Doris Midence, a snack bar employee at La Tigra National Park
outside the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, has the empty gaze of
someone with too much time on her hands.
"Customers are down by half," she says, reorganizing gum and
candy bars. "Between curfews and protests, people are not leaving
The Honduran political crisis - at four months and counting,
after ousted President Manuel Zelaya was arrested and deposed by the
military June 28 - could finally be coming to an end. Both sides
have signed a deal that calls on Congress to decide whether Mr.
Zelaya gets to return to office. But even if the curfews are being
lifted, the economic ramifications of Latin America's worst crisis
for decades could endure much longer.
Tourists who typically visit the northern Bay Islands, for
example, are opting for other places in the Caribbean to scuba dive.
Foreign investment has dropped. Cuts in aid have stalled
construction of roads. And the nation's consumers, some facing their
own unemployment or simply saving in the face of political
instability, are no longer buying shoes or furniture or other non-
"Since June 28 demand has declined dramatically," says Jose
Enrique Nunez, the president of the country's national association
of small and medium-sized businesses. "It has created chaos, and
that chaos is causing us to collapse."
No quick fix for the economy
Hours after Zelaya was kicked out of Honduras for allegedly
pushing for a constitutional change to relax presidential term
limits - a charge he denies - a new government led by Roberto
Micheletti took over. Since then, the two men - Mr. Zelaya in the
Brazilian embassy, where he sought refuge after sneaking back into
the country Sept. 21, and Mr. Micheletti in the presidential palace -
have battled over who should be governing the country. Now they have
left the decision up to the Congress, but their resolution will be
no quick fix to the economy.
In September, the London-based polling company Consensus
Economics reported that Honduras's GDP would decline by 2.6 percent
this year, readjusted from a .7 percent decline forecast made just
months earlier. Rebeca Patricia Santos Rivera, the finance minister
for Zelaya who continues to represent Honduras on the international
stage, has said that GDP this year could fall by 4 percent or more.
And by some estimates the economy has lost $200 million in
investment since June 28 alone.
By and large, despite intermittent protests, life on the streets
of Tegucigalpa continues on, as it hums on in San Pedro Sula, the
industrial center of Honduras, and the rest of the nation. It is a
sense of "normalcy" that Micheletti supporters like to point out.
But life is far from normal for many sectors of society.
Anna Rossivel Cruz, head of statistics for the acting Tourism
Ministry, says the government cannot precisely estimate how much the
political crisis has hurt tourism, but that the numbers of those
visiting is down since July after increasing by 7 percent in the
first half of the year.
"It has affected us negatively, but we think this drop-off will
stop at the end of the year," Ms. …