Friday, June 12, 2009

Stir It Up

Author's note: I had planned to post this on the 9th but the internet did not cooperate.

Here we are, almost 10 days into the hurricane season and people are actually not looking at the sky. Oh, sure, even before June started, they were scrutinizing the mearest cloud, all worried frowns and pinched mouths. May was unusually rainy. But now, they seem to have almost forgotten the seasonal threat for a more immediat if familiar one.

Students are rioting, you see. What had started months ago as a low grumble has now spread through four different colleges. Discontented voices have become angry and confrontational protesters.

At first, it was to denounce the disconcerting changes in one school's program has become a rally around the recent law to raise the minimum wage.

You know how things happen in this country. We're one year into the Hope law and nothing seems to be moving forward. And now that the law is voted, increasing the daily minimum wage from 72 to 200 gourdes ($1.85 to $4.97 USD), everybody is upset. Industrials say they will have to fire half their personnel (a meager 25,000 factory workers). The more vocal senators and representatives are talking about " social injustices being righted". Economists are reiterating their calls to caution, competitivity with our neighbors and a progressive increase rather than a one-time boom.

The government, on the other hand, is silent. But that's how Rinse Repeat rolls. Mum's the word as a communication policy. You should try it. Really.

Of course, this whole wage debate isn't recent. Back on May 1st, while at the annual Agricultural Fair on the main square, protesters in favor of a 500gdes minimum had invested the plaza. A bit scary but this nice avocado grower explained to me, sotto voce, that she agreed with them. Things were too hard, these days, she said, and people need the money.

But now, the difference is that the alleged students are throwing rocks and burning cars. I'm on my fourth day of tear gas fumes. Yes, I live close enough to one faculty to enjoy the benefits of democracy in action.There's nothing like home, indeed.

The simple truth is we are not happy. There's the fact that the patch-up school year is closing with an upcoming gas rise (on top of the last one). And that several neighborhoods in the metropolitan area are without any electricity after suspicious fires at two major plants.

And before that, there were the elections, played out to an almost empty theatre. In the capital, anyway. The rest of the country seems to have been motivated enough. If you can call more or less 10% of voter turn-out a "success". I didn't vote but I do wonder *where* the government found the 5 MILLION dollars they contributed to the 16 MILLION DOLLAR budget. Act two, scene 1 is at the end of the month. (as if we care)

And even before that, there was the gas crisis of the New Year, and before that, the 2008 hurricane victims who are still waiting for help, and bridges, around the country.

Rumor has it that the next step is to as Rinse Repeat to step down.

Nope, we're not happy. Not happy at all.