US embassy cable - 02TEGUCIGALPA2833

CORRECTED COPY - NEW LAND CASE IN ROATAN GOOD TEST FOR GOH RESOLVE

Identifier: 02TEGUCIGALPA2833
Wikileaks: View 02TEGUCIGALPA2833 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tegucigalpa
Created: 2002-10-09 22:43:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: EINV EAID EAGR PGOV AMGT HO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 002833 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR EB/OIA, INR/B, WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, WHA/EX 
 
LABOR FOR ILAB, ROBERT WHOLEY 
 
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID FOR LAC/AA, USTR, EXIM, OPIC, 
USED IDB, USED WB, USED IMF 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EINV, EAID, EAGR, PGOV, AMGT, HO 
SUBJECT: CORRECTED COPY - NEW LAND CASE IN ROATAN GOOD TEST 
FOR GOH RESOLVE 
 
REF: (a) Tegucigalpa 01756, (b) Tegucigalpa 02829 
 
This is a correction to Ref (b), corrected plat numbers. 
 
1. (SBU) Summary. American citizens Jean and Roger Moore 
were suddenly and forcefully evicted from their Roatan home 
in August of this year when the Melvyn McNab family 
presented (and local judicial officials accepted) 
unsubstantiated arguments that they had claim to this land. 
A recently done cadastral survey by the GOH indicates that 
the McNab claims are not true.  President Maduro, Supreme 
Court President Vilma Morales, land registry officials and 
local government representatives in the islands are all 
aware of this case.  The Supreme Court has brought the case 
to Tegucigalpa to investigate for irregularities.  The 
Embassy believes the dispute represents an important test of 
the GOH's professed interest in improving legal protections 
for investors and positioning the Bay Islands for increased 
investment and tourism.   End Summary. 
 
2.  (SBU) The Moores, and several other Americans, purchased 
their beachfront lots in Paya Bay on the island of Roatan 
from Amcit Eric Anderson in 1994; the property that he 
subdivided is known in the land registry as plat number 
306001.  He had full title to the land.  Anderson also has 
an adjacent property, Plat 306002; it is this adjacent 
property, purchased in the 1960s in the name of another 
Honduran islander (at that time expats were not allowed to 
own land near the coast) that has been the source of a 
property dispute with Melvyn McNab since 1996.  This year, 
however, McNab has expanded the dispute by providing to the 
courts a redrawn map that changes the shape and location of 
the disputed property (306002) to include the lots Anderson 
sold to the Moores, Meyers and other Amcits.  The official 
cadastral survey of the islands, just completed this summer, 
clearly shows that the Moores' land is located in plat 
number 306001. 
 
3. (SBU) On August 28th of this year, Jean Moore sent a fax 
to the Embassy describing their forceful eviction on August 
22nd from their home on the island of Roatan, Honduras. 
According to the Moores, on August 9th, they received a 
phone call from their caretaker who had been physically 
removed in handcuffs from the house.  Judge Casco took 
possession of all house keys from the caretaker.  The McNab 
family then placed guards around the Moore's house and 
property.  The Moore's arrived on Roatan on the 17th and 
were denied access to their house.  Their attorney filed a 
petition for an appeal for relief under the Honduran 
Constitution, an amparo, to stop the eviction act.  The 
petition was denied.  In the following days the Moores and 
their attorneys tried to demonstrate their clear title over 
the land and convince the judge to overturn his ruling, 
without success.  On the 22nd, the Moores were told to 
follow the police to their property.  The McNab family, 
several police officers, including the Chief of Police, and 
the McNab's attorney were all present as the Moores were 
forced to remove all their personal belongings from their 
property in a 2 hour time period.  They were not allowed to 
lock the house and had to leave several items behind.  The 
Moores report that there is already a family of six living 
in the Moore house and some of their property has been 
damaged. 
 
4. (SBU) Econoffs put the Moores in touch with Octavio 
Sanchez, a legal advisor to the President, and Henry 
Merriam, coordinator of a GOH program to complete cadastral 
surveys and unify the land registries throughout Honduras. 
They arranged to have a copy of the official survey of this 
part of Roatan prepared.  The catastral survey appears to 
fully support the American citizens' assertion that the 
Honduran party has no legal grounds for their claim to the 
Moore's property. 
 
5. (SBU) On September 11th the Embassy sent a letter signed 
by the Charg d'Affaires, Roger Pierce, to President Maduro 
and Honduran Supreme Court (CSJ) President, Vilma Morales 
with copies to Investment Minister, Camilo Atala, Tourism 
Minister, Thierre Pierrefeu, and Cesar Batres, Godofredo 
Alvarado and Octavio Sanchez, legal advisors to President 
Maduro, stating the Embassy's concern about this case and 
the apparent disregard of investor rights.  Econoffs visited 
Roatan on September 26-29 to emphasize the importance of 
fair treatment of Amcit investors in general, and quick 
resolution of the Moore dispute in particular, in 
conversations with the Governor, municipal authorities, 
judicial authorities and the local land registry 
representative.  We also met with the director of the IDB- 
funded Tourism Ministry project that performed the usd 1.5 
million cadastral survey and urged rapid integration of the 
cadastral results with the existing land registry. 
 
6. (SBU) Partially as a result of Embassy advocacy, the 
Moore case has received rare high-level attention in the 
GOH.  We are aware that President Maduro, CSJ President 
Morales and the Minister of Interior (Gobernacion y 
Justicia) have discussed the case.  Supreme Court President 
Morales instructed the court in La Ceiba to send the case to 
the Tegucigalpa courts to be reviewed for judicial 
irregularities.  CSJ President Morales told econoff on 
October 2 that the review will occur quickly and that she 
will notify the Embassy of the results of the review. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
Background on the Legal Issues in the Dispute 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (SBU) Background: In the 1960's, Roy Anderson bought a 
15-acre parcel of land in Wilkes Point, plat number 306002. 
At that time, U.S. citizens weren't allowed to purchase land 
so Mr. Anderson bought the property from the McLaughlin 
family using a Honduran woman named Merly Cooper and 
registered it under their company name, Calico S.A. 
 
8. (SBU) In 1974, Roy Anderson purchased a second parcel of 
land totaling 17 acres directly from the McLaughlin family, 
as the law now allowed foreigners to own coastal land under 
certain conditions (small private investor, tourism, etc.) 
This second parcel is adjacent to the first, and is located 
in Wilkes Point West - with plat number 306001.  In 1994, 
Roger and Jean Moore purchased two lots from Erik Anderson 
(Roy Anderson's son) on parcel 306001. 
 
9. (SBU) Mervin and Lurlene Cooper de McNab own land 
adjacent to Wilkes Point West called Paya Bay.  Lurlene 
McNab's maiden name is Cooper.  The McNab's are claiming 
that Lurlene is the sole heiress to the deceased Merle 
Cooper's land, however Merle Cooper never married and had no 
children, therefore has no heirs.  The inheritance battle is 
over parcel 306002 (the 15 acres purchased through Merle 
Cooper.)  The Moore property is on parcel 306001.  However, 
Mervin McNab pulled up all the fence lines and survey 
markers between the two properties that runs North to South 
and re-drew the map to show that the 15 acres runs East to 
West along the coast cutting through both parcels (map faxed 
to desk).  The official Government survey that was recently 
completed using GPS, satellite tracking, and topographical 
surveys clearly shows the delineation of the two parcels, 
with no depiction of the McNab redrawn parcel. 
 
10. (SBU) We understand from judicial authorities that under 
Honduran law the Moores' property should not have been 
subject to the confiscation because they are not a party to 
the underlying dispute.  And, in fact, when the Moores first 
appealed to the judge to rescind the eviction order, the 
judge agreed, noting the Moores' name did not appear on the 
court documents.  Rather Erik Anderson was the defendant for 
a 15-acre parcel in Wilkes Point.  However, when the Moores 
went to the police station to pick up their keys, the judge 
had changed his decision, and the eviction order was 
enforced.  The Moores believe the McNab's attorney, through 
her political connections, was responsible for the change in 
the judge's decision. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
11. (SBU) We consider this an important test case for the 
GOH's resolve to attack the endemic problems of land title 
and abuse of the judicial system.  The Bay Islands have a 
history of problems of this type, but the new cadastral 
survey and the proposed land registry project together 
provide the government and court system with an important 
set of tools.  We are hoping that the political will exists 
to ensure that a rapid and just resolution for the Moores' 
case (and the other Amcits who purchased property from Eric 
Anderson) can be found.  End Comment. 
 
 
PALMER 

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