I was good at understanding how things worked in Canada, or thought I was.
In Honduras, I often feel like a visitor from another planet. I do a blog for volunteers in Honduras, and for anyone interested in development issues, mostly aggregating content. That involves scanning the news sources and blogs and websites.
Today, Front Line Defenders, a credible Irish human rights group, had a post about Donny Reyes, an activist for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) rights in Honduras. That's dangerous. At least 60 people in the community have been murdered in the last two years. Reyes has already suffered some brutal repercussions for his efforts.
Last month Reyes was tracked from his Tegicugalpa home by a man on a motorcycle, who he says was trying to kill him. He went to a rights organization, and they made an official complaint to the police so he could be escorted to a safe place. (He's already been granted protection, but it hasn't resulted in action.) The rights organization arranged a meeting the next day with police and a lawyer in the National State Security Agency. But 30 minutes before the meeting, the Human Rights Unit of the state security agency called and said they couldn't send anyone, because there was no gas for their official cars.
The rights organization offered to buy gas, but the unit said that would be unethical.
Five days later, Front Line Defenders reports, the Under Secretary of State wrote saying she was unhappy with the events.
"Firstly I want to tell how how sorry I am for this impasse which developed and which absolutely should never be allowed to happen again. I was out of the country at the time and was not notified of the problem which was caused by the fact that the garage which supplies petrol to the National Security Agency refused to give any more petrol because they had not been paid, a problem which is being resolved at this moment. However I acknowledge that this is not a valid reason for failing to deal with such a serious issue.
"I believe that your case was not adequately dealt with by the staff in my office and I have in the past left instructions that in these situations they can use the car which has been assigned for my personal use. We are taking all necessary steps to remedy this situation and I urge you to contact this office to reschedule the meeting as soon as possible."
It's fair to be skeptical about the explanation. But, based on seven months here, it's also possible that there was no gas. (OK, probably not.)
The private contractor that provides dialysis turned away patients this week, because the government hasn't paid its bills. Roadwork halted across the country last week, because contractors hadn't seen government cheques in five months. (In neighbouring El Salvador, the government has announced it doesn't have the cash to issue tax refund cheques, hardly an incentive to pay taxes.)
It's a land of weird stories.
Today, Nicaraguan police reported finding $7 million in smuggled cash hidden in six vans that were supposed to be carrying a Mexican TV crew with varying explanations of what they were to report on. They had cameras and satellite dishes and some of the vans had TV station logos. But come on. What TV stations sends six vans and 18 people 1,600 kilometres to cover a story?
The vans and the money had passed through Honduras. Nobody in this country, or on the border, apparently considered the convoy of TV trucks suspicious.