December 15, 2006

Cartoonist Darío Banegas

punching the poor, rewarding the richLa ENEE, the government owned electric company, cutting off electricity to the poor while it condones million lempira debts of the corrupt

The San Pedro Sula, Honduras, newspaper La Prensa has the most excellent cartoonist, Angel Darío Banegas. He often makes us laugh out loud with his caricatures of los corruptos (the corrupt) and others, including US President Bush. He's definitely on top of current events and I'm always impressed with his bravery. Honduras supposedly has freedom of the press, but in actuality, the media is ham strung by politics, lawsuits, and fear of retaliation.

For example, Honduran President Mel Zelaya and the Minister of Security Álvaro Romero (who rumor has it is about to be fired) frequently blame the media on Hondurans' lack of sense of security. Polls show that somewhere around 95% of the people have been the victim of crime or are fearful that they will be. Even though I've read that Honduras' murder rate is 9 1/2 times greater than New York City, there have been 400 execution style murders this year, and 32 people have lost their lives in cell phone robberies, they say crime is not that bad − it's just the media playing it up to scare the public.

Articles critical of government corruption and ineptitude are always countered with rants from government officials that these reports are politically motivated or meant to destabilize the government. They also say that all this negative press (read: the truth) has a bad effect on tourism and attracting business to Honduras. Better to sweep it under the rug which is what usually happens. A big scandal is reported for a day or two, and then .... nothing more is heard.

La Prensa recently won a lawsuit brought by a very high government official (who I'm afraid to name!) who sued them for libel after they ran a very well documented report of campesinos (farm workers) being shot by guards hired by one of his companies for merely trying to walk down a road that the company had declared private property and fenced off. I hope that was a step forward for freedom of the press here.

Anyway, Banegas tells it like it is. If you would like to see more of his cartoons, they are on the opinion page each day at the La Prensa site.
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