Thursday, December 1, 2011

Culture Wars

Parts of the National Party hate Porfirio Lobo Sosa's government of "unity"; it has a small number of cabinet Ministers from the other political parties.

The reason they hate it, and continue to call for the removal of all Ministers who are not National Party members, is that Ministers hire employees to positions within the Ministry.

In Honduras, those jobs are treated as the spoils of the party in power. Thus, the logic is that all employees at all Ministries (who are not protected under civil service laws) should be active supporters of the party in power.

So it galls National Party loyalists like Ricardo Alvarez that non-party members control a few of Lobo Sosa's Ministries. On November 23 he again called for the removal of Jacobo Regalado (Agriculture and Cattle), Rigoberto Cuellar (Natural Resources), Bernard Martinez (Culture, Art, and Sports), Cesar Ham (National Agrarian Institute), and Felicito Avila (Labor).

Porfirio Lobo Sosa told the press to "pay no attention to Alvarez," but of course, the Honduran media, like their colleagues elsewhere, like a good dispute.

The most recently aggrieved Nationalists are 80 or so who were let go by the Minister of Culture, Art, and Sports (SCAD), Bernard Martinez.

These were all from the division overseen by the Vice Minister of Sports, Godfredo Fajardo. Martinez attempted to fire Fajardo (who recently admitted to working only 2 days a week) in July. At the time, Martinez took back all responsibility for the Sports division, including hiring and firing. He let these 80 National Party members go in July, then reportedly hired back 10 National Party members, filling the remaining positions with 70 or so members of his own PINU party.

Lobo Sosa forced Martinez and Fajardo to make up after the July blow up, but the rift is still there.

On November 28, the Nationalist Party members fired from SCAD went to complain to the party Central Committee, saying that the party was not doing enough to control the "spoils" of governing and not rewarding enough party members with jobs.

On November 29, Godfredo Fajardo started a hunger strike in support of the fired SCAD workers. Fajardo is demanding the firing of Minister Bernard Martinez and, in an unusual, perhaps unprecedented move, also called for his own firing.

Tony Sierra, the Vice Minister for Culture, told a prosecutor for human rights that he was frustrated because the Minister had not let him carry out a single one of the projects for which they have plans and a budget.
"No projects have been carried out because the Minister has not approved them. I have told him I don't agree with some of his actions; I don't understand."

Nothing is happening in the Sports division under Fajardo either, because the Minister appropriated his budget. Fajardo, who is a bit vulgar, said of his connection with SCAD, "I only come to pee."

Complaints to the Human Rights Prosecutor's office from other SCAD employees include not being paid for four months at a time, death threats, intimidation, and abuse of funds.

El Heraldo reported Wednesday that the Tribunal Supremo de Cuentas will cite both Bernardo Martinez and Godfredo Fajardo for what appear to be improperly supported expenditures of their budget.

In Martinez's case, it's 2 million lempiras ($105,000.00) for which there is no paperwork supporting the expenditure. For Fajardo, the problem is 87,000 lempiras (about $4,600) he received in expense reimbursements without supporting paperwork or reports on the business purpose of the expenditure. Fajardo specifically is billing the government for travel to the matches of a boxer he manages.

Both will have 60 days from being cited to clarify the legality of the expenditures.

Lobo Sosa has reiterated over and over again that his government will close out in 2014 with the same political parties represented in it as he started with. He told the press:
"As my government began, that's how it will terminate with members of different parties, if some leave to campaign we will substitute for them someone from the same party."

What does that mean if Martinez is found to have mismanaged the Ministry of Culture? Either he will continue-- presumably with the same undistinguished record seen to date-- or Porfirio Lobo Sosa will have to identify a second PINU member for whom there is some rationale as a new candidate. Considering the murkiness of the qualifications Martinez had for the position, that should be a really interesting second act, politically.

Unfortunately, though, in the meantime the people of Honduras are no longer getting any of the benefits they should be able to expect from this government agency.

1 comment:

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Thanks for an insightful post - as usual.
The system of "spoils" of war for the party that won the election is one of the worst parts of the system here in Honduras. It promotes corruption and cronyism. It also is inefficient since the "new" employees of the Ministries have to learn what they need to do and by the time they know what to do (or pretend to) they are replaced by new "employees" since there has been a new election and new people and party in power.