Bizarro Laws in a Bizzaro Place
[private] Living in Honduras can sometimes be reminisced of living in a Bizarro World–a comic book cube-shaped planet where everything is done in reverse. Honduras, at least once a year, becomes the bizarre country-planet of the Latin Universe.
When the Honduran government announced a time change measure, I believed it was a joke. No other country so close to the equator has even considered doing so. Honduras did it in 2006, then just abandoned the idea in 2007. Maybe it will be back this year. I wouldn’t bet against it.
For 2008 it seems, the bizzaro idea named “Hoy no circula” was to prevent drivers from using their cars on one day a week. For the first week in April, Honduran car owners spent hours waiting in queues for car stickers, searching for documents, and deciding what they will do without their vehicles on their designated day. I know people who were already planning to swap stickers, discussing how much would they have to bribe the police, etc.
The “Hoy no circula” solution was to be the Zelaya’s government way out of a campaign promise to provide a fuel subsidy. Since President Mel Zelaya was elected to office, the Lps. 4 a gallon fuel subsidy has been eating away at his budget. The way it is currently structured, the government subsidizes inefficient, fuel-gouging vehicles much more than economical ones.
The price of a gallon of fuel in the country, currently at Lps. 83, carries a Honduran government subsidy of Lps. 4. While I fill my tank of gas with 15 gallons I receive a Lps. 60 gift from the Honduran government. I’ve always felt that I don’t need any subsidies. If I, or anyone else, wants to buy 1,000 gallons of fuel, why should any government subsidize one cent? They shouldn’t.
While the “Hoy no circula” law was meant to introduce a savings to the Honduran government, it only exposed the bizarre lack of priorities and lack of sensible thinking by the country’s leaders. The cost of printing, shipping, guarding and distributing the stickers has run into millions of Lps.
Before the country’s supreme court ruled the “Hoy no circula” law unconstitutional on April 11, the government was ready to create a bureaucratic nightmare, to add to the country’s security problem, and to increase corruption pressures on police.
Bizzare laws like “Hoy no circula” provide Honduran police with constant pressure to let people slide – for a fee. “Hoy no circula” created a security concern as many families on the mainland rely on their cars to provide them with not only efficient but secure transport.
Honduras is now leading Latin America in homicide rates; and world prices of rice, a major staple for the 3 million Honduran poor, have doubled. Just 20 miles from Roatan, lawless crime has turned La Ceiba into a smaller version of San Pedro Sula. The upcoming years will likely create additional financial stress on the 50% plus of Hondurans living in poverty. Honduras government priorities should focus on improving security and stabilizing food prices, not on creating legal chaos. [/private]