Random thoughts for those who travel. Ridiculous thoughts for those who dont. Until you know me, it might not make sense.HA.

Posts tagged “honduras

Utila historical video. For divers and island lovers alike.

Utila.

Ive been asked many times by many people, what exactly draws me to this small little Caribbean island of the coast of Honduras.  Over the years Ive either become inept, lazy or just plain bored trying to sell the feeling of Utila to the lay person who is more worried about iphones, after school activities or the traffic on the QEW.  To their credit (although never being short of words), Ive not been able to fully capture what it is I love about Utila.

Today, I was lucky enough to come across this video about Utila which uses the sinking of the Halliburton Wreck (to make an artificial dive site) as a background while (for the first time Ive seen), properly portraying the essence of this wonderful little place.  To all of you who have ever asked or wondered about this island I love and have called home, have a look at the short movie here and soak it up.

To be truthful, Im putting this up here just for me……..What an amazing video of an amazing place.

Peace.

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Ping Pong at the Border. Vans, Stamps, and Guns. Editorial: Colin Sim

From manfromanotherland.

I asked a very good friend of mine if he would write a story bout his travels that he would share on this blog.   And he did. Its worth the read, if not for the adventure, for the sincerity. Thanks Colin.

BORDER DETAILS

Central America – 1 June 12 – Colin Sim 

Growing up in the Niagara area, just 20 minutes from the US border, I was fairly used to the relative ease in which a Canadian could cross into the US.  It was generally just a quick chat with the border guard and you were into the states, or the same going back into Canada with my bucket of buffalo wings, case of cheap beer, and a tank full of gas.  I´d say I´d crossed back & forth well over a 100 times without incident, ever.  But it´s slightly different here in Central America when it comes to crossing borders.  For example, you have to have your passport visa stamped OUT of the country you are currently in, before you can get a visa stamp going INTO the country you are on your way to.  Sometimes this process can be extremely simple,  Like going north into Guatemala from Honduras.  You stop at a little outpost in the middle of nowhere , get a quick stamp from Hondo, walk across the dirt road to the Guat(emala) Immigration office, which looks identical to a toll booth on a US Expressway.  Ironically, you do pay an entrance fee going into Guat & you just know that a portion of that fee is going to pay for the border guards´ dinner that evening.  But all in all, quick, easy and painless.  Sometimes, however, border crossings can be an exercise in patience, humility, absolute corruption and hopefully, redemption.  This is one of those stories.

Background

 My good friend Chris and I had been traveling for awhile and ended up in a small surfing town in El Salvador for the better part of October in 2011.  Two other friends, Melanie & Ty, had been on a rubbertramp (driving a van) tour from BC and had met up with us.  The plan was to drive from El Salv into Nicaragua.  To get there, you have to cross out of El Salv, into a very small portion of Honduras, and then into Nica.  We had 4 border crossings ahead to get into Nica & to get there with plenty of daylight to spare was the goal.  We were leaving early enough, the drive only 6 hours, it should be attainable, we were sure.

 The rules for vehicles are exactly as they are for people.  If you´re driving in Central America, your car needs a visa/permit too and also has to follow the stamp IN/OUT procedure.  So, as we were leaving El Salv, the van´s permit was stamped OUT first at a small checkpoint prior to the main office, we then drove the 300 meters to where we needed to have our passports checked.  I went to the window first, and was promptly told that my visa had expired and there was a hefty fine of $104US!  That´s a lot of money down here

And on with the story….

Now, I had been in Central America for 7 months by now, and El Salv, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua share what is called a CA-4 visa, giving 90 days maximum within those 4 countries.  I had received a 90 day extension in Guat about 45 days earlier, so I should be fine, I tried to explain to the border official in my broken Spanish.  In turn, in his broken English, he said he knows, he sees the stamp, they just weren´t going to honour it AND he reminded me that the fine was $104US.

The other option he said, was to drive to the capitol city of San Salvador, go to the main immigration office there, and get an El Salv extension and the fine would not apply. After a quick discussion, the 4 of us jump back into Ducey (of course the van had a nickname) and proceeded to turn around and drive towards San Salv.  Just a quick stop at the checkpoint for vehicles and we´d be on our way.  The next guard looks at the van´s permit and quickly retorts that our permit has ended and no longer valid.  It was only 20 minutes earlier that it was stamped out but the guard didn´t care and told us to turn around, go back to the office we were just at, and get a new permit to drive into El Salv.  Back down the 300m, of course we get the same officer as before, and he tells us that this office does not provide vehicle permits and we´d have to drive to another border crossing, about 200kms away.  But, he giggled, because we did not have a current permit, we could not do that either.  Yep, we couldn´t get out of El Salv or back into it.  We were stuck in border crossing limbo.  A 3rd option came about….if we stayed at the hotel conveniently located beside the immigration  office for 3 nights, they would stamp us OUT and we could be on our way.  Something was telling me that he had a stake in that hotel, or that his brother or uncle owned it.  I tried to explain the situation again, that the visa from Guat should be valid & I should be allowed out of the country.  Again, he explained to me that the fine was $104US.

 I reached into my pocket & had $27.  He told me to go and beg my friends for the rest, but I convinced him we were all broke.  He finally relented a little, pulled out an official Customs & Immigration binder, opened it up to a specific page about fines, pointed out how many days my original visa was over the 90, leading to a line with the fine of $57.  Bastardo! 

I think I might be screwed.

I knew he was just gouging me before, but at least this was somewhat acceptable.  I paid the fine, he gave me a 5 day extension out of the CA-4 countries and we were on our way.  Well, at least the 150m to the next border station for Honduras.  A traffic warden waved us over to the side of the road and came to chat.  He had noticed the problems we had at the El Salv office and was curious as to what happened.  He seemed a friendly guy and as we talked, I gave him a quick rundown.  He asked to see my passport, and to quell the urge to prove my story to a total stranger, I gave it to him.  He checked it out, then without saying a word, put it in his back pocket and walked away.

Yup, its Central America…..it actually does get worse, way worse.

 I was dumbfounded.  Did that just happen?  We sat there for a few minutes, shocked, and discussed our current options and I decided to go and talk to him.  He was clearly after a bribe, it was just a matter of how much it was going to take to get it back.  When I approached him, he immediately raised his hand to have my stop in my tracks, and with his other hand, reached for his gun.  Holy shit!   He was yelling at me in Spanish far beyond my understanding, but the body language was telling me enough.  I backed up, slowly, him keeping his hand on his gun, me keeping my eyes on him just in case he went cowboy on me, and I sat down on the curb. I sat there for the better part of an hour, my friends unsure what to do, and me just stewing about it.  I mean, this guy wasn´t police, or customs but some lowly traffic warden  (insert sarcastic tone here ) helping to maintain the immense amount of traffic at this crossing.  Who was he to steal my passport? So I started to walk up to him again, and the same response came back at me, but this time, I understood – ¨sit down & shut up¨.  That line, accompanied by the gun grab is an effective way of getting what you want.  Back on the curb, 3 hrs have passed and now my favorite traffic warden is on the move.  Not towards me for the bribe, but towards a small building with a dozen or so other traffic wardens.  Break time.  Obviously I´m not going to confront this guy in front of his colleagues, so I needed to form a new plan. What to do?

Gringo vindication.

 I recognize that his office, is only 15ft from the Honduras Immigration building.  So I walk over there, tell the officer at the border that a traffic warden has my passport and will not return it.  his eyes widen, leaps out of his chair, runs out the back door, around the corner and is beside me within seconds.  He asks me to follow him and we are now at the warden´s building and wants to know which of these guys here has my passport.  I can feel all eyes on me now, staring through me with teeth clenched and furrowed brows.  I´m petrified.  I reluctantly point out which warden has it, and the officer starts charging towards him like a bull.  Yelling at him, arms flailing, the conversation between the two of them does not look like its going well for me.  This goes on for a minute or two, and eventually, the warden lowers his head, reaches into his back pocket and hands over my passport to the officer who quickly snatches it out of his hands, berates him a little more and hurriedly walks to me and returns it.  He begins to walk away, and me feeling the eyes of the wardens still staring through my soul, I follow him like a lost puppy.   We head back to the Honduras office now, rejoined by my friends who saw this go on, and the officer sits back into his chair, and asks us for all 4 of our passports and he quickly stamps our visas in succession and without any questions.  Ty had gotten the permit for Ducey while I was dealing with el douchebag, so we jumped into the van as quickly as possible.  We were all pretty nervous as we pulled away, thinking the traffic warden would simply call one of his friends a little farther down the highway to make retribution, but we seemed to have luck on our side and didn´t see another official until we got to the Nicaragua border.  What should have been 6 hours, turned into 12, but we made it out of Hondo and into NIca fairly quickly, and after a few days, I journeyed into Costa Rica, then back into Nica with a fresh 90 day CA-4 stamp. 

Story Validation…

I´ve been in & out of 19 countries, and crossed international borders so many times its hard to remember, but that´s a day of traveling I´ll never forget.

Colin Sim

My Central America


Lion Fish VS Green Moray eel – good video. Personally, Freaking Cool.

UTILA – Bay Islands – HONDURAS

After years of killing and feeding lion fish to would be predators, finally  this video  shows a Green Moray attack a full on – live (not captured or wounded) lion fish. It is the culmination really, of efforts of divers on Utila putting their skills and hard work,  to work. Only a few years ago we would be lucky to see a nice grouper.  Well now, you should see one of them suck up a lion fish, its an incredible force of vacum…….shit, the groupers will  follow you around at some dive sites waiting to feed, and even help in the hunt……….I digress though, this video did not come by fluke….to EVERYONE that has worked effortlessly on this initiative over the past couple years…. once again, thankyou.  Thousands of lion fish have been fed to predators over the past 24’ish months, shit….and way back when, we didnt even DO that………..maybe leave a dead lion fish on the surface knowing at some point it should get eaten – starting point 1.0.  DMs on Utila have provided  – full on National Geographic – retraining of would be predators, to the lion fish.  Ive fed mostly semi live ones to Queen Angel fish, all sorts of groupers and eels, even snappers will get in on the mix. Believe me when Im saying this.  From the 1st lion fish on Utila (of tens of thousands since then) in early 09′, to actual natural  hunting/eating shown on this video is absolutely awesome.

Viewing Notes:  You will see the Moray eel right at the beginning of the video, closer to the bottom.  From there the diver rotates away 180 degrees and comes across the lion fish….it will take a second to come into view but then you will see it in all its splendidness. It is a gorgeous fish, but if we’re not proactive it could well be the only fish in the Caribbean reef.

Notes: This video was produced out of UDC on youtube.  Whoever the diver is with the spear gun…..perfect….didnt shoot at the wrong times….let the fish twitch and dance, they are memorizing and dangerous. Thanks guys. Amazing!

http://www.utiladivecenter.com/

For more information on the wonderful conservation efforts on Utila and the Bay Islands visit:

http://www.bicautila.org/


My fish is bigger than your fish. The Biggest Lion Fish ever caught.

 

Having first been recorded on the reefs around the island of Utila (Bay Islands, Honduras) in May 2009, this species of fish multiplied, divided, and almost conquered.  For those of you who are not aware of this particular fish…..they are a gorgeous one for sure…….BUT, they are not native to the waters of the Caribbean (but of the pacific, amongst others), and they are tearing apart every fish species they can get their mouths on.  Being able to expand their stomach thirty times original size, to be able to go weeks without food, to multiply like rabbits, and their penchant for dancing and mesmerizing the young juveniles into a trans – then to be eaten quickly and feverously .  With no natural predators in the Caribbean, the Lion Fish are desecrating many fish species from Florida and Mexico – in the north –  all the way Panama in the south.  Simply put,  the fish has no natural predators in these waters AND no external method of population control – as such, you will soon have a reef population consisting solely of Lion Fish, at the top of the food chain……and then you will start loosing the actual reef as well.

A few years ago – on Utila – some very concerned people began voicing the problems this situation was flourishing into.  Different studies were done and different methods of controlling (see: making the Lionfish extinct) were experimented with.  All though rules are irregularly enforced (ie. Never) in Honduras, using a spear gun/sling to kill the Lion Fish (or any fish for that matter) was illegal at the time.  A good friend of mine helped to lobby the government (ie. anyone who drives a nicer car and might listen) for an exclusion in the law to allow spearfishing on the islands in the effort of reducing the Lion Fish population.  With extreme effort and then approval, there were training sessions and signs up and educational pamphlets and even practice spearing on innocent potatos, for those trained and interested.   Spears were assigned to each dive shop (at their cost) and dive professionals were allowed to take along the spear/sling on their dives in an attempt to control the expanding pest population.  Off to a slow start for the first year or so, the program gained momentum and grew to a point where every dive shop is currently participating during all of their recreational dives – each and every day –  in the sea and reefs surrounding Utila.  To our knowledge it was (and might still be) the only community business initiative embraced and practiced by all – for the betterment of the reef, the divers, the local population, and overall sustainability of the fish populations which almost everyone relies on in some way or another, to make a living – on Utila and many other places in the Caribbean.

And I almost forgot.  The Lion Fish are actually venomous.  That is, the fins (or more like spikes) can give you one helluva painful situation, if you do get stung by one.  Swelling, numbness, and burning, with the outside chance of death thrown in.  In only a few people, the reaction to a sting is simple (Burgundy has handled it well from what Ive witnessed).  Mostly the reaction, is of the “ That was the worst pain ever” category.  Simply put, you don’t want to get stung. 

And as a secondary for those in the gambling business…..something like 16 of 24 of the spines are venomous….8 of them are fine, will not hurt you.  Have a look at the photos  and tell me if you can figure out which is which.  The Lion Fish wont attack you specifically but they will react to you trying to stab them with a three pronged spear, and dart one way or another in fight or flight reaction. You will get anywhere from no chances to three chances at a fish.  If you do strike, you then have a very alive but trapped bad ass lion fish two feet away from your hand till you can finish it off, quickly hopefully.  They live as shallow as a couple feet beneath the surface all the way to as deep as you want to dive……….ok then, enough is enough on the background of the lion fish……on with the rest.

Anyway, I caught a mammoth lion fish one day on the north shore.  After a bit of a struggle and with help from a fellow grouper sourcing out the hiding fish…….it was finally hooked…and a good one at that.  It remains the only time – of the 400 or so lion fish Ive ever killed – in which I brought the fish directly back to the boat.  I was happy……the grouper, not so much, trailing most the way back looking for the usual feed.…..to no avail, I surfaced,  yelled at Captain Kerry, and handed the spear and kill carefully up to him.

  “What?, look at this oneeeeee….” Says Kerry

“Ya look at that man” exploding with elation I say. “Its huge!”

 “It tis it tis, get It up here in the buhket.”……do as the Captain says.

We returned to the resort and within an hour the fish was measured.  It certainly was a good sized one but nothing anyone wouldn’t expect.  Nose to base of tail, measured 31.5 cms.

I called Anjei on the rock from the boat on the good old Claro phone, my neighbour, the man in the know about this stuff…..………he confirmed, biggest ever caught…….. Biggest Ever.  Nice one I thought, and of course Im happy to contribute to the cause and my ego appreciates the accolades of that accomplishment, even if Im the only one who brings it up.

Anyway,

The third Utila Lion Fish derby was completed a few weeks ago with upwards of 20 teams (of 4 participants) competing for the chance to capture and kill the invasive and detrimental Lion Fish.

They offer prizes for the most fish caught, the smallest fish caught and the largest fish caught.  In the end they all get eaten in a wonderful feast for the senses complete with reggaeton in the background and bragging  rights on the line.

Im so happy that this tournament has continued to be done. It is a part of Utila, it has to be….thank you to everyone who helps in this cause, day in day out, its just that important.…….and not just during the tournaments.  For each tournament lion fish kills are quite large, numbering 400-500 per occasion. They are tallied, weighed, measured and eventually filleted.  A large feast – free for all so to speak  – occurs shortly after the last afternoon. Lion Fish specialities for everyone.  Everything (time included) donated humbly by the caring and enthusiastic expats, tourists, dive shops and even locals.   Of course, BICA headlining the efforts and organization.  Again, thank you. From me, from the reef, from future generations of divers alike.

But back to my final point,

My Lion Fish record survived the first two tournaments and over 1000 fish caught…..I was not on the island for the most recent derby, so I emailed Dave (of one of the organizers) to enquire about the sizes of the fish caught in the most recent derby………..fingers crossed, my record would remain intact.  Dave is usually a smart ass, and being my lion fish killer understudy, he would like nothing better to crush my ego with news of a fallen record.  Verbatim, here is text of my message and response from Dave Burgundy:

“Ok, Burgundy……lets hear it……what was the biggest lion fish caught yesterday? Im sitting at 31.5 cms and change.”

“ How did it go otherwise?”

Daves response:

“Youre safe, the biggest was 31 cm, and it was an even bigger success than last time..onwards and upwards. 90% of the fish brought in were over 20 cm.”

I guess that is enough said, ego intact.……I look forward to the next Utila Lion Fish derby.  Here’s to protecting a place we love! Great work everyone.

Ps. I know Ryan, you dont endorse the name Burgundy.  None the less, you inspire me.

………………..And a couple more photos if youre really interested.

Theo hunting Lion Fish, North Side Dive, Utila.

A solid strike with the sling….time to find something to feed it to. Educate the predators.

A spotted eel taking a good look at possible dinner time. It eventually did hit it.


The power goes out. One story about flames and one story about fun. Skid Row Bar Utila, Honduras.

Story One: About the flames.

Quicker than online viral first account reports, I received news this past Sunday about a fire at Skid Row Bar in Utila.  The news came from long time island resident Barbara – who years ago was a reporter in native Switzerland – and still uses these skills to this day on the small sleepy island.  The news was there was a fire at the bar the evening before, sometime late night or maybe even just prior to dawn….and from what I gather it could have gone really really bad.

Barbara And GuiffityThe building is still there.” Says Barbara to me on the phone live from her deck overlooking the sea to the south, and the bar across the street to the north.

“Im not exactly sure what happened but I heard they had the bucket brigade….Ill make a call and find out.” And she was off to dig up some details.

In the mean time I messaged Ryan (the owner of the bar), and eventually that afternoon we spoke on the phone – him on his cell phone, me via skype- so I could get the scoop. Of note: to call a cell phone from Honduras to a cell phone in Canada the cost is around 5 cents a minute.  For me to call a Honduras cell phone through Skype, the cost was 46.5 cents a minute – something is wrong here, and this made my call to Ryan a lot shorter than I had planned.

We got right to the point of my call. And so, to the story.

It starts off that Ryan had this particular Sunday to himself and was not at the bar (it was probably staffed by Visor Steve who is actually retired from working at the bar but canno’t actually stop working).  Ryan didn’t need to tell me that on his day off he was at home sitting in the AC and watching TV (this is a given for him).  The phone rings – Reggaeton plays –  and then Ryan answers.

“Hello.” he dribbles lazily.

“Fire! Real fire now!”, the voice on the other end screams – and with that – hangs up the connection.

Without further details, Ryan flew out of the house, barefoot (not unusual on Utila, but maybe unusual if you were on your way to fight a fire burning down your economical lifeline).  Now, moving fast down the road on his bike –  head racing – wondering WTF was going on, what situation he was going to arrive upon.  This must have looked funny as well since the only people who move fast on Utila are anyone under the age of 16 and on a scooter….that is it.

When he arrived there was some chaos and confusion but no flames to speak of, some smoke Im sure.

According to Ryan three particular people helped rescue the burning down of the bar “just in time” and with some interesting and somewhat unconventional measures.  Gib took it upon himself to remove the butane tanks sitting directly around the burning inferno in the kitchen area.  John went and acquired fifteen 5lb bags of flour to throw on whatever was in fact burning.  Thank you Gib and John and Wharty – who has a store across the street and was on water detail as well.  What I am learning now, is in this particular situation were three different fires occurring: electrical fire, regular fire, and grease fire…..throw in the possibility of compressed air explosion and this could have been quite the fireworks display not seen since the famous Laguna Beach resort cabin burning of Jan 2011 (see: faulty AC/electrical unit for that one as well).  Apparently, the electrical company named UPCO had been turning the electricity on and off prior to the fire (they are famous for this), and this was the contributing factor……it started from crappy wiring, some surges, and all these other voltage issues that I wont even begin to pretend I understand or know anything about……but this is what started the entire ordeal.

With some quick actions from the neighbours who were probably worried more about the surrounding houses and local business than they were Skid Row – this disaster was averted just at the point where it could have gotten very very out of hand.   Call 911?  Emergency line of some sort? Well, there is a fire station with a fire truck on the island.  But Ive never met a fireman nor seen the fire truck move an inch from its parking spot, in the three years I’d spent living there.  I don’t think there is even such thing as a fire alarm or extinguisher in any house or business – not that Ive seen anyway although John the Baker, I bet hes got one….I mean he has the only 40ft ladder on the island so I am sure he has thought about fire precautions for his home as well.  Lets just say, there is and was, only people looking out for people in the spirit of community and to generally “do the right thing”.  This saved Skid Row from total destruction.  The fact that the building is still intact and operating today is a testament to luck, action and ……..well, timing.

“We were really lucky.” Ryan admitted.  “The only thing we really lost was a toaster, and some burned particle board……..actually, the kitchen was open and serving food a day later.”  He proudly stated to me on the phone at the end of our conversation.

Two things are interesting about Ryans final comments.  One, he says “we were lucky” although he is the only actual owner of Skid Row……it’s a great sense of place on Utila where people actually feel part in parcel with the community…..and likewise the people/public feel a sense of family  and ownership in many aspects of the island.  “We” are in this one together so to speak.  And two, that the kitchen was serving food no problem, 24hrs later – stated proudly by Ryan (see: its not the hand youre dealt with its how you play your cards, no harm no foul sort of attitude – again very related to the attitude on Utila). And we thank God for that.

Story Two: About the Fun.

A couple months ago the power went out on Utila during a scheduled shut down (ie: someone on the street tells you that the power wont be on until 2pm………or something along these lines).  With this extended time away from anything electrical, I headed down to Skid Row to hang out and shoot the breeze with others doing the same thing.  I wrote the article below, the day after this particular afternoon.  It’s a good one so I thought I would resurrect it for this post.

28 Jan 2012

Power out? People come!

Not an unusual event in the day to day life of living on Utila……the power going out.  I was mentioning to someone that it actually saves us money when UPCO suddenly decides (by their choice or not) that the island is in need of a little less AC and Reggaeton.  I was also told that we can just make that choice if we want to.  No though, its better to be motivated by force and then turn around and take credit for the validity of such greenness.

None the less, and more to the point of this story is what exactly people do when the power does indeed cease to flow.  We pretty much go on with life from what I can tell.  Only those accustomed to either laziness (see:TV) or luxuriousness (see: Air Con) seem to complain……the others continue on.  Food is cooked with gas, fridges stay closed a little more, and well, a little romantic candlelight at night is never a bad thing.

Another phenomena seems to occur as well……and I witnessed it yesterday.  Pulling up at Skids for a frosty and some fat to chew on around 2pm, I was in fact not the only one with the same idea.  It appears that when the power decides not to interact with us for a while, a logical choice for some of us is to head to the pub.  And its not a bad idea at all.  Different folks began pulling up and the balls on the pool table were cracking.  The only sounds made available to us were those of chatter, banter, and the odd low level argument…….this and one guys cell phone which has one of those loud and annoying ring tones (of the lets pretend Im an old phone on a wall in your grandmas house sort of ring).  I planned on a few with a few but it turned out to be an entire afternoon of fun, relaxation and unexpected comfort which always succeeds in drawing us in to what we later refer to as “that was a fun day”.

On queue Ryan breaks out a little game to pass the time – and what I now see as a submissive attempt to keep people engaged in their drink a little while longer (see: customer retention). It was a real easy concept of course, easy concepts are key for the wonderful clientele of the establishment.  Pick a time when the power will come back on.  Pick a time?  Really?  Is this what we do for fun in Utila?  Well if yesterday was an example then the answer is yes.

After a few minutes 18 people had chosen their respective times and threw in 20Lemps in a winner take all sort of bet.  As things progressed and the pool of times was being chipped away, the power did arise from its sleep.  It wasn’t about the money or the bragging rights or some trophy (or heaven forbid a free shot of giffity), but just about the fun.  No Wii fun here, proper good ole fashioned for no other reason fun.  For those wondering, the time was 4:06pm.

Simplicity in its finest hour, fun in its freshest sense. At Skids (and with Ryan at the helm, yes I can give kudos when they are due), this is more of the norm than the exception to the rule.  Think I might poke my head in there this afternoon to see what fun can be had without knowing whats coming.

A very special mention to a random tourist who first asked to have a seat at the bar and then asked to buy the five us sitting directly around him – a beer.  That was nice.  And to make it even more special he introduced himself as Steve……and then produced  his dive card to show his full name as STEVE IRWIN. HA!


Honduras Prison Fire, my reaction a few hours after the news hit the net.

PRISON FIRE KILLS OVER 300.

15 Feb 2012

An electrical fire at one of the severely overcrowded prisons in Honduras is apparently to blame for the death of upwards of 400 inmates.  Many – if not most of the inmates – burned a terrible death in their cells while prison guards could not locate the proper keys.  In one cell, 60 people perished in this fashion. Of the 800 or so people calling the Tegucigalpa jail home, many are missing and most of the dead will require DNA testing to identify.  It has yet to be seen – nor will it be reported – how many convicts escaped unharmed into the streets and neighbourhoods of the city, to vanish forever back to a life of crime or simple persecution, or both.  This is it, at a minimum security prison  there are those convicted, those simply being held for political reasons or speaking against the government – although as has been shown, the easiest way to keep these people quiet is not to lock them up with their mouths and minds still working – but rather to simply dispense of them on the streets.  This fate has happened to political activists, union leaders, journalists, human rights advocates and even simple land owners.  So is the diatribe that is life in Honduras.  Not being able to lock up the real criminals, dispensing of the non criminals and a white wash of a burning jail story just to make everything chaotic, indescribable, and without any context for comparison to other places, events, or catastrophes.  This certainly leaves the public without any recourse or any relevant path for action or justice to take place.  This is not the reality of every poor country – Honduras included – but rather a reflection of a very corrupt country which happens to be poor.  To top it all off, friends and relatives of inmates rushed to the scene in order to determine if their loved ones, work colleagues (re:gang menbers), or even enemies were alive or part of the carnage. At once the rush was met with military and police resistance and things once again turned ugly.  The public enraged with the lack of response resorted to throwing rocks.  Those in charge with keeping the peace responded with tear gas to quiet and disperse the crowd.  In a short while those in charge decided to read allowed the names of the deceased and those who were alive – over loud speaker.  There were 105 names not recited to the incensed crowd – meaning – they were not found in the remains or remained at large. The question exists: If most of the deceased would need to be identified using DNA then how could an accurate list be compiled only hours after fire was extinguished?  Honduras is a country where you can be alive or dead, on paper or in reality, and its someone else determining this for you for reasons which are rarely legitimate – in a hopefully  legitimate world.

A month ago a story ran in the Miami Herald about the prison and justice system in Honduras and simply how corrupt it is, top down.  Let me re emphasis this…..how CORRUPT the system is TOP DOWN.  The story quoted a very outspoken (saying anything of the sort in Honduras is considered outspoken)  previously high ranking public official. He recounted instances of inmates being let out of jail during the day to run drugs and collect cash….not just for themselves but for their gang and for those in charge of the prison system.  There were stories of inmates pictured with guns, police uniforms, cellphones, drugs and prostitutes….again, in the very prison system set a blaze the other day.  The source knew of the danger in speaking out and had being doing this towards anyone who would listen for sometime. A couple weeks after the article ran in the Herald, this source was murdered in cold blood. And hey why not, its easier and quieter than putting them in jail.

There have been just under 20 journalists murdered in Honduras since the coud’etat of June 2009.  There have been many more sources who have met the same fate in the same time frame.  The highest  murder rate in the world and one that has gained attention from all corners of the globe and groups who watch and look out for this sort of thing.  But it doesn’t take a watch group to see whats going on here.  Suppression on a grande scale. Suppression to the degree of death.  Suppression to the degree of death with no chance for justice what so ever for the perpetrators.  Now that’s suppression without to many comparisons globally, and its not letting up.

Next up: social media, where are you in Honduras?