Honduras, a Central American nation of 9 million people, has had close ties with the United States for many years. The country served as a base for U.S. operations designed to counter Soviet influence in Central America during the 1980s, and it continues to host a U.S. military presence and cooperate on antidrug efforts today. Trade and investment linkages are also long-standing and have grown stronger since the implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) in 2006. In recent years, instability in Honduras—including a 2009 coup and significant outflows of migrants and asylum-seekers since 2014—has led U.S. policymakers to focus greater attention on conditions in the country and their implications for the United States.
President Juan Orlando Hernández of the conservative National Party was inaugurated to a second four-year term in January 2018. He lacks legitimacy among many Hondurans, however, due to allegations that the November 2017 presidential election was marred by fraud. During Hernández’s first term, Honduras made some progress in reducing violence and putting public finances on a more sustainable path. Anti-corruption efforts also made some headway, largely as a result of cooperation between the Honduran public prosecutor’s office and the Organization of American States-backed Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras. Nevertheless, considerable challenges remain. Honduras continues to be one of the poorest and most unequal countries in Latin America, with nearly 69% of Hondurans living below the poverty line. It also remains one of the most violent countries in the world and continues to suffer from persistent human rights abuses and widespread impunity. Moreover, the country’s tentative progress in combating corruption has generated a fierce backlash, calling into question the sustainability of those efforts.
U.S. policy in Honduras is guided by the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America, which is designed to promote economic prosperity, strengthen governance, and improve security in Honduras and the rest of the region. Congress appropriated an estimated $79.8 million in bilateral assistance for Honduras to advance those objectives in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141). The Trump Administration has requested $65.8 million to continue U.S. efforts in Honduras in FY2019. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY2019 foreign aid appropriations measure (S. 3108) would slightly exceed the request, providing $68.8 million for Honduras. The House Appropriations Committee’s foreign aid appropriations bill (H.R. 6385) would not specify a funding level for Honduras. Members of the 115th Congress have put forward several measures intended to incentivize policy changes in Honduras. P.L. 115-141 withholds 75% of assistance for the Honduran central government until Honduras addresses concerns such as border security, corruption, and human rights abuses. S. 3108 and H.R. 6385 would maintain similar conditions on aid, and the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1299) would suspend all security assistance until Honduras meets strict human rights conditions. A resolution adopted by the House, H.Res. 145, called on the Honduran government to support ongoing anti-corruption efforts, and a provision in the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 115-232) requires the Secretary of State to name Honduran officials known to have engaged in, or facilitated, acts of grand corruption or narcotics trafficking.