Magazine article Geographical

Honduras

Magazine article Geographical

Honduras

Article excerpt

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In November last year, Porfiro Lobo was elected president of Honduras. Meanwhile, Manuel Zelaya, the previous, and widely considered rightful, president was holed up in the Brazilian embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, having sought refuge there a few months earlier. Zelaya took office in 2006, but in June last year, he was removed at gunpoint in response to his apparent desire to engineer a change in the country's constitution that would allow him to seek a second term.

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During his time of office, Zelaya attracted controversy when it became clear that his electoral pledges to tackle poverty weren't likely to be achieved in the short term, especially when gang violence and rising food prices added further complications. He was also criticised for aligning his government with the leftist regimes of Venezuela and Cuba. In August 2008, Honduras joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), an organisation created by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposed by the USA. (In December last year, the Honduran Congress voted to withdraw from ALBA.)

Zelaya's successor, who lost to him in the 2005 election, is eager to persuade the international community that his electoral victory is legitimate. The Obama administration, which had previously been critical of Zelaya's removal from office, has accept the election result, as have Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru and Panama. However, regional powers Argentina and Brazil have said that they won't recognise the incoming government as doing so would legitimise the coup that ousted Zelaya. Recognition is considered critical in terms of restoring international confidence and bringing in foreign direct investment.

This saga is far from unusual in a country that has already experienced more than its fair share of upheaval. Honduras gained independence from Spain in 1821 and then from the Mexican Empire in 1823. Sandwiched between Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, it covers an area of 112,000 square kilometres, and has a population of nearly eight million people, the vast majority of whom are Mestizo in origin - a combination of Amerindian and Spanish. …

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