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Hondurans say US policies erode their nation's political fabric

By Dennis VolmanStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 21, 1984

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

This country's social and political fabric is eroding as the United States attempts to turn Honduras into a regional bastion. This view of what is happening here is expressed by increasing numbers of politically moderate Hondurans.

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They are more and more alarmed over both the Honduran Army's growing domination of this country and Honduras's increasing involvement in the Central American conflict.

They resent a US military presence which appears to get larger daily. They are upset by this nation's own growing militarization which is rapidly dimming hopes for what they see as desperately needed social change and development.

Finally, they feel that with its present policies Honduras will face a Salvador-like civil war within a few years, including the prospect of a probable guerrilla victory.

''Many of Honduras's problems today come from the fact that, in Reagan administration policy, Honduras plays an important role,'' says one leading moderate here, Jorge Arturo Reina. ''A poor and underdeveloped country has been assigned the role of a fortress of the counter-revolution in the region. This has created an acute internal crisis.''

Jorge Arturo Reina is, along with his brother Carlos Roberto, the leader of the important dissident movement within the ruling Liberal Party (a party whose official head is Honduran President Roberto Suazo Cordova). Western diplomats see the politically prominent Reina brothers as being ideologically ''somewhere between the center and moderate Social Democrats.''

In the words of a prominent political leader of one of the main conservative opposition parties, ''by making anticommunism the center of its policies in Central America, President Reagan is polarizing forces in the region and especially in Honduras. Everything is being reduced to the grossly simplified criteria of communism or anticommunism.''

It is an oversimplification which, adds this Honduran, is having disastrous results for his country.

What worries many Hondurans most is the tremendous growth of military power which is undercutting President Suazo Cordova's tenuous civilian control. According to one very prominent observer, linked to the Liberal Party:

''In no time of the country's history has there been such absolute control by the military as now. During periods of direct military rule in the '60s and '70s the Army ran the government and set foreign policy as it does today, but it never had such profound control of the state apparatus, the economy, and mass organizations.''

Especially worrisome is the tremendous personal power of Army Chief of Staff, General Gustavo Adolfo Alvarez Martinez. Alvarez runs the National Security Council made up of the Honduran President and three ministers, on the one hand, and Alvarez and five other top military leaders, on the other. This council discusses all important national and foreign policy issues.

Many Hondurans stress that the Reagan administration policy and the influence of South American semi-fascist military regimes helped produce a type of military control far transcending traditional Honduran strong-man Army rule. Using the doctrine of anticommunism and national security, Alvarez has set up the Army as not only the defender of the country but the incarnation of Honduras's national essence.