|General 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.
comparative: Slightly larger than Tennessee
Climate: Subtropical in lowlands, temperate in
Terrain: Mostly mountains in
interior, narrow coastal plains
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and
European) 90%, Amerindian 7%, Black 2%, White 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant minority
Language: Spanish, Amerindian dialects
Government type: Democratic constitutional republic
Legal system: Rooted in Roman and Spanish civil
law with increasing influence of English common law;
recent judicial reforms include abandoning Napoleonic
legal codes in favour of the oral adversarial system;
accepts ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: Honduras, one of the poorest
countries in the Western Hemisphere with an extraordinarily
unequal distribution of income, 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 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 containment
of the recent rise in crime.
Communication/Telephone system: Inadequate system.
Places of interest: The slow pace, natural beauty
and low-profile tourism make it particularly appealing
to travelers who enjoy getting off the beaten track.
Travel tips: Be well-armed with insect repellent.
Incidents involving armed robbery, purse snatching and
pick-pocketing have been on the rise. Travelers should
steer clear of the El Rubi waterfall near Santa Rita
de Copán, and exercise extreme caution in Tela,
as there have been numerous reports of robberies, assaults
and rapes in these areas.