New Internationalist


August 1981

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NUCLEAR POWER [image, unknown] Country profile: Honduras

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Map of Egypt

Leader: President: General Policarpo Paz Garcia

Economy: GNP $480 per person per year
Debt service repayments as a percentage of exports 8.4%.

Main exports: Bananas, coffee, sugar, timber. Rate of inflation (average 1970-78): 8.0%
People 3.4 million/town dwellers: 36%

Health: Child mortality (1-4 years): 1.4% (Sweden: 0.1 %)
Daily calorie availability: 89%
Access to clean water: 46%

Culture Religion: Mainly Roman Catholic combined in some areas with traditional Indian beliefs
Ethnic groups: Mestizos (a racial intermingling of Spanish and Indian over many generations) predominate with distinct group of Miskito Indians on the north-east coast.
Language: Spanish plus Miskito local dialects.
Previous colonising power: Spain Independence: 1821.

Sources: All figures takers from World Development Report, World Bank 1980.

REGIMENTED greenery marches down the Sula valley - row after row of citrus trees and banana groves, stretching away towards the Caribbean and merging eventually into the bluish haze of the delta. It is a rich land - sending its glistening green 'hands' of bananas out into the world in 20 million 40lb boxes every year. And on the land lying fallow, cattle peacefully get on with the job of converting Honduran grass into American burgers.

With so fertile a soil and so favourable a climate; Honduras should have little trouble in providing for its population of only 3 million or so people. Yet it is the poorest country in Central America. Half of its adults are illiterate. Half of its children are malnourished.

Although the rich and the poor in Honduras may be kept physically apart, the contrast between them is never very far from anyone's mind. Most of the campesinos probably know that three-quarters of the country's land is owned by just ten per cent of its people, leaving one million landless out of a total rural population of only 2.4 million. They will have been given this information many times by the labour unions to which over half of the campesinos belong.

Almost thirty years ago, after the banana workers on the plantations of Standard Fruit and United Fruit had won a long and bitter strike battle, their promised land had seemed closer. They had won the right to organise and dug the foundations of what is still today the strongest labour movement in Central America.

But even the slow progress in the years which followed led to the inevitable military coup. And so today the worries of the rich about hanging on to what they've got are expressed in their own kind of trade union - the Honduran army which has effectively ruled this country for the last 18 years. After last year's token 'return to democracy' the country's Liberation/National Coalition chose as its President General Policarpo Paz Garcia - who by some coincidence had also been the head of the military junta. And the twenty-year-old promise of land reform is not a day closer to delivery.

Meanwhile, President Reagan decided that Honduras was an 'oasis of peace and stability' in Central America and awarded it a prize of $20 million in armaments. This has strengthened the power and intransigence of the armed forces and perpetuated the profitable links between the military, the American corporations, the large land owners, and the middle-class citizens of Tecugigalpa and San Pedro Sula - an alliance of vested interests which stands as art almost impenetrable barrier to meeting the physical needs of the human rights of the majority of this country's people.

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Richest 10% get 50% national income and own over 70% cultivatable land.
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Depends on US markets. 80% export earnings from four commodities. Imported food in 1979.
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Not even allowed vote in campesino unions but do most work.
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[image, unknown] Nominally democratic but military leader is now President of ruling National and Liberal Coalition.
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At 57% is poor Free primary education but only 7% go on to secondary school.
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Fierce repression of campesino unions. Press relatively free by regionalstandards.

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‘At 57 years is worst in region. 90% children malnourished in some areas.

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Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 102 This feature was published in the August 1981 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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New Internationalist Magazine issue 102
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