April 20, 2011

La Gringa's little buddy

Honduran boy, La Ceiba, HondurasHola!

Hey, look at my little buddy! Isn't he the cutest thing you ever saw? He smiles like this constantly. I feel honored. He likes to come upstairs and play on the terraza with boring old me.

Honduran boy, La Ceiba, HondurasKinder was closed this week due to the Semana Santa week long holiday — Isn't that great? The teachers came back from strike just in time to take their week-long vacation! In all fairness, his Kinder teachers have not been on strike at all so they deserve their vacation.

Babysitter took her vacation this week, too, so here we are. I've never seen such an always happy, never bored, never complaining kid. The first morning, he sat at the table "reading" the newspaper for half an hour, slowly turning page by page until he went through the whole thing.

Honduran boy, La Ceiba, HondurasLooking around for something he could play with, all I could find was my ocean coral collection. Good choice. That kept him entertained for a long time as he arranged trails of coral slithering around the terraza. Most amazing, when he was finished playing with them, he picked up every single piece and put them back where they were without even being asked.

Honduran boy, La Ceiba, HondurasEl Jefe was in town so I asked him to pulllleez buy a toy for him. He came home with this great little truck with multiple pieces to play with. It came with a driver, two shovels, a bucket, and some forms to make sand castles.

"Can I give it to him?! Can I?!" I called the boy and his eyes just about popped out of his head when he saw the multi-colored truck. Arexy's did, too.
"Oooooh," he respectfully stared in wonder until I indicated that it was for him. Arexy wanted him to leave it here for the next day, but he was having none of that! It was going home with him, just in case we changed our minds.

Honduran boy, La Ceiba, HondurasNow here is a funny for you at my expense. He's four years old and he corrected my Spanish! I was asking him about Kinder (which is preschool for 4 and 5 year olds). He likes it because, he said, they give him a snack. Then he proudly told me that he has his own mochila (backpack). I know the word well, but my fuzzy mind was thinking 'mochilla'. So I asked him what he had in his "mo-chee-ya". He said, "mo-chee-LA!" Arexy and I both burst out laughing.

Honduran boy, La Ceiba, HondurasIt was fun having this little guy around. He's welcome back anytime. I watched him leave today with his truck and parts in a big bag. The bag was almost as big as he was. He turned, waved, and said "Adios!" as he happily waddled away with his new truck.

April 18, 2011

Translation of the Good Teacher video

To cleanse your palette after that last video, I'm including a translation of the Good Teacher video posted a couple of weeks ago. Thank goodness there are thousands more sensible Honduran teachers who put the future of the children before their own personal and political motives than there are teachers like Hector Cruz.

Lady in yellow shirt: ....to move forward. It is not fair that they [teachers] come to pull out students from school. They have to continue receiving classes.

Reporter: Have you received any threats that they might come and take them out?

Lady in yellow shirt: Yes, they have threatened us.

Reporter: Is that the reason why you are here? Are you taking care of your children?

Lady: Yes, we are taking care of our children.

Reporter: So, you have stopped your chores to come here and take care of them?

Lady: Yes, we always do that, the majority of the parents.

Lady Reporter: What responsibility by the teachers in Cerro Grande in the school with the same name! It is amazing that they have shared their sentiment with the parent association to make sure that their children attend school, even if they hear the contrary in the news. They also send a message to the union leaders in whom they have lost credibility.

Teacher Irma Lopez (Blue shirt): We are always working. First, for our own satisfaction, and second, because we see the problems in our teacher unions — as if they are making a “political salad” between politics and the union members. So what we want is that the union leaders make wise decisions during the negotiations. A negotiation is not done with the teachers on the streets. We have seen the problems that arise from violence. We have lost lives and the union leaders don’t make any decisions. I think that sometimes we can not solve problems on our own, that is why we have to seek help.

Irma Lopez: I consider that many have been given the wrong advice. I tell you this from personal experience as a teacher who has always been in the front of this struggle since 1972. Now, I do know we are going the wrong direction, going to the streets and violating the rights of the children, who aren’t to blame for wasting their time in their houses because we are on the streets.

Reporter: Do you still have confidence in the union leaders?

Irma Lopez: Well, I am going to tell you my personal opinion. Personally, I have no confidence in them [the union leaders]. These last actions have failed. These failures haven’t been evaluated. They have not given us a clear report. The truth is we are in limbo. They treat us like puppets. They bring us and take us here and there. I think many teachers get a thrill about protesting on the streets. It also happened to me during the 70’s. But I think that we don’t get success from those emotions. We get success from wisdom and good thinking in order to know how to lead. We are an enormous group. It is worrisome now that there are so few teachers who support the union leaders.

Related articles:

A very, very bad teacher

A good Honduran teacher

A very, very bad teacher

I showed you a video of a good teacher a couple of weeks ago. A translation of that video is posted here. This week, I'll show you a video of a very, very bad teacher. His name is Hector Cruz Moncada and he is not only a teacher, but a school director (principal) in Tocoa, Colón.

The news video is in Spanish, of course, but a Honduran friend translated and wrote a transcript of the video shown below — with collaboration on the slang from my Facebook friends. (Thanks, everyone!) I missed recording his interview shown on the news the day before in which Sr. Cruz warned that they were arming the students and teachers.

In this video, Maestro Cruz threatens the life of a brother of President Lobo, saying Lobo will be feeling the same things felt by the relatives of teacher Ilse Ivana Velásquez Rodriguez who was run over and killed by a press vehicle (Habla Como Habla) during a protest. He also indicates that they have gotten bomb-making material from "other Central American governments" and that engineering teachers will be building bombs in the school laboratories to be used to "burn Tegucigalpa", the capital city.

A few days afterward, Cruz issued an apology.

While I was waiting for the translation, I originally wrote that I would be willing to bet that Hector Cruz is still employed by the Department of Education and that no action will be taken to remove this violent man from a position of authority over children and teachers. But his name was included among the original 305 teachers who were suspended for not showing up to work on April 4. However, it now looks like President Lobo will be backtracking on the teacher suspensions. It will be hard for students to learn responsibility when they see that in the 'real world' of Honduras, no one is ever held responsible for anything.

I asked the translator what she thought of Cruz and she responded with this:
"He is going to continue brain washing the students. As a [Honduran] student myself, I was also exposed to that type of brain washing techniques. My husband was exposed to more severe and stronger individuals at the university level. This is not something new. While I was growing up, some of those teachers were communists and one of them was killed. Still I think that weak brains fall for those ideologies. We didn't because our values were well established. During that time, they [the teachers] offered us liquor and smoke. Nowadays, money and technology is taking great part as payment. A growing teenager might be capable of falling for an Ipod, money, computer.

But it is true that at the university (CURN/UNAH) students had to support or at least pretend to fall for the revolutionary ideologies to pass certain classes such as "El Hombre y la Ciencia". El Comandante Cero used to come at night and give lectures in the Centro Universitario Regional del Norte/Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras. Mentioned lectures were given only to students and instructors that were recognized communist leaders. Those visits were only known after the fact of course.

My husband says there were also students that were government spies and in one instance he recognized one that worked for the DIN (now has a different name), he immediately made a "hush, hush" signal to my husband. My husband says that he always kept himself neutral to this because the less you knew, the less danger you were exposed to. Imagine this was in the 80s. There were always the students that were in "la la" land and never saw anything or opted out to just play safe like my husband.

I think that all those university students that during that time went to Russia/Cuba to study should ring a bell. "

Translation of video of Héctor Cruz Moncada,
school director in Tocoa, Colon

Cruz: The military is not gonna be able to put up with us. We have industrial mechanical experts and mechanical engineers. We have chemist, physicists, and pharmacists. You are going to see that we are going to prepare our own bombs made by our own chemistry and physics instructors in the capital of the republic (Tegucigalpa). And, what goes around, comes around, we are going to have to confront all those cops, just the same way they are disrespecting us.

Reporter: These are the declarations given by the director of the Froylán Turcios school in Tocoa, Colon. This was aired yesterday. We have more exclusive declarations given by this same principal. The following is a direct threat to the president’s brother.

Cruz: Through the Central American governments who have the raw materials [for bombs] and we are analyzing in the laboratories that we have in different schools, that I am not going to reveal the information to anyone, because that is our strategy.

Cruz: The president Pepe Lobo won’t even know what hit him. He is gonna get it directly ... he better remember that he has a dear brother named Ramón Lobo Sosa. That is the dearest brother who has supported him always. He is going to feel what the brothers and nephews of the teacher Ilse Ivana Velásquez Rodriguez felt. It is not enough for him for a teacher to get killed, that is inhumane. If they continue killing more teachers, more students and more family....watch out....the general strike is approaching.

Reporter: Now you heard a threat, a death threat. We don’t know if the attorney general, the police, and the president Pepe Lobo are already acting [on this threat]. Yesterday’s threat was against the security of the state: “We are making bombs, we are arming the students and we are going to burn Tegucigalpa”. Today’s threat is directly against the president’s brother, Ramón Lobo Sosa, who resides in the town of Bonito Oriental, Colon.

Reporter: Yesterday we also presented a legal complaint that the president made against some people who threatened his sister who lives in Juticalpa, Olancho. This is a situation that he is trying to deal with as a personal matter. These types of problems are not in his job description as president. He will have to go and talk to the people who are making the threats. Still, we can not ignore what is happening to the President of the Congress, whose mother was also displaced from her house due to strong threats as well. In what kind of country we are living? Where are we going with all this?

Reporter: We have clearly explained the responsibilities that a teacher should have and the rights that they can opt for but in no way the path they are following. Let’s hope that this will only be a teacher union battle trying to show their achievements, but not with the involvement of third parties trying to collapse the country another time.


Related news reports about Héctor Cruz (in Spanish):

La Tribuna
La Prensa

The original Good Teacher video and the new translation.

April 11, 2011

Talking to the owner of the circus

"I have always loved you"
(Banegas is one of the few cartoonists who can make me LOL)
Cartoon: Diputado Dario Banegas, La Prensa

After more than a year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has recognized Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo as the legitimate president of Honduras.

Last week, when referring to the possibility of Honduras being readmitted to the Organization of American States (OAS), Enrique Ortíz Colindres said, "Let's face it. When you want to get something done, you don't talk to the clown. You go talk to the owner of the circus."

So that is exactly what Pepe Lobo did on Saturday in a surprise visit to Colombia where he met with Hugo Chávez, arranged by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Circus owner Chávez, who has been blocking Honduras' acceptance to the OAS, has apparently given his blessing for Honduras to be readmitted. No need for further discussion with clown José Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, since everyone knows who pulls his strings.

One website even claims that Lobo flew to Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday and met with both Zelaya and Chávez.

Reports say that there is a catch. President Lobo must somehow "annul" or get annulled the Supreme Court decision that Mel Zelaya must be tried for crimes of corruption. Separate but equal powers of state, none subordinate to another? No importa. Both the President and the Congress have been pressuring the Supreme Court for more than a year.

A telephone call was made to a "babbling and angry" Zelaya during the meeting. Resistance (FNRP) leaders were hard hit as well and are downplaying the significance of the meeting, denying that this means that Lobo is recognized by Venezuela, or even that Chávez had any knowledge that Lobo would be in Colombia.

Channel 10 news yesterday reported some "Tips confidenciales" from an unnamed source. Among those secret tidbits of the Saturday meeting were:

  • Chávez advised Lobo that he should not permit violent protests.
  • Chávez believes that only about 5% of the population support the Resistance (FNRP) movement.
  • Mel Zelaya was supposed to attend the meeting, but remained behind in Caracas.
  • Honduras no longer needs a constituyente since they have modified the referendum and plebiscite laws.
  • Chávez is very interested in Honduras rejoining Petrocaribe* and signing a fertilizer deal with Venezuela.

* We've had some interesting Facebook discussions recently about Petrocaribe which is misrepresented as meaning lower gas prices to consumers in member countries. This is absolutely false. Unfortunately, most of the major players in Honduras, government and businessmen, are perpetuated that myth to Hondurans, who starting this week are paying L.90 or higher at the pumps (US $4.65+).


Note: I often bring up current events on Facebook and it's sometimes hard to find the time to write about them here, too. If you are interested in following those discussions, which often have a lot of insight from Hondurans, too, you can friend me here. I also tweet current news as lagringalaceiba, but I'm less involved in Twitter.

Related articles in English:

Colombia Reports


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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