ESTA ES SU CASA--DECEMBER 2009
Finally! Elections in Honduras!
And the winner is...Pepe Lobo, the National Party candidate, by a landslide, over the Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos, the empty suit I called an Elvis impersonator in my dispatches last year when he won the nomination. Pepe Lobo is no empty suit--I won’t say what he is full of, but I call him Pepe Lodo, which means ‘mud,’ or a similar substance. It was to be expected, since Mel Zelaya, the president ousted in a coup last June 28, was a Liberal. Elvin saw it coming, he had to have, as he tried desperately to distance himself from Mel’s disgrace, even though he had started out as Mel’s vice-president till he quit to run for president himself. Oh, you’re gonna love Pepe, he makes Sarah Palin look like Ralph Nader. It’s Mel’s ultimate revenge--You guys didn’t want me to let me be president for life, well, four years of Pepe will seem like an eternity!
You know, they call Honduras a “banana republic.” More like a banana peel! And the latest to slip was Mel Zelaya himself. I ended the November CASA with the hopeful news of an agreement to end the crisis. Mel, the ousted president, signed on, Micheletti, the “de facto” president, signed on. The U.S. A. loved it. The whole world was thrilled. The “spirit” of the agreement suggested Mel’s return to power, certainly, but left the actual decision up to the national Congress, after consulting with the Supreme Court, the Electoral Tribunal, and the Armed Forces. And all parties agreed to recognize the winner of the November 29 elections. Somebody must have taken Mel aside and pointed out, You know what you’ve done? You just legitimized all the institutions you defied before: the Supreme Court that ordered your arrest, the Congress that replaced you with Micheletti, the Electoral Tribunal that ruled your Cuarta Urna unconstitutional, and the Army that FedExed you out of the country. While Micheletti dithered about scheduling any vote in Congress for restoration, the U.S. State Department “clarified” its support for the elections--that is, with or without Mel’s reinstatement. Mel cried foul and urged a boycott of the elections. “Obama stabbed me in the back! I wouldn’t accept reinstatement now, even if ya begged me!” Obama, in his unflappable style, just applied the diplomatic equivalent of Ritalin and looked the other way.
So we hobbled along till this past Sunday, November 29, the nicest day we’ve had in a month--sunny, pretty clouds dotting a blue sky, comfortable breezes blowing, a lovely day. I went up to the school early to see if any people really were voting. Many people, thoroughly disillusioned, had simply sworn off the whole process this time. But, by golly, folks were voting! Mostly old folks and women at first, and eventually younger voters and even some of the “resistencia.” Throughout the country turnout exceeded all expectations--over 60%--and most welcome of all, there was no violence.
Micheletti, who’s been in politics longer than Obama’s been alive, may have outsmarted him. Lookit, we had the elections and Mel’s not coming back, despite the “official” U.S. position that Micheletti is an illegitimate “golpista,” a coup plotter. (And don’t get me wrong, Micheletti is intolerable, the usurper with the Santa smile.) But even Micheletti, the Liberal lion, wasn’t counting on Pepe’s victory. See, Mel’s whole idea was to wreck the elections, and Micheletti’s whole idea was to “save” them. But, save them for Pepe? On the other hand, even the kids around here like Chemo love Pepe! They’ve seen too many “Die Hard” movies; they think Pepe is Bruce Willis, he’s gonna clean out the gangs and the bad guys. Indeed, as a cartoon hero, Pepe is perfect.
Lots of countries are still refusing to recognize the elections, because Mel remains outside. On the other hand, even President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, the original negotiator solicited by Hillary Clinton for the “dialog” between Mel and Micheletti, finally said, What the heck--if the elections come off clean, why not recognize the winner? You know, it’s strange. As Obama has said, democracy is “not just elections.” So when will the world community say to a country--Honduras would be a prime example--we won’t recognize your government till your children are no longer victims of Ignorance and Want (the urchins ‘neath the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Check them out in the new Jim Carrey version.) By that standard, very few nations have any claim to make.
Speaking of Charles Dickens, “Bleak House”--a 900-page novel without a plot--was the perfect accompaniment to our endless odyssey with Chemo’s sister Rosa in hopes of heart surgery. In both cases, I kept waiting for something to happen. You can’t say Dickens does not warn you; the book opens in a fog that never lifts. I sort of felt the same way. Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the ‘case’ stalled in Chancery for decades, serves only to enrich the lawyers. In our case, our three-week trek to Tocoa, to Tegucigalpa, and back to Tocoa served mainly to profit every bus, restaurant, hotel, and taxi driver along our route.
Let me repeat some information, because not everyone got my little updates on Rosa.
I had prayed to conform my mind to the will of God, whether for Rosa’s life--or death. I was not prepared for “Wait.” But you can’t say Dr. Christian Gilbert, like Dickens, didn’t warn us. He was alarmed, in that doctorly, sober kind of way, at Rosa’ s gravity. She’s got a mitral valve like the Lincoln Tunnel. He had brought a replacement valve with him from Memphis, but finally he doubted Rosa’s strength and his own skill for success. Cautioned no doubt by the very sad deaths of two children during the brigada, little hearts that could not be fixed, he postponed Rosa till January, when the brigada returns.
I finished ‘Bleak House,’ with room to spare. There is a story, even it there’s barely a plot, and it’s the story of the poor and what they suffer, even from their supposed ‘benefactors.’ Dragging Rosa and her husband Tonio all over creation for nothing in particular, I sort of felt maybe it was my story. And some of you made such sacrifices to ease our expenses, I was embarrassed at my empty hands. But, thinking always of your kindnesses, I kept a happy face and never suggested I was headed for debtor’s prison! Chemo was our guide, he never tired of the arcade at the mall, even though a couple grenades had been discovered in the restrooms. We visited the hilltop zoo and the big statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. We went to a museum (OK, that was a mistake), and we ate four times a day. Rosa, the skinniest one among us, never got full!
Surely Dr. Gilbert made the right decision, and may not be ready to risk the operation even in January. You know, if you saw the Hospital Escuela, where Rosa’s surgery was scheduled, you’d bar the door, too. (Chemo was operated on at the Seguro Hospital, a more modern semi-private facility.) The place looks like a set from ‘Children of Men,’ or the Titanic, after the sinking. It’s a greasy, rusty, sordid mess. Talk about embarrassing! It’s the shame of Honduras, where I have yet to hear a politician propose the construction of a new hospital, and most of them--including Mel, Micheletti, or Pepe or Elvin Santos, who OWNS the biggest mall in Tegucigalpa--could finance a dozen hospitals out of their personal fortunes. The real heroes are the doctors and nurses who work in impossible conditions to save some lives. As we were checking Rosa into the hospital, a process which for some strange reason, runs through the emergency room, the young, unperturbable doctor Karen Herrera, filling the forms, had to jump up at least three times, to help revive a man who coded, to tend a gunshot victim escorted by the police who shot him, and a man with some ghastly wound on his foot. I thought, dear God! Rosa’s gonna need surgery just to get out of this room! I swear the cop’s gun actually brushed my arm as he was holding his prey in place. This’d be great, I thought, if the victim’s buddies come in here to rescue him, guns blazing....
Once she was in, it was not that easy to visit Rosa the next day. The woman at the gate was not going to let us in, that is, all three of us--Tonio, Chemo, and me--till she mentioned Tonio’s ‘sombrero,’ and I said, “Like Mel!” And she corked up and pumped her fist in the air, “Suba Mel! Suba Mel!” Up with Mel! Up with Mel! I had another phrase in mind for Mel, also involving the word ‘up,’ but I took the hint and echoed her enthusiasm. When she said, How about the folks in Tocoa, they’re with Mel, right? “They love him!” I lied. Mel, as the massive vote for Pepe just showed, is anything but popular up there. But it got us in.
That’s what I mean by the good folks forced to work in a snakepit. She was a sweetie, under the crust. Just like the good woman with rings on each finger and red make-up who let us in with our little band of blood donors. Ron Roll, the founder, with his wife Alba, of Helping Hands that sponsors the heart surgery brigada, had said, in his inimitable malapropism, “Miguel, I don’t know if they need 5 or 6 gallons,” when I asked how many pints we had to get. We started with Tonio, arriving about 6 a.m. to get in line and we spent all morning waiting in more lines. Tonio told them, “Take two pints!” and I wish they could have. The next day I got there at 5:00 a.m. with 3 more donors, but only one qualified, and it still took all morning. The one who qualified, Karla, from Las Vegas now living in Tegucigalpa, recruited 4 of her neighbors for the next day, and this time I got there at 4:00 and was almost first in line. I held the spot till the others showed up at 5:30, as we arranged, and that’s when we needed help. Delmys had just turned 18, the minimum age for donation, and she didn’t have her I.D. yet, just the receipt. Somehow I talked the woman at the window outside into accepting that, and then the nurse at the blood bank itself inside. They COULD have cut us off without a chance, but you could just see they really did want to help us. And they found a way. It is the will of God, I think, touching our heart. And in the hospital, a pastor and his wife came and offered to pray over Rosa. And they did touch her heart.
And Chemo was on TV! The most popular newshow, “Abriendo Brecha” (loosely translated, ‘Showing the Way’) invited Ron Roll and the president of the Rotary Club, also a sponsor of the brigada, and three kids, a 2-year-old and and an 8 year-old and their daddies, and Chemo. I don’t think they understood that I was Chemo’s daddy, but that was OK because I could snap photos of the big-screen TV in the lobby of the studio. Chemo did not speak, but I loved the way Ron Roll placed his hand on Chemo’s shoulder.
Once we got Rosa back home to Tocoa, with quick visits to two doctors and Rufina (Rosa, Chemo, and Marcos’ mother), Chemo and I returned to Las Vegas, bringing along Chemo’s brother Marcos, just as we did last year. Then word came that my computer was ready for pickup--in Tegucigalpa. I mentioned last month it had been damaged by some window-shopper who tried to pull it out of my house. Miraculously, Apple honored the warranty, still in effect, for repairs that would have cost at least $500.00, replacing the screen and the keyboard. And it works, well, better than new! But it meant another trip to Tegucigalpa. I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and fulfill my promise to Pablito and Chepito if they passed fourth grade to take them to the big city. So, with Chemo and Marcos, we were 5. One cab driver had to say, Listen, if you see any police, one of you duck down--four in the rear seat is illegal! As soon as we got there, I got my MacBook, then to the mall for shoes and pants and shirts for everyone. Pablito had completely walked off the soles of his Keds and Chepito’s were mere strips. We checked into the hotel, one room, two big beds--I was not about to let them have a room to themselves! and headed back to the mall, for Pizza Hut and the arcade. The next day we saw “2012” at the movies--which, you’d have to say, in Honduras, the effect of the end of the world would be negligible, but its endless scenes of destruction bored even these kids. Elio and Mema graciously accepted our invitation to lunch the next day, and patiently advised the boys to stay with school, work hard, respect Miguel. We went to the zoo (where my digital camera stopped working and it is NOT under warranty) and the big Jesus. And the arcade, and we ate four times a day. So I guess I spent that $500.00 after all....
But if you want excess, try Facebook. On second thought, don’t! Somebody hacked into my account and started launching spam--like I don’t gas enough myself!--I was so mad I logged on at the first opportunity and canceled my account, period. I never really “got” Facebook. So somebody made a sandwich, that’s wonderful. And I never did find my “wall.” But I was happy to find long-lost friends, so if you’re still hooked up and someone wonders what happened to Dulick, give them my email address, please, or direct them to my blog, michaeldulick.blogspot.com.
From “Bleak House”: “The poor only may and can, or shall and will be reclaimed according to somebody’s theory but nobody’s practice.” But then there’s Mrs. Bagnet: “She receives Good to her arms without a hint that it might be Better and catches light from any little spot of darkness near her.” And there is even a Rosa in the book, with her “pretty village face,” just like Chemo’s sister.