Friday, February 10, 2012

It's Good News Time in Honduras: And You're Invited!

Yesterday, La Tribuna published an article about the need to get newspapers to print good news stories about Honduras so that tourists can be lured back.

Now, UPI is distributing a story with the headline Honduras inching back to economic recovery that starts
Honduras is inching back toward economic recovery and sees more international tourism as a way out of the crisis triggered by its June 2009 coup.

La Tribuna was reporting on a meeting of leaders of the National Chamber of Tourism of Honduras-- CANATURH-- with, among others, "directors of communication media" to "discuss a strategic plan to manage security". The story quotes the president of CANATURH, Epaminondas Marinakys, as saying that due to the bad press that has come out in
international media where the country is categorized as the 'City of Crime', it is urgent to seek a mechanism to change that image... One of the strategies will be to create a committee that will draw attention to positive news from Honduras and that will also give immediate response at the moment that negative information comes out publicly.

In addition, Marinakys added that the participation of the media is important so that they will consider highlighting good news and not magnifying bad news, and for that they will seek the assistance of the Asociación de Medios de Comunicación de Honduras.

The tourism promoter said that a change in the attitude of Honduran society and the communications sector has to begin to recognize the attractions that the country has.

Happy talk!

And UPI steps up to oblige. What makes their story surreal is that it is essentially a press release for none other than-- Onyx Services and Solutions, one of the highly questionable contractors awarded juicy contracts by the Honduran government.

As we reported just days ago, the SEC suspended trading in Onyx in January, after raising questions about its statements of its actual business. In its filings with the SEC, Onyx describes its business-- accurately-- as based on collecting fees on financial transactions (specifically, it owns a small number of ATMs in New York State). But for months, the company has been sending out press releases about its move into solar power. What the SEC had to say about Onyx was that it was concerned about the
accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information concerning, among other things, the company’s business projects and prospects.

Looks like UPI did not get that memo.

Their article starts with the claim that "U.S. diplomatic help enabled Lobo to start rebuilding the Honduran economy and relieve poverty and suffering among 8.2 million Hondurans" after the 2009 coup. It ends with a couple of throw-away lines about the Lobo administration coming into office with "huge off-budget debts".

What comes in between that is truly mind-boggling: the content of an Onyx press release, reproduced without any apparent knowledge of the ongoing SEC investigation.

The UPI article-- which is unsigned-- says that a "solar-powered tourism resort" on Roatan, the West Bay Lodge Resort, "expects to start receiving larger numbers of tourists" due to the installation of a 330-watt solar panel installation. It touts Roatan as a retirement destination for US expatriates.

The rest of the content comes from a company press release published on MarketWatch on February 8. UPI simply lifted the promotional information that is news-like out of the marketing context.

Onyx, not coincidentally, today announced its plans to acquire 25% of the actual source of the solar panel systems it is marketing, a Chinese company called Optimum Solar. The Roatan installation is Onyx' first solar project and the only evidence that it can successfully sell this technology.

Meanwhile, all our questions about where a small ATM company with reported negative assets, under investigation by the SEC, is getting the financing to acquire a large stake in a Chinese solar company remain.

One thing we do know: one 330 watt solar panel installation is a far cry from the contract awarded Onyx, which called for installation of a total of 18.5 megawatts of solar panels on Roatan in return for payments amounting to $84 million.

But this is undoubtedly 330 watts of good news for Honduras.

And what timing!! Good news!! Come on, all you tourists, join the rising tide!!

CANATURH assures you that Honduran crime is not taking place in tourist destinations, and now, you can enjoy your piña coladas with ice produced with solar power! The march to modernity begins now!!!

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