Monday, January 20, 2014

Central America News Roundup Sept 21, 2011: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua

article from September 21, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

Guatemala

The elections are headed for a runoff. On Sept 11, a massive 66% of 7.3 million eligible voters went to the polls for the general elections, which were to determine the presidency, the vice presidency, members of Congress and the Central American parliament as well as municipal elections. As usual, there were some shenanigans leading up to the elections, such as the wife of President Álvaro Colom, Sandra Torres, divorcing her husband in order to circumvent Article 186(c) of the constitution, which explicitly forbids relatives of the current president from participating in the presidential election. Nice try; but in the end, she was called out on her little gimmick. (Good thing for Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from Argentina that there is no such law on the books there, where the husband-and-wife team was set to rule indefinitely in a laughable presidential relay, had Néstor not suddenly perished before he could take up the baton again.) The runoff will pit the two top vote winners, Otto Pérez Molina from the Patriotic Party (36.02%) and Manuel Baldizón of the renewed Democratic Liberty Party (23.21%), against each other. The runoff will be held November 6, 2011.

El Salvador

El Salvador is dealing with the pesticides used by the large multinationals operating there with impunity, having destroyed and contaminated a large portion of the nation’s water supply. Heavy metals are present in concentrations of more than one million times the norm. The presence of arsenic and other poisons lead to birth defects and a slow wasting away for the victims affected.

Unfortunately, crime is still a major problem in this small country, with every week counting more record-numbers of murders, armed robberies, assaults and rapes. Peace please!

Honduras

Honduras has been in the grip of a crime wave of its own for many years now, and it seems to have spilled over onto the formerly relatively peaceful Bay Islands, where recently, an Australian was shot in his spine for parking his bicycle in the bushes and obviously displeasing someone. Like El Salvador, the police forces are corrupt and incompetent, with the number of crimes solved hovering around 12%. It is the petty crimes that are being solved, while the narco-related murders are committed with impunity. I personally get the creeps every time I have to pass through Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. To compound the worsening situation, the leading crusader against police corruption, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez, has resigned his portfolio after meeting with President Porfirio Lobo on Sept 10. I feel that his departure was not entirely voluntary, as he has been a source of irritation to the many corrupt police commanders blanketing the country. The good news is that they did not just assassinate him. It is rumored that he was forced to resign because top officials felt their major source of wealth was being threatened.

Nicaragua

Last weekend, Nicaragua celebrated Volks Fest, with over 90 different Volkswagen Beetles cruising the streets of Managua. The parade was made up of 40 Nicaraguan Bugs, as well as another 50 from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Many different models were seen, including the old VW camper, the 23-window van, Brazilian-made vans and the ever-popular Cabriolet.

President Daniel Ortega promised credit to a half a million campesinos along with 150,000 land titles during an appearance in Chichigalpa, in a blatant attempt to tilt the outcome of the coming election. Under cloudy skies that turned into a massive downpour, forcing the cancellation of the rest of the event, Ortega, accompanied by a few ministers as well as his wife, children and grandchildren, made the usual pre-election promises politicians all over the world make: A chicken in every pot – and so forth. I am sure all the poor campesinos have heard it all before, but the prospect of having their very own parcel of land will surely have them voting him back into office.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where that Fine Malbec wine is ever present! Salud!

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.