Clientelism, insecurity and food shortages in the cities
Even before the pandemic, the poor residents of Honduras’ largest cities had been living in an ongoing state of crisis. Half of Hondurans live in the metropolitan areas of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, many in over-policed neighborhoods rife with violent crime and with limited access to public services.
As Central America’s most unequal country, with a poverty level of 68 percent (extreme poverty floats at just above 40 percent) economic precariousness burdens the majority of residents. Sixty percent of the population of Honduras works in the informal sector, making their living day-by-day in the streets.
Food insecurity is widespread. The inability to procure regular meals is so common, that it is a root cause for many who undertake the dangerous journey north to the United States.
A 2017 World Food Program report found more than half of households in Honduras “spend more than two-thirds of their monthly income on food.” Violence is a factor in out-migration, but many also leave because they don’t have enough to eat.
But the option of emigrating north was foreclosed when, on March 15, Honduras closed all its borders due to the pandemic. Hunger became almost certain when a national stay at home order was ordered thirteen days later, rendering much of the informal sector moot.
Over a million Hondurans are now unemployed, according to a new report. The economic situation is unlikely to be improved by the looming depression in the US, where one in ten Hondurans resides. In 2018, remittances from migrants working abroad made up almost twenty percent of Honduras’ total GDP.
“It’s a cocktail of nightmares for people living in Honduras,” says Daniel Valladares Bustamante, a student activist and artist from Tegucigalpa’s working class Francisco Morazán neighborhood.