With an approximated fifty percent decline in economic activity nationwide since President Manual Zelaya’s removal from office, Adelante clients are feeling the economic effects of the current political crisis. While Hondurans have been stocking up on basic necessities and lining up to fill gas tanks, no signs of such scarcity have presented themselves thus far. However, disruptions in transportation, reduced time to circulate due to the curfew, and fearfulness over what will happen next are among the factors that have contributed to this dramatic economic decline.
Adelante clients, the poorest segment of the Honduran population, generally live hand-to-mouth and are particularly vulnerable to such fluctuations in their businesses. Some of the effects to client businesses are the following (as reported by Adelante field staff):
• Many clients have businesses that require travel to large cities like San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa to buy the products they sell. They have not been able make the necessary purchases for three main reasons: roadblocks have prevented their passage; due to roadblocks, they cannot make the trip in one day but do not have money for a hotel; and some are just too fearful of the situation to leave their homes.
• Many clients sell food products in schools and along major bus routes. Classes have been cancelled since the crisis began on Sunday, June 28, and far fewer people have been traveling since that date.
• Clients whose businesses involve the sale of “luxury” items such as jewelry, perfumes, and clothes are afraid of investing in inventory because at times like these people tend to only spend money on the bare necessities.
• The curfew, imposed nationwide, has dramatically decreased business hours. Many of our clients sell food in the evenings. The curfew has varied since the crisis began – some evenings it has started at 6 p.m. and others at 9 p.m. It usually ends at either at 5 or 6 a.m.
Adelante’s ability to follow our methodology has also suffered. Generally, clients meet once every two weeks at an assembly with their fellow group members. In the meeting, which lasts about an hour, they report on loan payments, discuss challenges they have encountered, and receive an educational lesson. Unfortunately, these assemblies have been cut short, have had poor attendance, or have been cancelled altogether because of clients’ fear of or inability to travel to the required destination.
Thankfully, with the help of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a major diplomatic breakthrough was made yesterday. Both Presidents Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti have agreed to negotiate with Costa Rica’s President Oscar Arias, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, as a mediator. Talks will begin at noon on Thursday, July 9th. Meanwhile, Zelaya’s supporters have vowed to step up their protests to further disrupt commercial activity by blocking major highways, bridges, and international borders. If Zelaya is truly committed to finding a diplomatic solution to this crisis, perhaps he will discourage them from doing so while the talks take place. One can only hope that these two presidents fully comprehend the importance of reaching a compromise and that it results in a rapid return to political and economic order. For Adelante clients along with the rest of Hondurans, getting back to work is more important than ever.
By Sophia Anderson