Poverty in Honduras
Poverty in Honduras remains an issue. Honduras is the second-poorest country in Central America. With a population of approximately eight million people, poverty in Honduras affects roughly 60 percent of these individuals.

Out of 187 countries, Honduras ranked 121 on the United Nations Development Programs 2011 Human Development Index. This index is a “comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living for countries worldwide.”

Majority of the poverty in Honduras is reserved for the more rural areas. With 36 percent of the population living under conditions of extreme poverty overall, 50 percent of rural individuals live under these terms.

Over 64 percent of Hondurans live below the poverty level of $2 per day, according to Proyecto Mirador, a website that highlights the poverty in Honduras and what can be done about it.

Under- and unemployment rates in Honduras reside at 36 percent. The majority of families lack access to clean water and access to medical care or electricity is slim to none.


Rural Poverty in Honduras


Around 75 percent of the rural population lives in the central hillside areas in the interior highlands; this is also where majority of poverty in Honduras is the most prevalent.

An extremely evident force behind the country’s high level of emigration is the lack of employment opportunities in rural Honduras. With 28 percent of the country being agricultural land, 39 percent of the population is employed by the agricultural sector. However, the terrain in Honduras is extremely susceptible to erosion, causing much of the land to have come eroded over time. As a result of this, productivity has decreased immensely.

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, also plague Honduras. In 1998, Honduras was the victim of Hurricane Mitch, which destroyed much of the economic and social infrastructure in the country. This set back the economic advancement of Honduras for quite some time.

Subsistence farmers make up 70 percent of farming families. With extremely restricted access to land, these farmers depend on finding off-farm employment or remittances from other family members to support themselves.

Small-scale farmers “have access to more land and generally produce basic food crops, but many are forces to seek off-farm work in order to survive.”

Honduras stands as the country with the most unequal distribution of income in the region, according to the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. The majority of the wealth in Honduras is controlled by few families and national assets are treated as personal patrimony.

Aside from the extreme poverty that hinders Honduras’s growth, a surge in violence in recent years has resulted in the killings of politicians, human rights advocates, labor activists, journalists, and others. The road to improvement for Honduras is a long and enduring one, but the most important step will begin with socioeconomic equality.

– Samaria Garrett

Sources: Rural Poverty, Proyecto Mirador, LA Times
Photo: Pulitzer

poverty in nicaragua
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, second only to Haiti. Most of the poverty in Nicaragua exists rurally (more than 80 percent,) but there are also very impoverished neighborhoods in the capital of Managua.  In fact, 43 percent of the Nicaraguan population lives in rural areas and 68 percent of them are trying to survive off just over $1 per day. Overall, 46.2 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.


Implications of Poverty in Nicaragua


The poverty in Nicaragua has caused extremely poor health conditions. HIV and AIDS have been a big issue; there have also been frequent reports of violence against women. Many organizations have been working to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and provide support for those with it, to empower women in their fight for freedom from violence and to empower the youth to encourage them to change their society.

Over the last 40 years, there has been extreme inequality and the country has had to overcome a cruel dictatorship, a gruesome civil war and multiple natural disasters. Another big problem is that the central government has historically marginalized the areas with large populations of indigenous people. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has decreased to only one-third of what it was in 1977 because of the combined impact of continued civil strife, trade embargos, unsuitable macroeconomic policies and institutional changes that are leading toward an even and more centrally-controlled economy.

Unemployment across the entire country is at 12 percent, but among the poor rural families, it is over 20 percent, so many rural families are migrating to other countries or urban areas within Nicaragua to find work. Remittances are vital sources of income for one in every five families and account for 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

Fortunately, the Nicaraguan economy has been growing substantially and has recently received lots of attention, having grown 30 percent since 2006, when the Sandinistas came back into power. Also, the GDP per capita has increased from $1,239 to $1,582 in the past year alone. Also, the Nicaraguan government has signed a lucrative memorandum of understanding with a telecommunications company from China to fund and build an inter-oceanic canal that is said to rival the Panama Canal.

Nicaragua is presently importing oil from Venezuela at solidarity rates, so Nicaragua pays extremely low prices up front for the first half of the oil and then pays low-interest loans over time for the rest. The Central Bank has said that macro-business development and social programs are funded by 62 percent of the Nicaraguan oil revenue.

Because of all of this news in the last five years,  extreme poverty (measured by a familial income of less than $1.25 per day) in Nicaragua has fallen from 11.2 percent to 5.5 percent. In 2011, Nicaragua was reported to have an economic growth of 5.1 percent, which was the highest in Central America.  Despite all of this good news, a considerable amount of work still needs to be done before it can fully eradicate poverty.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: World Bank, Rural Poverty Portal, Health Poverty Action, The Tico Times
Photo: Pacific Lots

Leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean met earlier this week in Havana, Cuba, to discuss human rights, peace and trade at the second Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit. Thirty countries joined the talks, excluding the United States and Canada, which do not belong to CELAC, as well as leaders from Panama, Belize and El Salvador, which could not attend due to illnesses.

CELAC was created in 2011 as a counterweight to the U.S. influence in the region, with forums such as the U.S.-backed Organization of American States (OAS) and the Summit of the Americas, both of which do not include Cuba as a member.

Visiting heads of state declared a commitment to reduce poverty, inequality and hunger while proclaiming the region a “zone of peace.” Leaders such as Michelle Bachelet, the president-elect of Chile, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff and the Cuban president Raúl Castro addressed the issue of poverty and education.

Raúl Castro called for the abolition of illiteracy while stating that the challenge in overcoming this centers around the lack of political will. The Cuban president then criticized the U.S. for its spying programs, the status of Puerto Rico and the current legal dispute between Ecuador and Chevron, the U.S oil company, for compensation over an oil spill that caused environmental damage.

Cuba has been criticized for cracking down on protests against the summit and is thought to have detained up to 40 activists prior to the event. The spokesperson for the U.S. State Department claimed that the CELAC countries “betrayed” democratic principles by supporting the Cuban regime during the summit.

In response to the U.S. criticism of the summit, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro stated that the U.S. should “swallow” their claim, which, moreover, reveals the “imperial interests” of the United States. The Venezuelan president further solidified his ties with Cuba by signing 56 new bilateral agreements worth $1,259 billion in the oil, energy and petrochemical sectors.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: El Universal, Reuters, Independent European Daily Express, The Guardian, VenezuelAnalysis.com
Photo: Latin Times