Publisher’s Note: These are the views of the author alone and don’t necessarily reflect the position of Fuze Publishing.
After an absence of fifteen years, I visited the stunningly beautiful country of Honduras, its rugged mountains covered by a druse of tall pines offering shade for some of the best coffee fincas in the world, its valleys ablaze in orange-red acacia and maroon bougainvillea. Trees ripe with avocados, bananas, mangos, and papaya line the narrow pathways, the irresistible scent of roasting coffee and the perfume of hot tortillas and boiling beans sets your mouth to water as you hike the countryside, past adobe homes painted in pastels of blue, orange or pink, beneath a roof of red tile.
The people are the friendliest in the world, inviting you to sit on their veranda to sip coffee surrounded by pots and tin cans filled with lemon-scented amethystine orchids and clusters of brilliant marigolds.
But this paradise came under threat a few years ago. Under pressure from environmental groups the government in 2002 banned mineral exploration and mining, assuming that everyone could somehow survive on beans and corn grown in patches scratched in the rocky ground. The later Zelaya administration proclaimed he would build a true socialist paradise. The mineral gifts offered by El Tio were outlawed, and mining investment fled the country, destroying tens of thousands of jobs. El Tio returned to the solitude of his cave to await a more enlightened time.
During this dark period, agriculture found it alone could not bring prosperity to everyone. Unemployment and underemployment rose to over 38%, and although agriculture employed 39.2% of the population it added only 12.5% to the GDP. It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize productivity was not high in the fields and farms. As a result, underemployment and low wages became crucial issues. Fathers immigrated en masse to the north, leaving behind their wives and children. It is said that 20% of the GDP, or nearly $7 billion, is remitted every year from those working in the US. But not all could go north: crowds of young men stand, sit, lie idle with nothing to do in their little villages except dream of how to find a job that simply doesn’t exist. Crime rates soared (Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, exceeding even Iraq and Mexico); malnutrition climbed (9% of children below five are under weight); disease spread (Aids is the number one killer of young women). El Tio saw all this and waited, holding his gift for the time it would be appreciated.
In 2009, advised by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Zelaya ignored the constitution and tried to run for a second term. He was duly expelled by the Supreme Court and National Legislature. Seeing the damage the previous administrations had brought to his country, the new government under President Lobo announced that Honduras is once again “Open For Business,” and he welcomed the return of the natural resource industry. In just this year alone (2011), over 130 companies have entered Honduras to search for mineral deposits, hiring secretaries, truck drivers, lawyers, engineers, carpenters, surveyors, laborers of all sorts. Iron mines are opening up, lead and zinc and gold are being exported, millions of dollars are being invested in hundreds of projects.
El Tio has a gift for the people of Honduras, a gift of jobs, opportunity, and an escape from poverty. Thanks to the far-sighted Lobo administration, El Tio has left his cave and is delivering a better life for all Hondurans.
To find out more about El Tio, go to the Fuze Publishing website!