30 October 2009

Political unrest drags down Honduran economy

Cornhusk doll vendors
Indigenous Chorti Maya in the pueblo of La Pintada near the Copan Ruins sell homemade cornhusk dolls, but sales have dropped since the ousting of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

The Honduras political crisis - which appears close to being resolved - deepened the economic misery in one of the hemisphere's poorest countries. Most Hondurans I spoke with during a recent 12-day trip said that their personal economic situations had worsened due to the political crisis and most wanted nothing more for the elected president (Manuel Zelaya) and interim president (Roberto Mitcheletti) to reach some sort of agreement - any agreement.

The pain was very obvious in Copán Ruinas, a tourist town near the Guatemala border that was being bypassed by travellers on the well-worn Central American backpacker trail. Zelaya's ouster along with the subsequent protests and curfew scared off many potential travellers. Some in Copán Ruinas blamed Guatemalan tourism officials for spreading erroneous information about the border being closed in an effort to keep travellers from crossing into Honduras. The tourism minister from the Zelaya's regime - who was recognized by other Central American governments - also told potential travellers: stay away.

Still, even with the political crisis about to end, the economic situation isn't expected to just miraculously bounce back.

Here are the first few lines from my dispatch on the Honduran economy for Catholic News Service:

Political unrest drags down Honduran economy

COPAN RUINAS, Honduras (CNS) -- Oscar Garcia used to sell 100 pounds of tomatoes every day in the municipal market of this colonial town near the Guatemalan border. Since the June 28 ouster of President Manuel Zeyala, Garcia sells just 40 pounds of tomatoes and has to moonlight as a hotel security guard to support his family.

"I'm working day and night and it's barely enough," said Garcia, the father of four. "There are people here starving to death because of the political crisis."

The June 28 coup plunged Honduras into a political crisis, but also deepened long-standing economic problems in one of the hemisphere's poorest countries. Over the past four months, exports have diminished, citizens have reduced their spending and international development aid has been suspended.

Read the
full story here.

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