December 28, 2012

Our Honduran Christmas Eve

Roasted fresh pork leg
after its rest, just before carving
(that little flap of fat at the bottom makes this look like a giant turtle!)

Our main celebration was Christmas Eve, which El Jefe tells me is the Honduran traditional day to really celebrate, at least in his family. That's a time when people go to visit friends and family, who always have plenty of food on hand for expected or unexpected visitors. Christmas Day is similar, but more for family and more laid back.

Tamales are especially popular at Christmas time. A big bag of tamales in the fridge can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or for those drop-in guests, often accompanied by a pork or chicken sandwich. I didn't make any tamales this year but I've been promising to post my Honduran tamale recipe for years and I really need to do that soon. We did get some from my sister-in-law and some from my mother-in-law so we weren't completely tamale deprived.

Unlike the US, presents aren't a big part of Christmas, especially among the poor and struggling. Children whose parents can afford it generally get a new outfit of clothes and they are as excited and happy to get that as US kids are to find dozens of toys under the tree. Christmas has probably been a lot more commercialized for the middle and upper classes because the newspapers are often more than an inch thick during December with all the ads for toys, clothes, appliances, and electronics.

El Jefe and I seem to rotate our traditional foods with one year having American style roast turkey with all the trimmings and the next the traditional fresh pork leg served as sandwiches. Since we recently barbecued a turkey breast, this was a roasted pork leg year. I was excited to make it, but not half as excited as J was. This was the third time I've made a pork leg. The first time I used/modified my sister-in-law's recipe. The second time was a boneless leg because that is all we could find. On that one, I modified the marinade further. Both were good, but I wanted to do something slightly different this time. My cookbooks didn't have any recipes for whole fresh pork leg so I searched for recipes on the internet. I settled on three different recipes that sounded good, one was a Martha Stewart, one was a Cuban style, and I forget the other one. I took a little of each to come up with my recipe, which I think I would call a bit of a Caribbean style. Pork legs are easy to do; they just take a loooong time.

December 21, 2012

Don't worry, be happy

Today is December 21, 2012, the last day of the Mayan calendar. Enjoy it as if it is the last day of the world! Don't worry, be happy, because it is all a big misunderstanding:

Mayan calendar
The truth about the Mayan calendar

But if this cartoon is wrong, at least your last day will have been a good one. My last meal is going to be ice cream just in case. ;-)

Via Fausta's Blog, additional assurance from Oreo. Thank goodness.

I have an idea that this prediction may be true:

Have a good day!

December 19, 2012

'Technical' coup against Supreme Court (Part 3)

Juan Orlando Hernandez, President of Congress, with Porfirio Lobo, President of Honduras
Juan Orlando Hernandez (left), President of Congress,
with Porfirio Lobo, President of Honduras
Photo: El Heraldo

What is behind the coup against the Supreme Court?

President Porfirio Lobo and Congressional President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) have been at odds with the Supreme Court ever since their administration began. The Sala Constitucional and/or the full Supreme Court have ruled seven times that projects of this administration were unconstitutional, not really surprising since this Congress is known for mentioning a law one day and passing it the next without even allowing its own members time to read and analyze it. Government contracts have been approved without congressmen even being allowed to read them.

Lobo has proposed, among other things, instituting his own judicial review board to review and presumably reverse rulings of the court. Congress has ignored decisions of the court in the past. The 2010 issue of Canal 8 (television channel) [my summary and followup in english] is just one example of the blatant lack of respect for the court's decisions and the executive and legislative branches' use of emotional and nationalistic propaganda to sway public opinion.

The situation has become even more heated in the recent months with the court's ruling that the charter cities law was unconstitutional and in recent weeks with the police purification law. After the decision, in a meeting of his ministers, in front of media cameras, he ominously announced the inclusion of the four magistrates one by one by name on the government's "black list". In addition to public statements that the court was on the side of criminals and against security for 'the people', President Lobo even took to tweeting threats against the court [english]. The court responded by issuing a press release in which they classified Lobo's statements as a direct threat against the court. Pepe wanted to take the purification law to a referendum of the people, but that would have taken too long so he used Congress to fire the judges instead.

Every judge who has spoken about this issue has clearly stated that absolutely no one is against police purification, that it is badly needed, but that any law enacted to do so must not violate anyone's constitutional rights.

Why now?

Marvin Ponce clubs the court
Cartoon by Dario Banegas, La Prensa
Late on Tuesday night (December 11), La Prensa reported that UD party Congressman Marvin Ponce [article in español] was the first to sound the alarm, stating "There is a real political crisis in Honduras and it is possible that we will go to the middle of the night to make decisions regarding the Supreme Court of Justice". He confirmed that congressmen wanted to fire at least four judges and that with the support of Yani Rosenthal's congressmen, they would have the 86 votes needed.

Congressman Ponce said that at stake is the presidential candidacy of Juan Orlando Hernández, which is being disputed by the other front running Nacionalista candidate Ricardo Álvarez, current mayor of Tegucigalpa. Álvarez disputed the results of the November 18th Nacionalista primary due to numerous irregularities but after receiving no satisfaction from the election commission (TSE), he announced that he would ask the court to rule that a vote by vote recount was needed. "The problem is the division in the Nacionalista party and Juan Orlando believes that the court will keep the party divided. The Nacionalistas seek to avoid that this [Álvarez's] appeal will reach the Supreme Court", explained Ponce. While Ponce exposed this ulterior motive to the media, in the end, he voted for the firing of the justices.

December 17, 2012

Congress to pass new police purification law

The three two powers of state
Cartoon by: Dario Banegas (congressman!), La Prensa, Honduras

Just a quick one to apologize for not getting that last part of the "coup" story posted. The last part has turned into two parts. Research, including watching a bunch of television news and talk shows (the juiciest stuff comes from the latter) has taken time and more annoying internet outages haven't helped either. I'll get at least one part posted tomorrow for sure.

Today's update:

Wasting no time today, Monday, December 17, Minister of Security Bonilla introduced a new extension of the same police purification law [español], which still includes polygraph testing. A congressman told reporters that the law will be discussed and approved in Congress tonight or no later than tomorrow. When a reporter questioned the congressman about the court finding the original law contained many errors, the congressman said, "No, no, no! The law didn't contain errors. Remember that the court erred in reviewing a law which had already expired." So, that's that. History is being revised and it has only been a week. I'm watching the session right now on the government propaganda channel, complete with JOH campaign commercials paid out of the public budget during the breaks.

Right now Julieta Castellanos is presenting the Observatorio de la Violencia report which states that 149 people have been murdered by the police in the past 23 months.

Quote of the day

Eduardo Stein, former President of the Truth Commission which investigated the facts before, during, and after June 28, 2009, has the best quote. Referring to Honduras, he said "We are in front of another train wreck. Maybe some engines change, but they are on the same road, again in confrontations with consequences that could not only be terrible for the Honduran people, but for the entire region."

As recommended in the final Truth Commission report, he said that "more than ever" Honduran authorities must develop the "appropriate mechanisms" in the law and constitution so that any conflict between the powers can be resolved through the law and not coups or interference in another branch of government.

December 14, 2012

'Technical' coup against Supreme Court (Part 2)

Juan Orlando Hernádez, Porfirio Lobo, Jorge Rivera Avilés, Luis Rubí
in cadena nacional today
image: El Heraldo

[See Part 1 here]

What has been the reaction to firing of Supreme Court judges in Honduras? Who knew what and when? Who is behind this latest action of congress?

JOH claims organized crime conspiracy

Juan Orlando Hernandez, Honduran President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernández,
President of Congress and
Nacionalista presidential candidate
image: El Heraldo
About 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Congressional President Juan Orlando Herández (JOH) called in [audio in español] to a morning television talk show to justify the firings by making an accusation that these judges were involved in an organized crime controlled conspiracy with police and Fiscales (public prosecutors). He wouldn't say where he got his information or name any other names. This accusation has been more vaguely made in the past numerous times, but has never resulted in investigation or prosecution. Additionally, whatever information that the accuser (generally the President or a congressman) has, it never seems to reach the Attorney General for an official inquiry. Similarly, an accusation has been made that approximately 40% of the members of congress are involved in or controlled by organized crime.

Interestingly, the investigation report [español] given to congress did not make any accusations of wrong-doing or criminal activity by the judges. The report stated that their decision was made two days after the law expired, implying administrative irregularity because the law was no longer in force, but they did not fire the fifth judge who voted the way the Congress and President wanted. The report declared that the court's decision was "incongruent with the security policies of the legislative and executive branches of government" and could result in huge legal claims from those who had already been fired under the law. Yesterday it came out from the Supreme Court that JOH had sent a note requesting a report on the four judges sometime after the vote to fire them had already been taken. Of course, no report has yet been sent back to congress.

Wednesday's scheduled hearing on the police purification law by the full Supreme Court was postponed until Friday. The court system closes down for two weeks at the end of every year. Today it was announced that the review will be postponed until next year, giving the 15 judges plenty of time to ponder whether or not they, too, want to be fired and publicly defamed.

'Technical' coup against Supreme Court (Part 1)

"They gave a coup to the court"
La Prensa headline, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I woke up Wednesday morning to a newspaper with a 2-inch headline which said that the Honduran Congress had executed a "technical" coup d'etat against the Supreme Court. I also woke up to no electrical power, just as on the morning of June 28, 2009. While short power outages are nothing unusual in Honduras, this one lasted all day. Many have been feeling a sense of deja vu lately with the events in the news. The actions and accusations flying around have been very similar to pre-June 28, 2009. I wanted to see what the television and online news were reporting! Did we have another coup in Honduras?! With constantly updated news and a series of more annoying cable and internet outages, it took me a couple of days to get this done.


Last fall when the stuff hit the international fan about crime in Honduras with the UN homicide report, there was a lot of hot air flying around with promises of cleaning up the police department in six months. Initially the police were responsible for cleaning their own house, which everyone knew was going to go nowhere because corruption goes to the highest level of the police. A new independent organization was set up, the DNIE, in typical fashion with no budget, few personnel, and basically no powers. Even back in January 2012, there were claims that the manner in which 'purification' was being implemented was unconstitutional. (See the 'Purification' section of this article.)

Congress passed a badly needed police purification law last May. Very few criminal cases against police are ever prosecuted and fewer are successfully prosecuted. It has been well documented and it is widely known that many police are directly involved in corruption, robberies, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and even murder, as well as being under the control of organized crime factions. Police under criminal investigation and even those with pending criminal cases often continue working, wearing a uniform, and carrying a gun. (See my crime series beginning October 2011 and a series of documented police crimes in November 2011.)

The law provided the ability to test police for drug use, administer polygraph and psychological tests as well as audit their finances and to remove those who don't pass the tests. It also provided for paying them for one year after dismissal. The law expired in November 25, 2012, (with very little action taken [article in english]) but President Lobo wanted to extend the law for another six months. Only two weeks ago did officials finally begin testing police in La Ceiba, the third largest city in Honduras and the city with the highest murder rate in the country.

Potential targets of those firings filed appeals with the Supreme Court. On November 27, the Constitutional Chamber, in a 4-1 decision, declared the law unconstitutional because it does not allow for the right of police to defend themselves against the charges, i.e., there is no due process. As provided by law, the issue was to go before the entire 15-member Supreme Court for a final decision on Wednesday because the initial decision was not unanimous.

December 13, 2012

Let's try this again


Hello. Here I am again. It's about time, huh?

I've been hibernating for several months, avoiding the news as much as possible, not even opening my blog email account, and rarely twittering. But now I feel the need to get back into blogging. It's been on my mind a lot lately and I really do miss blogging and I especially miss the interaction with readers. A lot of stuff has been going on in Honduras of which you may or may not be aware.


After a failed blog restart earlier this year, I'm back to try again. Blogging is a funny thing. It's the easiest thing in the world for anyone to start a blog and the easiest thing in the world to quit. And once you have a pause, it's the hardest thing to start up again. All you have to do is to look at the tens of millions of abandoned blogs cluttering up cyberspace to know that is true. About 80% of the Honduran blogs that I have accumulated on Google Reader over the years are now defunct and that's a sad statement.

Blog insecurities

Does anyone care? Do I have anything interesting to say? Can I get back on track or will I fail again? Will the readers come back or will I be talking to myself? What do they want to read about? Those are the kind of questions that go through my mind.

I can't catch you up-to-date (since I was a dropout from the news) but I'd like to write about some of the more recent news. I also have a lot of photos to share which I hope that you'll enjoy.

So what finally dragged me out of this blogging slump? Coup rumors! Deja vu all over again. December 2012 is the new June 2009. I'll be posting an article about that shortly. Stay tuned.

Cartoon credit:
Cartoons by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.
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