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Honduras - Government and Politics

IN LATE 1993, HONDURAS was again in the midst of an electoral campaign to elect a president, deputies to the National Congress, and municipal officials nationwide. The November 1993 elections were the third since the military turned the nation over to a democratically elected president in January 1982. Regular national elections, which have come to be celebrated in an almost holidaylike atmosphere, appear to be institutionalized. For most of this century, the Honduran political system has had two dominant traditional parties, the Liberal Party of Honduras (Partido Liberal de Honduras--PLH) and the National Party of Honduras (Partido Nacional de Honduras--PNH). In the 1980s, the PLH captured the presidency in the 1981 and 1985 elections, choosing Roberto Suazo Córdova and José Azcona Hoyo, respectively; in 1989, the PNH was victorious, with Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero assuming the presidency.

The Honduran military has been a powerful force in domestic politics since the 1950s. From 1963 until 1971, and again from 1972 until 1982, the military essentially controlled the national government, often with support from the PNH. In the 1980s, after the country had returned to civilian rule, the military continued to be a potent political force, particularly during the Suazo Córdova government (1981-85). During that administration, the military allowed a United States military presence and hosted members of the Nicaraguan Resistance (more commonly known as the Contras, short for contrarevolucionarios--Spanish for counterrevolutionaries; see Glossary), a group attempting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. In the early 1990s, the Honduran military continued to operate as an autonomous institution with increasing involvement in economic activities.

Within the civilian government, the executive branch of government has traditionally dominated the legislative and judicial branches. The Honduran judiciary has been widely criticized for politicization and for having unqualified judges among the lower court officials. The justice system for the most part has not held military or civilian elites accountable for their actions. A significant departure from this record was the July 1993 conviction of two military officers for the 1991 murder of an eighteen-year- old high school student, Riccy Mabel Martínez. The case galvanized Honduran public opinion against the military's immunity from prosecution. The political system also suffers from the endemic corruption found within its ranks; bribery is an almost institutionalized practice.

In the early 1990s, a myriad of interest groups influenced the Honduran political process. Despite the nation's political tradition of a strong executive branch, an elaborate network of interest groups and political organizations has thrived and at times has helped settle conflicts. The Honduran labor movement has traditionally been one of the strongest in Central America. The nation's organized peasant movement helped bring about limited agrarian reform in the early 1960s and 1970s. Nevertheless, some critics maintain that in the early 1990s the government increasingly intervened in the affairs of labor unions and peasant organizations, including through the introduction of "parallel unions," government sponsored unions that had little worker support. In the 1980s and 1990s, a variety of special interest organizations and associations were active in Honduras, including student and women's groups, human rights organizations, and environmental groups.

In the foreign policy arena, Honduras in the early 1990s was just emerging from a decade of regional turbulence marked by civil conflicts in neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua. Honduras had become a linchpin for United States policy toward Central America in the 1980s. It hosted the United States-supported anti-Sandinista Contra force as well as a 1,100-troop United States military force at Palmerola Air Base (renamed the Enrique Cano Soto Air Base in 1988). Military exercises involving thousands of United States troops and National Guardsmen were conducted in the country, many involving roadbuilding projects; and Honduras received almost US$1.6 billion in United States assistance during the decade. In the early 1990s, however, with the end to the Contra conflict in Nicaragua and a peace accord in El Salvador, Honduras's relations with the United States changed considerably. Aid levels fell dramatically, and military assistance slowed to a trickle. The United States became more willing to criticize Honduras for its human rights record and urged Honduras to cut back its military spending. As in the past, however, the United States remained Honduras's most important trading partner and its most important source of foreign investment.

Amidst the waning of civil conflict in the region in the early 1990s, Honduras and the other Central American states turned their efforts to regional integration, particularly economic integration. In 1990 the Central American presidents signed a Central American Economic Action Plan (Plan de Acción Económica de Centroamérica-- Paeca), which included economic integration commitments and guidelines. In 1993 they established a regional integration governing body, the Central American Integration System (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana--Sica). As a first step toward political integration, the Central American Parliament (Parlamento Centroamericano--Parlacen) was inaugurated in 1991; however, as of 1993 only Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador--the so-called northern triangle states--had elected representatives to that body. In September 1992, Honduras's long-time border conflict with El Salvador was resolved when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded Honduras approximately two-thirds of the disputed territory. Both nations agreed to accept the ruling, which was viewed by many as a victory for Honduras.



The Honduran constitution, the sixteenth since independence from Spain, entered into force on January 20, 1982. Just a week before, Honduras had ended ten years of military rule with the inauguration of civilian president Roberto Suazo Córdova. The constitution was completed on January 11, 1982, by a seventy-one-seat Constituent Assembly that had been elected on April 20, 1980, under the military junta of Policarpo Paz García. The Constituent Assembly was dominated by Honduras's two major political parties, the PLH, which held thirty-five seats, and the PNH, which held thirty-three seats. The small Innovation and Unity Party (Partido de Inovación y Unidad--Pinu) held the remaining three seats.

Honduran constitutions are generally held to have little bearing on Honduran political reality because they are considered aspirations or ideals rather than legal instruments of a working government. The constitution essentially provides for the separation of powers among the three branches of government, but in practice the executive branch generally dominates both the legislative and judicial branches of government. Moreover, according to the United States Department of State's human rights report for 1992, although basic human rights are protected in the constitution, in practice the government has been unable to assure that many violations are fully investigated, or that most of the perpetrators, either military or civilian, are brought to justice.

Of the nation's fifteen previous constitutions, several have marked significant milestones in the nation's political development. The first constitution, in 1825, which reflected strong Spanish influence, established three branches of government. The 1839 constitution, which emphasized the protection of individual rights, was the nation's first outside the framework of the United Provinces of Central America; Honduras had just declared independence from the federation in October 1838. In the 1865 constitution, the right of habeas corpus was constitutionally guaranteed for the first time. The 1880 constitution introduced many new features to the Honduran political system, including the principle of municipal autonomy and the state's role in promoting economic development. Separation of church and state was also an important feature, as previous constitutions had proclaimed Roman Catholicism as the state's official religion.

Promulgated under the presidency of Policarpo Bonilla Vásquez (1894-99), the 1894 constitution--the nation's ninth--was considered the most progressive in its time. It abolished the death penalty and elevated the status of laws covering the press, elections, and amparo, laws that granted protection to claims in litigation. Although many provisions of the 1894 constitution were ignored, the document served as a model for future constitutions. The 1924 constitution introduced new social and labor provisions and attempted to make the legislature a stronger institution vis-à-vis the executive branch. With the 1936 constitution, which was promulgated under the dictatorship of Tiburcio Carías Andino (1933-49), the powers of the executive were again reinforced, and the presidential and legislative terms of office were extended from four to six years. Some observers maintain that the 1936 constitution was amended on numerous occasions to serve the needs of the Cariato, as the dictatorship came to be known.

The 1957 constitution, promulgated under the presidency of Ramón Villeda Morales (1958-63), introduced a number of new features, including labor provisions (influenced by the growth of trade unionism after the banana strike of 1954) and the establishment of a body to regulate the electoral process. The 1965 constitution, the nation's fifteenth, was promulgated under the military rule of Colonel Osvaldo López Arellano (1963-71, 1972-73) and remained in force until 1982, through the brief civilian presidency of Ramón Ernesto Cruz (1971-72) and through ten more years of military rule.

The 1982 constitution provides for many of the governmental institutions and processes inherited from previous decades. Throughout the constitution, however, new or changed provisions help distinguish it from previous constitutions, and some analysts consider it the most advanced constitution in Honduran history. The preamble expresses faith in the restoration of the Central American union and emphasizes the rule of law as a means of achieving a just society.

The 1982 constitution consists of a preamble and 379 articles divided into eight titles that are further divided into forty-three chapters. The first seven titles cover substantive provisions delineating the rights of individuals and the organization and responsibilities of the Honduran state. The last title provides for the constitution's implementation and amendment. As of mid-1993, the National Congress had amended the 1982 constitution on seven occasions and interpreted specific provisions of the constitution on four occasions.

The organization of the Honduran state, national territory, and international treaties are covered in Title I of the constitution. As stated in Article 4, "The government is republican, democratic and representative" and "composed of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial, which are complementary, independent, and not subordinate to each other." In practice, however, the executive branch has dominated the other two branches of government. Article 2, which states that sovereignty originates in the people, also includes a provision new to the 1982 constitution that labels the supplanting of popular sovereignty and the usurping of power as "crimes of treason against the fatherland." This provision can be considered an added constitutional protection of representative democracy in a country in which the military has a history of usurping power from elected civilian governments.

Title II addresses nationality and citizenship, suffrage and political parties, and provides for an independent and autonomous National Elections Tribunal (Tribunal Nacional de Elecciones--TNE) to handle all matters relating to electoral acts and procedures. Provisions regarding nationality and citizenship are essentially the same as in the 1965 constitution, with one significant exception. In the 1965 document, Central Americans by birth were considered "native-born Hondurans" after one year of residence in Honduras and after completing certain legal procedures, but in the 1982 constitution (Article 24), Central Americans by birth who have resided in the country for one year are Hondurans by naturalization. With regard to the electoral system, Article 46 provides for election through proportional or majority representation.

Individual rights and guarantees for Honduras citizens are addressed in Title III. This section covers such matters as social, child, and labor rights; social security; and health, education, culture, and housing issues. Different from the 1965 constitution is the chapter devoted entirely to "rights of the child."

The rights of habeas corpus and amparo are provided for in Title IV, which also addresses the constitutional review of laws by the Supreme Court of Justice and cases when constitutional guarantees may be restricted or suspended.

Title V outlines the branches and offices of the government and their responsibilities, and spells out the procedure for the enactment, sanction, and promulgation of laws. It covers the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government; the Office of the Comptroller General and the Directorate of Administrative Probity, both of which are auxiliary but independent agencies of the legislative branch; the Office of the Attorney General, the legal representative of the Honduran state; the offices of the ministers of the cabinet, with no fewer than twelve ministries; the civil service; the departmental and municipal system of local government; and guidelines for the establishment of decentralized institutions of the Honduran state. Different from the 1965 constitution, the terms of legislators and the president are four years, instead of six years. Another new feature focuses on the development of local government throughout the country. Article 299 states that "economic and social development of the municipalities must form part of the national development program," whereas Article 302, in order to ensure the improvement and development of the municipalities, encourages citizens to form civic associations, federations, or confederations.

The chapter on the judiciary also contains several changes from the 1965 constitution. The changes, according to one analysis, appear to bring the administration of justice closer to the people. Article 303 declares that "the power to dispense justice emanates from the people and is administered free of charge on behalf of the state by independent justices and judges." The Supreme Court of Justice has nine principal justices and seven alternates, increased from the seven principals and five alternates provided in the 1965 document.

Title V also includes a chapter covering the armed forces, which consists of the "high command, army, air force, navy, public security force, and the agencies and units determined by the laws establishing them." Most provisions of this chapter are largely the same as in the 1965 and 1957 constitutions. As set forth in Article 272, the armed forces are to be an "essentially professional, apolitical, obedient, and nondeliberative national institution"; in practice, however, the Honduran military essentially has enjoyed autonomy vis-à-vis civilian authority since 1957. The president retains the title of general commander over the armed forces, as provided in Article 245 (16). Orders given by the president to the armed forces, through its commander in chief, must be obeyed and executed, as provided in Article 278. The armed forces, however, is under the direct command of the commander in chief of the armed forces (Article 277); and it is through him that the president performs his constitutional duty relating to the armed forces. According to Article 285, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Consejo Superior de las Fuerzas Armadas--Consuffaa) is the armed forces consultative organ. The Supreme Council is chaired by the commander in chief of the armed forces, who is elected by the National Congress for a term of three years. He is chosen from a list of three officers proposed by Consuffaa. In practice, the National Congress always approves (some observers would say rubberstamps) Consuffaa's first choice.

The nation's economic regime, covered in Title VI, "is based on the principles of efficiency in production and social justice in the distribution of wealth and national income, as well as on the harmonious coexistence of the factors of production." As provided in Article 329, the Honduran state is involved in the promotion of economic and social development, subject to appropriate planning. The title also includes provisions on currency and banking, agrarian reform (which is declared to be of public need and interest), the tax system, public wealth, and the national budget.

Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions. However, several constitutional provisions may not be amended. These consist of the amendment process itself, as well as provisions covering the form of government, national territory, and several articles covering the presidency, including term of office and prohibition from reelection.



The executive branch in Honduras, headed by a president who is elected by a simple majority, has traditionally dominated the legislative and judicial branches of government. According to political scientist Mark B. Rosenberg, the entire Honduran government apparatus is dependent on the president, who defines or structures policy (with the exception of security policy, which remains in the military's realm) through legislation or policy decrees. However, Rosenberg also notes that in an environment of intense rivalry and animosity between the two major parties, in which the president is under pressure to reward his party's supporters, public policy initiatives often do not fare well, as the executive becomes bogged down with satisfying more pressing parochial needs. Political scientist James Morris points out that the executive-centered nature of the Honduran political system has endured whether the head of state has been an elected civilian politician or a general, and that the Honduran state's formal and informal center of authority is the executive.

According to the constitution, the president has responsibility for drawing up a national development plan, discussing it in the cabinet, submitting it to the National Congress for approval, directing it, and executing it. He or she directs the economic and financial policy of the state, including the supervision and control of banking institutions, insurance companies, and investment houses through the National Banking and Insurance Commission. The president has responsibility for prescribing feasible measures to promote the rapid execution of agrarian reform and the development of production and productivity in rural areas. With regard to education policy, the president is responsible for organizing, directing, and promoting education as well as for eradicating illiteracy and improving technical education. With regard to health policy, the president is charged with adopting measures for the promotion, recovery, and rehabilitation of the population's health, as well as for disease prevention. The president also has responsibility for directing and supporting economic and social integration, both national and international, aimed at improving living conditions for Hondurans. In addition, the president directs foreign policy and relations, and may conclude treaties and agreements with foreign nations. He or she appoints the heads of diplomatic and consular missions.

With regard to the legislative branch, the president participates in the enactment of laws by introducing bills in the National Congress through the cabinet ministers. The president has the power to sanction, veto, or promulgate and publish any laws approved by the National Congress. The president may convene the National Congress into special session, through a Permanent Committee of the National Congress, or may propose the continuation of the regular annual session. The president may send messages to the National Congress at any time and must deliver an annual message to the National Congress in person at the beginning of each regular legislative session. In addition, although the constitution gives the National Congress the power to elect numerous government officials (such as Supreme Court justices, the comptroller general, the attorney general, and the director of administrative probity), these selections are essentially made by the president and rubberstamped by the National Congress.

The constitution sets forth forty-five powers of the National Congress, the most important being the power to make, enact, interpret, and repeal laws. Legislative bills may be introduced in the National Congress by any deputy or the president (through the cabinet ministers). The Supreme Court of Justice and the TNE may also introduce bills within their jurisdiction. In practice, most legislation and policy initiatives are introduced by the executive branch, although there are some instances where legislation and initiatives emanate from the National Congress. A bill must be debated on three different days before being voted upon, with the exception of urgent cases as determined by a simple majority of the deputies present. If approved, the measure is sent to the executive branch for sanction and promulgation. In general, a law is considered compulsory after promulgation and after twenty days from being published in the official journal, Gaceta Judicial. If the president does not veto the bill within ten days, it is considered sanctioned and is to be promulgated by the president.

If the president vetoes a measure, he must return it to the National Congress within ten days explaining the grounds for disapproval. To approve the bill again, the National Congress must again debate it and then ratify it by a two-thirds majority vote, whereupon it is sent to the executive branch for immediate publication. However, if the president originally vetoed the bill on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, the bill cannot be debated in the National Congress until the Supreme Court renders its opinion on the measure within a timeframe specified by the National Congress. If an executive veto is not overridden by the National Congress, the bill may not be debated again in the same session of the National Congress.

If the National Congress approves a bill at the end of its session, and the president intends to veto it, the president must immediately notify the National Congress so that it can extend the session for ten days beyond when it receives the disapproved bill. If the president does not comply with this procedure, he must return the bill within the first eight days of the next session of the National Congress.

Certain acts and resolutions of the National Congress may not be vetoed by the president. Most significantly these include the budget law, amendments to the constitution, declarations regarding grounds for impeachment for high-ranking government officials, and decrees relating to the conduct of the executive branch.

With regard to security, the president is charged with maintaining peace and internal security of the nation and with repelling every attack or external aggressor. During a recess of the National Congress, the president may declare war and make peace, although the National Congress must be convened immediately. The president may restrict or suspend certain individual rights and guarantees with the concurrence of the cabinet for a period of forty-five days, a period that may be renewed. (Article 187 of the constitution spells out the procedure to be followed for the suspension of rights.) The president may deny or permit, after congressional authorization, the transit of foreign troops through Honduran territory. The president is also charged with monitoring the official behavior of public officials for the security and prestige of the Honduran government and state.

In theory, the president exercises command over the armed forces as the general commander and adopts necessary measures for the defense of the nation. The president confers military ranks for second lieutenant through captain based on the proposal of the commander in chief of the armed forces. Most importantly, the president is charged with ensuring that the army is apolitical, essentially professional, and obedient. In practice, however, the military operates autonomously. According to the view of Honduran political scientist Ernesto Paz Aguilar, the armed forces is the country's principal political force, exercising a tutelary role over the other institutions of government and constituting a de facto power that is not subordinate to civilian political power. Other observers, although acknowledging the military is a politically powerful institution, maintain that the military essentially confines its spheres of influence to national security and internal stability, although in recent years, they concede that the military has had an increasing role in economic activities.

Serving under the president are the ministers of the cabinet, who cooperate with the president in coordinating, directing, and supervising the organs and agencies of the executive branch under their jurisdiction. As required by Article 246 of the constitution, there are to be at least twelve departments of the cabinet covering the following portfolios: government and justice; the Office of the President; foreign affairs; economy and commerce; finance and public credit; national defense and public security; labor and social welfare; public health and social aid; public education; communications, public works, and transport; culture and <>tourism; and natural resources. In addition to these ministries, in the early 1990s, there was also another cabinet-level department, the Ministry of Planning, Coordination, and Budget. The National Congress may summon the cabinet ministers to answer questions relating to their portfolios. Within the first days of the installation of the National Congress, ministers must submit annually a report on the work done in their respective ministries. The president convokes and presides over the cabinet ministers in a body known as the Council of Ministers, which, according to the constitution, meets at the president's initiative to make decisions on any matters he or she considers of national importance and to consider such cases specified by law.

In addition to the various ministries, the president may create commissions, either permanent or temporary, made up of public officials or other representatives of Honduran sectors to undertake certain projects or programs mandated by the executive. The president may also name commissioners to coordinate the action of public entities and agencies of the state or to develop programs.

The Callejas (1990- ) government created several presidential commissions for certain projects or programs. In 1990 Callejas established and headed the Modernization of the State Commission, which included thirty representatives of governmental institutions, the four legally recognized political parties, business, and labor. The objective of the commission was to study and design national policies for reforming the functioning of the Honduran state, including reform of the legislature and judiciary, decentralization of the power of the executive branch in favor of the municipalities, and modernizing public administration.

In December 1992, the Callejas government appointed a head to the National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights (Comisión Nacional para la Protección de Derechos Humanos-- Conaprodeh), a new position established to protect the rights of persons who consider themselves victims of abuse or an unjust act by judicial or public administration.

In 1993 the Callejas government established two additional commissions, a Fiscal Intervention Commission to investigate governmental corruption that began with an inquiry into corruption at the Customs Directorate, and a high-level ad hoc Commission for Institutional Reform, headed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Andrés Rodríguez. The ad hoc commission, created in early March 1993, was established to formulate recommendations within thirty days for specific measures to improve the security forces, especially the National Directorate of Investigations (Directorio de Investigación Nacional--DIN), and to strengthen the judiciary and public prosecutor's office. The DNI was created because of growing public criticism of the DNI and military impunity. It had representatives from each branch of government, from the military, from each of the four 1993 presidential candidates, and from the mass media.

The Honduran civil service system regulates employment in the public sector, theoretically based on the principles of competence, efficiency, and honesty, according to the constitution. In practice, however, the system has been a source of political patronage, which some observers claim has led to a bloated bureaucracy. In 1990 there were an estimated 70,000 government employees, including employees of the decentralized institutions. Economic austerity measures introduced by the Callejas government reportedly led to the dismissal of thousands of employees, although some claim that thousands of other employees were hired because of political patronage. According to some observers, a fundamental problem of the Honduran civil service is its politicization, whereby much of the bureaucracy is replaced when the ruling party changes. Traditionally, in Honduras, political patronage has been a key characteristic of the two dominant political parties. According to political scientist Mark B. Rosenberg, a president once in office is under tremendous pressure to provide jobs, recommendations, and other rewards to his followers in exchange for their continued loyalty and support.

In addition to the various ministries, there are also numerous autonomous and semiautonomous state entities within the executive branch, which have increased in number over the years as the government has become more involved in the economic development process and the provision of basic services. These decentralized institutions vary in their composition, structure, and function, but include three basic types: public institutes, which are largely government-funded and perform social or collective services that are not usually provided by the private sector; public enterprises, which often have their own resource bases and are autonomous organs of the state; and mixed enterprises, which bring together the government and private sector, with the state retaining at least a 51 percent share of the enterprise. Among the best known decentralized agencies in Honduras are the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras-- UNAH); the Central Bank of Honduras (Banco Central de Honduras); the National Agrarian Institute (Instituto Nacional Agrario--INA); the Honduran Banana Corporation (Corporación Hondureña de Bananas); the Honduran Forestry Development Corporation (Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal--Cohdefor); the Honduran Coffee Institute (Corporación Hondureña deCafe); the Honduran Social Security Institute (Instituto Hondureño de Seguro Social--IHSS); the National Council of Social Welfare (Consejo Nacional de Bienestar Social); and the National Electric Energy Enterprise (Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica).

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Two Traditionally Dominant Parties
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Honduras - Legislative

The legislative branch consists of the unicameral National Congress elected for a four-year term of office at the same time as the president. When the country returned to civilian democratic rule in 1982, the National Congress had a membership of eighty-two deputies. This number was increased to 134 deputies for the 1985 national elections and then reduced to 128 for the 1989 national elections--it remained 128 for the 1993 national elections. The constitution, as amended in 1988, establishes a fixed number of 128 principal deputies and the same number of alternate deputies. If the principal deputy cannot complete his or her term, the National Congress may call the alternate deputy to serve the remainder of the term.

The National Congress conducts regular annual sessions beginning on January 25 and adjourning on October 31. These sessions, however, may be extended. In addition, special sessions may be called at the request of the executive branch through the Permanent Committee of Congress, provided that a simple majority of deputies agrees. A simple majority of the total number of principal deputies also constitutes a quorum for the installation of the National Congress and the holding of meetings. The Permanent Committee of Congress is a body of nine deputies and their alternates, appointed before the end of regular sessions, that remains on duty during the adjournment of the National Congress. The National Congress is headed by a directorate that is elected by a majority of deputies, which is headed by a president (who also presides over the Permanent Committee of Congress when the National Congress is not in session) and includes at least two vice presidents and two ministers.

In fulfilling its responsibilities, the National Congress has numerous commissions or committees for the study of issues that come before the legislature. In addition to committees that cover legislation (first, second, and third debate), protocol, and the budget, many other committees parallel the ministries of the executive branch, including government and justice, foreign affairs, economic affairs and trade, finance and public credit, national defense and security, public health, public education, communications and public works, labor and social welfare, natural resources, and culture and <>tourism. According to the internal regulations of the National Congress, between three and seven deputies sit on each committee. In addition, nonstanding or extraordinary committees may cover other issues, and special committees may be established to investigate matters of national interest. Because of the executive-driven nature of the legislative process, the committees are somewhat underutilized and play only a minor role in the legislative process or congressional decision making. Aggravating this underutilization is the fact that no staff members are assigned to the committees, so that necessary studies or reports for the committees must be are solicited from outside of the National Congress.

In addition to its legislative activities, the National Congress also has other extensive powers, particularly regarding other branches of the government and other institutions of the Honduran state. The National Congress is charged with electing numerous government officials: the nine principal justices and seven alternates of the Supreme Court of Justice, including its president; the commander in chief of the armed forces; the comptroller general; the attorney general; and the director of administrative probity. In practice, however, the National Congress generally rubberstamps the choices of the president, or, in the case of the commander in chief of the armed forces, of the military. The National Congress may declare that there are grounds for impeachment of certain high-ranking government officials, including the president and presidential designates, Supreme Court justices, cabinet ministers and deputy secretaries, and the commander in chief of the armed forces.

In its oversight role, the National Congress may approve or disapprove the administrative conduct of the other two branches of government, the TNE, the comptroller general, the attorney general, and the decentralized institutions. The National Congress may also question the cabinet secretaries and other officials of the government, decentralized institutions, and other entities concerning matters related to public administration.

With regard to the military and national security, as noted above, the National Congress elects the commander in chief of the armed forces from a list of three proposed by the Consuffaa. The National Congress may fix the permanent number of members of the armed forces and confer all ranks from major to major general, at the joint proposal of the commander in chief of the armed forces and the president. It may authorize or refuse the president's request for the crossing of foreign troops through national territory. It may also authorize the entrance of foreign military missions of technical assistance or cooperation in the country. The National Congress may declare an executive-branch restriction or suspension of individual rights or guarantees in accordance with constitutional provisions, or it may modify or disapprove of the restriction or suspension enacted by the president.

With regard to foreign policy, the National Congress has the power to declare war or make peace at the request of the president. The National Congress also may approve or disapprove international treaties signed by the executive branch.

Regarding government finances, the National Congress is charged with adopting annually (and modifying if desired) the general budget of revenue and expenditures based on the executive branch's proposal. The National Congress has control over public revenues and has power to levy taxes, assessments, and other public charges. It approves or disapproves the formal accounts of public expenditures based on reports submitted by the comptroller general and loans and similar agreements related to public credit entered into by the executive branch.

The legislative branch has two auxiliary agencies, the Office of the Comptroller General and the Directorate of Administrative Probity, both of which are functionally and administratively independent. The Office of the Comptroller General is exclusively responsible for the post-auditing of the public treasury. It maintains the administration of public funds and properties and audits the accounts of officials and employees who handle these funds and properties. It audits the financial operations of agencies, entities, and institutions of the government, including decentralized institutions. It examines the books kept by the state and accounts rendered by the executive branch to the National Congress on the operations of the public treasury and reports to the National Congress on its findings. The Directorate of Administrative Probity audits the accounts of public officials or employees to prevent their unlawful enrichment.

Some observers maintain that the National Congress gradually became a more effective and independent institution in the decade after the country returned to civilian rule in 1982. According to political scientist Mark Rosenberg, under the presidency of Suazo Córdova the institution appeared only to function as a rubber stamp for the executive branch, with little interest in promoting or creating policy initiatives. Under the Azcona government (1986-90), however, the National Congress became more assertive in its relations with the executive branch--with a more vigorous use of its oversight powers and more active interest in developing legislation. This trend continued under the Callejas presidency. In 1993 a new legislative support body, the Data Processing and Legislative Studies Center (Centro de Informática y Estudios Legislativas--CIEL), was created with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (AID) to help provide computer and analytical support to the committees and deputies of the National Congress.

Other observers stress the executive dominance over the legislative branch in almost all areas of public policy. They point out that the tradition of a strong executive is deeply embedded in the national psyche, with the National Congress itself not willing or able to take responsibility for its congressional obligations. The general public view of the National Congress is that deputies use their offices for personal and political gain. As a result, most people contact executive branch officials to promote causes, a practice that reinforces executive dominance and makes it difficult for the congressional leadership to transform the National Congress into an equal partner in government.

The nation's electoral law also limits the independence and ultimately the effectiveness of the National Congress. Elections for the National Congress are held at the same time as presidential elections, and voters must use a unitary ballot that contains a party's presidential candidate, as well as its list of congressional candidates for each department. Voters are not allowed to split their tickets for national offices; however, in November 1993, voters for the first time could spilt their ticket for president and mayor. The percentage of votes that a presidential candidate receives in each department determines the number of deputies from each party selected to represent that department. In effect, voters are not sure whom they are electing to the National Congress. There is no direct accountability to the electorate. Instead, deputies respond to party leadership, and party loyalty and bloc voting are the norm. The two major parties dominate the National Congress, with smaller parties finding it difficult to gain representation. In the 1989 national elections, the PNH won seventy-one seats in the National Congress, and the PLH captured fifty-five seats. The small Pinu won just two seats, and the Honduran Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Honduras--PDCH) gained no seats. Efforts to change the unitary ballot for the presidential and legislative candidates for the November 1993 elections were unsuccessful, largely because the two dominant parties overcame pressure by the two smaller parties for separate ballots.

Honduras - Judiciary

The judicial branch of government consists of a Supreme Court of Justice, courts of appeal, courts of first instance (Juzgados de Letras), and justices of the peace. The Supreme Court, which is the court of last resort, has nine principal justices and seven alternates. The Supreme Court has fourteen constitutional powers and duties. These include the appointment of judges and justices of the lower courts and public prosecutors; the power to declare laws to be unconstitutional; the power to try high-ranking government officials when the National Congress has declared that there are grounds for impeachment; and publication of the court's official record, the Gaceta Judicial. The court has three chambers-- civil, criminal, and labor--with three justices assigned to each chamber.

Organizationally below the Supreme Court are the courts of appeal. These courts are three-judge panels that hear all appeals from the lower courts, including civil, commercial, criminal and habeas corpus cases. To be eligible to sit on these courts, the judges must be attorneys and at least twenty-five years old. In the early 1990s, there were nine courts of appeal, four in Tegucigalpa, two in San Pedro Sula, and one each in La Ceiba, Comayagua, and Santa Bárbara. Two of these courts of appeal, one in the capital and one in San Pedro Sula, specialized in labor cases. In addition, a contentious-administrative court, which dealt with public administration, was located in Tegucigalpa, but had jurisdiction throughout the country.

The next level of courts are first instance courts, which serve as trial courts in serious civil and criminal cases. In the early 1990s, there were sixty-four such courts. Although half of the first instance courts were in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, each departmental capital had at least one. Half of the sixty-four courts covered both civil and criminal cases, eight just covered criminal cases, and seven covered civil cases. There were also six labor courts, six family courts, two juvenile courts, two tenant courts, and one contentious-administrative court. Most of the judges, who must be at least twenty-one years old, held degrees in juridical science. Although judges are required to be licensed attorneys, many in fact are not.

The lowest level of the court system consists of justices of the peace distributed throughout the country. Each department capital and municipalities with populations of more than 4,000 are supposed to have two justices, and municipalities with populations less than 4,000 are supposed to have one justice of the peace. Justices of the peace handling criminal cases act as investigating magistrates and are involved only in minor cases. More serious criminal cases are handled by the first instance courts. Justices of the peace must be more than twenty-one years of age, live in the municipality where they have jurisdiction, and have the ability to read and write. In 1990 there were an estimated 320 justices of the peace, with thirty responsible for civil cases, thirty for criminal cases, and the remaining 260 justices covering both civil and criminal cases. Political patronage has traditionally been the most important factor in appointing justices of the peace, and this practice has often led to less than qualified judicial personnel, some of whom have not completed primary education.

The constitution requires that the judicial branch of government is to receive not less than 3 percent of the annual national budget, but in practice this requirement has never been met. For example, in 1989 the judiciary received 1.63 percent of the national budget, just slightly more than one-half of the amount constitutionally required.

As in previous years, in the early 1990s the Honduran judicial system has been the subject of numerous criticisms, including widespread corruption and continuing ineffectiveness with regard to holding military members or civilian elites accountable for their crimes. According to the United States Department of State's human rights report for 1992, the civilian judiciary in Honduras "is weak, underfunded, politicized, inefficient, and corrupt." The report further charged that the judiciary remains vulnerable to outside influence and suffers from woefully inadequate funding, and that the Callejas government is unable to ensure that many human rights violations are fully investigated, or that most of the perpetrators, either military or civilian, are brought to justice. Justice is reported to be applied inequitably, with the poor punished according to the law, but the rich or politically influential almost never brought to trial, much less convicted or jailed.

One frequent criticism has focused on the executive branch's dominance over the judiciary. Because a new Supreme Court is appointed every four years with the change in the presidency and because the executive essentially controls the selection of the justices, the judiciary is largely beholden to the president. This loyalty to the executive permeates the judicial branch because the Supreme Court appoints all lower court justices. To eliminate this partisanship in the courts, the Modernization of the State Commission, established by President Callejas, proposed that the constitution be amended to change the way Supreme Court justices are appointed. According to the proposal, justices would hold seven-year appointments and would be selected from a list of candidates developed by a special committee composed of those who work in the justice sector.

Another criticism notes that judicial personnel are often unqualified for their positions. Although a Judicial Career Law (which requires that all hiring and promotions be based on merit and that all firings based on cause) was approved in 1980, the government did not begin implementing the law until 1991 because of the overall lack of political will. The United States Department of State's human rights report for 1992 maintained that results have been few, but AID states that the law could be fully implemented by 1995. AID has lent support to the Honduran court since 1985 and in 1989 began an experimental program designed to improve the selection process for justices of the peace so that the appointed justices would hold law degrees. By 1991 the AID program accounted for the qualifications of eighty-one justices of the peace, and AID estimated that by 1995 about half of all justices of the peace would have law degrees.

Closely associated with the judicial system and the administration of justice in Honduras is the Office of the Attorney General, which, as provided in the constitution, is the legal representative of the state, representing the state's interests. Both the attorney general and the deputy attorney general are elected by the National Congress for a period of four years, coinciding with the presidential and legislative terms of office. The attorney general is expected to initiate civil and criminal actions based on the results of the audits of the Office of the Comptroller General. The law creating the Office of the Attorney General was first enacted in 1961.

Although some public prosecutors operate out of the Office of the Attorney General, most operate out of the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court. The public prosecutor of the Supreme Court also serves as chief of the Prosecutor General's Office (Ministerio Público) as provided under the 1906 Law of the Organization and Attributions of the Courts. In April 1993, the Ad Hoc Commission for Institutional Reform created by President Callejas recommended the creation of a Prosecutor General's Office as an independent, autonomous, and apolitical organization, not under either the Supreme Court or the Office of the Attorney General. The prosecutor general would be appointed by the National Congress by a two-thirds vote for a seven-year appointment. The ad hoc commission also recommended that this new Prosecutor General's Office have under it a newly created Department of Criminal Investigation (Departamento de Investigación Criminal--DIC), a police and investigatory corps that would replace the current DIN, a department of the Public Security Force (Fuerza de Seguridad Pública--Fusep) that has often been associated with human rights abuses.

Honduras - Local Government

Honduras is administratively divided into eighteen departments (Atlántida, Choluteca, Colón, Comayagua, Copán, Cortés, El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán, Gracias a Dios, Intibucá, Islas de la Bahía (Bay Islands), La Paz, Lempira, Ocotepeque, Olancho, Santa Bárbara, Valle, and Yoro), each with a designated department capital (cabecera). The president of the republic freely appoints, and may freely remove, governors for each department. Departmental governors represent the executive branch in official acts in their department and serve as the tie between the executive branch and other national agencies and institutions that might have delegations working in the department. Each governor may freely appoint and remove a secretary to assist him or her. If a governor is absent more than five days, the mayor of the departmental capital substitutes for the governor. The costs of running the departmental governments fall under the budget of the Ministry of Government and Justice.

The departments are further divided into 291 municipalities (municipios) nationwide, including a Central District consisting of the cities of Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela. A municipality in Honduras may include more than one city within its boundaries, and is therefore similar to the jurisdiction of county in the United States. In addition to cities, municipalities may also include aldeas (villages) and caseríos (hamlets), which are scattered concentrations of populations outside urban areas. The urbanized cities may be divided into smaller divisions known as colonias (colonies) and barrios (neighborhoods).

The municipalities are administered by elected corporations, deliberative organs that are accountable to the courts of justice for abuses, and are supposed to be autonomous or independent of the central government's powers. The municipal corporations consist of a mayor (alcalde), who is the paramount executive authority in a municipality, and a municipal council that varies in size depending on the population of the municipality. Those municipalities with a population of less than 5,000 have four council members, those with a population of between 5,000 and 10,000 have six, and those with a population between 10,000 and 80,000 have eight. All the department capitals, regardless of their population, and municipalities with a population of more than 80,000 have ten council members.

The municipal corporations meet at least two times per month in ordinary sessions, but special sessions may be called by the mayor or by at least two council members. Each municipal corporation has a secretary, freely appointed and removed by a majority of the members of the corporation, and a treasurer, named by the corporation at the request of the mayor. Municipalities with annual revenue of more than one million lempiras are to have an auditor named by the municipal corporation; however, in the early 1990s, the majority of Honduran municipalities had an annual revenue of less than one million lempiras.

The constitution sets forth several provisions regarding the municipalities. According to Article 299, the economic and social development of the municipalities must form part of the nation's development plans. Each municipality is also to have sufficient communal land in order to ensure its existence and development. Citizens of municipalities are entitled to form civic associations, federations, or confederations in order to ensure the improvement and development of the municipalities. In general, income and investment taxes in a municipality are paid into the municipal treasury.

In 1990 a new Law of Municipalities covering both departmental and municipal administration superseded the previous municipal law issued in 1927. The new law set forth the numerous rights and responsibilities of the municipalities and public administration at the municipal level. It also outlined the concept of municipal autonomy, characterized by free elections; free public administration and decisions; the collection and investment of resources with special attention on the preservation of the environment; the development, approval, and administration of a municipal budget; the organization and management of public services; the right of the municipality to create its own administrative structure; and municipal control over natural resources. The law also outlines twenty-one functions of the municipal corporations, which include the following responsibilities: organizing public administration and services, developing and implementing a municipal budget, appointing public employees and naming needed public commissions, planning urban development, and consulting the public through plebiscites on important municipal issues and through open public meetings with representatives of the various social sectors of the municipality.

Under the law, each municipality has a Municipal Development Council named by the corporation and consisting of representatives of the various economic and social sectors of the municipality. The Municipal Development Council functions in an advisory capacity by providing the corporations with information and input for making decisions. The law also calls for a special law to be enacted to regulate the organization and functioning of a national Institute of Municipal Development to promote the integrated development of municipalities in Honduras.

Traditionally, the central government in Honduras, whether civilian or military, has dominated local government, and some observers maintain that local mayors and municipal corporations have served largely as administrative arms of the central government. With the return to democratic rule in 1982, however, there has been a shift, at least in theory, to promote the economic development and political independence of the municipalities. New provisions in the 1982 constitution call for economic and social development in the municipalities to form parts of national development programs and outline the right of citizens to form organizations to ensure the improvement and development of the municipalities.

The Callejas government emphasized support for political and administrative decentralization from the executive branch to the municipalities. In fact, one of the objectives in establishing the Modernization of the State Commission in 1990 was to reduce the centralism of the executive branch through the effective and orderly transfer of functions and resources to the municipalities in order to fortify their autonomy. The promulgation of the new Law of Municipalities in 1990 was further evidence of the Callejas government's emphasis on municipal development. Observers noted, however, that the executive branch, particularly through the decentralized agencies and institutions, still wielded significant power at the local level in the early 1990s.

One significant measure approved in 1992 was reform of the nation's electoral law for the 1993 national elections. For the first time, the law would allow voters to cast their ballots separately for mayoral candidates. In previous elections, the practice of split-party voting was not allowed, and the mayors were elected based on the percentage of the vote received by the presidential candidates. The reform of the electoral law is significant in that it makes elected mayors directly accountable to the electorate and strengthens the democratic process at the local level. The reform could also strengthen the chances for the nation's two smaller parties to gain representation in the municipalities.

Honduras - The Electoral Process

The president is elected along with three presidential designates (who essentially function as vice presidents) for fouryear terms of office beginning on January 27. The president and the presidential designates must be Honduran by birth, more than thirty years old, and enjoy the rights of Honduran citizenship. Additional restrictions prohibit public servants and members of the military from serving as president. Commanders and general officers of the armed forces and senior officers of the police or state security forces are ineligible. Active-duty members of any armed body are not eligible if they have performed their functions during the previous twelve months before the election. The relatives (fourth degree by blood and second degree by marriage) and spouse of each military officer serving on Consuffaa are also ineligible, as are the relatives of the president and the presidential delegates. Numerous high-level public servants, including the presidential designates, cabinet secretaries and deputy secretaries, members of the TNE, and justices and judges of the judicial branch, are prohibited from serving as president if they have held their positions six months prior to the election.

If the president dies or vacates office, the order of succession is spelled out in Article 242 of the 1982 constitution. The presidential designates are the first three potential successors; the National Congress elects one to exercise executive power for the remainder of the presidential term. The president of the National Congress and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice are the fourth and fifth successors, respectively. During a temporary absence, the president may call upon one of the presidential designates to replace him.

The president, who is the representative of the Honduran state, has a vast array of powers as head of the executive branch. The constitution delineates forty-five presidential powers and responsibilities. The president has the responsibility to comply with and enforce the constitution, treaties and conventions, laws, and other provisions of Honduran law. He or she directs the polices of the state and fully appoints and dismisses secretaries and deputy secretaries of the cabinet and other high-ranking officials and employees (including governors of the eighteen departments) whose appointment is not assigned to other authorities.

To be elected to the National Congress, one must be a Honduran by birth who enjoys the rights of citizenship and is at least twenty-one years old. There are a number of restrictions regarding eligibility for election to the National Congress. Certain government officials and relatives of officials are not eligible if the position was held six months prior to the election. All officials or employees of the executive and judicial branches, except teachers and health-care workers, are prohibited from being elected, as are active duty members of any armed force, highranking officials of the decentralized institutions, members of the TNE, the attorney general and deputy attorney general, the comptroller general, and the director and deputy director of administrative probity. Spouses and relatives (fourth degree by blood and second degree by marriage) of certain high ranking civilian officials and certain military officials are also prohibited from serving in the National Congress, as are delinquent debtors of the National Treasury.

The nine principal justices and seven alternates on the Supreme Court of Justice are elected by the National Congress for a term of four years concomitant with the presidential and legislative terms of office. The National Congress also selects a president for the Supreme Court, and justices may be reelected. To be eligible, a justice must be Honduran by birth, a lawyer, a member of the bar association, more than thirty-five years of age, enjoy the rights of citizenship, and have held the post of trial judge or a judge on a court of appeals for at least five years.

Since the country returned to civilian democratic rule in 1982, national elections in Honduras have been held every four years for the presidency, the National Congress, and municipal officials. As provided for in the constitution and in the country's Electoral and Political Organizations Law, the National Elections Tribunal (Tribunal Nacional de Elecciones--TNE) is an autonomous and independent body, with jurisdiction throughout the country and with responsibility for the organization and conduct of elections. The composition of the TNE consists of one principal member and an alternate proposed by the Supreme Court, and one principal member and an alternate proposed by each of the four registered political parties, the PLH, the PNH, the Pinu, and the PDCH. The presidency of the tribunal rotates among the members, with a term lasting one year. The TNE also names members of Departmental Elections Tribunals and Local Elections Tribunals, each with representatives from the four legally inscribed parties. The TNE has numerous rights and responsibilities, including inscribing political parties and candidates, registering voters, resolving electoral complaints, establishing the time and places for voting, training poll workers, and counting and reporting votes.

The National Registry of Persons, a dependency of the TNE, is responsible for issuing to all Hondurans exclusive identity cards, which also serve as voter registration cards, and for preparing the National Electoral Census at least five months before an election. All Hondurans are required by law to register with the National Registry of Persons.

According to some observers, a fundamental problem with the TNE is its politicization. Observers charge that the staffs of both the TNE and the National Registry of Persons are predominantly composed of political appointees with little competence or commitment. Representation is skewed toward the party in power because of the representative proposed by the Supreme Court, which essentially is a representative of the government in power. In 1985 President Suazo Córdova brazenly used the TNE to attempt to support unrepresentative factions of the two major parties. Military leader General Walter López Reyes impeded Suazo Córdova's attempt by modifying the electoral system so that party primaries and the general elections were held at the same time. The winner would be the leading candidate of the party receiving the most votes. As a result, PLH candidate José Azcona Hoyo was elected president by receiving just 25 percent of the vote, compared with the PNH candidate, Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero, who received 45 percent. Subsequently, however, for the 1989 elections, separate party primaries were required to elect the candidates, resulting in just one candidate from each party.

As the 1993 electoral campaign got underway, the PLH made numerous charges that the National Electoral Census did not include the names of many of its party members. Despite the charges, observers maintained that the elections would probably be as legitimate as the past four elections (Constituent Assembly elections in 1980 and national elections in 1981, 1985, and 1989), which were conducted without serious irregularities.

Honduras - Political Parties

Two Traditionally Dominant Parties

Honduras essentially has had two dominant political parties, the PNH and the PLH, for most of this century, with the military allying itself with the PNH for an extended period beginning in 1963. The PLH was established in 1891 under the leadership of Policarpo Bonilla Vásquez and had origins in the liberal reform efforts of the late nineteenth century. The PNH was formed in 1902 by Manuel Bonilla as a splinter group of the PLH. Between 1902 and 1948, these two parties were the only officially recognized parties, a factor that laid the foundation for the currently entrenched PNH (red) and PLH (blue) two-party system. In the early 1990s, the internal workings of the two traditional political parties appeared to be largely free of military influence. Since the country returned to civilian rule in 1982, the military has not disrupted the constitutional order by usurping power as it did in 1956, 1963, and 1972, and it no longer appears to favor one party over the other as it did with the PNH for many years.

There appear to be few ideological differences between the two traditional parties. The PLH, or at least factions of the PLH, formerly espoused an antimilitarist stance, particularly because of the PNH's extended alliance with the military. The two PLH presidencies of the 1980s, however, appeared to end the PLH's antipathy toward the military. According to political scientists Ronald H. McDonald and J. Mark Ruhl, both parties are patron-client networks more interested in amassing political patronage than in offering effective programs. As observed by political scientist Mark Rosenberg, Honduran politicians emphasize competition and power, not national problem-solving, and governing in Honduras is determined by personal authority and power instead of institutions. The objective of political competition between the two parties has not been a competition for policies or programs, but rather a competition for personal gain in which the public sector is turned into private benefit. Nepotism is widespread and is an almost institutionalized characteristic of the political system, whereby public jobs are considered rewards for party and personal loyalty rather than having anything to do with the public trust. The practice of using political power for personal gain also helps explain how corruption appears to have become a permanent characteristic not only of the political system, but also of private enterprise.

Despite these characteristics, the two traditional parties have retained the support of the majority of the population. Popular support for the two traditional parties has been largely based on family identification, with, according to political scientist Donald Schulz, voting patterns passed on from generation to generation. According to McDonald and Ruhl, about 60 percent of voters are identified with the traditional parties, with the PLH having a 5 percent advantage over the PNH.

Traditionally, the PNH has had a stronger constituency in rural areas and in the less developed and southern agricultural departments, whereas the PLH has been traditionally stronger in the urban areas and in the more developed northern departments, although the party has had some rural strongholds. In a study of five Honduran elections from 1957 to 1981, James Morris observes that the PLH had a strong base of support in the five departments that made up the so-called central zone of the country--Atlántida, Cortés, Francisco Morazán, El Paraíso, and Yoro. The PNH had strong support in the more rural and isolated departments of Copán, Lempira, Intibucá, and Gracias a Dios, and the southern agricultural departments of Valle and Choluteca.

Looking more closely at the four national elections since 1980, one notices two facts: the PLH dominated the elections of 1980, 1981 and 1985, at times capturing departments considered PNH bulwarks (Choluteca and Valle), whereas the PNH crushed the PLH in the 1989 elections, winning all but two departments, one the traditional PLH stronghold of El Paraíso. Honduran scholar Julio Navarro has examined electoral results since 1980 and observes that in the 1989 elections the PNH won significantly not only at the department level but also at the municipal level. Of the 289 municipalities in 1989, the PNH captured 217, or about 75 percent of the country's municipalities.

According to political analysts, two significant factors helped bring about the success of the PNH in the 1989 elections: the cohesiveness and unity of the PNH and the disorder and internal factionalism of the PLH. The PLH has had a tradition of factionalism and internal party disputes. In the early 1980s, there were two formal factions: the conservative Rodista Liberal Movement (Movimiento Liberal Rodista--MLR), named for deceased party leader Modesto Rodas Alvarado and controlled by Roberto Suazo Córdova; and the center-left Popular Liberal Alliance (Alianza Liberal del Pueblo--Alipo), founded by brothers Carlos Roberto Reina and Jorge Arturo Reina. By 1985, however, there were five different factions of the PLH. Alipo had split with the Reina brothers to form the Revolutionary Liberal Democratic Movement (Movimiento Liberal Democrático Revolucionario--M-Lider), which represented a more strongly antimilitary platform, and another faction led by newspaper publisher Jaime Rosenthal retained the Alipo banner. The MLR split into three factions: one led by President Suazo Córdova, which supported Oscar Mejía Arellano as a 1985 presidential candidate; a second faction headed by Efraín Bu Girón, who also became a presidential candidate; and a third faction led by José Azcona Hoyo, who ultimately was elected president with the support of Alipo, which did not run a candidate. Only the complicated electoral process utilized in the 1985 elections, which combined party primaries and the general election, allowed the PLH to maintain control of the government.

Three PNH factions also vied for the presidency in the 1985 elections, but the National Movement of Rafael Callejas (Movimiento Nacionalista Rafael Callejas--Monarca) easily triumphed over factions led by Juan Pablo Urrutia and Fernando Lardizabel, with Callejas winning 45 percent of the total national vote and almost 94 percent of the PNH vote. PNH unity around the leadership of Callejas endured through the 1989 elections. Callejas was responsible for modernizing the organization of the PNH and incorporating diverse social and economic sectors into the party. As a result, in the 1989 elections he was able to break the myth of PLH inviolability that had been established in the three previous elections of the 1980s. In the 1989 contest, the PNH broke PLH strongholds throughout the country.

The PLH was not as successful as the PNH in achieving party unity for the 1989 elections. The PLH candidate, Carlos Flores Facusse, had survived a bruising four-candidate party primary in December 1988 in which he received 35.5 percent of the total vote. As noted by Julio Navarro, Flores was an extremely vulnerable candidate because in the primary he did not win major urban areas or departments considered PLH strongholds.

The electoral campaign for the November 1993 national elections was well underway by mid-1993. The PLH nominated Carlos Roberto Reina Idiáquez, a founder of M-Lider and former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), the leftist PLH faction. The PNH nominated conservative and controversial Osvaldo Ramos Soto, former Supreme Court president and former rector of the UNAH in the 1980s. As of mid-1993, public opinion polls showed the two candidates about even.

Reina won his party's nomination in elections on December 6, 1992, by capturing 47.5 percent of the vote in a six-candidate primary; second place was taken by newspaper publisher Rosenthal, who received 26.1 percent of the vote. Unlike the PLH primary of December 1988, the 1992 PLH nomination process demonstrated the party's strong support for Reina, who won in fourteen out of eighteen departments. Reina, who represented Honduras before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the border conflict with El Salvador, advocated a "moral revolution" in the country and vowed to punish those who enriched themselves through corruption.

The nomination process for the PNH was not an open process like that of the PLH, and a vote scheduled for November 29, 1993, served only to legalize the candidacy of Ramos Soto. The actual process of choosing the PNH candidate had occurred several months earlier, in July 1992, when the Monarca faction and the Ramos Soto faction struck a deal in which Ramos Soto was to be the candidate. The Monarca's presidential precandidate, Nora Gunera de Melgar (the widow of General Juan Alberto Melgar Castro, former head of state), was eliminated from consideration despite her objections. Other minor factions were not allowed to present their candidates.

In his campaign, Ramos Soto described himself as a "successful peasant" ("campesino superado"), alluding to his humble origins in order to gain popular support. Despite capturing the nomination, Ramos Soto encountered some resistance to his PNH candidacy, with some party members believing that his election would be a setback for the modernization program begun by President Callejas. Other Honduran sectors remembered Ramos Soto's reign as UNAH rector when he led a campaign to oust leftist student groups. Some human rights activists even claimed that Ramos Soto had collaborated with the military to assassinate leftists at the university.

Honduras - Smaller Political Parties and Movements

Since Honduras's return to civilian democratic rule in the 1980s, two small centrist political parties, the Pinu and the PDCH, have participated in regular national presidential and legislative elections. Neither party, however, has challenged the political domination of the two traditional parties. Both parties have received most of their support from urban centers of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Choluteca, and La Ceiba. In the presidential elections of 1981, 1985, and 1989, Pinu received 2.5 percent, 1.4 percent, and 1.8 percent, respectively, and the PDCH received 1.6 percent, 1.9 percent, and 1.4 percent. Both parties have presented presidential candidates for the 1993 national elections.

Pinu was first organized in 1970 by businessman Miguel Andonie Fernández as an effort to reform and reinvigorate the nation's political life. This urban-based group, which draws support from middle-class professionals, first attempted to gain legal recognition (personería jurídica) in 1970, but the PNH blocked Pinu's attempts until the 1980 Constituent Assembly elections. Pinu won three seats in those elections, important because only two votes separated the two traditional parties in the National Congress. Pinu also held a cabinet position in the provisional government headed by General Policarpo Paz García (1980-82) in 1980. In the 1981 elections, Pinu acquired three legislative seats, whereas in the 1985 and 1989 elections it won only two seats. Pinu became affiliated with the Social Democratic International in 1988. In 1985 and 1989, Enrique Aguilar Cerrato was the Pinu presidential candidate, and in 1993 businessperson Olban Valladares was the party's candidate.

The origins of the Honduras Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata de Honduras--PDCH) date back to the 1960s, when, in the wake of Vatican Council II, the Roman Catholic Church became involved in the development of community organizations, including unions, and student and peasant groups. In 1968 lay persons associated with the Roman Catholic Church founded the Christian Democratic Movement of Honduras (Movimiento Demócrata Cristiano de Honduras--MDCH), which in 1975 became the PDCH. According to Mark Rosenberg, the party became more progressive than the Roman Catholic Church and maintained solid ties with peasant organizations. Although the party applied for legal recognition, the PNH blocked the process, and the party did not receive recognition until late 1980, too late to be part of the Constituent Assembly drafting a new constitution, but just in time to compete in the 1981 national elections. In those elections, the PDCH earned just one seat in the National Congress. In the 1985 elections, the party won two seats in the National Congress, but in 1989 it did not win any representation. Efraín Díaz Arrivillaga, who reportedly gave the party the reputation for being the "conscience" of the Honduran National Congress in the 1980s, was the PDCH's 1989 presidential candidate; the 1993 candidate was businessperson Marcos Orlando Iriarte Arita.

In the early 1980s, amidst the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and the civil conflict in El Salvador, several radical leftist guerrilla groups that advocated some type of armed action against the Honduran government were formed in Honduras. The Honduran Revolutionary Party of Central American Workers (Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores Centroaméricanos de Honduras--PRTCH) was formed in 1976 as part of a regional party. The Morazanist Front for the Liberation of Honduras (Frente Morazanista para la Liberación de Honduras--FMLH), first active in 1980, was named for Honduran national hero Francisco Morazán, who had tried to keep the Central American states unified in the early nineteenth century. The Lorenzo Zelaya Popular Revolutionary Forces (Fuerzas Populares Revolucionarias Lorenzo Zelaya--FPR-LZ), founded in 1980 and named for a communist peasant leader who was murdered in 1965, traced its roots to a pro- Chinese faction of the PCH. The Cinchoneros Popular Liberation Movement (Movimiento Popular de Liberación Cinchoneros--MPLC), founded in 1981, was named for a nineteenth century peasant leader. With the exception of the MPLC which had about 300 members, the groups had memberships of fewer than 100 participants each.

In 1982 these new radical groups joined the Communist Party of Honduras (Partido Comunista de Honduras--PCH), under the loose umbrella of the National Unified Directorate-Movement of Revolutionary Unity (Directorio Nacional Unificado-Movimiento de Unidad Revolucionario--DNU-MUR). The PCH, which was formed in 1927, had been the country's major leftist opposition group through the 1970s, but had rarely resorted to violence before its affiliation with the DNU-MUR. An offshoot of the PCH that was not part of the DNU-MUR was the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Honduras (Partido Comunista Marxista-Leninista de Honduras--PCMLH), formed in 1967 by PCH dissidents.

Guerrilla groups in Honduras were responsible for numerous terrorist incidents throughout the 1980s. These included a successful plane hijacking in exchange for the freeing of political prisoners, the holding of hostages, bombings, and attacks against United States military personnel and advisers. Political assassinations included the January 1989 murder of General Gustavo lvarez Martinez by the members of the MPLC. Nevertheless, compared with neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua, these groups were small and did not attract much popular support. According to analysts, one fundamental reason is the conservative nature of Honduran society, which is not conducive to a revolutionary uprising. Moreover, according to political scientist Donald Schulz, Honduran society is characterized by a network of interlocking interest groups and political organizations that have reconciled conflicts that could have turned violent. Schulz also observes that important escape valves like agrarian reform, a strong union movement, an entrenched two-party system, and the restoration of elected democracy in the 1980s also enabled Honduras to escape the revolution of its neighbors.

Some analysts maintain that another important factor explaining why revolutionary groups did not gain much ground in Honduras was the government's swift use of repression. In the early 1980s, when General was military chief, the military waged a campaign against leftist groups that included political assassinations, disappearances, and illegal detentions. Those leftist political leaders who escaped the military's campaign did so by going into exile. In the summer of 1983, the military struck against the PRTCH, which reportedly was moving a contingent of almost 100 guerrillas into the Honduran province of Olancho from Nicaragua. The Honduran military claimed that most of the rebels were killed in combat or died from exhaustion while hiding out from the military, but human rights organizations maintain that most of the rebels, including a United States-born Jesuit priest, James Carney, were detained and executed.

With the end of the Contra war in Nicaragua in 1990 and a peace accord in El Salvador in 1991, Honduran guerrilla groups lost important sources of support. By 1992 most guerrilla groups, including the six groups of the DNU-MUR, had largely ceased operating, and many political exiles had returned to the country in order to take advantage of an amnesty offered by the Callejas government. Some former exiles worked to establish new political parties. For example, the PCMLH formed the Party for the Transformation of Honduras (Partido para la Transformación de Honduras--PTH), and the FMLH established the Morazanist Liberation Party (Partido Morazanista de Liberación--PML). Other leftist groups operating openly in the early 1990s included the Honduran Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Hondureño--PRH), the Workers' Party (Partido de los Trabajadores--PT), the Patriotic Renovation Party (Partido de Renovación Patriótica--PRP), and the People's Democratic Movement (Movimiento Democrático del Pueblo-- MDP).

These six parties, which reportedly planned to run under a united front in 1998 elections, presented a plan to President Callejas in 1992 to reform the country's electoral law in order to facilitate the participation of smaller parties in national elections; the plan included a reduction of signatures required for a party to be legally registered. In order to be legally registered, a political party must complete a complex process that can be made even more complex by the politicization of the electoral tribunal. A party seeking legal recognition, according to the nation's Electoral and Political Organizations Law, must have local organizations in at least half of the nation's departments and municipalities, and must present valid nominations of at least 20,000 registered voters affiliated with the party asking to be registered.

Despite the incorporation of most leftist leaders and groups into the political system, there were still sporadic terrorist actions in Honduras in the early 1990s instigated by remnants or factions of the armed guerrilla groups of the 1980s. For example, although four top leaders of the Cinchoneros renounced armed struggle in May 1991, a faction of the group still wanted to fight and was responsible for the burning of an electric company building in 1992. Moreover, a small fringe group known as the Morazanist Patriotic Front, which appeared to be unrelated to the FMLH, vowed to continue armed struggle and claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks and several political killings in the early 1990s.

At various times during the 1980s, there were also reports of the presence of right-wing extremist groups, which were associated with the Honduran military. Most observers judged that the military and police were largely responsible for right-wing extremism throughout the 1980s. In the early 1980s, when the military was under the command of General Álvarez, reportedly more than 140 disappearances of government opponents were carried out, largely by a secret army unit, or death squad apparatus, known as Battalion 3- 16. For the balance of the 1980s, the military and police were reportedly involved in extrajudicial killings of opponents and torture, but not at the high level of the first part of the decade. In 1988 and 1989, a paramilitary group known as the Alliance for Anticommunist Action (Alianza de Acción Anticomunista--AAA), which human rights organizations contend was tied to the military, was involved in a campaign to intimidate leftist leaders and human rights activists. The AAA took credit for several activities aimed at intimidating the left and human rights groups, including making death threats, circulating threatening posters with the AAA logo, and defacing property.

Honduras - Interest Groups

In the early 1990s, Honduras had a variety of interest groups that influenced the political process, some more successfully than others. Although Honduran political tradition is characterized by a strong executive, political scientist Donald Schulz maintains that the society is characterized by an elaborate network of interest groups and political organizations that help resolve conflicts. According to Schulz, the essence of Honduran politics is the struggle within and among competing groups, with public decisions arrived at through the long process of consensusbuilding .

Honduras - Business Organizations

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.

Honduras - Labor and Peasant Organizations

The organized labor movement of Honduras, traditionally the strongest in Central America, first began organizing in the early years of the twentieth century. The movement, however, gained momentum only with the great banana strike of 1954, at which point organized labor unions became a political force in the country, at times having an important impact on government policy. In that year, labor won the right to form unions legally and to engage in collective bargaining. In addition, the country's first national peasant organizations were formed in the mid-1950s, and later picked up momentum when an Agrarian Reform Law was enacted in 1962.

In the early 1990s, trade unions represented about 20 percent of the Honduran labor force and exerted considerable economic and political influence. According to the United States Department of State's 1992 human rights report, unions frequently participated in public rallies against government policies and made use of the media. Unions also gained wage and other concessions from employers through collective bargaining and the use of the right to strike. For example, in May 1992, direct negotiations between organized labor and the private sector led to a 13.7 percent increase in the minimum wage, the third consecutive annual increase.

Nevertheless, organized unions and peasant organizations still experienced significant difficulties in the early 1990s. Retribution against workers for trade union activity was not uncommon and the right to bargain collectively was not always guaranteed. Union activists at times were the target of political violence, including assassination, and workers were at times harassed or fired for their trade union activities. Several peasant leaders were killed for political reasons; and in a highly publicized May 1991 massacre, five members of a peasant organization were killed, reportedly by military members, because of a land dispute. The government also at times supported pro- government parallel unions over elected unions in an attempt to quiet labor unrest.

In 1993 Honduras had three major labor confederations: the Confederation of Honduran Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores de Honduras--CTH), claiming a membership of about 160,000 workers; the General Workers' Central (Central General de Trabajadores--CGT), claiming to represent 120,000 members; and the Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras--CUTH), a new confederation formed in May 1992, with an estimated membership of about 30,000. The three confederations included numerous trade union federations, individual unions, and peasant organizations.

The CTH, the nation's largest trade confederation, was formed in 1964 by the nation's largest peasant organization, the National Association of Honduran Peasants (Asociación Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras--Anach), and by Honduran unions affiliated with the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (Organización Regional Interamericana de Trabajadores--ORIT), a hemispheric labor organization with close ties to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO). In the early 1990s, the confederation had three major components, the 45,000- member Federation of Unions of National Workers of Honduras (Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Nacionales de Honduras-- Fesitranh), the 22,000-member Central Federation of Honduran Free Trade Unions (Federación Central de Sindicatos Libres de Honduras), and the 2,200-member Federation of National Maritime Unions of Honduras (Federación de Sindicales Marítimas Nacionales de Honduras). In addition, Anach, claiming to represent between 60,000-80,000 members, was affiliated with Fesitranh. Fesitranh was by far the country's most powerful labor federation, with most of its unions located in San Pedro Sula and the Puerto Cortés Free Zone. The unions of the United States-owned banana companies and the United States-owned petroleum refinery also were affiliated with Fesitranh. The CTH received support from foreign labor organizations, including ORIT; the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD); and Germany's Friedreich Ebert Foundation. The CTH was an affiliate of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

The CGT, first formed in 1970, but not legally recognized until 1982, was originally formed by the Christian Democrats and received external support from the World Confederation of Labor (WCL) and the Latin American Workers Central (Central Latinoamericana de Trabajadores--CLAT), a regional organization supported by Christian Democratic parties. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, the CGT leadership developed close ties to the PNH, and several leaders served in the Callejas government. Another national peasant organization, the National Union of Peasants (Unión Nacional de Campesinos--UNC), claiming a membership of 40,000, has been affiliated with the CGT for many years and is a principal force within the confederation.

The CUTH was formed in May 1992 by two principal labor federations, the Unitary Federation of Honduran Workers (Federación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras--FUTH) and the Independent Federation of Honduran Workers (Federación Independiente de Trabajadores de Honduras--FITH), as well as several smaller labor groups, all critical of the Callejas government's strong neoliberal economic reform program. The Marxist FUTH, with an estimated 16,000 members in the early 1990s, was first organized in 1980 by three communist-influenced unions, but did not receive legal status until 1988. The federation had external ties with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the Permanent Congress for Latin American Workers Trade Union Unity (Congreso Permanente de Unidad Sindical de Trabajadores de América Latina--CPUSTAL), and the Central American Committee of Trade Union Unity (Comité de Unidad Sindical de Centroamérica--CUSCA). Its affiliations included water utility, university, electricity company, brewery, and teacher unions, as well as several peasant organizations, including the National Central of Farm Workers (Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo--CNTC), formed in 1985 and active in land occupations in the early 1980s.

FUTH also became affiliated with a number of leftist popular organizations in a group known as the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations (Comité Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Populares--CCOP) that was formed in 1984. The FITH, claiming about 13,000 members in the early 1990s, was granted legal status in 1988. Originally formed by dissident FUTH members, the federation consisted of fourteen unions.

Many Honduran peasant organizations were affiliated with the three labor confederations in the early 1990s. Anach was created and received legal recognition in 1962 in order to counter the communist-influenced peasant movement of the National Federation of Honduran Peasants (Federación Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras-- Fenach). In contrast, Fenach never received legal recognition. Its offices were destroyed following the 1963 military coup by Colonel Oswaldo López Arellano, and, in 1965, seven of Fenach's leaders who had taken up armed struggle against the government, including founder Lorenzo Zelaya, were killed by the military. Anach became the primary peasant organization and in 1967 became affiliated with the CTH.

The UNC, traditionally a principal rival of Anach and traditionally more radical than Anach, was established in 1970 but did not receive legal recognition until 1984. The UNC traces its roots to the community development organizations and peasant leagues established by the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s. The UNC was a founding member of the CGT and had ideological ties to the MDCH.

In addition to Anach and the UNC, another large peasant organization in the 1990s was the Honduran Federation of Agrarian Reform Cooperatives (Federación de Cooperativas de la Reforma Agraria de Honduras--Fecorah). The federation was formed in 1970 and received legal recognition in 1974. In the early 1990s, Fecorah had about 22,000 members.

There were numerous attempts to unify the nation's peasant organizations in the 1970s and 1980s, but the sector was characterized by numerous divisions, including ideological divisions. For some peasant organizations, political affiliation changed with changes in the government. Disillusionment with the neglect of unions and peasant organizations under the PLH administrations of the 1980s caused some groups to move toward the PNH. In 1988 the three major peasant organizations, Anach, the UNC, and Fecorah, along with smaller leftist peasant groupings, united under the banner of the Coordinating Council of Honduran Peasant Organizations (Consejo Coordinador de Organizaciones Campesinas de Honduras--Cocoh) to lobby for agrarian reform. Just four years later, however, in May 1992, the peasant movement was split by disagreement over the Callejas government's proposed agricultural modernization law. The three major peasant organizations all left Cocoh to form the National Peasants Council (Consejo Nacional de Campesinos--CNC), while leftist peasant organizations remained in Cocoh and actively demonstrated against the proposed agricultural modernization law.

From 1989 until 1992, the nation's major peasant organizations and labor federations, a confederation of cooperatives, and several professional organizations supported the "Platform of Struggle for the Democratization of Honduras." The objective of the campaign was to present far-reaching economic, social, and political reform proposals to the national government, which included issuing several documents and a manifesto. By 1993 however, this initiative had disappeared because of divisions among the disparate groups and, according to some observers, because of the Callejas government's success in coopting several organizations.

The organized peasant movement in Honduras was an important, if not determinant, factor in implementing an agrarian reform program. In the early 1960s, because of increasing pressure on the government from landless peasants and external pressure from the United States through the Alliance for Progress, the PLH government of Ramón Villeda Morales took significant steps toward implementing a land reform program. He established the National Agrarian Institute (Instituto Nacional Agrario--INA) in 1961 and the following year approved an agrarian reform law that especially was aimed at the uncultivated lands of the United States-owned fruit companies. The 1963 military coup and subsequent repressive rule of General López Arellano brought an abrupt halt to land redistribution. By the late 1960s, however, peasant organizations were again increasing pressure on the government, and under a director who was sympathetic to the peasant movement, the INA began to adjudicate land claims in favor of peasants.

The election of conservative Ramón Ernesto Cruz as president in 1971 once again shifted the government's agrarian policy to one favoring the large landholders, but with the 1972 coup, again led by General López Arellano, the government instituted a far-reaching agrarian reform program. The program was all the more significant because it was driven by López Arellano, who had crushed land reform efforts in the 1960s. This time around, however, the general allied himself with peasant organizations. He issued an emergency land reform decree in 1972 and in 1975 issued another agrarian reform measure that promised to distribute 600,000 hectares to 120,000 families over a period of approximately five years.

In 1975, however, a conservative countercoup by General Juan Melgar Castro ended these high expectations for land redistribution. After 1977 land redistribution continued, but at lower levels. According to a study by Charles Brockett, from 1962 through 1984, a little more than 293,000 hectares were distributed, benefiting about 52,000 families countrywide. Brockett observed, however, that most of the land distributed was public land rather than idle or underutilized private land. In the 1980s, land redistribution slowed while peasant land takeovers of underused land continued unabated. The government's reaction to the takeovers was mixed. At times, the military reversed them by force, and, on other occasions, the government did nothing to stop the occupations.

In 1992 the Callejas government enacted a new agricultural modernization law that some observers claim essentially ended prospects for additional land distribution. The law, approved by the National Congress in March 1992, limited expropriations and augmented guarantees for private ownership of land. The United States Department of State observed that the law improved the environment for increases in investment, production, and agricultural exports. The law was actively opposed by some peasant organizations, who waged a campaign of land occupations and claimed that those peasant organizations that supported the law were linked to PNH or were bought by the government.

In the early 1990s, the government increasingly intervened in the affairs of labor unions and peasant organizations through parallel unions. For example, in July 1992, the Callejas government gave legal recognition to two parallel unions in the telecommunications workers union and to a second union representing road, airport, and terminal maintenance employees. In October 1992, the government recognized a faction of Anach that favored the Callejas government's proposed agricultural modernization law even though another faction had won a union election.

Unions in Honduras have strongly opposed the growth of solidarity (solidarismo) associations, which emphasize labor-management harmony. These associations, which consist of representatives of both labor and management, provide a variety of services by utilizing a joint worker/employer capital fund. Solidarity associations began in the late 1940s in Costa Rica and have thrived there, accounting for almost 16 percent of the work force. In Honduras solidarity associations first appeared in 1985 and, although the government had not granted the associations legal status, by the early 1990s they accounted for about 10,000 workers in a variety of companies. Organized labor, including Honduran unions and international labor affiliations, strongly opposes solidarity associations on the grounds that they do not permit the right to strike and that they do not include appropriate grievance procedures. Unions contend that the associations are management- controlled mechanisms that undermine unionism. In 1991 a bitter strike at El Mochito mine was reportedly begun by unions who opposed management's attempt to impose a solidarity association there.

Honduras - Popular Organizations

A plethora of special interest organizations and associations were active during the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of these organizations, like student groups and women's groups, had been active long before the 1980s, but others, such as human rights organization and environmental groups, only formed in the 1980s. Still other groups were just beginning to organize. In 1993, for example, a newly formed homosexual rights association petitioned the government for legal recognition. Beginning in 1984, a number of leftist popular organizations were linked with the FUTH in the CCOP. Some observers maintain that the number and power of popular organizations grew in the 1980s because of the inertia and manipulation associated with the traditional political process. Others contend that the proliferation of popular organizations demonstrates the free and open nature of Honduran society and the belief of the citizens that they can influence the political process by organizing.

The student movement in Honduras, which dates back to 1910, is concentrated at the country's largest institution of higherlearning , UNAH, which had an enrollment of around 30,000 students in the early 1990s. Ideological divisions among the student population and student organizations have often led to violence, including the assassination of student leaders. Leftist students, organized into the Reformist University Front (Frente de Reforma Universitaria--FRU), largely dominated student organizations until the early 1980s, but ideological schisms within the group and an anti-leftist campaign orchestrated by General Gustavo Álvarez broke leftist control of official university student bodies. Since the early 1980s, the rightwing Democratic University United Front (Frente Unido Universitario Democrático--FUUD), which reportedly has ties to the PNH and to the military, has become the more powerful student organization, with close ties to the conservative university administration. Osvaldo Ramos Soto, the PNH 1993 presidential candidate, served as FUUD coordinator while he was UNAH's rector in the mid-1980s. In the early 1990s, political violence in the student sector escalated. FRU leader Ramón Antonio Bricero was brutally tortured and murdered in 1990, and four FUUD activists were assassinated in the 1990-92 period.

Organized women's groups in Honduras date back to the 1920s with the formation of the Women's Cultural Society that struggled for women's economic and political rights. Visitación Padilla, who also actively opposed the intervention of the United States Marines in Honduras in 1924, and Graciela García were major figures in the women's movement. Women were also active in the formation of the Honduran labor movement and took part in the great banana strike of 1954. In the early 1950s, women's associations fought for women's suffrage, which finally was achieved in 1954, making Honduras the last Latin American country to extend voting rights to women. In the late 1970s, a national peasant organization, the Honduras Federation of Peasant Women (Federación Hondureña de Mujeres Campesinas--Fehmuca), was formed; by the 1980s, it represented almost 300 organizations nationwide. As a more leftist-oriented women's peasant organization, the Council for Integrated Development of Peasant Women (Consejo de Desarrollo Integrado de Mujeres Campesinos--Codeimuca) was established in the late 1980s and represented more than 100 women's groups. Another leftist women's organization, the Visitación Padilla Committee, was active in the 1980s, opposing the presence of the United States military and the Contras in Honduras.

Numerous other women's groups were active in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including a research organization known as the Honduran Center for Women's Studies (Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras--CEM-H). Another organization, the Honduran Federation of Women's Associations (Federación Hondureña de Asociaciones Femininas--Fehaf), represented about twenty-five women's groups and was involved in such activities as providing legal assistance to women and lobbying the government on women's issues.

Although women were represented at all levels of government in the late 1980s and early 1990s, their numbers were few. According to CEM-H, following the 1989 national elections, women held 9.4 percent of congressional seats and 6.2 percent of mayorships nationwide, including the mayorship of Tegucigalpa. In the Callejas government, women held several positions, including one seat on the Supreme Court, three out of thirty-two ambassadorships, and two out of fifty-four high-level executive branch positions. For the 1993 presidential elections, the Monarca faction of the PNH originally supported the nomination of a woman as the PNH candidate, and the PLH nominated a woman as one of its three presidential designate candidates.

Honduras - Domestic Human Rights Organizations

Human rights groups in Honduras first became active in the early 1980s when revolution and counterrevolution brought violence and instability to Central America. In Honduras, these groups organized in response to the mounting level of violence targeted at leftist organizations, particularly from 1982-84, when General Gustavo lvarez commanded the military. Human rights organizations were at times targeted by the Honduran military with harassment and political violence. According to some observers, the United States embassy in Honduras also got involved in a campaign to discredit Honduran human rights organizations at a time when Honduras was serving as a key component of United States policy toward Central America by hosting the Contras and a United States military presence.

In the early 1990s, there were three major nongovernmental human rights organizations in Honduras: the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Comité para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos de Honduras--Codeh); the Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (Comité de las Familias de los Detenidos y Desaparecidos Hondureños--Cofadeh); and the Center of the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos--Ciprodeh).

Established in 1981 by Ramón Custodio, Codeh became the country's foremost human rights organization in the 1980s, with a network throughout the country. The organization withstood harassment and intimidation by Honduran security forces. In January 1988, Codeh's regional director in northern Honduras, Miguel Ángel Pavón, was assassinated before he was about to testify in a case brought before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). In 1981 and 1982, Codeh and Cofadeh had brought three cases before the IACHR involving the disappearances of two Hondurans, Ángel Manfredo Velásquez and Saúl Godínez, and two Costa Ricans traveling in Honduras, Fairen Garbi and Yolanda Solís Corrales. The court ultimately found Honduras responsible for the disappearances of the two Hondurans, but not for the two Costa Ricans.

In the 1990s, Codeh remained the country's most important and most internationally known human rights organization. Codeh continued to issue annual reports and to speak out frequently, not only on human rights violations, but also on economic, social, and political issues. Some observers, however, have criticized Codeh for going beyond a human rights focus, as well as for exaggerating charges against the government and military. In the 1980s and as late as 1990, the United States Department of State in its annual human rights reports on Honduras charged that Codeh's charges were ill-documented, exaggerated, and in some cases false.

Cofadeh was founded in 1982 by Zenaida Velásquez, sister of Ángel Manfredo Velásquez, the missing student and labor activist whose case Codeh and Cofadeh brought before the IACHR. As its name suggests, Cofadeh's membership consisted of relatives of the disappeared and detained, and in the 1980s its members often demonstrated near the Presidential Palace in the center of Tegucigalpa.

Ciprodeh, founded in 1991 by Leo Valladares, provides human rights educational and legal services. The group offers human rights courses and monthly seminars and has a special program for the protection of the rights of children and women.

The Honduran government did not established an effective human rights monitor until late 1992, and Codeh and Cofadeh often served this purpose. In 1987 the Azcona government established the InterInstitutional Commission on Human Rights (Comisión InterInstitucional de Derechos Humanos--CIDH), made up of representatives from the three branches of government and the military, to investigate human rights violations. The CIDH proved ineffective and did not receive cooperation from either civilian judicial or military authorities.

In December 1992, the Callejas government inaugurated a new governmental human rights body headed by Valladares. In 1993 this new office of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights (Comisión Nacional para la Protección de Derechos Humanos-- Conaprodeh) received complaints of human rights violations and, in some instances, provided "protection" to those citizens issuing complaints.

In the early 1990s, Honduras also had a number of ethnic-based organizations representing Hondurans of African origin and the nation's indigenous population. Six ethnic-based organizations were loosely grouped together under the Honduras Advisory Council for Autonomous Ethnic Development (Consejo Asesor Hondureño para el Desarrollo de las Étnicas Autóctonas--CAHDEA). Representing the nation's black population, including the Garifuna, and English-speaking Creoles was the Honduras Black Fraternal Organization (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña--Ofraneh), a group established in 1977 for the betterment of social, political, economic, and cultural conditions of black Hondurans. The indigenous peoples of Honduras first began forming national organizations in the 1950s, and in the 1990s, five indigenous organizations were represented in CAHDEA. These consisted of organizations representing the Miskito, Pech, Lenca, Towaka, and Jicaque peoples. According to the United States Department of State in its human rights report for 1992, Honduran indigenous peoples had "little or no participation in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, or the allocation of natural resources." The report further asserted that legal recourse is commonly denied to indigenous groups and that the seizing of indigenous lands by nonindigenous farmers and cattle growers is common.

Honduras - The Press

Freedom of speech and the press are guaranteed by the Honduran constitution, and in practice these rights are generally respected. Nevertheless, as noted in the United States Department of State's 1992 human rights report, the media are subject to both corruption and politicization, and there have been instances of selfcensorship , allegations of intimidation by military authorities, and payoffs to journalists. In a scandal that came to light in January 1993, a Honduran newspaper published an internal document from the National Elections Tribunal (Tribunal Nacional de Elecciones--TNE) that listed authorized payments to thirteen journalists. Observers maintain that numerous governmental institutions, including municipalities, the National Congress, the various ministries, and the military, have been involved in paying journalists for stories; some estimate that more than 50 percent of journalists receive payoffs. Another significant problem in the media has been self-censorship in reporting on sensitive issues, especially the military. Intimidation in the form of threats, blacklisting, and violence also occurred at various times in the 1980s and early 1990s.

According to some analysts, however, despite instances of military intimidation of the press in early 1993, the media, including the press, radio, and television, has played an important role in creating an environment conducive to the public's open questioning and criticism of authorities. Honduran sociologist Leticia Salomón has observed that in early 1993 the media, including newspaper caricatures, played an instrumental role in mitigating the fear of criticizing the military, and he asserts that this diminishment of fear was an important step in the building of a democratic culture in Honduras.

Honduras has five daily national newspapers, three based in Tegucigalpa--El Periódico, La Tribuna and El Heraldo--and two based in San Pedro Sula--El Tiempo and La Prensa. Quite conservative in its outlook, El Periódico has former president Callejas as its principal stockholder. Owned by PLH leader and businessperson Jaime Rosenthal (who placed second in the PLH presidential primary for the 1993 national election), the left-of-center El Tiempo has been the newspaper most prone to criticize the police and military, for which its editor, Manuel Gamero, has at times been jailed. In February 1993, a bomb exploded at the home of the newspaper's business manager after the paper gave refuge to a reporter, Eduardo Coto, who had witnessed the assassination of a San Pedro Sula businessperson, Eduardo Pina, in late January 1993. Coto alleged that Pina had been killed by two former members of the notorious Battalion 3-16, a military unit reportedly responsible for numerous disappearances in the early 1980s. After alleged death threats from military members, Coto fled to Spain, where he received asylum.

La Tribuna and La Prensa are considered centrist papers by some observers, although some might put La Prensa into the more conservative center-right category. La Tribuna, which is owned by Carlos Flores Facusse (the unsuccessful 1989 presidential candidate), has close ties to the PLH and to the new industrial sector of Tegucigalpa. La Prensa has close ties with the business section of San Pedro Sula. Its president and editor is Jorge Canahuati Larach, whose family also publishes El Heraldo, a conservative paper that has been more favorable to the military in its reporting than other dailies and often reflects the positions of the PNH.

In addition to the five dailies, Honduras also has numerous smaller publications. Most significantly, the Honduran Documentation Center (Centro de Documentación de Honduras--Cedoh), run by the widely respected political analyst Victor Meza, publishes a monthly Boletín Informativo; and Cedoh and the sociology department of UNAH publish Puntos de Vista, a magazine dedicated to social and political analysis. In addition, an English-language weekly paper, Honduras This Week, covers events in Honduras and in Central America.

Honduras - Civilian Democratic Rule

In the decade since Honduras returned to civilian democratic rule in 1982, the political system has undergone notable changes. Hondurans successfully elected three civilian presidents in the 1980s, and elections came to be celebrated in an almost holidaylike atmosphere, similar to the electoral process in Costa Rica. In 1993 the nation was again gearing up for national elections in November, with conservative Osvaldo Ramos Soto of the PNH squaring off against Carlos Roberto Reina, leader of a leftist faction of the PLH. Although remaining a powerful factor in the political system, the military is increasingly facing challenges from civilians who are beginning to hold it responsible for involvement in human rights violations.

Nevertheless, many observers have noted that although Honduras has held regular elections and has begun to hold the military accountable, the nation still faces numerous political challenges, most notably reforming the administration of justice so that both military and civilian elites can be held accountable for their actions, realizing civilian control over the military, and rooting out corruption from government.

The human rights situation deteriorated significantly in the first few years of civilian rule, when the military, under the command of General Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, initiated a campaign against leftists that led to the disappearance of more than 100 people. Small insurgent groups also began operating during this period, but the overwhelming majority of political killings were carried out by the military. Although this violence paled in comparison to the violence in neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala, it marked a departure from the relatively tranquil Honduran political environment. Beginning in 1985, political violence declined significantly but did not completely disappear; a small number of extrajudicial killings continued to be reported annually for the balance of the 1980s and early 1990s. In July 1988 and January 1989, when the Honduran government was held responsible by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for the 1982 disappearances of Ángel Manfredo Velásquez and Saúl Godínez, Honduran authorities were also held responsible by the court for a deliberate kidnapping campaign of between 100 and 150 individuals believed to be tied to subversive activities between 1981 and 1984.

In the early 1990s, as the political conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua were abating, the Honduran public increasingly began to criticize the military for human rights violations, including a number of political and other types of extrajudicial killings. One case that ignited a public outcry against the military was the July 1991 rape, torture, and murder of an eighteen-year old student, Riccy Mabel Martínez, by military members. Initially, the military would not allow the civilian courts to try the three suspects, but ultimately the military discharged the suspects from the military so as not to set the precedent of military members being tried in civilian courts. After a long drawn out process, two of the suspects, including a former colonel, were convicted of the crime in July 1993, marking the first time that a high-ranking officer, even though no longer in the military, was prosecuted in the civilian courts.

Observers credit former United States Ambassador Cresencio Arcos with speaking out promptly on the case and urging the Honduran government to prosecute it through an open judicial process. In fact, the United States embassy increasingly has been viewed as a champion for human rights in Honduras, and its human rights reports in the early 1990s were considerably more critical than those prepared in the 1980s.

Although Honduras has experienced more than a decade of civilian democratic rule, some observers maintain that the military is still the most powerful political player in the country. Its disregard for civilian authority is demonstrated by the military's immunity from prosecution for human rights violations. In early 1993, after the military received considerable public criticism for alleged involvement in the killing of a businessperson in San Pedro Sula in January 1993, military forces were deployed in both San Pedro Sula and in the capital. Rumors abounded about the true intention of the deployment, reportedly made without the knowledge of President Callejas. Some observers speculated that armed forces chief, General Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, took the action to intimidate his opponents and stem a barrage of recent criticism against the military. President Callejas later announced that he had ordered the deployment as one of a series of actions to deter criminal violence.


Some critics maintain that President Callejas should have been more forceful with the military and attempted to assert more civilian control during his presidency, particularly when the military tried to impede the prosecution of the Riccy Martínez case. Some maintain that Callejas himself had close ties with General Discúa, thus explaining why no strong civilian action was taken against the military. Others, however, maintain that Callejas substantially improved civilian control over the military with the establishment of such commissions as the Ad Hoc Commission for Institutional Reform, which recommended the breakup of the National Investigations Department, and the creation of a new Department of Criminal Investigation (Departamento de Investigación Criminal-- DIC) within the civilian government.

A growing concern of the business sector in the early 1990s was the military's increasing involvement in private enterprise. Through its Military Pension Institute (Instituto de Pensión Militar--IPM), the military acquired numerous enterprises, including the nation's largest cement factory, a bank, a real estate agency, cattle ranches, a radio station, and a funeral home. Critics maintain that the military has a competitive advantage in a number of areas because of certain benefits derived from its status, such as the ability to import items duty free.

According to some observers, a fundamental problem associated with the Honduran political system is the almost institutionalized corruption found within its ranks. Analysts maintain that the primary motivation of politicians in Honduras is personal interest; bribery (la mordida) is a common or institutionalized practice. Publicized instances of corruption are found throughout the political system, in all branches of government, and some observers maintain that Hondurans have come to expect this of their politicians. As noted by Mark B. Rosenberg, political power in Honduras is defined by one's ability to convert public authority into private advantage. Some analysts contend that corruption is literally a necessity to govern effectively in Honduras. Former United States ambassador Cresencio Arcos notes that "there is more than a kernel of truth in the Latin American cliché, a deal for my friend, the law for my enemies."

Some observers maintain that the Callejas government moderated corrupt practices, as demonstrated by the creation of the Fiscal Intervention Commission that turned its attention to investigating extensive corruption in the Customs Directorate. Others maintain that the commission was a smokescreen to give the appearance that the government was doing something to root out corruption, when in fact the Callejas government was saturated with corruption, and personal enrichment was the norm. The issue of corruption is a theme in the 1993 presidential campaign of PLH candidate Carlos Roberto Reina, who has pledged a moral revolution to punish those public officials enriching themselves through corruption.


The conduct of foreign policy in Honduras has traditionally been dominated by the presidency, with the minister of foreign affairs essentially executing that policy. After Honduras returned to civilian rule in 1982, however, the military continued to exercise power over aspects of foreign policy associated with national security. General Gustavo Álvarez reportedly directly negotiated the presence of the anti-Sandinista Contras in Honduras with the United States, as well as the establishment of a United States military presence at Palmerola Air Base and the training of Salvadoran troops at a Regional Center for Military Training in Honduras (Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar--CREM). Military influence over these aspects of foreign policy continued through the end of the decade, when regional hostilities subsided and reduced Honduras's geostrategic importance for United States policy toward the region.

In the second half of the 1980s, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the dynamic leadership of Carlos López Contreras, reportedly became a professional and well-respected cadre of diplomats. Key positions in the ministry were reportedly chosen on the basis of competence rather than political affiliation. With the change in government in 1990, however, politicization once again became the norm, with preference given to PNH loyalists. President Callejas's active involvement in the regional integration process in Central America has tended to eclipse the prominence of the role of the minister of foreign affairs in the process of formulating foreign policy.

<>The United States
<>Central America

Honduras - The United States

In the twentieth century, the United States has had more influence on Honduras than any other nation, leading some analysts to assert that the United States has been a major source of political power in Honduras. United States involvement in Honduras dates back to the turn of the century, when United States-owned banana companies began expanding their presence on the north coast. The United States government periodically dispatched warships to quell revolutionary activity and to protect United States business interests. Not long after the United States entered World War II, the United States signed a lend lease agreement with Honduras. Also, the United States operated a small naval base at Trujillo on the Caribbean Sea. In 1954 the two countries signed a bilateral military assistance agreement whereby the United States helped support the development and training of the Honduran military. In the 1950s, the United States provided about US$27 million, largely in development assistance, to Honduras for projects in the agriculture, education, and health sectors. In the 1960s, under the Alliance for Progress program, the United States provided larger amounts of assistance to Honduras--almost US$94 million for the decade, the majority again in development assistance, with funds increasingly focused on rural development. In the 1970s, United States assistance expanded significantly, amounting to almost US$193 million, largely in development and food assistance, but also including about US$19 million in military assistance. Aid during the 1970s again emphasized rural development, particularly in support of the Honduran government's agrarian reform efforts in the first part of the decade.

It was in the 1980s, however, that United States attention became fixated on Honduras as a linchpin for United States policy toward Central America. In the early 1980s, southern Honduras became a staging area for Contra excursions into Nicaragua. The conservative Honduran government and military shared United States concerns over the Sandinistas' military buildup, and both the United States and Honduran governments viewed United States assistance as important in deterring Nicaragua, in both the buildup of the Honduran armed forces and the introduction of a United States military presence in Honduras.

In 1982 Honduras signed an annex to its 1954 bilateral military assistance agreement with the United States that provided for the stationing of a temporary United States military presence in the country. Beginning in 1983, the Pamerola Air Base (renamed the Enrique Soto Cano Air Base in 1988) housed a United States military force of about 1,100 troops known as Joint Task Force Bravo (JTFB) about 80 kilometers from Tegucigalpa near the city of Comayagua. The primary mission of the task force was to support United States military exercises and other military activities and to demonstrate the resolve of the United States to support Honduras against the threat from Nicaragua. In its military exercises, which involved thousands of United States troops and United States National Guardsmen, the United States spent millions of dollars in building or upgrading several air facilities--some of which were used to help support the Contras-- and undertaking roadbuilding projects around the country. The United States military in Honduras also provided medical teams to visit remote rural areas. In addition, a military intelligence battalion performed reconnaissance missions in support of the Salvadoran military in its war against leftist guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional--FMLN). In 1987 the United States approved a sale of twelve advanced F-5 fighter aircraft to Honduras, a measure that reinforced Honduran air superiority in Central America.

During the early 1980s, the United States also established an economic strategy designed to boost economic development in the Caribbean Basin region. Dubbed the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), the centerpiece of the program was a one-way preferential trade program providing duty-free access to the United States market for a large number of products from Caribbean and Central American nations. Honduras became a beneficiary of the program when it first went into effect in 1984. Although the value of Honduran exports had increased by 16 percent by 1989, this growth paled in comparison to the growth of United States-destined exports from other CBI countries such as Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

During the 1980s, the United States provided Honduras with a substantial amount of foreign assistance. Total United States assistance to Honduras in the 1980s amounted to almost US$1.6 billion, making the country the largest United States aid recipient in Latin America after El Salvador; about 37 percent of the aid was in Economic Support Funds (ESF), 25 percent in military assistance, 24 percent in development assistance, and 10 percent in food aid. The remaining 4 percent supported one of the largest Peace Corps programs worldwide, disaster assistance, and small development projects sponsored by the Inter-American Foundation.

By the end of the decade, however, critics were questioning how so much money could have produced so little. The country was still one of the poorest in the hemisphere, with an estimated per capita income of US$590 in 1991, according to the World Bank, and the government had not implemented any significant economic reform program to put its house in order. Many high-level Hondurans acknowledged that the money was ill-spent on a military build-up and on easy money for the government. According to former United States ambassador to Honduras Cresencio Arcos, "If there was a significant flaw in our assistance, it was that we did not sufficiently condition aid to macroeconomic reforms and the strengthening of democratic institutions such as the administration of justice." Moreover, as noted by the United States General Accounting Office in a 1989 report, the Honduran government in the 1980s became dependent upon external assistance and tended to view United States assistance as a substitute for undertaking economic reform. The report further asserted that the Honduran government was able to resist implementing economic reforms because it supported United States regional security programs.

Many observers maintain that United States support was instrumental in the early 1980s in bringing about a transition to elected civilian democracy and in holding free and fair elections during the rest of the decade. Nevertheless, critics charge that United States support for the Honduran military, including direct negotiations over support for the Contras, actually worked to undermine the authority of the elected civilian government. They also blame the United States for tolerating the Honduran military's human rights violations, particularly in the early 1980s. They claim that the United States obsession with defeating the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN in El Salvador resulted in Honduras's becoming the regional intermediary for United States policy--without regard for the consequences for Honduras. Indeed, some maintain that the United States embassy in Tegucigalpa often appeared to be more involved with the Contra war effort against Nicaragua than with the political and economic situation in Honduras. United States-based human rights organizations assert that the United States became involved in a campaign to defame human rights activists in Honduras who called attention to the abuses of the Honduran military. United States embassy publications during the 1980s regularly attempted to discredit the two major human rights groups in Honduras, Codeh and Cofadeh, because of their "leftist bias," while also calling into question the large number of disappearances that occurred in the early 1980s.

Hondurans' frustration over the overwhelming United States presence and power in their country appeared to grow in the late 1980s. For example, in April 1988 a mob of anti-United States rioters attacked and burned the United States embassy annex in Tegucigalpa because of United States involvement in the abduction and arrest of alleged drug trafficker Juan Ramón Mata Ballesteros, a prime suspect in the 1985 torture and murder of United States Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico. Nationalist sentiments escalated as some Hondurans viewed the action as a violation of a constitutional prohibition on the extradition of Honduran citizens. The mob of students was reportedly fueled by then UNAH rector Osvaldo Ramos Soto, who later became Supreme Court president and the PNH candidate for president in 1993.

By the early 1990s, with the end to the Contra war and a peace accord in El Salvador, United States policy toward Honduras had changed in numerous respects. Annual foreign aid levels had begun to fall considerably. Although the United States provided about US$213 million in fiscal year (FY) 1990 and US$150 million in FY 1991, the amount declined to about US$98 million for FY 1992 and an estimated US$60 million for FY 1993. Most significant in these declines is that military assistance slowed to a trickle, with only an estimated US$2.6 million to be provided in FY 1993.

Although aid levels were falling, considerable United States support was provided through debt forgiveness. In September 1991, the United States forgave US$434 million in official bilateral debt that Honduras owed the United States government for food assistance and United States AID loans. This forgiveness accounted for about 96 percent of Honduras's total bilateral debt to the United States and about 12 percent of Honduras's total external debt of about US$3.5 billion. Observers viewed the debt forgiveness as partially a reward for Honduras's reliability as a United States ally, particularly through the turbulent 1980s, as well as a sign of support for the bold economic reforms undertaken by the Callejas government in one of the hemisphere's poorest nations.

In the 1990s, the United States remained Honduras's most important trading partner and the most important source of foreign investment. According to the United States Department of State, in the early 1990s Honduras was a relatively open market for United States exports and investments. In 1992 the Callejas government took important steps toward improving the trade and investment climate in the nation with the approval of a new investment law.

Under the rubric of the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI), a United States foreign policy initiative was introduced by the George H.W. Bush administration (1989-93) in June 1990, with the long-term goal of free trade throughout the Americas. The United States and Honduras signed a trade and investment framework agreement in 1991, which theoretically was a first step on the road to eventual free trade with the United States. Some Hondurans in the early 1990s expressed concern about the potential North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among Canada, Mexico, and the United States, which could possibly undermine Honduran's benefits under the CBI and also divert portions of United States trade and investment to Mexico.

A point of controversy between Honduras and the United States in the early 1990s was the issue of intellectual property rights. In 1992, because of a complaint by the Motion Picture Exporters Association of America, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) initiated an investigation into the protection of private satellite television signals. Local cable companies in Honduras routinely pirated United States satellite signals, but as a result of the investigation, the Honduran government pledged to submit comprehensive intellectual property rights legislation to the National Congress in 1993. If the USTR investigation rules against Honduras, the country's participation in the CBI and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) would be jeopardized.

A significant change in United States-Honduran relations during the early 1990s was reflected in United States criticism over the human rights situation and over the impunity of the Honduran military, as well as recommendations to the Honduran government to cut back military spending. In one public statement in 1992 that was severely criticized by the Honduran military, Cresencio Arcos, who was then United States ambassador, stated that "society should not allow justice to be turned into a viper that only bites the barefoot and leaves immune those who wear boots."

Despite the winding down of regional conflicts in the early 1990s, the United States military maintains a 1,100-member force presence at the Enrique Soto Cano Air Base. Joint Task Force Bravo is still involved in conducting training exercises for thousands of United States troops annually, including road-building exercises, and in providing medical assistance to remote rural areas. A new mission for the United States military in Honduras, and perhaps its number-one priority, is the use of surveillance planes to track drug flights from South America headed for the United States. Although Honduras is not a major drug producer, it is a transit route for cocaine destined for both the United States and Europe. A radar station in Trujillo on the north Honduran coast forms part of a Caribbean-wide radar network designed for the interdiction of drug traffickers. The United States military in Honduras maintains a relatively low profile, with soldiers confined to the base, and the sporadic anti-Americanism targeted at the United States military in the past appears largely to have dissipated, most probably because of the end to regional hostilities and the new supportive role of the United States as an advocate for the protection of human rights.

Honduras - Central America

Honduran national hero Francisco Morazán was a prominent leader of the United Provinces Central America in the 1820s and 1830s, but his vision of a united Central America was never fully realized because of divisiveness among the five original member nations-- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua--each of which went its separate way in 1838 with the official breakup of the federation. Subsequent hopes of restoring some type of political union were unsuccessful until the 1960s, when economic integration efforts led to the formation of the Central American Common Market (CACM). In December 1960, the General Treaty of Central American Integration was signed by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and the CACM became effective in June 1961. One year later, Costa Rica acceded to the treaty.

The objectives of the CACM are to eliminate trade barriers among the five countries and institute a common external tariff (CET). Two important institutions were established as a result of CACM economic integration efforts in the 1960s. One was the Secretariat of the General Treaty on Central American Economic Integration (Secretaría Permanente del Tratado General de Integración Económica Centroamericana--SIECA), based in Guatemala City, which serves as the CACM's executive organ. The other was the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica--BCIE) headquartered in Tegucigalpa, which is the CACM's financial institution that lends funds to its member nations, particularly for infrastructure projects. The CACM integration process was somewhat successful in the 1960s, but by the end of the decade essentially fell into disarray because of the 1969 border war between Honduras and El Salvador, the so-called "Soccer War". Honduras officially suspended its participation in the CACM in December 1970, and relations with El Salvador remained tense in the 1970s, with border hostilities flaring up in 1976.

A peace treaty between Honduras and El Salvador was finally signed in 1980, reportedly under significant pressure from the United States. According to political scientist Ernesto Paz Aguilar, the treaty allied the Honduran and Salvadoran government in a campaign against the leftist Salvadoran insurgents, as evidenced by the Honduran military's participation in the Río Sumpul massacre of Salvadoran peasants in April 1980, when hundreds of Salvadoran peasants were reportedly killed as they attempted to cross the river into Honduras.

Given the historical animosity between the two nations, this military alliance was indeed surprising. As noted by Victor Meza, United States policy demanded "ideological and operational solidarity with a country [El Salvador]" with which there existed "a territorial dispute and an historic antagonism." For Honduras, United States military assistance would benefit Honduras not only in case of conflict with Nicaragua, but also, perhaps most importantly, in case of conflict with El Salvador. One example of United States disregard for Honduran sensitivities was the establishment of a Regional Center for Military Training at Puerto Castilla in 1983, primarily to train Salvadoran soldiers. The center was eventually closed in 1985 after General Álvarez Martínez, who had agreed to the establishment of the center, was ousted by General López Reyes. The official Salvadoran-Honduran bilateral relationship gradually improved in the 1980s.

In the early 1990s, there was considerable movement toward integration in Central America, in part because of the good personal relations among the Central American presidents. The semiannual Central American presidential summits became institutionalized and were complemented by numerous other meetings among two or more of the region's nations. The so-called northern triangle of Central America, consisting of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, made consistently stronger efforts toward integration than did Costa Rica or Nicaragua. At the tenth Central American summit held in San Salvador in July 1991, the presidents decided to incorporate Panama into the integration process, although the method by which this would occur had not been spelled out as of mid-1993. Belize has also attended the semiannual summits as an observer. Although Honduras actively participated in Central American summits since 1986, it officially rejoined the integration process in February 1992, when the Transitional Multilateral Free Trade Agreement between Honduras and the other Central American states came into force.

The rejuvenation of economic integration began in June 1990 at the eighth presidential summit held in Antigua, Guatemala, when the presidents pledged to restructure, strengthen, and reactivate the integration process. The presidents signed a Central American Economic Action Plan (Plan de Acción Económica de Centroamérica-- Paeca) that included a number of commitments and guidelines for integration. These included such varied measures as elimination of intraregional tariff barriers; support for commercial integration; tightening of regional coordination for external trade, foreign investment, and <>tourism; promotion of industrial restructuring; formulation and application of coordinated agricultural and science and technology policies; and promotion of coordinated macroeconomic adjustment processes.

At the eleventh presidential summit held in December 1991 in Tegucigalpa, the presidents signed a protocol for the establishment of the Central American Integration System (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana--Sica) to serve as a governing body for the integration process. The protocol was ratified by the Central American states, and Sica began operating in February 1993. The main objective of Sica is to coordinate the region's integration institutions, including SIECA and the BCIE, which were established in the 1960s.

Further progress toward economic integration was achieved in January 1993, when the five Central American states agreed to reduce the maximum external tariff for third countries from 40 to 20 percent. In April 1993, a new Central American Free Trade Zone went into effect among the three northern triangle states and Nicaragua. The new grouping reduced tariffs for intraregional trade to the 5-20 percent range for some 5,000 products, with the intention of lowering the tariff levels and expanding the scope of product coverage. The northern triangle states agreed to create a free trade area and customs union by April 1994.

As regards political integration, the Central American presidents in 1987 signed a Constituent Treaty to set up a Central American Parliament (Parlamento Centroamericano--Parlacen) to serve as a deliberative body that would support integration and democracy through consultations and recommendations. With the exception of Costa Rica, the other four Central American countries approved the treaty, and Parlacen was approved in September 1988. Each country was to have twenty elected deputies in the parliament, but by the date of its inauguration in October 1991, only three nations-- Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala--had elected representatives. Nicaragua planned to elect deputies by early 1994. Costa Rica's participation in Parlacen was impeded by domestic opposition. Since February 1993, Parlacen has formed part of Sica. Other political organizations under Sica are the Central American Court of Justice and the Consultative Committee, consisting of representatives from different social sectors.

As illustrated by the integration process, Honduras's relations with El Salvador and Nicaragua were close in the early 1990s. In September 1992, after six years of consideration, the ICJ ruled on the border dispute with El Salvador and awarded Honduras approximately two-thirds of the disputed area. Both countries agreed to abide by the decision. The ruling was viewed as a victory for Honduras, but also one that provided Honduras with significant challenges in dealing with the nearly 15,000 residents of the disputed bolsones who identified themselves as Salvadorans. Residents of the bolsones petitioned both governments in 1992 for land rights, freedom of movement between both nations, and the preservation of community organizations. A Honduran-Salvadoran Binational Commission was set up to work out any disputes. The ICJ also determined that El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua were to share control of the Golfo de Fonseca on the Pacific coast. El Salvador was awarded the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita, and Honduras was awarded the island of El Tigre.

In 1993 political conflict in Nicaragua was again on the rise, with the government of President Chamorro struggling to achieve national reconciliation between conservatives of her former ruling coalition and the leftist Sandinistas. Conservative critics of Chamorro charged her with caving in to Sandinista demands and complained that the Sandinistas still controlled the military and policy. Rearmed former Contras were forming in northern Nicaragua, with reported support from Nicaraguan and Cuban communities in the United States. Memories of the early 1980s led some observers to fear a flare-up of hostilities in the Honduran-Nicaraguan border area, as well as the prospect of another flood of Nicaraguan refugees into Honduras. Political observers and most Hondurans were hopeful, however, that even should turmoil break out in neighboring countries, Honduras would be able to follow the course laid out in the 1980s and continue to strengthen its democratic traditions.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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