Honduran general ousted for 'repression'

The removal of Honduran armed forces commander Gustavo Alvarez Martinez Saturday was staged by a younger generation of Honduran officers dissatisfied with General Alvarez's repressive internal policies.

So say Honduran sources with close connections to the Honduran Army. These sources say that the young officers' dissatisfaction with the general's reportedly repressive acts - rather than his close connection with the United States - is at the root of his dismissal.

The dismissal comes quickly on the heels of the abductions of two prominent labor leaders, the jailing of 1,000 electrical workers, and several other acts that have been described as repressive military acts. And it comes just before another phase of joint military maneuvers with the United States is to begin.

Knowledgeable Honduran sources say the young officers were concerned that Alvarez was attempting to follow the ''Argentine model'' of repressive, neo-facist military rule of the early 1970s.

Alvarez's departure takes even highly knowledgeable Honduran and US observers by surprise. The general facilitated the growing US role in military activity in Central America, but sources do not expect relations with Washington to change after his departure. These sources speculate that some of the officers were not in step with Alvarez's strong militant stance against Nicaragua, which they perceived as being even more inflexible than Washington's.

US Embassy sources deny any previous knowledge of the Alvarez dismissal.

Some prominent Honduran observers found it hard to believe that the US was surprised by the Alvarez dismissal. They point to the close collaboration between the US and Honduran armies and to the CIA's extensive intelligence network.

US Ambassador John D. Negroponte went on radio Saturday to stress that the changes were totally within the framework of the constitution and totally democratic. He echoed the radio speech of Pres. Sauso, who described the changes as a ''consolidation of the democratic process.''

Some prominent observers believe the new younger corps of Army officers will take a more nationalistic attitude toward El Salvador, Honduras' traditional national enemy. They believe that these officers will oppose the military training of Salvadorean officers in Honduras, currently taking place at the Atlantic coast port of Puerto Castilla.

Sources point out that Alvarez's dismissal came after a wave of repression during the past two weeks.

The repression started with the disappearance of two prominent Honduransm, the secretary-general of the Electical Worker's Union and the deputy director of the National Lottery Institute.

They were reportedly abducted by military elements under Alvarez's direction.

In response to the disappearance of their leader, the electrical workers went on strike. Ten minutes after the strike ended, the special police forces broke into an electrical plant, jailing a thousand electrical workers. Though most of the workers were subsequently released, their leaders were detained.

Over the next few days, the military set up roadblocks through the country, stopping and searching vehicles.

Knowledgeable sources stress that Alvarez was not only repressive toward civilians but was heavy handed within the Army as well, thus alienating many officers.

Finally, well placed Honduran sources state that Alvarez personally participated in and tolerated ''an excessive degree of corruption.''

These observers say that although President Suazo Cordova participated in the move against Alvarez the main impetus came from the within the armed forces.

While announcing General Alvarez's resignation a government communique also announced the resignation of army chief of staff General Jose Abregado Bueso Rosa, naval chief Brig. Gen. Ruben Montoya, and Brig. Gen. Daniel Bali Castillo, head of the security forces.

Observers say this power move represents the changing of the guard from an older to a newer generation.

''It's a new generation taking over, a generation which is better educated, more sophisticated, more concerned with modernization,'' says one well-placed foreign observer who is a long-time resident of Tegucigalpa.

This observer stated that there was some speculation in Tegucigalpa, that Alvarez's removal represented only a first step and that in their desire for a more efficient and productive government, and the officers would later remove President Suazo, too. But the observer doubted that this would occur.

The only top officers remaining in power are Air Force Chief Gen. Walter Lopez Arellano, and Gen. Marco Antonio Rosales Abella, Commander of the Southern Zone, which is the border area with Nicaragua.

Several weeks before Saturday's event one foreign observerin Tegucigalpa, quoted General Alvarez as saying ''I am a tactical [short-term] instrument for US policy, not a strategic (long-term) one.''

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