September 28, 2007

Comments, anyone?

Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

It is (almost) always nice to get comments from readers. Continuing the conversation with input from readers is lots of fun and sometimes more interesting than the blog post itself. It helps me to "get to know" blogicito readers and get a better idea of what you are interested in.

Unfortunately, I had to change my blog settings to not allow anonymous comments anymore. It was just getting too confusing, and for other reasons, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to hear from you!

You don't have to own a blog, be a Blogger, or have a Gmail account to be able to comment. You just need to use a Google account. If you use Gmail, belong to Google Groups, or have signed up for any other Google services, you already have a Google account. You can use that account or you can set up a new one with the "nickname" that you prefer to use in blog comments. Any email address can be used, Google, Yahoo, or any other, and it won't be shown in the comment, only the nickname is shown.

To set up a new Google account, click the "sign up here" link on the comment page, fill out your email address, select a password and a display name (nickname), accept Google's terms, and that's all there is to it. Once you click continue, it will take you back to the comment page.

You can also set up a Blogger profile to use with this account, or not, as you prefer. It isn't necessary to have an actual blog to have a Blogger profile. If you want people to know a little bit about you, show an image with your comment, or direct them to your website, you can use the profile. You can also make your Blogger profile available to view by the public or private.

So you see? It is really quite flexible and you can still maintain your privacy. If you can't figure it out, send me an email and I'll try to help.

So how about it? Will you try leaving a comment even if, like Akinoluna, you have nothing to say?

Hoping to hear from you.....

September 27, 2007

Potholes in the streets and sidewalks

road washed away, HondurasPhoto: La Prensa, Honduras

It is very difficult to stroll around the streets of La Ceiba sightseeing. The problem is that there are so many holes and mismatched levels of concrete in the sidewalks that you risk breaking your neck or at least your ankle if you aren't looking down at the ground the whole time.

sidewalk, La CiebaApparently in better days some store owners tried to beautify the areas in front of their stores by putting tiles down. Now those tiles are all broken and missing pieces and it's often a couple of inches higher than the surrounding sidewalks − so easy to trip over.

Layers of concrete made at different times in sidewalks have shifted resulting in toe-stubbing havens for those not keeping their eyes glued to the ground. Some of the curbs on corners where pedestrians cross are a full 18" to 24" (.46-.61 m.) above the street. Don't ask me why or how this happened. Poor street planning on someone's part, I guess.

open sewer, La CeibaSewer clean-out boxes in the sidewalks often are missing covers, resulting in a 2' deep hole (.61 m.) that small children could fall into if they aren't paying attention, not to mention the sometimes horrendous odors emitted from them. Unlike in the U.S., store owners feel no obligation to maintain a safe area in front of their stores.

sidewalk blocked, La Ceiba, HondurasSidewalks are often blocked for months or years with construction materials, sometimes even long after the construction is finished as the owners or contractors don't make arrangements to have the debris picked up. Sometimes the city makes an issue of this but most often the piles of debris are just left and eventually weeds cover the piles which are regularly trimmed as if it is a part of the landscaping.

La Ceiba, HondurasBecause of the narrowness of some of the sidewalks and the danger of walking on them, many people have developed the custom of walking in the street, even when the sidewalk is in good shape.

The streets are even worse. Because of the heavy rains and flooding, when a pot hole develops in the street it can grow to enormous proportions, 2 or 3 feet deep (.61-1.0 m.) is not unusual. Sometimes the entire street is washed away. Some enterprising people, men and women, will fill a hole in the highway or other busy road with dirt and stand there with a shovel all day accepting donations from the drivers passing by.

road washed away, HondurasSome of these potholes are so big that people put tree branches inside them to warn drivers. Other times they put big rocks around them or a big pile of dirt in front of them which can be really dangerous when you are driving on a dark highway at night. (Photo: La Prensa)

open sewer, HondurasFor some reason, people steal the metal or concrete covers of the street sewers leaving giant holes just waiting for a car tire to fall into. The covers, as heavy as they are, also wash away from the force of the flood waters surging out of the sewers into the streets.

sewer geyser, HondurasThis is when it is really dangerous because everything you need to see is under water. Unless the sewer geyser is visible, you won't know about the hole until it's too late. (Photo: La Prensa)

At one time, it was said that Honduras had the best highways in Central America. It seems that those days are long past. (Photo below: La Prensa)

road washed away, Honduras

September 25, 2007

Ten housekeeping tips for Honduras

In a quick switch from corruption buster to ama de casa (housewife), here are few tips I've learned since moving to the tropics:

10. Stove extractor - Use it and use it often. Not only does it suction the hot air out of your kitchen, it limits the coating of manteca grease to about one square meter of your kitchen.

9. Dust - a) get used to it, b) budget a zillion dollars for air conditioning and seal up your house, or c) hire an empleada (housekeeper) − oh, never mind, just get used to it.

8. Laundry - Don't underestimate the value of a pila (concrete wash tub), the bigger the better. In addition to hand washing, they are good for baby and dog baths, washing large household items, storing water during a water outage, thawing turkeys, and a myriad of other things.

7. Stocking a pantry - This is a tough one. You have to find a balance between stocking up for potential disasters like hurricanes, bridges going out, or a city-wide shortage of tea bags, and maintaining only what you can use over a few weeks because of the climate. Pasta molds. Unopened cookies and crackers get soggy. Even canned food doesn't last as long.

6. Framed pictures - Clean behind them frequently. You'll find spiders, spider webs, ticks, gecko poop, and all sorts of embarrassing nasties.

5. Clothes washer problems - The majority of your problems with your clothes washer will be clogged inlets or outlets from the unfiltered water. Check those first before calling a repairman. Other appliance problems - Electrical overages and brownouts will be the major cause of problems. Good luck finding repairmen or parts.

4. Spices - never buy spices with salt included. They will turn into a nasty looking brown clump of moisture. Many spices will mold, so keep your stash of spices in the freezer or use them within a few weeks.

3. Salt - A pinch of corn starch in the normal salt shaker will keep the salt free-running for a month or two. Rice in the salt shaker is effective for only a couple of weeks. Kosher salt doesn't get so wet and clumpy, but they don't sell it here in La Ceiba. Import it and keep some in an old fashioned sugar shaker.

2. Flour, sugar, cornmeal, etc: A bay leaf or two in the canister will keep the bugs away. It's guaranteed, unless you brought the bugs or bug eggs home with you in the package from the store.

And La Gringa's best tip of all:

1. Window screens - It is important to keep window screens clean because dirty screens block the breeze. Difficult to remove window screens can be semi-cleaned by rubbing an old damp bath towel over the surface, but I've found the best thing yet.

A swivel-headed floor duster with a damp, removable, washable terrycloth cover does an excellent job and helps you to reach the top of the screens without carrying a ladder around with you. Easy to use inside and outside when the handle is an adjustable length. Rinse the terrycloth cover frequently during use.

You'll thank me for this one.

Related article:

And now a word from our sponsers (Pumice stone for sinks and toilets)

September 24, 2007

Part 3: Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Continuation of Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Note: all links to articles or websites are in Spanish unless otherwise indicated.

What does the author of the investigation say?

Robert Carmona BorjasRobert Carmona Borjas, Executive Vice President of Arcadia Foundation and author of the undercover Hondutel investigation, admits that he did sign a contract with Hondutel but says that the U.S$44,078 charge was an "arbitrary and suspicious act of crude extortion." (No explanation was given as to why two different amounts are given − Marcelo Chimirri of Hondutel said it was US$25,352.)

Carmona Borjas said that the Hondutel bill was undocumented. According to his company's contract, Hondutel is required to give the time, dates, duration, and destination numbers of the calls, and that in no manner does this bill represent the correct amount. He also says that Hondutel has not cut the service of other companies such a Latinode, IPIP, WorldWide, Identidat Telecom, Metrocom, Huntington, and KDDI, who owe Hondutel a total of U.S.$2,686,000.

Carmona Borjas says that he has sufficient evidence to prove the veracity of the irregularities which were included in the report that directly involve Chimirri. He also stated that he is not interested in damaging anyone's political image but that CableColor needs to pay the consequences for the grey traffic.

In only 14 days in July 2006, his investigation was able to identify 340 telephone lines dedicated to grey traffic, but he fears that Hondutel officials could be deleting the call registers now, "erasing the fingerprints of the grey traffic".

In a radio interview, he pointed out that it should be easy for Honduran authorities to verify whether Chimirri has enjoyed illegal enrichment since public officials are required to submit personal financial information. He also pointed out that Honduran authorities should be able to determine if Chimirri's paid taxes on his wealth in prior years (since Chimirri claims that his wealth is a result of 30 years of work). He also believes that it is a crime under Honduran law for Chimirri's personal company to be receiving payments from U.S. telecommunications companies while he is a functionary of Hondutel.

Carmona Borjas says if it is true that the government wants help from the US in the investigation, they need to officially ask for it formally in writing, not just "pure bla, bla, bla for the microphones, without anything concrete" .

Carmona Borjas is a Venezuelan who received political asylum in the U.S. in 2002. He is an author and currently part-time faculty at George Washington University. His bio indicates that he has dedicated his life to the campaign for democracy in the region and to combat those who threaten it.

Disappearing websites

Chimirri's Hi5 page, which I wrote about in Hurry! Look quick before it's gone (Eng.), has been toned down, stripped of sexy innuendos, and his photo album has been made private (some photos are still available at El Proceso).

The Arcadia Foundation website (Eng.) has been stripped of all information and each page results in "under construction" or a 404 notice. Rosenthal said that a photo of former U.S. Ambassador Otto Reich was removed from the Arcadia website.

I was sure that I saw the title of a related article on the Revistazo website, but when I went back to read it, it was gone and no amount of searching could locate it. Revistazo does have a copy of one of the secretly taped recordings with a transcript described as an example of how they manage the power in Honduras.

El Universal's original article was no longer available by searching its website, although I was able to access the article through a Google search.

Searches of CNN en Español came up with nothing related to the television report (although there were references to the Blogicito articles).

Emergency trip to Washington

On Wednesday, September 19, an emergency delegation was sent to Washington, D.C., to "prove" that Honduras has improved controls against corruption, a requirement for the the Millenium Challenge Account (Eng.) aid to continue. At risk is 60% of US$215 million designated for Honduras. Yani Rosenthal, whose family company CableColor is at the heart of the Hondutel scandal, was one of the members of the delegation as he is one of the five Honduras MCA board members.

Honduran officials have been claiming that Honduras has no corruption, only the perception of corruption. Last year, a World Bank report showed that the fight against corruption in Honduras has not improved.

Secret investigations, results hidden from public scrutiny, international aid in jeopardy, secretly taped telephone conversations, international bribes, dismantling of private businesses, international investments going to other countries, murder, sexual harassment, presidential candidate, lawsuits against newspapers....What a mess!

I hope that Hondurans listen to the message and don't "shoot the messenger." Demand a real investigation, and act swiftly without regard to where the message came from, who might be behind it, or how it damages the image of the country.

As far as corruption goes, Honduras' image was severely damaged long before this report was ever issued (Eng). The important thing is for Honduras is to take the first concrete step to put an end to the rampant corruption which is destroying the country. That is what will improve Honduras' image and give all Hondurans something of which to be proud.

I've received several warnings by email suggesting that it could be dangerous to write these articles. It seems outrageous to think that translating and summarizing information which has been published in at least half a dozen newspapers in at least two countries and aired on CNN could pose a personal threat to me. This may be the first English article about the scandal but for sure it won't be the last. Even Honduran corruptos can't control the internet.

Related articles:

Part 2: Swamp of corruption in Hondutel
Swamp of corruption in Hondutel
-Chimirri scandal
Hurry! Look quick before it is gone
Attack on freedom of expression in Honduras
Will Honduras ever rise out of poverty?

September 22, 2007

Part 2: Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Continuation of Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Note: all links to articles or websites are in Spanish unless otherwise indicated.

What do the actors in the Hondutel grey traffic scandal say?

Leónidas Rosa Bautista, (Eng.) Fiscál General (Attorney General), is the top man in charge of the investigation. He has been accused of detaining investigations of celebrated corruption cases. Within the Fiscalía's office, former attorneys in charge of Organized Crime and Anticorruption have been transferred to the training or consumer divisions or have even left the country after being, what some say, a little too successful in their investigations.

On September 11, the Ministerio Público announced that all investigations would proceed in secret and that they won't divulge any information about the case. The Fiscál Contra Corrupción, Henry Salgado, announced that they would solicit information from Arcadia and, "if necessary," take a declaration from Rosenthal. (Secret investigations − the best friend of corruption. Out of sight, out of mind.)

On September 13, Chimirri announced legal action for "crimes against the economy of Honduras" against Robert Carmona Borjas, VP of Fundación Arcadia. He also announced undertaking of legal actions against El Universal, the Mexican newspaper which published the report in its original version. (Is he going to add CNN en Español that list?)

During a TV interview, Chimirri disclosed that Carmona Borjas signed a contract with Hondutel last June 2006 as representative of LD TeleCom to provide long distance minutes from the U.S. to Honduras. He claims that Borjas is a blackmailer who owes Hondutel U.S.$25,352 and that vengeance is the motivation for the report because he doesn't want to pay.

Yani Rosenthal denies any involvement with grey traffic and says that the allegations against his family's business CableColor are only an attempt to damage him politically in his campaign for president of Honduras. He says that CableColor was investigated last year (by Chimirri's Anti-Fraud group) and found to not be at fault for the grey traffic originating from the family business and he invites the Fiscalía to investigate CableColor.

His family newspaper, El Tiempo, paints a completely different picture than the other Honduran newspapers, with headlines such as "Hondutel reveals what is behind the black campaign", "Arcadia, besides lying, also operated illegally in the country", "Carmona committed espionage", and"CNN also unmasks Carmona."

Marlon Duarte, legal advisor to Hondutel, said that Arcardia and Carmona Borjas will be investigated because "we can't permit a foreigner to come inside an important agency like telecommunications in a independent country."

The former Fiscál of Organized Crime, Marcio Zúniga Sierra, who was in charge of raids on businesses alleged to be involved with grey traffic, is now an attorney working for Chimirri in Hondutel.

Rasel Tomé, president of the Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Conatel), responsible for regulation of telecommunications, says that they have received no denuncias regarding grey traffic against Hondutel or the two suboperators (cell phone companies) which are the only entities authorized for international call traffic, or CableColor, therefore, he thinks the Arcadia report is "damaging the international image of the country."

The President of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ), Vilma Cecilia Morales, considered that if the Honduran government doesn't put a strong hand to this matter, the country could confront repercussions. The credibility of and possibility of corruption of the CSJ has been put in question several times.

Roberto Micheletti, president of the National Congress, says "We know there is a lot of grey traffic in the country. We have denounced it before."

Honduran President Mel Zelaya said that there is no proof against Chimirri. He had no comment about the investigations and said that if Arcadia has proof, bring it to Honduras. (That is a little disengenuous, since the original report was submitted to Hondutel management and the US Embassy in July 2006, not to mention the fact that if Robert Carmona Borjas comes back to Honduras, he will need to wear full body armor and be surrounded by a team of bodyguards.)

On September 19, CNN en Español aired an interview with Carmona Borjas under the banner "Corruption in Honduras." Many politicians and some citizens were outraged, but some seemed more upset about the international exposure and the deterioration of the country's image than they are about the corruption. President of the National Congress, Micheletti said, "the acts of corruption denounced in Hondutel are causing the state to lose millions." Estimates are that Honduras currently loses US$2 million per day to corruption or almost three-quarters of a BILLION US dollars per year. Some estimates are as high as US$1 BILLION and that the total may be US$48 BILLION.

US Ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford, said the denuncias "no son nada nuevo" (aren't anything new). He's been talking about corruption for a long time. Ford says that his interest is that the U.S. has spent much money helping the institutions investigate the accusations and it is better that the Fiscál and the courts decide.

Ford says that the U.S. government had nothing to do with Arcadia, El Universal, or CNN's report and that when they have something to say, they say it directly to the government. The U.S. FBI's
International Financial Crimes division has apparently been conducting investigations. President Zelaya admitted that he was informed 5 months ago that the U.S. was investigating Chimirri.

The coordinator of the Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción, Juan Ferrera, issued a petition for a rapid and clear investigation and the removal of Chimirri from his position.

In the September 19 issue, La Prensa speculated that Chimirri would leave his position in the next hours and made the cryptic comment that he was expected to "enter one of the embassies."

It's incredible that the Hondutel financial information can only be obtained through a third party and published in Mexico, after which it was reported in the Honduran newspapers as a big surprise. Where is the transparency? Why aren't the citizens given financial reports of government agencies?

Under Honduras' new "transparency" law (Eng), virtually any information can be withheld from the public or even destroyed before it can be made public. But the international aid organizations demanded transparency, so the corruptos passed a law to placate them. Ironically, "under the new law, all information about humanitarian aid is secret. The amounts of aid received and the uses to which they are put cannot be divulged."

Next: What does the author of the investigation say and disappearing websites

September 20, 2007

Swamp of corruption in Hondutel

Crocodiles: They are always smiling, aren't they?

Robert Carmona Borjas, Vice President of Arcadia Foundation, confirmed that he has a report which will prove that high-level government functionaries and businessmen are involved in a multi-million dollar fraud against Hondutel, the Honduras government-owned telephone company.

Tráfico grís (grey traffic) is the name for long-distance calls which through technology are recorded and billed as local calls, reducing the income received by
Hondutel. Fraud from grey traffic is estimated to be between 15 and 20 million minutes per month, representing a loss of US$1.5 to 2 million to Hondutel, and the Honduran people, each month.

Note: all links to articles or websites are in Spanish unless otherwise indicated.

On September 8, 2007, a respected Mexican newspaper, El Universal, printed
an exposé of the swamp of corruption surrounding Honduras' state-owned telephone company Hondutel. The investigative report was prepared by Arcadia Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C.

According to the text of the article, between 2005 and 2006, the first year of President Manuel Zelaya's administration, Hondutel's income decreased 47%. International calls dropped from 306 million minutes in the first quarter of 2005 to 151 million minutes in the same period of 2006, resulting in a decrease in income from U.S.$70 million to U.S.$23 million in the respective years.

"Given that Hondutel is the only organization that can legally receive international calls, there is no logical reason to report the substantial decrease of more than 154 million minutes and U.S.$47 million in income," said Carmona Borjas. The only explanation is that the calls were billed to subcontractors and individuals as local calls by Hondutel through internal corporate fraud, instances of extortion, and political corruption at high levels, he indicated.


During the first quarter of 2007, Hondutel registered another 18% reduction in gross income from US$49 million to US$40. Predictions are that Hondutel will close this fiscal year with the worst results in a decade.

grey traffic/tráfico grísThe continual decreases come in spite of the fact that Hondutel and Chimirri personally with the help of heavily armed military units have violently dismantled 65 companies who were allegedly operating in grey traffic (Eng). The companies' equipment, records, computers, money, and cell phones were confiscated without benefit of trial or any indication that any of the companies will ever receive the right to defend themselves in court.

After a series of denuncias (official complaints) spanning years, in March of this year the Congreso Nacional requested that the Fiscalía investigate. Again in August of this year, the five political parties of Honduras petitioned the Superior Tribunal of Accounts (TSC in Spanish) to conduct a complete audit of Hondutel.

In addition to grey traffic, complaints regarding the Hondutel scandal have ranged from irregular contracts, abuse of power, irregularities in the contraction of personnel, excessive numbers of employees, illegal salary increases, abuse in use of cellular phones, and irregular management of state resources. Thousands of citizens have denounced fraudulent bills containing phantom long distance charges for years. TSC announced that they would perform a financial audit and that the technical issue of grey traffic would be turned over to the Fiscalía Contra Corrupción and international organizations. No word of those investigations has been reported.

Details of the Arcadia Report

Allegations were made that there are 340 phone lines being used for grey traffic by CableColor, a telephone and cable TV company. CableColor is owned by the wealthy, well-connected Rosenthal family who includes a former presidential candidate and his son, Yani Rosenthal, the current Ministero de la Presidencia (Secretary of State and right hand man to President Mel Zelaya) who is expected to be a presidential candidate in the 2008 elections. The Rosenthal family also owns the newspaper El Tiempo and television channel 11.

Marcelo Chimirri, HondutelThe report also alleged that the managing director of Hondutel, Marcelo Chimirri, (good friend of the President and family of the first lady) through one of his personal businesses, has received U.S.$70,000 in payments from two U.S. companies and that Chimirri's "personal wealth has increased substantially in a very short period without the benefit of a parallel growth in visible and legitimate earnings." The text also assured that Chimirri also has responsibility for fraudulent schemes and that the Fiscalía still considers him a person of interest in the 1998 death of his former girlfriend (Eng.), Yadira Miguel Mejía, as well as for threats and aggression against reporters.

Chimirri's escapades

Chimirri has also been accused of sexual harassment of female Hondutel employees in which the women who complained were fired and of pulling his pants down in front of congressmen and women. There is so much
scandalous information about this guy that it would take a book to cover it all. In that same interview with La Tribuna, he freely admits to being "mafia" and capable of anything. He thinks it's "very pretty" that he doesn't have to register his trips to the Cayman Islands (The Caymans have secret banking laws.) Since he physically threatens and sues the reporters and newspapers who write about him (Eng.), I'm sure that the worst of it has never been printed.

Fourteen months of inaction

Robert Carmona BorjasRobert Carmona Borjas says that the original denuncia (complaint) was submitted to Hondutel on July 4, 2006, with a copy going to the U.S. Embassy. The complaint was "investigated" by Hondutel's internal anti-fraud group and was swept under the rug and everyone was assured that there were just a few errors made, probably by some employees or outsiders, and that everything was okay now.

Apparently, the Arcadia Foundation went to Mexico's El Universal because they couldn't get the story published in Honduras. Previous stories have resulted in
lawsuits against Honduran newspapers.

Carmona worries that Hondutel officials could now be
deleting call registers to benefit wealthy business owners. Arcadia gathered the information for their report by infiltrating Hondutel. It seems obvious that Hondutel and/or other government insiders must have helped with the investigation, as well as possibly bank insiders, to have this level of detail.

Next: What do the actors say?

(Gentle readers, please forgive the delay and all the links but I had to document this article completely for fear of being sued, deported, or worse! Now, hopefully, some real investigators will pick up the story and expose this situation in English for the rest of the world. Are you reading, CNN?)

September 17, 2007

Hondutel-Chimirri scandal

Marcelo Chimirri, head of Hondutel − Looks stressed, doesn't he?
Photo: El Proceso, Honduras

For those of you who have been coming here searching for information on the latest Hondutel-Chimirri scandal, I'm working on an article that I hope to have tomorrow.
It's big. It's juicy, and if this doesn't get some corruptos put in jail, I may have to give up on Honduras.

It is so big that it had to be published in Mexico, not Honduras. I guess the Honduran newspapers can not be sued for reporting on a story from another newspaper.

While doing some research, I discovered that thanks to an anonymous tipster, I scooped the Honduran newspaper Proceso by 17 days on the Chimirri Hi5 page. After the Proceso article, Chimirri made his photo album private and revised his front page to show a much more serious person. No more love poems and many fewer mafia movies now.

The article is Swamp of corruption in Hondutel.

Each day: 88 kicked out, 508 back in

Honduran deporteesDeportees arriving daily in Tegucigalpa
Photo: La Prensa, Honduras

As of September 7, 2007, the U.S. has deported 24,600 Hondurans, second only to Mexico, whose population is about 100 million more than Honduras. In 2004, total deportees numbered 9,350; in 2005, 18,154; and in 2006, 26,600.

Many Hondurans have lost their U.S. jobs due to cutbacks in the construction industry and immigration raids, and many others have trouble finding work because of new hiring restrictions.

In a recent poll taken by La Prensa, 86% of the respondents indicated that they are afraid that crime will increase with so many Hondurans being deported back to Honduras. They have a point. Hondurans caught in illegal acts in the U.S. are probably among the first to be deported. But even among the generally law abiding Hondurans (putting aside the illegal entry into the U.S.), they may come back angry, broke, and confused, with no options for employment. Many have been gone long enough that they no longer have friends or close relatives here.

Regarding the effect of deportations on remesas (funds sent from relatives in other countries − representing somewhere around 25% of the gross national income of Honduras), 77% believe that the increase in deportations will have a bad effect on the Honduran economy.

In an almost evenly split decision, 51% believe that the proposed government-business collaboration will generate jobs for the deported. You can't blame the other 49% for being skeptical when the people who live here now already have a 28% unemployment rate.

In another almost evenly split decision, 51% of the respondents believe that the U.S. is acting in reprisal for the relationship between Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

La Prensa, HondurasRather than highlighting one of the questions with a clear-cut consensus from the population, La Prensa choose to run this headline on the front page today:

Massive deportation is a reprisal from the U.S.

Shame on you, La Prensa. It may be or it may not be a reprisal, but that really isn't what your poll decided.

Some other statistics for your enjoyment:

Of the estimated 1,000,000 Hondurans who live outside of the country, an estimated 93.5% live in the U.S., primarily in Florida, Texas, and New York.

The process of deportation is now taking about 15 days. Previously it was about 90 days.

The U.S. is deporting an average of 88 Hondurans per day.
Honduras is exporting an average of 508 Hondurans per day.

Seems like a losing battle.

Related articles:

Keep them, please!
Nothing to do
A country of retirees

September 16, 2007

Nothing to do

Photo: La Prensa

As reported in La Prensa, the Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT, agency of the United Nations) completed a study which showed that 32%, almost one of every three Honduran young people do not work or go to school. Honduras' dramatic statistic is the highest of all of Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Guatemala with 30%. Of those who neither work or study, 62% are female and 38% are male.

OIT estimates that there are 22 million young people ages 15-24 who don't work or study in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Young people bring energy, talent, and creativity to the economy and no country can permit themselves to lose this potential," said the director general of OIT.

Referring to Honduras in particular, the report stated that educational reform is needed to produce more and better prepared technicians, engineers, and bilingual personnel. Honduras has a paradox in that while there exists a high level of unemployment, there are businesses who cannot find adequate personnel.

It seems no wonder that Honduras has such high rates of crime, teenage pregnancy, and level of gang and drug activity.

September 15, 2007


5.5 earthquake in Honduras, USGS map
Click to enlarge any of the maps

Now here is some hots news that you haven't heard yet (providing you are reading this soon after I post it):

We just had an earthquake in Honduras at 11:59 a.m. this morning.

El Jefe was upstairs laying on the bed watching the Independence Day parades on television. I was (where else?) downstairs sitting at the computer. I heard the large sliding glass door windows rattling loudly and jumped up. I thought it was Chloe, the guard dog, banging against them which she sometimes does.

At the same moment that I stepped into the hall, El Jefe ran out of the upstairs room, saying, "Did you feel that! I was about to jump off the terraza!" I think that he may have been exaggerating a little!

I didn't feel anything, but there was no wind and no dogs near those doors so we were both convinced that there had been an earthquake. I started checking the U.S. Geological Service earthquake information.

We turned on the television and before long, the announcer was saying that they had felt the earthquake, too. After a very few minutes, the Earthquake Center started showing the data.

The earthquake was rated a 5.5 magnitute, but that could be revised as they get more data. Comparing the earthquake map with a more detailed Honduras map, it looks like the epicenter was apparently near a small town called Marale in the mountains, about 17 miles (28 km.) south of Yoro, in the department of Yoro.

The epicenter appeared to be about halfway between Tegucigalpa and La Ceiba. To locate it on a less detailed map of Honduras (is there any other kind?), if you drew a circle touching the major cities of La Ceiba, Juticalpa, Tegucigalpa, Siguatepeque, and El Progresso, the epicenter would be just about in the middle of that circle, in the mountains surrounded by several small villages.

One local La Ceiba call-in talk program was speculating about the earthquake so El Jefe tried to be a good citizen and called in with the actual data and location information. It was a terrible connection and he couldn't hear the questions being asked but did his best to report the facts and where the facts came from. The announcer mis-heard him and reported that it was a 5.9 magnitude.

A few minutes later, more information was available from the USGS, so El Jefe called in again. He didn't want to go on the air again because it was so frustrating not being able to hear the questions. He just wanted to pass on the new information and the correct rating of the earthquake. The "screener"
said, "I'm not allowed to tell him anything. Sorry. Goodbye." in a typical example of how some people don't learn to think for themselves, only learn to "follow the rules" without any thought to the real purpose of their job.

I couldn't help but think of all the exciting scoops that station might miss because of this screener. For all he knew, El Jefe was calling in to report that he had just heard from friends in Tegucigalpa that the earth opened up and sucked in the Presidential Palace and National Congress! It is very frustrating dealing with situations like that. The program continued for another two hours and never did report the new facts from the USGS so I guess they didn't have anyone who knew how to look it up on the internet. Instead they were taking complaints about Hondutel phone lines not working. No news there!

In the time that it has taken me to write this, locate the maps and upload them, and publish this article, the local stations have continued to report on the parades so it appears that there hasn't been much damage. I hope that is true.

I always say that there is never any shortage of blogging material in Honduras. I can also say that I'm learning a lot about hurricanes and earthquakes.

September 14, 2007

The stolen $74 banana split

Banana split
A well stolen photo: Univ. of Texas

Just helping to cheer me up today, Google sent me an alert that showed some of my blogicito content was being used on another site. I set up some Google Alerts a long time ago when I was having so many problems with people stealing my articles. Why they steal them, I don't know. I don't write about IPhones or other hot topics. I wouldn't think that writing about Honduras would draw a lot of advertisement clickers, but who knows.

Anyway, I clicked on the link in the alert and what do I find? It's on a hardcore porn site!

But wait. It gets even worse.

Not only is it on a porn site, but just by clicking on the link SENT TO ME IN AN EMAIL FROM GOOGLE (who I have always trusted with my life), the site opened and attempted to download something to my computer. I clicked "cancel" in the pop up box and instead of closing, another box popped up saying "now downloading...." or something like that. I just started clicking "x's" and closing windows as fast as I could and honestly, I have no idea if something was downloaded or not.

Now I'm running Ad-Aware, Spy Bot, and AVG Antivirus. I could cut out letters from the newspaper and paste them into an article faster than I can type right now. I need a new computer. What should I get?

In case you are interested, my article was the one about Baskin Robbins called
The $74 banana split. I don't even want to think about the connection.

September 13, 2007

Cultural differences: Hurricanes

Image: National Hurricane Center, 09/04/07

You know how we US Americans are. (Here I am stereotyping again. Just think "in general" so I don't have to write it each time.) We always have to DO SOMETHING. If a hurricane is coming, we worry, we look up the hurricane preparedness guidelines, we protect, we prepare, we evacuate.

Not so with Hondurans for the most part. "Si Dios quiere" (if God wills it) is the rule of the day. I have to qualify that by saying that the Honduran government did seem to have an organized plan.

I've never been anywhere near a Hurricane before. I was getting the National Hurricane Center email warnings every couple of hours instructing me to "immediately complete preparations for this catastrophic hurricane." Internet friends were giving me advice and links to hurricane preparedness sites. I was reading about tons of stuff that there was no way we could do in the amount of time that was left. I was getting really scared at the point when most of the prediction models showed Felix coming directly through La Ceiba.

One of El Jefe's brothers lives a block away from the ocean. His mother lives about 3 blocks away from the ocean. I suggested that we invite them all to come and spend the night here. We think (hope) our house is relatively sturdy and we are a couple of miles from the ocean with mountains behind us.

Nope. They stayed home. We even suggested that his brother at least bring his car over to keep in our garage overnight because he doesn't have a garage. Nope. They seemed to think we were silly for even suggesting it.

Of course, we did a few basic things that I'm sure most Hondurans did. We stocked up on food. We got extra cash in case the banks and/or ATMs weren't working for awhile. We planned where we and the dogs would go if it hit. We are always stocked up on candles and drinking and non-drinking water so there was no change there.

El Jefe and I had a few tense moments with me saying that we need to do this or we need to do that and him raising his eyebrows and acting like I was nuts. Thankfully, in the end, he was the one who got to say "I told you so."

With Hurricane Dean and Hurricane Felix, we were lucky. They were right. No worries!

I guess it must be comforting to have faith that God won't smash you and your house to smithereens, but I couldn't help thinking, "God helps those who help themselves."

September 12, 2007

La Gringa has a bad day

An Ugly American*

The beer belt, holds bottles or cans (beer not included)
(advertisement in return for stealing their photo)

La Gringa is having a really bad day today...
Umm, and yesterday....
Oh, and the day before, too.

Lucky for you readers that I had some happy articles drafted up from last week which were displaced by Hurricane Felix.

I'm beginning to think that I don't much like gringos. I thought I came here to get away from all that stuff. Any of you other expatriates ever feel that way?

Oh, and you Hondurans, too. Feel free to jump in and tell us how pushy and obnoxious gringos are. (Me included.)

* "The Ugly American was a caricature built on the reality of a boisterous, loud, uncultured, unsophisticated, arrogant, insensitive clod − one who was prone to throwing around too much money, dressing absurdly, and acting oblivious to the subtleties of high culture."
− From PopPolitics

September 11, 2007

Is there a doctor in the house?

Mountains in Gracias, Lempira, HondurasPhoto by Kirstin, age 20, Gracias, Lempira, Honduras
used by permission: Sowers4Pastors

I've "met" some really interesting people by blogging. One of them is Trish, here in Honduras, but waaaaay out in the boonies. Trish and her husband and family do missionary work in Gracias, Lempira, in the western part of Honduras.

Trish isn't a doctor or a nurse, but sometimes the poor come to her for medical help and advice because they just can't get it anywhere else. There are no doctors or hospitals nearby. She does what research she can on the internet and sometimes kind U.S. doctors help with advice.

Right now la doctora (the doctor) Trish has a couple of medical problems that have her stumped.
If you are a doctor, maybe you can help her because she is Practicing medicine without a license. You won't have to worry about malpractice here in Honduras, and for sure the doctors who originally treated these patients are the ones who should be sued.

Even if you aren't a doctor, visit Trish's blog,
Sowers4Pastors, to read about her family's life in small town Honduras. Trish has a good sense of humor and her blog is fun to read. Today you might be able to help her with her ethical dilemma in Old carnivals never die...They move south.

Check out the photos at the top and bottom of her blog. Can you imagine living there?!

September 10, 2007

El Jefe gets a new weapon

Electronic Insect ZapperElectronic Insect Zapper

Men love their toys, don't they? Oh, they call them tools or devices or weapons, but we know that they are little boys playing with their toys. They are especially happy when they can talk about volts or horsepower or gigabytes. When they are weapons of mass destruction with voltage − what could be better?

Electronic Insect ZapperOur friend G brought us this weapon from the U.S. the other day. It's called an Electronic Insect Zapper, made in China, of course. G said not to touch the metal grid when it is turned on because it gives quite a shock. She also said that EVERY man WILL touch the metal grid just to see if it really hurts. Heh, heh.

El Jefe was so anxious to impress his brothers with a large body count that he took it off with him to visit. What a disappointment! No mosquitoes, no flies, nothing!

Today, however, he took it outside on the terraza and was lucky enough to swat a mosquito. I was looking through the kitchen window and saw that look of devilish delight in his eyes when he heard the satisfyingly loud POP-SIZZLE as the mosquito was fried. It's really quite fun. It's the first time I've ever been disappointed that we didn't have more mosquitoes.

Right now I'm in another room listening to POP-SIZZLE! Yee-haw! POP-SIZZLE! Yee-haw!

My man! Protecting me from dengue fever organically!

September 9, 2007

Big excitement in La Ceiba

Quiznos, La Ceiba, HondurasQuiznos, La Ceiba, Honduras

No, not the hurricane.

Quiznos opened!

Having never been to Quiznos in my life, I was pretty excited about the new grand opening. We didn't make it there until a week later, but we've had Quiznos three times since.

Quiznos, La Ceiba, HondurasI was even more excited to see Chop Salads − I like to live dangerously. And then they have bread bowls and soups and desserts and everything! Does Quiznos in the U.S. have Tres Leches for dessert? This place evens lets me have mustard on my sandwich unlike the hamburger joints who insist that all hamburgers must come with mayonnaise and charge me extra to leave off the ketchup, mayo, and onions.

Quiznos, La Ceiba, HondurasThe restaurant was still crowded even though it must have been near 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. The regulation lunch hour in La Ceiba is 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. There is even a loud Dole horn which you can hear all over town that announces lunch and then announces when it is over. It sounds a little like an air raid warning, lunchtime is that important. It used to be that all the stores and banks even closed during lunch but that is slowly changing.

Quiznos, La Ceiba, HondurasI was really impressed with the pepper bar. I love those salad peppers. Free food sitting out where anyone can take as much as they want. That is rare in La Ceiba. I have an idea that they will close this up before long. No doubt some people will fill up plastic bags of the stuff to take home and ruin it for everyone.

Quiznos, La Ceiba, HondurasI predict that Quiznos is going to stay a big hit − as long as they keep up the quality of their food and don't start skimping on the portions. I'm sure it will be a hit with the expatriates and tourists who may get tired of those big, heavy, hot lunches every day. Sometimes you just want something fast, cold, and that isn't fried. I rarely make sandwiches here because the ham and lunch meat is, well, scary. Funky tastes and mushy textures.

Do you like Quiznos or is it just that I have been deprived for so long? I've been saying for a long time that La Ceiba needed a place to get fresh sandwiches. Now we have one.

Who knows? Maybe Home Depot will be next.

September 7, 2007

La Gringa goes to prison

La Ceiba prison yard, HondurasLa Ceiba prison yard, Honduras


Well .... not exactly "goes" to prison.

La Ceiba, Honduras, prisonWell .... not exactly inside either, but up to the guard watchtower. That is as close as I want to go.

We were walking along the street past the prison (maybe it is more like the jail − you know for short term or pre-trial stays − I'm not real sure and don't plan to find out).

I took a photo of the wall with the razor wire on top and started imagining how my lame post would go: "This is the prison wall." Big deal.

La Ceiba, Honduras, prisonThen I noticed the guard up in the watch tower waving at me, like "take my picture!"

I took a photo, but he was pretty far away and in the shade. He came out a little ways and I took another.

He was asking me how it came out and motioning, "show it to me." Apparently, he couldn't come down the stairs − 'cuz he had to guard and all − so I went up.

guard, La Ceiba, Honduras prisonI got a couple of better shots which he wants me to print out for him so I guess I'll be going back to prison soon to deliver the photos. Nice looking guy, huh? I can find out if he is single if anyone is interested. :-D

La Ceiba, Honduras, prisonOnce I was up there, of course I had to take a look around. There were guys playing basketball and it looked more like a high school playground than a prison. Then they saw me and started hooting and hollering and waving for the camera.

Now here is some gossip that I've heard from El Jefe who heard it from a friend who visited a friend inside. There are drug dealers inside who have private suites, complete with air conditioning, TVs, and you name it. They rent the room, from the guards or whoever is in charge, I guess. For a price, prisoners also can take women visitors into the cell with them. Well, actually, for the right price, they can just get out. Mysterious escapes from Honduran prisons happen all the time.

La Ceiba, Honduras, prison

Is there nothing La Gringa won't do for a story? Well, putting aside paid cell visits anyway.

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