Friday, April 18, 2008

The earth is moving but the buses are not

As long as we are talking about buses… The big news in El Salvador this week is that the buses held a 24-hour protest strike Wednesday. Here’s the problem in a nutshell:

Gas is at an average of $4.15 a gallon here. The bus tariffs are regulated by the government and have held steady at $0.25. The bus companies have been paying more and more in gas, but unable to legally raise tariffs. The government is hesitant to allow the raise in tariffs because* if they were to do so it could be held up as another indicator that the cost of living is rising exponentially faster than wages. (To put things into perspective, the cost of the Basic Food Basket** in El Salvador is reported at $139.40/month. The average Maquila (Factory) worker makes $151.20/month.) If that conclusion were to be drawn, there are some that would suggest that the recent minimum wage increase of $5 per month was not sufficient. And if pay increases are brought up, there is sure to be reference made to the $1,800/month pay increase approved by the legislators for the legislators. It seems that the official plan of action was to close eyes, cover ears and sing “LaLaLaLaLa, I can’t hear you, LaLaLaLaLa.” So Wednesday, approximately 95% of the bus did not run in an effort to get some attention. (Here's a great picture for as long as the link works.)

Other events this week, Tuesday we experienced a minor earthquake. Coming from Colorado, I really have very little perspective about what exactly constitutes a “minor” earthquake. I haven’t seen any reports of magnitude so I will classify it like this; it lasted long enough that I thought “whoa, it’s still going” and strong enough that it made my doors rattle, but was not enough to knock things off of walls or for me to seek shelter. In conversing with Salvadorans it was officially classified as “kinda strong.” Just a quick reminder that, apart from all the social disorder that Salvador is privy to, it is also one of the most seismically vulnerable areas in the world.***

* the “because” part is an original Kelley Theory, part political, part psycho-social analysis conducted exclusively by your’s truly. May require grain of salt.

**The Basic Food Basket is the estimated cost of the food items (bread, tortilla, rice, meat, oils/fats, eggs, milk, fruits/vegetables, and sugar) required for a family of four to meet their basic nutritional needs. The Basic Food Basket does not include other living expenses such as transportation, shelter, electricity, education, clothing, and health. These items are included in the Market Basket and areestimated currently at $669.60/month.

***Source: Oscar Sorrenson, Husband of Heather and volcanologist.

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