January 16, 2008

Drunken official gets beat up by police

Aaron at Pensieve wrote about the latest Honduran scandal. I wasn't going to write about it, but after I babbled on and on in his comment section, I decided that I would share my thoughts with you, too.

The basic story is that a high-level government official was coming home late at night, was stopped by the police for drunk driving, taken into the police station, and later got into an altercation with the police, from which it looks like he got the worst of the situation. He later resigned his government position. Aaron has the YouTube video of the brawl.

Politics is so depressing. Here is a bad situation that could have been used for good. It could have been used to show that no one is above the law and as an impetus to take action against police brutality. Instead, as Aaron predicts, it will probably just disappear from the headlines with no action being taken.

There are two very distinct issues here and it's a real shame that they are so entangled.

Drunk driving is a horrendous problem in Honduras, one in which I would imagine that the average person gets off scott free with the changing of hands of a little cash (maybe a little more cash if someone was killed). 'Important' people probably get an escort home and salutes from the police. I think that those people merely need say "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" and absolutely nothing will happen to them. Making an example of an important person would have been a wonderful step in the right direction. But, as we know, Honduran laws are only for the peons.

Unfortunately, the issue of police brutality has obscured the issue of drunk driving. I really can't tell from the video who started the fight. If it was the chancellor, he must have REALLY been drunk! Police brutality should never be tolerated and whatever the situation was here, there were certainly enough police present to subdue him without punching him in the face.

However, we know that this happens all the time in Honduras. We see photos of criminals all bloody and bruised in the newspapers all the time. The only reason it is an issue at all is because this time, it's an 'important' person and regardless of what crimes they commit, Hondurans believe that 'important' people deserve respect and shouldn't be subject to the rules that everyone else has to follow.

This was a wonderful opportunity for President Zelaya to make a stand about drunk driving (no one is above the law) and police brutality. El Tiempo made the Chancellor out to be a hero. The caption above says that he resigned with class and dignity, right next to his photo showing his black eye and bruises where he was restrained by the officers.

I wondered if this was normal behavior of the Chancellor and whether in doing his job as Minister of Foreign Relations he had ever embarrassed the country with his drunken behavior? Personally, I think public officials should be held to a higher standard, especially if they are dealing with foreign dignitaries.

Most of the talk that I heard and read was about police brutality and human rights, but there was also a lot of talk about how everyone does it (driving while drunk) and that he shouldn't have lost his job. There seemed to be much more concern about the embarrassment to Honduras caused by the YouTube video than there was about either act.

One writer even deplored the use of modern technology to discredit public officials, saying the official made a pequeño error (tiny error). What? It wasn't the video proof that discredited him. Didn't the public official discredit himself? If it wasn't caught on video, it didn't happen? And how many children and adults have been killed by these pequeño errores in Honduras?

El Tiempo is the newspaper to read for a good laugh. I've never seen another newspaper that so shamefully twists the truth.

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