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The 10 Island Myths - Part III

As part of our annual effort to tackle the important issues of 'Island Myths' the 'Myth Buster' team of Bay Islands VOICE set out to find the 'truth.' Here is what we found out.

1. Who is the most famous person to visit Bay Islands? After Columbus, that is.
Bay Islands are attracting a steady and growing trickle of VIPs. As word of mouth spreads, Hollywood celebrities recommend a place where they can retain privacy. Bay Islands are still that place. Even politicians like Gianfranco Fini, ex-foreign minister of Italy and candidate for prime minister stayed for a week at Henry Morgan in January 2007. A few ego-driven local powerbrokers requested an audience, but were turned down. The 55-year-old politician preferred privacy. Guanaja has had Christopher Lambert coming to the island for over a decade. In 2006 Cayos Cochinos hosted Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. The most recognized star to visit Bay Islands was Richard Gere, with wife, mother in law and children. Gere escaped from Copan to the safety and privacy of Palmetto Bay Plantation. Probably a better, yet less appreciated actor, Michael Douglas, was less conspicuous and had a great time on the East Side of the island.

2. Do the plastic water bags really repel mosquitoes?
There is a voodoo tradition, now practiced all over Bay Islands, of hanging bags filled with water under ceiling of homes and buildings to repel mosquitoes and sand flies. The practice grew with the proliferation of plastics and plastic bags in particular. Some people believe that an insect will "scare" by seeing, through their semispherical eyes, their reflection in a rounded plastic bag. We beg to differ, not on the basis of optical illusion presented to the fly, but to the insects' ability to fear. Insects are simple creatures and for them to desire, love, hate or fear is a farfetched idea. At most places using this insect repelling method, the water bag mosquito repellents are small, dusty, barely filled with water bags. As the bag gets dusty, its optical ability to reflect a 360 degree view of the world to an ignorant fly, wears off. If the water filled bag stands any chance of scaring off insects, not people, the bags should be clean, big and nicely rounded with water, as to produce a lens effect. Good luck.
3. The most rusted car.
As oxidation levels vary month to month, this record taker could change next week, month, year. In the salty island air, supplemented by salty spray, oxidation eats away at Detroit and Toyota metal. With all the Toyota Prados around, there were dozens of discarded vehicles just gathering sea salt and the competition for the most rusted car this year was fierce. We discovered this semi-abandoned vehicle at the parking lot in front of the Galaxy Wave terminal.
4. Best place to look for 'flow' floats that are washing up on shore: Saint Helene, Crawfish Rock.
Dozens of people comb the beaches in a daily ritual , searching for the elusive elusive square Grouper. When the wind blows inshore, or when US Coast Guard is seen practicing maneuvers, the beach patrol increases exponentially. Some people build very nice homes with the money raised from the washed-up 'flow.' The activity of looking for washed up bricks of coke has brought a few fortunes and broke apart many families. (See John Steinbeck's novel, The Pearl.) In one incident, a boat with three Columbians was outmaneuvered by a US Coast Guard ship only to land on Roatan's north shore close to Crawfish Rock. The Columbians threw away their load and swam for the shore where they were welcomed with open arms. The Crawfish Rockers braved bullets to swim and gather the floating 'flow.' Bravery in the sights of opportunity is the name of the game. "They even erected a small but significant obelisk to honor the Columbians," an undisclosed source living around the area told us.
5. The Bonacca Cay is full. No more people allowed to settle.
Not exactly. Just because 6,148 people decided to call Bonacca Cay their home, it doesn't mean that you Mr. or Mrs. 6,149 are not welcome. The 300 by 500 meters cay, 0.15 square kilometers of real-estate has grown in leaps and bounds. The only piece of "public space" is the Bonacca basketball field. The new boat Bimini Breeze running between Guanaja and Roatan should relieve some pressure. To put things in perspective, on Hong Kong there are 6.9 million people, or 6,400 per square kilometer. The population density of Bonacca Cay is 41,000 people per square kilometer, highest in the Bay Islands, and six times more dense than Hong Kong.
6. Who is the biggest dog on the islands?
There is a fierce competition in this category. A 140 pound Brazilian Mastiff, and a scary looking Doberman-Rottweiler mix have also been spotted and could grow bigger. Still, the biggest Bay Islands dog bone goes to two-and-a-half year old Great Dane Pollux. The Brick Bay dog weighs 150 pounds, measures 37" tall to his back and, when standing on two legs, is over 6'3" tall. Pollux was bred in Guatemala and was brought in as a pet by Nicolai Winter, a late German owner of the Yacht Club. When Pollux's long stare and ever growing size began to intimidate the hotel's customers, Pollux was given to Enrique Goodman and Jenny Kendel. Now the Great Dane eats five pounds of kibbles a day and works on keeping his megamale status. Pollux, still a virgin but ready to date, still has plenty of room to grow and catch up to the world's heaviest dog, a 282 pound English Mastiff.
7. How come most of shoes washing up or Roatan shores are left shoes? Who ends up with all the right ones?
Could they come from one legged people? Are they meant only for one legged recipients? After closer analysis, 8 out of 10 pairs washing up on Roatan shores are left shoes. According to a PhD work of Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an American oceanographer, left shoes follow a different drift pattern then right shoes. When a container ship loses a cargo of Nike shoes, left pairs end up at different beaches, coasts and islands. Roatan, for that matter, seems to be on the path of left shoes. There has to be another island, possibly Cayman Islands, that the right shoes drift to.
8. Is Flowers Bay becoming the party capital of Bay Islands?
True. Alongside dozens of house parties, Flowers Bay bars and clubs start partying on Friday afternoon and don't stop till Sunday church services. With a night club every hundred feet, the road strip is the party center with more speakers than West End. The dominant clubs are: the venerable Hip-Hop Club, reserved Flowers Bay Community Center, up and coming Flowers Bay Beach & Culture AKA Beach Bar, laid back Breeze Bar, the happening Players Club. The transformation came gradually as the Flowers Bay road was paved in 2006. Now locals are holding their breath that the road won't wash away with the winter rains and leave them stranded and with no reason to party.
9. Americans are getting Helicopters?
In an attempt to think "outside the box", an idea of the American community having its own helicopter was proposed as the concept could eliminate the need for any road maintenance or road construction. The actual rumor went something like this: "In an attempt to circumvent the pitiful Roatan road situation, the US Embassy has decided to donate 10 old helicopters to Roatan's American citizens." Not. The rumor began after the visiting US ambassador and consul were asked point blank "any chance we could get a helicopter here for medivacs and such," by an anonymous West Bay resident. "No," said consul Brownee. For now at least, the only helicopters flying around Bay Islands belong, to the Honduran president, US air force holidaying on West Bay, Bill Pullham from Guanaja and a Medivac service owned by Chris Gachet.
10. And the most popular BI gadget award of 2007 goes to…
It's a tough call: Toyota Prado vs. Motorola Razr. If you have sold a few acres of land or helped make that sale happen, there is no better way to celebrate than to buy yourself a Toyota Prado. While the streets have gotten smoother, there are plenty of dirt roads the four-wheel-drive luxury vehicle can still be useful on. Despite Lexus, Mercedes and Hummers making their appearance, it is Toyota Prado that is the status standard. In 2006 and 2007, for everyone who couldn't afford a Prado, or any car for that matter, there are always status symbol cell phones. With prices ranging from four to fifteen thousand Lemps you can program them to ring in four languages. A dream for every West Bay night watchman.
Written and Illustrated by Thomas Tomczyk
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How Many people does it Take to Change 1 RECO Bulb by Thomas Tomczyk
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Dale in Trouble... Again

Whether it's Cuban migrants, allegations of extortion or permit denials, Mayor Jackson has been increasingly mired in scandals

In late October, charges of extortion and abuse of authority were filed against Roatan Mayor Dale Jackson by Janior Romero, owner of Piedras del Castillo, a concrete manufacturing and construction business from Honduran mainland. Romero has been trying to receive a Roatan Municipality operating permit for several months, but found himself in two uncomfortable meetings with Mayor Jackson.
According to Mr. Romero, in the first meeting Jackson asked for a contribution to the Municipality, and Romero offered a $1,000 a month contribution in the form of concrete materials. During the second meeting, tape recorded by Romero, Mayor Jackson demanded that the applicant construct a road project worth some $60,000. Romero suspects that the road construction would then be credited to Diamond Jack Construction Company, owned by Mayor Jackson. "Jackson owns the principal construction company and he tries to stifle competition while enriching himself with local building contracts," as told to La Tribuna by Romero.
Mayor Jackson argues that the requisites asked of Romero are authorized under ZOLITUR laws. "I only defend the interests of Roatan people," said Mayor Jackson to La Tribuna.
When Bay Islands Voice contacted Mayor Jackson for comment on Romero's charges, he threatened to revoke Bay Islands Voice operating permit. "Why are you writing about this? Leave this to the law," said Mayor Jackson, then asked if Bay Islands Voice has a Municipal operating permit, and if its publisher has his residency.
The accusations of extortion are one of several problems that Mayor Jackson has faced during his two year term. In March, Honduras' Immigration Chief Gernan Espinal accused Mayor Jackson, alongside other mayors, of participating in a network aiding in trafficking Cuban migrants. In December the Roatan Municipal government has been confronted by numerous complaints and demands for the removal of Manuel Serrano, the Municipal chief of personnel, supported by Jackson. Serrano is expected to leave his post as of January 1.

Developments of the story since January 6, 2008.

Following the print publication of the article Mayor Jackson turned his threats to intimidation. While Jackson never asked, nor received a follow-up story from La Tribuna, in a phone conversation on January 8, Mayor Jackson demanded that Bay Islands Voice write a retraction of the entire piece. "Everything in the article is a lie," said Mayor Jackson. "I am the most important person on Roatan."
On December 9, Jackson referred to Castle Rock writing a letter withdrawing its charges against him, but refused to make a copy of the letter available to Bay Islands Voice. "You are not even Honduran and you shouldn't write about Hondurans," told Voice's publisher Mayor Jackson, who admitted he only reads the bay Islands Voice magazine when alerted to a negative coverage to his persona. Jackson again stated he will not renew Bay Islands Voice's operating permit for 2008.
The harassment fallowed with Bay Islands immigration Chief Mario Pacheco calling Bay Islands Voice publisher at 8:30pm and demanding an immediate meeting. Pacheco refused to give reason for the demand and refused to talk to the legal representative of Bay Islands Voice. "The reason I want to see you is because I want to see you," said Pacheco.
Bay Islands Voice has contacted the US embassy in Tegucigalpa and US state Department regarding the threats and intimidation tactics used by Mayor Jackson and Pacheco. We will update our readers as this story develops.

Bearing gifts: During ZOLITUR inauguration Mayor Jackson offers a memorial plaque to President Zelaya.
From Roatan to Sundance
Gilligan's Island-Style Moviemaking comes to Roatan
After writing the script in the fall of 2006, Tom Parish spent August and September "keeping regular office hours" at West End's Sundowner bar where he scouted for talent and people interested in the project. In October Tom held a month-long workshop where actors worked on their roles, developed background stories for their roles and the crew polished their filming technique. During November the movie was shot and now it has entered a post production stage where scenes will be edited and music scores prepared to produce a final product. The island premiere of "Roatan Movie" is scheduled for June 2008.
Thirty five people involved in the "Roatan Movie" worked for food and love of the project. All people involved are signed up to receive a share in the potential profits the movie would bring and have a chance of being spotted by Hollywood scouts.
The 30 shooting days produced 26 hours of footage, and the 110 scenes will be edited in post production into what looks like a 110 minute movie. "It is a feature film and who knows how far it can go," says Tom Parrish who plans to market the movie to several distributors and submit the movie to three festivals: Seattle, Sundance and Toronto.
While the authorities in La Ceiba and Roatan let the film crew work undisturbed, it was the West End Marine Park that got involved and prevented a scene where a main character drives a scooter off a dock into Half Moon bay. Concern about spilling engine oil into the water created a need for a scene re-write and, according to Tom Parish, it all turned out for the best: "that scene would be just over-the-top."
The 12 movie locations took the crew all over Roatan and La Ceiba where they filmed on local buses, underwater, restaurants, catamarans, bars and beaches. "Seeing something that existed on a couple pages of a notebook a year earlier is incredible," says Jason Vickers, an actor in the movie, who moved to Roatan from Seattle just to be a part of the project.

First Feature Film Shot on the Bay Islands

First time ever, Roatan has become a venue of a feature movie: a dark action comedy about the misadventures of a rejected boyfriend and a dysfunctional American family vacationing on Roatan. Shot with two high-definition digital cameras, the movie was filmed in an improvisational style, with actors having general directions about the scene, but coming-up with their own dialogue.
The script for "Roatan Movie" was written as a "love project" by Tom and Pam Parrish, an American couple who moved to Roatan two years ago. Prior to embarking on the Roatan movie Tom Parrish had directed two short films and a 1999 feature drama, "The Last Game," staring Joey Travolta, John Travolta's older brother. As unconventional as it may seem, dozens of independent shoe-string budget movies have succeeded in attracting audiences and distributors and grossing big money. The 1999 independent horror film Blair Witch Project grossed $248 million.
Roatan has no shortage of aspiring movie actors, quirky personalities, great movie locations and a welcoming attitude to new projects and ideas. "From all the places I know this is the only one where this project could have happened," says Tom Parish. The technical crew had to buy or make their own technical equipment. Acting like TV's Gilligan Island crew, the film staff improvised and built lights, a soundboard and a dolly.
Busted, but Not For Long



Three kilos of cocaine were found and four people arrested in a Sandy Bay police raid on November 29. One of the cell phones of the four people detained had a phone number of a DGIC officer. Over the next two days three Roatan DGIC officers were arrested: Carlos Hernandez, Miguel Figueroa and Hernan Rodriguez. Two of these three served on the island for over three years.
According to Dennis Armiyo, chief of Bay Islands DGIC, the agents were initially charged with aiding and abetting drug traffickers. They were later released for lack of sufficient evidence and transferred out of Roatan to serve in DGIC departments on the coast. Currently, the typically eight member Bay Islands DGIC office works with a reduced staff of five agents: two investigators, one technician, one sub chief and one chief.
According to Fatima Ulloa, ex-chief of Bay Islands DGIC, Roatan is a particularly corrupting environment for a police officer. With the abundance of drugs and money, police are under constant pressure to look the other way while drug deals take place. According Ulloa, Bay Islands police are not rotated often enough. "There will be no solution if central authorities are unwilling to help and bring better people. Roatan deserves better." Ullao was the only English speaking DGIC officer on Roatan this decade.

Three Roatan DGIC police officers arrested for involvement in drug trafficking

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Still looking For a Winner

As President Zelaya dismisses a previously agreed-on RECO bid procedure, the process loses transparency

The offer for solicitation document did not offer a complete set of criteria and the evaluation commission had to actually interpret what the bid actually required. "Criteria was flawed or not well developed prior to the process," said George. One of the major dangers of selling the company to a bidder is the lack of evaluating their past commercial success. "The performance bond [of 15% RECO capital] is too small relative to the investment," said George, "anyone with access to financing of several million dollars can buy the company, but what then?" According to George, many bidders seemed not to understand the technical conditions of RECO and the financial offers were all over the page. A nine person committee composed of five ENEE representatives, and four Roatan representatives: Giovanni Silvestri (RECO board), Andres Cardona (BI Chamber of Commerce), Charles George (Chamber of Tourism) and Rosa Hendrix (Patonatos). "The process itself was very good, [but] a lot of people were counting on us to do something that was beyond the parameter of our role," said George.
While Giovanni Silvestri and Rosa Hendrix, members of the financial evaluation committee, refused to sign the document, the technical evaluation commission had chosen three companies with the highest point score: Punta Cana Macao, Kelcy Warren and Freddy Nasser's Terra Group. "the other two bidders were not considered valid options," said George.
The RECO board and many Roatanians in general are afraid the decision might choose a company with a poor management record and little will to invest in proper, long term development of the company's infrastructure and generating capacity. "There are sharks out there that will hike tariffs and achieve efficiency that way," said McNab. "Government can recommend [who will win the bid] but RECO assembly will decide."
Things are not so simple. ENEE holds the key portion of RECO debt and "ENEE can prosecute RECO for lack of debt payment and have it declared bankrupt," said Romeo Silvestri, president of CANATURH- BI. A showdown between ENEE and the private owners of RECO looks more and more likely. With the Christmas tourist season around the corner and the Semana Santa holiday spike coming in mid March, time is not on the side of the RECO customers or the company's board of directors.
According to George, RECO's monthly operating capital is around Lps. 28 million with a deficit of Lps. 7 million paid monthly by ENEE. The value of the company lies in its monopoly status and growth potential: an estimated 18% yearly growth for the next five years. That would mean a maximum demand of 22 Megawatts by 2012, with the need to have a 30 Megawatt capacity for reliability. Currently RECO has a peak capacity of 12.2 Megawatts, mostly coming from rental power units.

A RECO customer in front of the Los Fuertes generating plant

Naming "doubt and discrepancy in the evaluation process," President Zelaya has annulled the proscribed selection process, and named a new presidential commission to decide who will be awarded the purchase of a controlling share of RECO stock. "The transparency was lost," said Charles George, a member of the technical evaluation committee. "RECO became a political issue and then an economical issue," said Evans McNab, president of RECO board.
President Mel Zelaya, who was seen by some as a rescuer of people of Roatan for relieving them of the perceived "RECO board mismanagement," has taken the decision about RECO's future from Roatan to Tegucigalpa. On December 4, the president announced a six member presidential commission presided over by Aristides Mejia, minister of defense. No representative of RECO board was invited to the commission.
As the control of destiny of Roatan's most important company slipped out of islanders' hands, a sense of urgency permeated RECO board members and local politicians. On December 5 they sent out a letter asking President Zelaya that the fate of the 52% RECO stock be decided by RECO general assembly.
On December 11, a CANATURH meeting in French Harbour discussed the process of RECO bid award. In a rare, perhaps first, sign of unity, the president of patronatos and RECO board members actually agreed on an issue: supporting Kelcy Warren's bid for 52% RECO buy-out. "Kelcy Warren was the only one that came to us and let us know that we will be able to submit ideas to him," said Steven Guillen, a RECO board member.
As a bid prerequisite, all past due debt, owed mainly to ENEE and Banco Atlantida, had to be paid off outright. "ENEE wants to get paid and get out of there," said George. The way the bid was written, using nebulous terms as "adequate" and "apt", allowed for different interpretation of the bid requirements.

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