sq. km. (43,270 sq. mi.); about the size of Louisiana.
Capital--Tegucigalpa (850,000); San Pedro Sula (500,000); metropolitan
area of each city approximately 1 million.
Climate: Tropical to subtropical, depending on elevation.
Noun and adjective--Honduran(s).
Population (1998 est.): 5.8
Growth rate: 2.8%.
Ethnic groups: 90% mestizo (mixed
Indian and European); others of European, Arab, African, or Asian ancestry; and
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant minority.
Education: Years compulsory--6.
Attendance--70% overall, but less than 16% at junior high level.
Health: Infant mortality rate--42/1,000.
Life expectancy--68 yrs.
Work force: Services--32%.
Natural resources/agriculture--38%. Manufacturing--18%.
Democratic constitutional republic.
Independence: September 15, 1821.
Branches: Executive--president, directly elected
to four-year term. Legislative--unicameral National Congress, elected
for four-year term. Judicial--Supreme Court of Justice (appointed by
Congress and confirmed by the president); several lower courts.
parties: Liberal Party, National Party, Innovation and Unity Party, Christian
Democratic Party, and the Democratic Unification Party.
Administrative subdivisions: 18 departments.
(1997 preliminary data)
Growth rate: 4.9%.
Per capita GDP: $806.
resources: Arable land, forests, minerals, fisheries.
Agriculture (24% of
GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, shrimp and lobster, sugar, fruits,
basic grains, livestock.
Industry (18% of GDP): Types--textiles and
apparel, cement, wood products, cigars, foodstuffs.
Exports--$2.2 billion: coffee, bananas, shrimp, citrus fruits, textile
products, lead/zinc concentrates, beef, lumber, sugar. Major
market--U.S.(53%). Imports--$2.6 billion: petroleum, manufactured
goods, machinery, chemicals. Major supplier--U.S. (43%).
rate (March 1998): 13.28 lempiras=U.S.$1.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
About 90% of the population is
mestizo. There also are small minorities of European, African, Asian,
Arab, and indigenous Indian descent. Most Hondurans are Roman Catholic, but
Protestant proselytization has resulted in significant numbers of converts.
Spanish is the predominant language, although some English is spoken along the
northern coast and on the Caribbean Bay Islands. Indigenous Indian dialects and
the Garifuna dialect also are spoken.
Mayan ruins near the Guatemalan border in Copan reflect the great Mayan culture
that flourished there for hundreds of years until the early 9th century. Mayan
artifacts also can be found at the National Museum in Tegucigalpa. Columbus
landed at mainland Honduras (Trujillo) in 1502. He named it "Honduras" (meaning
"depths") for the deep water off the coast. Spaniard Hernan Cortes arrived in
1524. The Spanish began founding settlements along the coast, and Honduras came
under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The cities of
Comayagua and Tegucigalpa developed as early mining centers.
along with the other Central American provinces, gained independence from Spain
in 1821; it then briefly was annexed to the Mexican Empire. In 1823, Honduras
joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America. Before long,
social and economic differences between Honduras and its regional neighbors
exacerbated harsh partisan strife among Central American leaders and brought on
the federation's collapse in 1838. Gen. Francisco Morazan--a Honduran national
hero--led unsuccessful efforts to maintain the federation, and restoring
Central American unity remained the chief aim of Honduran foreign policy until
after World War I.
independence, Honduras has been plagued with nearly 300 internal rebellions,
civil wars, and changes of government, more than half occurring during this
century. The country traditionally lacked both an economic infrastructure and
social and political integration. Its agriculturally based economy came to be
dominated in this century by U.S. companies that established vast banana
plantations along the north coast. Foreign capital, plantation life, and
conservative politics held sway in Honduras from the late 19th until the
relatively stable years of the Great Depression, Honduras was controlled by
authoritarian Gen. Tiburcio Carias Andino. His ties to dictators in neighboring
countries and to U.S. banana companies helped him maintain power until 1948. By
then, provincial military leaders had begun to gain control of the two major
parties, the Nationalists and the Liberals.
Military to Civilian Rule
1955--after two authoritarian administrations and a general strike by banana
workers on the north coast in 1954--young military reformists staged a palace
coup that installed a provisional junta and paved the way for constituent
assembly elections in 1957. This assembly appointed Dr. Ramon Villeda Morales
as president and transformed itself into a national legislature with a six-year
term. The Liberal Party ruled during 1957-63. At the same time, the military
took its first steps to become a professional institution independent of
leadership from any one political party, and the newly created military academy
graduated its first class in 1960.
1963, conservative military officers preempted constitutional elections and
deposed Villeda in a bloody coup. These officers exiled Liberal Party members
and took control of the national police. The armed forces, led by Gen. Lopez
Arellano, governed until 1970.
president--Ramon Cruz of the National Party--took power briefly in 1970, but
proved unable to manage the government. Popular discontent had continued to
rise after a 1969 border war with El Salvador; in December 1972, General Lopez
staged another coup. Lopez adopted more progressive policies, including land
reform, but his regime was brought down in the mid-1970s by scandals.
successors continued armed forces modernization programs, building army and
security forces, and concentrating on Honduran air force superiority over its
neighbors. The regimes of General Melgar Castro (1975-78) and General Paz
Garcia (1978-83) largely built the current physical infrastructure and
telecommunications system of Honduras. The country also enjoyed its most rapid
economic growth during this period, due to greater international demand for its
products and the availability of foreign commercial lending.
overthrow of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979 and general instability in
El Salvador at the time, the Honduran military accelerated plans to return the
country to civilian rule. A constituent assembly was popularly elected in April
1980, and general elections were held in November 1981. A new constitution was
approved in 1982, and the Liberal Party government of President Roberto Suazo
Cordoba assumed power.
on U.S. support to help with a severe economic recession and with the threat
posed by the revolutionary Sandinista Government in Nicaragua and a brutal
civil war in El Salvador. Close cooperation on political and military issues
with the United States was complemented by ambitious social and economic
development projects sponsored by USAID. Honduras became host to the largest
Peace Corps mission in the world, and non-governmental and international
voluntary agencies proliferated.
November 1985 election approached, the Liberal Party had difficulty settling on
a candidate and interpreted election law as permitting multiple presidential
candidates from one party. The Liberal Party claimed victory when its
presidential candidates collectively outpolled the National Party candidate,
Rafael Leonardo Callejas, who received 42% of the vote. Jose Azcona Hoyo, the
candidate receiving the most votes (27%) among the Liberals, assumed the
presidency in January 1986. With strong endorsement and support from the
Honduran military, the Suazo Administration had ushered in the first peaceful
transfer of power between civilian presidents in more than 30 years.
later, Rafael Callejas won the presidential election, taking office in January
1990. Callejas concentrated on economic reform, reducing the deficit, and
taking steps to deal with an overvalued exchange rate and major structural
barriers to investment. He began the movement to place the military under
civilian control and laid the groundwork for the creation of the public
ministry (Attorney General's office).
Callejas Administration's economic reforms, growing public dissatisfaction with
the rising cost of living and with seemingly widespread government corruption
led voters in 1993 to elect Liberal Party candidate Carlos Roberto Reina over
National Party contender Oswaldo Ramos Soto, with Reina winning 56% of the
Reina, elected on a platform calling for a "Moral Revolution," actively
prosecuted corruption and pursued those responsible for human rights abuses in
the 1980s. He created a modern attorney general's office and an investigative
police force, and reduced Honduras' historic and endemic corruption and elite
impunity. As a result, a notable start has been made in institutionalizing the
rule of law in Honduras.
A hallmark of
the Reina Administration was his successful efforts to increase civilian
control over the armed forces, making his time in office a period of
fundamental change in civil-military relations in Honduras. Important
achievements--including the abolition of the military draft and passage of
legislation transferring the national police from military to civilian
authority--have brought civil-military relations closer to the kind of balance
normal in a constitutional democracy. Additionally, President Reina in 1996
named his own defense minister, breaking the precedent of accepting the nominee
of the armed forces leadership.
national fiscal health. After a rough start in 1994-95, the Reina
Administration substantially increased Central Bank net international reserves,
reduced inflation to 12.8% a year, restored a healthy pace of economic growth
(about 5% in 1997), and, perhaps most important, held down spending to achieve
a 1.1% non-financial public sector deficit in 1997.
Flores Facusse took office on January 27, 1998, as Honduras' fifth
democratically elected President since free elections were restored in 1981.
Like three of his four predecessors, including his immediate predecessor,
Flores is a member of the Liberal Party. He was elected with a 10% margin over
his main opponent, National Party nominee, Nora de Melgar, in free, fair, and
peaceful elections on November 30, 1997. These elections, probably the cleanest
in Honduran history, reflected the maturing of Honduras' democratic
institutions. On the eve of his electoral victory, Flores presented a platform
that is a blueprint for reform and modernization of the Honduran Government and
economy, with emphasis on helping Honduras' poorest citizens while maintaining
the country's fiscal health and improving international competitiveness.
The 1982 constitution provides for
a strong executive, a unicameral National Congress, and a judiciary appointed
by the National Congress. The president is directly elected to a four-year term
by popular vote. The congress also serves a four-year term; congressional seats
are assigned the parties' candidates in proportion to the number of votes each
includes a Supreme Court of Justice, courts of appeal, and several courts of
original jurisdiction, such as labor, tax, and criminal courts. For
administrative purposes, Honduras is divided into 18 departments, with
departmental and municipal officials selected for two-year terms.
the 1980s in El Salvador and Nicaragua led Honduras, with U.S. assistance, to
expand its armed forces considerably, laying particular emphasis on its air
force, which came to include a squadron of U.S.-provided F-5s. The resolution
of the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and across-the-board budget
cuts made in all ministries have brought reduced funding for the Honduran armed
forces. The abolition of the draft has created staffing gaps in the now all
volunteer armed forces. The military now is far below its authorized strength
and further reductions are expected.
Reinforced by the media and
several political watchdog organizations, human rights and civil liberties are
reasonably well protected. There are no known political prisoners in Honduras,
and the privately owned media frequently exercises its right to criticize
without fear of reprisals. Organized labor now represents less than 15% of the
work force, and its economic and political influence have declined.
its fifth consecutive democratic elections in November 1997, to elect a new
president, unicameral Congress and mayors; for the first time, voters were able
to cast separate ballots for each office.
The two major
parties--the Liberal Party and the National Party--run active campaigns
throughout the country. Their ideologies are mostly centrist, with diverse
factions in each centered on personalities.
smaller registered parties, the Christian Democratic Party, the Innovation and
Unity Party, and the Democratic Unification Party remain marginal, slightly
left-of-center groupings with few campaign resources and little organization.
Despite significant progress in training and installing more skillful advisers
at the top of each party ladder, electoral politics in Honduras remain
traditionalist and paternalistic.
hold its next general elections--which will choose the nation's next president,
Congress, and mayors--in November 2001.
President--Carlos Roberto FLORES Facusse
Minister of Foreign Relations--J.
Fernando MARTINEZ Jimenez
Ambassador Designate to the U.S.--Edgardo DUMAS
Ambassador to the UN--Hugo NOE Pino
Ambassador to the
OAS--Dr. Laura NUNEZ Flores
maintains an embassy in the United States at 3007 Tilden Street NW, Washington,
DC 20008 (tel. 202-966-7702).
Honduras is one of the poorest and
least-developed countries in Latin America. The economy is based mostly on
agriculture, which accounted for 24% of GDP in 1997. Coffee and bananas
accounted for 37% of total Honduran export revenues in 1997. Honduras has
extensive forest, marine, and mineral resources, although widespread
slash-and-burn agricultural methods continue to destroy Honduran forests.
Hondurans, however, are becoming more concerned about protecting their
environmental patrimony. Unemployment is estimated at 15%, and combined
unemployment and underemployment is about 40%.
data show that the Honduran economy grew 4.9% in 1997, led by strong growth in
the manufacturing, financial services, utilities, and mining sectors. The
Honduran Government cut the inflation rate nearly in half in 1997, bringing it
from 25.3% in 1996 down to 12.8%. The nation's balance of payments continued to
strengthen in 1997, with gross international reserves approaching $500 million
at the end of the year, equivalent to more than three months' imports. The
government's non-financial public sector deficit was brought down to 1.1% of
GDP, a significant improvement over the corresponding figure for 1996. A
particularly bright spot in the Honduran economy in 1997 was the performance of
the large and growing maquiladora sector. Maquiladoras provided employment to
almost 100,000 Honduran workers in 1997 and generated more than $300 million in
outlook for Honduras in 1998 is positive. Government authorities expect real
growth to exceed 5%, inflation to be no higher than the 12.8% recorded in 1997,
and the government deficit to be in line with the figures recorded last year.
The Honduran Government will be meeting in 1998 with the International Monetary
Fund in an effort to agree on an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility, which
could lead to foreign bilateral debt forgiveness in the Paris Club. Honduran
public foreign debt is approximately $3.8 billion, and the service of that debt
consumes more than 30% of government revenues.
Honduras is a member of the United
Nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization of American
States (OAS), the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), the Central American
Integration System (SICA), and the Central American Security Commission (CASC).
During 1995-96, Honduras, a founding member of the United Nations, for the
first time served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Flores consults frequently with the other Central American presidents on issues
of mutual interest. He has continued his predecessor's strong emphasis on
Central American cooperation and integration, which resulted in an agreement
easing border controls and tariffs among Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El
Salvador. Honduras also joined its six Central American neighbors at the 1994
Summit of the Americas in signing the Alliance for Sustainable Development,
known as the Conjunta Centroamerica-USA, or CONCAUSA, to promote sustainable
economic development in the region.
In 1969, El
Salvador and Honduras fought the brief "Soccer War" over disputed border areas
and friction resulting from the 300,000 Salvadorans who had emigrated to
Honduras in search of land and employment. The catalyst was nationalistic
feelings aroused by a series of soccer matches between the two countries. The
two countries formally signed a peace treaty on October 30,1980, which put the
border dispute before the International Court of Justice. In September 1992,
the court awarded most of the disputed territory to Honduras. In January 1998,
Honduras and El Salvador signed a border demarcation treaty that will implement
the terms of the ICJ decree. The treaty awaits legal ratification in both
countries. Honduras and El Salvador maintain normal diplomatic and trade
At the 17th
Central American Summit in 1995, hosted by Honduras in the northern city of San
Pedro Sula, the region's six countries (excluding Belize) signed treaties
creating confidence and security-building measures and combating the smuggling
of stolen automobiles in the isthmus. In subsequent summits (held every six
months), Honduras has continued to work with the other Central American
countries on issues of common concern.
Honduras and the United States
have close and friendly relations. In Costa Rica in May 1997, former Honduran
President Reina met with President Clinton, his Central American counterparts,
and the president of the Dominican Republic to celebrate the remarkable
democratic transformation in the region and reaffirm support for strengthening
democracy, good governance, and promoting prosperity through economic
integration, free trade, and investment. The leaders also expressed their
commitment to the continued development of just and equitable societies and
responsible environmental policies as an integral element of sustainable
supportive of U.S. policy in the UN and other fora. In 1996, Honduras' overall
voting coincidence with the United States in the United Nations was 44.3%, and
in 1997 it was 40.3%. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,
Honduras played a very helpful role in 1996, most notably in advancing the
process of selecting a new UN Secretary General during its October presidency
of the Council. The U.S. also continued to be able to count on Honduras' strong
support against Iraq.
favors stable, peaceful relations between Honduras and its Central American
neighbors. During the 1980s, Honduras supported U.S. policy in Central America
opposing a revolutionary Marxist Leninist government in Nicaragua and an active
leftist insurgency in El Salvador. The Honduran Government also played a key
role in negotiations that culminated in the 1990 Nicaraguan elections. Honduras
contributed troops for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, and continues to
participate in the UN observers mission in the Western Sahara.
The U.S. works
with Honduras for sustained economic, political, and social development and to
combat drug trafficking in the region. Because of economic needs and security
concerns, U.S. material assistance and political support are important to
Honduras. USAID is active in Honduras, although official U.S. assistance to the
country has been reduced--from $51 million in 1993 to $29 million in 1997--due
to worldwide reductions in U.S. bilateral assistance.
States is Honduras' chief trading partner, supplying 43% of its imports and
purchasing 53% of its exports. Leading Honduran exports to the United States
include coffee, bananas, textile products, other fruits and vegetables,
seafood, and beef.
States encourages U.S. investment that contributes to Honduran development and
bilateral trade. The United States accounts for about 75% of total direct
foreign investment in Honduras; this is worth about $675 million. The largest
U.S. investments in Honduras are in fruit production--particularly banana and
citrus--petroleum refining and marketing, and mining. In addition, U.S.
corporations have invested in tobacco, apparel, shrimp culture, beef, poultry
and animal-feed production, insurance, leasing, food processing, brewing, and
furniture manufacturing. U.S. apparel facilities or maquilas are responsible
for the majority of the approximately 100,000 jobs in that sector of Honduran
maintains a small presence at a Honduran military base; the two countries
conduct joint counternarcotics, humanitarian, and civic action exercises. U.S.
troops conduct and provide logistics support for a variety of exercises
(medical, engineering, peacekeeping, counternarcotics, and disaster relief) for
the benefit of the Honduran people and their Central American neighbors. U.S.
forces--regular, reserve, and national guard--benefit greatly from the training
troops--in collaboration with counterparts from Brazil and Colombia--since 1994
have assisted Honduran soldiers in clearing land mines from the country's
border with Nicaragua. As of early 1998, approximately 180,000 square meters
had been cleared of mines and approximately 2,000 mines had been destroyed.
U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--James F. Creagan
Deputy Chief of Mission--Deborah R.
Political Counselor--David Adamson
Consul General--Gregory Frost
USAID Director--Elena L.
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Stedman D. Howard
Attache--Col. G. Keith Fennell, USAF
Military Group Commander--Col. Daniel
Embassy in Honduras is located on Avenida La Paz, Tegucigalpa (tel.:
011-504-236-9320; faxes: general--011-504-236-9037, USAID--011-504-236-7776,
USIS--011-504-236-9309, Military Group--011-504-233-6171, Commercial
U.S. POLICY TOWARD HONDURAS
toward Honduras is aimed at consolidating stable democracy with a justice
system that protects human rights and is fair and effective. We promote a
healthy and more open economy capable of sustainable growth, improving the
climate for business and investment while protecting U.S. citizen and corporate
rights. The U.S. works with Honduras to meet transnational challenges,
including the fight against narcotrafficking. We encourage and support Honduran
efforts to protect the environment. The goals of strengthening democracy and
promoting viable economic growth are especially important given the
geographical proximity of Honduras to the United States. To the extent U.S.
policy is successful in helping democracy and economic opportunity to flourish
in Honduras, the pressures that compel many Hondurans to attempt to migrate
illegally to the U.S. will be reduced while creating export markets for U.S.
goods and services. U.S.-Honduran ties are further strengthened by numerous
private sector contacts, with an average of 110,000 U.S. citizens visiting
Honduras annually, and approximately 13,000 Americans residing there. More than
100 American companies operate in Honduras.
Economic and Development Assistance
In order to
help strengthen Honduras' democratic institutions and improve living
conditions, the U.S. has provided substantial economic assistance. The U.S. has
historically been the largest bilateral donor to Honduras. Total aid from the
U.S. to Honduras for the period 1991 to 1995 was $322 million. U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) obligations to Honduras totaled $24.3 million
for development assistance and $4.7 million for foodstuffs in 1997. Over the
years, such appropriations have been used to achieve such objectives as
fostering democratic institutions, increasing private sector employment and
income, helping Honduras fund its arrears with international financial
institutions, providing humanitarian aid, increasing agricultural production,
and providing loans to micro-businesses. Of the $29 million in aid, more than
$16 million is spent directly on goods and services from the United States. In
addition, since about half of Honduras' imports come from the U.S., development
assistance that stimulates growth of the Honduran economy indirectly stimulates
U.S. exports and thus supports additional employment and growth in the U.S.
Other forms of
U.S. economic assistance to Honduras include the Caribbean Basin Economic
Recovery Act, Overseas Private Investment Corporation financing and insurance
against risks of war and expropriation, U.S. Trade Development Agency grant
loans for pre-feasibility studies of projects with U.S. product and services
export potential, and U.S. Export-Import Bank short- and medium-term financing
for U.S. exports to Honduran importers. All of these provide greater economic
opportunity for U.S. and Honduran businessmen and women.
Corps has been active in Honduras since 1962, and at one time the program there
was the largest in the world. During that time some 5,000 American women and
men, ranging in age from 22 to 65, have helped the people of Honduras. In 1997,
there were 200 Peace Corps volunteers working in the poorest parts of Honduras.
of President Flores is committed to the full implementation of a civilian
police force, and the congress has taken essential constitutional steps to
effect that. The U.S. Government strongly supports this action. The American
Embassy in Tegucigalpa provides specialized training to police officers through
the International Criminal Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).
The role of
the Honduran armed forces has changed significantly in recent years as many
institutions formerly controlled by the military have been taken over by
civilians. The defense and police budgets have hovered at around $30 million
during the past few years. The abolition of conscription resulted in a decrease
in the size of the armed forces. The volunteer system has helped to increase
troop strength somewhat but many military units are still significantly below
authorized strength levels. Formal security assistance has declined from over
$500 million provided between 1982 and 1993 to $500,000 annually in
International Military Education and Training (IMET) courses. Some residual
credits are still available from previous military aid, but will be exhausted
within the next few years.
In the absence
of a large security assistance program, defense cooperation has taken the form
of increased participation by the Honduran armed forces in military-to-military
contact programs and bilateral and multilateral combined exercises oriented
toward peacekeeping, disaster relief, humanitarian/civic assistance, and
counternarcotics. The U.S. Joint Task Force stationed at the Honduran Soto Cano
Air Base plays a vital role in supporting combined exercises in Honduras and in
neighboring Central American countries. JTF-Bravo has been involved in several
multilateral exercises and numerous smaller humanitarian deployments, providing
medical services and construction of much-needed school and clinical facilities
in remote areas of Honduras.
States has historically been, and remains today, Honduras' largest trading
partner. Bilateral trade between the two nations totaled $2.29 billion in 1997.
American business exported $1.1 billion worth of goods and services to Honduras
account for nearly three-quarters of the estimated $900 million in foreign
direct investment in Honduras, and more than 100 American companies operate
there. The largest U.S. investment in Honduras is in the agribusiness sector.
Other important sectors include petroleum products marketing, maquiladoras (in
bond assembly plants), electric power generation, banking, insurance, and
tobacco. U.S. franchises have taken off in recent years, mostly in the fast
for U.S. business include agricultural machinery and equipment, automotive
parts and service equipment, tourism, medical equipment, electrical power
systems, and construction equipment and products. Best prospects for
agricultural products are corn, milled rice, wheat, soybean meal, and
contemplating investment in real estate in Honduras should proceed with
caution, especially in coastal areas or on the Bay Islands, because of
frequently conflicting legislation and problems with land titles. Such
investors, or their attorneys, should check property titles not only with the
property registry office having jurisdiction in the area in which the property
is located (being especially observant of marginal annotations on the deed and
that the property is located within the area covered by the original title),
but also with the National Agrarian Institute (INA) and the National Forestry
This information is courtesy of the
U.S. Department of State,