Images: La Prensa, Honduras
(click any of the charts to enlarge them)
(click any of the charts to enlarge them)
The respected international firm CID-Gallup performed a poll in Honduras recently with results that echo what I and most of my Hondurans friends have been saying: This government is on the wrong track. In February 2010, at the beginning of Pepe Lobo's term, 71% of those polled believed that the country was on the correct track. In October 2010, a mere 9 months into his term, the position is reversed, with a whopping 73% believing that the country is on the wrong path and only 26% believing it is headed in the right direction.
"En diez meses, los hondureños han pasado de la euforia en la juramentación de Lobo a la depresión antes de que finalice el año."
In ten months, Hondurans have passed from euphoria in the swearing in of Lobo to depression before the end of the year.
I was never quite euphoric but I feel this depression! A Honduran friend visited La Ceiba from the US a month or so ago. I asked him how he found La Ceiba this year. He answered something to the effect that everyone seems to be in a big funk. I believe this is because most Hondurans — regardless of which side of the political issue they were on — had their hopes up that there would be at least the beginnings of real change. We, at least those naive among us, thought that surely with the world eyes upon Honduras, it could not go back to business as usual. But we just are not seeing any significant changes. It's politics, incompetence, and corruption as usual everywhere, while at the same time, everyone claims all of their actions are on behalf of the poor.
Evaluations of Porfirio Lobo at 9 months into his term compare unfavorably with the last three elected presidents of Honduras at approximately the same point in their terms. His favorable index (the number of good and very good ratings less the number of bad and very bad ratings) is 5, compared to Mel Zelaya with a favorable rating of 28 (2006), Ricardo Maduro 18 (2002), and Carlos Flores 34 (1998).
To be fair, in some respects Lobo is a victim of bad economic times, a bad political climate, and huge pressures like never before from groups both within and outside of Honduras. But he has been in politics long enough to know that no one can make everyone happy.
Unfortunately, the priorities of Lobo's administration seem to be political rather than in the areas where most people in Honduras would like to see them: crime, jobs, corruption; the things that affect the daily life of the people of Honduras and have been at the top of the list of concerns in Honduras for as long as I've been here.
Although two in five of the respondents say that they have gone hungry at least once in the past week, concerns about the high cost of living, lack of moral values, lack of health care, electricity, and water, and every other concern of the pollees added together do not reach the level of the concern about crime.
When asked about confidence in the institutions of the country, the military came out on top as they usually do, but with only 17% of the polled having much confidence, down from 21% in May. The media came in second with 11% confidence, only 1% above the president. The National Resistance gained only 9% confidence, along with the police and the Supreme Court, barely beating out civic groups and the Congress at 8%. At the bottom of the list were businessmen — 6%, unions — 4%, and political parties in general — 3%. Confidence had dropped in each of the groups which were rated in the May 2010 poll. What dismal results. The saddest part is that I imagine that those in charge of each of these institutions will merely shrug off the results or, at most, increase the propaganda.
Of those polled, the distribution among political parties was pretty evenly distributed, 36% indicated a preference for the Nacionalista party (the current party in power in the Congress and the president's party), 32% indicated a preference for the Liberal Party (Micheletti and Zelaya's party), 29% indicated no party preference and 3% indicated other parties (which would be fairly consistent with voting results for the last two presidential elections).
The three campaign promises of Porfirio Lobo that pollees remembered most were:
- "Reduce crime in the first 100 days" — 46%,
- "Create employment opportunities" — 35%,
- "L.10,000 bonus" — 21%
The probability that Lobo will achieve those promises? Only 12% of Nacionalistas and 3% of the other categories believe that the promises will be accomplished. The L.10,000 bonus program is a cash payment to poor families to encourage them to keep their children in school, a similar program has supposedly gotten good results in Mexico. Whether or not it will be effective, I imagine that it carried a lot of weight with the voters in poor families. "Let's see. Should I vote for the person who may give me L.10,000 or the person who won't?"
The promise that I remember most was during Lobo's inauguration speech in which he firmly announced to the wild cheers of the audience, "No more corruption! Corruptos will go to jail, period!" In reality, several very credible accusations and investigations of corruption in the current administration as well as prior administrations have been put forth and absolutely nothing has been done about any of them.
As to the reason why President Lobo has not complied with his promise to increase jobs, pollees believed:
- 36% that he never intended to comply
- 34% that the political crisis is at fault
- 18% he is incapable of increasing jobs
- 5% the constitution makes it difficult
- 7% didn't know or had no response
Lobo has stated that teachers who don't work will not be paid, but then later made an agreement to pay them. He has stated that teachers and directors will not be allowed to take control of public buildings and prevent school from taking place, but they have and still do. Eighteen district directors were fired after failing a competency test, but after union pressure, they were later returned to their jobs. A pact was signed with the teacher unions to make up the missed days of class on Saturdays, but beginning with the first Saturday, that did not happen in some schools.
More recently, we have been told that teachers' salaries will no longer be indexed with the minimum wage — which results in some teachers earning 7 to 11 times the minimum wage (tax-free) and results in a wage burden for which the government just does not have the resources — and that the teacher law — for which many blame the spiraling lack of educational quality in Honduras — may be revised. Time will tell. Teachers were marching in the streets yesterday and have announced an indefinite strike. Teachers represent a lot of voting power.
See the complete story and more charts at La Prensa Oct. 27 and Oct. 28), along with many informative reader opinions on the articles. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, this newspaper has Nacionalista leanings.