Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bribing: the tip of the iceberg

Wednesday I went out to several villages in the parish of Dulce Nombre to check on several applicants for scholarships for the alternative education project Maestro en Casa.

On the road to Dulce Nombre, at the turn off to Gracias, there is usually a police checkpoint. In the last few weeks there have been about 4-6 police and 6-8 soldiers.

Occasionally I am pulled over and a few questions asked. Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you doing? At times they ask to see my license and car registration. Occasionally they pull me over and, when they see my gringo face, they wave me on.

Yesterday was different.

The policeman asked me where I was going. I told him I was going to Delicias, Concepción. I showed him my documents. Then he asked me for a contribution – for un fresco [soda/pop], he said. I ignored his request.

He asked me what I do. I told him I worked for the church. He asked me again and I repeated it. He then again asked for a contribution. I again ignored him. He asked again about working for the Catholic Church.

Finally he waved me on.

I guess my delaying and ignoring his request for a bribe worked – for the time being.

Some might be indignant about such a request. But it is just a small part of the corruption here.

The corruption often takes the form of skimming off the top of funding for projects.

But it also takes the form of giving projects to those whom one knows – cronyism. In a relational-based culture, that might be expected. One rewards those whom one knows; it doesn’t matter on one’s qualifications.

There are also cases in which aid is distributed depending on one’s political party and one’s involvement with promotion of that party.

In addition, employment may be given depending on one’s affiliation or one’s family ties. This happens not just in governmental institutions but also in the private sector – and even invades the non-profit sector.

There are any number of other instances of corruption which I won’t detail here.

But I wonder whether corruption flourishes here in Honduras partly because of the massive poverty where people are left without means to survive and so look to someone outside to help and rescue them. It might also flourish because of the way that government officials and organizations – including some charities and some international aid agencies – come in with the “solutions” and give them to people, thereby “earning” (or paying for) their support.

It’s complicated, but I believe the way to diminish corruption is to help the people develop a sense that they don’t need to be indebted to others for charity or development. They can organize, form groups that work in terms of solidarity.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

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