Honduras is a country with a young population; 43% of citizens are under the age of 19. Each year, hundreds of thousands of them enter a job market offering little more than low-paying jobs in agriculture, the service industry or manufacturing. Local agriculture is not competitive enough to compensate for all of the subsidized US agricultural products that flood the country, and, thanks to a free-trade agreement, are imported tariff-free.
Many sectors — such as construction or energy — are controlled by a handful of companies owned by a tiny group of elites. They live off government contracts and corruption is pervasive.The wealthy live from state patronage, while the poor live from money sent home from relatives who have managed to get out. A dwindling middle class is being ground down between those two extremes. Hondurans abroad earn more than $4 billion each year for their relatives — money that flows into the banks and shopping malls, and not into education or infrastructure.
Honduran author Juan Ramon Martinez calls this the "export the poor" business model. But what happens when the migration valve is shut off?
"Those who want to go to the US won't be dissuaded by Trump's wall nor his deterrence campaign," says Liliana Flores. She should know, for more than a decade she has been in charge of a program that teaches poor youths business skills.