Piracy Rocks the Rock; Price of Indifference

November 29th, 2012
by Gunter Kordovsky

Vern’s Catamaran, pictured here on an August crossing with first mate Humberto Rosales sitting atop, was the preferred means of conveyance between Roatan and Utila. Captain Vern was murdered aboard his own catamaran off Utila November 16.

Vern’s Catamaran, pictured here on an August crossing with first mate Humberto Rosales atop.

Two piracy cases rocked Utila in November.

The first involved Utila citizen Austin Bodden, who sells fuel and does charter trips. Bodden said that at about 3 p.m. November 2 he was approached by four Hispanic men in their early 20s who wanted to be taken to Water Cay, a popular picnic destination for tourists and locals alike. About halfway to the cay, he said, they pulled out a gun, told him to slow down, then knocked him down and took him ashore at Jack Neal Bight, where they tied him to a tree and drove off in his speed boat.

Bodden said he managed to free himself and found somebody with a cell phone who called the Naval detachment at the cays. They immediately took after the pirates and captured them. The boat was returned to Bodden, who said he had to dish out more than Lps. 4,000 to send his assailants to Roatan. He said they were now in jail in La Ceiba awaiting trial.

No sooner did I finish gathering the facts from Austin Bodden about that outrageous crime than I got a call from the Bay Islands Voice about the tragic murder at sea of Vern Fine, an American who ran a catamaran service between Utila and Roatan. According to the US warden on Utila, Fine, like Bodden, was transporting two Hondurans on his boat, plus his mate. Just outside Red Cliff on the east side, he said, Fine was assaulted by the two passengers, who stabbed him to death. The mate jumped overboard. The assailants were reportedly apprehended while hiding out in Camponado, the underbelly of Utila.

An outraged public is now calling for better security and screening of people arriving from the mainland. There is an old Utila saying: “Nothing good comes from the coast.” They say this even though many hardworking mainlanders have settled here and blended in well with our small community.

The truth is that a community that for years cowardly looked away or kept its head in the sand rather than get together and take care of the crime problem is now paying the price. Criminality is like a cancer. If you have cancer, you cut it out while it’s still small. On the Bay Islands the cancer has been allowed to spread. Now even on Utila, with a church on every corner, savages are acting with total disregard for human life, or for the damage they cause to the tourist industries as every crime goes on the internet. This is unacceptable!!

I don’t remember having much of a problem with crime when I came to Utila in 1970. What’s the problem now? Back in 2005 the chief of the Bay Islands tourist police said at a meeting here about crime-fighting strategies, “This is a justice system for a different country than ours.” So perhaps we need a system more suited to our country, one that gives those savages a taste of their own medicine. What are we waiting for?!

On the brighter side of the news, Halloween was a great party on Utila. Everybody had fun and there were no incidents to speak of. Kids in masks roamed the streets. Utila Lodge had a masquerade party with lots of dancing and fun. There were also parties at Cross Creek and a few other places. Eventually everybody met at the Tranquila bar, which was packed to the rim.

November 30 was another Lionfish Derby, with dive shops competing to spear the invasive species, which were later prepared by different chefs. Buen provecho!

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