Roatan, Honduras came onto my radar this year when several tourists contacted us after being robbed or sexually assaulted at gunpoint during cruise stopovers. Later we were the first to report on a Norwegian Cruise Line crew member who was shot in the head for his cell phone in Coxen Hole near the cruise port.

The Foreign Policy blog says that "7,172 people were murdered in Honduras in 2012. Much of the violence plaguing Honduras is drug and gang-related. The country is a shipment point for drugs bound for the United States, and fierce gang wars have broken out to control that lucrative territory." SFGateDestiny Roatan Honduras says that Honduras is "imbued with narco culture represented by the image of a man who moves in a big car, drinks, takes drugs, walks around armed and is bad. The culture of violence and death."

Fox News Latino describes Honduras as being caught in a "homicidal bloodbath" which involves not just "gangsters, drug traffickers and police officers" but "taxi drivers, journalists, abused women and other nameless innocents."

You can now add to that list beauty queens and hair dressers.

The latest murder in Roatan involved a well-liked hair stylist in Sandy Bay named Luis Alfredo Garcia. Known as "Destiny" to his friends and customers, he was the personal stylist to Miss Universe Honduras (no connection to Miss Honduras).  Two days ago, he was found dead in his apartment at the Coral Stone Plaza. News accounts describe a gruesome scene where his throat was reportedly slit, with some accounts suggesting that his arms and legs may have been bound with rope. The expatriates in Roatan are taking steps to try and solve the crime, knowing that the local police are inept and unmotivated to do so.

Destiny’s murder followed the murder last week of Miss Honduras, 19 year-old Maria Jose Alvarado, who was gunned down along with her sister, Sofia, age 23, by her sister’s jealous boyfriend who buried their bodies along a remote river bank near the border with Guatemala. (Ms. Alvarado’s murder reminded me of the murder this year of beauty queen Monica Spear who was gunned down by armed robbers in Venezuela, another exceedingly dangerous country). 

According to ABC News, a top law enforcement officer said that Honduras’ image has been "stained forever by this horrible crime."  ABC also noted that "the country has the world’s highest homicide rate for a nation not at war, with an estimated 90 to 95 killings per 100,000 people (some says that the Roatan Hondurashomicide rate has dropped down to around 79 – 80 per 100,000). Street gangs and drug traffickers are the de-facto authorities in many areas, enforcing their will through violence, fear and extortion."

The expatriate residents in Roatan are quick to try and distance them from the criminal madness on the mainland of Honduras. The dive-shop owners, resorts, realtors and tour operators go as far as to describe the Bay Islands as an idyllic "paradise." They claim that they don’t even lock their doors at night.

But there are far too many stories about crime and murder in Roatan to consider the "it’s paradise" stories as anything other than marketing aimed at naive retirees from the U.S. or Canada. In a one week period from November 13th to November 20th, the Televisual Insular TV station in Roatan reported on the robbery of a U.S. citizen, multiple rapes, multiple thefts to fuel crack habits, a machete attack, and the burglary of a pastor’s house. The articles include photographs which portray a sense of poverty and desperation in the Coxen Hole neighborhood next to the port.  

Roatan has hardly escaped the scourge of the cocaine trade. International drug trafficker Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, alias "El Negro," owned multiple properties in Roatan where he ran his criminal drug empire shipping cocaine from Colombia before he went into hiding. (The new Honduran government seized his money, automobiles and properties in Roatan and the U.S. finally extradicted El Negro to Miami earlier this year).  

Honduras is trying to clean up its act and market itself as a destination for the ever-growing cruise Roatan Hondurasindustry.

A French newspaper reported on the incredibly tight security which met passengers in the new cruise port in Trujillo, Honduras when the Norwegian Jewel arrived last month. Two naval boats and 500 military soldiers and police officers and several hundred plainclothes officers patrolled a radius of 70 kilometers, while a plane flew overhead.

I have a hard time reconciling the assurances from the tourism people that a cruise location is "safe" with the reality that it’s necessary to assign a small army to a port of call to protect the guests.   

Honduras is one of the few cruise destinations subject to a critical crime warning from the U.S. State Department ("Although Roatan / Bay Islands . . . have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards"). I named it the second most dangerous cruise destination in the world earlier this year. 

Whether it’s Roatan or Trujillo, Honduras is one tropical "paradise" that I don’t plan to visit anytime soon.

 

November 23 2014 Update:  Honduras is a corrupt and violent place, where journalists are killed and witnesses are intimidated. Since posting this article, I have received numerous threats of violence from Honduras and the Bay Islands. One reader, Dale Woods Jones, posted: "They need to cut his tongue out so he don’t talk and cut his hands off so he don’t write a load of garbage about the islands."

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Photo Credits: Top – Twitter; Middle & bottom – LaPrensa

  • Ron LaBarre

    Jim, I’ve lived in Honduras for six years now. Three years on Roatan and three years on the mainland. Your writing style is, shall we say, a bit sensational? Honduras is gorgeous, it’s people amazing, and deserve better than continued negative reports which sensationalize the crime here. It’s bad in the inner cities, yes. But cruisers don’t go there.
    You’ve hear this before…it’s gang on gang, drug addicts, narcos that are killing each other. Let’s not take a sensational murder (Miss Honduras and her sister) by an idiot machismo and use it to scaremonger about an amazing country.

  • Miriam

    En mi amada Honduras los niños no entran a las escuelas a asesinar a sus maestros y compañeros, y eso no significa que me alegre que esto ocurra en otros paises. Lo que ocurre en Honduras es que somos puente para la droga que consumen en USA (tampoco me alegra que la consuman) los narcotraficantes estan infiltrados en muchos ambientes pero, somos mas los buenos, los que trabajamos por un futuro mejor para nuestros hijos, los que dia a dia ponemos nuestros esfuerzos en las manos de Dios para que esta lepra del crimer organizado y del narcotrafico se aleje de nuestras tierras, pues son males importados. Sr. si no va decir nada constructivo, mejor abstengase de hablar de nuestro pais pues le queda muy grande. Gracias a los que expresan sus comentarios positivos de mi tierra!

  • Ashleigh Bennett

    There is crime every where in the world. I’m originally from a very small town in canada and, we had many instances of all of the crimes listed above. When I moved to a bigger city my car was broken into or vandalized at least once a month. And issues with drugs, prostitution and murder surrounded my home and my city on a regular basis.

    I’ve lived in Roatan for two years now and have never had any issues. And find it much safer then where i resided in Canada.

    I was quite saddened to hear of the senseless murder of Maria and Sophia however domestic violence is another crime that is committed every where in this world. As a social worker in canada I didn’t work with a single family that hadn’t been effected by this awful situation and, have had many people in my personal life effected by this senseless act as well.

    As for the murder of Destiny. It is presumed this was also an incident where the suspect was known to the victim also the most common crime any where in the world.

    Both these incidents shocked and saddened me. However it is unfair of the media to portray these incidents as something that should tarnish us as a country.

    There are so many good points to both Roatan and the Mainland. I have never felt fear traveling in either place.

    Crime happens everywhere. Please stop slandering Honduras.

  • Hiram Taylor

    Jim, have you ever been in Honduras? Apparently not, you came up with wrong info. Tey to research about US schools masacres. Crime is all over the world, damaging comments like yours too. Truth is, Honduras is not a safe place if you don’t take precautions, that happens everywhere in the world.

  • Luis

    Mr. Jim,
    After readig your article I can understand you only read negative news from my country. We have our problems like other countries, due to our small size any problem is shown on the news as bad. But this country is changing and you might see it in a near future. Our country has not had big problems as school or university shootings as to the United States that happen frequently. You have cities where murder rate is high but your news and government cover them up. Drug trafficking on Honduras is due to the high US consumption of drugs. My comment is just to show you that bad stuff happens every where but we are not pointing that. We are a small country and we know we have a long way ahead. But tourism is very important to our country and we would thank you to help point out positive news from Honduras.

  • Dan Mejia Rod

    Mr Jim Walker
    I understand your point of view about my country (Honduras),and i agree with you in some topics,yes we have violent cities here like L.A and Chicago and Miami .
    Yes Mr Walker we have drug dealers here in my Country (Honduras )like the ones you have there in several cities on the United States.
    Yes we have several places and neighborhoods were not even the police dare to go in ,Like those places in Los Angeles and miami ,I dare you as an American to go into little Mexico in redondo beach ,Ca or into little Habana after 6:00 pm alone( no police or D.E.A ,FBI ,or personal security) with your fancy clothes and luxury car ,ahh please make sure you have your kids or wife if you have any ,or Family if you have any and share one moment with the persons living on those areas.Lets say the black community of Little Haiti in Miami?

    i agree with you on drugs on our country ,but as you said it before we are just transporting the drugs and we put the postal stamp named to the USA or Canada.
    The business is not ours belong to the all time Americans they need that drug to survive the system.

    I agree with you Mr.walker and do not get me wrong I love the United States ,i spend 25 years of my life serving my country and your country there on the conus and possessions ,like Puerto Rico and the virgin Island,but also I love the country were we are trying to change .so help me God.

    May GOD bless America and bless you and your Family and wish you a safe trip to any dangerous country if you decide to travel and leave your mansion on Coral Gables or any other part of the beautiful Miami.

  • Beatriz Valle

    Truth is… There is violence in every corner of the world. With that said I have been living outside of Honduras for almos a decade now… I been back 3 times to visit. Never been assaulted in any way… Perfect place to raise my family if one day came down to it. Neighbors are truly neighbors. I was there just 5 months ago and not one incident where I had to witness anything so dramatic… Two ladys in honduras (my mom and I ) running arround from SAN PEDRO SULA to TEGUCIGALPA and not once I got a gun held over my head… So dont let articles like this one guide your decition on where to spend ur next vacation. Go n experience it for yourself… And you will end up buying a house down there. On my way back to the states in the same row as me was sitting a 9 year old beautiful little girl named Andrea and her 85 year old Grandfather on the row next to us his son, his daughter in law, his 16 year old grand daughter and on her lap his 18 month old one other grand daughter… I started a conversation with them because i need it to get up at o use the bathroom and when i came back… They were all americans who one day 18 years ago had come for a bussiness trip to honduras and had fell in love with not only its people but the country as well… Now they own a house they come once a year to and spend their vacation safely in their house where they dont even bother to lock the doors… Full bilingual family all thanks to a country that recieved and welcomed them with open arms! And just to finish up I ask you to go n share your story cuz it makes me glad to hear that when u go and come back u never wanted to live that beautiful country of mine!

  • Eva

    Sorry to inform You that your information about Honduras is invorect and highly judgmental. I live in roatan for 5 years I never had one single crime happen to me. I’ve been to the mainland and walk with people living in poverty. I’m from NYC and trust me it’s a lot worse there then in roatan . By the way the cruise ship worker that got shot it wasn’t over his cell phone and was not his first time in roatan. You don’t know what people are involved in stop bashing a place that welcomes people from all over the world to come start new beginings. As for miss Honduras and destiny they should have been more careful who they hang out with!!!!

  • jannell buckley

    Honduras is my home – we have our share of misfits like the devil living here and going back and forth roaming seeing what communities and whom they could devour or destroy just as you may have it all over the world. Authorities in Honduras works their backsides off to make sure civil liberties are upheld for everyone especially guests in our country and being a third world nation with the limited resources at hand- i personally think that IS a big deal. The murders, accidents and or incidents you speak of are the results and evidence of people living in free and opened society who might have made a bad decision directly or indirectly and has nothing to do with how you are portraying my country.

  • LESLY

    I live in San Pedro Sula according to some, “the most dangerous city of the world” but never someone has assaulted me , but when I was in vacations in Seville, two men assaulted me, and robbed my purse, I was beaten and dumped on the sidewalk!! This happened around the world!!

  • silvia

    i live in roatan for five years and i’ never had any problems of kind depend on the kind of life that you and the people that frequent , but this is the same in all part of the world

  • Cesar

    apparently your blog on Honduras and Roatan had some reviews. Why don you be man enough and come to Honduras and Roatan as so many women, children, little old ladies and senior citizens do by the 1000s every week.

    Come down, bring your wife or your girlfriend.

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  • car

    Most. The positive. Comments. It because you guys. Have business. In the island. Roatan .and don’t. Want to tell. The true .so this doesn’t help to may more secure.please don put the tourist. In high. Risk. Make presion to the government to have a secure. Place to visit.

  • Drew Shuller

    Hi Jim. I don’t know what your problem is. I’ve lived in Honduras for over five years and I’ve never been killed, not even once!

    Drew

    P.S. Keep up the good work. The overt crimes and crimes of omission committed against the good people of Honduras will never stop if we don’t expose them.

  • car

    Justificar esas muertes oh compararlas con otros paices no ayuda nada solo por esperar mas turistas poniendolos en gran peligro .esta claro que las islas ya no son tan seguras y ocultar la verdad no ayuda en nada mas bien agan presion al gobierno para que esas muertes se aclaren sino .seguira el pais alejando inversion. Y el turismo.

  • Renee

    Sad to read you are not Willing to visit and see first hand what you are writing so strongly against. Definitely NOT something that Makes your case a strong one. Of course there is violente in Honduras! There is violente everywhere in The world and if you, a internacional marítime lawyer refuse to investigate before you Make an opinion, you are taking The Easy way out. Very naive of you to believe everything you hear or read in The news.

  • I am from Roatan and all this crime that is mention about Honduras is not from Roatan, i think that should be very clear when publishing something like this, because that is ruining our image and it is not Roatan that is murdeing place,

  • Juan Barrientos

    FUCK YOU. I´m not even going to try to convince you about how wrong, biased and venomous your writing is. And if I could punch you in the face I would. Consider this another threat from an angry honduran.

  • Jack

    What’s funny is all the Honduras locals are mad at Jim, saying he’s wrong, threatening him, etc, but probably 99% of what he posts is information he got from the media, even newspapers and TV stations right there in Honduras!

    So why are they attacking Jim instead of the source – the news websites, newspapers, and TV stations?

    I’m not sure why Jim allows all these idiots to post their comments here, but perhaps it’s because he knows a majority of the website visitors here have more sense and will realize the local people posting many of these backlashing comments don’t really have a clue of reality.

    I mean come on, they say they aren’t violent, but then tell you to “F” off and threaten your life!?

  • Ollie Thompson

    Jim,

    I’m an island girl! Born and raised on Utila, I lived on Roatan 2006-2009. Our island has changed!!! The violence and corruption from the mainland has reached our islands! Anyone who does not agree with the TRUTH you write, is because they want the tourist to continue coming. Tourism is the main source of income on our islands. Please continue to speak and report the truth, everything you have said is correct and truthful, those who refuse to make the necessary changes to correct the direction that our island has issues with you being truthful, then so be it! They’re energy is best spent trying to help correct the violence and corruption that’s ruining our country not trying to stop you from reporting the truth! I never speak poorly of my country, I represented my country in the Miss Universe and was Ambassador of Good Will for 5 years. Having said that, I wish you did not have to report such violence about Honduras, but the truth is the world needs to know so that something can be done to stop the corruption and violence in Honduras. Good luck Jim.

    THE GUNFIRE AROUND us makes it hard to hear. But the human voice is different from other sounds. It can be heard over noises that bury everything else. Even when it’s not shouting. Even when it’s just a whisper. Even the lowest whisper can be heard – -over armies… when it’s telling the truth. ~Edward Zuwanie

    I pray for my country and continue to have hopes that
    they implement consequences to the violence and corruption that is plaguing our country; instead of being also the country with the highest unsolved murder cases which only helps fuel more violence and corruption when the perpetrators realize they are NO consequences to their actions……

  • Thanks Ollie for the kind words. Jim Walker

  • Larissa Gonzalez

    I’m Hondurian. I’m not here to deny any of this things that you’d said about my country, ’cause you didn’t lie. It’s all true. It’s a dangerous country. But it’s also beautiful. Full of people that hopes someday this will stop. Our goverment is under corrupted people who are selfish and just want to keep their families well meanwhile the rest of the country lives in fear. We do live in fear. We live with the fear of going out home and never return. But please, don’t try to say Honduras is the only country like this. We’re not the most violent country in the world. What about those countries who lives on wars? I won’t say “come to Honduras and see how beautiful it is”, because even myself would be afraid for your life. But stop putting Honduras name on the lowest because it’s probably not as bad as we all painted.

  • Roland Rumm

    Good Evening Mr. Walker,

    I just read your article about the murder of a person in Roatan. I must say that I have very strong mixed feelings about your article. I myself live on a neighbor island, and know for fact that people are struggling to survive and working very hard to make the islands a better place. Now the only industry we have is the tourism industry, and with your article tourist numbers will constantly keep on decreasing, robbing us from our only chance to make this a safe place. Talking about facts, I am sure you are conscious of the fact that the murder rate on the Bay Islands is nowhere near the one from the mainland, and in fact is a lot less than in many Cities of the USA like for example New Orleans.

    We the people on the Bay Islands, are working very hard to make this a better place. But due to the media and articles like this one, we will have a much harder time, and many thousand honest and peace loving people will have not much of a future.

    Thank you for understanding my opinion,

    Roland Rumm

  • Ebanks

    Come se dice aqui en Honduras “una mañanzana podrida pudre a las demas” por uno pagan todos no! Aver, si Honduras estuvieramos llena de purititos santos diria algo la Prensa. Cómo comparar un Pais como Honduras con una potencia como US.
    Cada quien tiene derecho de hacer su vida como se le pegue su relagada gana, o no?

    El detalle es de que si no buscas problemas no te van a llegar a tu casa y si llegando Sera tu desicion lo aceptas o no nadie te obliga a aceptarlos.

  • Chris

    Mr Walker,
    I was in Honduras in 2012 with 3 friends of mine. We took a flight from US to San Pedro Sula, rented Toyota Hiace pickup truck and drove to La Ceiba. We stayed by the river about 10 miles away from the city. We were rafting Rio Cangrejal, hiking in the mountain jungle, making day trips and having good time. We visited Cayos Cochinos employing local fishermen, not “licensed english speaking tour operator”. Nothing happened.
    We were stopped several times by the police for documents control. They also searched our truck few times. Other than that no one bothered us. Local people are wonderful. I strongly recommend you to visit Honduras some day – maybe your opinion about that country (which I have the filling is based on statistics and Internet stories but not personal experience) will change.
    Regards.
    Chris

    PS. I live in Chicago where everyday one or more people are being killed.

  • joanna Crewes

    Thank you, Mr. Walker for reporting the facts and statistics in Roatan. Just as they are reported in Detroit, Chicago, New York and other cities in the U.S as to be forewarned and take precautions. Years of working as an attache in foreign affairs have prepared me for many violent verbal altercations that can be started by the slightest provocation. After some background search on “Dale Wood Jones”, the “cut his tongue out response” person has a drug trade husband and son in law. Son in law is on the drug traffickers watchlist. Respective names are Christine Jones, a daughter and D. Phillips. These drug traffickers and gang affiliations persons (gangs from mainland Honduras) have wreaked havoc on an otherwise peaceful island. Most island people are generous, outstanding individuals and they too are suffering by the actions of the drug trade and gangs. Thank you again for keeping us informed.

  • kem duong trang da toan than

    We all know that there are good man and bad man, we can take for granted that every one is the same. By the way it is you feelings, but i think it is still a great place

  • josephina Hanes

    Honduras is beautiful don’t listen to the negative comments i was just there on the main land people were great did not see any crime it is paradise over there…back to cananda when i came home three banks were robbed at gun point just in the little town i love and many vehicles stolen in just one week drug crimes are here everyday so Honduras will be my place of retirement soon

  • Wender
  • Alankrita

    “Great”I simply read your article about the homicide of a man in Roatan. I should say that I have exceptionally solid blended emotions about your article. I myself live on a neighbor island, and know for reality that individuals are attempting to survive and working hard to improve the islands a spot. Presently the main business we have is the tourism business, and with your article visitor numbers will always continue diminishing, burglarizing us from our just opportunity to make this a protected spot. Discussing certainties, I am certain you are aware of the way that the homicide rate on the Bay Islands is no place close to the one from the territory, and truth be told is significantly not exactly in numerous Cities of the USA like for instance New Orleans.