Tag Archive | "Honduras"

Honduras: Libre Party Activist Killed in Mayoral Dispute

Protests outside Town Hall in San Francisco de Opalaca (photo via Upside Down World)

Protests outside Town Hall in San Francisco de Opalaca (photo via Upside Down World)

An activist for the Liberdad y Refundación (Libre) party was killed, and several others injured, in a politically-motivated attack, according to a press statement released yesterday by the Civic Council for Popular and Indigenous Organisations in Honduras (Copinh).

Irene Meza, husband of a Libre councillor, was shot on Sunday in San Francisco de Opalaca, where a dispute between Libre and the Partido Nacional (PN) over last year’s elections results has been rumbling for over four months.

According to Copinh, a group of associates of Socorro Sánchez, the elected PN mayor of Opalaca, attacked a group of Libre supporters that have been maintaining a blockade of the Town Hall for months over alleged fraud in November’s elections. Meza was badly wounded, and then attacked again when being taken to hospital. This time, a group of hooded men that Copinh also claims to be supporters of Sánchez, opened fire on the car transporting the activist, causing it to crash. Meza died from his injuries after this second attack, while two other people travelling in the car were also hurt.

The killing of Meza comes as tensions escalate in San Francisco de Opalaca as Libre supporters and local indigenous groups block what they say is the illegitimate Sánchez administration. Sánchez, who came to power after the 2009 coup, tied with Libre candidate Éntimo Vásquez in the November election, but after a recount, The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared Sánchez the victor by eight votes, but Vásquez supporters rejected this decision, saying the extra votes had been added illegally.

Since late January they have maintained a vigil at the Town Hall to prevent Sánchez from taking office. In that period, the group claim to have suffered other attacks, and Vásquez’s brother, Juan Alberto, was found murdered in February.

After the weekend’s violence, Entimo Vásquez urged the government – led by President Juan Orlando Hernández of the PN – to intervene. “The conflict is intensifying and it’s time the state intervened to prevent more blood being spilled. There was a draw here, and the people are demanding a solution.”

Copinh, meanwhile, said it held President Hernández, the army and police, and other groups in power for the “policy of terror and criminalisation of our people and organisation.” On Monday the group also reported the killing of William Jacobo Rodríguez in Río Blanco, where he was part of a struggle against the Agua Zarca hydro-electric project on the territory of the indigenous Lenca community.

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Honduras: Violent Eviction of Campesinos

Bajo Aguán human rights meeting, where families show images of those killed in the conflict (photo courtesy of Honduras Delegation)

Bajo Aguán human rights meeting, where families show images of those killed in the conflict (photo courtesy of Honduras Delegation)

Fifteen people have been detained as a result of a massive police operation to evict campesinos from a terrain in Bajo Aguán, north Honduras. One police officer, and three adolescents are reported to have been injured during the operation.

Human rights organisations have labelled the operation “heavy handed”, and accused the 300 security forces involved of abuses.

The disputed land has been at the centre of conflicts between landowners and campesinos since 2008, and some 128 campesinos have been killed as a result of on-going violence, according to Honduras’ Permanent Observatory of Rights. Since the conflict began, some 300 families have been evicted from the land.

The campesinos say they had occupied the terrain as a result of a ruling by a regional court in Trujillo. However, that ruling was overturned by an appeals court in the capital Tegucigalpa, and so security forces were given a judicial order to evacuate the land, which was being worked by the family farmers.

Local media are also reporting that three of those arrested, Jaime Cabrera, Antonio Rodríguez, and Walter Cárcamo, are shielded by protective measures handed down from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The police operation took place on the third anniversary of the killing of four campesinos on the same terrain, crimes that have never been resolved.


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Latin America News Roundup: 5th May 2014

MS13 Gang Member (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Mara Salvatrucha gang member (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Honduras – Prisoners Killed in Gang Attack: Five prisoners from the mara M18 gang were killed yesterday after an attack by the rival Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, gang. All of the dead were under 18 and were jailed at El Cármen prison in San Pedro Sula. According to the police, the attackers threatened the guards, overpowering them with their weapons, and managed to get into the area of the jail that the M18 inhabit, opening fire and killing five of their rivals and injuring another. It is not clear if the perpetrators were fellow inmates or had come into the prison from the outside. Three of them have been detained. Neighbours reported hearing explosions, but police have denied grenades were used in the attack. Prisons in Honduras are notorious for being overpopulated, lacking guards, and being very violent. In 2012, over 350 inmates were killed in a fire in Comayagua prison, north of the capital Tegucigalpa.


Colombia – ‘No Chance’ for Survivors After Mine Collapse: Rescuers are continuing to search for miners buried in a landslide last week in Santander de Quilichao, Southwest Colombia, though there are no expectations of finding survivors. A dozen bodies have already been recovered from the site, while at least another four remain missing. Mayor Eduardo Grijalba already said on the weekend that there was “no chance” of finding survivors at this stage, with operation now focused on locating the bodies of those trapped. The gold mine did not have a license, and local authorities had tried to close it down on several occasions, the latest in February, but the local community prevented police from stopping operations. According to a recent report from the public prosecutor’s office, illegal mining is present in 70% of Colombia’s territory. These unregulated mines are often dangerous, with BBC Mundo reporting 25 accidents so far already in 2014. “What happened in Santander de Quilichao must not happen again in Colombia,” said Vice President Angelino Garzón this weekend. “One way or another, we must end illegal mining in the country.”


Juan Carlos Varela (photo: Wikipedia)

Juan Carlos Varela (photo: Wikipedia)

Panama – Opposition Candidate Wins Presidential Election: Opposition leader and vice president Juan Carlos Varela has been declared the winner of yesterday’s presidential election in Panama. With nearly 90% of votes counted by the Electoral Tribunal, Varela has 39.1% support, comfortably ahead of José Domingo Arias, the incumbent party candidate, with 31.7%. The former mayor of Panama City, Juan Carlos Navarro, is third with 27.8%. Varela joined the ticket with incumbent president Ricardo Martinelli in 2009, and served as foreign affairs minister until 2011, when his dismissal brought down the alliance between Varela’s Partido Panameñista and Martinelli’s Cambio Democrático. Since then, Varela has been one of the most outspoken critics of the administration, accusing Martinelli of corruption. “Today democracy was the winner,” said Varela after being declared victorious, adding that his would be a “humane government of national unity, leading with honesty and transparency.” Martinelli, meanwhile, said he would form part of a “constructive opposition”. With the conservative Partido Panameñista only winning an estimated 11 out of 71 seats up for election, the president-elect will need to seek alliances in the National Assembly. Varela will take over the presidency on 1st July.





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Latin America News Roundup: 27th March 2014

Peruvian, Bolivian and Chilean territories before the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Peruvian, Bolivian, and Chilean territories before the 1879-83 War of the Pacific (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Landlocked Bolivia Creates ‘Sea Ambassador’: In a press conference yesterday, President Evo Morales announced the creation of a new, itinerant diplomatic position to follow the landlocked country’s maritime claim and Chile, and also changed his country’s ambassador to Chile. Magdalena Cajías, an historian and former minister of education, will take up the position in Santiago, while the president has still not confirmed who will be taking up the position of roving ambassador. The neighbouring countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1976, when Bolivia tried to regain access to the Pacific which it lost in 1879 during the War of the Pacific, which changed the borders of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, seeing Chile annex Bolivia’s coast and part of the south of Peru.

The announcement came on the same day Chile and Peru finalised new maritime borders after 27th January’s ruling in the Hague demarcated the Pacific ocean frontier.

Tension Between El Salvador and Honduras over Isla Conejo: El Salvador’s president, Mauricio Funes, yesterday sent a letter to his Honduran counterpart, Juan Orlando Hernández, demanding that Honduras “immediately vacate” Isla Conejo. The spat comes after Honduras’ recent construction of a heliport on the tiny, uninhabited island, which preceded last week’s visit to the island by Hernández. Funes said that his neighbour’s behaviour has “gravely affected the countries’ bi-lateral relations”, to which Hernández replied that the island is Honduran and that Funes’ protest was “impertinent”. Funes also sent a note to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, lamenting Honduras’ provocation. The International Court of Justice marked the maritime border between the Central American nations in 2004, but Isla Conejo, which sits just metres off the Honduran coast, was not specifically named as it sits well within the country’s maritime borders. El Salvador’s claim on the island, which lies in a strategic location, stems from the country’s occupation of the island until 1983, when the country’s army abandoned the islet during the El Salvadorian civil war.

Colombia: FARC will not give up Police Killers: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced yesterday that they would not hand over those responsible for the death of two police officers earlier this month. Germán Méndez and Edílmer Muñoz were captured by the FARC on 15th March in the south-western department of Nariño and beaten to death, something Juan Manuel Santos’ government has deemed a “war crime”. The Colombian government and the UN went on to ask that FARC give up those responsible as a sign of their commitment to the on-going peace talks. In yesterday’s communication, FARC’s leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, known as ‘Timochenko’, responded by saying that those responsible will face “guerrilla justice”, and went on to say “Let’s sign a ceasefire, Santos, and make peace possible.”

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Latin America News Roundup: 14th March 2014

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  (Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
(Photo: Facebook official account)

Colombia: Dozens of New Members of Congress Tied to Paramilitaries: Colombia’s Peace and Reconciliation Foundation has reported that 70 of the candidates elected in Sunday’s legislative elections had been questioned for ties to paramilitaries or other criminal organisations. Thirty-three were elected to the Senate and 37 to the Chamber of Representatives. Before Sunday’s elections, the NGO had highlighted ties of 131 of the 2,324 candidates to such organisations, and the fact that over half of them were elected led to a “bleak” panorama. According to their investigation, the party with the most questionable members of Congress was President Juan Manuel de Santos’ Partido de la U, with 18, followed by Conservatives and Liberals, with 13 each. Most of those elected came from northern provinces, which historically have the most ties to the paramilitaries.

Honduras: Justice of Peace and Lawyer Killed: Two legal representatives were killed in separate attacks today in Honduras. Justice of the peace Lenin Castañeda was shot dead outside his home in the Caribbean city of Tocoa, while lawyer José Nicolás Bernárdez died after motorcyclists fired on his car in San Pedro Sula. Police sources have confirmed that Castañeda was the son of Adolfo Castañeda, the founder of the MUCA, a campesino movement. So far no motive has been given for either attack. These latest murders brings the number of legal professionals killed since 2010 to 75, according to the country’s Human Rights Commission. Each day, an average of 14 people are killed in the Central American country, and with a rate of 169 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants San Pedro Sula was last year declared the most violent city in the world for a second year in a row.

Chile’s New Government Apologises to Mapuche: Francisco Huenchumilla, the newly appointed governor of Chile’s Araucanía region, today apologised to the Mapuche population for removal of their land and admitted that the country had a pending debt to the indigenous community, promising public policies that would help alleviate poverty. Around 600,000 Mapuche live in the region, and are currently in conflict with forestry companies, demanding their land back from what they say was illegal usurpation. Huenchumilla has said that he will meet with all sides that have been affected by the violence, as “everybody should be given a voice”. The region has seen clashes since the 90s between the Mapuche and farmers and businessmen who have been exploiting land the Mapuche consider to be ancestrally theirs.

Regional Environment Summit Closes in Mexico: The 19th Meeting of the Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, considered the most important environmental meeting in the region, ended today in Los Cabos, Mexico. Climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biodiversity conservation were the top items of the agenda, and the summit aimed to strengthen regional cooperation in addressing these issues. Conservation was high on the agenda as the region is home to 34% of the world’s plant species, 30% of mammals, 41% of birds, 50% of amphibians, 35% of reptiles, and 31% of fish. The event was organised by the Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), gathered together ministers and high-level officials from 31 countries, as well as representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and civil society.

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Latin America News Roundup: 18th February 2014

Leopoldo López (centre) gives himself up to the National Guard today (photo: AFP/ Juan Barreto/Télam)

Leopoldo López (centre) gives himself up to the National Guard today (photo: AFP/ Juan Barreto/Télam)

Venezuela – Opposition Leader Arrested as Protests Continue: A figurehead of the opposition protests taking place since last Wednesday in Venezuela, Leopoldo López, handed himself over to the National Guard while leading another march today in Caracas. López had been wanted by police for several days, suspected of various crimes, including inciting the violence that left three dead last week. Dressed in white and carrying flowers, López spoke to protesters gathered on the streets of the capital before giving himself up. “If my incarceration serves to awaken the people, it will be worth it,” he said. Pro-government groups also took to the streets again today in a show of support for President Nicolás Maduro, who spoke to the crowds this afternoon.

Also today, the government confirmed via the Official Gazette the removal of the head of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin), days after confirming that members of the unit had disobeyed orders not to go out on the streets during the marches on 12th February. Gustavo González was named at the new Sebin director.

Honduras – Government to Establish ‘Dry Sunday’ to Combat Crime: The government in Honduras announced yesterday that it would impose a ban on alcohol for 11 hours from Sunday afternoons in an effort to reduce violent crime and road accidents. Presidential Secretary Reinaldo Sánchez told press that the sale of alcohol would be forbidden between 5pm on Sunday until 6am on Monday and will be enforced at a national level. Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates, calculated by the Autonomous National University of Honduras (UNAH) at 79.7 per 100,000 people in 2013 (compared to an estimated global average of 8.8). However, director of the Violence Observatory at UNAH, Migdonia Ayestas, said more studies must be conducted to investigate the link between alcohol and homicides. “We can say that the violent murders in Honduras are usually committed on weekends. Whether this is due to the intake of alcohol requires greater investigation and analysis.”

Brazil – Curitiba Confirmed as World Cup Venue: The Arena da Baixada stadium in Curitiba was today given the green light by football governing body FIFA to host matches in the 2014 World Cup starting 12th June. The venue had been in doubt due to severe delays in the construction of the stadium, and was given until today to convince FIFA that it would be ready on time. After an inspection, FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke announced via Twitter this afternoon that Curitiba would remain a host city, “based on financial guarantees, the commitments by all stakeholders, and progress made.” Valcke added that: “It’s a race against a very tight timeline.” The stadium is scheduled to host four group stage matches during the tournament, with the first to be played on 15th June.

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Latin America News Roundup: 3rd February 2014

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, El Salvadorian presidential frontrunner (photo: wikipedia.org)

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, frontrunner in the El Salvadorian presidential elections (photo: wikipedia.org)

El Salvador Presidential Elections go to Second Round: With nearly all the votes counted, results indicate yesterday’s presidential election in El Salvador will go to a run-off on 9th March. Current vice president Salvador Sánchez Cerén from the governing left-wing FMLN party received 48.9% of the votes, and will face conservative Norman Quijano from the Nationalist Republican Alliance, ARENA, who took 38.9% in the first round. The winner will take power on 1st June and will govern the country for the next five years. Both candidates accepted the results and announced their willingness to form alliances with other political parties. Sánchez Cerén has already reached out to the UNIDAD movement’s candidate, Elías Antonio Saca, to work together in the next government. Sunday’s election had a turnout of just 53%, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, almost ten percentage points lower than the 2009 elections.

Costa Rica Elections: Residents of Costa Rica also went to the polls yesterday to vote in the country’s general elections, choosing new representatives in congress, new governors, and a new president. With no outright winner, the two leading presidential candidates will face a run-off on 6th April. The governing Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN)’s candidate, Johnny Araya, who obtained 29.5% of the vote, will face Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC)’s Luis Guillermo Solís, who obtained 31% of the vote. Neither candidate has so far spoken of potential alliances, but it seems likely the winner will have to form some kind of coalition to govern, as they will face a divided congress when they take power on 8th May. PLN received 18 of the 57 legislative seats, PAC took 13, with the remainder divided between five other parties.

Honduras – Diplomatic Relations Re-established with Latin American countries: The governments of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador officially recognised Juan Orlando Hernández’s government in Honduras at last week’s Celac summit in Cuba. Following this, the three countries announced at the weekend they would re-establish diplomatic ties with the Central American nation after almost five years, when a coup ousted democratically-elected Juan Manuel Zelaya, leading to a political crisis in the country, and a diplomatic crisis in the region.

Cuba has Highest Literacy Rate in Latin America: According to a UNESCO report published on Saturday, Cuba has the highest literacy rate in Latin America. The annual report, entitled ‘Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All‘, highlighted the Caribbean island’s achievements, noting that 13% of the country’s GDP goes towards education, compared to a regional average of 5.5%. The report looked at countries’ progress under the Education for All global commitment to provide basic education for all children, youth, and adults, as agreed at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000. At the forum, 164 governments pledged to work towards six goals to be met by 2015, and are working with development agencies, civil society, and the private sector to achieve the targets, under the coordination of UNESCO. In Latin America, around 10% of children of school age are not achieving basic standards in reading and writing, and 30% are lacking in mathematics. Standards varied widely by country, and within social groups within national borders, with the poorest often faring the worst. For example, in Haiti only 42% of young people from a poor background know how to read and write, compared to 92% of their better off compatriots. The report highlighted that if current trends continue, developing countries will not achieve their targets until 2072.

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Latin America News Roundup: 27th January 2014

The map shows the proposed boundaries (in red and blue) and the final boundary as established by the ICJ (in black). Courtesy of ICJ.

The map shows the proposed boundaries (in red and blue) and the final boundary as established by the ICJ (in black). (Image courtesy of ICJ)

Chile and Peru: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague issued a ruling today on a long standing maritime border dispute between Chile and Peru. The ruling considered both positions in establishing a new maritime boundary, which extends along the line proposed by Chile -parallel to the Equator- for the first 80 nautical miles, and continues along the equidistance line proposed by Peru from there on. The dispute between the two countries, brought before the ICJ by Peru in 2008, concerned a triangle of around 38,000km2 rich in fishing resources, especially anchovies. The fishing industry in this area produces revenue for an estimated US$200m yearly, and the places most affected by the decision will be the Chilean town of Arica and the Peruvian town of Tacna. Whilst both governments have pledged to abide by the ruling, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said that “this transfer constitutes an unfortunate loss for our country.” Peruvian President Ollanta Humala celebrated that the ICJ “recognised the validity of the Peruvian position” and that his country “has won over 70% of the lawsuit.” Alvaro García Linera, Vice-president of Bolivia, said that the ruling “offers a very important precedent” and that President Evo Morales will refer to the matter tomorrow at the Celac summit in Cuba. The landlocked country is also involved in territorial disputes with Chile.

Honduras: Juan Orlando Hernández was sworn in as President of Honduras today. The ceremony took place at 9.50am local time in Tegucigalpa, and was attended by foreign dignitaries from around 80 countries. During his opening speech, Hernández promised to create 100,000 new jobs and to improve the quality of life of the 800,000 Honduran families that earn less than US$1 per month. He also pledged to improve the social security system, education, and to fight against corruption. Hernández was elected president on 24th November for a four-year term, amidst allegations of fraud by rival party LIBRE. Members of LIBRE organised a demonstration in Tegucigalpa to coincide with the ceremony, in protest against the “fraudulent” electoral process.

Ecuador: A man has been sentenced to six months in prison for killing a condor. Manuel Damián Damián, 61, confessed to the crime after pictures started circulating on social networks in April 2013 showing him with a dead female condor. Since he was arrested in November 2013, he will have to complete another four months in prison, pay a US$5,333 fine, and upon his release he will have to complete a series of environmental remediation tasks imposed by the tribunal. The condor is an endangered species -according to Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, there are fewer than 50 left in the wild, and 19 in captivity, in the country.

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Latin America News Roundup: 16th January 2014

The Brazilian state of Arce borders Peru in the Amazon

The Brazilian state of Arce borders Peru in the Amazon

Brazil: The north-western state of Arce has asked Brazil’s government to close the border with Peru to stop the flow of Haitian migrants. Since 2010, 15,000 Haitians have arrived into Brazil via the city of Assis, in Arce, on the border with Peru. Local media reports that the flow of migrants has increased considerably in recent days, leading to a situation Arce’s Secretary for Justice and Human Rights, Nilson Moruão, called “unsustainable” and “chaos”. He is asking the government to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. The latest incident come weeks after a diplomatic crisis erupted between Haiti and neighbouring Dominican Republic, after the latter withdrew citizenship to Haitians living in the country. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas, a situation that worsened after the 2010 earthquake killed over 220,000 and left 1.5m homeless. According to the United Nations, over 800,000 Haitians are still in need of emergency aid.

Honduras: The leaders of the Libre, PAC, and PINU opposition parties signed the ‘Great Opposition Agreement for the Governability of Honduras’ yesterday. The pact aims to establish strategies between the parties’ newly-elected politicians to abolish laws which will negatively affect the Honduran people. Through the bloc, the united opposition have a majority in Congress, with more than 80 deputies, something former president Manuel Zelaya called “a healthy counterweight for Honduran democracy, based on what we can assume the national party will do when in government.” Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara de Zelaya, was the presidential candidate for Libre in the 28th November elections, and contested the results, claiming victory. She now heads the opposition.

Latin America: The London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance research group released their annual report on investment in clean energy yesterday, with some Latin American surprises. Brazil once dominated the sector, but saw its investment in clean energy slip from US$7.1bn to US$3.4bn, the main cause of this drop being a large decline in new investment, which more than halved to US$2.5bn. Outside of Brazil, investment increased slightly, with almost US$5bn being put into the sector across the region, with both Chile and Mexico seeing high figures in solar and wind investment respectively. However, Argentina suffered a sharp decrease in investment in the green energy sector, falling from US$539m in 2012 to US$94m in 2013. Globally, investment was down for the second year running, falling 12% to US$254bn. 

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Honduras: Officials Travel to the US to Negotiate New IMF Programme

IMF headquarters in Washington D.C.

IMF headquarters in Washington D.C. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Just three weeks after Juan Orlando Hernández’s election as president, talks are underway between Honduran officials and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a new funding programme to serve as the basis of Hernández’s economic platform.

Meeting in Washington this weekend were the president of the Central Bank of Honduras, María Elena Mondragón, and the country’s Finance Secretary, Wilfredo Cerrato Rodríguez.

The negotiation of a new programme with the IMF is considered by a number of sectors in Honduras to be one of the main challenges of the new government. An agreement would open doors to funding for the next year’s budget.

From Washington, Cerrato told Honduran daily El Heraldo that the negotiations taking place were “setting the foundation to reach an agreement in the first half of next year.” Cerrato did not report on what has been discussed at meetings thus far in regards to the actual details of an agreement between the IMF and Honduras.

Honduras’ last IMF programme expired on 31st March 2012, and the Porfirio Lobo administration has since been unsuccessful in obtaining a new agreement.

In August, a mission of IMF delegates was in Honduras to conduct preliminary meetings with government and business leaders months ahead of November’s presidential election.

In a press release, the August delegation stated its main recommendation was centred on “the need to protect macroeconomic stability and advance the process of fiscal consolidation,” noting the importance of strengthening public companies.

A delegation from the IMF is set to return to Honduras in February to complete negotiations once Hernández has finalised his cabinet.

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