We, along with all other foreign residents of Roatan, were invited to attend a meeting yesterday with the Roatan governor, Arlie Thompson; the mayor, Dale Jackson; and the congressman, Jerry Hynds. We had no idea what the meeting was about, but apparently this is an annual event. We decided to attend and met our new neighbors and friends there.
The purpose of the meeting was to address any concerns we might have over ALBA, the agreement the Honduran president Mel Zelaya recently signed with Venezula's Chavez. The Honduran forums have been buzzing with discussions of this topic for days. Another hot topic has been the fact that there seems to be some problem with accepting the new U.S. ambassador's credentials.
Jerry and Arlie had met with the president last week and offered his explanation for this agreement, that it was about getting financial aid to help with a number of unmet needs in Honduras, 500 million dollars being pledged and not about a military or political alliance. Jerry also said that it didn't stand a chance of being approved by the Honduran congress. They assured all of us that it did not affect our status or safety here in the Bay Islands. Also, Zelaya said there was no problem with accepting the U.S. ambassador, that would all be taken care of in good time.
They opened the mike for questions and several people, business owners, expressed concern about the negative publicity this has generated and the effect it will have on tourism. Another person reported that there is actually very little attention being paid by the American media due to preoccupation with the U.S. elections, only a little banner running along the bottom of CNN's screen. The Europeans must be more aware and more concerned; it was reported that they have expressed a reluctance to come here until this is all settled. It may be difficult to tell what effect this actually has on tourism until January as this is the slow season (rainy season starting).
We were reminded that the U.S. Coast Guard has a presence here, and someone else mentioned that the U.S. Navy has also recently established a small base on one of the smaller Bay Islands, and that the U.S. Airforce has a base on the mainland. Jerry said that the U.S. is still on good terms with Honduras and will remain so as they needed to keep these bases opened here.
Other longtime Roatan residents mentioned that they had seen similar political situations come and go. The panel made every effort to reassure us that this, too, would turn out alright. We are separate both physically as well as business-wise from the mainland, so this would really have little effect on our lives here. Jerry, Arlie and Dale assured all of us foreign residents that Roatan wanted us, needed us and depended on us for the well-being of the island.