A Canadian developer who made millions on porn has big plans for an impoverished, and angry, fishing village. Who's buying? Highlights:
- North American baby boomers have proven to have a boundless appetite for vacation or retirement homes in sunny, cheap places that aren't too wracked by crime or war. It's been a global windfall for many other countries, and now the people who run Honduras want a cut. Canadian entrepreneur Randy Jorgensen, developer of the Campa Vista complex, is happy to oblige.
- Jorgensen sells this tropical dream over the Internet and in hotel conference-room seminars held in grey-skied Canadian locales: Regina; Etobicoke, Ontario; Duncan, B.C. His basic pitch: Honduras is the latest, best bargain available to Canadians wanting to own their own piece of a developing country.
- But -- as you might have guessed -- this sunny picture doesn't tell the whole story. Just off the beach in Trujillo, six men sit around a peeling wooden picnic table. They've agreed to meet me here to discuss their concerns about the Canadians they say are squatting on their ancestral lands.
- "There are many Canadians in our communities on the coast, and we haven't seen a positive presence from them," says Ambular. "They use our bridges and our roads, and they don't leave us a thing."
- Randy Jorgensen has lived in Honduras for 20 years, on and off. It's been a getaway of sorts from his bustling life in Canada, where he conceived and oversaw the creation of Adults Only Video, the country's first national chain of pornography stores. Originally a muffler salesman in small-town Saskatchewan, Jorgensen was nicknamed Canada's "porn king" in a 1993 Maclean's profile. His specialty, as the article put it, was to "bring dirty movies into the clean streets of middle-class Canada," and by the early '90s, Adults Only Video was bringing in $25 million a year. Faced with lawsuits and police raids because of the content of his videos, Jorgensen maintained that everything he did was within the boundaries of the law.
- Today, he runs AOV Online, the Internet broadcasting version of what his porno chain once was. But his first career is downplayed in his most recent venture into real estate, where he instead positions himself as a lifestyle expert.
- Still, it's clear that he's learned something from his years in the porn business: sex sells.
- "Here sex is, in the whole country, sex is $10. So if you go downtown, and you stop and the girl gets in your car, it's $10, 200 lempiras, for you to go have intercourse," says Rick Mowers, a retired Ontario Provincial Police officer. He doesn't mention the AIDS epidemic in the north-coast region, where over 60,000 people have HIV/AIDS, the highest infection rate in Central America.
- Jorgensen's Campa Vista development in Trujillo is being marketed by Tropical Freedom Properties Ltd. -- a subsidiary of Fast Track to Cash Flow, a St. Albert, Alberta-based company. The local Better Business Bureau gives the company a D on a scale of A+ to F, expressing "concerns with the industry in which this business operates."
- Honduras isn't for the faint of heart, or stomach, as anyone who strays from their supervised beach resort or walled-in retirement complex to a larger city will soon learn. There were 4,473 murders in Honduras in 2008, giving the country the chilling designation of having one of the highest murder rates per capita in the world.
- Consider the advice of the U.S. State Department: "U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in real estate, particularly in coastal areas and the Bay Islands."
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