56 year old Canadian cruiser Milan Egrmajer was killed by pirates while anchored just off the Rio Tinto in Honduras on Friday night, the second such attack in the area in as many weeks. His daughter escaped unharmed, and was picked up by a passing Aussie crew and taken to Belize after the incident. Milan and crew were headed from the well-known cruising spot Rio Dulce in Guatemala to the similarly well-cruised Bay Islands of Honduras, when they ducked into the mainland anchorage at Laguna Del Diamante for shelter from big breeze and seas. This is isolated country, hours from any real population center, but also fairly well-traveled cruising grounds on the route that hundreds of boats take each year during the winter months.
We hesitate to even call it piracy – this is as different from the Somalian business as it could be, and it’s far more dangerous to cruising sailors than the organized heavy weapon-equipped stuff over in the Red Sea that targets cargoes worth tens of millions. Piracy on the Honduran, Guatemalan, and Nicaraguan coasts tends to come from dugout canoes or small launches, and pirates are generally barefoot jungle dwellers with sharp machetes and rusted-out guns that came from the Cold War proxy battles of the 70s and 80s or drug wars more recently. They are usually looking for electronics, cash, and easy-to-sell documents, but if these pirates find the pickings easy enough, it wouldn’t take much organization for them to turn to the kind of ransom games that are very common in mainland Central America.
The good news is that there are enough naval assets in the area that any escalating piracy could be quickly quelled if the will is there. The bad news is that those assets are mostly from the US, the same country whose immoral banana wars, cold wars, and the insanely idiotic War On Drugs helped create the poverty and gun-fueled violence that leads to this kind of piracy today.
The reality is that hundreds of thousands of tourists play in Atlantic Centroamerica every year, enjoying some of the most pristine and beautiful scenery and wildlife anywhere on Earth at bargain prices. But like much of the developing world, the poor governments of these poor countries can only afford to patrol the areas with the most traffic, and if you get off the beaten path, you can be taking your life into your own hands. And it won’t change anytime soon.
More info on the story and info about a ‘celebration of life’ for him at Xalaja, is available at the Rio Dulce Chisme site here, and you can weigh in with your thoughts on the thread here.