Friday, January 31, 2014

The Death of Culture

Honduras no longer has a Secretary of State in Culture, Art, and Sports. The carcass that the last two mismanaging Ministers of Culture left will be picked over for the bits that the Hernández government feels are effective and can be used to further its goals and missions, and the rest will be dumped.

It's not that this comes as a complete surprise.

We've been vocal about the rampant neglect of the last two Culture ministers under the Lobo Sosa administration. There was the one with the strange notion of what culture is, and the one for whom culture is to sponsor street fairs at which folk dancing and his beloved chess are taught.  Both let the ministry stagnate, and become irrelevant.

So when Jorge Ramon Hernandez Alcerro announced today that it would disappear, along with the Secretariates of Justice and Human Rights, Tourism, and Planning, few should have been surprised. 

The Hernández administration chose to model their government re-organization after the reorganization carried out by Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

But Ecuador still has a Ministry of Culture.  Honduras will not.

In not having a cabinet-level Minister of Culture, Honduras will become unique in Latin America.

In some countries this role is combined with the Ministry of Education; in others it is a stand alone Ministry; in still others it's paired with Tourism; but everyone else has one.

Not Honduras; not any more.

Hernandez Alcerro tells us not to worry about the abolished ministries, because this does not mean that their missions and functions necessarily will be going away.

Each will be picked apart, broken up, and the parts deemed effective will continue.  But they will be assigned to a lower level, headed by non-cabinet functionaries within the new super ministries.

The breakup of Culture will be the responsibility of Alden Rivera, Minister of Competitiveness and Employment, the place that the functions of this former ministry have been assigned in the new cabinet structure.

This decision will be even more consequential than the demotion in level of administration in changing the role of the remaining entities forming part of the former ministry of culture-- including the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia.

Rivera has said he has 21 institutions assigned to his ministry, and he will be reducing them to twelve over the next several weeks. Some, like Tourism, will become Institutes.

The mission of all twelve of the surviving institutions, according to Rivera, will be to
serve the Nation in terms of economic services and to stimulate the labor of the businesses and entrepreneurs to have a transforming effect for the country.

This mission is a far cry from the role of the now dissolved ministry, which during its earlier history worked to increase the appreciation of the Honduran people for their own history and culture, and supported non-governmental institutions and efforts to preserve, develop, and share knowledge about those topics nationally and internationally.

It is that role that has made cabinet-level offices of culture universal in Latin America.

But not in Honduras, now.

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