Honduras – Villa Franca ADP

When I returned home from Cyprus, I had been invited by Sean to a Disaster Preparedness Symposium in Tennessee. This event would take place in early March, so I had a good month before seeing the Chattanooga Choo Choo. This gave me time to pre-order some items for my new Fat Boy as well, since Costa Rica is expensive to order parts. But before Tennessee, I would find myself visiting the Villa Franca ADP in Honduras.

By the time mid-February rolled around, I would find an urgent calling for a new risk assessment and investigation. Both Sean and Gerardo were in Brazil when two volunteers in Honduras were murdered. Being the closest available asset, my number was called. In addition to this risk assessment, I was also asked to investigate the robbery of a Vision Fund employee. This individual was robbed after withdrawing money from a bank during his lunch break.

Honduras SRA

Almost home a month from Cyprus, on February 24 I started the quick journey north to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. You may recall the fun airport here from a previous post, but just for kicks, the videos is below. I am still amazed by this short airstrip and landing.

When I arrived, I was met by Nestor P., at that time the logistics officer with World Vision Honduras. He would eventually become a great security manager in the organization. Given the situation, my first trip was to the office and get brought up to speed. Apparently this murder took place in the Villa Franca ADP (Area for Development Program).

The Villa Franca ADP was one of the more dangerous locations in which we operated in Honduras. Not a year earlier the ADP manager was murdered here as well. So, a trip was planned for me to visit this ADP and conduct a risk assessment.

ADP Villa Franca

The actual ADP is located in northern Tegucigalpa. It is unique in that the territory is controlled by two rival gang factions. The dividing line is literally the center of the main road that runs through the area. A few months before my visit, a young boy was riding his skateboard along this road, crossing the center line. As he approached the end of the street, a gang member saw him crossing the line and shot him. The boy was killed instantly.

The maps above show the area in Tegucigalpa as well as the borders of Villa Franca. The red line is the border between the gangs, where the boy was shot. The marker is where the World Vision ADP office used to be, in the middle. I did go visit this office, and as we parked the car, I had to be careful how I exited, not wanting to cross the center line. Having looked around prior, I knew I was being watched. The gang members were standing on a balcony seeing who was entering their area.

World Vision did relocate the ADP office to a neutral location just outside the gang controlled area. One of the problems we had faced is that we did have some good volunteers from both sides, and having the office in the center was added risk for our volunteers on the other side.

A few months after this trip, Gerardo had asked me my thoughts on the Villa Franca ADP. I asked him his views and he told me that he had never been there, stating “…it is far too dangerous!” And this from a local made me feel reassured, after the fact!!

Report of Activities

Feb 27

I met with the Chief of Police of Tegucigalpa, Honduras first thing in the morning. We discussed insecurities in the affected areas outlined in the ToR and gained valuable information for the completion of the SRA for both Villa Franca and Cerra de Plata ADP’s. Following the visit with the Chief of Police, we went to the Cerra de Plata ADP and held a meeting with the ADP staff followed by a visit to the communities in the ADP area. One zone we were unable to visit due to an ongoing gang turf war where police were dispatched to control.

In the afternoon I met with a person from Vision Fund to gather information on an issue that occurred last week. This was outside the ToR and done as a favor to OCS while I was in country. The information gathered was informative and helpful for both Vision Fund and the World Vision office.

Feb 28

I met with the Commandant of the University for Police in Honduras first thing in the morning. Again, this was another very useful engagement for information in the affected ADP areas. We also had a brief discussion on possible insecurities for the upcoming November elections in Honduras. This has set a base foundation for the country Security Focal Point and I will discuss further with the RSD for future reference.

The rest of the day was finalizing the SRA Brief that will be presented to the ND and other key stakeholders for the ADP’s

Vision Fund Attempted Robbery

I met with the gentleman of Vision Fund and inquired directly into the situation concerning his incident.

The employee went to the Davivienda bank approximately 7 kilometers from the VF office. He had withdrawn 9,000 Limperas (approx. $450USD). When he left the bank, he went to the BAC Honduras, which is beside this bank where he paid his credit card. He returned to his car parked at the Davivienda bank and proceeded to return to the office. It was on the way to the office where he was confronted by another vehicle with three occupants.

At a point of opportunity, the other vehicle stopped and the men got out, brandishing weapons. It is then that Mr. Sosa retreated in his car driving through the parking lot of a local restaurant. The other car briefly followed but then continued onwards not following the employee into the restaurant parking lot.

Since no money was actually lost, I closed this investigation by updating the security risk assessment for the Honduras office with Nestor. Vision Fund, as you will learn, is a different type of organization that has no security measures for its staff. They rely a lot on World Vision to provide this, but it was, at that time, out of our scope.

Mission Completion

This was a quick four day trip, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I was eager to get to Tennessee. I had ordered a lot of parts for my new Harley. It would also be a good opportunity to see World Vision’s partnership in Latin America with the GR3 group. I only had two days at home before jumping on the flight north to Chattanooga!

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