According to Mark Rosenberg, the private sector in Honduras has historically been one of the weakest in Central America because of the economy's domination by foreign-owned banana companies. The private sector, however, got a boost in the 1960s with the creation of the Central American Common Market (CACM--see Appendix B). In 1967 the Honduran Private Enterprise Council (Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada--Cohep) was established to serve as an umbrella organization for most private-sector business organizations.
In the early 1980s, a short-lived business organization, the Association for the Progress of Honduras (Asociación para el Progreso de Honduras--Aproh), was formed during the presidency of Suazo Córdova; it was headed by armed forces commander General lvarez. Aproh, which was made up of conservative business leaders, had an anticommunist bent, and appeared to be a means for General lvarez to establish a power base outside the military. It received a US$50,000 contribution from a front group for the Unification Church, led by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, which had begun to proselytize in Honduras. The existence of Aproh appeared to be directly tied to the fate of General Álvarez, and as a result, when he was ousted in 1984, Aproh lost its source of support and fell into disarray. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church in Honduras denounced the dangers posed by the Unification Church (whose members were referred to as Moonies), a measure that was a further setback to the fate of Aproh. In the 1993 presidential elections, Aproh received media attention because PNH presidential candidate Osvaldo Ramos Soto had been a prominent member of Aproh, coordinating its Committee for the Defense and Support of Democratic Institutions. Human rights groups in Honduras claimed that Aproh was associated with the political killings and disappearances of leftist activists during the early 1980s.
In the early 1990s, Cohep was the most important businesssector interest group, representing about thirty private-sector organizations. Essentially an organization of the business elite that tries to influence government policy, the group has often been used as a business sounding board when the government is considering new policy initiatives. Within Cohep, several organizations stand out as the most powerful; they often issue their own statements or positions on the government's economic policy. Among these, the Cortés Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Cámara de Comercio e Industrias de Cortés--CCIC), which represents the private sector of San Pedro Sula, was originally formed in 1931, but was restructured in 1951 and since then has served as a strong development proponent and vocal advocate for the northern coastal region of the country. Another body, the National Association of Industrialists (Asociación Nacional de Industriales- -ANDI), was a vocal critic of the Callejas administration's liberalization program designed to open the Honduran market to outside competition. Another group, the Tegucigalpa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Cámara de Comercio de Industrias de Tegucigalpa--CCIT), supported the government's trade liberalization efforts.
Overlapping with Cohep membership is the National Federation of Agriculturists and Stockraisers of Honduras (Federación Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras--Fenagh). Founded in the 1960s, it has been an active opponent of land reform, and in 1975 was responsible for the killing of several people, including two priests, in a peasant training center in Olancho department. Fenagh strongly supported a new agricultural modernization law approved by the Honduran National Congress in 1992 that was opposed by most peasant organizations. Another organization that overlaps with Cohep's membership is the Honduran Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Federación de Cámaras de Comercio e Industrias de Honduras), founded in 1988, which functions largely as a service organization for its members throughout the country.
The private sector in Honduras is divided by a variety of rivalries. These rivalries include the traditional competition between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula and the animosity between turco (Arab immigrants who arrived early in this century carrying Ottoman Empire--Turkish--travel documents) entrepreneurs and native-born Honduran entrepreneurs. Divisions were also apparent in the early 1990s, in conjunction with the trade liberalization efforts initiated by the Callejas government. Those business sectors able to compete with imported goods and services supported liberalization measures, whereas those producers more dependent on government protection or subsidies opposed the trade liberalization program.
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