HONDURAS occupies a key position in Central America in this time of regional turmoil. It shares long borders with both Nicaragua and El Salvador. It provides sanctuary and a staging area for the contras, from which they attack Nicaragua. The United States has provided Honduras with substantial funds, primarily to build up its armed forces. The US has constructed several military facilities within it, and American troops conduct frequent maneuvers in the Honduran countryside.
It is in the interests of Central America and of the United States that Honduras have governmental stability, and that it experience an orderly transition from the current regime of President Roberto Suazo C'ordova to that of the next president, to be elected in November. In a week the ruling Liberal Party will open the convention at which it is to select its nominee. Preconvention political action is fierce.
Political jockeying is old hat to Honduran politics. But the current degree of internecine political warfare, centering on who should be the Liberal Party's next presidential candidate, is more serious than politics as usual. Factions in the two main parties are involved; members are making cross-party alliances; and the legislature is wrestling for power with President Suazo C'ordova.
The depth of the struggle threatens the stability of the current government and holds the possibility of producing governmental stalemate. That, in turn, might entice the military into the fray, at least to the point of dictating a settlement among the warring factions.
The last time Honduras's armed forces were deeply involved in politics, it took the nation 20 years to move from military to civilian rule; military control ended only three years ago. For the sake of the Honduran people and the stability of an already fragile Central America, the military should not reenter the political arena. But it may find the temptation irresistible unless the political situation soon stabilizes.
During this decade the US has spent a great deal of time and money in building up the Honduran military. Less attention has been paid to the nation's political structure or to its societal needs.
The United States now should make maximum effort to persuade all political elements in the dispute to back away from confrontation. President Suazo C'ordova in particular should drop the charges of treason leveled against some 50 congressmen who defied him and tried to fire five Supreme Court justices. Politicians on all sides should sheathe their swords and let the new bipartisan commission study the dispute over the treason charges. It is a time for cool heads and sound judgment.