The first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Honduras elapsed between the pain of thousands of deaths and infections, serious damage to its economy, inadequate handling of the crisis and reports of alleged corruption in the purchase of mobile hospitals and other requirements, among other ills.
The prospects for the country, of 9.3 million inhabitants, of whom more than 60% are poor, are uncertain and very worrying, not only for the more than 1,500 dead and almost 50,000 infected, but also for the severe blow to its fragile economy, which the pandemic has brought to its knees.
CLOSING BUSINESS AND LOSS OF JOBS
In the economic sphere, hundreds of buses, small, medium and large businessmen were smothered by the pandemic, which forced the Government headed by Juan Orlando Hernández to decree a curfew on March 12, which was prolonged, without knowing when will end while some companies are dying.
According to private sources, the pandemic has left around 500,000 new unemployed, affecting the informal economy sector to a greater extent, which calls for help and for a wider economic opening to try to recover.
With the crisis, poorer people also appeared, such as men, women and children, even the elderly, who daily travel the main cities asking for money or food, some in a threatening tone, instigating fear in those who drive in vehicles.
The companies that closed or laid off staff are of all types, without realizing in the short or medium term they will be able to cope with the gradual process of economic recovery, to which they returned on July 29, after an unsuccessful attempt in June because many did not complied with health protocols.
In the tourism sector, for example, restaurants, bars and hotels, among other businesses, remained closed.
Among the hotels that have closed are Honduras Maya, one of the best in the country, which opened its doors 50 years ago in Tegucigalpa, and also those of the Clarion and Marriot chains.
In addition, Villas Telamar, a beachfront complex in the Caribbean city of Tela, opened about 40 years ago and had about 600 unemployed employees.
Land, urban and interurban transport, as well as air, national and international, were also paralyzed by COVID-19, which affected all productive and Honduran sectors in general.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY OVER 9%, ACCORDING TO THE EMPLOYER
The president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Cortés (CCIC), Pedro Barquero, told Efe that there is “a drop in economic activity of more than 9% and between 400,000 and 500,000 jobs lost”.
“We are aware that the number one priority is to take care of the health of Hondurans, but we also need to start working to prevent many more people from reaching poverty,” said Barquero of the new attempt to reactivate the country’s economy.
The business leader of the department of Cortés, in the northern region of Honduras, the region with the greatest commercial and industrial growth, lamented that, due to the non-compliance with sanitary measures, the economic reactivation did not begin in June, in the midst of the pandemic.
In his opinion, private companies are doing their job for the benefit of workers and their health and the protection of their customers, but the Government must also provide everything necessary in terms of biosafety to doctors, nurses and other professionals in addition to guaranteeing medications, plus COVID-19 exams and screening centers to lighten the burden on public hospitals.
Personally, added Barquero, each citizen must also comply with the protection measures to avoid hiring COVID-19.
ALLEGED CORRUPTION BREATHES SHOPPING
To aggravate the tragedy that Honduras is experiencing with COVID-19, which adds to the political crises of 2009 and 2017, whose wounds are still open, civil society organizations have denounced alleged acts of corruption amid the pandemic in the purchase of medicines, medical supplies , equipment and seven mobile hospitals.
The seven hospitals were acquired in Turkey at a cost of about US $ 48 million, by the Strategic Investment of Honduras (Invest-H, state), but only two of them arrived, on July 10, without being operating so far, in part due to the delay in clearing them from customs due to inconsistencies in their invoices.
The Public Ministry opened 16 lines of investigation to Invest-H, which was unable to explain, among other irregularities, why the equipment of the two mobile hospitals that arrived are in use or have expired since 2016.
The allegations of alleged corruption in purchases to deal with the pandemic were raised on Monday, when Invest-H acknowledged that 250,000 COVID-19 tests acquired in South Korea in April were hampered by inadequate temperature management.
If the 250,000 tests had not been damaged, perhaps the National Virology Laboratory would collect between 2,000 and 3,000 PCR samples that are needed daily for doctors to have a better idea of the spread of the pandemic.
The presidential pandemic commissioner, Lisandro Rosales, who is also chancellor of Honduras, told Efe yesterday whether or not there was an overvaluation in the purchase of the seven hospitals, of which the remaining five would be arriving at the end of September, State and the Public Prosecutor’s Office are required to submit “a report at the end of their investigations”.
The visible head of Invest-H, to whom the most accusations of corruption point out, is Marco Bográn, who in June was removed from the institution and claims to have committed no crime.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand amid the shock of a suffering people, it also grows among sectors of civil society, on social networks and on public roads, such as avenues, the question in large letters: “Where’s the money? Honduras Demands “, in addition to demanding that the alleged corruption reported during the health crisis be investigated and the culprits punished.
Corruption in the country is a serious scourge to which sectors like the Catholic Church attribute the poverty that affects more than 60% of Hondurans.
This scourge has affected almost every government in Honduras’ history, at the level of the three state powers, of which corruption and impunity have been largely promoted through laws passed by politicians.
Corruption and impunity are like two sides of the same coin, with a letter of citizenship, granted by decree in Honduras, where perhaps, for this very reason, for some Hondurans, with the exceptions of the case, it is redundant to say “corrupt politicians” .