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Entered By: Mark
Entry Date: 2011-03-24 10:18:59
Subject: Polar Politics

      In the USA, we have the Democrats, the Republicans and the under-funded parties, belittled by the first two with deep pockets. To be honest, if the president changes, we don't see a lot of difference in our day to day lives. Both parties spend more than they have. Both parties get us involved in wars we can't afford. Both generally cause Americans to become preoccuppied with politics with the help of sensationalist media.

      Honduras had a presidential party change last year. You may or may not recall the previous president "Mel" Zelaya, whom was ousted by the legislature and congress after violating Constitutional laws. The mess caused by Mel put a lot of struggling family owned companies out of business.

     In contrast to the USA, a presidential change here means huge differences. Whereas the previous president, of the liberal "Red" party, doubled minimum wage and thus eliminated a significant number of jobs; the current president, a conservative, is being accused of trying to eliminate public education.

     Honduras has a long history of annual, nay, monthly teacher strikes and labor clashes with the government. As a conservative, when I first arrived in this country it was easy to think "lazy, greedy teachers", but after learning more about the issue, it is certainly not one-sided. Another contrast to America is that Honduras has poor credit. They can't just borrow billions of dollars to pay teachers or fund pensions. Here, the accounts have to be balanced. The latest disputes stem from the fact that the federal government used about $160 million (yes dollars, not Lempiras) from the national teacher pension fund, presumably for the general budget. Again, $160M in the US is just a bond issue for a local school, of which only about 10% of the population will show up to vote about it. Here, $160M IS the national pension fund. Honduran teachers struck about this. In striking, they of course had to take time off of work. So the government agreed to re-fund the pension fund but not to pay the teachers for the time they took to strike. Question is, if they did not strike, would they have ever gotten their pension? Here, not likely. So if a strike is the only means you have to get what you worked for, it is hard to justify withholding pay. Again, I must restate, that I align myself with conservative ideas; though I don't equate conservatism with rule by corporations as is popular in the USA.

    So the current thrust of the conservative Blue Party in Hondurras is to de-centralize public education and allow the municipal governments to control them. This effectively eliminates the bargaining power of teachers in that they will no longer be unified nationally. If one small city does not have the funds to keep a school running, you might get a hundred  or so teachers to block local roads, but otherwise not a big deal. Americans, if they had time to think about Honduras, might think "what's the big deal? our schools are controlled locally, it's not so bad". The difference here is that there is a huge, no cosmic or epic, disparity in wealth. Classes are easily separated and the wealthy typically make an effort to disassociate themselves from the other 99% of the population. The wealthy send their children to pricey, bi-lingual schools to prepare their children for universities abroad or medical school here. The rest of the public, if they can afford school uniforms, send their children to public schools where classrooms are completely out of control, even when the teachers show up. Some towns have just enough industry to keep the people fed.

    Public school teachers are saying that the "decentralization" of schools will end public education. I don't 100% agree with that, but it will certainly take pressure off the federal government to educate children. I'm not sure if or how the feds will subsidize schools, but corruption here is out of control and every time money changes hands, there's a very good chance that some or all of it will disappear. Sending money from the federal government to local school officials puts a lot more hands in the loop.

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