January 27, 2014

Democracy



“To view the opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy. To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.” — Aung San Suu Kyi

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison, US President (1809-1817)

"Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence" — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." — Harry S. Truman, US President (1945-1953)

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” — Theodore Roosevelt, US President (1901-1909)


"The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections." — Lord Acton

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” — Benjamin Franklin

My thoughts

From my viewpoint, an awful lot of people are losing sight of the true meaning of democracy and instead are siding with the use of the very sort authoritarian and undemocratic actions that they claimed to be protecting the country from in 2009.

It's particularly sad and hypocritical that so much of the media is supporting the right of the Nacionalistas to suppress the opposition's right to speak. In recent years, both Liberal and Nacionalista governments have threatened freedom of speech in the media several times.

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." –Voltaire

"Puede ser que a alguien no le guste la izquierda o la derecha, pero si es demócrata debe defender su existencia" –Piedad Córdoba Ruiz

How many times in history has someone said that it's okay to be authoritarian for the greater good? How many times was it for the greater good?

If you understand Spanish, please watch these video interviews (December 2013) with an open mind. Liberal Diputado Dario Banegas, who I respect greatly, discusses the dictatorial nature and intolerance of Mauricio Oliva who was presiding over the old congress. Banegas and PINU Diputado Mario Rivera also discussed their concern over the mass of laws passed after the election which put too much power in the presidency. Banegas said that JOH spent four years passing laws consolidating power in the congress and then, during the last month (after his election), managed to get a boatload of laws passed that move that power to the presidency.

These two men were the only diputados that I saw in many sessions of Congress in December and January who spoke out against the railroading of laws through without analysis and discussion or even the ability to read the law before it was passed. In this video, both warn of the consolidation of powers in the presidency and the weakening of the powers of the congress. This, in my opinion, is something to be concerned about.

From my last article: Ironically, what Nacionalistas have accomplished in the past four years is not terribly dissimilar to what they and Liberales were warning about in 2009 – consolidating money and power in the executive branch, weakening the judiciary and congress, and trying to debilitate the power of the media. This is something to be feared no matter which party is doing it.

It's just a fact that a large portion of the Honduran population do not believe that they are represented by the traditional parties – even among those who vote for them. In fact, thinking back, I can't remember anyone I know ever telling me that they felt represented by their congressmen. For many years, the only way people believed they could be "heard" was by protesting in the streets or in front of government buildings.

Now Honduras has two new parties who were able to obtain 39% of the congress in their first election. That is a major accomplishment. Just imagine how those voters feel to see that they still have no representation in congress because the traditional parties won't allow them to participate.

That has to change.


January 26, 2014

Honduran Blueberry-Lemon Cake

Lemon cake with Honduran blueberries

Ah, we need a break from all that seriousness, don't we?

Doesn't that cake look yummy? Before I came to Honduras, blueberries were my favorite fruit. Now I would have to say that mangoes are on top with blueberries being a close second. Imagine how happy I was to find that blueberries are grown in Honduras! Then imagine how sad I was to find that most of the crop is exported.

You can occasionally find blueberries in La Ceiba, where they are incredibly cheap compared to US blueberry prices, but a little more expensive compared to tropical fruits. However, blueberries aren't well known here so sometimes the store's supply isn't as fresh as it should be.

Lucky me, I have a connection so I get some nice fresh Honduran blueberries every once in awhile. I hoard them away in the freezer and dole them out like they are made of gold. Honduran blueberries are similar (or the same?) as the rabbit-eye blueberries grown in Texas: big and juicy. Combine those berries with some big, fat, juicy Honduran limes or lemons, if you prefer, in a sweet, moist cake and you have blueberry-lemon heaven.

I felt like baking a cake not long ago. I started searching my cookbooks for a lemon cake recipe (one of El Jefe's favorites). Then I remembered my blueberry stash in the freezer and a Lemon-Blueberry cake recipe I had made long ago. It was a lower fat-lower calorie cake recipe.

I started making it, when it occurred to me: Is my Catracho going to be satisfied with a low-fat, low-sugar cake? I don't think so! In fact, after he saw the cake later, his happy face turned downtrodden when I started telling him that I had a recipe from a low-fat cookbook. Then I went on to explain that I modified the recipe to fatten it up, which cheered him up considerably. Yes, that is shameful, but if you are going to eat dessert, it might as well be the real thing.

Here is my recipe. I hope you enjoy it:


La Gringa's Honduran Blueberry-Lemon Cake

3 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
-------
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup mantequilla blanca (or sour cream)
1 tsp. vanilla
-------
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
-------
3 tbsp. lemon zest, divided use (~4 medium lemons)
1 1/2 - 2 cups cups fresh or frozen Honduran blueberries
1-2 tbsp. sifted flour

Glaze
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp. of lemon zest from above

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan or, I'm guessing, two loaf pans or maybe 1 1/2 to 2 dozen cupcakes. This cake rose quite a bit so whatever you use, don't fill it more than about 2/3 full.

Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine milk and 1/2 cup lemon juice and let sit for about 5 minutes until it thickens. Add mantequilla and vanilla and whisk to combine. If using sour cream instead of mantequilla, I think I'd add an extra 1/4 cup of milk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add softened butter and beat another 2 minutes. To the sugar mixture, alternate adding about 1/3 of the milk mixture with 1/3 of the flour mixture at a time, beating on low speed with each addition until blended. The batter will be thick.

Place blueberries in a colander, rinse if necessary. No need to thaw them if frozen. (It's preferable not to thaw because the juice then sometimes turns your batter grey). Shake off excess water and sprinkle berries with 1-2 tbsp. sifted flour. Toss the berries in the colander to lightly coat them with flour. Gently fold the berries and 2 tbsp. lemon zest into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, invert the cake onto a wire rack to finish cooling. While still a bit warm, but not hot, pour the glaze over the cake. For loaf pans, I'd check the doneness of the cakes at about 40-45 minutes and for cupcakes, at about 20-25 minutes.

Glaze

Sift the powered sugar into a small bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons or so of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. Stir well. Add more juice until the glaze is the consistency you like. (Truth is I forgot to measure the juice.) Drizzle over slightly warm cake.

Enjoy!



If you try this recipe, please let me know how you like it. By the way, I call this Honduran blueberry cake not because it is a Honduran recipe but because it has Honduran blueberries – just to be clear. Of course, it would work with any type of blueberries.

Blueberry tip: Don't wash blueberries before freezing. Spread on a cookie sheet to freeze and then place into a plastic freezer bag. They will freeze separately better that way allowing you to measure out what you need, but more importantly, the skin tends to become tough if you freeze them after washing them.


January 25, 2014

No democracy in new Honduras Congress

New officers of the Honduras Congress
Images: La Prensa, Honduras

(Written Thursday, January 23, 2014, posted today due to numerous internet problems.)


Waiting for the Honduras congressional session to start this morning was a little anti-climatic. I felt like I was watching reruns of 'The Batchelorette' when I already knew who she chose. Last night, the online newspapers had already announced the new junta directiva that was yet to be voted on by congress today.

Today's Honduran congressional session was an exact replica of Tuesday's with a little less chaos. It was absolutely, shockingly, undemocratically unbelieveable!


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