Quick Facts

República de Honduras
Nationality: Honduran (s)
Capital: Tegucigalpa
Currency: Lempira (HNL) – Lempiras per US dollar: 18.89 (Dec. 2008)
Population: 7.6 million (July 2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS Rate: 1.5% among adults (2005)
Ethnic Groups: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European) 90%, Amerindian 7%, black 2%, white 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant minority
Languages: Spanish, Amerindian dialects
Literacy: 80% among adults

Historical Background: Part of Spain’s vast empire in the New World, Honduras became an independent nation in 1821. After two and one-half decades of mostly military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. During the 1980s, Honduras proved a haven for anti-Sandinista contras fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan Government and an ally to Salvadoran Government forces fighting against leftist guerrillas. The country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 5,600 people and caused approximately $2 billion in damage.

Geography: Bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Honduras has only a short Pacific coast but a long Caribbean shoreline, including the virtually uninhabited eastern Mosquito Coast
Climate: subtropical in lowlands, temperate in mountains
Terrain: mostly mountains in interior, narrow coastal plains
Natural Hazards: frequent, but generally mild, earthquakes; extremely susceptible to damaging hurricanes and floods along the Caribbean coast
Environmental Issues: urban population expanding; deforestation results from logging and the clearing of land for agricultural purposes; further land degradation and soil erosion hastened by uncontrolled development and improper land use practices such as farming of marginal lands; mining activities polluting Lago de Yojoa (the country’s largest source of fresh water), as well as several rivers and streams, with heavy metals

Independence: September 15, 1821 (from Spain)
President Jose Manuel Zelaya Roslaes has been the chief of state since 2006.

Economic Overview: Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere with an extraordinarily unequal distribution of income and massive unemployment, is banking on expanded trade privileges under the Enhanced Caribbean Basin Initiative and on debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. While the country has met most of its macroeconomic targets, it has failed to meet the IMF’s goals to liberalize its energy and telecommunications sectors. Growth remains dependent on the status of the US economy, its major trading partner, on commodity prices, particularly coffee, and on reduction of the high crime rate.

GDP Per Capita: $2,600
Unemployment Rate: 27.8% (2007), high underemployment.
Agricultural Products: bananas, coffee, citrus; beef; timber; shrimp
Industries: sugar, coffee, textiles, clothing, wood products
Exports: coffee, bananas, shrimp, lobster, meat; zinc, lumber (2000)

International Disputes: In 1992, ICJ ruled on the delimitation of “bolsones” (disputed areas) along the El Salvador-Honduras border, and the OAS is assisting with a technical resolution of bolsones; in 2003, the ICJ rejected El Salvador’s request to revise its decision on one bolsone; the 1992 ICJ ruling advised a tripartite resolution to a maritime boundary in the Gulf of Fonseca with consideration of Honduran access to the Pacific; El Salvador continues to claim tiny Conejo Island, not mentioned by the ICJ, off Honduras in the Gulf of Fonseca; Honduras claims Sapodilla Cays off the coast of Belize but agreed to creation of a joint ecological park and Guatemalan corridor in the Caribbean in the failed 2002 Belize-Guatemala Differendum; Nicaragua filed a claim against Honduras in 1999 and against Colombia in 2001 at the ICJ over a complex maritime dispute in the Caribbean Sea

Illicit Drugs: transshipment point for drugs and narcotics; illicit producer of cannabis, cultivated on small plots and used principally for local consumption; corruption is a major problem; some money-laundering activity.