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Presumed Guilty or, how to destroy a company in a weekend by Thomas Tomczyk

You don't need a hurricane to destroy Bay Islands infrastructure, damage businesses and threaten livelihoods. All that is needed is take a denunciations and an eager Fiscal convinced of a "crime in progress." Tropico Telephone and Internet (TTI), a company that took almost a decade to build, was taken down in a weekend.
Launched in 1997, this telephone and internet company had 1,400 telephone subscribers, but the bulk of its business was providing internet to Bay Islands and around 500 clients. TTI was only one of two internet providers on Roatan and an exclusive provider of internet to Utila and Cayos Cochinos. It provided internet to Municipals in La Ceiba, Utila, Roatan and phone service to La Ceiba police department.
For many Bay Islanders whether or not TTI committed any crimes in their telephone division is almost beside the point. They are concerned about the manner of which the government went after TTI, and if something similar could happen to them.
Even if TTI is found innocent of all charges, they are out of business anyway. In two days practically all their telecommunications equipment, infrastructure has been confiscated or damaged and their competitors are signing contracts with their disoriented customers.
The impact of the TTI shut down is hard to put in numbers and the ripple effect is hard to predict as the reputation of Bay Islands as a place to do business received a black eye. "I agree with the action, but I don't agree with how this was done," said Mitch Cummins, owner of Paradise Computers and a representative of Globalnet, competing with TTI ISP. "It raises concerns for companies like, or Globalnet, whether there is a due process."
TTI was accused of dumping illegal telephone traffic- reporting international calls as local and cutting out Hondutel from its share of the international phone call revenue. TTI has a Hondutel sub operator license, and became one of around 44 companies raided by Hondutel and fiscales in the last eight months. The results of the TTI raid had quite a different impact.
The police came into TTI's La Ceiba's offices on Saturday, January 6, during the company's annual shareholder's meeting. Charlie Powers, an American president of TTI with 25 years of managerial experience at IBM, was arrested. Powers declined to comment on the situation citing lawyer's advice.
Filling suspect's premises with dozens of heavily armed police, ripping of sockets from the walls, etc. was all standard procedure with dealing with the 'fly by night' Hondutel scammers. While it was a good show for mainland press, it quickly became obvious that the bust was different then others. The hell broke loose when well connected island businessmen cried foul and TTI asked for a Conotel, Hondutel's' controling body, ruling on the legality of the bust. It was not quite what Mauricio Chimirri, Hondutel's acting director expected.
According to Chimiri, the way TTI was shut down, was because of Honduras' criminal procedures, not because of Hondutel's wishes. "Unfortunately, the country's law don't allow for any company to take over operations of the facilities [of a raided company]," said Chimiri. In Honduran legal environment, the practice of taking over managing of raided companies could create suspicion on foul play and corruption. Hondutel would rather just shut everything down then run the risk of being accused of alternative motives.
According to Hondutel director, only with enterprises providing "primary needs" like energy, or water, the state would consider transferring management instead of straight forward shutting down and confiscations. There is no adjustment made based of geographical location of the area affected, or its economical impact on the area's economy.
According to Chimirri, of the closed down 44 pirate operations and were also ISP providers. "There were robbery of the state, we denounced them, and equipment was confiscated," said Chimirri.
After raids in La Ceiba, a chartered plane took Hondutel brass and fiscal against organized crime, Marcio Suniga Ernan, to Utila and Roatan where Hondutel raided more TTI offices and seized more equipment. Over the two days Hondutel employees went from site to site dismantling TTI's mostly ISP infrastructure.
"I called the Fiscal and asked if they could go a different way about it [shutting TTI down]," said Governor Arlie Thompson. "They said Fiscal explained that the dismantling of equipment meant to secure evidence of TTI committing crime."
The computer accounting files confiscated at the offices could prove TTI's guilt.. According to Jurgen Schaeffer, an independent sales man for TTI who was with the company from the beginning, the telecommunications equipment confiscated by Hondutel cannot be used as evidence as it has no pertinent information on calls made using Hondutel lines.
Hondutel's strategy was to act quickly, out of surprise, and take down as many key and valuable microwave transfer equipment as possible. They were able to confiscate TTI equipment in the French Harbour Yacht Club, Parrot Tree Plantation and Palmetto Bay.
Fiscal Suniga and Hondutel were taking advantage of a loop hole in the law allowing them to act without the judge's knowledge if a crime is in progress. The confiscated TTI equipment was to be used as evidence of the crime.
Gary Chamer, owner of Palmetto Bay Plantation never saw Hondutel coming. They signed in at the resort's gate and spent an-hour-and-a-half removing around $3,000 of telecommunications belonging not to TTI, but to Palmetto Bay. When Chamer realized what has happened, he drove to Hondutel office to take back his equipment. One of the several security guards hired by Hondutel pulled a gun and pointed it at Chamer. "This is not Nazi Germany. You don't invade someone's property and take their property away," said Chamer.
None of the Bay Islands politicians were informed of the raid and the action quickly rubbed Bay Islands businessmen the wrong way. "They came with three truck loads of heavily armed men, intimidated my guard and pushed through," said John Edward, owner of Parrot Tree Plantation.

Hondutel employee takes down TTI radio transmitter in Sandy Bay.
When Hondutel and police returned the following day to confiscate more TTI equipment, Edwards asked Hondutel representatives to produce a court order. They could not. "The illegality of how it was done was more important to me," said Edwards. "They could have come with one policeman, a fiscal and a warrant."
There was confusion whether Roatan Hondutel employees could continue the seizures of TTI's property without the presence of Fiscal, or judge signed documents. Roatan Hondutel director Mario Lopez confiscated equipment in Palmetto, before contacting Fiscal. The next day Lopez was informed that confiscation without the presence of the fiscal cannot take place.
Still, it wasn't Hondutel alone that was acting at full speed. According to Governor Thompson, he has first hand knowledge of TTI employees clearing Utila offices and several Roatan sites and 'hiding' electrical equipment right before arrival of Suniga and Chimirri.
To understand the motives of parties involved is not easy. Chimirri, for example, has a history of confrontational behavior, to say the least. A Honduran radio journalist Octavio Carvajal left the country after being physically attacked and threatened after Carvajal asked Chimurri some embarrassing questions about Hondutel's construction of a dam on the Lempa. "Chimirri reportedly grabbed Carvajal by the throat, threatened him and told him to shut up," reports Reporters Without Borders.
While Hondutel has problems with many of its licensed sub operators, the company is far from perfection itself. Its business practices have caused protests on Roatan and on the mainland. Anecdotes about Hondutel's incompetence, corruption and over billing abound. In one such incident in January, pastor Perry Elwin from French Harbour connected with Hondutel and within days received a bill for Lps. 1,500 for international phone calls. "I never even used the line yet," said Perry, who confronted Hondutel with the suspicious billing.
KEY INDUSTRIES- DO NOT DISRUPT
There are several key infrastructure and service industries vital to the everyday and long term prosperity of the Bay Islands. A disruption to the service they provide would, and does have a ripple effect on the entire archipelago.

1. Electricity (BELCO, UPCO, RECO)
2. Fuel Supply (Texaco, Perosun, Shell)
3. Telephone (Hondutel, Tigo, Claro)
4. Internet Service (TTI, Globalnet)
5. Maritime Transport (Galaxy, Utila Express, Utila Princess)

TTI customers could try to sue Hondutel for loss of income and destruction of property, but even if they win they might never get back on their feet. According to Felipe Danzilo, a Roatan lawyer, winning a case against a government entity like Hondutel is not impossible. "The lawyers appointed to defend them are [made through] political appointments and [the lawyers are] usually not very good," says Danzilo. "What is difficult is the collection of the money."
While Hondutel's Chimirri remains sure of TTI guilt, TTI remain silent "on advice of lawyers." The judge will get to decide, but even if TTI wins its court case, the company is unlikely to ever recover.
On January 13, after a week break, the confiscations resumed. This time Roatan Fiscal Rod Ochoa Reconco accompanied Hondutel employees. Again, according to Reconco, they seized TTI's property to be used as evidence of crime and possibly as an asset to be sold to cover the plaintiffs.
The strong case could be made for a more comprehensive approach to TTI. The wireless internet systems that were in place on towers though out Roatan, Utila and La Ceiba were worth many times more in place than in a warehouse in La Ceiba. Another company could have been asked to take over the management of the TTI's ISP branch of business and, if it came to that, Hondutel could ask for bids on TTI's entire ISP operation, not just for individual hardware Hondutel confiscated.
Something even more valuable then TTI equipment were its customers. As some of them gave-up on TTI a day after the raid, others were willing to give TTI a chance to respond and fight back. They waited in vain. "I was told that they would know something on Thursday and when they didn't, I signed with Globalnet," said Ariana Astorino, owner of West End Pura Vida resort. Astorino had to take her laptop to Paradise computers to send and receive e-mails confirming reservations. "We didn't loose any business. We just had to work more," she explained.
Others weren't so lucky as e-mails with reservations begun bouncing from hundreds of TTI internet subscribers. 200 TTI customers on Roatan and 150 Utila and 8 on Cayos Cochinos scrambled to find ways of receiving and sending e-mails, making international phone calls and in cases where TTI was also hosting their e-mail addresses, finding new ones and notifying their clients.Port Agency Agencia Naviera Del Caribe that coordinates the coming of a majority of cruise ships to Roatan was left without e-mail and resorted to sending faxes to communicate with cruise ships. In some cases cruise ships couldn't confirm their passenger's tours and individual travelers couldn't confirm their reservations at hotels. Cruise ship companies, airlines, tour operators, individual tourists and potential investors lost some degree of confidence in the professionalism and rule of law in the Honduras and Bay Islands.
The worse disruption to businesses took place on Utila where TTI was the exclusive provider, except for a dozen dial-up customers, of internet. To keep the island afloat and in business, Paradise Computers has placed nine VSat and HughesNet dishes on Utila. While all internet cafes on Utila shut down, on Roatan internet cafés offering Globalnet connections saw record numbers of customers spending hours and often coming twice a day to send and receive e-mails.
On their part TTI was doing no damage control, or trying to inform and reassure their customers. While TTI lawyers advised the company employees to stay off their cell phones and talk to no one, a sense of doom permeated their customer community who had no one else to listen to, but their competition. "Even if they were allowed to go back, it would take them four to six weeks to organize everything," explained Cummins.
TTI's competition provided a badly needed service to businesses dependant on reliable communication and tourism. "Now that TTI is shut down we can cover all of the island," said Victor Garcia, Globalnet representative on Roatan.
Some pronounced TTI dead on Monday morning and begun buying VSat and Hughes dishes, and setting up appointments for Globelnet connection. Still others were trying to stay optimistic while TTI representatives stayed silent. "We were with TTI from the beginning. Maybe they'll be back in a couple weeks," said Nicole Brady. Brady, a manager at Coral Cay and a TTI customer, had to send all her email in the morning at Paradise Computers in Coxen Hole and after 8pm, download e-mails from inbound cruise ships with lists of next day cruise ship passengers.
Palmetto Bay, like many businesses dependent on internet communications for the existence of their businesses, was forced to switch to other companies. Within a week of TTI disaster Navega, a giant Honduran ISP stepped in and Palmetto signed up for a $1,800 a month contract, a giant leap compared to their $230 TTI bill. "I don't want for the same to happen to investors a year from now," said Chamer who is considering organizing a class action suit on behalf of the affected businesses.
While the issue of TTI guilt hangs in the balance, a more key question surfaced during the crisis. What is the Honduran government's responsibility to peruse their grievances without hampering the livelihood and functioning of local governments, or vast number of businesses and citizens?
There are businesses that are vital to the functioning of communities. If, for example the government decided to shut down a local Bay Island power company, but they would place an oversight company in charge of the facilities. The question is why this was not done in case of TTI, an exclusive provide of internet, on the isolated Municipal of Utila.

Stranded ex-TTI customers fill the Paradise Computers internet café to check and send their emails.
While transport and communications services maybe less vital to the functioning of communities on the Honduras mainland, on the island archipelago these services are critical. No one has kept the Honduran government accountable to ensure that they understand this.
The Honduran way of justice is quite different from expectations of Bay Islands hundreds of foreign investors and residents. Expecting anything more than what took place is unrealistic. While asking is ok, it is unreasonable to expect the Honduran justice to follow a higher standard while in the Bay Islands.
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by Thomas Tomczyk
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In The Dark Again by Thomas Tomczyk

RECO's inability to deal with deadbeat customers cause a chain reaction that leaves Roatan without power

According to Bodden, it was too late in the evening to find anyone willing to "lend" RECO clean fuel. There was nothing to do, but wait for the sun to rise. In the morning two generators were taken apart, cleaned and finally "clean fuel" was borrowed locally.
While RECO should have at least 100,000 gallons of fuel in reserve at any time, by the end of January it has only 30,000 gallons, able to last around three days. Any weather complications, or supply problems would turn this situation into a crisis over a weekend, again. In fact, numerous hour long outages followed in January.
According to Bodden, RECO's biggest problem is having the cash to purchase fuel. Currently RECO has Lps. 27 million in uncollected bills. 5%-10% of this debt is owned by Roatan Municipality, 15% by the central government by unpaid subsidy, electric bills to school and medical facilities, and by far the greatest amount 75%-80%, is owed by individual RECO clients.
The uncollected RECO debt jumped by Lps. 12 million, when during May-September protests, patronatos discouraged individual clients from paying their bills. "We are prepared to match 50% of the debt of single consumers from May, June and July," said Bodden. Although RECO is making efforts to collect money from its low end consumers, a dozen of its individual clients owing tens of thousands of dollars, remain connected and not bothered. That could soon change. "Our biggest goal in 2007 is to collect 40%-50% of outstanding debt," said Bodden.
While the RECO general assembly in October chose a new board director, Evans McNab, it also voted on lifting the moratorium on disconnecting un-paying customers, regardless.
Fuel adjustment, so hotly disputed during the 2006 street protests, weren't raised for 14 months, from December 2005. "We are worse off then a year ago," said Bodden.
To keep-up with the 15% annual growth RECO needs to constantly purchase new generating capacity. While a newly purchased, rebuilt 2.2 Megawatt Wartsilla generator is waiting at Hybur and, according to Bodden, should be assembled by end of February, RECO is already eyeing another purchase for 2007- a 4.5 Megawatt Wartsilla worth around $1 million. Now if they only had the money.

On Sunday, December 7, an NFL playoff weekend, during a tourist season in it's prime, RECO had no reserves in their tanks and was running on 5,000 gallons of locally "borrowed" contaminated with salt water fuel. "Our supplier [Hondupetrol] had problems getting us fuel," said Clint Bodden, RECO's acting general manager. "We were running low on inventory and didn't have time to let the fuel settle to separate the water," said Bodden, who decided to let the generator's filters do the job of eliminating salt water.
It was a gamble and RECO lost. In fact the entire island, filled with tourist during the high season, lost. At 6pm two of the eight RECO generators, including a 2.2 Megawatt Wartsilla became contaminated and shut down. For the next 17 hours the entire island was left without electricity: refrigerators defrosted, people missed their NFL playoff games and evening church services were cancelled. "I threw away [refrigerated] fish and our community had no water," said Maritza Bustillo, a resident of Brick Bay, where an electric pump is the only source of fresh water.
The darkness also provided an opportunity for criminals. On a usually well lit dock in Dixon Cove an American was wounded by a shattered glass, as a burglar fired a revolver during a robbery. The suspect was apprehended by police.
Controlling the Clinic
While board has repaired floor in the Oak Ridge Clinic building remained closed in December and much of January
On November 30, 2006, nurse Carol Bloom has left Oak Ridge Community Clinic, the place where she worked and lived for nine years. "I've done nothing underhanded or wrong," says Bloom who raised 3,000 Santos Guardiola resident's signatures supporting her staying at the Oak Ridge Clinic.
While the dispute between several of the Clinic's board members and Bloom has been going on, the people who suffered most were the poorest community members depended on clinic's free services. Nurse Bloom offered a weekly diabetics clinic and these people were left to fend for themselves.
"We asked her to stay at the clinic, but move her apartment somewhere else," says Pastor Abbott, member of the board of directors and spiritual leader of the clinic. The demand wasn't feasible for Bloom who worked at the clinic for free and supported herself with a monthly $595 social security check. "It is impossible to get an apartment and live in Oak Ridge for this amount," said Bloom.
"There were animals at the clinic and that is against clinic's policies," said Pastor Abbott. Bloom did use part of the clinic as her home and had one cat and her living arrangements gave the board the grounds to ask Nurse Bloom to move out. "You can never trust anyone," Lila McNab, nurse Carol's best friend, when asked about the moral of the story.
It is unclear whether Bloom's residing at the clinic was a reason or an excuse for the board to ask her to leave. One possible reason is that the board of directors, while paying off the last portion of the clinics mortgage, wanted to determine the direction and the image of the clinic without nurse Bloom. "They wanted to control the clinic completely," says Glenda Laurence, a long time clinic employee.
Nurse Bloom was involved and operated the clinic since 1996, when it was launched as a free employee clinic for nearby Nick Guarino's Carnival Packing Plant. When the packing plant went bankrupt the clinic property was taken over by BANFA bank and the clinic continued to operate.
"The bank had no problem with keeping the clinic open as long as it was free," said Bloom. The only money collected from the patients was voluntary.
The board disputed whether donations of medications and equipment at the clinic were made to nurse Bloom, or the clinic. In November 2006, Coxen Hole judge ruled in Bloom's favor and Bloom donated all the medications to the Pandy Town Clinic and stored the clinic's equipment for future use.
The bitter end to nurse Carol's involvement in the clinic not only divided the community, but was traumatic to Carol herself. On the morning of December 12 she suffered a minor heart attack and was hospitalized for three days. "Her entire life was focused on the clinic," says about Bloom McNab.
Almost two months after Blooms left, tempers have finally come down. "We are not concerned about that anymore," said Pastor Rudolph Abbott, treasurer of the Oak Ridge Clinic. "The bickering is over," said Ben Rosenthal one of the clinic founders.
Nurse bloom took more then the medications and medical equipment, she took her fundraising supporters in the United States who sent as much as $27,000 a year for the clinic to operate. Her experience in gathering funds, professional expertise and full time commitment will be hard to replace.
Bloom already received offers of working at Pandy Town Clinic, another clinic soon to open in French Cay and was promised land for a new clinic in Oak Ridge by Roy Dilbert, a Pandy Town businessman.
While the board members plan to ask the government for a doctor practitioner and consider adding a nurse to help him, the plans and funding remain vague. Likely the clinic will no longer be free, but similarly structured to the nearby Polo Galindo and Pandy Town Clinics.
Fortunately for Santos Guardiolans at least one tradition started at the clinic is continued. The yearly, third in a row visit of eye specialist doctor took place as scheduled. On January 9 and 10, Dr. Darin Bowers and his team of ten volunteers treated over a dozen of patients removing their cataracts.
Communication Pirates

Honduras with its state monopoly faces a dilemmahow strictly to regulate its voip competitors

Hondutel's sub-operators infrastructure was to be limited only to the last few kilometers to a customer's home. The sub operators were not allowed to create their own national infrastructures and had to depend on Hondutel lines for their 'out of town calls.'
That was the theory. In practice some sub operators found ways of circumventing the system. A pirate phone company in Honduras may receive payment from an international wholesale carrier of IP telecommunications to terminate their phone calls in the country. Instead of 16 cents that Hondutel would charge them, the pirate company would charge only 12 cents. The calls are disguised and charged as national phone calls and Hondutel receives a payment of around 2 cents.
Honduras has one of the least inviting and 'open for business' attitudes in the Americas. For example Honduras has the highest Skype-Skype Out rate in Latin America of $0.364 per minute as compared, for example, to $0.021 per minute in Chile.
Part of the reason for the widespread telephone piracy in Honduras is the government's inflexibility to allow widespread availability of VoIP and competition with Hondutel's monopoly. Several efforts at privatizing Hondutel failed, primarily because of the exuberant price demanded by the state. "The restrictions on VoIP strangulate the country as no foreign business can operate here without efficient telephone connections and the only way to get that is through VoIP," said a Canadian businessman from Coxen Hole.
In 2004 in Honduras, according to International Telecommunication Union, there were twice as many cell phone subscribers then land line owners. Changes and shifts in Honduras from land lines to cell phones will not stop there. "By 2010, all voice traffic will be over IP networks," said Tom Evslin, chief executive officer of ITXC, the largest wholesale carrier of IP telephony traffic in the world.
Many Latin American countries concerned about the declining incomes of their state owned telephone companies have imposed restrictions on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)- the routing of voice conversations over the Internet, or made them completely illegal. While VoIP to VoIP phone calls are many times free, VoIP to land phone calls may have a cost that is paid by the VoIP user. With VoIP growing and customers switching to them from regular phones, a Honduran government tendency is to regulate VoIP as they did with regular phones.
In Honduras, until December 25, 2005, Hondutel's monopoly was diluted. Dozens of companies, including Tropico Telephone & Internet (TTI), applied and received a sub operator license allowing them to issue phone numbers and become a telephone provider to until then, a growing and discontent number of potential landline customers. Until then getting a phone number and a line required putting your name on a list and waiting sometimes months or even years.
The Don Quijote of Buenos Aires
Few people ever end up doing something they spent countless nights dreaming about. Ivan is doing just that, and doing that in the name of everyone. Traveling across continents on a motorcycle is everyone's dream, from a robber to a rich banker.
With long, blond hair and sad eyes Ivan is a traveling philosopher. He exemplifies this Don Quixote spirit that lives in all of us. Like the medieval hero he has impressed even Mexican robbers, who after a brief attempt to rob him started a conversation about how it is to travel on a motorcycle. The evening ended with the robbers inviting Ivan for a beer.
30-years-old Ivan studied law at University of Buenos Aires and was supposed to follow into his family's footsteps and become a lawyer. His grand father was a lawyer, his father and brother are lawyers, but Ivan wanted to be someone different.
In 2004 he flew with his Honda Trans Alp from Buenos Aires to Seattle. And rode it north to Alaska and then headed south through Canada, US and Mexico to Central America. Zigzagging south he supported himself by selling post cards, tee-shirts and taking photos of tourists. Ivan is not just a traveler, he has developed a philosophy of moving from place to place. We caught up with him in West End where he is taking a diver's instructor course.

Faith: I discovered having faith is trusting your road and your instincts. You don't know where you are going to end-up.
Where am I? Everyone wants to know where you are going to be in five years, in ten years. I fight with that. I think about that, but most important for me is where I am right now.
Where am I going? I don't know where I am going to end up and that makes my life more interesting.
Following your Instincts: I know if I follow my instincts and follow what I really want every day I know I will be OK.
Flexibility: Many times I would arrive at a place without a place to stay, money. Having desperate for getting something is not good. If you are flexible, you might get much better things.
Real Travel: If I did this with a lot of money, staying at big hotels and fancy restaurants, maybe I would never got to know one real person.
Learning: One of the best places you can get to in life is knowing that everything is going to teach you something. No matter how difficult that experience might be.
Contact: Someone left me a note on my website: 'never give-up because what you are doing is not your dream, it's a dream of millions of people and we can dream it a little bit with you doing it.'
Feeling: What if feel riding my motorcycle I can feel nowhere else. I connect with myself and… feel like a bird.
Suffering: Its impossible to have happiness without suffering. We need to suffer in order for us to really appreciate what we have.
Fundaments: I am building a really big, solid thing in my life. It is going to help me in raising a kid, in having a relationship.
Happiness: Happiness is constant suffering and constant reevaluating the things you have.
Positive Visualization: Best preparation I had was when before falling asleep I would visualize difficult moments and how I would go thru them. Best preparation was mental.
Prayer: When I pray I don't pray for things going right, I pray to learn about life.

Why Not? If you ask people what they would like to do they always tell these really great things. Why do they don't do it?
First Step: I am not so different from anyone else in the society. That difference is the first step I took. That step is the most difficult to take.
Father: I sat family all together and told them about the motorcycle trip to America I always dreamed of. My father said: 'OK. Let's go to eat because our food is getting cold.' Nobody believed me.
Doubt: You get many moments where you doubt yourself, but if you keep on going you find that things are falling into place.
Fear: The worst enemy in life is fear.
Loneliness: Loneliness and recognizing your fears and the ability to confront your fears is the key.
Self Sufficiency: Loneliness is the best and the worst thing in my trip. Testing loneliness is great, but I don't know if I really want to become self sufficient- to not need no one in my life.

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Social Security Comes to the Islands by Thomas Tomczyk

Social Benefits to Become Available to All Working Class Bay Islanders

IHSS made two studies before finally came to Bay Islands, but the reception of the program by the Roatan business community was luke warm. "Majority of businesses are doubting in the system," says Tejada, "they are slowly coming around." With lists of Roatan Municipal businesses in hand, social security officers on Roatan have begun going door to door explaining the benefits and obligations of the system to business owners.
In the program's medical portion, medical professionals enter bids to receive the IHSS contracts and Dr. Luis Euceda in Coxen Hole is currently the only doctor contracted to do the general practice consultations for the Bay Islands. Dr. Euceda also serves as a screener and directs patients to specialists in La Ceiba when necessary.
The role of the IHSS doctors is key as they determine eligibility of claims and assure the system is not abused. Consultations and medicines are available to patients free of charge, but typically 34 percent of the salary during the employee's medical leave is paid by the employer. The salary is capped at Lps. 4,800 and specialist doctors are available for consultation in La Ceiba.
The social security law was passed in Honduras in 1959, but only since 2002, with the pressure from World Bank, it has been extended beyond major urban areas of the country. In 2005, the social security system was offered to 600,000 people in Honduras. The World Bank requires the Social Security system to be available across Honduras before it releases any more loans. The Social Security makes no distinction between the nationality of the employee and foreigners. Regardless of their legal status, they are supposed to be covered by the system.

In mid January, 116 businesses and 1,400 employees joined the Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social (IHSS)- the Social Security system in the Bay Islands. All, but one of these businesses, Utila's UPCO, were based in Roatan Municipal. According to Santos Gabriel Tejada, Social Security Administrator on Roatan, eventually all businesses will have to join the IHSS program. With time, even independent workers, like taxi drivers, or small store owners, will be part of IHSS.
The Social Security program begun operations in the island department on December 1, 2006. The program already offers medical coverage of employees and will eventually extend to cover maternity leave, disability pensions, retirement pensions and death benefits to family. The program's retirement pension program is available to people under 50 and according to Tejada "people is special cases," who may have worked for qualified IHSS employers on the mainland.
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