"The Banana Republic of Honduras"
San Miguel (El Salvador), January 21st 2018 

Honduras is a true "banana republic", there is not much discussion about that. For years the country has been one of the largest banana producers in the world, together with Ecuador. But Honduras is no longer such a banana republic as it once was. Nowadays, the bananas represent only about 4% of their total exports. Textiles, coffee and even electrical wiring for cars have now surpassed the yellow curved fruit.

However, the term banana republic is usually used to describe something else. A banana republic is a popular name for a politically unstable and corrupt country that is often rich in resources and where coups and revolutions are at the order of the day. In the beginning of the twentieth century, this was especially true for countries that mainly exported or produced bananas. The term therefore mainly refers to the Central American countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, whose politics and state-owned enterprises were strongly influenced, for decades, by the large banana exporters Chiquita and Dole. The economic power of these American companies was much greater than the political power of the governments, and certainly greater than the power of the people of these countries.

The time that large American companies were ‘in charge’ in many Central American countries is now a thing of the past. That also applies to Honduras. However, it is certainly not the case that these countries are doing well since that time. Some figures:

- Honduras is the poorest country in Latin America after Haiti. The gross national product per person is only slightly more than half of the GDP per person of neighbouring El Salvador, which is also not one of the richest countries on the continent.

- Honduras is the country with the highest murder rate in the world. Every year an average of 91 of every 10,000 people are murdered (almost 0.1%!). San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city of Honduras, is the third most violent city in the world, with more than 112 murders per 10,000 inhabitants. The numbers one and two in this list are Caracas (Venezuela) and Acapulco (Mexico).

- Of all 82 journalists killed in 2017 because of their work, four are from Honduras. This makes Honduras one of the top-10 most dangerous countries for journalists.

- On the World Happy Index, the Hondurans are on the 91st place in 2017. After Haiti (place 145) this is the lowest position of all Latin American and Caribbean countries. Neighbouring countries like El Salvador (45), Guatemala (29) and Nicaragua (48) are much higher on the list.

- Finally, Honduras belongs to the group of more corrupt countries in the world. Honduras places number 123 on the corruption list of Transparency International (out of 176).

And if this is still not enough, the country is in the middle of the next crisis. A crisis that could lead to a real civil war. In 2017, presidential elections were held, which was a fight between the incumbent president Hernández and the left-wing anti-corruption candidate Nasralla. After the polls on November 26th, the partial results indicated for a long time the victory of the opposition candidate, but the result then surprisingly diverted to a very slight majority for the incumbent president Hernández. Partly because of this, and because of the postponed announcement of the results, supporters of Nasralla became agitated. They suspected that the incumbent president Hernández was manipulating the result. Also the news that the independent observers of the Organization of American States (OAS) had detected irregularities during the elections, strengthened the suspicion of fraud. In the end, the electoral council, seen by opposition candidate Nasralla as a puppet of the incumbent president, decided that Hernández had won the elections.

But the peace has not returned yet in Honduras. Opposition candidate Nasralla does not accept the result, despite the fact that the Trump government has already congratulated Hernández with his victory. It is no secret that the American government and Hernández are good friends. Hernández is helping the Americans in their fight against illegal immigration and drug trafficking, of course for money. In that sense, American influence in Honduras is still huge. The swearing-in of Hernández is scheduled for January 27th 2018 and Nasralla has indicated that he will organize a kind of ‘shadow swearing-in’ for himself. That could well be the moment that in this Central American country, the fight between the two sides explodes, if that hasn’t already happened. To date, more than 20 people have been killed in clashes between Nasralla-supporters and police forces. These confrontations mainly take place in the larger cities, but also in the rest of the country the tensions are visible. Roads are blocked regularly by protesting crowds and there are visibly more soldiers on the streets. January 27th will be D-Day, but we will not wait for that. We leave Honduras tomorrow and we will see what happens from neighbouring El Salvador. Now let's hope this things dies down.

© copyright - Babakoto.eu / 2018