TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- A psychic's forecasts have spooked the Honduran government and brought misfortune on witch doctors, palm readers and soothsayers.
The self-styled psychic, Marina Guifarro, is the Jeanne Dixon of Honduras.
In a published interview in September, she warned that if President Rafael Leonardo Callejas left the country, he could return to find his seat occupied.
Moreover, she said, "traitors" lurk in the military, and they might consider launching a coup against Callejas' elected government.
The prophecies triggered months of debate and commentary on radio stations and needled the Callejas administration. Finally, Interior Minister Francisco Cardona declared "war" on clairvoyants and witches. He said that mayors across the nation had been ordered "to combat these people permanently."
The mayors have an effective weapon. A government decree bans all witch doctors and fortune tellers from collecting fees and prohibits them from making public statements to the media.
Foreigners working as soothsayers can be thrown out of the country.
The decree says it is aimed at all "persons who try to fool the public, under any guise."
The administration's foes have had a field day with the ban.
"If what is sought is to eliminate all public deception, then one would have to start by jailing all politicians," columnist Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle wrote in El Tiempo of San Pedro Sula.
Under the headline "In Defense of the Right to Have Illusions," Mr. Pastor Fasquelle suggested that Cabinet members could face jail for practicing "voodoo economics disguised as exact science."
Information Minister Olman Serrano, who pushed for the prohibition, said the ban was aimed at people such as Ms. Guifarro: "These people are getting involved too much in matters that are delicate."
Mr. Serrano noted that many of Ms. Guifarro's clients "are wives of people in the army" who might believe her prophecies.
"Here, just like in the United States, charlatanism and quackery are proliferating," he said.
Ironically, Ms. Guifarro never foresaw the storm that she would create with her predictions.
And her misfortune continues. Several weeks ago, her car plunged down a ravine, leaving her with cuts and bruises.
She said later that she had a prior vision of the accident and was able to brace herself in the car in such a way that she wouldn't be killed.