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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Honduran-U.S. Relations

Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

On January 27, 2010, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo Sosa was inaugurated President of Honduras. Lobo assumed power after seven months of domestic political crisis and international isolation that had resulted from the June 28, 2009 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. The political crisis has left Lobo with a number of challenges, including considerable domestic political polarization, a lack of international recognition, and a faltering economy. Nonetheless, the strength of Lobo's National Party in the legislature and the weakness of his opposition will likely allow the new president to implement his policy agenda. 

The Honduran economy has undergone a number of changes in recent years. While traditional agricultural exports of coffee and bananas are still important, nontraditional sectors, especially the maquiladora, or export-processing industry, have grown significantly over the past decade. Substantial economic growth (6.3% in 2007 and 4% in 2008) and considerable debt reduction by international financial institutions have freed government resources to finance poverty-reduction programs. Nonetheless, Honduras continues to face a poverty rate of nearly 70%, in addition to widespread crime, high infant mortality, and a significant HIV/AIDS epidemic. Moreover, Honduras experienced an estimated 4.4% economic contraction in 2009 as a result of the political crisis and global economic downturn. 

Although relations have been strained recently as a result of the political crisis, the United States has traditionally had a close relationship with Honduras. Overall U.S. policy goals include a strengthened democracy with an effective justice system that protects human rights and promotes the rule of law, and the promotion of sustainable economic growth with a more open economy and improved living conditions. In addition to providing Honduras with substantial amounts of foreign assistance and maintaining significant military and economic ties, the United States cooperates with Honduras to deal with transnational issues such as illegal migration, crime, narcotics trafficking, trafficking in persons, and port security. 

With respect to the political crisis, several resolutions were introduced during the first session of the 111th Congress. These ranged from condemning Zelaya for his "unconstitutional and illegal" actions (H.Res. 619, Mack) to condemning the "coup d'état" in Honduras (H.Res. 630, Delahunt) and calling upon the Micheletti government to end its "illegal seizure of power"(H.Res. 620, Serrano). Another resolution (H.Res. 749, Ros-Lehtinen) called on the Obama Administration to recognize the November 2009 elections "as an important step in the consolidation of democracy and rule of law in Honduras." 

This report examines current political and economic conditions in Honduras as well as issues in Honduran-U.S. relations. For a more detailed examination of the Honduran political crisis, see CRS Report R41064, Honduran Political Crisis, June 2009-January 2010.

Date of Report: February 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL34027
Price: $29.95

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