Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hondurans flow into Mexico, bound for U.S.

The New York Times
CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — With her leg snapped and folded excruciatingly over her shoulder, Elvira López Hernández lay flat on a railroad bed as the freight train hurtled above her, clinging tightly to two things: the railroad ties beneath her and the memory of the 4-year-old daughter she had left behind in Guatemala.
“I said: ‘My God, I don’t want to die! My daughter!’ ”
She slipped off the train in January, one of scores of migrant stowaways heading to the United States. Now she sat at a shelter here, an amputee. But she had no intention of returning to the crime and desperation of Guatemala City; she was still looking north.
“What can I do?” she said.
In Washington, the biggest immigration overhaul in decades would tighten border security between Mexico and the United States to stem the flow of illegal crossings.
But there is another border making the task all the more challenging: Mexico’s porous boundary with Central America, where an increasing number of migrants heading to the United States cross freely into Mexico under the gaze of the Mexican authorities. So many Central Americans are fleeing the violence, crime and economic stagnation of their homes that American officials have encountered a tremendous spike in migrants making their way through Mexico to the United States.
American arrests of illegal crossers from countries other than Mexico — mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — more than doubled along the southwest border of the United States last year, to 94,532 from 46,997 in 2011.
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, met with Mexican officials in January, partly to discuss improving security on Mexico’s border with its Central American neighbors, something the new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has promised to do. The United States, which has provided equipment and other assistance to help shore up Mexico’s southern border, has long worried about migrants, drugs, guns and possibly even terrorists heading north, concerns shared by Mexico.
But Mexico has been conflicted about its border. Many here see migrants as Latin American brethren who need humanitarian assistance as they pass through on their journey north. Yet there is also growing concern that migrants may stay longer in Mexico as its economy picks up and it becomes harder to cross into the United States.
Here in Ciudad Hidalgo, a police officer watched on a riverbank as seven men crossed the narrow Suchiate River separating this part of Guatemala and Mexico. They sat on a makeshift raft of wooden planks and giant inflatable inner tubes, one of scores openly crossing back and forth carrying beer, paper towels, fruit, soft drinks and, of course, migrants heading to the United States.
The officer saw the men, dressed in tattered clothes and carrying backpacks, hop off the raft and drift into town. He did not stop or question them.
“If they are without papers, we would have to house and feed them until the immigration authorities come,” he said. “We don’t have a budget for that.”
The migrants from Central America speak of needing work — like previous generations. But they also talk about out-of-control crime in big cities, as drug and organized crime groups from Mexico push into their countries.
Few had even heard about the debate to overhaul immigration laws and possibly open a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living illegally in the United States. Instead, the prevailing force seems to be deteriorating conditions at home.
Ms. López Hernández said neighbors had been kidnapped for ransom. One young man from Honduras hung his head as he recalled a brother gunned down. Another said he could never imagine returning to Honduras after being shot in the gut and seeing his sister’s arms chopped off by a man who invaded a party looking for a gang rival.
“Everybody wants to get out,” said another migrant from Honduras, Joel Bunes, 21.
The United States has poured money into Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to train and aid their police, but violence remains disturbingly high, raising vexing questions.
How far should the United States go in pressing Mexico to secure its free-for-all border? To what extent should the United States help alleviate the economic woes and instability driving migrants out of Central America, especially in cities like San Pedro Sula, Honduras, often called the murder capital of the world?
Next week, President Obama will attend a meeting with Central American presidents, who have said they want to discuss migration and improving the economy and public safety with him.
“This is a truly regional problem and needs regional decisions and even regional institutions to resolve, and the U.S. could play a larger role in developing that,” said Eduardo Stein, a former vice president of Guatemala who studies migration.
United States Customs and Border Protection said it planned to run public service announcements in Central America warning of the dangers of making the crossing. Migrants face robbers, rapists, crooked police officers and inhospitable terrain; disappearances are common.
Mexico says it is doing its part, spending about $300 million in the past few years building or modernizing border crossings, issuing identity cards for agriculture workers and establishing checkpoints on major roads to deter and catch migrants.
Yet on a recent afternoon, half of the eight checkpoints on a major highway heading north were unattended or staffed by officials paying only minimal attention. At one crossing at the Suchiate River, beneath a bridge, smugglers and migrants passed literally under the noses of customs and immigration officers above.
At a migrant shelter in Tapachula, young men from Honduras huddled around a map on a wall, placing one finger on Honduras and another on the United States.
“My God, we are not even halfway there,” one said.
Selvin Espinoza, 19, said the group had been robbed along the way by police officers in Guatemala who demanded nearly $100 for safe passage.
But factory jobs back home were drying up, Mr. Espinoza said, while gangs roamed, kidnapping and extorting at will.
“You cannot make enough to make ends meet,” he said.
Outside the shelter, a smuggler from El Salvador waited for them, recruiting more customers for the journey north.
“I know how to get them to the train north or on the buses,” he said.
Just north, in Arriaga, migrants gathered where the train, known as the Beast, departs for northern cities. A Panamanian bought soda as Guatemalans pooled their money for tortillas and Hondurans gathered around a pickup truck where church workers offered coffee and pastries.
Everybody knew of the danger of the train; nobody spoke of skipping it.
“I am afraid of the train, but it is something you have to do,” said one.
Ms. López Hernández knows it well. Her husband died four years ago, leaving her a widow at age 18 with a 9-month-old girl.
Unable to find work, she said, she decided to join a brother who had made it to Florida a few years before. He assured her there were jobs as maids, cooks, baby sitters, and she hoped to earn enough money to support her daughter and the relatives caring for her back home.
She made it to Mexico and onto the train. But after it departed there were cries of “Migra!” — the immigration police — and a scramble that sent her tumbling under the train.
“I closed my eyes and bore the pain,” she said.
Eddie Ventura, 31, a Guatemalan, stood on the bridge across the Suchiate River on the Guatemalan side, selling disposable razors for $1 apiece. His own prosthetic leg, an old donated one, rested against a railing; he had lost his leg, like Ms. López Hernández, after falling from the train, and now he watches his compatriots take their chances.
“They don’t know what is waiting for them,” Mr. Ventura said, shaking his head.
Yet he has not given up trying himself.
“I still want to get into that country,” he said of the United States.

Fosdeh: Honduras se debe de preparar para pedir rescate financiero

La Tribuna
El Foro Social para la Deuda Externa de Honduras (Fosdeh) planteó en las reuniones de primavera al Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) y el Banco Mundial (BM) la necesidad de que Honduras solicite un rescate financiero como lo han hecho varios países europeos.
El coordinador del Fosdeh, Mauricio Díaz Burdeth, dijo ayer al regresar de Washington, Estados Unidos, donde se desarrollaron las discusiones sobre la economía mundial, que “seguimos recomendando y eso lo acabamos de hacer ahora en el FMI y en el BM, el planteamiento concreto de que Honduras debe de preparar un plan de rescate”.
Porque “no solamente tienen provecho y acceso los países del primer mundo que hasta este momento son los únicos que lo han hecho, sino que un país como el nuestro podría acceder a esa posibilidad”, señaló.
El economista agregó que la situación del país es complicada porque las recaudaciones son insuficientes debido a la crisis económica y lo poco que se recauda se va en gasto corriente como sueldos, salarios y viáticos.
También que “el déficit tendremos que considerarlo más allá de la presente administración, porque hay algo que técnicamente llamamos política fiscal regresiva, es decir, que la política económica que se aplica en el país no contribuye al crecimiento económico, y si no hay crecimiento económico, entonces no hay suficiente generación de empleo y de ingresos; por lo tanto, la recaudación tributaria tiende a disminuir”.
Y que, de “acuerdo a la información que tenemos, las probabilidades” de que Honduras acceda a un nuevo acuerdo con el FMI son nulas: “Oficialmente se ha dicho que prácticamente no habrá un acuerdo; sin embargo, las conversaciones entendemos que continuaron en las reuniones de primavera de este organismo”, apuntó.
De la misma manera “diríamos que la expectativa existe; no obstante, será difícil acelerar el conjunto de precondiciones necesarias para poder cumplir con algo que pueda satisfacer un poco el planteamiento técnico que el FMI ha venido” solicitando.
Fosdeh recomienda que de los fondos provenientes de la eliminación de las exoneraciones, el 50 por ciento sea para pagar la deuda interna, que supera los 60,000 millones de lempiras, y el resto se destine a inversión pública.

OEA propondrá a Lobo tregua entre “maras”

Una tregua entre las “maras” en El Salvador ha permitido que bajen los índices de muertes violentas y algo similar sería propuesto por la OEA para Honduras.
La Tribuna
El presidente de El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, informó la semana pasada que la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) le propondrá al Presidente Porfirio Lobo Sosa, impulsar un programa de tregua entre las “maras”, similar al que se instauró en su país y que permitió bajar los crímenes de 14 a cinco diarios.
“El Presidente Lobo, mostró especial interés de cómo es que se había llegado a ese acuerdo y en los resultados que estaba produciendo y el nivel de involucramiento que estaba teniendo el gobierno de la República en el mismo”, señaló.
“A nivel oficial no tenemos ninguna solicitud, a nivel informal lo hemos discutido en algunos encuentros donde hemos estado juntos con el Presidente de Honduras y en los encuentros que ha habido también entre los ministros de Seguridad o directores de Policía”, de ambos gobiernos, apuntó.
Asimismo, el mandatario del vecino país indicó que la idea de implementar la tregua referida, “la está proponiendo como OEA, al gobierno de Honduras y el responsable, me informa el ministro de Seguridad nuestro, es el embajador Adam Blackwell por parte de la OEA”.
Recalcó que hasta el momento solo ha existido interés por parte de su par hondureño por conocer los detalles de la tregua, pero no ha trascendido más allá de eso. Funes, ofreció las declaraciones en un desayuno ofrecido a la prensa destacada en esta ciudad, donde un día antes disertó en un foro sobre violencia en América Latina y el Caribe, organizado por el Banco Mundial (BM) y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID).
El presidente salvadoreño expuso los alcances en materia de reducción de la violencia que ha logrado con el acuerdo entre grupos de pandilleros, que le ha permitido bajar la tasa de muertes violentas del puesto tres a la posición 42 a nivel mundial.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

En Honduras se deben cambiar fechas de las siembras agrícolas

La Tribuna
Cambiar las fechas de las siembras agrícolas debido al cambio climático, para reducir riesgos, propuso el ministro-presidente del Banco Nacional de Desarrollo Agrícola (Banadesa), Johnny Handal Hawit.
El funcionario dijo que en la elaboración de un nuevo calendario para las siembras de granos básicos deben participar técnicos del Ministerio de Agricultura, específicamente de la Dirección de Ciencia y Tecnología (Dicta) y del Servicio Meteorológico Nacional.
“Ahora llueve donde antes no llovía, y ha dejado de llover donde antes llovía. El cambio climático tiene descontrolada a la naturaleza y es necesario orientar a los productores agrícolas sobre las fechas más convenientes para la siembra de granos básicos”, expresó.
Tradicionalmente las siembras de primera se llevan a cabo en la segunda quincena de mayo y las de postrera en la primera quincena de octubre, pero la irregularidad en el régimen de lluvias amerita un cambio de fechas para disminuir los riesgos de cosecha.
Las economías centroamericanas, principalmente agrícolas, enfrentan un enorme desafío con el cambio climático y los gobiernos de la región deben avanzar hacia una mayor sostenibilidad en la reducción de las emisiones de carbono.
Un estudio sobre “La economía del cambio climático en Centroamérica 2012″ fue presentado en Costa Rica por la Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (Cepal), el cual incluye pronósticos de los efectos del cambio climático al año 2100 y recomendaciones para los países.
Julie Lennox, experta de Punto Focal de Cambio Climático de la Sede Subregional de la Cepal en México, indicó que Centroamérica se expone a subidas de temperaturas de hasta de 4 grados centígrados en promedio, lo que supone un gran número de riesgos para la agricultura, el ambiente, la salud y la economía.
Además se prevé un descenso en las lluvias y un aumento en la intensidad de los huracanes, que afectarán la agricultura y la generación eléctrica, entre otros.
Explicó que con el alza de las temperaturas prevista las economías centroamericanas deben comenzar de inmediato a impulsar acciones dirigidas a una mayor sostenibilidad con el ambiente y reducción de emisiones de carbono.
“En las agendas pendientes de desarrollo hay que integrar metas de inclusión y sostenibilidad, no es solo cambio climático, sino más”, dijo Lennox.
La experta afirmó que la región debe volverse más eficiente en el uso del agua, proteger sus cuencas, disminuir las prácticas contaminantes y la deforestación, así como valorar más los servicios ambientales.
“Tarde o temprano, juntos o unilateralmente, vamos a tener que medir y reducir el contenido carbónico en nuestros productos y servicios. Con economías muy abiertas, dependientes de sus exportaciones, a Centroamérica ya le urge emprender un esfuerzo concertado de identificar, proteger y desarrollar sus potenciales ventajas comparativas”, afirmó Lennox.
Por su parte, el ministro costarricense de Ambiente, René Castro, declaró que su país ha sabido decir “qué cosas no quiere hacer”, como la exploración petrolera y la minería a cielo abierto, pero que tiene dificultades para decidir sobre “lo que sí quiere hacer”.
Afirmó que se deben tomar decisiones pronto acerca de temas polémicos como la posible extracción de energía geotérmica de sus volcanes, ubicados en zonas protegidas y que por ley no pueden ser explotados.
Dijo que otras de las decisiones pendientes es si se construye una planta hidroeléctrica en una zona indígena del país, la renovación de la flotilla de vehículos hacia tecnologías no contaminantes y el mayor uso de biocombustibles.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Time for Honduras to End Scuba Diving for Lobster

A recreational diver inspects a spiny lobster off Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In Central America, divers collect lobsters for a living. Photo: Lois Booth, My Shot
Statistically, fishing is one of the world’s most dangerous professions and it is hard to imagine what could be worse than scuba diving for lobster along the remote and impoverished Miskito Coast of Honduras and Nicaragua (see Building a Sustainable Lobster Fishery Off Honduras).
The dangers of this profession have been graphically documented by NBC News and the New York Times.  According to Smithsonian marine biologist Stephen Box, who has been working with the Miskito community, there are about 3,500 people who depend on the lobster fishery for their livelihoods, of which it is estimated that 1,300 are divers.  Box, a National Geographic Ocean Fund Grantee, estimates that scuba diving for lobster results in about 120 cases of decompression sickness per year, of which around 20 are fatal.
In 2009, as part of a Central American wide agreement, governments acknowledged the human and environmental damage resulting from this fishery and committed to ban scuba diving for lobster by 2011. That was later extended to July 1, 2013 to allow Honduras and Nicaragua, the last two countries still using scuba diving in that capacity, more time to transition the fishing communities to better practices and alternative livelihoods.
Unfortunately, last month, in spite of having already developed a national transition plan, the Nicaraguan legislature voted to override the regional agreement and extend scuba diving for lobster for three more years.  During this time they could continue to transition away from diving to other fishing practices and alternative livelihoods, but skeptics fear there is now a track record of postponement and in the meantime the divers will keep getting “bent,” paralyzed and die as they try to survive in the poorest and most forgotten part of Central America.
Now all eyes have turned to the government of Honduras.
With Nicaragua having backtracked, there is pressure from some of the Honduran boat owners to keep kicking the can down the road and similarly renege on the national and international commitment to ban scuba diving for lobster.  About 35 large dive boats remain in operation, each employing dozens of divers.  With overcapacity in the dive fleet and declines in lobster landings, many of these boat owners are in debt.  Understandably perhaps, some prefer to stick with what they know despite diminishing returns, rather than face the uncertainty of a transition.
But discussions are underway with the Central American Economic Integration Bank and their new Markets for Biodiversity project to provide a solution that can help finance the transition of these boats to alternative fisheries, and possibly alleviate some of their debt.  Ultimately the closure can provide a real opportunity to restructure parts of the Honduran fishing sector to improve both its sustainability and profitability.
And in the communities of the Moskitia, viable solutions are also emerging.  Local leaders and fishing groups have been developing innovative plans for locally managed lobster fisheries, which could easily supply to the same international market for lobster. The idea is to increase the financial returns to local communities and thus provide the economic incentive for socially and ecologically sustainable practices.
International attention on this issue is growing.  Darden Restaurants, the owners of Red Lobster and many other seafood focused restaurants, buys around 40% of the lobsters exported from Honduras.  They recently wrote a strongly worded letter to the President asking him to complete Honduras’s commitment to put an end to scuba diving for lobster.  In fact, since 2009, Darden has been partnering with USAID and local NGOs to try to help put an end to scuba diving by supporting efforts to develop alternative incomes for the Miskito communities as well as the transition plan to safer and more sustainable fishing techniques.
The government of Honduras has taken all the right steps so far. Most importantly, they have demonstrated a sophisticated understanding that the lobster scuba fishery is not just a fisheries problem. It is also a social justice issue, a public health issue, and an economic development opportunity.  So the government has been involving not just the Ministry of Agriculture but also other key government agencies in developing their national position and transition strategy.
Supporters from many sectors, including a major international buyer, government aid agencies, multilateral banks, and NGOs, are ready to help build a path to sustainable lobster fishing and a better life for fishermen and their families in the Honduran Moskitia. With the clear and decisive leadership from the highest levels of government, Honduras, unlike Nicaragua, can turn the corner and move away from its lobster diving past, towards a new future of sustainable fisheries with healthier and more prosperous coastal communities.

Sinking in a sea of garbage

Not a tsunami; rain and garbage-blocked drains in Tegucigalpa 
I’ve been wondering about garbage-per-kilometre as a development indicator, along with all the formal measures like stunted children and GINI indexes and poverty rates.
Maybe when a society gets a handle on garbage, it’s reached some sort of turning point.
If so, Honduras has a long way to go.
Early this year, slick new recycling containers sprouted on the streets in Copan Ruinas. We saw them in Tela too, so it must be some sort of national program. They had their own little concrete pads and were abut four-feet tall tall and slender, with ad posters for banks or tourist sites on two sides. There was an opening on each end, and signs said one was for organic waste, and the other for plastic, cans, glass and cardboard.
Pretty darned green. Except if you looked inside, all the trash dropped into one open area. It was a really fancy and, it turned out, easily vandalized garbage pail.
That’s not surprising.
The “Don’t Be a Litterbug” stuff hasn’t caught on down here. When you ride the buses, people finish their snack or pop and toss the garbage out the window without a thought. (If the window is broken and won’t open, they toss it on the floor.) We’ve waged a continuing battle with the kids from Angelitos to use garbage pails, since their inclination is drop garbage anywhere.
The results aren’t pretty. A stretch of green roadside becomes an impromptu dump. The river - especially after a holiday - is littered with styrofoam food containers, bags of garbage and whatever detritus is left from the day’s fun.
Rivers and creeks are generally treated as good places to throw garbage, even whole communities’ garbage. In part, that’s because when the torrential rains come the garbage is swept away.
Not good news for the people downstream, of course. Ultimately, the garbage ends up somewhere, and oceanfront communities complain the big rains bring a flood of garbage into the Caribbean and onto their beaches. We wandered along a dirt road to a deserted cove in Utila, which would have been stunning except for the dune of plastic garbage, likely largely from the mainland.
Even the rains can’t sweep all the garbage away. Tegucigalpa, the capital, was hammered with a two-hour rain during Semana Santa and had massive flooding.
A big part of the problem was garbage. “The floods in the capital were generated by the large amount of garbage dumped in streams, rivers, streets, curbs and gutters,” La Prensa reported. Drains were blocked, creeks and ditches overflowed and streets filled with black, garbage-choked water.
Maybe worrying about garbage comes later, when two-thirds of the population isn’t living in poverty. 
Maybe the lack of easy access to markets for recycled materials, especially outside the cities is an issue. (There are people who scavenge the loads as they come into the Tegucigalpa dump, grabbing cardboard and plastic and metal and selling them to brokers on the fringes. We get garbage pickup three times a week; I assume the guys on the truck grab what can be sold. My partner met a guy who scavenged plastic bottles, crushed them with his truck and took them to the city to sell when he had enough.)
Or maybe getting people to think about garbage - about shared responsibilities and shared losses - would be a step toward a society that thought about tackling some of those harder issues.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Unos 5.4 millones están sumidos en la pobreza

La extrema pobreza afecta actualmente a unos 835 mil hogares.
La Tribuna
La pobreza en Honduras aumentó de 61 por ciento en 2011 a 66 por ciento en 2012, debido al desempleo, subempleo y falta de oportunidades, según cifras oficiales emitidas por autoridades del Observatorio del Mercado Laboral (OML) de la Secretaría de Trabajo.
Hasta junio de 2012, la población hondureña se estimaba en ocho millones 385 mil 072 habitantes y se prevé que a mediados de 2013 Honduras tendrá ocho millones 555 mil 072 habitantes, lo que representa un crecimiento en alrededor de un dos por ciento al año.
En el marco de estos datos existen aproximadamente 835 mil  hogares en extrema pobreza y más de 1.2 millones en pobreza total, lo que equivale a 3.7 millones de hondureños en extrema pobreza y 5.4 en pobreza total.
Según el representante del OML, Cándido Ordóñez, las áreas donde mayormente se concentran los índices de pobreza son el sector rural, curiosamente en las zonas agrícolas y mineras.
“La encuesta de hogares muestra que la pobreza está más relacionada con la generación de empleo y crecimiento económico”, agregó Ordóñez.
La Población Económica Activa (PEA) (ocupados y desocupados) está conformada por unos 3.4 millones de  hondureños, en cambio se registra alrededor de 1.8 millones de personas desempleadas.
En ese “mar de gente” con problemas de empleo, un 40 por ciento enfrenta subempleo, es decir, que tiene trabajo, pero no en las horas requeridas para generar ingresos o que laborando el tiempo requerido genera un sueldo por debajo del salario mínimo establecido.
Trascendió que el crecimiento económico de Honduras desaceleró en 2012 a 3.3 por ciento, en relación a 3.6 por ciento que había programado el gobierno, sobre todo  por la baja en inversión privada y pública.
Esa escasa inversión que se registra está hundiendo especialmente a jóvenes que integran la nueva fuerza laboral anual de 150 mil  personas al año, y que únicamente se emplean 50 mil.
Ordóñez aclaró que en los índices de pobreza mencionados anteriormente no se habían reflejado algunos esfuerzos que efectúa el gobierno, en el campo de transferencias condicionadas y subsidios al transporte.
Este año el gobierno elabora un nuevo censo nacional de población no solo para precisar la cantidad de hondureños que residen en el país, sino también cuántos compatriotas habitan fuera de las fronteras patrias.
El Programa Monetario del Banco Central de Honduras prevé que, al cierre de 2013, el crecimiento económico se ubicará en un rango de 3.0 por ciento y 4.0 por ciento, impulsado por el mayor desempeño de las actividades de comunicaciones, intermediación financiera, transporte y almacenamiento.
También, el comercio, agricultura, ganadería, silvicultura y pesca. Para el 2014, el crecimiento económico se estima en los mismos porcentajes que para 2013, de acuerdo al presente Programa Monetario.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

EEUU se suma a la lucha contra la roya

La Tribuna
El gobierno de Estados Unidos a través de su Departamento de Agricultura (USDA) apoyará a unos nueve mil  productores de café en el combate del hongo de la roya que está atacando las fincas a nivel nacional.
La ayuda consiste en apoyo financiero, asistencia técnica, certificación de semilleros y variedades resistentes, en el marco de un convenio por unos 5.1 millones de dólares, suscrito entre miembros de la organización TechnoServe y del Instituto Hondureño del Café (Ihcafé).
La asistencia será canalizada por estas instituciones en zonas de El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán, Comayagua, Olancho y Yoro donde se concentra la mayor producción del aromático en el país.
Los fondos se desembolsarán a través del Programa Alimentos para el Progreso del USDA, que desde 1999 ha proporcionado más de 104 millones de dólares para mejoramiento de la agricultura hondureña.
La embajadora de los Estados Unidos en Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, amplió que el convenio incluye la donación de soja que se puede vender en el mercado por un monto de 110 millones de dólares.
“Fortaleceremos el entrenamiento, capacitación y buenas prácticas con esfuerzos orientados a la productividad y acceso a mercados” indicó Kubiske quien participó en calidad de testigo de honor.
TechnoServe es una organización de desarrollo económico, sin fines de lucro que enfoca sus esfuerzos en empoderamiento empresarial en pequeños productores, desarrollo de negocios e industrias y mejoramiento del entorno de negocios.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Little gained in Latin America’s free-market experiment

By Dr. Ronn Pineo
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Poverty in Latin America has been reduced substantially in the last three decades. In the late 1980s, nearly half of Latin America’s population lived in poverty. Today the fraction is about a third. 
This marks important progress, and it has continued in some area nations. However, it is worth noting that between 2002 and 2008, poverty contracted most in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Argentina, countries which had largely abandoned neoliberalism; in Brazil, which had at least partially rejected neoliberalism; and in only two other states, Honduras and Perú, which still remained, at least partially, committed to free market polices. 
It was mostly factors beyond economic policy that helps to account for recent declines in the rate of Latin American poverty.  One factor was increasing remittances from Latin Americans laboring in the developed world, especially in the United States.  Total remittances from Latin American workers rose from $12 billion USD in 1995, to $45 billion in 2004, and $68 billion in 2006. 
However, “by far the main contributor to the reduction in the poverty rate,” as Jaime Ros has noted, was “the fall in the dependency ratio.” The indicator measures the number of non-working age people—children and the elderly—who are supported by the working age population. The higher the dependency number, the greater the economic burden.
Latin America’s past demographic history underlies this shift in the dependency ratio.  The late 1940s in Latin America witnessed lower overall death rates (the number of people who died a year divided by the total population), especially due to lower infant and childhood mortality rates.  Initially, birth rates stayed high even as death rates fell, but after a generation passed Latin America’s birth rates began to drift downward to match the lower death rates.  
The time gap between the fall in death rates beginning in the late 1940s and the eventual fall in birth rates by the late 1970s resulted in an unprecedented population explosion. Latin America’s population rose from 167 million in 1950 to 285 million by 1970. 
As this population cohort has aged, Latin America’s dependency ratio fell too, dropping from a very high rate of 87.3 in the years 1965-1970, to 55.0 for 2005-2010, an all-time low for the region.  The people born during the population explosion are of working age now, bringing the region a historic but one-time economic advantage, the “demographic bonus” or “demographic dividend.”  
As a result, Latin America temporarily enjoys a situation of a very large number of workers providing for a greatly reduced number of dependent people.  The region’s demographic bonus means that there is, for the moment, less poverty due, in large part, to the increased number of working age people per household.
A drop in the dependency ratio carries with it greater female participation in the workforce, for lower fertility means there are fewer children to care for, freeing women to enter the paid workforce. Lower fertility also means better overall lifetime health for women, resulting in more years spent in the paid workforce for adult females.  The fertility rate (the number of children born per woman per year) fell in Latin America from 5.6 for the years from 1965 to1970, to 2.4 for the years 2005 to 2010.  
The resulting demographic bonus has provided a significant, but fleeting, economic asset.  By 2025, as the current population ages, Latin America will need to support a very large elderly dependent population. 
It is fair to conclude that the reduction of poverty in Latin America in recent years was produced mainly by some short-term victories in the commodity lottery, as well as a spike in remittances, and most of all, a one-time reduction in the dependency ratio.
Income inequality data for Latin America is less positive. In the 1980s and 1990s, inequality increased significantly in Latin America. For example, from 1984 to 1994, the income of the top 10 percent of the Mexico’s population rose by 21 percent, while the income of the country’s bottom 10 percent fell by 23 percent. 
Nevertheless, there have been improvements, albeit modest ones, in lowering the Gini coefficient (a measure of economic inequality with 0 being the least inequality—everyone has the same income, and 1.0 being the most inequality—one person has all the income).
From 2002 to 2008, the Gini coefficient improved in seven Latin American states; five of these seven countries—Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Paraguay—have traveled the farthest in rejecting neoliberalism. Outside of these nations inequality stayed the same or even increased, including in the largely neoliberal states of Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.
In 1970, the richest 1 percent of Latin Americans earned 363 times more than the poorest 1 percent. By 1995, it was 417 times more. Latin America continues to show, by far, the greatest income inequality of any region in the world. Of the 15 most unequal economies in the world today, 10 are in the area. If Latin America’s income were only as unevenly distributed as that of Eastern Europe or South Asia, its recent economic growth, though sometimes anemic, would have reduced the percentage of those living in poverty to 3 percent of the population.
The Economist, in its 2010 review of the Latin American economic situation, concluded that the region was “well on the way to building middle-class societies.” 
The evidence, however, contradicts this assertion. The informal sector—where people arrange irregular employment in itinerant retail sales, as day workers, or other loosely arranged jobs—today accounts for more than half of all workers in Latin America. More than eight of ten new jobs in Latin America are in the informal sector. 
Informal sector workers enjoy no protective regulation or benefits. They live by their wits, striving to scratch out a living, day by day. Meanwhile, union membership among active workers in Latin America fell from around one-fourth in the 1980s to under one-sixth in the 1990s.
Moreover, significant areas of severe poverty remain in Latin America, expressed along class, racial, gender, and regional divides   Poverty underlies poor health, contributing to elevated rates of infant, childhood, and maternal mortality. Of those living in poverty in Latin America, nearly half are children.  
Read the rest here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Más de 1, 768,000 hondureños en las garras del desempleo

Para un anuncio de contratación de 50 puestos llegan miles de personas interesadas en emplearse
La Tribuna
“No sé qué hacer, en las últimas semanas he dejado ocho currículum, pero nadie me ha llamado. Llevo un año sin trabajar, ya no aguanto, me siento frustrada; quisiera escapar, irme a Estados Unidos, pero me da miedo por “Los Zetas”, mejor me iré a San Pedro Sula, tengo la fe en Dios que allí encontraré un trabajo, pero no me daré por vencida”.
El anterior es el relato de Xiomara Osorto, de 20 años, una joven que forma parte del 52 por ciento de la Población Económicamente Activa (PEA) del país que está desempleada o subempleada.
La joven continuó explicando que trabajaba en una maquila en Tegucigalpa, pero al graduarse de perito mercantil dejó ese empleo con la ilusión de desempeñar su profesión, no obstante, las puertas se le han cerrado.
Al igual que esta joven, son miles de hondureños que se levantan a diario a revisar los periódicos con la esperanza de conseguir un empleo.
El viernes anterior tres empresas realizaron una feria para contratar personal, donde acudieron miles de interesados, en su mayoría jóvenes.
De acuerdo a datos del Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas (INE), la población joven suma más del 60 por ciento de los hondureños.
Se estima que solo el cinco por ciento de los egresados de las universidades encuentra empleo, el resto se diluye en distintas ocupaciones, unos se van a la economía informal y otra cantidad de hondureños se va del país.
La falta de oportunidades laborales empuja a la población a emigrar. Los más atrevidos arriesgan su vida en busca del sueño americano, los que tienen mejores posibilidades se marchan a distintos países de destino, lo que se conoce como la fuga de capital humano o de cerebros.
Otro porcentaje de los egresados, después de haber intentado infructuosamente de conseguir un trabajo, decide continuar estudiando para mantenerse ocupados y en espera de que la situación económica mejore y poder estar mejor preparados para aprovechar una eventual oportunidad.
Los argumentos para interpretar el desempleo abundan. Analistas de la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social (STSS) explican que, en parte, los egresados tienen grandes dificultades para emplearse, porque no salen suficientemente preparados.
También porque el perfil de las carreras que estudiaron no se acomoda a las demandas de la oferta de empleo.
Los empresarios aprueban los argumentos anteriormente expuestos. Sostienen que el producto que están sacando los centros de estudios superiores o del nivel medio no satisface la demanda de la empresa actual.
Además, que la educación se debe de orientar a carreras técnicas. Y que en vista de que los postulantes a una plaza ya poseen un grado académico, estos aspiran a ganar sueldos por encima de las expectativas del mercado laboral, mientras el crecimiento de las utilidades apenas se mantiene.
Los economistas explican que los problemas de empleo están íntimamente ligados a la depresión de la economía del país, misma que se ha vista afectada por la violencia que ha obligado al cierre de empresas.
A la par recienten los ajustes fiscales y el incremento en los costos de operación debido mayormente a la factura por energía y los incrementos de los combustibles.
El Foro Social de la Deuda Externa (Fosdeh) afirma que de nada sirvió que la economía creciera el año pasado más del 3.1 por ciento en relación al Producto Interno Bruto (PIB), si la población aumentó más del 5 por ciento.
Al respecto, el subsecretario de la STSS, Carlos Montes, explicó a este rotativo que a este gobierno le ha costado generar fuentes de empleo, básicamente por la crisis económica interna y externa.
Montes agregó que la PEA la componen “aproximadamente tres millones 400 mil hondureños, de esa Población Económicamente Activa tenemos que algunas cifras nos registran el 52 por ciento de desempleo”.
En valores absolutos, ese porcentaje equivale a 1,768,000 personas que están desempleadas o subempleadas devengando salarios por debajo del mínimo, con el agravante de ser explotadas o trabajar más de las ocho horas que ordena el Código del Trabajo.
Por su lado, sociólogos consideran que uno de los principales factores para que Honduras figure como el país más violento del mundo con una tasa de 85.5 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes, es el desempleo.
Precisamente uno de esos desempleados comentó que se trata de sobrevivir y que después de haber buscado trabajo inútilmente por más de tres años se encuentra en la disyuntiva de agarrar lo que se ponga en frente para poder mantener a su familia.
“Tengo dos niñas en una escuela privada, ya están a punto de expulsármelas porque no he pagado, el salario de mi mujer, que es la única que trabaja, no nos ajusta, no he podido enchambarme”, lamentó el entrevistado.
La falta de empleo se da mayormente en las principales ciudades del país: San Pedro Sula y Tegucigalpa.
San Pedro Sula en el 2012 tuvo una Tasa de Desempleo Abierto (TDA) de 7.6, mientras en el Distrito Central fue de 8.1.
El desempleo en las ciudades se ve potenciado por la migración del campo a la ciudad, también, a nivel general estudios sostienen que el problema de la desocupación tiene sus raíces en aspectos demográficos. Por tanto, se debe de contemplar un control natal a futuro.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Plaga de roya del café causa la pérdida de 441,000 empleos en Centroamérica

La epidemia de roya del café provocó unas pérdidas por valor de 550 millones de dólares en Centroamérica.
Tegucigalpa - La epidemia de roya del café provocó unas pérdidas por valor de 550 millones de dólares en Centroamérica y la merma de 441,000 puestos de trabajo en la campaña 2012-2013, según estimaciones incluidas en el último informe de precios de la Organización Internacional del Café.
 Guatemala perdió 115.000 empleos, seguida de Honduras (100.000), El Salvador (90.000), República Dominicana (56,500), Nicaragua (32,000), Panamá (30,000), Costa Rica (14,000) y Jamaica (3,640).
 Son cálculos del programa Cooperativo Regional para el Desarrollo Tecnológico y Modernización de la Caficultura (Promecafe), que afectan a estos países.
 Sin embargo, la OIC mantiene la producción mundial estimada para el año cafetero 2012-2013 en 144,6 millones de sacos (un 6,4 % más que en la campaña anterior) e indica que los precios se estabilizaron en marzo.
 El daño causado por la roya del café en Centroamérica ha sido compensado por una mayor producción en otros países, particularmente en Brasil, Indonesia y Etiopía, según la OIC.
 Según este organismo, el hongo de la roya, que afecta a muchos países de Centroamérica y el Caribe, ha provocado una merma de 2,3 millones de sacos.
 La crisis de la roya -la peor desde que el hongo se detectó por primera vez en Latinoamérica en los años 70- centró el pasado marzo la reunión semestral del Consejo de la OIC, que acordó trabajar con la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (FAO) para apoyar a los damnificados.

Ayuda externa está disponible en la web

La Tribuna
Funcionarios del gobierno, representantes de la cooperación externa y las municipalidades hicieron el viernes la presentación de la página electrónica, herramienta infotecnológica que permitirá rastrear los proyectos financiados con recursos de la cooperación internacional.
Los interesados, desde la comodidad de sus hogares u oficinas, podrán conocer el avance de los proyectos de inversión social financiados con recursos de la cooperación externa.
La herramienta informática será administrada por la Secretaría Técnica de Planificación y Cooperación Externa (Seplan), con el apoyo financiero conjunto de la Agencia Canadiense para el Desarrollo Internacional (ACDI), la Unión Europea (UE) y el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD).
Para el gobierno representa modernizar y transparentar la ejecución de obras y proyectos de desarrollo social realizados con fondos de la cooperación internacional reembolsable, que para este año se espera sean de 244 millones de dólares.
La página permitirá mejorar la coordinación entre los cooperantes y fortalecer así la gestión social, ya que la población podrá conocer dónde y cómo se ejecutan las obras en sus comunidades, departamentos y el país en general. Al gobierno le facilita la toma de decisiones al poder acceder a información clasificada sobre los proyectos y montos de cooperación. (JB)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Want to help all Hondurans? Fix the damn roads

Jody Paterson
It's difficult to know where to start in a country with a lot of problems. Give the kids a better education? Prepare subsistence farmers for tough days to come? Do something about all the murders? Advocate for better wages? Look for economic opportunities to address chronic unemployment?
Nor is it easy to priorize when a country has strong distinctions between its classes, with all its problems at the bottom of the economic scale and all the wealthy, influential people at the top.
Honduras is made up of a thin crust of rich, powerful people, a small and struggling middle class,   millions of people living in poverty, and\ an emerging class of “nouveau riche” who work in the cocaine import/export business. Tough to find consensus among groups as disparate as that.
But if I could be so bold as to suggest a starting point – a start-small kind of project that will benefit every Honduran across all social classes – how about this: Fix the damn roads.
I just spent five brutal hours today bouncing home from La Campa, Lempira, a 128-kilometre trip that requires a traveller to pass along three of what have to be among the worst sections of paved road in the country: Gracias, Lempira, to Santa Rosa de Copan; Santa Rosa to La Entrada; and La Entrada to Copan Ruinas. I'm also barely a month home from our epic bus journey to the Moskitia, which took me to new depths of understanding as to what it means to travel a “bad road” in Honduras.
So yes, the country's ridiculous roads are weighing on my mind right now. But really, just think about it for a minute: Couldn't you take a big step toward improving almost every problem in Honduras just by giving people better roads?
Take poverty, for instance. Bad roads aren't the cause of poverty, but they surely add to it.
Honduras has probably been the site of thousands of noble economic-development projects over the years in impoverished, out-of-the-way villages, but few appear to have taken into account that unless people can get their goods to market, nothing will change.
I'm always running into charming little micro empresas in the middle of nowhere that have been started by some well-intentioned foreign entity wanting to give villagers a new, marketable skill that would lift the town out of poverty. The villages always seem to be located many hours away from the nearest commercial centre of any size, up dirt “roads” so terrible that only an earnest NGO type or a missionary would ever travel on them willingly.
Yet there they are, all these tiny businesses at the end of the road, producing pretty pottery or plant-based paper products with not a chance of getting any of it to market. I visited one yesterday up in the mountains above La Campa.
For the last seven years, the five women who run the micro empresa have been boiling up leaves of local plants to make really great-looking paper, cards and fancy little gift boxes. But other than a small shipment of goods that goes to market in Gracias a couple of times a year, the only sales the group has are when people like me stumble upon them on the way to somewhere else and drop $5 for a few things.
I've met other groups of women producing everything from bread, woven goods, jewelry from recycled materials, ceramics or honey who all face the same problem. Their operations are a long way from a commercial centre, they're too poor to have their own vehicles, and the roads are much too rough for buses to set up a service. Others are helped to set up vegetable gardens, small coffee plantations and tilapia ponds as a means of lifting them out of poverty. But they, too, can't get around the transportation problems.
As for the rich and powerful – well, they have to want better roads, too. Roads that are almost universally rutted, pot-holed, nausea-inducing and frequently accessible only by 4x4 add significantly to the risk of an accident and the time it takes to get anywhere. Unless you're wealthy enough to own a helicopter, rich and poor alike spend an inordinate amount of time in Honduras jouncing along truly horrible roads. Whatever business they're in, the condition of the roads likely affects their bottom line as well.
Then there's the middle-class – the ones making maybe $10,000 a year, which is just about enough to be able to start dreaming about the possibilities of a better future for your kids. Some live hours away from their families because there's no work nearby, and can't possibly consider a commute on abysmal roads that take three or four times as long to drive as you'd expect based solely on the distance.
They know that a decent education is the best hope their children have. But it can be a tremendous struggle just to work out the transportation issues around getting them to school. It's generally pretty easy to find nearby schools up to Grade 6, but colegios are scarce and often many hard miles away from the family home. Decent roads and a daily bus service could have a dramatic impact on education levels in the country.
Those in the country's bustling cocaine import/export business have to want better roads, too. Planes and boats bring the cocaine from Colombia into the country, but much of it travels on roads after that as it moves toward markets in the U.S. and Canada.
Having been to the Moskitia and travelled the only road out of there – which gives “beach-front drive” new meaning – I'm sure transport is quite an issue for those guys as well. I'm not suggesting that better roads for narco-traficantes should be a goal, just noting that even they should be on-side with priorizing road repair.
Come on, people. Just do it. There's a whole lot more to tackle after that, but the wheels of progress can't possibly get a grip on roads as bad as these.

Bancos privados prestarán apoyo económico a los caficultores afectados por la roya

El Heraldo
Unos 50.000 caficultores verán una luz al final del túnel. Dos instituciones financieras privadas anunciaron la apertura de una línea de crédito por 900 millones de lempiras (US$45,3 millones) para financiar la lucha en contra de la roya del café. La roya afectó un 25% de las 280.000 hectáreas cultivadas con café y diseminadas en el territorio hondureño. Al hongo se le ha denominado Hemileia vastatrix y se presenta como un polvillo.
La información la brindaron en el marco de una conferencia de prensa efectuada en el Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada (Cohep), en donde comparecieron los representantes de las principales organizaciones de cafetaleros del país. Víctor Hugo Molina, gerente del Instituto Hondureño del Café (Ihcafé), informó que los recursos podrán ser contratados hasta por un plazo de siete años, con tres de gracia y a una tasa de interés del 10%.
Fue del parecer de que las condiciones se presentan satisfactorias para unos 50.000 productores que son propietarios de 100.000 manzanas de tierra cultivadas con café afectado por el referido hongo. Molina detalló que los productores deberán visitar las oficinas regionales del Ihcafé para comenzar a gestionar los créditos que se brindarán en tres modalidades. Para el caso los caficultores que requieran recursos para financiar la renovación de sus fincas se les brindará hasta un máximo de 150.000 lempiras (US$7.552,6), o sea, unos 30.000 por manzana.
Los productores podrán gestionar hasta 20.000 lempiras por manzana para financiar la recepa de las fincas. Este proceso consiste en cortar el cafeto a una altura de 25 a 30 centímetros del suelo. Asimismo, para la rehabilitación de las fincas se brindará un monto de hasta 75.000 lempiras, o sea, 15.000 por manzana sembrada con café.
Es bueno recordar que el Ihcafé estimó en su momento que se requerían unos 1.600 millones de lempiras (US$80,5 millones) para comenzar a combatir esta plaga del café que se ha diseminado en casi todo el país, pero el daño se acentúa en la zona oriental, central y occidental de Honduras. Molina expresó que el aval que estos bancos tendrán para brindar estos créditos directos es la retención de 9 dólares por quintal que el Ihcafé le aplica por cada saco del grano aromático exportado.
El mercado. Datos brindados en la conferencia de prensa indican que el volumen de las exportaciones de café en Honduras crecieron en 3,2% durante los seis meses que lleva la cosecha 2012-2013, en comparación con el año anterior. Según dirigentes del rubro este crecimiento ocurre pese a los daños generados por el referido hongo. Entre octubre de 2012 y marzo pasado se exportaron 3,2 millones de quintales del grano (sacos de 46 kilogramos), afirmó el gerente del Ihcafé.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Honduras: Community Police reduce violence

Martha Espinal: “I feel protected and my customers know... there won’t be a criminal waiting for them.”
Using Japan’s Koban method, Tegucigalpa’s Flor del Campo neighborhood reduced its homicide rate by 49% between 2011 and 2012.
Report and photos by Kay Valle
TEGUCIGALPA – The Honduran National Police is undergoing a transformation.
As the country works to clean up its police force, the National Police announced on March 13 the police district in La Granja, one of the seven police districts in the nation’s capital of Tegucigalpa, would become a Community Police District.
“As Community Police, our goal is to strengthen ties with the population, listen to its problems and solve them together,” said Deputy Director of the Community Police Rolando Piura. “This allows the community to have a better quality of life through daily visits and patrols, with a strict adherence to human rights.”
The six other districts that make up the Tegucigalpa police division will continue to be staffed by the National Police.
The move occurred based on the positive results produced by the Community Police since 2009 in the La Granja’s Flor del Campo neighborhood in southern Tegucigalpa. In 2012, 18 homicides were reported in the neighborhood – a year after 35 were documented, according to Deputy Inspector Milton Fúnez Peralta, the district’s head of the Community Police in the district.
In 2012, Honduras registered 7,172 homicides, up from 7,104 in 2011, according to the Violence Observatory at the Instituto Universitario en Democracia, Paz y Seguridad (IUDPAS).
“Prior to the arrival of the Community Police, there was a serious crime problem here,” said Luis Alfonso Ávila, a Flor del Campo resident. “Now, the communication between us and the police makes all the difference.”
Martha Espinal, who has owned a business in Flor del Campo for the last 10 years, is enjoying living in a much more peaceful community.
“I feel protected and my customers know that when they come here to shop, there won’t be a criminal waiting for them when they leave,” she said as she served customers in her school supply store.
La Granja, which will serve as the central division, will have 170 police officers distributed among 10 stations. The stations are in the neighborhoods of Las Brisas, Nueva Esperanza, Las Torres, Flor del Campo, La Rosa, La Peña, La Alemán, Tiloarque, Reinel Fúnez and Tizatillo.
Police will cover 38 square kilometers and will serve 415,000 of the city’s 1.2 million residents of the city, Piura said
“The goal is to implement an autonomous community policing district that will not receive interference from the high command of the National Police in developing the program,” he added.
The Community Police model being applied in Honduras is based on the Koban method, which has been used for more than a century in Japan, which has more than 15,000 police outposts. Each unit is responsible for patrolling 2.5 square kilometers on foot, bike or patrol car.
In Honduras, police officers visited local residents and business owners to find out about their needs, collect information and leave their contact information.
“The communication between police officers and residents helps us solve the problems together and fosters confidence in the police force,” Fúnez said.
While the Koban method has been applied in Honduras since 2009, with support from the governments of Brazil and Japan, the authorities recently have been placing more emphasis on transforming the National Police into Community Police, which was a recommendation of the Public Safety Reform Commission of Honduras.
“The training [that we received in Brazil] consists of comparing the operations performed at the Community Police stations in São Paulo and in Tegucigalpa,” Fúnez said. “We are conducting workshops to provide police personnel with adequate training on the techniques for reaching out to the public and carrying out community projects.”
Seventy police officers from Honduras have been trained and 10 police officers are currently receiving training in São Paulo.
The program is evaluated annually. The most recent evaluation was carried out in January 2013 by the Lt. Col. Gilberto Tardochi da Silva, the deputy director of Community Police and Human Rights in São Paulo.
Tardochi da Silva said the program has shown a tremendous amount of progress, but officials need to address a lack of technological tools needed to create a digital database to file daily reports and surveys carried out by the police.
“The surveys allow us to determine the problems facing the community and the development projects that the residents need,” Fúnez said.
Recently, the Flor del Campo police post welcomed visiting police delegations from Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic, which participated in the International Seminar on Community Policing in Tegucigalpa in November 2012.
“The purpose of the visit was to observe the effectiveness of applying the Koban method,” Fúnez said.
While other countries in Central America use community policing models, Brazil and Honduras are the only countries in Latin America that use the Koban method, he added.
“Without question it will lower the crime rate and result in police who are more committed to the population,” Fúnez said. “The teachings of the police force and the approximation to the population through the Koban method will prevent failed police operations.”