Honduras - US Relations
Honduras has traditionally been an ally of the United States and generally supports U.S. initiatives in international fora. There was close cooperation with Honduras in the areas of counternarcotics and counterterrorism before June 2009, but because the de facto regime was not recognized as the legitimate government, these activities were suspended. The U.S. recognized the November 2009 presidential election and is cooperating with the Lobo administration to combat poverty, to improve education and health standards for all Hondurans, to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights, and to increase Honduras’ ability to fight transnational crime and provide a safe environment for all of its citizens. Honduras was among the first countries to sign an International Criminal Court (ICC) Article 98 Agreement with the U.S., and the Honduran port of Puerto Cortes is part of the U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI). Honduras was also the first Central American country to sign a letter of agreement (LOA) to implement the Merida Initiative, now known as the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).
During the 1980s, Honduras supported U.S. policy opposing a revolutionary Marxist government in Nicaragua and an active leftist insurgency in El Salvador. The Honduran Government also played a key role in negotiations that culminated in the 1990 Nicaraguan elections. Honduras continues to participate in the UN observer mission in the Western Sahara, contributed 370 troops for stabilization in Iraq, and remains interested in participating in other UN peacekeeping missions.
The U.S. Government strongly supports the professionalization of the civilian police force as an important element in strengthening the rule of law in Honduras. The American Embassy in Tegucigalpa provides specialized training to police officers.
The country’s Armed Forces aren’t exempt from controversy either. The U.S. government has reportedly given approximately US$20 million each year to Honduran military officials since 2014, and US$200 million in total between 2010 and 2016.
In 2015, U.S. Congress opened an investigation into 300 U.S. personnel and security forces training several Honduran agency personnel, including a security forces element called FUSINA. This element is directly linked to Caceres’ murder and has been accused of circulating a hit list of social activists to kill.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said 500 FUSINA agents had been allowed to use “U.S. helicopters and planes, despite allegations regarding the agency’s repeated involvement in human-rights violations.” Meanwhile, Washington continues to support Hernandez’s grip on power. With major protests in the backdrop last year, the U.S. ambassador to Honduras announced that “relations between the United States and Honduras are perhaps the best in history.”
The United States maintains a small presence at a Honduran military base; until suspension as a result of the June 2009 coup, the two countries conducted joint peacekeeping, counternarcotics, humanitarian, disaster relief, and civic action exercises. U.S. troops conduct and provide logistics support for a variety of bilateral and multilateral exercises--medical, engineering, peacekeeping, counternarcotics, and disaster relief--for the benefit of the Honduran people and their Central American neighbors. U.S. forces--regular, reserve, and National Guard--benefit greatly from these exercises. These activities resumed once constitutional government was restored.
In 2004, the United States signed the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. The legislatures of all signatories except Costa Rica ratified CAFTA in 2005, and the agreement entered into force in the first half of 2006. CAFTA eliminates tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods, services, agricultural products, and investments. Additionally, CAFTA is expected to solidify democracy, encourage greater regional integration, and provide safeguards for environmental protection and labor rights. The United States is Honduras' chief trading partner and the largest investor in Honduras.
U.S. policy toward Honduras is aimed at consolidating democracy, protecting human rights, and promoting the rule of law, and U.S. policy regarding the June 2009 coup pursued those aims. U.S. Government programs are aimed at promoting a healthy and more open economy capable of sustainable growth, improving the climate for business and investment while protecting U.S. citizen and corporate rights, and promoting the well-being of the Honduran people. The United States also works with Honduras to meet transnational challenges--including the fight against terrorism, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, illegal migration, and trafficking in persons--and encourages and supports Honduran efforts to protect the environment. The goals of strengthening democracy and promoting viable economic growth are especially important given the geographical proximity of Honduras to the United States. An estimated 1 million Hondurans reside in the United States, 600,000 of whom are believed to be undocumented; consequently, immigration issues are an important item on the bilateral agenda.
U.S.-Honduras ties are further strengthened by numerous private sector contacts, with an average of between 80,000 and 110,000 U.S. citizens visiting Honduras annually and about 15,000 Americans residing there. More than 200 American companies operate in Honduras.
In order to help strengthen Honduras' democratic institutions and improve living conditions, the United States has provided substantial economic assistance. The United States has historically been the largest bilateral donor to Honduras. The planned USAID budget for Honduras is $53.2 million for fiscal year 2011. Over the years, U.S. foreign assistance has helped advance such objectives as fostering democratic institutions, improving education and the health status of the population, increasing private sector employment and income, helping Honduras manage its arrears with international financial institutions, providing humanitarian aid, increasing agricultural production, and providing loans to microbusinesses.
1998's Hurricane Mitch left hundreds of thousands homeless, devastated the road network and other public infrastructure, and crippled key sectors of the economy. Estimates show that Hurricane Mitch caused $8.5 billion in damages to homes, hospitals, schools, roads, farms, and businesses throughout Central America, including more than $3 billion in Honduras alone. In response, the United States provided more than $461 million in immediate disaster relief and humanitarian aid over the years 1998-2001. This supplemental assistance was designed to help repair water and sanitation systems; replace housing, schools, and roads; provide agricultural inputs; provide local government crisis management training; grant debt relief; and encourage environmental management expertise. Additional resources were utilized to maintain anti-crime and drug assistance programs.
In June 2005, Honduras became the first country in the hemisphere to sign a Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact with the U.S. Government. Under the Compact, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation invested $205 million over 5 years to help Honduras improve its road infrastructure, diversify its agriculture, and transport its products to market.
The Peace Corps has been active in Honduras since 1962, and currently the program is one of the largest in the world. In 2009, there were approximately 180 Peace Corps Volunteers working in the poorest parts of Honduras. Volunteers work in six project areas including: HIV/AIDS Prevention and Child Survival, Youth Development, Protected Areas Management, Business, Water and Sanitation, and Municipal Development.
The U.S. is the chief trading partner for Honduras, supplying 34% of Honduran imports and purchasing 41% of Honduran exports in 2010. Bilateral trade between the two nations totaled $8.3 billion in 2010. U.S. exports to Honduras in 2010 totaled $4.6 billion, a 36.8% increase from 2009. U.S. imports from Honduras rose 18.4% from the implementation of CAFTA until 2009, while U.S. exports to Honduras grew by 48.9% in that period.
CAFTA eliminates most tariffs and other barriers for U.S. goods destined for the Central American market, provides protection for U.S. investments and intellectual property, and creates more transparent rules and procedures for conducting business. CAFTA also aims to eliminate intra-Central American tariffs and facilitate increased regional trade, benefiting U.S. companies manufacturing in Honduras. With CAFTA implemented, about 80% of U.S. goods now enter the region duty-free, with tariffs on the remaining 20% to be phased out by 2016.
Leading U.S. exports in 2009 included: textile yarn and fabric, petroleum and petroleum products, cereals and cereal preparations, low-value shipments, and apparel. Nearly all textile and apparel goods that meet CAFTA’s rules of origin became duty-free and quota-free immediately, thus promoting new opportunities for U.S. fiber, yarn, fabric, and apparel manufacturers. Honduras is the seventh-largest exporter of apparel and textile products by volume to the U.S. market behind countries such as Mexico and China; Honduras is first among Central American and Caribbean countries.
The stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Honduras rose 7.2% between 2008 and 2009, from $787 million to $844 million. This was concentrated largely in the manufacturing, finance, insurance, and banking sectors of the country.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|