Located in the Northern Triangle of Central America, a region that once had the highest homicide rate on the planet, the Republic of Honduras tries to leave behind years of violence and inequality. Severe socio-economic difficulties and lack of opportunities, which have driven more than two-thirds of the population into poverty, have prompted more than one million Honduras to choose the route of migration, mainly to the United States. The impact of the pandemic, the status of the Central American country, was exacerbated by the onslaught of the two tropical storms that struck it in late 2020.
On a political level, the November 28 election marks a turning point, eight years after the government of Juan Orlando Hernández, whose figure has polarized Honduran politics. The National Party’s (ruling party) candidate is the current municipal mayor of Tegucigalpa, Nasri “Tito” Asafura, better known as “Papi la Ordén”. The other two main candidates in the elections, which are defined by a simple majority in a single round, are Xiomara Castro, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya and Alliance with the People candidate; And Rosenthal, a Liberal Party businessman who returned to the country in 2020 after serving a three-year sentence for money laundering in the US.
an economy that tries to float
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit the country in November 2020, meant a blow to the Honduran economy. GDP declined by 9% during the previous year; While the poverty rate, which was in the order of 70% in 2020, may reach 75% this year. According to the latest report by the Economic Commission of Latin America (ECLAC) on the social panorama of the region, Honduras is the country with the second highest rate of extreme poverty, at 26.1%, surpassed only by Haiti. And, according to World Bank indicators, the size of the Honduran middle class (18%) is the smallest in the region.
The informal economy remains the largest producer of employment in the country, supporting 58% of the economically active population. It is a “low-income market, concentrated in small economic units and particularly in areas where the crisis is hardest,” the International Labor Organization (ILO) said in a recent report on the impact of COVID-19 in Honduras Is. ,
In its report “Business Resilience: Key Factors for Economic Recovery”, published last May, the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) warned that, in the formal sector of the economy, “Honduran companies are extremely vulnerable to a wide range of shocks.” and from stress, crime and extortion to extreme weather and climate events”. To cope with the recovery phase, UNH states, it is essential for officials to work out a “comprehensive rescue plan” in collaboration with the private sector. Including “tax incentives, credit, access to markets, technological innovation and managerial support to achieve the levels of production and employment before the COVID-19 crisis in a sustainable manner.”
For now, the Central Bank estimates that Honduran gross domestic product (GDP) will grow between 8% and 9% in 2021 and 4% in 2022. The Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) is less optimistic and forecasts growth between 4.2 and 4.5% for this year and between 3.8% and 4% by 2022. What worries the private sector the most? In response to the DEF, the head of COHEP, Juan Carlos Sicafi, noted the late start of the vaccination process, which only started in June 2021 and involving the private sector in an agreement with the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS). Was. ) He urged officials to “remove delays in the process of rehabilitation of infrastructure in the Sula Valley, which were affected by the storm,” and pointed to “an atmosphere of uncertainty arising from the current election period”.
reduction in criminal violence
Criminal violence has been one of the great evils with which Honduran society has been living in recent decades. In 2011, the country recorded a murder rate that exceeded 90 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest on the planet. As of 2015, at the country level, a progressive decline began to reach 37 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020. These are still high numbers, but show a clear improvement over the past five years.
How is this rebound explained? In 2011, the acceptance of the Population Protection Act was the starting point for a frontal war of crime and violence. The regulation included the creation of a special tax on financial transactions, known as a “security tax”, which was implemented through a trust administered by a commission representing government, the private sector and civil society. Is. The reform of the security forces based on the 2012 enactment of the Police Clearance Act and the creation of the Military Police of Public Order and the National Anti-Extortion Force in 2013 sought to provide the state with the tools to combat organized crime. , In 2014, the National Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA) was formed and in 2018 it was the turn of the National Anti-Mars and Gangs Force (FNAMP).
At the level of the fight against drugs, the panorama also changed dramatically. Until a few years ago, the country was considered a privileged platform for the passage of destined drugs to the United States. Drug trafficking groups used the country’s territory and air and sea space for their illegal activities. The situation changed drastically: Juan Orlando Hernández’s government claims it has reduced cocaine traffic in the United States by 83%. Citing data from Washington officials himself, the president assured that In 2013, 87 percent of the cocaine that passed through Central America passed through Honduras on its way to the US market., Whereas in 2020 only 4% did so through Honduran soil.
Migration, caravan and dispatch
A separate chapter is the migrant movement in which Honduras is at the fore. In the early 1980s, with neighborhoods involved in civil wars that also affected Honduras—where the Nicaraguan “contras” who opposed the Sandinista revolution in that country found refuge—migration routes to the United States. The United States of America has been a favorite option for those who want to start a new life outside the borders of the country. Economic difficulties in the 1990s and the disastrous path of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 accelerated this trend. Furthermore, as a recent study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) points out, “The geographical location of Honduras facilitates the transit of migratory flows from other countries, so that it is not only a country of emigration, but also a transit country for irregular international migration flows.”
In the context of the great social contrasts that characterize Honduras, it is important to understand the importance of the contribution made by these migrants with their despatch. He earned a total of $5736 million in 2020 and is estimated to be worth $8000 million for this year. This is equivalent to about 20% of Honduran GDP. The effect on family income is significant because, as the IOM points out, “Remittances support the increase in consumption of goods and services needed to meet basic needs, which in turn affects the reduction of poverty and extreme poverty or, in the worst case, the proportion of the population living in poverty. inhibits growth”.
A particularly sensitive issue is that of unaccompanied minors who are part of caravans trying to reach the United States. While the IOM called on Honduras’ government to look into the magnitude of the problem and propose solutions, the Joe Biden government turned the page on its predecessor Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policy. In this sense, the expansion of the Central American Minors Program (CAM) eligibility criteria now allows a parent or legal guardian with regular immigration status in the United States to request that a minor be legally residing in the country with him/her. Enter. While this does not completely solve the problem, it is a gesture of goodwill on the part of Washington to help reduce the drama experienced by thousands of children and adolescents in the countries of the Northern Triangle.
For now, 53 million Hondurans have been called to the polls on November 28 to elect their new government, new Congressional structure, 298 mayors and members of municipal corporations across the country. The Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) will be present with the election observation mission.
*This article is excerpted from the cover note of issue 140 of DEF