Once part of Spain's vast empire in the New World, Honduras became an independent nation in 1821. After two and a half decades of mostly military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. During the 1980s, Honduras proved a haven for anti-Sandinista contras fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan Government and an ally to Salvadoran Government forces fighting leftist guerrillas. The country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 5,600 people and caused approximately $2 billion in damage. Since then, the economy has slowly rebounded.
urban population expanding; deforestation results from logging and the clearing of land for agricultural purposes; further land degradation and soil erosion hastened by uncontrolled development and improper land use practices such as farming of marginal lands; mining activities polluting Lago de Yojoa (the country's largest source of fresh water), as well as several rivers and streams, with heavy metals
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and has the world's highest murder rate. More than half of the population lives in poverty and per capita income is one of the lowest in the region. Poverty rates are higher among rural and indigenous people and in the south, west, and along the eastern border than in the north and central areas where most of Honduras' industries and infrastructure are concentrated. The increased productivity needed to break Honduras' persistent high poverty rate depends, in part, on further improvements in educational attainment. Although primary-school enrollment is near 100%, educational quality is poor, the drop-out rate and grade repetition remain high, and teacher and school accountability is low.
Honduras' population growth rate has slowed since the 1990s, but it remains high at nearly 2% annually because the birth rate averages approximately three children per woman and more among rural, indigenous, and poor women. Consequently, Honduras' young adult population - ages 15 to 29 - is projected to continue growing rapidly for the next three decades and then stabilize or slowly shrink. Population growth and limited job prospects outside of agriculture will continue to drive emigration. Remittances represent about a fifth of GDP.
note:estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2014 est.)
18 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Atlantida, Choluteca, Colon, Comayagua, Copan, Cortes, El Paraiso, Francisco Morazan, Gracias a Dios, Intibuca, Islas de la Bahia, La Paz, Lempira, Ocotepeque, Olancho, Santa Barbara, Valle, Yoro
chief of state:
President Juan Orlando HERNANDEZ Alvarado (since 27 January 2014); Vice Presidents Ricardo ALVAREZ, Rossana GUEVARA, and Lorena HERRERA (since 27 January 2014); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government:
President Juan Orlando HERNANDEZ Alvarado (since 27 January 2014); Vice Presidents Ricardo ALVAREZ, Rossana GUEVARA, and Lorena HERRERA (since 27 January 2014)
Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (15 principal judges - including the court president - and 7 alternates; court organized into civil, criminal, and labor chambers); note - the court has both judicial and constitutional jurisdiction
judge selection and term of office:
court president elected by his peers; judges elected by the National Congress from candidates proposed by the Nominating Board, a diverse 7-member group of judicial officials, other government and non-government officials selected by each of their organizations; judges elected by Congress for renewable, 7-year terms
courts of appeal; courts of first instance; peace courts
three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and blue, with five blue, five-pointed stars arranged in an X pattern centered in the white band; the stars represent the members of the former Federal Republic of Central America - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; the blue bands symbolize the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea; the white band represents the land between the two bodies of water and the peace and prosperity of its people
note:similar to the flag of El Salvador, which features a round emblem encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN LA AMERICA CENTRAL centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Nicaragua, which features a triangle encircled by the words REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA on top and AMERICA CENTRAL on the bottom, centered in the white band
Honduras, the second poorest country in Central America, suffers from extraordinarily unequal distribution of income, as well as high underemployment. While historically dependent on the export of bananas and coffee, Honduras has diversified its export base to include apparel and automobile wire harnessing. Nearly half of Honduras's economic activity is directly tied to the US, with exports to the US accounting for 30% of GDP and remittances for another 20%. The US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) came into force in 2006 and has helped foster foreign direct investment, but physical and political insecurity, as well as crime and perceptions of corruption, may deter potential investors; about 70% of FDI is from US firms. The economy registered modest economic growth of 3.0%-4.0% from 2010 to 2012, insufficient to improve living standards for the nearly 65% of the population in poverty. An 18-month IMF Standby Arrangement expired in March 2012 and was not renewed, due to the country's growing budget deficit and weak current account performance. Public sector workers complained of not receiving their salaries in November and December 2012, and government suppliers are owed at least several hundred million dollars in unpaid contracts. The government announced in January 2013 that loss-making public enterprises will be forced to submit financial rescue plans before receiving their budget allotments for 2013.
fixed-line connections are increasing but still limited; competition among multiple providers of mobile-cellular services is contributing to a sharp increase in subscribership
beginning in 2003, private sub-operators allowed to provide fixed-lines in order to expand telephone coverage contributing to a small increase in fixed-line teledensity; mobile-cellular subscribership is roughly 100 per 100 persons
country code - 504; landing point for both the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) and the MAYA-1 fiber-optic submarine cable system that together provide connectivity to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); connected to Central American Microwave System (2011)
multiple privately owned terrestrial TV networks, supplemented by multiple cable TV networks; Radio Honduras is the lone government-owned radio network; roughly 300 privately owned radio stations (2007)
bulk carrier 5, cargo 39, carrier 2, chemical tanker 5, container 1, passenger 4, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 21, refrigerated cargo 7, roll on/roll off 3
47 (Bahrain 5, Canada 1, Chile 1, China 2, Egypt 2, Greece 4, Israel 1, Japan 4, Lebanon 2, Montenegro 1, Panama 1, Singapore 11, South Korea 6, Taiwan 1, Thailand 2, UAE 1, UK 1, US 1) (2010)
International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the delimitation of "bolsones" (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras border in 1992 with final settlement by the parties in 2006 after an Organization of American States survey and a further ICJ ruling in 2003; the 1992 ICJ ruling advised a tripartite resolution to a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca with consideration of Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not mentioned in the ICJ ruling, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca; Honduras claims the Belizean-administered Sapodilla Cays off the coast of Belize in its constitution, but agreed to a joint ecological park around the cays should Guatemala consent to a maritime corridor in the Caribbean under the OAS-sponsored 2002 Belize-Guatemala Differendum
Honduras is a source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; Honduran women and girls, and, to a lesser extent, women and girls from neighboring countries, are forced into prostitution in urban and tourist centers; Honduran women and girls are also exploited in sex trafficking in other countries in the region, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and the US; Honduran adults and children are subjected to forced labor in Guatemala, Mexico, and the US and domestically in agriculture and domestic service; gangs coerce some young men to transport drugs or be hit men
Tier 2 Watch List - Honduras does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government maintains limited law enforcement efforts against child sex trafficking offenders but has held no offenders accountable for the forced labor or forced prostitution of adults; most trafficking offenders are prosecuted under non-trafficking statutes that prescribe lower penalties; government efforts to identify, refer, and assist trafficking victims are inadequate, and most services for victims are provided by NGOs without government funding (2013)
transshipment point for drugs and narcotics; illicit producer of cannabis, cultivated on small plots and used principally for local consumption; corruption is a major problem; some money-laundering activity