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Poverty and Violence in Honduras

Birthplace of the term “banana republic” and victim of the brutal fruit companies-led coup, Honduras is among the countries with the lowest incomes in Latin America, poverty is very pronounced problem in this Central American nation. Despite an economic growth of around 3 percent per annum, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of the country remains stagnant.

This discrepancy could indicate that there is a widening disparity gap.

In fact, since the coup d’état in 2009, Honduras witnesses the most rapid rise in inequality in Latin America, a factor that contributes to prevailing climate of violence. Equally frustrating, the top 10 percent of the population also earns virtually all of the republic’s real income gains.

Furthermore, the 2009 coup d’état had increased the overall rates of poverty and extreme poverty. This climate of political crisis had reverted the economic advances that took place in the country. In addition, the government of President Porfirio Lobo, who came into power after the post-coup elections of 2010, had reduced social spending despite the boost in public spending.

It is estimated that 71 percent of the 8.3 million Hondurans live in poverty, a major problem that contributes to the frequent instances of violence that plague the nation. Because of this astronomic number of people living in poverty, a large sector of Honduras’ population is also deprived of education.

Only a lucky few can afford any education beyond sixth grade.

What’s more, Honduras has the highest rate of homicide in the world, with the average of 20 people murdered daily, 90 percent of whom are male victims. This frightening data stem from the burgeoning narcotic business, which has given rise to many organized crimes. This epidemic problem of homicides also takes away from the country’s meager income by necessitating the Honduran government to spend 10.5 percent of the national GDP in the combat of violence.

Due to Honduras’ constant history of political instability, there has always been very little opportunity for Honduras to develop democratic institutions to impose the rule of law. Instead, centuries of colonialism and decades of dictatorship have marginalized the poor, leaving them with minimal choices to make a living.

This scarcity of upward economic mobility and grinding poverty have driven many towards illicit ways of earning money.

In its attempt to encourage Honduras to alleviate poverty, the World Bank has suggested the country to support the stability and the growth of its macro-economy as well as to improve the quality of its education. But, these key options to improve the situation of the country are easier said (or suggested) than done. Development and democracy are not phenomena whose advent can be brought about at an instant.

Instead, they require years of institutional and systematic reforms for a society to have a functional democracy and a sustainable development.

 – Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: El Pais Internacional, El Heraldo, El Heraldo, Los Angeles Times, World Bank, World Bank
Photo: Zimbio