[private] Lawyer Carolina Haylock, 45, is a freshwoman PL depute. A first woman to be elected deputy of Gracias a Dios, Haylock was one of nine Congress Tourist Committee members that reworked the Bay Islands Tourism Free Zone law. Haylock, born in Caucira, has family from Guanaja and lives in Tegucigalpa.
Bay Islands VOICE: What were the more controversial points of the discussion about the tax free zone in the Bay Islands.
Congresswoman Carolina Haylock: Some deputies felt that the tax free status will affect adversely the coast of the country. The main reason for declaration of tax free zone is to stimulate tourism. We are attempting to elevate the level of the Bay Islands to other Caribbean islands so they can compete and to create incentives for tourists to continue to come here.
B.I.V.: Gracias a Dios also has archipelago in its territory- Swan Islands (Islas de Cisne). The President spent his last Semana Santa there. What is happing in the Swan Islands?
C.H.: For the moment nothing. I am not aware of anything. Maybe they are doing something on an executive level.
B.I.V.: What are the ambitions for la Mosquitia?
C.H.: With the president and Jerry Hynds we decided to look into ways of developing eco and adventure tourism in Gracias a Dios. We don’t have the infrastructure that you have in the Bay Islands. We have idiosyncrasies and similar cultures with the Bay Islands. Economically we are at a disadvantage.
B.I.V.: What is the situation of the conch diving ban on the Mosquitia.
C.H.: The diving for conch entered an international embargo. There is a special permit that was issued by CITES [Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species]. This is more of a study and is done in coordination with agriculture ministry and APESCA. I believe four boats are a part of this study. Some want to close diving for conch and lobster all together. I, as a deputy, am opposed to this [as my people] have no alternative sources of income. The trickle down effect of losing the income is considerable. I hope we can find gradual alternatives to this problem.
B.I.V.: Bay Islands and Gracias a Dios are the only departments with only one representative in congress. Do they deserve a louder voice?
C.H.: This [change of congress seat quotas] is a political question and requires a revision of the constitution. Historically and in some ways we are abandoned, forgotten and in some ways discriminated departments. This, makes us feel fraternal, Jerry and I in the Congress. We have a good relation of mutual help. I am proposing to transfer a congress session of 21 February 2007 to Gracias a Dios, to celebrate 50 years of creation of the department and pass some legislation for benefit of La Mosquitia. Jerry [Hynds] is supporting me in the plans for constructing a sea cargo dock in Puerto Lempira. This should allow us to do what was accomplished in the Bay Islands.
B.I.V.: Is the creation of a Tourist Tax Free Zone in the Bay islands have any effect on Gracias a Dios.
C.H.: Not in the slightest. Historically many people from Gracias a Dios have come here to look for work and emigrated.
B.I.V.: Another thing that the two departments have in common is drug trafficking that affects the economy and security. What changes took place in the last year?
C.H.: In Gracias a Dios we never intercepted such large quantities of drugs as even recently in the Bay Islands. In the skies and in the lagoons of Gracias a Dios there was never any drug busts, but only in the coastal waters. (…) When we have drugs wash up on our shores this is likely after a boat threw overboard its cargo after being chased by the US coast guard. I am informed of drug trafficking over the border with Nicaragua. The drug trafficking problem is a problem for the entire north coast of Honduras. We only have 39 police to cover a department that has 116,000 square kilometers. This is not logistically possible. I find that the biggest problem is the drug consumption, especially amongst the youth. We need to see how to motivate people to report the crack dealers to the police. [/private]