Thursday, November 28, 2013

Observations on the 2013 election

1)  Juan Orlando Hernandez won with 35% of the vote.  That means that the vast majority or 65% of the people did not vote for him.

2)  Honduras has traditionally been a two party system dominated by the Nationalists and Liberal parties.  Now there are four major parties including LIBRE (socialist) and PAC (anti-corruption).

3)  The Liberal party historically was the largest party in Honduras.  Now it is no. 3 (behind LIBRE).

4)  The Honduran president has normally enjoyed a majority in the congress, and has been able to easily push his agenda without much dissent.  This has now changed, and the president must now find 'partners' to work with, so there will have to be much more 'give and take'.

5)  The Honduran people want major changes in their society and country as evidenced by the election results.  The challenges are many and none are simple to resolve.  Foremost, the challenges include:  insecurity (Honduras has the highest murder rate in world),  corruption, a stagnant economy, a bankrupt government that cannot pay salaries to teachers and doctor, a massive debt burden, broken educational and medical systems, ineptitude throughout the government, and a collapsing infrastructure.  The list could go on and on.  Unfortunately, Honduras today borders on being a failed state.

In conclusion, the 2013 elections were a watershed moment and should be seen by the political establishment as a very serious 'wake-up call'.  Mr. Hernandez has only four short years in which to meet the challenge.  If he pursues business as usual, Honduras may well resort to radical change in the next election.  The people deserve more than what the traditional politicians have given them in the past.  They want to walk the streets in safety, they want a better life for their families, they want education and health care, they want greater economic equality, and above all they want opportunities and a better life for themselves and their children.

I hope and pray that JOH understands the gravity of the situation and has the determination to lead Honduras out of the despair that engulfs the nation today.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Amanda's update

I last reviewed Amanda's on Dec. 31, 2009.  Since then, I have dined there countless times and have always been a 'happy camper' so to speak as this has always been one of my favorite Teguz restaurants.

A few days ago, I went there for lunch. While the atmosphere and service are still great, I must admit I was disappointed...No, the food still tastes delicious. In fact, I had a bowl of lentil soup to start with and it was fantastic (with a dash of Tabasco added)...the best lentil soup I've had in Honduras.

The menu is still the same, and prices haven't gone up...well, uh, maybe prices have increased but just not on the menu...Instead of increasing prices the size of the portions have miraclulously shrunk.  I almost always get the muffaletta sandwich (being from New Orleans).  Definitely not overstuffed, it's about a third shorter with only about half the meat as before.

My wife noted that her lettuce wraps contained the same amount of lettuce and carrots as the last time, but was mystified by the scanty amount of chicken and noodles...

I guess this is inflation Honduran style...always being a bit too clever assuming no one will notice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Waiting for another coup in November...


Replaying the 2009 Political Crisis

    In 2013, Honduras is headed down the same road that led to the 2009 political crisis. Crime and inflation are up, foreign investment is down, the government’s finances are in disarray, and the President is talking about polling the Honduran people to see if they want constitutional changes that could jeopardize the 2013 general elections. In 2009, Honduran President Jose Manuel “Mel” Zelaya Rosales proposed polling the Honduran people to see if they wanted to vote on a Constituent Assembly during the November 2009 general elections. The poll to determine if the people wanted the “Fourth Urn", as it was called, was declared illegal by the Honduran Supreme Court, but President Zelaya decided to proceed with it anyway on June 28, 2009.
    In the week before the planned poll, intense negotiations between Mr. Zelaya and his chief political rival, President of the Congress Roberto Micheletti Bain, failed to produce a compromise on the Fourth Urn. (Note: During elections, Hondurans deposit their completed ballots in boxes called urns. There are three urns in an election: one for votes for president, one for members of congress and one for municipal officials.)

    Concerned that Mr. Zelaya would manipulate the results of the poll to demand that Congress install the Fourth Urn, the Honduran Congress, Armed Forces, Supreme Court and Attorney General conspired to remove Mr. Zelaya from office claiming he had committed crimes against the Constitution that made him ineligible to continue as President. In the hours before dawn on June 29, 2009, the Honduran Army removed Mr. Zelaya from his house and put him on an Air Force plane to Costa Rica. The world awoke to Mr. Zelaya on international news claiming he had been the victim of a coup d’etat. Roberto Micheletti claimed the move was a “constitutional succession,” and he assumed the presidency; no country in the world recognized his de facto government.
     
    With the support of the international community, Honduras held democratic elections in November 2009, and elected Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa as its president.
     
    This year is starting off eerily similar to 2009 with a constitutional crisis involving the Supreme Court. In 2009, the question was what would happen if the National Congress didn’t name fifteen new Supreme Court Justices before the deadline specified in the Constitution. The crisis was avoided when the Congress elected the fifteen magistrates minutes before the midnight deadline. In 2013, the question is what to do with four justices removed from the Supreme Court by a Congressional vote, and the four justices sworn in to replace them. The former judges have asked the Supreme Court to declare their removal unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court denied the request.
     
    Once again, the Honduran President is directly involved in the controversy. In 2009, it was Manuel Zelaya who argued for reelection of some of the magistrates so he could have some measure of influence over the court. Current President Porfirio Lobo encouraged the Congress to remove the justices following several of their decisions that went against his administration. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the declaration by the Constitutional Court that the law allowing the Honduran police to conduct polygraphs and other “confidence tests” on police officers was unconstitutional. Curiously, the decision came after the law’s six month validity had expired; the tests had already been administered and some police officers had been fired. 
     
    Of course, this is an election year, and there is a school of thought that the Honduran Congress removed the justices because the government was concerned about how the Supreme Court would rule on a request by National Party presidential candidate and Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Álvarez to recount, vote for vote, the results of the November 2012 primary elections. Mayor Álvarez lost those elections to President of Congress Juan Orlando Hernández, but demonstrated irregularities in the final reports provided by some polling stations that would indicate fraud in favor of Congressman Hernández. International observers did not report widespread fraud but admitted that their observations were not located in the small districts where Mr. Hernández is strongest and where Mr. Álvarez alleged the machinations took place. Mr. Álvarez is President Lobo’s preferred candidate to succeed him in the presidency with general elections to take place in November 2013.
     
    Judicial controversies are not the only problems plaguing Honduras in 2013. The government finished the year with a budget deficit that exceeded US$1 billion (6 percent of GDP) and many public sectors did not receive their December salary or year-end bonus. Honduras has attempted to finance its budget deficit by offering sovereign debt but has been unable to find any buyers. The local financial system has refused to purchase bonds, and it is unlikely Honduras will find international banks willing to assume the risk despite the large interest rates being offered.
     
    Crime increased significantly in the second half of 2012; even Minister of Security Pompeyo Bonilla admitted that Honduras experienced a spike in homicides in the 45 days ending the year with the police unable to stem the tide. The early advances in effectiveness and reduced corruption gained after the arrival of National Police Chief Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla (no relation to the Minister) in the second quarter of 2012 have leveled off, and the police seemed to have returned to their status quo of mediocrity.
     
    President Lobo broached the topic of the Fourth Urn during the first Ministers Council meeting of 2013 in which he said there would definitely be a consultation of the people during the November elections. The 2009 Fourth Urn would have been a plebiscite to ask the people if they wanted to install a Constituent Assembly to reform the Honduran constitution. The Fourth Urn in 2013 will likely ask the Constituent Assembly question as well as other national interest questions such as should the government renegotiate the contracts with the large private energy generating companies with the idea of extracting more money from them for the government. 
     
    What is the difference between 2009 and 2013? Why the Fourth Urn now when it was denied then? The difference lies in the support for the president from the other branches of government. In 2009, Mr. Zelaya was isolated since the Congress was controlled by his rival Mr. Micheletti and the Supreme Court was loyal to former Honduran President Carlos Flores. Mr. Zelaya had popular support, and he maintained the loyalty of the Honduran Armed Forces until he fired Chief of the Armed Forces General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez four days before the June 28 poll. In 2013, Mr. Lobo has the support of Mr. Hernández, who is also the National Party presidential candidate. The Supreme Court will not be a factor since the Congress has intimidated the justices. The Armed Forces are led by General René Osorio who was previously in charge of Mr. Lobo’s Presidential Guard. 
     
    What are the possible outcomes? Mr. Hernández fully expects to win the presidency outright using the full economic and political power of his position as head of the Congress. The opposition is divided between the Liberal Party candidate Mauricio Villeda and Mr. Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, who heads the Liberty and Refoundation (Libre) Party founded by Mr. Zelaya after his return from exile in the Dominican Republic. 
     
    The Fourth Urn serves two purposes for Mr. Hernández. If he wins the November elections, he will assume the presidency in January 2014 and use the results of the Fourth Urn vote to justify convening the Constituent Assembly at the end of his first year or beginning of his second year. Mr. Hernández’s objective would be to lengthen the presidential term from four to six years and/or change the Constitution to permit reelection. Following the drafting of the new Constitution sometime during Mr. Hernández’s second year, the country will return to the polls where Mr. Hernández will hope to win a second term with the structure in place to continue in power for many years to come. This is similar to what Rafael Correa did in Ecuador with successful results.
     
    In the unlikely event that Mr. Hernández does not win the November elections, the Fourth Urn gives him a viable Plan B. The total votes in favor of the Fourth Urn will likely outnumber the total votes of any single presidential candidate including the winner of the election. In this case, Mr. Lobo and Mr. Hernández could declare that the true will of the people is the Constituent Assembly and not the results of the polls and convene the Constituent Assembly immediately. The government would either declare the election results invalid or ignore them. The delegates for the Constituent Assembly would be the current members of Congress, many of whom are not up for reelection and would not mind staying in power for a year or more.
     
    In this scenario, Mr. Lobo knows he would not be reelected and Hernandez would probably not open Pandora’s Box to permit past presidents including Mr. Zelaya and the still-popular Carlos Flores to run again, so the Constituent Assembly would simply amplify the presidential term to six years and convoke new elections. Mr. Hernández would hope to use his power as president of the Constituent Assembly to reverse the result of the previous election.
     
    So, while some of the actors have changed and the final result may be different, what is certain is that Honduras is headed for another turbulent election year. (1/24/13)

    Note: This article was originally published by Southern Pulse.

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Isn't it time for the Honduran government to insist that the USA return Mayan artifacts taken from Honduras?


    Below is a recent BBC article.

    United States returns to Peru last Machu Picchu artefacts

    Machu PicchuMachu Picchu is the main tourist attraction in Peru, but there are concerns over the high number of visitors to the Andean citadelThe last of the artefacts taken from Machu Picchu by American archaeologist who rediscovered the Inca citadel have been returned to Peru.
    More than 35,000 pottery fragments and other pieces were flown from Yale University to the Andean city of Cusco.
    They had been taken to the US by archaeologist Hiram Bingham, who brought the site to international attention in 1911.
    The move completes a deal signed in 2010, following legal action by Peru.
    It argued that Bingham had only been loaned the artefacts.
    The American archaeologist and historian took to Yale some 46,000 ceramics, bone fragments and metal pieces.
    The first and second lots of artefacts arrived back in Peru last year.
    The best pieces will now be on display in a newly built museum in nearby Cusco.
    The citadel of Machu Picchu, located 2,500m (8,200ft) above sea level, was built in the 15th Century by the Incas.
    It is Peru's main tourist attraction, attracting more than 1 million visitors a year.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    BBC: "Latin American poverty at new low"

    I was happy and excited when I saw this article in the BBC's online edition today, until I got to the sentence that read, "Poverty increased only in Honduras and Mexico".

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    A sign of the times

    One day this week, my family and I were driving on the 'anillo periferico' in Tegucigalpa.  We passed a motorcycle with two men on it.  My wife immediately cried out, "Did you see that?  The man in the back is carrying a pistol..."  For the benefit of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not see the gun as my attention was somewhere else.  She went on, "They're looking for someone to mug...He just has the gun in his hand with his arm down by his side."

    I replied, "Well, how come he doesn't at least hide it?"

    My wife continued, "He has to be ready when the opportunity arises..."

    Well, I guess this was just another typical day in the city, and a sign of the times in Honduras...

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    The Story of Don Jose, an unknown artist from Guarita, an unknown town; or Honduran Patrimony that could be saved but probably won't

    I recently had an exchange on my high school's virtual reunion site on Facebook with another alumni.  Now, you must know that I went to high school in North Carolina, so I found it a pleasant surprise to find another former student sharing somewhat my passion for all things Honduran.  Our exchange went something like this:

    DG:  I'm living between New Orleans and Tegucigalpa...

    Trish:  What were you doing in Tegucigalpa?  One of my favorite restaurants is there!

    DG:  My family is in Honduras and I live in New Orleans and commute back and forth.  But my home is Tegucigalpa because home is where the heart is...What is your connection with Honduras?

    Trish: ...I was part of a foundation to save the murals of an "outsider" (untrained) artist in Guarita, a little village in the highlands near the border of El Salavador.  He had painted his entire colonial home (with 12' walls) in "mud paintings" made from the local pigments...

    DG:  How are the murals now?  Were they saved?  Unfortunately, Honduras' patriomony is decaying from neglect....would love it if you could email some photos of the murals as I collect tidbits about Honduran culture, history, and art...

    Trish:   Unfortunately not.  We had two meetings with the Minister of Culture and she sent people from the Ministry of Anthropology and Archaeology to look at the site.  There was even talk of adding this to their project called the "Lenca Trail" but basically I think they were hoping we were going to be able to find funding for the project.  With the economy as it is in the US people aren't very receptive to spending money on the arts, especially in another country!...I traveled with a professional photographer and we have an amazing  folio of the murals...

    Well, my interest was tweaked and I googled it.  I found the following:

    The House as a Book:  Colonial History and Reading in the Outsider Art of Jose Expectacion Navarro  (Gauarita, Honduras)

    "In the small town of Guarita, Honduras, is a house that from the outside, looks like most of the other small adobe and stucco house in town.  However, inside, the walls of this house are covered with murals and text depicting such subjects as the Virgin of Suyapa; the pre-Columbian history of the Mayas; the Spanish conquest of the Americas, especially Central America; Honduran independence in 1821; the arrival of the three kings at the birth of Christ; and much more, all intermingled with personal history from the family  of the artist who created all of these scenes, Jose Expectacion Navarro.  Don Jose, who passed away in 2002, was a history teacher and principal of the local school as well as having served as the secretary of the municipality.  When his wife passed away in 1984, he began to paint  his murals as a way to deal with his grief.  The results are a fascinating blend of pictures and text giving a personalized view of Honduran history both politically and religiously.

    The murals that Don Jose created are the work of both a widower working through his loss and the expression by a local intellectual of how personal and local history connect to the wider history of the region.  By turning the inside of his house into  a history book, Don Jose interprets the past, especially through the adaptation of colonial forms of presentation, whether from his native Honduras or from other parts of Spanish America."

    And yes, my new Facebook friend sent me some great photos which I'm pleased to share below.

    Wouldn't it be great if my fellow expats and those interested in Honduran culture and art could find a way to help save this valuable work before time destroys it?  Please leave comments.















    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    So Sad...!!!

    Clinica Esperanza to Shut Its Doors After Today
    Posted on July 8, 2011 by roatanreporter
    Bogged down by red tape, Nurse Peggy can no longer operate the clinic

    BY JEFF STRATTON

    Unused and unlicensed: The upstairs of Nurse Peggy's clinic, waiting since March for approval to open

    A press release issued by Nurse Peggy Stranges at 8:30 a.m. today:

    “It is unfortunate that we are closing Clinica Esperanza on Monday. We have worked with the Ministry of Health since before March to acquire our license for the clinic without success. We also have a container with necessary equipment for the municipal hospital and Clinica Esperanza that has been here since April and has not been released. The Ministry of Health has been working on a dispensa for the container since February. We can no longer sit by idly while the people of Roatan suffer for these two pieces of paper.

    I want to thank Julio Galindo and the Grant family for donating the land that made Clinica Esperanza a reality. I want to thank deputado Romeo Silvestri, Dr. Fermin Lopez and Mr. Clinton Everett for all their help in dealing with the license and the container
    release.

    I am sorry for any inconvenience this causes our patients but we can no longer continue under the present circumstances.”

    My comment:  Too bad Pepe's administration isn't as competent in helping improve life for Hondurans as he is in getting impunity for corrupt ex-presidents.


    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Agents 'let cartels buy US gun'- BBC News online

    15 June 2011 Last updated at 16:17 ET


    Hundreds of US guns were bought, resold and sent to Mexican drug cartels in an Arizona sting operation while US firearms agents were ordered not to intervene, Congress has heard.

    Three firearms agents said they were told to track the movement of the weaponry, but not to make any arrests.  US lawmakers expressed outrage at the details of Operation Fast and Furious.

    The news comes one day after a report suggested Mexican drug cartels have armed themselves with US weapons.  The report suggests some 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 and submitted for tracing came from the US.

    On Wednesday, congressional lawmakers concluded that Fast and Furious, which was designed to track small-time gun buyers to major weapons traffickers along America's south-west border, never led to the arrest of any major traffickers.

    The guns tracked by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were reportedly used in numerous killings in Mexico.

    Lawmakers on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee said they demanded answers from the Obama administration about why no arrests were made while investigators were tracking the firearms.

    "We monitored as they purchased handguns, AK-47 variants and .50 caliber rifles, almost daily at times," ATF agent John Dodson told the committee.  He added that though he wanted to "intervene and interdict these weapons", his supervisors told him not to make any arrests.

    At a hearing prior to the panel, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said "hundreds upon hundreds of weapons" destined for cartels in Mexico were purchased in gun shops in Arizona.  Operation Fast and Furious was designed to track weaponry as it moved from small-time gun buyers to major traffickers, who have often avoided prosecution.

    In December two US assault rifles were found at the scene of a shootout where Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was killed.

    "We ask that if a government official made a wrong decision that they admit their error and take responsibility for his or her actions," Robert Heyer, the deceased agent's cousin, told the panel on Wednesday.

    Nearly 35,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, and many of the killings have been carried out with guns smuggled in from the US.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    U.S. guns fuel Mexico violence

    A U.S. Congressional study reports that some 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 can be traced to the U.S.  (According to today's BBC website).

    My take... if the U.S. is not willing to curb the flow of guns to Mexico and Central America, then the countries that have been victimized by these guns should legalize the drug trade and end the senseless violence that has resulted from the 'drug wars'.  The drug trade is fuelled by American demand, and to add insult to injury, the US supplies the guns to the drug gangs.  Why should innocent Latinos pay the price with their blood?

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    A solution to police corruption?

    Everyone complains about police corruption in Honduras, whether it's having to pay 100 Lemps when stopped by traffic cops or perceived police involvement in more serious crimes such as kidnappings and robberies.  A partial remedy to this problem, or at least a step in the right direction is simple and cheap.

    Last month, I was in Ecuador as part of a business trip.  I noticed an article in the local paper announcing that as part of a government effort to 'increase public confidence in the police, insure a police force of high moral character, and to eradicate corruption', all police would have to undergo polygraph tests.  What a brilliant idea...both cost effective and an efficient deterrent!

    Since Honduras is a poor country with meager resources, this type of preventive measure can be introduced without a great expenditure of public funds.  A private company could be contracted to administer the tests in order avoid any potential conflicts of interests or collusion.
                                     
    I hope Oscar Alvarez will read this post and consider the idea, and that some of my readers will help to further publicize this idea and push for its implementation.

    As an aside, the editorial cartoon that day was priceless.  It showed a large woman towering over her smaller husband who was sweating profusely during her interrogation, with the caption, 'poligrafo casero' (household polygraph).

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    William Walker, RIP

    The tomb of William Walker, Trujillo, Honduras


    The tombstone reads:

    William Walker
    Executed
    12 September 1860

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Why, oh why?

    One of my family's favorite escapes from the daily grind of Tegucigalpa is dining out, but I guess that's going to change...

    This past Sunday, on Mother's Day, my favorite seafood restaurant, Tony Mars, was assaulted.  According to El Heraldo in Monday's edition, two people were killed.  It seems the assailants were disguised as police.  One of the patrons was armed and a gun battle ensued.

    I had heard of restaurants being assaulted with all the patrons being robbed before, but I never thought much about it.  I guess it really hit home this time because I've eaten at Tony Mars many times.  Their fried shrimp are simply the best I've had anywhere...

    Also, they had private security, but the assailants were disguised as police so, so much for the security.

    Even though we weren't there at the time, we could have been.  That's how random the violence has become in Honduras.  While you may not be an intended target, you are always at risk.

    Somehow I feel violated myself...and I guess our nights out on the town will be dramatically reduced.  In the long run, that means we'll save a little money, but that's also bad for the economy...less money being spent means less income for restaurants, waiters, fewer jobs, etc., etc.

    How can Honduras be 'open for business' if you can't feel safe eating dinner with your family?

    Friday, April 08, 2011

    Whether rain, sleet, or shine; the mailman never comes...

    In the comments section of another Honduran blogger, I opined that I've come to the view that Honduras is a 'semi-failed state', on the road to full-fledged 'failed state' status.  Things just don't work in Honduras, basic things, uncomplicated things... The list is quite long...education, lack of security, sanitation, water, etc., etc.  On top of it all is the endemic corruption that is pervasive throughout the country, at all levels of government and society.

    Last year, Honduras had an exceptionally rainy wet season, but yet was unable to fill its reservoirs.  Due to a lack of maintenance, it had to release the water and now faces water shortages again.  Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world and is unable to provide security to its citizens.

    But one of the symptoms of its 'semi-failed state' status that really bugs me is the fact that its postal system doesn't work.  According to stories I've heard, it used to work...albeit 30-40 years ago.  Then there was so much corruption and theft in the post office that people were afraid to mail anything, assuming that it would be stolen and never reach its destination.  So people quit utilizing the postal system, and little by little it quit functioning.

    The result is that now, whenever you want to pay a bill, instead of dropping a check in the mail, you must go to a bank, wait in line for 20-30 minutes to pay your bill.  The chances are that the bank's system is down, but you don't know this until you've waited for what seems an eternity.  So, you have to go back the next day and try again.  To make it worse, you can't pay all your bills at just one bank.  No... This is Honduras.  It just has to be time consuming and frustrating.  So you pay your water bill at one bank, school tuition at another, electric bill at another, and cable bill somewhere else, etc., etc.

    If all the hours wasted by literally hundreds of thousands of people monthly, doing nothing but standing in lines over and over again were funneled into a productive activity, something could actually be accomplished.  But no, since people can't trust the post office, it has withered away into nothingness and a whole nation is condemned to waiting in useless lines.

    Someday, I'm going to do an experiment and post a letter to my father in law since I know he actually has a 'buzon' (mailbox).  I will let you know whether it is ever received  and how long it takes.

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    High Coffee Prices

    According to the March 8, 2011 edition of the Wall St. Journal, a headline reports 'Arabica Coffee Prices Near a 14-Year High'.  Bad weather in Central America and Columbia have kept prices high with Arabica rallying 46% over the past six months.

    Obviously, high coffee prices are good for Honduras where coffee is a major export crop.  My question though, is how much of the higher prices will actually benefit small farmers and producers and trickle-down into the wider economy as a whole?

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Finding a Needle in a Haystack

    I really like honey, I mean I really like honey.  And, it's always irked me that the only honey I could find in Honduras is just 'miel de abeja' (often sour tasting or watered down), no other varieties such as clover, orange blossom, wild flower, etc., etc.  as this is one specialty that I've always thought that Honduras could produce given the array of agriculture and vegetation throughout the country.

    One of my favorites has always been 'orange blossom'.  Whenever I'm in Florida, I always buy a few jars to bring home.  So I've often complained and wondered why they didn't produce it in Honduras since there are so many orange groves in the northern part of the country.  It would be a great artisanal item, and I'm sure I'm not alone in my appreciation of it's unique flavor.

    Well, I'm glad to report that my wife was driving past Lake Yojoa recently and stopped at a small stand by the road.  She's well aware of my honey fetish, and saw that they had three types of honey ranging from dark to a light amber.  The honey was in plain jars without any labels or markings.  She asked the vendor what each type was, and sure enough, one of them was 'orange blossom'.

    So she bought a jar.  The price was about half of what you pay for generic honey in a Honduran supermarket

    The flavor was suberb, actually better than much of the honey in Florida, as it was not pasteurized and was totally natural...not as highly processed as in the States, just rich in flavor (and probably more nutrients).

    I wish they could improve their packaging somewhat as it would be great for retail in supermarkets and specialty shops.

    My wife found me that always elusive 'needle in the haystack'.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    As seen in Lyon, France

    Just thought everyone would like to see that Honduran products can actually sell in upscale stores.  My wife and I saw this sign during a recent trip to Lyon.  I must admit we felt a certain hometown pride when we ordered an espresso made with the coffee of the month, Honduran coffee that is...




    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Distressing Statistics

    According to 'El Heraldo' (Jan. 13, 2011), the annual murder rate in Honduras is 77 per 100,000 people, and has doubled in the past five years.  That's one murder every two hours!!! 

    In Honduras's two largest cities, the statistics are even more grim.  San Pedro Sula has a murder rate of 125/100,000 making it the third most deadly city in the world (after Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Kandahar, Afghanistan).  Not wanting to be outdone, Tegucigalpa ranks no. 6 worldwide with a murder rate of 109/100,000 (edging out Guatemala City which is no. 7).

    This upward spiral in violence started its dramatic increase under the regime of Mel Zelaya.  It simply amazes me that Pepe Lobo's main focus is bringing Mel back to Honduras, instead of focusing on security for Honduras' citizens.  Does Pepe have a poor sense of prioritization, or what...?

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    Los Jabones de Mis Hijas

    This past September, I was in San Salvador for business.  Close to my hotel, I stumbled upon a jewel of a boutique, specializing in handmade soaps called, 'Los Jabones de Mis Hijas'.  It's located in the 'Zona Rosa', and is run by three sisters.  They have over 30 varieties of soaps available, all handmade by the sisters.  The soaps all cost $3.50 per 100 grs.  I  bought mango, honey and beewax, coffee, and rose.

    If you're traveling to San Salvador, I highly recommend stopping in as the soaps make great gifts!  The quality is what you would expect to find in a specialty boutique in France or Spain.

    My only question, why don't Honduran artisans make unique, quality products that travelers actually want to buy?

    The blog their shop is:  www.losjabonesdemishijas.blogspot.com

    Also, check out their Facebook page.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Ya Abrimos!!

    The Tegucigalpa branch of the Guatemalan steak house 'Hacienda Real' (*****/$$$, Blvd Juan Pablo II, tel. 2239.6860) recently opened.  Sure enough, my expectations were exceeded.  You see, I go to Guatemala City every year for business, and I always eat at least one meal at the 'Hacienda Real' in Zona 10.   I've been doing this for over ten years!!  Recently, during my last trip to San Salvador, I also dined at the branch there.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw an advert in Taca's Inflight magazine and I noticed a small blurb saying 'proximente Tegucigalpa'.

    Why do I like 'Hacienda Real' so much?  For all the reasons that make a restaurant a great dining experience...

    First, the food is amazingly good.   All the steaks are grilled on an open bbq pit in the middle of the restaurant,  the portions are generous and the meals are consistently good- consisting of quality meats, cooked to the specified temperature, tender and juicy.  (Obviously, I'm not a vegetarian).  The meals are always introduced with a cup of complimentary broth served as soon as you are seated.

    Secondly, the ambiance is informal yet elegant, decorated in a colonial Spanish style.  You can eat inside or on the terrace.  There is even a rooftop terrace here in Tegucigalpa offering cozy, romantic dining in the evening.

    Third, you receive real value for the price.  While 'Hacienda Real' is not cheap, it is not overly expensive.  Most items cost less or the same as other similar restaurants in town.

    Finally, 'Hacienda Real' raises the bar on the level of service if offers its patrons.  The wait staff actually knows what they are doing and are eager to please...attentive without being overbearing, friendly in a sincere sort of way.  They even walk differently from waiters in other Honduran restaurants, not the typical slouchy walk that connotes 'I'll eventually get to your order, but don't bother me too much'.  Instead, its a determined gait that makes you know they are ready to serve and are good at what they do.

    As an aside, my wife commented that it's impossible to find waiters like this in Honduras, and she was skeptical as to whether they were actually Honduran or not.  So I told her to ask, and sure enough, all the waiters are from Guatemala.  They come here for rotating three month stints.  While I feel bad that the management does not feel that they can find competent locals to do the job, I also feel reassured that they are so quality conscious as to their product, that they make sure every detail is just perfect, even down to importing the wait staff.

    I'm sure diners will notice the difference in the level of service, and maybe, just maybe, they will start to expect the same level at other establishments.  If so, other restaurants will feel the pressure and be forced to actually 'train' their staff.  Imagine that...going to restaurants in Honduras where the staff is competent, knowledgeable, and make you feel welcome.

    New standards have been set for Tegucigalpa dining, and I highly recommend 'Hacienda Real' to all (even non-carnivores as the salads will most certainly please).

    'Hacienda Real' is one of Don Godo's favorites.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Driving in Honduras 1.01

    While I've always known driving in Honduras to be a somewhat dangerous activity, I've still presumed that the rules of the road are somewhat universal...but, boy am I wrong on that!!

    Driving Tip #1  When turning to the left on a country road, put on your left turn signal, pull to the right, look for cars coming from the opposite direction and look for cars coming behind you, if no cars are coming then turn left.  If cars are coming from either direction, wait for them to pass, then turn left.  Reason:  Cars will try to pass you on the left, even though they 'know' you are turning left.

    My wife has long told me to do this, but in my stubbornness, I believed that if you are turning left, that if no cars are coming from the opposite direction, then just go on and turn and the cars behind would slow down or stop...But no.    They will pass on the left, even though on the surface that seems suicidal.

    I learned the hard way.  Not too long ago, I was turning left, I put my blinker on, slowed down to turn and started turning.  At that point I saw the car spending up behind me to pass on the left-hand side, so I immediately slammed on my brakes in order to let him pass.  At the same time  the driver behind evidently realized I was going to turn so he slammed on his brakes too, and a third car coming from behind plowed into the car behind me.  Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, and I didn't get hit.

    I bet the other two drivers will be more careful in the future.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Imagine that...good Italian food, no, I mean 'really' good Italian food

    La Ghiottona, a new Italian restaurant has opened in Tegucigalpa in the Col. Palmira.   Although the decor is simple, the food and service more than made up.  My wife had 'carpaccio salmon', and my children ate 'ravioli marisco' and 'spaghetti vongole', while I ate a 'filetto' served with 'real' mozarella cheese as the side.  When my family keeps talking about how much they enjoyed a place, I know that's a really good sign that the restaurant will be around for a while.  In this case, everyone was ready to go back again a few days later.

    This restaurant has elevated Italian cuisine to a new level in Tegucigalpa.  It's dishes are much more genuine and innovative that the traditional Honduran Italian eatery.  Imagine an Italian restaurant in Honduras without pizza as their main forte or even on the menu!  (****/$$$, Ave. de Mexico, tel. 2236.5513)

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    The 'Grand Slam' is here!!

    What could be more exciting than the return of the 'McRib' sandwich?  The opening of a new Denny's in Tegucigalpa, that's what...and the introduction of the 'Grand Slam' breakfast to Catracholandia...

    While my wife still anxiously awaits the coming of an 'IHOP', this at least fills the void in the interim.  Just opened, still sparkling clean, and not as 'greasy spoon' as in the States, 'Gourmet Grill' now has some serious Sunday morning breakfast competition.  It's located just down the block from the Marriott Hotel on Blvd. San Juan Pablo.  (***/$$, tel. 2232.5410)

    Tuesday, October 05, 2010

    As seen on a shop window in Panama City's Casco Viejo


    CITY WITHOUT PATRIMONY
    CITY WITHOUT SOUL

    Wake up Tegucigalpa before it's too late...

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    BREAKING NEWS: REALLY GOOD PIZZA

    Finally a restaurant has opened in Tegucigalpa with really good pizza!!  Piola (***/$$, tel. 243.0645/42, www.piola.it) recently opened at the new Novo Centro mall behind Los Proceres.  It's a franchise restaurant with locations in the USA and several Latin American countries.  I won't hold being a franchise against it in this case since the quality of the pizza more than compensates.  The key here is that the restaurant has a authentic wood burning pizza oven and the pizza's quality reflects it.  The crusts are thin and slightly charred, and the ingredients are all premium quality.  The list of pizza options is extensive.  I had a pizza with shrimp and mushrooms, and my children had one with artichokes, olives, and feta cheese.  Both were delicious.  The small pizzas (four slices) run in the L.180-230 range and the medium pizzas (six slices) are around L.300.  The menu also has pastas, etc., but really, this the place to come for pizza!  The service was good, and my only complaint is that I found the music a little too pulsating for my taste.

    Piola's is now on my list of Don Godo's favorites.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Rapidly going downhill

    In the July/August issue of 'Foreign Policy' (FP) magazine, the cover story is 'Failed States'.  There is a smaller article within the main feature called 'Watch List' in which Honduras and Guatemala are cited as two of four countries in 'big trouble'.  The other two are Nigeria and Iran.

    The article states: "A mere 1 percent of South American cocaine went through Central America as recently as 2007; today, somewhere between 60 and 90 percent does.  Cartels from Mexico,...have moved south, while Columbian traffickers have moved north."

    It goes on to say that the only place where the violence may be worse than Guatemala is neighboring Honduras where "the country of just 7.3 million sees 15 murders per day...the state has very limited control over entire chunks of the territory...they are very weak states by almost any indicator."

    One authority is cited as saying that the task is daunting because "a lot of people in the Honduran Elite are doing business with drug traffickers."

    This says a lot and paints a very pessimistic picture, but I truly hope our future in Honduras will not be so bleak...

    Pepe wake up!!!

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    The more things change, the more they stay the same

    I was in Managua a couple of weeks ago on business, and couldn't help thinking about while some things change, they are still the same...There's a sad consistency to history repeating itself.

    You may remember that the Sandinista revolution was all about change...The dictator Somoza was corrupt and had his hand in every business.  Now it seems that Daniel Ortega (and the Sandanistas) has become quite the businessman.  He owns a hotel, bank, oil company, and the list goes on and on.  He seems to have his hand in everything.  And guess what?  Just like good ole Somoza didn't want to give up power, Ortega doesn't  want to give up power either...so the Sandanistas rigged the last municipal elections, and had the Surpreme Court rule that the constitution didn't mean what it said regarding the president's ability to run for reelection.

    At least one local has seen the irony in all this.  There is ton of FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional) graffiti everywhere.  It seems someone has been busy with a paint brush turning the S in FSLN into a $ sign, so that now much of the graffiti reads F$LN.

    VIVA F$LN!

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    That's some name for a new town

    In 1578, the Spanish founded the city, La Real Villa de San Miguel de Heredia de Tegucigalpa.   Today the city is simply known as Tegucigalpa or 'Tegus'.

    I prefer the modern name...

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    'In search of Mel Zelaya' or 'What Tegucigalpa could be, but never will'

    I'm in Santo Domingo searching for Comandante Mel, but so far no luck.  Where is he hiding?  What is he afraid of?  Well actually, I am in Santo Domingo, but really do not care to see Mel.  If per chance, I saw him in a restaurant or shop, I'm sure I would give him a piece of my mind and that would not be good...

    Having been in Santo Domingo now for a few days, I have a couple of observations.  First, and foremost, this place is just too nice for Mel.  A more fitting locale for Mel's retirement haven is Port au Prince.

    Apart from that, I have really been impressed with the city.  The colonial section has been painstakingly restored and as a result, tourism is booming.  The city is non-threatening and there are tourist police everywhere.  In Honduras, there are tourist police in some areas, but you never actually see them.  They are there in name only.

    Not only is it safe, it is relatively clean.  Hey, that's a novel idea.  I wonder why they never thought about that in Honduras!  You know, putting trash into trash cans on the sidewalk instead of simply throwing it whereever and everywhere.

    I guess it takes a certain national pride to restore a nation's patrimony and to keep a city clean.  If only Honduras had pride about some other than soccer...

    Monday, August 09, 2010

    Beware of that Gringo you meet at the local expat watering hole...

    Below is a BBC article published on BBC's website on Aug 4.

    Panama 'serial killer' case: more bodies recovered


    Mr Holbert was arrested in Nicaragua.   Panamanian authorities say they have recovered three more bodies on the property of a US man accused of murdering fellow American expatriates.  The bodies of a man, a woman and a child were found buried in the grounds of a hostel owned by William Holbert in the Bocas del Toro archipelago.  Two other bodies were found there last month, sparking a search for Mr Holbert and his wife.

    They were arrested in Nicaragua last week after fleeing Panama.  Prosecutors say Mr Holbert, 30, has confessed to killing five people to steal their money and property, and has been giving them information about where to find the bodies.

    "He has explained what he did, how he did it and why he did it", assistant prosecutor Angel Calderon told the Associated Press. His wife, Laura Reese, 27, has also been charged over the murders. Mr Holbert is also the main suspect in the disappearance of two Panamanians.



    Murder in paradise



    The case began when the authorities found the bodies of a man and a woman buried behind Mr Holbert's hostel on a small island in Bocas del Toro, a Caribbean archipelago popular with tourists and US expats.

    The woman has been identified as Cheryl Lynn Hughes, from St Louis, Missouri, who had been living in Panama for 10 years but has been missing since March. The man was identified as Bo Icelar, who has been missing since November and is thought to be from New Mexico.

    Prosecutors allege Mr Holbert befriended Ms Hughes and Mr Icelar by posing as a potential investor before murdering them and taking over their properties - a hotel and a house.

    Mr Holbert and his wife went on the run after the bodies were discovered, but were arrested by Nicaraguan police as they tried to enter the country from Costa Rica, and extradited to Panama in chains.

    The three bodies found on Tuesday are thought to belong to another US man, Mike Brown, and his wife and son. Prosecutors allege Mr Holbert - known to his neighbours as "Wild Bill" - befriended Mr Brown before shooting him and his family in the head after discovering they had a lot of money in bank accounts.

    The couple were using false documents in Panama and living under the aliases William and Jean Cortez, police said.  Mr Holbert is also wanted in the US for allegedly selling a house that did not belong to him in the state of North Carolina, as well as for alleged car theft.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Memory Lane

    Both of my children were born in the United States and have U.S. citizenship, however, my wife is Honduran and we wanted our children to have dual nationality.  Under Honduran law, my children were entitled to Honduran citizenship since the mother is Honduran.  So soon after the second child was born, my wife went to the Honduran consulate in New Orleans, and asked about the process, what she had to do, etc. 

    The lady at the consulate looked at her, looked at the children, and then asked if they had U.S. citizenship.  My wife responded in the positive, that yes, they were U.S. citizens.  The consul worker then looked amazed and asked, "But why then would you possibly want them to have Honduran citizenship?"

    Beyond the obvious putdown that the consul worker implied about Honduras, there are many reasons:

    My wife is Honduran and proud of it, so we wanted to pass that on to our children.
    Dual nationality opens up additional options.  What if the U.S. is in a war when they are eighteen?  What if there is a draft?
    They can apply to an university as a Honduran, and maybe this will give them an extra edge in admissions (if the university is concerned about diversity, or attracting international students.
    When they are grown, they will have the opportunity live in either country, depending on where they find more opportunities.  (Personally, I believe developing countries present more opportunities to suceed and make money if a person is well educated and has an entrprenurial spirit).

    The list can go on...

    There was a lot of paperwork, and it all had to be done in Honduras.  The consulate was of absolutely no use and could do nothing, not even give directions as to where she needed to start.  So my wife consulted an attorney friend in Honduras, stood in many lines for countless hours as various government offices in Tegucigalpa, filled out many forms, and today my children have dual nationality and two passports.

    As to the consul worker...Well, this happened many years ago, and consul employees change  every four years with every change of government in Honduras (Its a financial perk for being friends with the winner). 

    I guess one lesson that can be learned is that a 'professional' civil service has merits, and maybe secondly, that Honduran consulates (from my experience) are generally worthless...

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Top Ten Things I Like About Honduras

    10- Quirky Thirld-Worldness of it all
    9- Climate. It seems just about perfect, except for when there is a drought or constant rains from tropical depressions.
    8- Colonial villages. My family loves visiting small little colonial villages for an afternoon diversion. And they are everywhere, each unique in its own way. I especially like Santa Lucia, Valle de Angeles, Cedros, Copan Ruinas and Ojojona. Still waiting to visit Gracias.
    7- Mayan history. It seems as if I can't visit Copan enough times. There are also some secondary sites such as El Puente that few people visit, but are diamonds in the rough nevertheless.
    6- Natural Beauty. Honduras is absolutely beautiful, whether it's the Bay Islands or the Mountains.
    5- Cost of Living. I can live much better in Honduras. In the USA, I simply can't afford the same lifestyle.
    4-The private bilingual school system. My kids are getting a much better education in Honduras then they would in the USA. But, I regret the public school system doesn't afford any opportunities whatsoever for the average Honduran.
    3- Pace of life. Sure, I like the hustle and bustle of the States from time to time, but the slow pace of Honduran life adds an immeasurable boost to my overall quality of life.
    2- Family values. The sense of family is much more important in Honduras than in the USA. Children live at home longer, extended family (cousins, 2nd cousins,uncles, aunts, etc.) are all best friends.
    1- My wonderful Honduran wife. What else can I say? God really blessed me on this one!!!

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Happy Anniversary!!!!!

    Happy Anniversary to all my fellow 'Golpistas'!!! I never thought of myself as a coup monger, but since everyone who supported the restitution of democracy and opposed a 'caudillo', self-enrichment, corrupt style dictatorship in Honduras was labeled a 'golpista', I guess I'm a 'golpista' and damn proud of it!!!

    Happy Anniversay Y'all!!!

    Feliz Anniversario!!!

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Register Mobile Phones

    Below is from the BBC. Is this an idea whose time has come for Honduras? Would this help to control the upsurge in crime? Your comments please...

    Kenya registers mobile phones to cut crime
    Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Monday, 21 June 2010 17:20 UK

    About half of Kenya's population has a mobile phone Kenya has started to register all mobile phone numbers in a bid to cut crime.

    Users will have to supply identity documents and proof of address before they get a number.

    Any numbers still unregistered at the end of July will be disconnected, the government says.

    The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph in Nairobi says many people there support the move, hoping it will make life more difficult for criminals.

    Kidnapping gangs often use unregistered mobile numbers to text ransom demands, he says.

    Police commissioner Mathew Iteere told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that mobile phones must be registered because they could now be used like computers.

    "It has become a tool of banking, it can be used to steal data, [to] transmit unauthorised information and perpetrates huge frauds."

    Information ministry official Bitange Ndemo last week said registering the numbers would help the authorities tackle terrorism, drugs-trafficking and money-laundering, as well as the sending of hate messages.

    Neighbouring Tanzania has already started a similar exercise, so our reporter says it is not controversial.

    He says the outlet he visited was packed with people registering their numbers.

    Between 97-99% of mobile-phone users in Africa use pre-paid vouchers, reports the news agency Reuters.

    It is easier to use pre-paid vouchers without registering an address.

    However, some analysts say registering people in some African countries may be difficult if they do not live in a house with an official address.

    Sunday, May 30, 2010

    When will it stop?

    Right now, I'm devastated, upset and mad. My wife just told me that the body of an acquaintance who had been kidnapped about a month ago was just found. His name was Peter. He was a really nice guy... friendly, intelligent, honest. He worked hard as a farmer. He was also the father of five children and a husband.

    The family paid the ransom about a week ago, and everyone had been praying for his release...Then today, the news came that everyone was dreading...His body had been found...

    When will it stop? This culture of violence is destroying the fabric of Honduran society. Now there are five more traumatized children without a loving father and a wife without her partner. It's so senseless, why? The kidnappers got the money they wanted so why kill him?

    I'm not the type of person that hates, but I hate the people that did this...I hope their souls burn in hell for eternity...

    Readers, I ask that you join with me in praying for Peter's family during this difficult period, and that you also pray for an end to the violence that plagues Honduras.

    Mr. Lobo, if by chance you read this, please do me a favor: Quit obsessing with bringing Mel Zelaya back to Honduras, instead obsess yourself with ending the rampant crime that is destroying this beautiful country.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    When is a Star a Star?

    On the road from Valle de Angeles, driving towards Tegucigalpa, there is a large billboard advertising the 'La Quinta Real' hotel in La Ceiba. The sign advertises the hotel as La Ceiba's only 'five star' hotel.

    After La Quinta Real first opened, my family and I spent a few days there. We enjoyed it immensely, and it is true that the hotel is La Ceiba's finest 'big' hotel. It's on the beach, has a nice pool area, and has a full service restaurant... But five stars? Believe me when I say the La Quinta Real is not a Ritz Carlton or a Four Seasons hotel. It's nice, but it's not five stars (at least by international standards)...Maybe four stars?

    This begs the question, who determines how many stars a hotel in Honduras is assigned? Is this done by the Ministry of Tourism (as in many Western European countries), or does the hotel itself decide how many stars it deserves? If Honduras is serious about tourism, shouldn't there be a well regulated system to determine how many stars a hotel deserves, and shouldn't all hotels be required to post the star ranking at a prominent place, visible to all, at the entry of the hotel?

    Wouldn't this be an inducement for hotels to always strive to be better? Maybe then they would focus more on service, providing adequate training to their staff, refurbishing rooms when necessary, etc.

    It should be noted that there are two small hotels in La Ceiba, namely 'The Lodge at Pico Bonito' and 'La Cascada', that while small, are truly luxury hotels.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Tourism, Tourism, Tourism

    Honduras has so much to offer the world as a tourist destination...beautiful beaches, perfect scuba diving, rain forests, cloud forests, mountains, colonial towns, pre-Columbian ruins. The list could go on and on. Honduras should be able to be a top competitor to Costa Rica for tourist's dollars, euros, and pesos.

    Although there are those that believe tourism would ruin Honduras' beauty, I disagree. If properly managed, tourism could become a driving force in Honduras' development and progress. Recently, I was reading an old issue of Conde Nast Traveller magazine and came across a quote from Ruben Blades, the former Panamanian minister of tourism, better known as one of the world's greatest salsa musicians, who said:

    "Tourism is the fastest way to distribute wealth on a national level. It helps everyone, from cabdrivers to maids, managers, restaurateurs, and curio sellers. It's a chimney-free industry. There's nothing like it."

    He listed Panama's immense opportunities...adventure tourism, ecotourism, agrotourism, ethnotourism, therapeutic tourism (referring to Panama's mineral hot springs and medicinal plants). "Where else can you surf in both oceans, or see Atlantic and Pacific marine life in the same day?" Well, to me the obvious answer to that question is Honduras.

    After this, though, there is one glaring and unfortunate contrast. Blades also aims to offer something to foreign tourists that Honduras is unable or maybe just unwilling to offer, a safe vacation refuge. According to Blades: "Unprecedented security. I want any traveler who enters Panama insured by the Ministry of Tourism against accident or assault, and guaranteed instant legal assistance should something unfortunate happen. Tourists should feel protected, not all alone."

    Now, wouldn't that sentiment be refreshing to hear in Tegucigalpa? Are you listening Messrs. Lobo and Alvarez?

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    What I Learned From the Events of June 28, Part I, Mr. Tetovski was Right

    Mr. Tetovski Was Right.

    Many years ago, actually during the early '80's, I was a graduate student in Cairo. One of my best friends was from Bulgaria. This was during the era of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was behind the 'iron curtain'. One evening I was having dinner with her family at their flat, and after a few drinks, a discussion of politics and media ensued. I don't remember the exact context of the discussion, but I remember Mr. Tetovski telling me that Time magazine was far more dangerous than Bulgarian journals. He knew that I read Time every week and believed what I read to be just as true as if were the Bible.

    I asked him how could that be, and he told me that the Bulgarian press was so full of propaganda, and that the propaganda was so blatant that everyone knew how to disregard the fact from the fiction. Time, on the other hand, (and yes he admitted to reading it on occasion) was written in a much more sophisticated manner, so it was much more difficult to discern the truth from the biases. Because of this, he argued, Americans tend to believe everything they read in their media as the complete truth, when in reality, it was just as biased as the Bulgarian media. Since bias was more sophisticated, it was inherentedly more dangerous.

    I pondered what Mr. Tetovski said, and knew that it somehow made sense. At any rate, I filed the conversation somewhere in the back of my mind and never forgot it. Now, some 25+ years later, after reading the American press' accounts of what happened in Honduras on and after June 28, 2009, and knowing the Honduran reality first hand versus the blatant media bias, I can now say, "Mr. Tetovski, you were absolutely right..."

    Lesson learned: Don't believe the mainstream Western media.

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Why Mexico?

    Mel finally left Honduras yesterday en route to the Dominican Republic, and from there he plans to continue on to Mexico where he will settle down and undoubtedly live a life of luxury. My question, and maybe my readers can help answer, is why Mexico? Why not Cuba or Venezuela? Wouldn't life on a Cuban collective be happier than a bourgeois life in Mexico City? Wouldn't the electrical outages in Caracas remind him of home in Honduras? Or maybe, just maybe, Mexico is where the business is with the narco-cartels...? Hmmm...

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    Game Over, Honduras is Victorious!!

    Finally, we get to see the back of Manuel Zelaya. The game's over. Honduras won!! The final scores:

    THE WINNERS

    HONDURAS- The clear winner, it scored a major victory. It did not capitualate to Zelaya, Chavez, the OAS, the USA, or Brazil.

    ROBERTO MICHELETTI- Honduras' first hero of the 21st century. They should put a bust of him on the Blvd. de los Proceres in Tegucigalpa.

    THE LOSERS

    MANUEL ZELAYA I trust he will be miserable in his exile given the anguish that he has put Honduras through...He proved himself to be a selfish, egotistical, SOB.

    CHAVEZ- Honduras checked his influence. Is 'Chavismo' dying? Please see the recent election results in Chile.

    THE OAS- All I can say is poor Insulza...

    THE USA- We already knew that America is a power in decline, that the American century had ended...Now, to be beaten by poor little Honduras...Talk about a bruise to the ego...

    BRAZIL- Now we know exactly where Brazil's influence ends: in the jungles of Guiana and Surinam.

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    History of Honduras

    Over the past fourteen years of marriage to my beloved Catracha (yesterday was our 14th wedding anniversary), I have become fascinated by Honduran history...everything, from Mayan, colonial, intervention of the banana companies, to the present day.

    Recently, I found a jewel of a website that has a fantastic collection of articles about Honduras' past. The link is as follows:

    www.historiadehonduras.hn/

    Enjoy!!

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    When In Tegucigalpa, If You Want To Eat...

    MEXICAN

    While Cebollines or Casa Mexicana may be the best known Mexican restaurants in Tegucigalpa, LOS NOPALITOS (Calzada Republica de Uruguay, No. 219, Colonia San Carlos, behind Centro Comercial 'Los Castanos', tel. 221.0584, 252.5474) is by far the most authentic, and in my opinion the best. This restaurant is owned and operated by a Mexican couple in a renovated house. The menu is authentic, yet extensive. The prices are very reasonable, yet the quality of the food ranks four stars. This is definitely not the typical Tex-Mex place. I don't even know which dish to recommend because it's all good! Think home style Mexican cooking with a sophisticated touch! This is another of Don Godo's Favorites! (****/$$$).

    Casa Mexicana has good food and is probably our second choice, but in the evening it is more of a bar scene than restaurant. We don't go to Cebollines any more. They increased their prices and reduced the size of their portions. To add insult to injury, Ceobollines no longer gives complimentary chips and salsa (unless you beg!). One other alternative is Clarita's on the road to Valle de Angeles (km. 6). While I have never eaten there, my wife and kids say it's good.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    When In Tegucigalpa, If You Want To Eat...

    PIZZA

    There are many places to get pizza in Tegucigalpa, ranging from franchises like Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Little Caesar's, to Honduran restaurants such as Tito's, La Trattoria, Mia Pappa, La Fontana, and Claudio's. However, Don Godo's family prefers IL PADRINO. It's right off of Blvd. Morazan, just behind Pollo Campero (tel. 221.0198). It's an Italian restaurant with all the typical dishes, but this is where we go for pizza. My kids really like the shrimp pizza, and all the other non-pizza dishes we have tried were quite good as well. The ambiance is a little lacking, kinda like a big box room with Italian decor, but it still rates being one of Don Godo's favorites. ($$$/****)

    For me, La Trattoria is a close second. Claudio's is the only pizza place with a wood burning pizza oven, but while the pizza was quite good, we thought it was overpriced. The last time we went to Tito's, they had quit giving crushed peppers and parmesan cheese with pizza (claiming they could only offer it with pasta dishes).

    Friday, January 01, 2010

    Parading Past Mel's Security Outside the Brazilian Embassy

    The Five Lempira Note and the Battle of Trinidad



    I've often wondered about the battle scene on the reverse of the five lempira note, so I couldn't resist the temptation recently to take a small detour to see where the battle took place. From Tegucigalpa, on the road to the south, a few kilometers past Ojojona, there is a sign indicating that to the right, 2 km. down a small dirt road, is a monument to the Battle of Trinidad. About a km. down the road is a small, unassuming house with a larger than life statute of Francisco Morazan. I guess the owners are really proud of their heritage.





    A minute further down the road, we get to the sight of what is probably the most important battle in Honduran history, the Battle of Trinidad, which was fought on Nov. 11, 1827 between the liberal forces led by Gen. Franscisco Morazan against the Conservatives. Morazan's forces won and this battle catapulted him to power. The battlefield is very modest, no visitor's center, no tourists, just one single monument...But the detour is well worth the extra ten minutes or so in order to put the five lemp note in it's proper historical context.


    Thursday, December 31, 2009

    I'Golosi's Is Now Amanda's

    I'Golosi Restaurant is now Amanda's!!! It was a pleasant surprise to see the complete overhaul of I'Golosi. The restaurant has been expanded and now opens to the street. The decor of the expanded restaurant is tastefully done while the original dining room maintains it's original decor. The restaurant now shares the name of the adjoining gift shop which has been reduced in size to make room for the expanded dining area. The outdoor terrace in the front is one of the most pleasant in Tegucigalpa. Most importantly, the menu maintains it's consistency of reasonably priced dishes ranging from kibbeh and homous, to overstuffed sandwiches, pasta, meats, pastries and espresso. Being from New Orleans, one of my favorites is the mufaletta sandwich. I normally order the large and split it. To top it off, the service is among the best I've experienced in Honduras, friendly but not overbearing.

    Amanda's continues to be one of Don Godo's Favorites!!! If you've never been to Amanda's, check it out in Col. Palmira, Ave. Rep. de Argentina, casa no. 1902, tel. 239.1841. (****/$$$)

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Mass Repression in Copenhagen

    From news reports I have seen, there appears to be brutal repression and mass arrests of demonstrators at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen...Where is Amnesty International? Why hasn't the new EU President come out forcibly against the oppression? Why don't I hear Obama and Clinton condemning these attacks against free speech? Shouldn't the world have the same commitment to human rights for protestors in Europe as they do for protestors in Honduras?

    Sunday, December 06, 2009

    From 'Human Events'

    Honduras Tears Down a Berlin Wall
    by Wendy Wright
    12/06/2009


    After the polls closed on the evening of Honduras’ historic election, a beaming clerk at my hotel exclaimed, "We won. We didn’t know if we’d ever get to vote again. Just by having the freedom to vote, we won."

    In Honduras as an international election observer, I witnessed what could be called a re-birth of a nation. Criticized by other nations, cut off from U.S. aid, shunned by the Organization of American States, Honduras stood virtually alone. Yet Hondurans willingly risked the wrath of the international community for one purpose: to retain their freedom by upholding their Constitution.

    "We'd rather be isolated from the world than under Hugo Chavez for years," Martha Lorena de Casco, Honduras Deputy Foreign Minister, said.


    Five months before, President Manuel Zelaya had attempted to amend the Constitution which limits presidents to one four-year term. Written in 1982 after decades of coups and dictators, the Constitution carefully lays out protections against future power-grabs. Hondurans understood what Zelaya was trying to do. The year before he had aligned with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s ALBA, a block of socialist countries. Now he was following Chavez’s pattern of changing the nation’s Constitution to stay in power.

    Instead, Honduras showed the world how to unite against a would-be dictator.

    Honduras’ Congress, which must approve referendums, voted against Zelaya’s attempt to re-write the Constitution. The Attorney General filed suit and secured a court order halting the referendum planned for June 28. Zelaya changed the name from “referendum” to “opinion survey” The court ruled that this was still illegal. Zelaya had the ballots printed in Venezuela and ordered the chief of the armed forces to proceed with the survey. When the general refused, Zelaya fired him. The Supreme Court ruled the firing was illegal and reinstated him.

    The ballots were seized by customs. On June 25, Zelaya organized a mob to break into the warehouse and grab the ballots. At that point the Attorney General asked the Supreme Court for an arrest warrant on charges of treason, abuse of power and other crimes. The court directed the army, which, under the Constitution, is responsible for enforcing compliance with presidential succession, to arrest Zelaya.

    The military went one step farther than it should. Rather than take him to jail to stand trial, they whisked him out of the country. Some feared that if Zelaya were in the country he would incite violence to reinstate himself.

    Following the Constitutional line of succession, the leader of the Congress Roberto Micheletti became interim president. The military remains under civilian control. Preparations for the November 29th elections for president, congress and mayors went forward -- even though Zelaya had previously refused to release the funds to pay for the elections. The two major presidential candidates (neither Zelaya or Micheletti were running) had been chosen nearly a year before.

    Yet the international community labeled this a “coup.” Some called the scheduled elections illegitimate and demanded that Zelaya be reinstated. Ignoring Zelaya’s numerous offenses and obvious intents, and the meticulous legal steps taken by the Congress, Attorney General, and Supreme Court and overall restraint of the military, these critics in high places revealed their own disrespect for the rule of law.

    One young woman recounted to me that Hondurans couldn’t understand why the international community did not criticize Zelaya’s actions. “It was when the Supreme Court ruled against him that the people regained their confidence,” she said.

    It was clear: The election became a referendum on the Honduran government. The citizens would not just be electing a president. Their participation would be a vote for freedom and the rule of law.

    Thousands peacefully demonstrated in support of the interim government. A small group of citizens traveled to Washington, D.C. to explain to congressmen and civil society leaders what the mainstream media was not reporting. TV shows explained the voting process step-by-step to encourage people to vote. A meticulous system was arranged to guarantee the transparency of the election.

    Zelaya snuck back into the country and hid in the Brazilian embassy. He told people to boycott the elections and staked a claim upon every non-voter as a show of support for himself. His followers and Honduras’ detractors warned of violence.

    Honduras became a magnet for people fighting for freedom. Nearly 400 international observers traveled to witness and ensure the integrity of the election. And, for many, to show Hondurans that they were not alone.

    Armando Valladares, who spent 22 years in Cuba’s prisons for refusing to display a sign promoting communism, came. A former Attorney General in Venezuela who fled Chavez’s rule and lives in asylum in the U.S. came. Cuban exiles under the banner of Mothers Against Repression came. Nicaraguans opposing Daniel Ortega (who recently had their Constitution reinterpreted to allow him to run for president again) came.

    A former member of Bolivia’s Congress, who resigned when President Evo Morales began consolidating power like Chavez had, came. "They tried to build a Berlin Wall and Honduras tore it down," he told me.

    Working with the weight of global suspicion and the fate of the country on their shoulder, the Supreme Election Tribunal consulted with U.S. and other officials to organize an election that would be beyond reproach.

    A few weeks before, I had served as an election official in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. The system set up by Honduras was similar but in some ways superior.

    Each polling place was manned by six people from different political parties. Each voter had to show photo I.D. The voter rolls list not only names and addresses but also pictures of the voters. The ballots included pictures of the candidates.

    The ballot boxes had translucent windows. The counting of the ballots was open to the public. Curtains were pulled back to allow people to peer into the rooms. One at a time, the ballots were removed, read aloud, held up for others to see, then passed to several poll workers to tally.

    At polling places my team visited we found that about two-thirds of the people had voted. An astonishing turn-out considering that every adult is on the voter rolls (unlike the U.S. which is comprised of those registered to vote).

    That evening at the central hotel headquarters, the Supreme Election Tribunal announced the victor. But among the hundreds gathered for the celebration, who would be the next president was an afterthought. “We won,” reverberated throughout. “Democracy won.”

    But one step remained.

    A U.S. brokered agreement required Honduras’ Congress to vote to reinstate Zelaya until the new president is sworn in on January 27, 2010. Three days after the election, Congress assembled. One by one, they recounted his misdeeds for the record, for the world to hear, then voted.

    Putting a nail in the coffin of Zelaya’s attempt to stay in power, Congress voted 111 to 14 against reinstating the Hugo Chavez wanna-be.

    Perhaps God is smiling on this poor country. When Evangelical and Catholics pastors learned about Zelaya’s referendum, they jointly called for a week of prayer and fasting. A few days into it, Zelaya was ousted.

    The struggle is not over. Other countries that tried to block the election refuse to recognize the results. Many Hondurans realize they have a new challenge of rooting out a culture of corruption. But they’re emboldened by this fresh start.

    “Honduras didn’t have an identity before. Now it does,” a pastor told me. Another woman elaborated, “Before we were known for corruption. Now we have a new image and we must nurture it.”