April 6, 2011

We don't want no stinkin' changes

head in the sandImage from Honduras Weekly

The most amazing thing about Honduras is that no matter how bad anything is, at the first breath of a possible change, the people will be out in the streets protesting against it.

Teachers won't teach, but suggest replacing non-working teachers and some parents will be outside the schools protesting against new teachers.

National and local governments do a terrible job of providing even the most basic public services like roads, bridges, water, electricity, or telephone services — many communities still don't have any of these — yet any talk of privatization will start the tires a burning.

La Ceiba street after rainMunicipalities don't provide reliable garbage pickup or maintain streets or sewer systems or any of the other services that one would expect a municipality to perform, but propose raising taxes by even some minuscule amount to pay for those services and watch the citizens storm the municipal palace.

Honduras has probably the least efficient and worst quality education in this hemisphere, but suggest testing teachers or students, or for that matter making any change to improve quality, and the teachers and students are off to the streets again, sometimes accompanied by parents.

Government jobs are the plums that everyone strives for, none more so than a teaching job. Yet while one third of the population protests against political appointees, another third is suing the government because they didn't get one or lost one, and another third is protesting about the one they have. (I exaggerate, but you get the idea.)

Corruption is Honduras' biggest core problem. But even in this area, when action is taken against corrupt leaders like Zelaya, teachers, thieving school directors, or embezzling preachers, what will happen? I guess you know by now: Some group will protest against it. Sympathetic comments on newspaper articles will indicate that he or she should be forgiven because "everybody does it" or because "so-and-so stole more".

Why does this invariably happen? Because nobody trusts anybody to do the right thing. No matter how bad anything is now, people know that it could be worse. The people don't trust the government, they don't trust the justice system, they don't trust the businesses, they don't trust the foreign organizations, they don't trust the famous "independent" commissions that are set up right and left to solve problems, and most sad of all, they don't trust each other. Everyone is looking out for himself.

Honduras deforestationThe Honduran people have seen throughout history that politicians will sell their souls and the future of their country and even the future of their own children for a few dollars in their pocket or a few jobs for their incompetent friends and relatives. All you have to do is to look at the mountains and the rivers (what is left of them) to know that is true. Yet these same people get elected or appointed over and over again, spending a lifetime stealing from the Honduran people. The same goes for some insatiable businessmen who would destroy all the resources of this country if it means more profit for them.

But it isn't just the government and businessmen. Honduras has thousands of private organizations. Unions, civic organizations, business and agricultural associations, 'human rights' groups, and many NGO's are for the most part set up to look out for the individual interests of their members and the hell with the effect on anyone else. Even worse, often the leaders of these associations, even down to the smallest patronatos (neighborhood associations), will misuse funds or even steal from their own members!

Mamar la tetaThe lack of trust is justified but what will happen to Honduras when every change is greeted with suspicion and protests? Governments don't produce, especially corrupt, incompetent governments like Honduras. Even the wealthiest nations in the world cannot provide free property and houses, low cost food and fuel, jobs, cheap water and electricity, free health care and education, and low-cost loans, just to name a few of the 'rights' that are protested for. It's been tried! And it didn't work. An impoverished nation like Honduras is the least likely to be able to meet these kinds of demands.

women carrying water for cooking and cleaningThe really poor already know that. They get almost nothing from the government, not even the few basics that are required by the constitution. But some will protest against change because they fear losing whatever little it is that they have now. Only have water for two hours a day? It could be worse, you could have none, or it could be at a price that you cannot afford. Only have classes three days a week? It could be worse. Maybe a bad teacher is better than none at all.

The middle class, who are squeezed from all sides, are the least likely to protest. They don't have the connections to protest directly to the government and they are too busy making a living to go out on the streets. They have given up on the government. The middle class know that if they want a secure home or education for their children, they have to provide it themselves.

Honduras teacher strikeI wish I knew what the answer was. All I know is that some 50% of the population needs a job and they won't get one by protesting. The lack of understanding of finance and economics prevents the uneducated from realizing that this constant turmoil will ultimately cause loss of jobs. Protesters may win their immediate demand but in the long run, it hurts Honduras tremendously.

Honduras teacher strikeThe constant turmoil, verging on anarchy, will shut down or chase away businesses who are now providing jobs. New businesses will look for more stable countries. An uneducated workforce can only hope for the most menial and low paying jobs. No corporation seeks out a socialist country in which to set up shop. Violent riots in the news frighten tourists and prevent them from coming to Honduras and spending their money here. Streets blocked with burning tires prevent workers who have jobs from getting to them and business owners from delivering their products. It's a vicious cycle that has Honduras headed in a downward spiral.

What is the answer?
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