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The Islands of the Swan By Donald E. Keith

Bay Islands’ Sister Archipelago

Approach to Great Swan Island showing the U.S. Weather Service compound as it was in 1973

The Swan Islands, with their rocky shores, cliffs, sandy beaches, coral reefs, marine biota, and islanders like the late Spencer Bennett, hold a prominent place in the hearts of many individuals who have spent time there.
Consisting of a chain of three small islands--Great Swan, Little Swan, and Booby Cay-the Swan Islands are located in the northwestern Caribbean about 95 miles off the coast of mainland Honduras. Great Swan is just under two miles long and a little more than a half-mile wide with a maximum elevation of only about 68 feet. While Little Swan is only slightly smaller than Great Swan, Booby Cay is about the size of a football field and accessible at low tide by wading from Great Swan. Coral reefs fringe the margins of the islands with the best reef development occurring along the northern shores.
Though their name suggests it, no swans inhabit the islands. It is reported that Captain Swan was sent to the Caribbean by London merchants with a cargo to sell in 1680, but his ship was attacked by pirates. The story goes that he was forced to join the pirates and may have been one of the buccaneers who roamed the islands. The islands were originally called Islas de las Pozas by Columbus who visited them in 1502 but were renamed after Captain Swan.
I was first introduced to the Swan Islands in 1972 by one of my marine biology students who had been stationed on Great Swan with the U.S. Weather Service and who thought the islands would be a good place to take students to study marine biology. Intrigued, two other professors and I hopped a ride on the Cayman Airways DC-3 that made a bi-monthly trip from Grand Cayman to Great Swan to bring mail and supplies to the weather station personnel. After we touched down with hardly a bump and disembarked, the sea air was warm and aromatic but humid. A truck-load of islanders and the weather station operations chief greeted us and helped transport our gear to the barracks--a screened-in front porch with several tables. On the tables were treasures collected by weather station personnel--queen conchs, pieces of coral, and a number of large, green glass balls with netting on them. These balls are used as floats for fishing nets and apparently get detached and drift onto the beach.
A friendly islander, Spencer Bennett, showed us around the compound. He was a long-time resident employed by the weather service, knew every inch of the island and had a wealth of knowledge about the biota. Mr. Bennett maintained the large diesel generator which supplied the island's electricity.
The weather station had good facilities which included an air-conditioned building with a galley, tables, and lounge, along with a Chinese cook to prepare meals. A large concrete building contained instrumentation and radio equipment used for tracking hurricanes. The remains of this structure are currently used by the Honduran military personnel who stay on the island. Radar was housed in a tall dome near a facility where weather balloons were launched. Other small buildings housed diving equipment, desks used by faculty or students and a ham radio.
In 1973, the Swan Islands' population consisted of five weather station personnel and five islander families of Honduran and Caymanian descent who lived in frame houses outside the compound in a settlement they called Gliddentown. One evening, Spencer invited the three professors to join the islanders at the "Iggy Bar" for a lobster dinner which definitely sounded more interesting than the station's mess-hall. When we arrived, enormous lobsters were pulled out of large boiling cans and placed on platters with bowls of melted butter and piles of fried bananas.
Great Swan had lush pockets of coconut palms and fruit trees, probably the last remains of the fruit plantations, as well as an area of banana and mango trees. Bennett, who had an orchard and a herd of cattle that roamed the island, taught us much about the flora on the island, pointing out a Manchineel tree, one of the most poisonous trees in the world. We were warned to not stand under the tree during a rainstorm because the milky-colored sap would raise blisters on your skin. I spent much of my time studying the coral reefs and the abundant shallow-water invertebrates and was able to identify 32 species of crabs from the Swan Islands.
As for the original inhabitants of the islands, several Cayman Islanders apparently occupied the islands in the middle 1800s. According to Greg Robins, who has compiled historical tidbits on the Swan Islands, Cayman Islander Samuel Parsons attempted to claim the islands by putting goats on them. In his absence, however, an American phosphate company moved in with miners who ate the goats. In 1857, John White discovered that the islands were rich in guano deposits (due to the brown boobie bird population) and filed a claim with the U.S. State Department. The islands then changed hands several times as rights were transferred to several different American guano mining companies, who left behind guano pits.
By around 1900 Alonzo Adams had claimed the Swan Islands and conveyed his rights to the Swan Island Commercial Company, who then leased part of Great Swan to the United Fruit Company which planted but later abandoned thousands of coconut palms. Hurricane Janet devastated the islands in 1955, wiping out most of the coconut palms. A stone marker still existed during my 1970's visit that read "Boundary of property leased to United Fruit Company, Dec. 10, 1912."
The Swan Island Commercial Company provided weather information for hurricanes from 1928 until 1932. Six years later in 1938, the U.S. Weather Bureau established a part-time weather station on Great Swan manned only during hurricane seasons until the 1940s when it became a year-round operation. Then in 1946 an aircraft radio-navigation beacon was installed and operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until 1971.
hile Clyde Hall, a weather service employee, was stationed on Great Swan in the early 1960s, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Ship Explorer came to take a census of the island occupants. There were 28 people living on the island including 19 Caymanians, 3 Hondurans, and 6 U.S. citizens attached either to the Weather Service or the FAA radio station. A 50,000 watt radio station built at this time became known as "Radio Swan" and broadcasted anti-Castro propaganda in Spanish. The station was reported to be owned by a New York Firm, the Gibraltar Steamship Company, which apparently did not operate steamships. Most indications are that this was a CIA operation. The station changed to Radio Americas near the end of 1961 with headquarters in Miami, and continued broadcasting from Swan until 1968.

Map of the Swan Islands (Weigel, 1973)

Right after Radio Swan was built a group of university students from Honduras came to protest the census. This event grew into an annual affair for many years which protested the possession of the islands by the U.S. In his entertaining article, "Swan Island, Visitors Unwelcome," J. Craig, the highest-ranking federal employee on the island in the 1960s, tells of a student invasion while he was there. Being new to the islands and "in charge," he was about to call Miami for advice about a supposed "impending invasion" when he learned that each year the students would get drunk, invade the island, and after a big party on the dock would leave the next morning. He put the word out that no one was to go near the dock for 24 hours. He heard small arms fire from the dock all night, but no one was hurt and the students sailed home the next morning. In one invasion the students raised a Honduran flag on the island; in other cases invasions ended up in a big party with the island personnel.
The dispute over the Swan Islands had been ongoing since Honduras laid claim to them in the 1920s, but the issue was not pressed until the 1960s. Honduras said that when Columbus stopped to gather wood from the islands in 1502, that made the islands part of the Spanish Colonial Empire, so Honduras was the rightful heir. The U.S had claimed the islands based on the Guano Act of 1856, which allowed U.S. citizens to apply for certificates to collect guano on unclaimed islands to sell for fertilizer. The U.S. said that American George White, who began commercially exporting guano in 1858, had landed on Great Swan and claimed the islands for the U.S. in 1857. This allowed Secretary of State William Seward to claim the Swan Islands for the U.S. in 1863.
In 1970 the federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S., which cleared the way for the U.S. to transfer sovereignty of the islands to Honduras as a gesture of goodwill. The treaty was signed in 1971 and ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1972. A flag-transfer ceremony was held on Great Swan on September 1 of that year. The U.S. National Weather Service station on Great Swan, which played a key role in forecasting and tracking hurricanes potentially affecting Central America and the Gulf Coast, was allowed to continue operating the weather station. Subsequent development of weather satellites lessened the importance of the Swan Island weather facility.
During a storm December 10, 1974, a Honduran fishing vessel with 19 crewmen 20 miles off the coast of Great Swan received damage to the hull of their vessel and started to sink. They radioed the weather facility on Swan for help and two permanent inhabitants of the island, Spencer Bennett and Randolph Moore, took two outboard motor-boats, found the men floating in dugout canoes, towed them to Great Swan. They were given the Gold Metal Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for risking their lives to save the 19 crewmen.
In 1980 things apparently changed on Great Swan. Reports are that the CIA used the island as a training facility for Nicaraguan contras. This must have been about the time that the National Weather Service left. When Don Wilson, a weather service employee, spent a four-week stay on Swan in 1993, he knew of only one semi-permanent occupant at that time who came to look after the cattle. There were 12 Honduran soldiers and a detachment of about 35 U.S. Air National Guard. Mr. Wilson said a C-131 made regular trips to the island to rotate and provide support for the personnel.
On the evening of October 26, 1998, the eye of Hurricane Mitch, a category five hurricane with 180 mph winds, moved over the Swan Islands. It devastated almost everything, destroying the old Weather Service and Radio Americas facilities, except a few cement structure left standing.
The most recent visit to Great Swan other than by the Honduran military seems to have been a Radio Club stay in 2008. The group spent five days on the island to transmit but did not leave a permanent station. From their reports, the islands' fruit trees have all disappeared. Also decimated were the islands' population of white-banded hutias and a population of unidentified large rodents resembling thin guinea pigs, which were of great interest to mammalogists. These mammals were wiped out by both Hurricane Janet and housecats which escaped and became wild.
These feral cats, along with soldiers, are also thought to have caused the disappearance of Swan Islands' abundant iguana population. During my stay in the 1970s, iguanas between 4 and 5 feet were not an uncommon sight, though wounds from the feral cats on those iguanas were also not uncommon. Craig tells of a Scottish gentleman who visited the island in the early 1960s representing National Geographic who was especially interested in the large iguanas on the Swan Island. Though iguanas had been reported to be 5 feet or more in length in the Swan Islands, he had come to prove that iguanas did not grow that large. When some of the personnel showed him pictures, the National Geographic journalist accused them of trick photography. As it turns out, when he came back from Little Swan he had 16 mm movies of iguanas estimated to be around 7 feet in length, including a movie caught by Craig of the Scotsman running from an iguana when he fell into a hole in the coral that had been covered with vegetation. He broke his leg in two places and was flown out the next day.
I am glad I did not see iguanas that large during my hikes on Little Swan. But I'm saddened to know that the opportunity to see Swan Islands' large iguanas has apparently vanished. I had rather remember the island as it was when I walked its shorelines. On one of those walks, I spotted the neck of a green glass bottle partially protruding from the sand. As I leaned down to pull it out of the sand, I could see that it was a wine bottle with a piece of paper folded lengthwise inside. I removed the cork and shook out the paper to see a note written in Russian on a radiogram. Penned by a radio operator on the fishing ship Robert Ache, it was basically a "Happy New Year" greeting which wished the best to all his comrades.

Male iguana on the rocks between Flowers Bay and Blowing Rock
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The Roatan Blame Game by Thomas Tomczyk

After Years of Nonexistent Social Policies and Rising Tensions "Chickens Come Home to Roost"

Demonstrators burn fires at Coxen Hole's 'Triangulo'

While islanders and foreigners have looked at Ladino migrants with growing contempt, the Ladinos living on Roatan have developed a growing sense of victimhood--a feeling that both foreigners and rich islanders are exploiting them.
In response to 2006 protests against an all islander-controlled RECO board, the board broke down and gave in to mostly Spanish patronato demands of keeping the fuel surcharge intact. For over two years the inability to confront the issues of RECO sustainability and to protect the company's rights set a precedent and exposed the inability of islanders to deal with pressing issues that were bound to hit a crisis point.
In the first October riots, local government officials empowered and legitimized the mob by swearing practically randomly chosen representatives in and treating them as a legitimately representative group of citizens. The authorities should have required the community to conduct emergency elections for new patronato presidents and only then deal with such elected representatives.
The disturbances have brought to the surface and united several groups: leftist teachers unable to pay their RECO bill; poor, aspiring politicians looking to show their leadership skills; aggressive youths and plain thugs. Images and sound bytes of Mel Zelaya standing arm-in-arm with Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega have resonated with people around Honduras. The confrontation with "oppressors who exploit the poor" message has struck a cord with a majority of Hondurans. For those seeking to find an example of class struggle and struggle against worker exploitation in Honduras, Roatan offers the best example.
Amongst the island's 70,000 residents and investors there are one billionaire, several dozen of millionaires and tens of thousands of people living at or below poverty line. All that on an island only 40 miles long and a mile-and-a-half wide.
The disturbances on Roatan have received little or no coverage from the mainland Honduras press. Thus, most mainland Hondurans and many government officials do not fully understand the gravity of the situation that the Bay Islands are facing. The protesters feel that they are victorious and are already speaking of other "targets" for future protests.
At this point in time, what is most sad and dangerous is that no one has come out with a viable solution from this crisis. There is no plan of action, other than pie in the sky ideas of bringing private, armed security forces to the island. Band-aid solutions, a piece of paper signed by the president and not RECO, is delaying the inevitable-another blow-out.

In the blame game following the two October and November riots, there has been plenty of finger pointing but little understanding of the root causes of the civil discontent. Let me clarify who are not the biggest culprits: it is not the central government, not Punta Cana energy company, not Hugo Chaves, not the world financial crisis. For riots, social tensions and endangering the cruise ship season, Roatanians have no one to blame, but themselves. It is they who have created what the island is today and hold a key to its future.
As long as everyone was making money, everything was great. Only a few months ago pats on the backs of government officials and dreams of a semi-autonomous Bay Islands abounded. Simultaneously, however, cracks in the foundations of the increasingly polarized island society were growing wider and wider.
The roots of today's problems lie in greed and shortsightedness. Greed of the developers bringing cheap, unskilled, uneducated labor from Honduras' mainland and expecting them to disappear once they finish their job or are fired. The shortsighted of some government officials and developers who throw their hands in the air lamenting the uncontrolled migration from the mainland are maximizing their profits by causing this migration themselves.
For years, blaming Spanish migrant workers has become a favorite pastime in meetings of local government, business community and foreigners. Many Ladinos have been portrayed as the chief trash throwers, as resistant to speaking English, and as uneducated robbers and thieves. The hard to swallow fact is that a fair percentage of the island-born population doesn't behave much different. For islanders and many Americans, it has always been easier to scapegoat the mainlanders than to look inside at one's own faults.

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Rethinking Development

Marco Caceres Creates a Model for Coordinating Help to Undeveloped Countries. Will Anyone follow suit?

Marco Caceres is a rocket scientist who invented a new model for helping and networking NGO help in countries in need. His "Project Honduras" website serves as a model in coordinating private and individual help in small, undeveloped countries. Born in Tegucigalpa, when he was four he moved to the US. He studied history and political science at University of Richmond. Marco has worked for the past 20 years as an aerospace analyst for NASA, Lockheed, and Boeing, then worked in Washington DC's Capitol Hill for seven years. "If I can do it for satellites, I can do it for oranges in a poor country like Honduras," says Marco. Whenever back in Honduras he was always told that Honduran politics were "too complicated for him to understand." To prove them wrong Marco launched a Project Honduras website in 1998 and in 2000 launched a networking conference.

B.I.V.: Do you see that part of these nonprofits are scams, or ego-driven, money-making enterprises for their founders?
M.C.: You always will have a portion of people like that. The network is one way of spreading information about someone that is a problem. Brad Warren case [Roatan's Sandy Bay Orphanage] was the only obvious case of this in the ten years I've been doing this. You don't see a lot of people like that at the conference.
B.I.V.: Can you make a difference with limited resources?
M.C.: Financial capital is a great tool, but it shouldn't be emphasized as the solution to problems of poor countries. Money from World Bank, or IDB [International Development Bank] in tens of millions of dollars, is funneled through a broken system called the government. There are some things that the government does well, but development isn't one of them. The trickle down approach where you spend money up here and it eventually ends up with the poor doesn't really work. We [USA] spent over three trillion dollars worldwide in the last 50 years in development and it hasn't really worked. Most of this money goes towards band-aid solutions, but in terms of really empowering people it doesn't work very well. Honduras still has 70-75% poverty, people living on a $1, $1.50 a day. 50% of Hondurans live as indigent poor; they live selling Chicklets on a street corner, but they live barely. There have been reductions in infant mortality, there have been some highways built, businesses like Pizza Hut have come in. But the poor are still very poor. So the idea I had was that there has to be something else besides money to do development.
B.I.V.: With dozens of orphanage, water and healthcare projects, are there project areas that are overlooked?
M.C.: There are problems like trade, immigration and sex tourism that the government needs to address. A lot of these problems are symptoms of other problems; and a lot of these problems would not exist if there were more stable homes and stable communities. People like to focus on the violence, the drugs, the sex. Nobody seems to be willing to write about what we talk about at the conference: education, water ... this is hard work.
B.I.V.: Is there interest in spreading the "Project Honduras" model to other countries?
M.C.: I introduced this concept to the World Bank, but they think differently out there. World Bank isn't necessarily a development organization, it is a bank. The World Bank executives get promotions based not on how successful their lending project is, but on how much money they lend out. This makes me believe that this money is being lent for the wrong purposes and it sometimes does more harm than good. I've seen examples where money was introduced in a community which had peace and stability and it created infighting. The money destroyed a spirit of a community.
B.I.V.: Is there an example of this in Honduras?
M.C.: Back in the 1960s and 70s World Bank started lending to cattle farmers so they could increase exports of meat to US. That produced more pressure on the campesinos to give up their land. That created a problem of urbanizations [campesinos moving to cities] and deforestation. The campesinos started arming and talking about taking their land back. There were problems and violence.

Bay Islands VOICE: How does Project Honduras work?
Marco Caceres: Project Honduras is HC x ICT … human capital times information and communication technology. You take your human not financial capital, like energy, experience, enthusiasm, contacts, talents, and you find a way to channel all that using the beauty of the internet. It's a simple concept and we have all the pieces together. The key is human interaction. There are a lot of great websites with great esthetics that have a lot of good information, but what they lack is a constant interaction of people who are helping. (…) Education, healthcare and community building are the three themes of the conference. If you take care of this, everything else will solve itself. It sounds simple, but it is actually true. Every year we take a slightly different angle with these themes. One year we focused on clean water, another year we focused on social tourism--what and how we can attract more social tourism to Honduras?
B.I.V.: Why is it important to also have a conference each year?
M.C.: So people can share information. We have examples of medical brigades doing vaccinations. They all think they are doing a great work and they may be; but they also may be doing more harm than good. You go to a village that has a road and you vaccinate everyone against measles and mumps. There is no record of that visit. The government doesn't track it, but we track it as much as we can. Two weeks later another team comes to the same village, and they'll give the same vaccines to the same kids. Team members don't speak Spanish and the mothers think that more medicine is better. If you give MMR (Mumps, Measles, Rubella) vaccine more than once to a kid who is malnourished and with a poor immune system, you are going to kill them. That's why Project Honduras is important.
B.I.V.: Is there a growing trend in volunteer, social tourism to Honduras?
M.C.: Hurricane Mitch was a blessing in disguise for that. It put Honduras on the map. People started coming here with their churches, university groups. The word got around. Bigger missions send 20-30-40 mission teams to Honduras a year. We're talking thousands of mission teams coming to Honduras every year and you see some of them here. Americans are very practical and they like to solve problems. They think they can fix everything.
B.I.V.: Why does Honduras attract such a stream of help groups?
M.C.: Honduras is a perfect model. It's not that big and has a good proximity to US. It's like development 101, you want to go to a really poor country really fast--Honduras is your place. You can go to Mexico, Haiti is too scary, but what you want is somewhere where you can go to a really nice restaurant and hotel room. You've got to be hardcore to go to Haiti.

American Resident Killed on East End
Don Tollefson, 58, a restaurant owner and six-year-resident American of Roatan's Punta Blanca community has been killed. On November 13, an employee of the Windsong Café, a home based restaurant owned by Tollefson, found the victim's home and business ransacked. Tollefson's vehicle was found abandoned in Diamond Rock on November 14 and two days later Tollefson's body was found floating in Oak Ridge reef. The body showed numerous gunshot wounds and knife cuts, showing brutality unusual with robbery crimes. "Everybody is heartbroken. He was a good friend to everyone," Carmen Byrd, 5-year American of Roatan. Four men have been arrested as suspects in the case.
An Abandoned Plane
In the middle of the day, on Saturday, November 8, during a busiest day-of-the-week at Roatan international airport day a private plane landed on the runway. Its two pilots cleared customs and the plane, a two-prop plane Swearingen SA226TN with a US registration, was abandoned. In 2007 two planes of similar size and in similar circumstances have been abandoned in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula International Airports. DGIC officials suspect that the plane was used in transporting drugs and case is being investigated.
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Networking for a Cause

An Annual Conference in Copan Brings together Nonprofits from around Honduras

When things looked like Roatan residents would have to spend another night in the dark with middle-of-the-street bonfires providing the only entertainment and illumination, good fortune smiled on the islanders. As luck would have it, President Mel Zelaya was visiting nearby Guanaja opening an airport terminal there. Congressman Hynds and Governor Arlie Thompson sailed to Guanaja to lobby the president to come to Roatan to resolve the crisis. President Zelaya stopped by Roatan airport, met with the protesters and signed a five point "Proposal for negotiation committee for the people of Roatan."
At 4:30pm, around 2-3 thousand people came to the rally where a letter from the president was read out by Leonel Amaya, a teacher and one of the protest leaders. Mayor Dale Jackson spoke to the crowd expressing his support. At 5:15pm on November 6, 36 hours after placing a chain around RECO gate the protesters removed the chain. As RECO repairmen left to restore power to the island, a carnival party in Los Fuertes celebrated the end of the strikes.
Because of the protests, three cruise ships had to be cancelled. On November 5, Carnival Glory didn't disembark at Roatan and on November 6, Veendam, a Holland America cruise ship, was turned away. Even a day following the protests, Norwegian Jewel cruise ship decided not to come to the island. In total five cruise ships were cancelled this fall because of civil unrest on the island.
On November 6, a representative of Carnival Cruises met with business leaders at Henry Morgan Resort in West Bay. The message from the meeting was that if Roatan becomes blockaded by protesters and unsafe to the cruise ships one more time, the cruise ships companies will suspend visits to the island for the entire season.
The protests also resonated negatively with the real estate environment of the island. Arnold Morris, an American landowner on Roatan called Bay Islands Voice to say that two investors decided not to do business with him because of the riots they found out about in Bay Islands Voice. "You need to promote the island," said Morris, who was extradited from Roatan to the US and convicted of fraud, and who has been selling and buying real estate on Roatan since the 1990s.
At least 12 Roatan seamen missed their flights back to work in the US, the Persian Gulf and Africa. Unable to cross the barricades, they had to postpone their flights and risked losing their jobs. "They tried to explain that they needed to leave but were turned back by the protesters," said Faith Bodden about her husband Rudolph Bodden, who works on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
In an effort to conduct a public dialogue, on November 13, a meeting between protesters, government officials and islanders opposing the strikes at Coral Cay. On one side of the room mostly Ladino protesters sat, while other side of the room was occupied by islanders vocally
Tempers flew. "I am for peace, but I am not agreeing with repression," said Mario Madrid, one of protest leaders and Colonia Santa Maria patronato president. "The fact that 4,000 jobs are being lost [on Roatan] is your fault," told the protesters at the meeting Congressman Hynds. While many, likely 1,000-1,500 mostly construction jobs were lost on the island in October and November, they were lost due to drying end of Honduran bank credit lines and world financial crisis. The protesters endd up walking out of the meting room.
Bay Islands Voice leaves this developing story at the time of going to print on November 17.

Cobra riot police arrive at Roatan aiport

Protesters burn the doll at the end of the protests.

After arriving at an understanding with RECO and government officials, Roatan protesters were discontent with how slow the promised financial aid for low energy consumers from ZOLITUR funds and Honduran Congress was going to arrive on the island. They wanted results now, not sometime in the future.
Protesters didn't accept advice about legitimacy of RECO raising rates given to them by patronato presidents, National Energy commission nor local government officials. Protesters demanded that fuel adjustment stay where it was for the past two-and-a-half years - at Lps. 0.88 a kilowatt. Protest leaders see affordable energy as a right of consumers guaranteed by their government.
On the evening of November 4, a growing group of protesters grew to an angry crowd that a second time this fall closed the main island road in Los Fuertes and placed a chain and lock around the gate leading to the power plant.
Due to a technical problem on RECO's main line and the inability of RECO repair crews to leave the facilities blocked by protesters, at 11 am on November 5, the entire island found itself without power.
The number of protesters varied, but it was generally fewer barricades and fewer people than during the October street protests. Instead of around 500-600 people in front of RECO as in the October protests, there were typically no more than 100-200 protesters. Powered by a portable generator, protesters played a CD of "protest music" by Los Guaraguao, a Venezuelan music group.
"This is only the beginning of our struggle. We will win this fight, then we will fight other battles," said Roberto Galvez, a construction manager who was paid $18 in Cayman Islands and says that no construction company on Roatan will offer him a decent salary. Statements that the protests would in the future target Galaxy marine terminal and ZOLITUR offices were made. "The streets are our congress," said Galvez.
Reactions from central government officials were mixed. Eighty Cobra police officers, dressed in riot gear, arrived on the island on the evening on November 5, then spent the night at the airport. Minister Arcadia Gomez flew in from Tegucigalpa and assisted the demonstrators in the dialogue with local authorities. Ricardo Martinez, Honduras Tourism Minister made a statement on the radio that the Roatan disturbances are an "internal matter of the Bay Islanders." "That statement is embarrassing," commented Julio Galindo, CANATURH-BI president and ZOLITUR board member,on the minister's statement.
In fact, mainland Honduras knew very little of the gravity of the situation and threats to the country's tourist revenue. Not a single Honduran media outlet sent photographers or reporters to the island during either riot. La Prensa, published photos of the 2006 street disturbances as current, that paled in scale and comparison to what was happening on the streets.
"It's not even my responsibility, but the mayors. I shouldn't even be here. I should be fishing," Congressman Hynds told Bay Islands Voice during one of the discussions that government officials held with the protest committee. "That's not my responsibility," said Mayor Jackson as to why he did not anticipate or prepare for the two Roatan riots.
The protesters were mad enough to make a life-size doll with letters "Jerry Hynds" written on it, than hang it on the RECO main gate. "He [Jerry Hynds] pays us Lps. 150 per day then fires us without prestaciones," said Candida Reyes, a protester. "Jerry Hynds has betrayed us. Dale Jackson told us that he was confused by RECO, but that he is now with us," said Julio Calix, one of the protesters and a Los Fuertes resident.

Click for the latest Roatan weather forecast.

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