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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Honduran-U.S. Relations

Peter J. Meyer
Analyst in Latin American Affairs

Mark P. Sullivan
Specialist 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. While the strength of Lobo's National Party in the legislature should help the government secure approval of its policy agenda, the political crisis left the new President with daunting challenges, including a high level of domestic political polarization, difficulty securing international recognition, a battered economy, and a poor human rights situation exacerbated by the murders of journalists and human rights defenders. Moreover, for a number of years, Honduras has had a poor security situation with high rates of violent crime.

The Honduran economy has undergone significant changes since the 1990s. While traditional agricultural exports of coffee and bananas are still important, nontraditional sectors, especially the maquiladora, or export-processing industry, have grown significantly. Substantial economic growth helped reduce poverty, but the country's political crisis and the global economic downturn in 2009 led to an economic contraction. The country continues to face high poverty, estimated at almost 69%, as well as high infant mortality and a significant HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Although relations were strained during the political crisis, the United States has traditionally had a close relationship with Honduras. Broad 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." In the second session, H.Res. 1197 (Rohrabacher) would express support for democracy in Honduras and call on nations to restore normal relations with the government of 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.

For additional information, see CRS Report R40135, Mérida Initiative for Mexico and Central America: Funding and Policy Issues, CRS Report RL34112, Gangs in Central America, CRS Report RL32427, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and CRS Report RS20844, Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration Policy and Issues

Date of Report: June 18, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL34027
Price: $29.95

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