By Ben Anson
HAVANA TIMES – I awoke one morning as of recent, rolling around as usual upon the mattress, ventilator spinning ferociously in its pitiful attempt to combat the heat – and reached for my phone. I have a habit of leaving it somewhere within the immediate periphery of my bed, so that in the morning I can simply turn it on and see the time.
I did so as usual and noticed the typical sudden barrage of messages and notifications. One, that stood out, was from a young Englishwoman. A Facebook message, it was. I saw her in the profile photo which always accompanies such a message. I thought, what could she want? We had only met a handful of times here in Honduras, as I occasionally come into contact with international volunteers deployed by NGO groups.
On opening the chat, I rubbed my eyes and scanned what she had sent me.
She spoke of a young English girl, who found herself ‘stuck’ in Honduras, with a worried family back home. The girl in question was the daughter of her aunt’s best friends – if I recall correctly. That being, the aunt of the girl who’d sent me the messages.
I am frequently contacted by fellow Brits whom I’ve been acquainted with as they perhaps see me as some sort of ‘go to person’ on anything Honduras related. I’ve lived here for a few years now and have no plans of residing anywhere else. My journalism and writing exploits have, over the years, awarded me a small status as an authority on the nation and its issues, which is something I seek to build upon.
Anyhow, the young lady asked me if she could pass my contact information on to the girl mentioned, in case she wished to speak to someone English who could offer assistance. I agreed, as one is always willing to assist a fellow countryman. I myself, shall always try and help another human being – be them from England, Azerbaijan or the center of the earth.
I was thanked (on agreeing to the proposal) and told that the girl would be in touch – if she wished to do so.
Well… she never got in touch. I forgot the whole occasion.
That being until I found myself in a terrible fit of boredom (a result of this infernal Coronavirus lockdown) and began swiping around my phone whilst laying beached upon on a sofa. A news story from the BBC no less – appeared on the news section of my phone screen. If I swipe left from the main screen, I enter a section with international news features.
“Coronavirus. Family fears for daughter stranded in Honduras.”
So reads the headline. Immediately, something told me that it had to be the very same girl. I went and read over it, which left my blood boiling on account of what I consider unacceptable falsehoods and spurious slander. I then shared the article on Facebook and tagged the young lady who had first messaged me about this ‘stranded girl’. I asked: “is this the one you told me about?”
Incredulous, the young lady got back to me and responded that it was indeed the same girl. Freya Madeley. I then undertook some investigation and found that the same article appeared in the Daily Mail and other British media outlets from the Mirror to the Union Journal. The BBC, Daily Mail and the Mirror being leading titles in Great Britain. I shall go through certain excerpts from the article, which were the most ridiculous and utterly slanderous.
The family of a “scared” 20-year-old British woman stranded in Central America, is calling on the government to bring her home from a local airport.
Freya Madeley is attempting to return from a rural area of Honduras, where she has been volunteering.
Her family say the five-hour trip to the capital city for a flight is “too dangerous” and want her to travel from an airport 19 miles (30 km) away.
“She’s basically completely stuck,” said Ms. Madeley’s mother Maria.
Right. For starters why on earth is it ‘too dangerous’ to travel to the airport? That is a complete and utter lie; I can assure all readers that there has never been anything remotely ‘dangerous’ about travelling to the capital city or its airport. I myself, have travelled to Tegucigalpa (Honduras capital) on countless occasions. You get in a car, a bus, a bike – or a donkey’s back – and off you go. End of. Not an issue.
Even in this current situation, a decent explanation to authorities along the way (perhaps at roadblocks) would grant one a safe passage. Being a young white girl – an obvious foreigner, nobody would dream of making her life difficult. Anyone who has spent two minutes in Honduras, knows full well that foreigners here get special treatment.
“Food is getting scarce. There is a complete lockdown with gangs and police trying to control it. False. What gangs? Food is getting scarce? As I write this a lady who lives down my street is offering me steak or fried chicken for lunch. Corner shops are open across the nation – there is one on every street. Again, gangs? Ridiculous. What is there to control if nothing is happening? The whole country is on lockdown.
“She hasn’t got much local currency. She’s scared, she’s nervous,” said Maria Madeley. So, somehow Hondurans are to blame because she hasn’t much local currency. Guess what – nor do they! I thought the girl came here as an NGO volunteer…
“She has been warned by locals that the police have the authority to shoot anyone who runs away from them, and she has witnessed incidents of police brutality,” she said. FANTASY. Sci-fi even. Fiction. I myself went to a cash machine yesterday and had an amiable chat with Military Policemen who were also using the facility. They can’t just shoot people down for God’s sake. Police brutality would never affect a young white foreigner, you would have to open fire on them first or something truly extraordinary.
Holly said there were roadblocks, with armed men demanding payments to pass through, making it unsafe for her sister to travel to Tegucigalpa. How has she seen that though? I thought she had no money and was unable to move. Again, bullshit at its finest.
The Daily Mail, went even further, making the most outrageously false, sensationalist claims about the state of the nation of Honduras. Please see below:
“Violent gangs are vying for control in the Central American country amid lockdown.” That, is akin to saying that Donald Trump is half-human-half-kangaroo. Fantasy. I know gang members. Latin Kings, MS-13, 18th Street. They are as locked down as anyone else. Why would they start a gang war based on a virus from China? Do these journalists even read what they write? What stupid statements.
I write this article, with nothing against the girl or her family (who probably exaggerated as a means to obtain a free flight back home financed on British taxpayer’s money) yet I do have a bone to pick with the British media.
How dare you? Honduras, is not just gangs and gangs and gangs and gangs and gangs – for God’s sake. I suppose that the British media prefers to forget the despicable amount of organized crime activity all over the UK.
Honduras is not just violence. Neither is it solely corruption, poverty, misery and bedlam. This is a resplendent nation of extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, warm, noble people, intriguing cultures, great cuisine etc. I myself, opened a web site recently, whose purpose is to combat this terribly unjust, over-exaggerated negative image of Honduras. For those wishing to see the real picture – please visit: https://lempiratimes.com/
As soon as the British shake off their antiquated ‘empire mentality’ viewing nations like Honduras as being filled with savage, exotic natives – the bloody better!