Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hunger Strike-Another BREAK in the Wall

October 22nd, 2009

“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no false control. No dark sarcasm in the classroom. Teacher leave them kids alone. HEY TEACHER LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!!! All in all it’s just another brick in the wall. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall!”

(Kids in a mixed southern redneck/British accent):

“We don’t need no education. We don’t need no false control. No dark sarcasm in the classroom. Teachers leave those kids alone. HEY TECHERS LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”

Apparently the educators in San Juan have been listening to classic Pink Floyd as of late and heeding the song's advice both literally and figuratively. As if skipping class every time it drizzles weren't enough, classes have been canceled indefinitely and 4 of the dedicated are protesting with a hunger strike outside the town cathedral. A few brave souls are trying to tear down the wall that is being constructed around them.

So here is a rundown of the situation, as I understand it:

Disclaimer: The following is a summary of the views and opinions of a few Colorado supporters in the town of San Juan Bautista. By no means is it fair and balanced, as I have not received the opposite perspective on the issue. I am simply relating what has been told to me, and am in no way supporting one side over the other. Please do not read this as pure fact and understand that if I talked to members from the other side, I would likely receive a very different story. If this were American television, this would be like the Fox News segment, except at least I’m telling you up front that it’s not “fair and balanced.” Unfortunately my cable doesn’t include CNN or CNBC, so I can’t provide you with the other perspective. I’m relating the events from the perspective of a few people I had conversations with, and am not making any political statements whatsoever. By reading this you agree to not republish this in any way and also understand that I cannot be punished or held responsible for anything stated in the following paragraphs.

When the government changed parties last year for the first time in 60 years, they started yanking people from their positions, replacing them with inexperienced Liberal party members. This has resulted in some chaos and frustration. What complicates the situation is that for no reason other than party affiliation, many leadership positions were changed yet the employees underneath them stayed the same. These employees are often very loyal Colorados and are left to follow someone with different political ideals and whom they deem as very inexperienced, often incompetent.

Paraguay has a history and culture of being VERY CORRUPT. The Colorados have had their 60-year reign of control and now it’s the Liberales turn to claim power, stuff their pockets with dirty money, and doll out jobs to family members and friends.

So a particular Education Coordinator was instated. The teachers, historically mostly Colorado, have major issues with this new coordinator, who they claim is incompetent and illogical. She has been making some illogical changes they don’t like, firing people, replacing them with family and friends, and even creating positions for family members, in which they do nothing apart from collect a check.

A few Colorados even related to me that the coordinator is a Chavista(supporter of Chavez) and is pushing a socialist agenda.

They want this Coordinator fired and replaced. 4 dedicated women have gone on hunger strike to elevate the issue, and all teachers are on strike. During nights there are gatherings in front of the cathedral, where outspoken citizens yell over the sound system announcing their grievances and calling for immediate action.

I’m just glad to see community action to change something they’re not happy with. Paraguay isn’t too far from the days where it was illegal to meet in groups, and people who expressed dissatisfaction with the government had a decent chance of mysteriously disappearing. Though they still have a long way to go, a lot of progress has been made towards creating a more democratic and transparent political process in Paraguay.

Update: After about 8 days, the strike has ended, kids are back in class, and the women are once again stuffing their stomachs with greasy, salty and fried Paraguayan food. Apparently, someone from the government called and told them they were going to comply with their wishes and to call off the strike. They are in negotiations now.

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