Why US policy threatens Honduras
The Reagan administration's Central America policy has produced a strong and disruptive impact on Honduras's internal political structure, Honduran and foreign diplomatic observers say.Skip to next paragraph
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The White House has pushed Honduras to play a central role in an attempt to thwart Nicaragua's military and political activities and has stressed Honduran military preparedness. In doing so, it has greatly contributed to the increasing power of the Honduran military and to the related decrease in power of the civilian government, these sources say.
Observers emphasize that these results occurred swiftly and easily because Honduras does not have a tradition of democratic rule. Its history is of strong-man rule.
''The traditional parties . . . are becoming mere appendages of military power,'' says one prominent observer linked to the ruling Liberal Party.
Despite the military's increasing control of government, most observers do not foresee a military coup - at least for the moment. This is because the Army chief of staff, Gen. Gustavo Adolfo Alvarez Martinez, already has all the power he wants, and because the United States would embarrassed by a military takeover in Honduras, sources say.
However, there are two circumstances in which observers would foresee a coup:
1. If war breaks out between Honduras and El Salvador or between Honduras and Nicaragua.
2. If, as a result of an increased US military buildup and Honduran fears of being involved in a regional conflict, the Reagan and Honduran Liberal Party policy becomes so unpopular that the Liberals could lose the election scheduled for 1985. In that event,the Army might intervene in the electoral process, some observers speculate.
Some of this speculation is based on belief that General Alvarez does not have much confidence in Honduran President Roberto Suazo Cordova. According to one well-placed source, Alvarez doesn't trust Cordova, and thinks the civilian President is ''incompetent and lazy.'' If a real emergency should arise, the Army should take over, Alvarez is reported to believe.
Honduras's Army is gaining control or at least strong influence over larger sectors of the economy and blocking prospects for social change, many moderate Hondurans say. Thus US policies have strengthened the extreme right, says Jorge Arturo Reina, a leader of a dissident movement in the Liberal Party.
''A country where change is imperative has been given the task of stopping other countries from changing. After the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua, those in control wanted to make concessions and initiate change, but now they feel that this is no longer necessary,'' he says.
The nation's budget for land reform, education, and health care have been cut , sacrificed to military budget increases. Land reform has been virtually stalled, Mr. Reina says.
''This is happening,'' he says, ''in the country which, after Haiti, is the second most backward in Latin America - where 52 percent of the population is illiterate, and 76 percent of the children are malnourished, where 57 percent of all families live in extreme poverty, where 28 percent of the labor force is unemployed, and 50 percent underemployed.''