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languages: Spanish, indigenous
languages, English President (acting): Roberto Micheletti
Republic of Honduras
Despite declines in production caused by
Hurricane Mitch, agriculture continues to
dominate the Honduran economy, supplying in 1999
over 60 percent of the jobs and over half of all
merchandise export earnings. That year, out of a
working population of 2.13 million people,
834,900 of them held agricultural jobs. Coffee
and bananas have traditionally made up the bulk
of Honduras's agricultural exports.
A reduction in the banana export tax from 50
U.S. cents per box to 4 cents will likely help
boost the recovery.
With bananas and coffee proving highly
susceptible to price volatility, bad weather,
and labor unrest, Honduras has made efforts to
diversify its agricultural exports. The
development of nontraditional crops such as
melon, pineapple, sugarcane, and African palm
has expanded since the mid-1990s. Between 1995
and 1999, African palm production rose 50
percent. Sugar production during the same period
increased from 67.5 million bags, to 82.8
million bags, reaching a high in 1998 of 89.4
million bags. In the wake of the hurricane, the
pace of diversification increased with many
banana farmers turning over some of their fields
to the production of non-traditional crops.
Military rule, corruption, a huge wealth gap, crime and natural disasters have rendered Honduras one of the least developed and least secure countries in Central America.
Until the mid-1980s Honduras was dominated by the military, which enthusiastically supported US efforts to stem revolutionary movements in the region.
Since then, civilian leaders have sought to curb the power of the military - with varying degrees of success.
Some army officers have been charged with human rights abuses, but many have still to be prosecuted for violations committed in the 1980s.
Honduran society is rife with economic inequality. Malnutrition, poor housing and infant diseases are widespread.
The country has a youthful population; 50% of Hondurans are under the age of 19. But endemic poverty, chronic unemployment and the prospects offered by drug trafficking have contributed to a virulent crime wave conducted mainly by youth gangs known as "maras".
The maras are said to have tens of thousands of members and use threats and violence to control poorer districts in towns and cities.
Meanwhile, police officers have been implicated in high-profile crimes, and the police are thought to have been involved in the murders by death squads of youths and street children.
Honduras was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. At least 5,000 people were killed and 70% of the country's crops were destroyed. The damage was estimated at $3bn, setting development back by decades.
Thousands of Hondurans leave the country each year, most of them for the US. The money sent home by the overseas workers is an important source of income for many families.
Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as interim president after the ousting of elected president Manuel Zelaya by the military in June 2009.
On assuming power, Mr Micheletti said President Zelaya had been removed constitutionally and that presidential elections due to take place on 29 November would go ahead as scheduled.
President: Manuel Zelaya Rosales (ousted June 2009)
President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from office by the military on 28 June 2009.
Manuel Zelaya says he remains the country's legitimate president
He was arrested shortly before polls were due to open in a constitutional referendum he had ordered but which had been declared unlawful.
He was flown to Costa Rica and on arrival said he had been kidnapped by soldiers in a coup.
In a surprise move, Mr Zelaya returned to Honduras on 21 September, taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. The interim president, Roberto Micheletti, said police would not force their way into the building. He said he was prepared for dialogue, but only if Mr Zelaya appealed for calm and accepted elections that are scheduled for November.
Before his June ousting, Mr Zelaya, who was elected to a non-renewable four-year term in 2005, had planned a vote asking Hondurans to sanction a referendum to allow him to stand again for president. The referendum had been ruled illegal by Honduras' Supreme Court and was opposed by the military.
His ousting drew widespread criticism across Latin America and the wider world.
Mr Zelaya, from the Liberal Party, won a hotly-contested presidential election in November 2005 with a majority of 75,000 votes.
His main rival, the National Party's Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo Sosa, conceded defeat after 10 days of uncertainty over the count, which was beset by technical problems.
Mr Zelaya, who served in the government of former president Carlos Flores, came to office promising to curb gang violence and tackle corruption.
His predecessor, the National Party's Ricardo Maduro, implemented economic reforms in return for credit from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and changed the penal code to try to stem rampant crime.