Members of the Honduran coffee sector predict a need for more than 60,000 seasonal workers for the 2016-2017 coffee harvest, which began on 1 October (Prensa Latina, 19 December 2016). Instituto Hondureño del Café (Ihcafé) President Asterio Reyes explained that last year between 35,000 – 40,000 workers from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador came to Honduras to harvest coffee, and he expected that number to be closer to 60,000 in 2016 (La Tribuna). According to La Tribuna, the coffee sector generates up to 1 million direct and indirect jobs throughout the season.
According to a Banco Central de Honduras (BCH) report on FDI flows, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Honduras increased 10 percent during the third trimester of 2016 compared to the third trimester of 2015 (Radio HRN, 11 December 2016). FDI reached US$924.7 million with 69.4 percent as reinvestment of profits, 17.8 percent as other capital and 12.8 percent as account transfers between companies (La Tribuna). The most attractive sectors for FDI included services, followed by manufacturing, transportation, storage and telecommunications, goods for processing and trade. Latin America represented the largest source of investment with US$341.9 million, followed by North America with US$315.2 million and Europe with US$177.3 million (La Tribuna).
The Banco Central de Honduras (BCH) foresees closing 2016 with more than US$4 billion in remittances, above their previously predicted goal of US$3.85 billion (La Prensa, 11 December 2016). According to data, BCH has recorded US$3.611 billion in remittances between 1 January and 1 December 2016. This represents a 6.2 percent increase from the same period in 2015, which hit US$3.39 billion (El Heraldo). According to BCH surveys, 92 percent of remittances come from the U.S. and the U.S.’s economic recovery accounts for the increase (El Heraldo).
After a meeting between Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 8 December 2016, officials signed an agreement to amplify security cooperation between the two countries with a focus on equipment, training and technology sharing (Terra Mexico). The agreement increases F5 and A37 planes, as well as the Honduran’ Air Forces’ helicopter Fleet (La Prensa). The Presidents agreed on the construction of an Offshore Patrol Vessel with the capacity for helicopter landing and take-off, as well as introducing a sophisticated land communication system with national coverage (La Prensa). Hernández stressed this additional equipment, technology and training will allow the country to focus on threats from organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking (La Prensa). The agreement builds on and deepens previous security cooperation agreements between the two countries.
The Unidad Nacional de Apoyo Fiscal (UNAF) announced on 6 December 2016 that Ilsa Vanessa Molina Aguirre received a twelve year sentence for asset laundering from the Honduran Social Security Institute (IHSS) (La Prensa). Molina pled guilty to embezzlement of more than US$400,000 through Inversiones y Suministros Médicos (Insumedic), a business she created (La Tribuna). Molina was the former partner of former IHSS administrator José Zelaya, currently a fugitive from justice. Zelaya is considered to be the mastermind behind the theft of almost US$300 million from Social Security funds, with more people implicated (La Tribuna). According to the Public Ministry (MP), they had thousands of files with evidence against Molina (La Prensa).
The first Taiwanese commercial delegation arrived in Honduras on 27 November 2016 to meet with President Juan Orlando Hernández, talk with Honduran entrepreneurs, and explore investment opportunities (W Radio). The Taiwanese delegation, a result of Hernández's October 2016 trip to Taiwan, plans to stay until 7 December and visit industrial parks, tourist zones, the Operador Portuario Centroamericano in Puerto Cortés, as well as coffee, meat, shrimp and lobster producers (La Prensa). Taiwanese companies represented in the delegation include Group Yi Chiao Int'l Inc., Dong Jyu, TaiDa Horticultural Co., Ltd., Paisaje BioTech Co., and Tri Services (La Prensa). La Tribuna reported that twelve members of the delegation met with Hernández on 28 November at the Honduran Institute of Coffee (IHCAFE) regional office in San Pedro Sula and were highly interested in the advantages and opportunities to invest in Honduras.
President Juan Orlando Hernández, along with National Defense Minister Samuel Reyes and other officials, signed a purchase agreement on 22 November 2016 to buy a boat from Colombia for maritime patrol (La Prensa). El Heraldo reported on 27 November the total purchase amounts to US$13.5 million, which includes the boat, maintenance and training (La Prensa). Hernández emphasized Honduras' obligation to protect its territory, which includes a maritime territory double the size of the country, as drug traffickers and criminals have taken advantage of the state's current inability to patrol its maritime territory (La Prensa). According to El Heraldo, the boat, to be delivered in September 2017, has the capacity to be out to sea for 40 consecutive days and carry fifteen people.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández confirmed on 21 November 2016 an agreement with Air Europa to offer a weekly flight between Madrid and San Pedro Sula beginning in April 2017 (La Prensa). Hernández announced the arrival of the airline would generate 7,000 jobs, according to Radio HRN. As a part of the agreement, the Honduran promised more than US$2.6 million in promotional activities as well as a payment guarantee in case the company does not sell a minimum number of seats on a flight (La Prensa). Hernández emphasized the partnership would open up Honduras to a new influx of tourism from Spain and Europe, plus opportunities to travel abroad.
Authorities oversaw ten raids throughout Honduras in operation Panamericano that captured multiple members of a criminal structure, comprised of former and current police officers, dedicated to transnational drug trafficking (Radio HRN, 23 November 2016). According to investigations by the Fiscalía Especial Contra el Crimen Organizado (FESCCO), the current police acted as cover to transport drugs through the country, then passed the drugs off to associates with connections to other countries in the region (La Prensa). Investigators have identified people from the same group in Costa Rica, transporting drugs from Colombia to the United States (La Prensa). The operation Panamericano was lead by FESCCO, in coordination with the Dirección Policial de Investigaciones (DPI) and the Tropa de Intelegencia y Grupos de Respuesta Especial de Seguridad (TIGRES).
Recent reports and studies show manufacturing, financial intermediation, and agriculture represent Honduras’ top economic growth sectors and account for 48 percent of the national GDP (La Prensa, 31 October 2016). The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) predicts the Honduran GDP will grow 3.8 percent in 2016. A recent study conducted by Fundemos Consultores for Grupo Opsa projected the financial intermediation sector would grow by 8 percent, the manufacturing sector by 3.3 percent and the agricultural sector by 3.8 percent for 2017 (La Prensa). A recent Banco Central de Honduras (BCH) report showed a 35 percent increase by the end of 2016 for palm oil, which dropped in 2015 due to a decrease in international prices (El Heraldo). According to BCH, agricultural products such as coffee, palm oil, shrimp and sugar, among others, account for US$1.99 billion in exports (La Prensa).
While Honduras produces a variety of textiles and automobile parts, the first air bag factory will open by the end of 2016 (La Prensa). La Prensa reported that three factories are expected to open in the last quarter of 2016: one for safety harnesses, one for air bags, and one for sports jackets. Asociación Hondureña de Maquiladores (AHM) President Mario Canahuati cited the diversification into airbags as a sign the industry continues to grow. Canahuati expects the three new factories to generate at least 3,000 direct jobs in Valle de Sula. The textile and harness industry is projected to close 2016 with a US$100 million gain in exports, growing from US$200 million to US$300 million (La Prensa). President Juan Orlando Hernández has focused on strengthening Honduras’ relationship with Mexican car producers, who expect to increase car production and thus demand for safety harnesses and auto parts (La Prensa).
Honduran authorities rolled out Operation Avalancha 2 against the Mara Salvatrucha (MS) over three days starting on 17 October 2016, which included raids, seizures of property and freezing bank accounts amounting to US$2.2 million (La Prensa). According to authorities, the money allegedly belongs to members and associates of the Mara Salvatrucha and the accounts were in a variety of banks, cooperatives, and financial institutions (La Prensa). Aside from the frozen accounts, authorities conducted 60 raids and seized over 1,500 items of property, including 1,434 vehicles, 107 residences, and 18 business corporations according to El Heraldo. During the operation, authorities captured former police connected to the MS, Roberto Armando Carranza Romero, alias Carranza, and Héctor Jacinto Mendoza Gonzáles, alias Camuma. Both men are tied to the assassination of two attorneys, Marlene Banegas and Olga Eufragio (El Heraldo).
Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán (MUCA) President José Ángel Flores and his associate Silmer Dionisio George were shot and killed as they left a meeting on 18 October 2016 in Colón, a department in northern Honduras on the Caribbean side (Terra). Agencia Técnica de Investigación Criminal (Atic) Director Ricardo Castro announced on 20 October 2016 that an Atic team, including himself, had been dispatched to the town and would stay in the area until they had concluded their investigation (La Prensa). Former MUCA President Jhony Rivas declared they had condemned the death squads operating in Bajo Aguán as a strategy to rid the area of campesino leaders. Plataforma Agraria del Bajo Aguán spokesperson Yoni Rivas accused the Honduran government of supporting a strategy that created armed groups to destabilize the campesino movement in Aguán (Terra). The Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) had ordered protective measures for both Dionisio and Flores.
Amnesty International released commentary on 19 October 2016 marking Honduras as a prohibited area for environmental activists and human rights defenders. The week prior to the murders, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández refused a meeting with Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty to talk about the human rights crisis in the country, including the increase violence toward human rights defenders (Amnesty). Many in the international community, including U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James Nealon and the United Nations have condemned the murders and called for justice.
Mexico signed an agreement of understanding on labor cooperation with the Northern Triangle to allow temporary workers from the three countries to work in Mexico via the Programa Laboral Migratorio Temporal (La Tribuna, 15 October 2016). The agreement allows temporary workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to work in Mexico for no more than 180 days in the agriculture and service industries during high demand (El Universal). Mexicans can also work seasonally in these three countries and Mexican Labor Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida commented that the memorandum represents a step toward instituting mechanisms for a regional solution to labor migration (La Tribuna).
Through a strategic alliance between the government led Marca Honduras and Industrias Molineras, S.A. (Imsa), some Imsa produced brands of flour, rice, corn flour and coffee will have the Marca País stamp as of 12 October 2016 (La Prensa). The government sees Marca Honduras as a strategy to promote the country at the national and international level, to attract investment and to grow the country’s economy. La Tribuna reported the government wants more than 100 brands to join Marca Honduras by the end of 2016 and officials believe the initiative has and continues to promote significant growth in the country.