Honduras profile

Map of Honduras

Honduras has a long history of military rule, corruption, poverty and crime which have rendered it one of the least developed and most unstable countries in Central America.

Until the mid-1980s Honduras was dominated by the military, which enthusiastically supported US efforts to stem revolutionary movements in the region. Since then, civilian leaders have sought to curb the power of the military, with varying degrees of success.

Gang violence, drug wars and extortion are commonplace and the country is notorious for having the world's highest murder rate per capita.

Inequalities in wealth remain high, with nearly half of the population living below the poverty line. Thousands of Hondurans leave to go to the US each year and the remittances they send home are a crucial source of income for many families.

Once dominated by foreign-owned banana companies, the country remains a major fruit exporter. It is also Central America's second largest coffee producer.


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President: Juan Orlando Hernandez

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez

Juan Orlando Hernandez took office in January 2014, promising a zero tolerance approach towards organized crime and pledging to bring down the high levels of drug-related violence.

He won elections in the previous November, beating off challenger Xiomara Castro, the wife of former president Manuel Zelaya - whose ouster in a 2009 coup triggered a deep political crisis.

During his four-year term due to end in January 2018, Mr Hernandez is also facing deep economic challenges, including high unemployment and poverty levels.


Man reading newspaper in Honduras

Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has been one of the western hemisphere's most dangerous countries for journalists.

Twenty-eight journalists and media workers have been killed since 2000, Reporters Without Borders reported in 2015.

Harassment against broadcasting outlets has included assaults, threats, blocked transmissions and power outages, says Freedom House.

Media freedom is restricted by punitive defamation laws, and reporters tend to exercise self-censorship. Ownership of media outlets is concentrated in the hands of a few powerful business interests, US-based Freedom House notes.

There were 2.4 million internet users by November 2015, about 24% of the population (Internetworldstats). Facebook is the leading social network.


Some key dates in the history of Honduras:

Nicaraguan Contra rebels in Honduras US-backed rebels known as Contras used Honduras as a base for destabilising Nicaragua in the 1980s

1502 - Christopher Colombus lands in Honduras, a country originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, most notably the Maya. Spanish colonisation begins in 1524.

1821 - Honduras declares independence, becomes part of Mexican Empire until 1823, when it joins United Provinces of Central America until federation collapses in 1838.

1839 - Republic falls under influence of US corporations which establish vast fruit plantations.

1963 - President Ramone Morales is deposed in coup. Colonel Osvaldo Lopez Arellano heads first of string of military regimes in power until 1981.

1969 - Football War with El Salvador; 4,000 die in 100-hour conflict.

1981-82 - First civilian government in over a century elected but military remains influential.

1980s - Honduras is a stronghold for the US in its proxy war against socialist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, training and funding Contra rebels. Many Hondurans flee to the US.

2000-04 - US deports 20,000 people to Central America, including rival groups - Salvatrucha and 18 Street - which bring gang culture to the region.

1998 - Hurricane Mitch devastates Honduras.

2007 - A long-time US ally, Honduras breaks with tradition as President Manuel Zelaya becomes the first Honduran president to visit Cuba in 50 years.

2009 - Several years of a weak but strengthening democracy are curtailed when President Manuel Zelaya is deposed in a military coup.

A child harvests coffee beans Honduras is Central America's second biggest coffee producer

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