Vying With Vulture: Widespread Poverty Has Some Hondurans Living Off Rubbish

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Since he was 14, Marlon Escoto has been searching among trash, attempting to scare away vultures while collecting plastic and metal shards to sell.

Honduras is ravaged by drug trafficking, violent gangs, corruption, political instability, and storms, with more than half of the country’s 10 million inhabitants living in poverty (59 percent).

“I watch after my children from here… from the rubbish,” Escoto, 59, said as he stood on a big waste on a hill overlooking the capital of Tegucigalpa.

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He has no intention of leaving anytime soon.

Escoto’s wife is in the hospital, and he has to cover the costs of her care. However, he claims that the money he earns through scavenging is hardly enough to put food on the table.

Escoto is one of perhaps a hundred people digging through the heaps of waste at the municipal landfill on this particular day.

Left-wing contender Xiomara Castro, a former first lady who now leads numerous surveys, will attempt to end the ruling National Party’s and the Liberal Party’s decades-long alternating hold on power.

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“As citizens, we all have the right to vote,” Escoto explained. “However, none of the parties has aided me. Everything in my house was paid for by myself.”

In Honduras, though, handouts are prevalent, and they appear to increase as elections approach.

To combat poverty, the government began giving vouchers worth 7,000 lempiras ($290) each household a month ago. Although most individuals work in the underground, off-the-books economy, the minimum salary is roughly $400 per month.

As the opposition accused the administration of buying votes, long lines developed to obtain their coupons.

“We need to see what the consequences of the money dance will be,” said Eugenio Sosa, a National University analyst and professor.

Yani Rosenthal, a Liberal Party candidate, has likewise offered vouchers worth $60 per month to each adult if elected, without specifying how he intends to pay for them.

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