June 30, 2010

Today's contradictory headlines

La Prensa,El Tiempo - Honduras

La Prensa: Reincorporan Honduras al SICA— Sistema de Integración Centroamericano (Honduras returns to SICA — Central American System of Integration)

El Tiempo: Honduras sigue fuera de la SICA (Honduras continues outside of SICA)

Proceso Digital interviewed the Secretary General of SICA, Juan Daniel Alemán who said today that Honduras is a full member of the regional entity "and that they never stopped being one." Alemán said, "Honduras was never expelled."

Spanish online news ADN also quotes Alemán as saying, "Honduras es miembro del SICA, nunca ha sido expulsado, nunca ha sido suspendido", subrayó. Honduras is a member of SICA, it has never been expelled, it has never been suspended.)

Inside the issue, El Tiempo backtracks and admits that Honduras will be permitted to participate in SICA meetings, and cleverly writes:
El secretario general del SICA, Juan Daniel Alemán, consideró que la medida "es un paso en la dirección correcta" tras la expulsión de Honduras por el golpe de Estado contra el ex mandatario Manuel Zelaya en junio de 2009.
The unobservant reader might think that Sr. Alemán also said "after the expulsion of Honduras for the coup d'etat against ex-President Manual Zelaya en June 2009", when in fact Alemán's quote stops after "it is a step in the right direction."

El Tiempo is the only newspaper that the Resistance trusts and they frequently comment that they won't read the other 'golpista' newspapers. I guess El Tiempo was overcome by their eagerness to report bad news about Honduras.


Just as an aside, I'm also curious why Tiempo used the feminine article 'la', while La Prensa used 'al' (a contraction for 'a el'). Sistema is one of those oddball words that although it ends with an 'a', it is a masculine noun, as are many words that end with 'ma' and some others like mapa (map).

June 29, 2010

Zelaya: "The US was behind the coup d'etat"

Telesur video of Mel Zelaya on the anniversary of his ouster.

Update: Embedding of this Telesur video was causing problems on this blog so I had to uninstall it. You can view this video here.

Zelaya claims to be able to "categorically affirm" that the United States was behind his ouster. He also claims that the US "practically prohibited" him from having a relationship with Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, and ALBA. He says that the US is intervening in Honduras, one thing that he and I agree upon.

But oddly enough, he seems to be more incensed about the fact that Roberto Micheletti has been on television recently than he is about anything else.

"The elections were totally fraudulent ... zzzzzz .... Lobo is doing nothing for reconciliation .... zzzz .... the US is causing great damage to Latin American democracy... zzzzzzz ... they are trying to divide the Latin American pueblos ... zzzzz .... the US State department is trying to hide their involvement in the coup d'etat .... zzzzzz .... "

If you can't view the video here, you'll have to go to Chávez-controlled Telesur and click 'mas videos' to look for the Zelaya video. I haven't figured out a way to direct link to a Telesur video.

The video is in Spanish and I am so sorry for those of you who don't understand it. This is Zelaya at his finest.

Update: Channel 3 news tonight reported that US Ambassador Hugo Llorens called Zelaya's charge "absurd" in an official statement issued by the Embassy.

June 28, 2010

A year without Mel Zelaya

No, you did it!
No, you did it!
Click image to enlarge.

I have half a dozen new articles in process but I suppose I must do the obligatory "One year later" article.

On June 28, 2009, Honduras did not have a coup d'etat.

Stop that man, he stole my knife!Honduras had a sloppy constitutional succession of power. Zelaya was flown to Costa Rica, where he probably begged to go rather than face charges for his crimes — but that was a mistake that caused the whole world (at least publicly) to assume that what had happened was a coup. They may not have dotted all 'i's' and crossed all the 't's', but this is Honduras.

There was no need to restore democracy in Honduras. Democracy was protected from a megalomaniac who was intent upon destroying it and creating another Venezuela without the oil, hoping to make himself into another Chávez in the process.

Some countries knew that. Behind the scenes, they congratulated and encouraged Honduran leaders, while cowardly saying that they could not do so publicly. The US was not one of those countries.

Blancas in HondurasThe following months were a very rough time for Honduras and Hondurans, economically and emotionally, an unsettling, scary, eye-opening time, finding that the countries who they thought were friends and allies were not. Certainly no one outside of Honduras ever thought that they could stand up to the world for 7 months.

It was also a wonderful time — a time when petty political parties leanings were set aside for the greater good of Honduras. Most Hondurans tossed aside the "Si Díos quiere" (if God wills it) attitude that holds Honduras down and stood up for something. Nacionalistas, Liberales, Democratic Christian, and PINU party members stood united behind their president, Roberto Micheletti.

Golden 'eggs' for MichelettiIt wasn't only the oligarchy or elite as some would have you believe. Taxi drivers, teachers, hairdressers, vegetable vendors, and people who literally do not have enough to eat were pounding their thighs, saying things like, "Did you see what Micheletti said to Insulza yesterday?! Viva Honduras!" Middle class people for possibly the first time were actually proud of their president and proud of their country. Micheletti's speeches would cause us to shiver and bring tears to our eyes. Finally, Honduras had a president with huevos! People began to believe that Honduras could change.

Cholusat Sur payoff L.2.5 millionNot everyone felt that way, of course. Do 100% of the people agree on anything in any country? There was a minority who for various reasons, including socialist leanings, were for Zelaya. That number grew over time, in part because of the hate campaign designed to divide the country into the haves and have-nots, in part because of false propaganda about human rights violations from the Chávez-paid media, as well as financial incentives for unions, union leaders, and protesters. Zelaya was a very bad president and it was interesting to see that some people who only days or weeks before were ranting against him did a 180 degree turn and began to protest for him. It was hard to understand.

I won't accept orders from the government, but yes, I'll accept the pay they give meBut the Zelayistas/ Resistance/ Constituyentes or whatever they would like to be called were never more than 20% of the population, and probably something less than that. Many teachers and other union members were forced by their unions to strike and/or march, often against their true beliefs. They had to; their jobs depended upon it.

They struck and marched against Zelaya in the prior years and up until about a week before his ouster. They struck and marched against Micheletti. And they are striking and marching against Lobo now. It's hard to take people who are against everything all the time seriously, especially when the ones who suffer most from their actions are children, patients, and poor people.

Other, less educated people were somehow convinced that the constitution was the root of all evil and that somehow if the constitution was changed, they will no longer be poor. I say 'somehow' because I have yet to read a single concrete suggestion about what needs to be changed in the constitution. In my opinion, laws need to be enforced, some laws need to be changed, and the punishment for some crimes, like corruption, needs to be made more punitive, but the constitution can be changed where it needs it without destroying the separation of powers of the state. While more direct involvement by citizens in the government sounds good, remember that a large portion of Honduras' population has no more than a 6th grade education, many less than that. Understanding economics or the ramifications of decisions is beyond their grasp, and that is especially the fault of the poor educational system.

Where are we a year later? Unfortunately, we are pretty much back to business as usual. Corruption is not denounced, corruptos are not punished, crime, especially violent crime, is worse than ever. Teachers, hospital workers, and many other government workers are on strike all the time. The government is as wasteful and stuffed full of political appointees as ever despite promises of austerity. Honduras is near bankruptcy and we have a president who, by trying to please everyone, is pleasing no one.

Big hug, Insulza and Zelaya, BFFThe US, OAS, G-16, and other countries continue to try to intervene in the internal matters of Honduras, weakening the separation of powers, with the intent of ridding Lobo's government of all who they consider golpistas, while publicly applauding the government of unity. Doesn't 'unity' imply that both sides are represented? They seem intent on assuring that impunity against corruption continues to reign supreme in Honduras.

Chavez puppetsZelaya, Chávez and his ALBA eejits are still trying to do everything they can to harm Honduras, even when they look like fools trying to do it. Chávez, through Zelaya, has his machine in Honduras and they will be chinking away at democracy at every opportunity.

Oddly enough, both sides of the Zelaya/constitutional assembly issue would agree on most issues that are really important to the country: corruption, security (against crime), health care, education, jobs, justice, if they stopped to think about those issues instead of regurgitating divisive slogans about "constituyente" and "golpistas" and "urge Mel".

Cesar HamEulogio ChavezRafael  AlegriaJuan Barahona
If they only thought about the leaders that they are listening to, they would know that a constituyente would only trade one group of elite for another, just as corrupt, just as greedy, and just as uncaring.Bribe book, including signed receipts

Transformemos Honduras is a civic group that is focusing on 15 key issues and trying to work with the government to make changes for the better of all Hondurans, particularly the poor. [TH website in English] I hope that sometime soon, most of those misguided people will get tired of the hate and useless protests and start working toward something constructive and positive for Honduras. I know their leaders won't, but maybe the people will.

There is still that glimmer of hope, but most on both sides are disappointed that we haven't seen many changes in the first 6 months of the "Cambia Ya!" government. (Change Now!)

And finally, the congress has still not passed an amendment to add an impeachment clause to the constitution.

Tenemos huevosIn Honduras, we don't have dollars or petroleum,
but yes, we have....well, you know the rest.

June 27, 2010


Here is something ironic: Google is going to start penalizing "slow" websites in search results (count the Blogicito in!) when it is all the Google crap (Google search, analytics, adsense, gadgets, translator, etc.) that causes the sites to slow down!

Thankfully, they said it would only affect about 1% of the websites. What's that? Only about 10 million sites or so?

Google, I love you but that's not fair!

Not only that, but I tested the Blogicito, and guess where most of my errors and little HTML "illegalities" come from? You guessed it! From Google and (Google's) Blogger stuff that they put in my template that I have no control over.

Even so, no matter how Google abuses me, I can't live without Google. I am a Google everything addict. I saw the title of an article "How to get Google out of your life" and it made my heart pound. I can't. I won't.

Google Search, Blogger, Feedburner, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Images, Gmail, Google Translate, Picasa, Google Earth, Google Alerts, Google Books, Google Calendar, Google Toolbar, Google Page Rank, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, ......OMG! If Google goes down, so do I!

P.S. No, I'll admit that it's not really all Google's fault. I do like my junk on the Blogicito. I figure it is all useful to someone.

June 24, 2010

More intromission by US Ambassador Llorens and G-16

Hugo Llorens and Pepe Lobo BFF
US Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, has summoned the members of the Supreme Court of Honduras to a meeting today with representatives of the G-16 in the US Embassy. The supposed theme of the meeting was 'how the G-16 could collaborate to improve the effectiveness of the judicial system'. The summons and the meeting agenda are included below. Click to open the images and then click again to expand them for reading.

Hugo Llorens and Pepe Lobo BFFThe item 'Varios' (various) at the end of the agenda refers to the intention to force the justices to look for a way that Mel Zelaya can return to Honduras with complete impunity, without submitting to justice for his financial crimes of corruption.

Today, I heard that the current Minister of Finance has stated that there is an estimated L. 13 BILLION in unaccounted for and misused government funds from Zelaya's administration. When are these countries going to admit that they jumped the gun and backed the wrong horse in the Honduran crisis.

Honduran civil society considers Llorens' conduct a grave intromission into the internal matters of Honduras, as well as a display of lack of respect for the judges. They have also demanded that Llorens' actions during the past year be investigated by the Truth Commission.

Can you imagine the embassy of any other country summoning the members of the US Supreme Court to a meeting, not only summoning them, but providing an agenda in which they are expected to defend themselves? An absolutely incredible lack of respect for the sovereignty of Honduras.

The Spanish Ambassador has already told the media that the judges must reverse their decision about the firing of certain judges who violated the laws of conduct required of judges. Hugo Llorens (US Ambassador), other countries, President Pepe Lobo, and the National Congress of Honduras have all put extreme pressure on the court to reverse their decision, in clear violation of the separation of powers of state.

Union Civíca Democrática has previously demanded that the Supreme Court make public the report of the Inspector General of the Judicial Branch that served as the legal basis for the judges’ dismissal, so that the world can know that the dismissals were justified. Last month and on several other occasions, they have strongly denounced the internal and external interference in the court.

Hugo Llorens and Mel Zelaya BFFI don't have verifiable information, but it is widely rumored that hundreds of millions of US dollars in aid funds are being withheld from bankrupt Honduras until these actions are taken (impunity for Zelaya and his crew and reversal of the decision to fire the judges).

Someone please tell me why the United States of America is on the side of impunity and corruption?

Let me be perfectly frank in saying that the Honduran Justice System desperately needs to be improved. There is no justice in Honduras for the average man. However, one thing that they don't need any help with is freeing corruptos and granting impunity to 'important' persons. They have that mastered already. Zelaya's cases may be among the first in which the judicial system has stood firm for what is right. Shame, shame, shame on the hypocritical USA and G-16.

The court met today and authorized its president, Jorge Rivera Aviles to attend the meeting. The other judges will not be attending.

Page 1, the 'invitation'

US Ambassador Hugo Llorens memo to Honduras Supreme Court justicesPage 2, the agenda

US Ambassador Hugo Llorens memo to Honduras Supreme Court justices page 2

June 22, 2010

Honduras in state of emergency (again)

dengue epidemic

President Pepe Lobo interrupted the news tonight for a national cadena, in which he declared Honduras to be in a state of emergency because of a dengue epidemic (a very serious mosquito-borne flu-like illness). Ten people have died from dengue hemorrágico, which can be a fatal form of the disease if not treated. Police and military will be ensuring that all hospitals stay open 24-hours per day.

The Minister of Health has been authorized to contract for whatever supplies and with whatever personnel are necessary. The sad truth is that these states of emergency are usually just a license to steal. Will anyone audit the expenses or the personnel contracted? How many will be hired for their family ties rather than their medical abilities?

This was our first cadena national in about six months and I was scared waiting for it to start for two solid minutes! BTW, I don't care for the choice of music and video; it doesn't go with the nature of an emergency. Micheletti's was much better.

dengue epidemicA few interesting facts not mentioned are:

More than 10,200 people have been affected by dengue classico, and 400 by dengue hemorrágico (DH) so far this year. In 2009, there were 14,528 classic dengue cases, 604 cases of DH, and 12 deaths. This year 70% of the cases have been in the Tegucigalpa area.

No government has declared a state of emergency for dengue since 2002, when there was 32,000 cases.

The hospital personnel union has been on strike since June 11 and have "taken" hospital buildings and health centers, which may have something to do with the police and military being involved.

An announcement was made yesterday that one or more of the large hospitals are out of IV fluids, something that is crucial to keep DH patients alive.

The Minister of Health yesterday also announced that hospitals would not treat dengue, only DH, and that dengue patients would have to go the health centers. (The initial symptoms are the same and by the time that the hemorrhagic symptoms arise, it is sometimes too late.)

The Minister de Trabajo (work) announced today that there are not economic conditions for an increase in the minimum wage which could have caused huge nationwide strikes....except that now the police and military will be out on the streets to prevent that.

Lobo arrived home to Honduras today from a 10-day trip to South Africa for the World Cup.


Currently the teachers are on strike, public employees' retirement fund union, the National Registry of Persons, and Hondutel (telephone company) employees' unions are on strike, just to name the major ones. CUTH (confederation of workers unions) announced suspension of their measures to press for a minimum wage increase due to the health crisis. CUTH had previously announced "taking" of the roads in the entire Honduran territory.

Here is another interesting fact: In 2006, when Mel Zelaya took office, government salaries were L. 3.8 billion. In 2009, government salaries were around L. 32.0 billion.

June 21, 2010

Honduras makes history

Palacio brothers, Honduras team Johnny, Jerry, and Wilson Palacios
Photo: FIFA

I've never been a sports fan, but I am so happy that Honduras made it to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years. How could anyone not be! Honduras needed a boost.

I made a solemn promise to a Honduran reader not to write about games (it a superstitious thing and El Jefe agrees, too!) − but I just wanted to point you to this article about the Palacio brothers, who are from La Ceiba.

Can you imagine the pride of parents don Eulogio y doña Orfilia Palacios to have THREE sons playing in the World Cup? It is the first time that three brothers have played for one country in the history of the World Cup.

Funeral day

Baby's grave, La Ceiba, Honduras

After the Human Rights Commission on Friday, we went to the morgue to see if the autopsy had been performed and whether the body was ready to be released. It was, which meant that we had to go back to Arexy's house to pick up the casket and then back to the morgue − or carry the baby back home in a black garbage bag.

El Jefe had an important event to which he had committed and was already late, but I begged him to handle this. The people there had been very rude to me yesterday and I was so fearful about what kind of condition the body would be in. I was also afraid for Arexy to be subject to any more...well, to anything.

Additionally, Kenia told us that she didn't feel strong enough to dress the baby again. Since it had been 2 1/2 days since he died and the body wasn't embalmed, I didn't know if it would even be possible to dress the baby or if that could cause some damage. So I wanted J to ask the people at the morgue to dress him, or to at least wrap him in a blanket and place him in the casket, to show a little human decency.

Thankfully, they had dressed the baby again in the clothes and little hat that he had been wearing. J and Arexy had to deal with inefficient paperwork again and then we were done, hopefully forever, with the morgue.


We planned for the burial at 2 p.m. I dropped J off at his appointment and we drove back to Arexy and Kenia's house where the baby was placed back on the table for viewing. I would have preferred to keep the casket closed at that point but it wasn't my place to say anything. Everyone commented about how beautiful he was and how he looked as if he was asleep. It wasn't true.

More and more people arrived until finally a little barrel-shaped woman arrived, looked around, and yelled, "What are you going to do with all these women? You better get some men to fill the grave!" Jeesh! Another thing that we didn't think about.

The hole was dug on Thursday, but now the hole would have to be refilled after the service. We were responsible for that. Kenia made some calls to make sure that we would have at least two men to help. Someone else mentioned that we also had to nail the coffin shut − another thing that I didn't know about. The coffin just had a lid, no hinges, no latch. I mention all of these details so that anyone else in a situation like this can be better prepared and more orgainized than we were.

El Jefe, who by then had arrived by taxi, called a worker we had at our house and told him to get a couple of shovels, a hammer, and some nails and bring them on his bicycle to meet us at the cemetery. And hurry! I also requested that he cut some flowers from the garden since most of the flowers from Wednesday night were looking pretty sad. He did a great job and brought a huge bouquet of every color.

Earlier in the day, I had remembered that we didn't have a cross or anything to mark the grave but with everything else we had to do, it seemed too late to get something made. However, someone had made a homemade cross for the grave as well as some palm frond decorations with paper flowers.

San Isidro Cemetery, La Ceiba, HondurasThe cemetery is called San Isidro. It is the newer public cemetery a little way outside of town. It is not a manicured cemetery by any means, but I commented that it looked very pretty, with lots of colorful flowers, real and plastic, on most of the graves. I don't think that Arexy had seen it before and I think she was relieved and also thought that it looked nice.

All together, there were at least two dozen people including children at the cemetery. No one wanted to speak so J took charge and did a wonderful job, as he always does. He thanked God for giving us this baby but then choked up when he spoke of the baby's 19 days of life and had to stop for a minute or two to gain composure. Most of us were tearing up while we waited and Arexy was sobbing.

J always knows exactly the right things to say and he says them from the heart which is evident to everyone. Kenia also spoke, particularly thanking J and I for helping Arexy through this sad time. I wished she hadn't, but it was sweet to see and hear the acknowledgments of appreciation from the people there. I bowed my head thinking how sad it was that most poor people do not have the means to bury their loved ones unless friends help out. Apparently everyone knew that we were helping Arexy. Not too surprising, I guess.

When they were through speaking, I mentioned the nails but the barrel-shaped woman said, no, that type of coffin didn't need to be nailed. There was a bit of a discussion about whether or not to nail which J solved by saying that this should be the mother's decision, to which everyone agreed. Arexy decided no nails.

Unfortunately, the poor baby had to suffer one last indignity. When lowering the casket, one of the men let the rope slip and the casket fell the last foot or so to the bottom, the lid fell off, and the baby's feet slipped out of the casket. There was a collective gasp from the crowd. Another man jumped into the grave, and quickly re-situated the baby and put the lid back on. Arexy started crying again and everyone was horrified that that had happened.

We all threw a little dirt into the grave and then one of the men and a sweet little boy of about 10 years old solemnly did most of the filling. Arexy's father helped with the last bit.

The cross was put into place and all the flowers were arranged over the grave. It looked beautiful and Arexy felt good about it.


We drove back to Arexy's house on the other side of town for the fourth time in one day. The atmosphere was much less tense. Everyone had been quite concerned about the length of time it had taken to bury the baby. Generally burial is done within 24 hours since embalming is not commonly performed.

Arexy's father in particular had been complaining to her that she should have buried him sooner and should not have requested the autopsy, and basically that she should not be listening to us. I didn't realize this since the man never spoke to us the entire day, which I did think was odd, except that he wasn't speaking to anyone else either.

I want to make it clear that we don't want, need, or expect thanks from anyone, but I have to point out that this man, who is the one person who should have been helping and supporting Arexy, did absolutely not one thing to help her, either financially or emotionally.

In fact, he did just the opposite, we found out later, trying to make her feel stupid about the decisions that she was making. Arexy's mother abandoned her when she was small. She left for the US and Arexy never heard from her again. I think that her father has abused her and has been a terrible influence on her life. He is the person most responsible for her timidity and lack of self esteem. Thank goodness she has Kenia to rely on and to encourage her.

We stayed around for an hour or so chatting. The woman who had originally recommended Arexy to work for us was there. I reminded her of what she had told us about 16 months ago − "La Ceiba women don't want to work, but I'll see if I can find someone from somewhere else." We all laughed about that − well, the La Ceiba women maybe less so. ;-) She was impressed that I remembered but I told her about some of the experiences we had had with women who just disappeared after one day or one week of work and never came back again. "I don't understand! I'm not mean to workers, I swear!", I defended myself. Arexy defended me, too, with a smile and a nod, and then laughed and told them how I would ask her every Friday if she was coming back on Monday. "Are you sure?" I would ask. For some reason, they all thought that was hilarious.


I've reclassified all of these related articles under "Arexy's story" to make it easier for anyone who is joining in late.

June 19, 2010

Visit to the Human Rights Commission

Yesterday, Friday, June 18, was another busy and stressful day. In the morning, we went to the Regional Delegate for Human Rights to file a denuncia (formal complaint) against the public health care system of Honduras − at least that is who I wanted to file the complaint against. If you have been following Arexy's saga*, I think you'll agree that the entire system is at fault.

If at any point along the way a doctor or nurse had spoken up for this baby in a timely manner and demanded that something be done, the baby might still be alive. Hospital politics, the lack of medicine or blood, incompetence, the hospital worker strike in San Pedro, and the general neglect all played a part. But the attorney mentioned that he would have to file individual complaints against everyone after the investigation.

CONADEH (Comisionado Nacional de Derechos Humanos de Honduras) is the organization headed by Dr. Ramón Custodio, who some of you may be familiar with as he has been very outspoken about international interference in Honduras. I didn't know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. Attorney Juan José Arita, the regional human rights delegate, just couldn't have been more kind. He was polite, interested, and compassionate. He treated Arexy and Kenia (who was witness to much of the activity of the first days and had talked to some of the doctors personally) with complete respect. It was a good and validating experience for all of us.

He was very complementary about my summary of events. He read it aloud (paused and seemed to frown once or twice, possibly at the bad Spanish grammar or poor choice of translated words) and stopped to ask questions every now and then. He said that it was very helpful. He still interviewed Arexy in depth for more than an hour about every step of the 19 days of the life of her child. He listened with patience when Kenia or I interrupted to add some important (we thought) fact that Arexy was forgetting to mention. He typed every word.

He told us that this would be a lengthy process as it will require technical medical investigation − I think meaning that was something that the Human Rights Commission was not equipped with and would need to get outside assistance. It is a scary thought to think that technical assistance will probably come from the very same public health care system doctors.

Abogado Arita was also forthright in telling us that often nothing can be proven in these cases because the "colleagues" cover up for each other, even when they know that one of their colleagues is incompetent or negligent. He said that much will depend upon whether or not the doctors who informed Arexy and Kenia of the botched surgery and negligence will maintain their stories or will backtrack when faced with testifying against a colleague.

He was very interested in the other, similar case that I had been told about and wants to investigate that case also. I promised that I would try to get more information.

I wanted him to know that we weren't going to give up. When he was finished with the interviews, I told him that it was too late to help Arexy and her baby and that it would be much easier and more comfortable for all of us to stay home and do nothing, but that Arexy was here, going through this pain, to try to make sure that something like this does not happen to any other babies. Of course, I only got halfway through that speech before I was choking up and struggling to remember the right words in Spanish. Arexy and Kenia were nodding in agreement and crying, too. He patiently and solemnly listened and said that he understood and would do everything he can.

The electric power went out before he could print the denuncia for Arexy to sign. He will call us to return to sign it later. He had Arexy sign my summary instead so that he could start requesting the medical records.

After we left, I said "That is how human beings should be treated!" Kenia said, "Yeah! Even if you are poor."


* For all of the articles about Arexy's baby's story, see the article category 'Arexy's Story'.

For a summary of the errors made by the public health care system, see 'A tragic ending to the baby story'.

June 18, 2010

Events of the day the baby died

I'm going to back up to the events of Wednesday, June 16, for this article, because there are some things that I think you should know to understand the whole picture. Get your tissues ready.

We left for San Pedro about 4 p.m., picking up Arexy's sister-in-law Kenia on our way. We thought that Arexy might feel more comfortable with family with her. So with Kenia and a tiny blue casket tucked into the back seat, we sped off to San Pedro.

Kenia talked the whole three hours of the trip there, and basically no one spoke for most of the trip back to La Ceiba. Arexy was devastated.


Some of the things that we learned, mostly from Kenia on the trip there...

Arexy's baby died shortly after midnight but she was not informed until 'visiting hour' (11 a.m - 12 p.m.) the next day when she arrived and found that the baby's incubator was empty. After trying to find out where her baby was, she was told that he was dead and she was shown a paper-wrapped and taped up bundle that was the body of her dead baby.

What I didn't know was that after the baby's second surgery, he was kept in intensive care. Prior to that Arexy was able to stay with the baby 24 hours per day. From the day of the surgery onward, she was only allowed to visit him for an hour per day. So she really didn't know what kind of attention he was getting or really even how he was doing. She was continually told that he was "delicate" but doing fine.

Even though she was staying in the hospital and they had her phone number, no one called her, no one officially informed her, no one even told her how or why her baby had died, and the doctor never talked to her.

There were no sympathetic words and no offer of a few minutes in private to hold her baby to say goodbye − the baby that she has never been allowed to hold since she turned over his care to Hospital Atlántida on May 31.

She was only told that she could have the body when someone came to pick it up. She tried to call me several times. I had been leaving my phone on 24-hours a day but my battery went dead. The phone was turned upside down and I didn't notice it was dead! Of all days for that to happen. I felt so guilty.

She tried to arrange for transportation back to La Ceiba at the hospital but didn't have enough money. She had spent almost all of her money − a significant amount − on medicines for the baby which the hospital could not provide.

She called her sister-in-law Kenia and told her that she couldn't get in touch with me and that she was going to have to bring the baby home on the bus. She cried, "He's wrapped in paper like a loaf of bread!" Kenia told her that it was against the law to take a dead body on the bus, so she would have to wrap him in a blanket and pretend that he was still alive. Kenia told us, "I know you aren't supposed to, but what can a person do if you are poor?" [Are you crying yet? I can hardly see the computer screen as I write this.]

Kenia told her to wait while she tried to call Arexy's father. Her father said that he was busy and couldn't do anything. The baby's father couldn't/wouldn't help either. Then she tried to call me again with no success. Then she called Arexy back and said "what about el dueño (El Jefe), don't you have his phone number?" Yes, exclaimed the distraught Arexy, who for some reason had not thought of calling El Jefe, who was in town at the time.

By then I had discovered my dead phone and had plugged it in to charge, so I found out the tragic news about 3:00 p.m. Now what to do? Neither of us have had experience with arranging funerals or burials in Honduras and didn't know what the procedures are. I suggested that he go to a funeral home to make arrangements, since that is what you do in the US. That's all I know.

The funeral home was going to charge L.6,500 just to go to San Pedro to pick up the baby, thousands more for a cheap-looking casket, and thousands more for the funeral. Well, it turns out that procedures are quite a bit different than in the US − it isn't required that a funeral home transport the body, so J decided that we should bring them home. He went to a couple of places and was able to find a nice baby casket that was lined with white lace.


We got to the hospital about 7:30 p.m. which meant that poor Arexy had been waiting about 8 hours to leave the hospital. Of course, since it was not visiting hours, the guard did not want to let us in. EVERYTHING in Honduras has to be a huge struggle. EVERYTHING. And everyone who has the tiniest bit of power will try to exercise it over you.

After explaining the entire situation to two or three different people, of course it turned out that it was the wrong gate. After explaining again at the next gate, the second guard let us in and sent us to the morgue, which of course we couldn't find and when we did, of course no one was there. Then when we did find someone, of course they directed us to walk around the hospital (outside in the rain, because, of course, we were not allowed to enter the building). And of course, we ended up back in the original part where we had tried to enter to start with.

About half way across the second parking lot, we saw Arexy, standing outside, holding her little bag of clothes, the diaper bag, and her dead baby.

Kenia yelled her name and started running to her. Arexy started sobbing uncontrollably when she saw us. Who knows how many hours she had been waiting with the baby. We hugged. We cried. Even El Jefe couldn't help but to shed a few tears at the inhuman treatment of this mother and baby. We turned around and headed back around the hospital to where the car was parked.

I think Arexy was surprised and pleased with the casket. After we got to the car, Kenia took the baby, placed him into the casket, carefully unwrapped the paper, and dressed him before we left the parking lot. We were standing in the mist in the dark parking lot, crying by then at the indignities that this poor little baby had suffered.

We suffered more indignation trying to leave the hospital parking lot as the guard was expecting some piece of paper that a previous guard had already taken from Arexy. Without the paper, he was at a complete loss as to what to do and didn't want to open the gate to let us leave. On the verge of completely blowing up, I gave him the handwritten paper with the baby's name and time of death that had been taped to his chest. It wasn't the right one, but it was paper.


Other ways that funeral arrangements are different in Honduras is that the body is often displayed at home, where visitors are received around the clock and coffee, soft drinks, and sweet bread is served. If the family can afford it, other food might be provided. El Jefe asked Arexy if she wanted to take the baby home and she said yes.

I realized later that she was going to be much more comfortable with this arrangement than she would have been at a funeral parlor anyway. It was what they were used to and also was much more convenient for their friends to drop by rather than having to take buses or taxis to town.

J started talking about food and such and I asked "for tomorrow?" and they all said no, that people would be there tonight! I couldn't imagine trying to find food at midnight in La Ceiba so I asked if we could get Kenia's mother to buy whatever was necessary and we would pay her back when we got there. The call was made.

We arrived in La Ceiba at 11:30 p.m. and there were several people and children there. Some ladies were cooking chickens and making coffee. A table was set up on the terraza, covered in a white cloth waiting for the casket. Some of the older children went out and came back with beautiful flower arrangements, the blooms snatched from neighborhood gardens, shown in the photo above. It was a very touching scene, seeing so much dignity and caring among such poverty.

Arexy went straight to her room and lay prostrate on the bed sobbing. We stayed for about an hour and then said goodbye, leaving her in the hands of several kind and caring women who understood better than anyone the indignities and injustices suffered by poor women in Honduras. We know because some of them told us their stories.


The next day, I was going to ask Arexy if she wanted to fight back.


For all of the articles about Arexy's baby's story, see the article category 'Arexy's Story'.

For a summary of the errors made by the public health care system, see 'A tragic ending to the baby story'.

June 17, 2010

The start of the fight for justice

Ministerio Publico, La Ceiba, HondurasMinisterio Publico Office (District Attorney)
but the wrong office for filing a complaint

The day started today with El Jefe going to the municipalidad to get a permission to bury the baby in a public cemetery. Then he had to find some guys to dig the hole and take them there with some tools to do it. Funerals are do-it-yourself affairs in Honduras unless you are rich.

Meanwhile, I drafted up a sequence of events that I hoped would help us to focus on the important points of the past 19 days when we filed the denuncia (formal complaint) with the Ministerio Publico (district attorney). I was able to do that from my blog articles and the additional things I learned yesterday. It came in VERY handy, though the translation to Spanish was....well, not very good, I'm sure. I didn't have time to ask anyone to review and correct it. El Jefe said that there were errors but that it was understandable.

I also asked for help on Facebook and received some guidance that was very helpful. As I suspected, I was told that we had to get them to perform an autopsy on the baby, which the San Pedro hospital failed to do. Especially helpful was finding out that the San Pedro hospital broke the law by not performing an autopsy − which I had to point out a couple of times to get action from the Ministerio Publico (MP).

When I told J what we needed to do, he said, "You do know that this could expose us personally to retaliation? Are you willing to accept that?" I said, "Yes, I know but we've talked before that until people are willing to put themselves at risk, nothing is going to change in Honduras. I'm willing to risk it and I hope you are, too." He was. He is my hero. I have to admit that almost 9 years in Honduras has drilled that "what's the use?" attitude into me pretty soundly, but not this time.

So many readers have thanked us for what we have done for Arexy. Up until today I really didn't believe that we had accomplished anything for her. Today I know that we did. I'm not sure that her denuncia even would have been accepted if we hadn't been there to explain/clarify/insist. At one point, a clerk said she couldn't file the complaint because Arexy didn't know the doctor's first name. I said that the doctor never told her his first name and they could get it from the medical records (which they are requesting from both hospitals). The clerk really wanted to exercise her power over Arexy, but had to admit the logic of what I was telling her. I'm fairly certain that we wouldn't have gotten the autopsy. Maybe the strain of listening to my poor Spanish wore them down. I even told the Fiscal that Arexy's case was already getting international attention.

I'm proud to say that I managed to keep my cool today, despite the rudeness, callousness, and outrageousness of some of the things that were said today. (One example − that we needed to take the baby's body back to San Pedro to get the autopsy done!) I even surprised El Jefe who has been trying for 9 years to teach me that in Honduras, "when you lose your temper, you lose the battle".

Ministerio Publico, La Ceiba, HondurasCentro Integrado de Trabajo, the right place

The one bright light of hope today was the Coordinadora de Fiscales, who came to ask Arexy a few questions, exclaimed "Que barbaridad!" (about the treatment she had received), and offered a kind expression of condolence to Arexy. Arexy and I both lost it then and started crying − I tearfully told her that she was the first and only person throughout this ordeal who has expressed any kindness or human compassion toward the grieving mother.

I said that this was a day that Arexy should have been with her family and friends and grieving for her baby and instead we had spent four hours there fighting for justice. I told her firmly, "Vamos a luchar." The attorney put her hand on my shoulder and said "Van a luchar con nosotros!" (You're going to fight along with us!). She gave us hope.

The MP sent about 10 representatives from the police, the fiscal, forensics, the criminal investigations unit, and possibly others to pick up the baby's body. El Jefe went with them (Arexy, Kenia, and I had to stay to continue to wait to file the denuncia).

He said that they were very thorough, respectfully examining the body, taking photos, asking questions and that at least six of them were taking detailed notes. One commented to J that the body had some suspicious damage, including an injured foot (?). Additionally, the tiny opening that had been made in the baby's neck to administer blood was now a huge gash of about two inches. The baby was emaciated, looking like a premature baby of at most 5 pounds, though he weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces at birth.

I'm just too exhausted mentally and emotionally to give you all the details, but we persevered today. The autopsy will be done tomorrow, though the forensic doctor initially refused to perform it and had to be ordered by the MP to do it. I'm taking notes (and names) as we go along.

We will start again tomorrow by going to the Human Rights Commission to file a formal complaint. I hope that they will show a little more compassion and human decency than we saw today or yesterday.

To all of you who have written, I thank you. I read everything but haven't had a chance to answer anyone yet. Thank you for your prayers. Now we could use some prayers for strength because the system is designed to wear us down and demoralize us into inaction.

June 16, 2010

A tragic ending to the baby story

Arexy's baby died today. I don't have any details. We were called by Arexy's sister-in-law who said that Arexy needed financial help to bring the baby back to La Ceiba for burial. J is buying a little casket right now and we are going to pick them up in San Pedro. Arexy was going to bring him on the bus.

When we talked to Arexy last night, she was doing very well and she thought that the baby was also. She had promised once again that she would go to the breast milk bank today.

Bad things happen, and sometimes there is no one to blame. But this poor little baby never had a chance against the medical incompetence.

Mistake number one was that Hospital Atlántida sent Arexy home with the baby on Friday, May 28, six hours after he was born, even though he would not nurse, had not defecated, and was obviously in distress -- in violation of standard maternity procedures that have been in effect in developed countries for at least 50 years.

Mistake number two was that the emergency room at Hospital Atlántida turned Arexy away on Sunday night, May 30, when she brought the baby back screaming in pain two days after he was born, even though she told them that he had not nursed since he was born.

Mistake number three was that on May 31, the hospital assigned an incompetent surgeon to operate on his tiny little intestine.

Mistake number four was that the tube was not inserted properly into the baby's stomach preventing the toxins from draining from his body and nobody noticed it or did anything about it for 10 days.

Mistake number five was that the hospital waited until June 9, ten days after the botched surgery, to send him to a specialist in San Pedro Sula. Meanwhile, his intestine was leaking into his body.

Throughout the baby's stay at Hospital Atlántida, Arexy was assured that the baby was doing fine. I really don't know how the baby's care or the quality of the surgery was in San Pedro, but Arexy believed that it was much better and more caring than Hospital Atlántida.

I was informed that a gringo charity hospital in Balfate is caring for a child right now whose intestines were also butchered by a doctor at Hospital Atlántida. Coincidence? I think not.

June 14, 2010

Stay calm, Honduras

candle light

"Stay calm, Honduras," was the message from the Honduran government during a noon press conference today. Last night Honduras experienced a country-wide power outage. The problem arose from the "El Cajon" hydroelectric dam about 6:45 p.m. and within 8 minutes, the entire country was dark, with the exception of the Bay Islands which have their own electric systems. Some areas were restored within about 45 minutes, but others, like La Ceiba, were out for almost three hours.

Of course, we didn't know that it was a country-wide outage. We thought it was the typical La Ceiba outage, though it was longer than usual. In our area, we've been experiencing outages almost daily, usually ranging from quick blips in service to a few minutes in duration, but sometimes longer.

candle lightMore worrisome than a complete outage are those frequent times when the electricity slowly loses force, as if it was on a dimmer that someone was turning down, or the times that when the power comes back and it fluctuates between super strong to weak, pulsing back and forth (you can tell from the speed of the fan or the strength of the lights). Those types of issues are the ones that will burn out computers and appliances.

The main reason for the "stay calm" message was because of the coup rumors started by President Pepe Lobo recently. I have to admit that when the power didn't come back after 30 minutes or so, thoughts of coups did cross our minds, though I really don't put much store in those rumors. President Lobo is currently in South Africa. I imagine that it was the políticos who needed to stay calm more than the pueblo, most of whom also do not give much credence to the coup rumor.

I also remembered back to the frequent all day Saturday or Sunday outages under President Maduro, which were attributed to performance of maintenance but I always thought were actually electricity rationing. In the first years of President Zelaya's term, we frequently had outages on Saturday or Sunday nights in which I always joked that Zelaya wanted us to go to bed by 9 p.m. I'm always suspicious when the power goes out exactly on the hour, aren't you?

Apparently the outage in Honduras also caused interruptions to electric systems in Guatemala and El Salvador. The outage was caused by faulty equipment. The damaged transformer is expected to cost 1.5 million Euros to replace, money which Honduras certainly does not have to spare.

The stars were really beautiful last night with no man-made lights to obscure them!

reading by candlelight, HondurasBy the way, I recently bought a battery operated LED book light and it was fantastic for navigating the house in the dark as well as for reading until the power came back! Much better than reading by candlelight as I used to (try to) do.

And finally, La ENEE had better make sure that nothing like this happens during the World Cup games! I don't even want to think about the kinds of riots we would have.

Baby is recovering

Arexy's baby

Continuation of the saga of a newborn baby started here.

Baby had his second surgery on Saturday. Arexy sounded very tired and wasn't very talkative so I didn't have much news to report. I hope that she was just tired and not that she didn't want to talk about her worries.

Yesterday and today we talked to her again. She sounded much better and says that the doctor has said that the baby is in delicate condition but doing okay. The doctor raged about Hospital Atlántida allowing Dr. Azcona to do surgery on the baby in La Ceiba when (according to the San Pedro doctor) he does not know what he is doing.

The doctor said that the baby's intestines were leaking into his body, hence the huge amount of liquid that spurted out of the baby when the tube was finally inserted properly. He said a strange thing that I don't understand: He said that the baby's butt and leg were "getting hard". I don't know what that means or whether that condition has alleviated since the second surgery.

I suggested that she ask the doctor if he was going to file a formal denuncia against Dr. Azcona because he is the only one who can document the negligence. I know that Arexy will never ask him and I'm 100% sure that the doctor won't do it, so this doctor will continue to harm patients and butcher babies.

It isn't enough to rage about doctors harming or killing patients, but that is what happens here in Honduras. Anyone who knows that doctors or nurses are incompetent and does nothing about it is just as guilty in my opinion. It is time to stop worrying about someone's pride or reputation and start worrying about the lives lost. It is time to stop hiding the dirty secrets and do something about it!

Arexy doesn't know how long the baby will be in the hospital but the doctor has told her that he will not send him back to Hospital Atlántida for recuperation, thank God! I was prepared to hire an attorney to protect the baby's rights if that was even hinted at. I should be looking around for an attorney anyway since Dr. Azcona will probably sue me for bringing to light what he has done. I think a human rights investigation is in order.

It sounds like Arexy's breast milk is starting to dry up and she won't be able to feed the baby until tomorrow or Wednesday (5 days after his second surgery). They have a milk bank at the San Pedro hospital and I urged Arexy to go there, that maybe they could help her, show her what she needs to do. I hope it isn't too late. She promised she would go there today, but when I talked to her about noon, she hadn't been there yet. She promised again that she would go. This is really crucial because she could never afford to buy baby formula without help, and knowing her, she would cut corners, use powdered milk or rice water and the baby would end up malnourished.

Baby does not have a name yet. The baby's father wanted one name and Arexy's father wanted another, so she couldn't decide. I think that shows a little about her personality. The baby's father is really not so much in Arexy's life or the baby's, sad to say.

June 11, 2010

Surgery day, not

I called Arexy about 12:30 p.m. to find out how the baby's surgery went, but there was no surgery. She said that it was postponed and mentioned a strike. I asked her what kind of a strike and she said, "Well, a information meeting." Those are the code words for strike without a strike. Teachers' unions are famous for that. Last year they had two or three information meetings a week. Thankfully for the patients, she said that the hospital workers aren't all gone.

Tal vez mañana.

(Maybe tomorrow.)

Update: I forgot to mention that the baby received blood and is getting some kind of medication in his IV, maybe antibiotic. So maybe they are trying to build him up before the surgery.

This article is an update on the shameful saga that began here.

Next: The baby is recovering

Good news - Bad news in San Pedro

Arexy's baby
Continued from here.

Arexy and the baby arrived in the San Pedro Sula public hospital yesterday and he was examined by a doctor pretty quickly. The doctor assured her that the baby's condition was not 'muy grave' (very serious or grave). That was a huge relief for her − and for us, too.

On the way home from the hospital earlier in the afternoon, I turned to El Jefe and said, "I know that I should try to be positive, to hope for the best...." Wahhhh − I burst into tears. "....but I just can't!" J said, "I know. I can't either. They've done something to that baby and that's why they sent him away."

I lamented for the 100th time that Arexy did not call us for help when the baby was in trouble and the hospital turned them away or that I couldn't convince her to move the baby out of the hospital sooner. I cried again thinking of what it must be like to think that you or your child are not worthy of decent medical care, that private hospitals are "for persons of a higher level, not for me", to be so beaten down by the caste system that you don't fight for your child.

I tried to call Arexy about 6 p.m. but got no answer. I tried not to even think about what that might mean. I called my doctor again to see if he had talked to the baby's doctor. The doctor had not returned his call. J called Arexy about 8 p.m. and got the full report. She was quite animated. She said the baby was getting so much more attention than he did at Hospital Atlántida. The nurses checked him frequently, and the doctor came around a few times, too. She said it was cleaner and nicer than Hospital Atlántida in La Ceiba.

She said that the hospital even had a place for parents to stay and that they gave her food. They also treated her much better than they had in La Ceiba. But she stays with the baby instead of using the sleeping facilities.

She said that the baby had had a tube in his mouth to his stomach but that not much of anything had been draining. It turns out that the tube was not inserted properly in La Ceiba and as soon as the doctor in San Pedro inserted the tube, the baby started gushing blackish liquid. That must have been really frightening, but it must have been a good thing to get that stuff out of him. Overall, we were much encouraged compared to the horrible thoughts we had had earlier in the day.

But - once again, a but. Always a but. Today she was told by the doctor that the surgery was done improperly by Dr. Azcona in La Ceiba and that they will have to do surgery to repair his intestine tomorrow. So, you see that I was right. They had harmed the baby and didn't have the decency to tell his mother. I guess whichever doctor ordered that he be sent to San Pedro may have saved his life. But I wonder if it needed to take 10 days from the day of the surgery to know that something was wrong.

We'll call her around noon and I promise to report back. Please pray for the baby.

Next: Surgery Day, not

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