Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Honduras seizes 'crime zoo,' animals go hungry

Back in September the Honduran government started seizing the assets of Los Cachiros, an alleged drug and crime organization. The $500 million in seizures included a zoo and resort business the organization had established between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. We had meant to go; the TripAdvisor reviews were pretty good.
Uh-oh, I thought, when news of the seizure broke. Those animals were a lot better off in a zoo owned by narcos than one run by the Honduran government, which has demonstrated a consistent lack of competence in almost everything it touches.
Sadly, that seems to be true. La Tribuna reports today that the government agency responsible for seizures has fumbled around with the zoo, with no one consistently responsible. (A Google translate version of the story is here.)
The only money available to feed the animals and maintain the zoo comes from park revenues, which have fallen because there is no advertising or promotion, many people think it was closed after the seizure and it is not being maintained.
The current revenue isn’t enough to cover food and vet care for the animals - tigers, giraffes, zebras and a collection of animals native to Central America.
The government could have put in a trustee to manage the zoo, with a budget to run the business and look after the animals. Or it could have hired a competent management company on contract. Instead there has been a succession of people within government responsible. 
That’s not just bad for the animals. The zoo and resort provided jobs and economic activity in the region. As the government bungles its management, those will be lost.
The seizures from Los Cachiros were co-ordinated with the U.S. government, which had targeted the family-based group under the “Kingpin Act” aimed at foreign crime groups.
The zoo’s struggles raise questions about government management of other assets on the U.S. hit list and apparently seized, like African palm plantations, cattle ranches, hotels and mining and roadbuilding companies.