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Counting the Souls By Thomas Tomczyk

 

Bay islanders comply with a census and face some hard questions

An the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day the taking of Bay Islands census begins. How many people live on Roatan and who are they?
On December 13, 2006, Bay Islands department received a presidential signature putting it on the path towards of a Freeport status. Some of the conditions for this were that the ZOLITUR commission write bylaws of the investment zone and conduct a census of its population. This was to be done within 120 days of publishing the ZOLITUR law in La Gazeta, Honduras' government publication. On January 28, the 120 day hourglass began its count. Still 106 days passed before anyone began the process of counting the archipelagos residents, let alone sending the bylaws for approval to many Tegucigalpa ministries and governing bodies.

The Technique
The CURLA, Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlantico, designed and administered the Roatan census. The over 100 census takers, who were divided into ten groups, 10-12 people each, went door to door counting each dwelling and person living there. The census takers were divided into four sub-groups, focusing on different types of dwellings: rural, business and urban. A chalk sign was written on the walls or door of each structure that was surveyed.
The census teams worked with the idea of Roatan Municipal having around 60,000 and 80,000 inhabitants and around 20,000 households. The groups worked every day, from 8 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 4 pm, allowing for some Santos Guardiola high school students working on the census to attend classes. "We want to give the students a chance to attend classes at 6pm," said Ing. Manuel Canelas, executive director of the project who teaches logistics at CURLA.
Since the census asked each participant about a household, some family members were shown on the census twice. If the mother, father and adult children answered the census at their respective place of work, then again at home a day later, the census takers would take the entire family several times. On the other hand, other families, living in the bush away from the beaten tracks were not canvassed.

The Census Takers
Twenty-four professors, staff and several students from CURLA University in La Ceiba worked side by side with around 100 Roatan surveyors. A dozen people entered data into a computer database and four field directors oversaw the entire process. "CURLA is guaranteeing the accuracy of the census data," said Julio Emilio Lino, regional coordinator for CURLA and Roatan census director.
The 11 day Roatan Municipal Census was an eye-opening experience for over a hundred surveyors and Roatanians alike. "I love asking them: 'Do you own a gun?' and they tell me: 'Yes, a bible,'" said Artina Forbes, 50, a schoolteacher from Coxen Hole. From the 180 or so people Forbes interviewed, three admitted to serving time in prison and four said that they owned a firearm.
While Forbes collected around 20 surveys a day, other surveyors topped at over 40. The census takers ranged from 16-year-old high school students to a 50-year-old teacher born in Santa Helena. The number of surveyors varied between 80 and 120, depending on a day. "The hardest thing is doing all that walking," said Forbes who looked at the work as an opportunity to "get more involved in social work as a teacher."

Roatan Municipal
The work paid for by Roatan Municipal was coordinated by Vice-Mayor Delcie Rosales, Logistics coordinator Carlos Santos and Environmental director Lidia Medina. On May 10, Roatan Municipal asked for help in funding the work in a Municipal meeting with some of the island's business owners. Governor Arlie Thompson and Vice- Mayor Delcie Rosales appealed for the assistance to the business community.
While several businesses volunteered some of their employees for the 10-day census, the Roatan Municipal and several businesses paid the census takers Lps. 200 per day, provided 150 daily lunches, water and four buses for transportation.
The cost of the census should be recuperated over time as each canvassed person will have to pay a one time Lps. 50 fee. With early estimates showing 50,000 souls canvassed, this should bring over $130,000 into Roatan Municipal coffers.
Some business owners who volunteered employees for the census raised issues of concern. "I need to be honest with my employees-who is going to have their information?" asked Andy Arcaya, American-Chilean owner of Inn of Last Resort, who ended up contributing Lps. 7,000 towards the census.

The Rumors
As people tried to figure out the implications of the census, rumors ran amuck.
There were people who abandoned their work place and even left the island afraid of consequences if their criminal records were revealed. "We had two people leave our workplace," said Delcie Rosales, owner of West End Rentals and a Roatan Vice-Mayor, who later found out that one of her workers had a rape charge on the mainland.
After a shaky first day of census taking in Flowers Bay, the ratio of people who refused to be canvassed settled at around 5%. The highest rate of people refusing to take part in the census took place in Coxen Hole's El Swampo. "It was also difficult in Flowers Bay, but not too bad in Los Fuertes," said Lino. The 15% refusal rate in one of the Roatan Municipal's poorest neighborhoods was triple that of the overall average.
One of the people who refused to be canvassed was Kevin Wesley, a boat captain and builder from West End. "I was working all day and I was tired. I told them that if they wanted to census me they would need to bring policemen," said Wesley.
According to Lino, the media exposure and megaphone announcements undertaken by patronatos helped in raising awareness of the goals of the census and in dispensing with misconceptions as to the goals of the census.

Confidentiality?
While the census was promoted and advertised as confidential, it was far from being so. The information gathered about each participant was to be limited access, but not confidential. The personal data gathered in the census-person's names, ID and passport numbers, fingerprints, gun ownership and criminal records-is planned to be distributed to each municipal, ZOLITUR, DGIC, Preventiva Police, Interpol and to be available to air and sea carriers.

Benefits
One of the most important goals of the census is to identify areas ZOLITUR can focus on for development. The census should provide a base for distribution of income for projects and show where those projects are most needed.
One of the more startling realizations of the census takers was the lack of sanitary facilities throughout the island. "We have areas, urban areas, where people don't even have latrines here. They do their business in bags," said Lino.
Another idea ZOLITUR is looking into is giving preference to locally available labor before bringing in workers from outside. At this point it is unclear if Bay Islands resident IDs, or Bay Islands census IDs would be issued. Still, the database will provide a snapshot of not only how many people live in each municipal, but who they are and what they could offer as far as skills.

Migration Control
The task of controlling migration to Bay Islands runs into a basic conundrum: the Honduran constitution guarantees all Hondurans freedom to move freely about the country and settle wherever they wish. The Bay Islands authorities cannot hamper access to the archipelago to any Honduran; they can only indirectly affect the attitude of potential migrants.
The ZOLITUR commission hopes that the database will in some form control the desire of mainlanders to come and move to the archipelago en mass. According to Governor Thompson, vice-president of ZOLITUR commission, a framework is being worked out to implement the security and control elements for coming and going to the Bay Islands. This framework is far from being complete, but a list of all canvassed people will become a database file available for cross reference at the points of entry to the islands.
Security
Each thumbprint taken during the census was to be scanned in and placed in a database. The information was to be available to Interpol, Honduran Preventiva and DGIC police, Municipal and transportation companies. "The island needs to fund a super efficient mechanism at security control," said Lino.
There is a lot of work to be done to just begin improving the security issue on the archipelago. For example, Hedman Alas Bus Company has for several years been following the technique of ID number verification to ensure security for their passengers. Sea and air travelers to the Bay Islands ID's are not cross checked before they are allowed to travel.
Two questions in the census focused on security issues: gun ownership and incarceration. According to Lino, only around 5%-6% of people admitted to owning firearms and around 3% disclosed their prior incarceration.
"One man told me he was a rapist, but he served his time," said Forbes about one of her interviews. Since the questionnaire was not using a blind method it is expected that only a small percentage of people admitted to owning a weapon or having been incarcerated. "If this was true Roatan would be one of the safest places to live," said Lino.

Utila, Gunaja, Santos Guardiola & what about Cayos Cochinos?
On Utila the census taking began on May 21, a week after Roatan. The Utila municipal used the same forms, designed by CURLA University, as used in the Roatan census. Michelle Fernandez, coordinator of the Utila census, spent several days on Roatan learning the technique of the data collection. The relative small size of the Utila municipal allowed 20 Utila survey takers, paid Lps. 400 a day, to go house to house and avoid the potential pitfall of also surveying people at their place of work.
Preliminary estimates show that the island's population might not be as big as the 2001 government census showed-7,607. According to Mayor Alton Cooper the Municipal, divided into two "aldeas" of Eastern Harbour and the Cays, should show around 3,500 and 4,000 people.
The census on Guanaja was expected to begin on May 28, and Santos Guardiola soon thereafter.

The Conclusions
The 11-day census covered almost the entire Roatan Municipal. According to Lino the experience in conducting the Roatan census will allow CURLA to make a better questionnaire for the remaining three municipals. The Santos Guardiola Municipal census should cost, according to Lino, around $20,000.
"We have gathered vital social and environmental statistics important to the island," said Lino. While there was a feeling that Bay Islands have had one of the more economically developed departments in the country, the census began exposing the high illiteracy rate and low education rates of the Bay Islanders. These ratios could be similar to the national average, rather than what some considered to be one of the more developed departments in the country.
An average Honduran receives 4.8 years of schooling. The average rates shown in the census could be little higher. The majority of people with college degrees on Roatan are either foreigners, or come as hired, technical and managerial help from Honduras' mainland. "All the people here have focused themselves on the economical sustenance," said Lino. "Few people focus on the environmental existence of the island."

Mayor Dale Jackson is interviewed for the census by Julio Emilio Lino, regional coordinator for CURLA and Roatan census director.
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Roatan Census 2007 by Thomas Tomczyk

Mr. Mayor,
So now that we know that the island has more guns than toilets what are we going to do about it?

HMMM......
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Waiting for Instructions

Roatan Customs has been in transition mode for the past five months. While businesses and individuals are frustrated by lack of flexibility and always-changing officials, the transition to custom's duty-free structure might take just as long.


The recent hard-line attitude of the Roatan customs officers came from their inexperience in dealing with situations in an international seaport and tourist destination and from not knowing the nature of the businesses clearing customs. "They didn't know everyone here like I did. They had to do everything by the book," says Larry McLaughlin, who was a Maduro presidency appointment and served as the Customs Chief for four-and-a-half years.
In Honduras customs and immigration work closely together; the appointments to customs offices are political and the immigration posts are not. A competent immigration appointment can stay through different political administrations.
With the expected entry of the department into the Freeport status, the changes at the customs offices are not over. According to Bu, the ZOLITUR commission has to submit the proposal of the bylaws affecting the customs for review and approval by the Armando Sarmiento, Honduran chief of customs. The back and forth process could take weeks if not longer; but without approved guidelines Roatan customs office will not change its procedures or fee structures. Everyone anxious to take advantage of their business' duty free import status will just have to wait.
Bu expects that the amount of paperwork associated with importing goods will stay the same while the amount of work for aduana will increase. "We will have to be more vigilant to look for those trying to abuse the system," said Bu.
There are currently 11 customs employees on Roatan, and the customs office on Guanaja, with two officers, was recently closed. There are four international shipping agents in the Bay Islands: Island Shipping, Naviera Hybur, Jackson Shipping and Caribbean. To handle the paperwork associated with importing high value goods, the island has five customs brokers. For the time being only a 'dispensa letter' will exclude an organization from bringing in goods tax free. The customs fees begin at 12% of the value of goods shipped and, depending on the type of goods and the recipient, go up to 15%, 27% and 37%.

Emiliana Colon Avila (secreatary with 15 years veteran), Gabriela Bu (Roatan Customs Administrador), Karla Lainez (Roatan Customs sub-adminstrator).
Gabriela Bu and Karla Lainez are two new faces at the Roatan customs, which has seen a lot of changes in the past five months. After Larry McLaughlin was replaced at his post in November 2006, Roatan customs saw four interim customs chiefs. None of them took the appropriate exams specific for Bay Islands, and none expected to stay there very long. This is about to change, as Roatan Customs Administrator Bu is qualified and expected to stay on the island for at least one year.
The last four months were a rude awakening to island businesses and individuals who ended up paying through their noses for items they used to import duty-free or at minimal costs. "I had to pay $1,100 duty on a set of solar batteries that cost me $3,000," said Karl Stanley, owner of Deep Water Submarine in West End. "A year ago I was told that Honduras supports solar energy and there are no duties for these items."
Even though boats in transit typically receive a waiver from customs fees, recently this policy seemed to have been ignored, resulting in the Honduran treasury receiving extra income. In one such case in April, Mola-Mola, a 35-foot German registered catamaran ended up paying $600 to get their $3,000 worth of boat parts. Mola-Mola was required to set up an RTN number in La Ceiba, pay for a broker and pay 12% duty on solar panels and compressor parts imported from the US during her three-month stay in Brick Bay and Honduras. "We actually ended up paying duty not only on the parts but also on the US sales taxes and shipping," said Ursula Becker, owner of the boat. This was in sharp contrast to the last time Becker imported boat engine parts to Roatan in 2005 and didn't have to pay any fees.
The Milton Bight Affair
A property marred in dispute is back for sale, while a 75-year-old American retiree flees from La Ceiba prison
The Milton Bight affair has had several more chapters rewritten when Don Davis, an American retiree from Roatan who was convicted of a 2004 murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison, fled a La Ceiba prison.
The entire conflict began in 1999 when Arnold Morris, an American investor, sold a 38-acre Milton Bight property to Davis. After having it surveyed, Davis realized the sale included only 35 acres and refused to continue payments on the property unless the sale price was adjusted. After several months Morris foreclosed on the property and eventually ended up controlling the property that he then sold to Tom Matulas.
Davis tried to get his money, around $250,000, back from Matulas. At one point Matulas had handwritten an agreement promising to pay Davis $250,000 from the first proceeds of the sale of the property.
The Canadian real estate couple of Matt and Margot Halliday were involved in selling the property as lots. Instead of paying Davis first, they decided to pay him at a later date. Davis was upset by this development but had little legal recourse at his disposal. The origin of the dispute between Davis and Morris spilled over to Matulas, his lawyer Roberto Bogran and the Hallidays.
In October 2004, Davis went over to the house of Matulas and shot him in the back of the head. Davis was then placed under house arrest awaiting trial, less than a mile from the Halliday's home. The real estate couple decided to remain off the island ever since and only periodically visit their real estate business here.
Sentenced to 20 years in prison in fall of 2006, Davis was transferred to a prison in La Ceiba. But while Roatan Preventiva Police managed to keep Davis from escaping from the island for two years, the La Ceiba prison authority couldn't do that for longer than a couple weeks. In October 2006, Davis faked a heart attack and was transferred under escort to a medical clinic outside the prison. Davis the fled the clinic and was not seen since. "Someone took money for this," Rubben Barrahona, Roatan Preventiva Chief, commented on the escape. DGIC and Preventiva are again looking for Davis.
During his house arrest Davis married a Pandy Town woman, but it is the Church of God pastor and builder Leonard Dilbert who is managing Davis' old house and adjacent property. According to Dilbert, Davis sold off these properties before being sent to La Ceiba. Matulas' lawyer and corporation partner Roberto Bogran is now in control and is trying to sell the Milton Bight property.
On top of the World

The 2007 Division II trophy belongs to Arsenal. Is division I next?

A week later the Coxen Hole stadium was filled beyond capacity. Around three thousand people were waiving Arsenal's red and white flags, blowing horns, drumming. There were screaming voices in the stands, behind the chain link fence, in the trees and in the hills surrounding the stadium. The crowd came ready for a win and they were taking nothing else.
Despite consistent pressure from Arsenal players, the first half went scoreless. Arsenal team wasn't able to put out its best 11- two of its best players, Chanel Forbes and Steven Martinez, were sitting the game out due to yellow and red cards. This made little difference as Angel Mejilla multiplied his efforts and after a corner kick it was Mejilla's header that put Arsenal ahead 1:0. It was minute five of the second half.
Cruz Azul didn't give up and 10 minutes later after a quick counter attack, Marco Tulio Diego placed a strong low shot right past Arsenal's goalkeeper. The score 1:1 matched the result from that a week before and set up a possible overtime.
The end came like a heart attack: quickly and mercilessly. The patient- Cruz Azul, was down and dead in under a minute. Barely a few moments after Angel Mejilla scored his second goal of the match the referee whistled the end. The entire stadium erupted and hundreds of fans spilled onto the playing field and fought for the "Arsenal Champion 2007" t-shirts. "Arsenal! Arsenal!" shouted hundreds of fans while Francisco Javier Martinez, president of II Division, gave a two-foot trophy to Arsenal players.
On May 27 Roatan faced Deportes Savio at Santa Rosa losing 1:0 in a tense game that had to be stopped twice due to fan behavior. On June 3 the final match deciding entry to Division I will be played at Roatan's Coxen Hole stadium.
Arsenal with their division II trophy
Tee-shirts waited six months, fans four years and the entire team worked hard for nine years to find itself at the doorstep of Division I. But, it wasn't always that joyful. Four months before, on December 23, 2007, Arsenal was within a heartbeat of winning the Apertura tournament. Sadly for the islanders, it was Santa Rosa's Deportes Savio who took the Christmas gift home.
In the 2007 clausura semifinals Deportes Savio was eliminated by Cruz Azul who faced Arsenal at home on May 13. In the first match at Santa Barbara, Arsenal's Georgie Wellcome scored the first match of the game. Cruz Azul's Henry Suazo was able to equalize, but that was about it. The Santa Barbara team was heading to Roatan with a tough task of trying to win in the islanders' backyard.
Sonar Map for Underwater Roatan
A 2d example of an underwater sonar map.

"The geography here is hard to survey because of the steepness. Especially the north side," says Karl Stanley, owner of Deep Water Submarine and coordinator of the project. At an Underwater Intervention Conference in New Orleans, Stanley met Jeff Snyder from Sea Vision Marine, who volunteered to do the mapping work at cost. While the cost of a similar mapping project would cost $70-$100,000, the work will be done here in seven days, leasing the equipment for $1,300 a day.
Reson 1340, an underwater acoustic sonar weighing 1,000 pounds and leased from Ashtead Technologies will be towed behind a boat. A two-beam sonar will scan the underwater terrain up to 3,000 feet down and to the side. "The closer you get to the surface the more accurate it gets," said Stanley, who plans to focus on the Sandy Bay-West End Marine Park.
While many of the Roatan dive sites have been schematically mapped already, the sonar mapping project should add accuracy and scope to the understanding of the Roatan underwater geography. "Most developed countries have maps like these of their coast already," says Stanley.
Three of the project's sponsors: Barefoot Cay will provide a boat to tow the sonar; Palmetto Bay Plantation and AKR will pay for some of the day surveys.

While the Bay Islands are getting an accurate picture of who lives where through the 2007 census, soon its underwater terrain should also be mapped in high resolution.
The Cayman Trough, also known as Bartlett Deep, runs just 20 miles north of the Bay Islands archipelago and descends to 7,686 meters (25,216 ft)- the deepest point in the Caribbean. The Cayman Trough forms the border between two tectonic plates, the Caribbean and North American, which has created Bonacca Ridge. Bay Islands are just the above-water peaks of this ridge.
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Making Trash Business our Business by Thomas Tomczyk

While the recycling of transparent plastics on Roatan begins with mixed results, other scrap-purchase opportunities remain untapped

Jacobo Eliazar Dubon, owner of RI, calculates the recycled product.

What makes things less feasible for recycling Roatan plastics is that INVEMA, a recycled materials purchaser from San Pedro Sula, buys the palleted and compacted plastic at Lps. 4 a pound regardless of whether it comes from the Bay Islands or mainland Honduras. Recicladora Isleña has been working with INVEMA since 2001, after switching from CORUMO International, another San Pedro Sula wholesaler of recycled products.
Dubon plans to move the compacting machine to Recicladora Isleña's other location in Spring Garden Two. "We want to build a structure for it," says Dubon. The machine is on loan from INVEMA. Every week Recicladora Isleña moves 40,000- 50,000 pounds of scrap materials on Gibraltar boat to Puerto Cortez and on to San Pedro Sula.
The one way that the recycling and environment protection system could work is through giving any plastic container a value high enough to be picked up by recyclers. These plastics could be assembled into pallets and either sold in San Pedro Sula or just put in the dump. According to Dubon, a compactor of non-transparent plastics costs around $30,000. Such an initial investment makes the undertaking unfeasible for Dubon's business. What is a feasible alternative is the purchase of a plastics chopper that would allow for the collection and removal of non-transparent plastics from around the island.
Another cost not often associated with failing to recycle plastic and glass containers is that they are never completely crushed and therefore contribute to filling out the garbage dump. While the dump was designed for 20 years, in part because of the hundreds of thousands of plastic containers, the dump will not last 10 years.
The recycling of transparent plastics is targeting only about 20% of all plastics brought to the island. If the means for collecting materials expanded to include non-transparent plastics, paper, cardboard and car chassis, the recycling industries could provide extra employment and reduce trash accumulating all over the coasts and roads of the island. Douglas Thorkelson, an American business owner on Roatan, is suggesting another alternative glass on the island that could be broken, tumbled and added as an aggregate to concrete and asphalt roads. "This is done all over the US," says Thorkelson.
There have also been grassroots efforts at trying to collect the plastics on Roatan. Most of them fail in making the collection effort economically beneficial to all parties involved. Barefoot Cay is in the process of working out a trash collection program in which local kids get reimbursed for their efforts. "We got the bags, we got the kids, we're ready to go," says John Kennedy, owner of Barefoot Cay.
One key element still not in place is the assistance of the Roatan Municipal, which is supposed to provide transport of the trash to the recycling point in Coxen Hole.

I While currently each 300 mL transparent bottle has a value of one penny, Roatan is not a place where anyone can make a living picking up pennies, not anymore. Each piece of plastic floating or resting on the island has a negative value: the island is worth less with it than without it. The trash on the island deflates property values, creates unsatisfied tour and dive experiences, to a loss of millions of dollars a year. And everyone loses: property owners, municipalities, tour operators, etc. One can see that for every plastic bottle removed the island gains a dollar value. Few people see this relationship clearly enough to make plastics removal economically feasible.
The one place that makes a business out of recycling is Recicladora Isleña (RI), locally known as Jacovo's. RI in Coxen Hole is abuzz with activity starting at 7:30 am every day. The family business that began 20 years ago supports seven people directly and 80 people indirectly who collect recyclable materials throughout the island.
At Roatan's only recycling place, half-dressed men move piles of metal pipe, bags of brass, stacks of old car batteries and heaps of aluminum cans. Half-ton engine blocks are lifted off trucks and onto a four-meter square scale. "I can earn between 300 and 500 lempiras here," says James Lucas Woods, a muscular, gray-haired man who works every few days at RI.
Recicladora Isleña works with sub-buyers in Oak Ridge, Los Fuertes, French Harbour and Mud Hole dump. Some sub-buyers will save some of their product to transport it and sell it for a more competitive price in La Ceiba. Still, Recicladora Isleña is the only wholesaler on the island, and anyone with a recyclable product can show up at its gate. Almost every afternoon around 2:30 pm, children as young as six begin forming a line to sell the transparent plastic bottles they have collected.
While prices of 300 mL soda is on average Lps. 12, or 33% higher than in San Pedro Sula, the cost of buying recycled plastics is the same. A recycler has to pick up 15 300 mL, or 8 two-liter bottles to get one pound. At the buy price of Lps. 2.5 per pound, each 300 mL bottle has a value of 17 centavos, or right under one US penny.
In the six-week period since the beginning of the project during Semana Santa, around 40 packets have been compressed and brought to Cerveceria's Hondureña center in Brick Bay.
"We had an understanding that Cerveceria would provide a transport of the pallets to the boat," says Jacobo Eliazar Dubon, owner of RI who had to lower his supplier purchase price from Lps. 3 a pound to Lps. 2.5. "We also had begun a conversation with Roatan Municipal for them to subsidize the electricity costs associated with compacting the bottles," said Dubon, who explains that an average of 15 energy-consuming, hydraulic press movements are needed to press the bottles into a cube. Each pallet weighs 400-450 pounds and contains over 6,000 transparent plastic bottles.

James Lucas Woods works attaches an engine block on a weighing platform
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