BIV: Mr. Mayor, back in December you unveiled an ambitious Citizen Security Action Plan for Roatan. Four months later, where do we stand on that?
Galindo: I felt pretty good some months ago when we had the chief of police (Juan Carlos Bonilla) out here. And he made everybody believe that we were gonna solve these problems. I haven’t seen zero results out of it. He hasn’t done a thing. I went to a meeting (with Bonilla) in Punta Gorda. He made it look like all the problems was the local police’s fault. And I left that meeting like I think everybody in Punta Gorda left that meeting feeling our problems are over. This guy’s gonna solve our problems. And nothing has happened. I’m totally disappointed with the police.
BIV: Bonilla said at that meeting he would put eight additional police in Punta Gorda. Has that happened?
Galindo: They haven’t done anything. They have taken people instead of sending us people. And that’s why I can tell you that I’m totally disappointed in them. I help them with their food, I help them with transportation, I help them with fuel. And they’re not fulfilling to what we agree upon. I have reached the point that I’m not gonna give the police one penny unless I see a major change. I can’t afford to take hard money like ours and just throw it away that way.
BIV: There were some things in your December plan that didn’t depend on Tegucigalpa, like establishing a 911 number.
Galindo: I’m still working on that with Hondutel. Hondutel’s going through one problem here with the changing of the wiring and this and that and the other. Most of the stationary lines has been a disaster. But I am working on that. That’s something that we’re going to do.
BIV: You also talked about controling cargo traffic and people entering and leaving the island on cargo ships.
Galindo: We have had meetings with the Capitanía del Puerto based on that, about checking boats departing and arriving at night and who’s on board. So he is helping out quite a bit on that. But it’s still not where it should be. We can do whatever we want here, but if we don’t get the cooperation on the mainland, we have a problem.
BIV: You talked about organizing Neighborhood Watch systems. Has there been any progress on that?
Galindo: None at all. They (National Police) were gonna send some people over here to kind of illustrate to us or teach us the kinds of things that we should look into. But we haven’t got that.
There’s a lot of things in the security field that I feel so disappointed of. I’ll give you a story of what made me disappointed. I met with the fiscales and the judges a lot, and they all made me feel that the problem was the judges. And then I said, you know, we gotta go to Tegucigalpa. We’ve gotta bring these people down to see what is going on. So we did that. I was so amazed that in this meeting that we had, when I hear the fiscales themselves say how good they get along with the judges, or the police saying how good they get along with the judges. I was struck. And I said, you know, the only bad guy in this meeting is me.
BIV: What about getting the criminal data bases up to date so people can check people coming to the island?
Galindo: Comisionado Lanza came in and did that with all of the computers that was with the police force and also in the cars. But we still don’t have no data at the dock in La Ceiba or at the dock here where you could check people coming in or people going out. It’s an equipment problem mostly. We need, for instance, on the boat in La Ceiba,when the people go aboard they go through screening, but their luggage don’t. And we have begged, me and the Governor (Shawn Hyde) both, have talked to the Ambassador of England about that, about the possibility of helping us with a piece of equipment of that kind. And then here, the police, if they would get off their butt a little bit, they can randomly check some of the stuff that comes off the boat. But everybody complains about the hold-up and this and that and the other, and nobody looks at the end, at the consequences of what we go through.
BIV: Another item you talked about was installing security cameras in key areas.
Galindo: Romeo (Silvestri, Bay Islands representative in the Honduran Congress), through the Taiwan Embassy, has got something like 96 cameras that are coming that are gonna be set up in different spots. I’m hoping they’ll get here soon. We’re gonna have somebody monitoring the cameras. They’re gonna come over here and set it up. We’re gonna have to pinpoint the spots that we would like. I guess the airport, the cruise ship docks, cargo boat docks, places like that … Calle Ocho … other areas like West End, some of the streets down there. See if you can pick up a telephone snatcher and things like that here and there.
The security thing is something that everybody on this island and this country is gonna have to look at as the main objective here and the main problem. It is something that seriously everybody needs to focus more on than anything else. We have to have all the help we possibly can from the Central Government to take care of this. We’re an easy target. We have a lot of tourists running up and down here, a lot of innocent people that are easy. Security and education to me are two things that we really have to work on.
BIV: You talked in December about putting new police posts in underserved areas. During Bonilla’s visit Los Fuertes asked for more police, and La Colonia and Punta Gorda asked for posts.
Galindo: Punta Gorda’s out of my jurisdiction. Los Fuertes, we can’t do anything. The police have to come from the Ministry of Security. The post in Sandy Bay is where we need one, and the Colonia Policarpo and Balfate. What I’m trying to convince them of is the old school, the Dale Jackson School, let’s convert that into a clinic and a police post. But they don’t want that.
BIV: The big long-term goal in December was a convenio with the Central Government to devolve police and law enforcement authorities to the Bay Islands so they could have their own police and judges. Has there been any movement on that?
Galindo: Nothing has been done. The island people in general, the ones that can fulfill the requirements for those positions, they’re not interested in that job. You’re right, the island ain’t gonna change unless we have the judges from here, people from here or people who have some sort of asset here. Otherwise it’s gonna be tough. People that come here come here to see what they can get out of here. Their heart is not here. It’s somewhere else.
Everybody says ‘We like our island.’ But I don’t see that patriotism that we should have. I don’t see people really out there fighting for this or fighting for that the way they should.
BIV: Leaving the security theme, how are all the fiscal problems in Tegucigalpa, not paying the municipalities, not paying public employees, impacting Roatan?
Galindo: I’ve been in the municipality now going into my fourth year, and I have never had a transfer from the Central Government to our municipality. I’ve not received a dime. So we’ve been struggling and fighting at our own pace. Luckily because of strict control down here we don’t owe anybody. The municipality is not financially in the best shape it could be, but we can at least say we’re not like the rest of the municipalities in the country. We don’t owe anybody. All our employees and all our debts to our suppliers are paid.
We’re operating this year with a budget under $10 million. The fixed cost of operation of the municipality is Lps. 4.5 million (a month). It’s very high. I take 40 percent of my budget and I use it for operation, and the other 60 percent I do as investment. Last year I did 62 percent on investment. Never ever happened in Honduras. So we try to do our best here. But we don’t have the income. This year we’re going to operate probably with about $8 million. To handle everything that we have to handle at that price, it’s pretty tough.
BIV: Don’t you retain some revenue here from cruise ship fees?
Galindo: The only cruise ship fee that this municipality gets is from the Royal Caribbean dock (at Coxen Hole), because the municipality is the owner of that property. I don’t get a dime out of Mahogany Bay. We get money from this dock down here. I get about $1.50 per passenger from this dock. That’s about less than half of what Carnival produces up there (at Mahogany Bay). That goes to Teguc.
BIV: Isn’t some of that supposed to come back here under the Zolitur?
Galindo: It’s supposed to, but not really. What comes back here is basically just to operate the (Zolitur) office.
BIV: What about the teachers and police here who are paid directly by the Central Government?
Galindo: They’re getting paid. We have a big shortage of teachers here. I have one school in Sandy Bay that needs 18 teachers. Because teachers that are appointed to work here gets a little bit more pay than the people on the mainland. And then a lot of them are getting the benefit of receiving the salaries for here but they’re teaching on the mainland. So the Ministry of Education has a big job. They’ve got more corruption than you can dream of.
BIV: What’s happened to plans to build a new hospital?
Galindo: You know, I went at the hospital full speed. And it got to one point that I visited a bank, we thought that we would be able to borrow money to build a hospital, and they showed us some figures, and they started telling me, ‘You guys can’t justify a hospital on the island.’ We don’t have the people with the income here to really support a private hospital. You gotta have a government-operated hospital. If you build a private one, it won’t be around long.
We’re still looking into the possibility of a trauma center. We’re still looking into the possibility of having an emergency unit here. We’re going to have to build a separate building for that. Again, for you to run an ICU unit here, there are certain specialties that we don’t have on the island that we have to bring in. People gets out there and say, ‘We have to have this and have that,’ but how do we operate it?
BIV: Didn’t the Municipality acquire some land for a hospital?
Galindo: The municipality does have the land for the hospital. And the municipality did go ahead and donated part of the land to the hospital. But there was a clause in that donation that they (Ministry of Health) had to build in a certain amount of time, and they didn’t. And the land is still available if they want to come down and do the work. But they haven’t. The Government hasn’t. At one time, they claimed the Government had the money to build the hospital, and then it was taken somewhere else.
BIV: Back to security, given your frustration at the lack of support from Tegucigalpa, what are the next steps?
Galindo: To be honest with you, I don’t know what to do. If they’re going to change the police, then we have to make another approach. And I have to go back and say, ‘Hey, we were under the understanding that this was what we were going to do, and you haven’t done anything. What’s your opinion?’
Since we started with sports, putting a little money in that, I don’t have as much parents coming to me asking me to help take their kids to some kind of a facility in San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, like a rehab center, because they’re on drugs. I think that has helped tremendously. Up in the point in French Harbour it used to be a hot area … Flowers Bay, Calle Ocho … all of these little canchitas are helping. The kids have more to do. I think a lot of good things are happening as far as that is concerned.
Roatan ain’t gonna be what we want it to be if we don’t show it. Roatan is only going to be what we all want it to be. And if we don’t do that, it ain’t going to happen. If there was the will, we could get this thing done.