Honduras is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and remains dependent on international economic assistance. The economy is based on agriculture; bananas and coffee are the most important exports. The vast banana plantations, established by U.S. companies, are mainly along the northern coast; the United Fruit Company and the Standard Fruit Company and their successor companies, fiercely resented by many as exploitive monopolies, have had much social and political influence in Honduras. Seafood, gold and other minerals, palm oil, fruit, lumber, and beef are also exported. Other important food crops include corn, beans, rice, and citrus.
Honduras has rich forest resources and deposits of silver, lead, zinc, iron, gold, antimony, and copper, but exploitation is hampered by inadequate road and rail systems, and the country remains underdeveloped. Its only railroads link the banana plantations in the north to San Pedro Sula and the principal ports, La Ceiba, Puerto Cortés, and Tela; they do not penetrate more than 75 mi (121 km) inland. Air transportation, however, has opened up remote areas. Industry, concentrated chiefly in San Pedro Sula, is small and consumer-oriented, including the production of processed food (mainly sugar and coffee), textiles, clothing, and wood products. Machinery, transportation equipment, raw materials, chemicals, fuels, and foodstuffs are imported. The United States is by far the largest trading partner, followed by Guatemala and El Salvador.
Honduras is governed under the constitution of 1982 as amended. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a four-year term. The unicameral legislature, the National Congress, has 128 members, also elected for four years. Administratively, the country is divided into 18 departments.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.