Saturday, November 21, 2009

Breakfast in Honduras

We're still seeing an occasional article on the crisis in Honduras. Then-president Zelaya wanted to change the country's constitution, allowing him to serve another term. The judiciary, along with certain elements of the military, took exception to his plans, and he found himself on a plane out of the country.
Right-leaning blogs applauded his ouster, citing similarities to a Chavez-type takeover
a la Venezuela, and decried the fact that the White House and Department of State seemed to favor Zelaya's position.

I have no opinion to give except that "we" took a proper and prudent public position, and no information to give, other than the following story:

It must have been around the late of the '80s, my friend Jim and the owner of a construction company based in Ft. Lauderdale flew down to Honduras to see if there were any opportunities for offshore construction work. Jim always considered Ft. Lauderdale a good "jumping off place," and indeed had found work that sent him to Jamaica, Haiti, the Caymans, Bahamas, Virgin Islands, and even Africa. This company had a good product and good track record. They'd been successful in other places, and now they hoped to be able to do business in Honduras.

They flew from Miami to Tegucigalpa, the capital. Arriving late in the afternoon, they checked into a downtown hotel. The boss made a few phone calls to local contacts, setting up a couple of appointments for the following day. They stayed close to the hotel that night.

The next morning they ate breakfast at the hotel. Whether it was to treat himself with the "hair of the dog," or to brace himself with an early-morning "shooter" (something he was known to do), Jim excused himself and went off in search of a barman, or some hotel employee able to be bribed to dispense a couple of drinks at 7:00 in the morning.

Having accomplished his mission, Jim reported, he returned to the dining room to find his boss sitting there with a disturbed look about him, his face suddenly gray and ashen. "Go up to the room and pack up your stuff. We're getting out of here."

Within a few minutes they were in a car heading back to the airport. They flew back to Miami later that day. "So what happened?" I asked, when told about the trip.

"He wouldn't say," Jim replied. "And he was so upset, I didn't want to push him. I surmise, while I was gone, somebody came to the table and told him to go. Exactly who it was I don't know. But I do know he wasn't sure if we were even going to make it to the airport."

So who knows what really happened? Certainly the boss wasn't a wimp who would scare easily; his company had operated in a lot of places, many of which had an "edge."
Whatever was said to him that morning at the breakfast table, for him doing business in Honduras was a clear-cut case of "No vale le pena."

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