July 3, 2008

La Mosquitia, a recent look

The following guest blog is from Daniel, who was inspired to tell us more about current day La Mosquitia after reading The (real) La Mosquitia. Daniel is a biologist, a birder, and one of my favorite Honduran internet friends. You can find his bird blog at Hondubirding and his new Mutts and Cats blog at Chuchos.

La Mosquitia (the Mosquito Coast), Honduras and Nicaragua

My wife works in an education project where every now and then has to travel to wild and exotic places to supervise the educational programs and resumes and the whatnots. So this time they sent her to La Mosquitia for a week or so, basically she stayed in Puerto Lempira but went all over the place, literally all places accessible by boat or car.

She tells me that in Puerto Lempira, people are but of two classes, those who try and make it through the day with what they can (i.e. not narcos) and the others that have money due to the drug traffic. This difference is also noted on the housing. Narcos with nicer houses and average joes with the normal houses and not so normal houses.

Now, the folks that aren't into drug smuggling make a living out of the sea in the form of fishing all kinds of delicious things like lobster, fish, and conch, I guess, and when the veda is in force things look meager for all of them because the options aren't that many, so many turn to drug trafficking as an option to feeding their families. As you can see, sometimes its the only option.

Now....getting to the fun part, the drug traffic, well, it isn't fun really, in fact it isn't, but it's an interesting story nonetheless. The wife tells me that sometime during one of her visits a new police chief came to Puerto Lempira and was all high and mighty in the town plaza crying out loud that the trafficking would stop, Juan Misquito was listening to the speech just like the narcos, when one of the big shot narcos with big wad of dollars goes up the podium and bitchslaps the police chief with 'em and tells him "vos te vas a estar tranquilito o ya vas a ver" (you are going to stay put or else) and throws the wad of benjamins to his face. Now every time a plane lands, well, the police chief reads the newspaper, I guess. (Personally I don't judge or condemn his behavior, I wouldn't want to die for a kilo of pure colombian.)

When the cigarette boats (GoFasts) arrive, the tactics are very interesting because everyone knows when the stuff is arriving except for the authorities (local and international) that can't find water in a thunderstorm (nothing personal, it just is)....so the stuff arrives and everyone gets a share for future distribution in country or it gets transferred to some other means of transportation to some place else.

Now, don't get me wrong. The cops do their thing but Misquitos know their jungle real well, so what they do is put a couple of keys in a palm tree or something tall, open 'em up and let the Atlantic breeze spread the expensive white powder all over the place, so when the local cops, DEA, US Army Special Ops (oh yeah, they're there) and some other folk arrive with their sniffing dogs and fancy equipment...well, remember the dope flying all over, right? The dogs go crazy barking at every tree, rock, lizard, or even their masters because everyone is covered in coke in some way or other. Meanwhile the narcos and the stuff are someplace else in transit to ruin someones life, but that I guess that's their own problem.

When it arrives by plane, its another ball game. Around the airfields or just about anywhere, she tells me, you can see these big craters, and I mean real big wide and deep -- guess what they are for?........keep guessing, when a plane lands, it's so full of white colombian that the plane is basically paid for so the narcos chop it up in small pieces (literally chop it up) and basically fill the holes with plane wreckage, cover it up with dirt, and plant a mango tree or whatever and no one is the wiser.

Now, the Honduran Navy tries to do their job but can't always compete against the narco boats with their gigantic engines that almost make those boats fly, and I've seen them going at top speeds. What I'm trying to say that everyone (local, regional, and international forces) tries to do their jobs and occasionally shipments get stopped, but most of the time it's quite a feat due to the enormous cost of surveillance operations, underfunded programs, and the ingenuity of narcos.

Getting back to La Mosquitia, one day the wife had to do a presentation for some kids and the school didn't have enough power outlets, so she asks if someone could fetch an extension cord, and whaddaya know: out comes this Misquito guy 10 minutes later with a 200 meter extension cord with light bulbs attached and all. You do the math, it's for lighting runways at night...and he goes all innocently "this is all I could get." Anyway she did the presentation and no problems with the illumination of the school.

So, in conclusion, Mosquitia is a nice place, good for birding, people there are very generous and polite, kind of complicated to communicate if you don't speak the local tongues, but most people speak Spanish (of sorts), things are way more expensive over there, the beer is generally warm, and the fish is really tasty. Don't deal with narcos because they're ruthless. Some are narcos that just distribute coke like it was rice with no evil intentions in between....and oh well I could go all day telling you guys about the place...but time is a constraint always so enjoy this one and if you'd like I can tell you guys about some other place, you name it I'll tell the stories.

Wow! What a story! I'm dumbfounded.

By the way, Daniel, CONGRATULATIONS on your recent wedding!

I thought I would mention that Daniel invites anyone to send him photos of their Honduran mutts and mongrels for his photo blog. I'll be sending mine in. I hope they make the cut.

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