Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cell phone stupidities

Living in the second poorest country in the Americas I expect problems – blackouts, water shortages, occasional fuel shortages, etc.

But now throughout Honduras many of us are experiencing problems with our cell phones that are not a part of what one might expect in a poor country but are due to the stupidity and narrow-mindedness of legislators.

The law was passed in December by the National Party-controlled lame duck congress, probably at the instigation of the current president who had said that he would do whatever has to be done, especially in terms of crime.

There is a problem with cellphones in prisons. From my visits I have seen many cell phones. But one of the problems that has been noted in the press and by the politicians is that gang leaders in prison have cell phones and can direct their gangs from prison. Some say they can also use the phones for extortion.

So, in an effort to show they are serious about violence, the legislators passed a law that has the cell phone companies block calls from the prisons in the country.

There is a technology – from Israel, a friend wrote me – that can be installed in a  prison to block calls.

But instead of investing in this, the legislators demand that cell phones within one kilometer of a prison must be blocked by the cell phone companies. That is very difficult. In fact, many people in the country are without cell phone coverage. Here in some parts of Santa Rosa there is no signal and in other parts calls are cut off after a few seconds. It’s frustrating.

The other problem is that people live within one kilometer of the prisons. The prisons are not in completely isolated areas. Here in Santa Rosa the prison in a poor neighborhood, at the outskirts of the city but not far from the center of town.

And so people are rightfully upset.

People near the prison outside Tegucigalpa blocked the four lane highway in protest.

What did the government do? Blame the victims! One government official claims that organized crime is behind the protests.

Probably not. They’re probably just people fed up with the stupidity and stinginess of legislators who want to look serious about fighting crime.

I guess it’s just another example of the lack of justice here and how people suffer here, especially the poor.

ADDENDUM: February 14, 2014:
There's an explanation of what is happening at Honduras Culture and Politics here.

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