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Maduro emphasizes continuity in Honduras

Eva Binda | Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For Ricardo Maduro Joest, implementing institutional reform, addressing social problems and fighting crime were at the top of his priority list during his four years as president of Honduras, he said in a lecture Monday.

From 2002 to January 2006, Maduro tried to establish democratic institutions in a poor country without going to extremes and causing more problems, he said in his talk entitled “New Democracies, Poverty, and Governance.”

While addressing the broader political and economic issues in Latin America, Maduro’s administration also focused on the problems of tax evasion, the virtual immunity of politicians and the troubles with “maras,” or youth street gangs which attacked poor people living in their own neighborhoods, he said.

“Narcotic traffic remains the biggest problem,” he said. “Honduras is located in between the producing countries and the consuming country – the United States.”

The key to fixing such problems – and to create lasting change while forming a credible government – is continuity, Maduro said.

“Unless you have principled leadership, such as that at Notre Dame, unless you participate, there is no possibility for continuity,” he said.

Maduro said continuity is often difficult in Latin American countries because of the conflicts in policy from one government to the next.

“Whenever a new government comes to power, [the ruling party] will put its own people into government jobs,” he said. “In the past, whatever party won the presidency would automatically get a majority in Congress because a vote for a president was automatically a vote for the other candidates [for other positions] of his party.”

Though Maduro never expected to become involved in politics, he decided to run for president shortly after his son was kidnapped and killed.

The future of Honduras, Maduro said, relies greatly on the continued creation of continuity and freedom from corruption.

Currently Honduras is growing at a rate of 5 percent a year, according to Maduro.

Honduras’ economy also plays a large role, Maduro said, specifically discussing the industry of remittances and the approximately $2.5 billion that Hondurans in the United States send to their families still in Latin America.

For a country with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $7.5 billion, the remittances have an “enormous impact,” he said.

Raised in a privileged family, Maduro – a member of the advisory board for Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies and former president of Honduras’ Central Bank – said people who have the privileges of education and wealth have a responsibility to help the poor and improve the country.

This is especially important, he said, in impoverished countries like Honduras where less than three percent of the population pursue University-level educations. Unlike many Hondurans, Maduro was able to attend Lawrenceville School, an exclusive preparatory school in New Jersey, and Stanford University.

To promote education among Honduran youth, Maduro said he started a community pre-schooling program to improve primary education and added a program to provide lunch for students during the school day.

Maduro said that participation from educated people is what is needed to enact change.

“The most lasting and profound source of happiness is service,” he said.