, According to Dave Jones, director of APESCA, the 40-50
boat fishing licenses granted during the last year of the Maduro
presidency flooded the market. "Too many boats were competing
in too small of an area," said Jones. "We [APESCA] opposed
granting any new licenses."
Using between $500 and $750 of fuel a day the shrimp industry's
operating costs have skyrocketed in the past three years. A shrimp
boat that only fishes at night uses 200 gallons of fuel. If it also
works in the day time then that's another 100 gallons.
"For every pound of shrimp I caught I would need to spend one
gallon of fuel. With the fuel prices up and shrimp prices at Lps.
40-45 we can't make any money," says Jones. It is surprising
that anyone in Honduras is still even fishing for shrimp. With only
three out of 10 packing plants even buying fishing product. Waiting
for better times, some packing plants only buy enough product to
pay their electric bill and salaries of indispensable employees.
If the trend continues, and all signs point that it will, 2007 will
be another disastrous season for Bay Island Fishermen. The number
of loan defaults is likely to increase leading to bankruptcies,
unemployment and half the fleet not even leaving port..
Fuel costs, abundance of farmed shrimp, over fishing and inability
to develop new sales markets has made the 2006 shrimp season one
of the worst ones in History
current shrimp season is hurting Bay Islands businessmen particularly
hard. Out of the 56 registered shrimp boats, a third has not left
port and the crisis, affecting also packing plants, is likely to get
worse, before it will get better at all.
The 2006 shrimp crisis is affecting the entire eastern Caribbean.
As much as a third of Honduras, Nicaragua and Columbian shrimp boats
are standing idle. To avoid the high competition and high fuel prices
some Bay Island fishermen took their boats to San Andres and now fish
there. The situation isn't much better there either. Columbian fishing
banks, estimated to support 10-15 vessels now support 30 licensed
Shrimp crisis has hit US as well. A 70' shrimp boat that a few years
ago cost $300,000 can still be picked up for $50,000. It is a buyers
market and a few Bay Islanders have bought boats hoping for the shrimp
prices to go north.
APESCA estimates that 80% of boat owners have defaulted on their bank
loans. "We are paying one of the highest interests on business
loans in the country - 19 percent," said Steven Guillen, APESCA
secretary. APESCA officials believe the government needs to step in
and ease the financial stress that the fishermen are feeling. "We
need a two year grace period, 10% loans and 10 years to repay,"
says Dave Jones, president of APESCA.
in West Bay Text
by Tamy Emma Pepin
and municipality look for solutions to rainy season flooding
Bay used to be a natural marshland periodically flooded during the
rainy season and with a natural drainage to the sea through a small
estuary at the lowest lying point- the North portion of Foster Diaz's
property. Over time West Bay was subdivided into dozens of individual
lots with owners often filling their lots with red clay.
With the rainy season at full swing properties are flooded and owners
are running out of ideas as to where to put their water. "The
water is just being shuffled from one property to another," says
Murray Russ, owner of Captain Van's Rental in West Bay. The drainage
problem aggravates the mosquito breeding problem and possibility of
At the back of Paradise Beach Club, the view resembles a lake. "We've
been pumping to Henry Morgan but it's not working," said Nicole
Schneider, daughter and commercial manager of father-owned Paradise
Beach Club. West Bay land owners are currently responsible for their
individual draining and pumping system, sending the water wherever
they can, in most cases to Henry Morgan.
"The drain is clogged," said Ron Smith, vice-president of
the West Bay Community Association. The West Bay community is pointing
the finger towards Sea Vue owners James and Karma Howell, whose repeated
absence from the West Bay Community Association meetings has upset
many. When it rains the water mixed with the earth and come down from
of the Howell's property. It created a muddy flow which overflowed
onto the main road, clogged up the main road's ditch, and flooded
On Sunday, December 10, Mayor Dale Jackson issued a 48 hour order
for the Howells to clean up the drain, which they did not respect.
During the same day Mayor Jackson spent five hours with the West Bay
community. "We walked to every single property to evaluate everyone's
situation," said Smith.
Four days later, the Association met with Mayor Jackson at the municipal
to find a solution.West Bay association members agreed that the community
needs a south-north running gravity main pipe with smaller pipes connecting
to it along the existing beach access streets.
Inundated lot of Paradise Beach Club. Below: Plans for draining West
Diagram of proposed rainwater drainage system.
main pipe would then be pumped across to Henry Morgan owned vacant
lot and water would naturally follow its course to Foster's.
Pierro Di Bautista, owner of Henry Morgan, offered to pay for the
study of the new drainage system on condition that the community would
do its best to implement it. There were several studies made for draining
West Bay funded by Henry Morgan and PMAIB, but none were ever implemented.
Sea Vue owners were issued a 48 Municipal order to clear the clogged-up
drain. "We will make sure those who don't respect the new law
get reprehended," said Mayor Jackson. And things might get tougher
still as talk of imposing fines, revocations of building permits and
even demolishing were discussed.