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Central America: one of the happiest regions on earth?

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Central America’s myriad problems – violence, drugs, corruption, political folly, social unrest, natural disasters, poverty, emigration, and chupacabras – are a well known and seemingly chronic condition.

But according to the Happy Planet Index – an attempt to measure human well-being and environmental impact using a perplexing mathematical formula – most Central Americans couldn’t be more pleased about their situation. Even narco-gangbangers are whistling while they work.

Six of the seven countries that share this habitually troubled isthmus (including some of the most violent places in the world) rank in the Top 10 of this year’s Happy Planet Index, published last week by British think tank New Economics Foundation.

The Top 10 is bookended by Costa Rica, which again finished in 1st place (¡pura vida, mae!), and Guatemala, which finished in 10th place, probably to the surprise of most Guatemalans hiding inside their homes. Rounding out the champions’ circle is Belize at No. 4 (just happy to be included as part of Central America), El Salvador at No. 5 (after a 100-day gang truce, Salvadorans may soon overtake Belizeans in the cheerful category), Panama at No. 7 (apparently the poll wasn’t conducted during rush hour traffic in Panama City), and Nicaragua at No. 8 (a Sandinista poll released today also shows that President Daniel Ortega enjoys an 80 percent approval rating in a country where statistics have a 113.85 percent level of accuracy).

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