Honduras History After 1970
A civilian President, Ramon Cruz of the National Party, took power briefly in 1970, but proved unable to manage the government. In December 1972, Gen. Lopez staged another coup. Lopez adopted more progressive policies, including land reform, but his regime was brought down in the mid-1970s by corruption scandals.
Gen. Lopez’s successors continued armed forces modernization programs, built army and security forces, and concentrated on Honduran Air Force superiority over its neighbors. The regimes of Gen. Melgar Castro (1975-78) and Gen. Paz Garcia (1978-83) largely built the current physical infrastructure and telecommunications system of Honduras. The country also enjoyed its most rapid economic growth during this period, due to greater international demand for its products and the availability of foreign commercial lending.
Following the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979 and general instability in El Salvador at the time, the Honduran military accelerated plans to return the country to civilian rule. A constituent assembly was popularly elected in April 1980, and general elections were held in November 1981. A new constitution was approved in 1982, and the Liberal Party government of President Roberto Suazo Cordoba took office following free and fair elections.
Suazo relied on U.S. support to help during a severe economic recession which was the result of regional instability caused by the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the chaos of the brutal civil war in El Salvador. Close cooperation on political and military issues with the United States was complemented by ambitious social and economic development projects sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Honduras became host to the largest Peace Corps mission in the world, and nongovernmental and international voluntary agencies proliferated.
El Salvador and Honduras formally signed a peace treaty on October 30, 1980, which put the border dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
As the November 1985 election approached, the Liberal Party had difficulty settling on a candidate, and interpreted election law as permitting multiple presidential candidates from one party. The Liberal Party claimed victory when its presidential candidates, who received 42% of the vote, collectively outpolled the National Party candidate, Rafael Leonardo Callejas. Jose Azcona Hoyo, the candidate receiving the most votes among the Liberals, assumed the presidency in January 1986. With the endorsement of the Honduran military, the Azcona administration ushered in the first peaceful transfer of power between civilian presidents in more than 30 years.
Four years later, Rafael Callejas won the presidential election, taking office in January 1990. Callejas concentrated on economic reform, reducing the deficit, and taking steps to deal with an overvalued exchange rate and major structural barriers to investment. He began the movement to place the military under civilian control and laid the groundwork for the creation of the public ministry (attorney general’s office).
In September 1992, the border dispute between Honduras and El Salvador reached a culmination, as the Court awarded most of the disputed territory to Honduras.
Despite the Callejas administration’s economic reforms, the nation’s fiscal deficit ballooned during his last year in office. Growing public dissatisfaction with the rising cost of living and with widespread government corruption led voters in 1993 to elect Liberal Party candidate Carlos Roberto Reina over National Party contender Oswaldo Ramos Soto, with Reina winning 56% of the vote.
President Reina, elected on a platform calling for a “moral revolution,” actively prosecuted corruption and pursued those responsible for human rights abuses in the 1980s. He created a modern attorney general’s office and an investigative police force, and was successful in increasing civilian control over the armed forces and transferring the police from military to civilian authority.
Reina also restored national fiscal health by substantially increasing Central Bank net international reserves, reducing inflation, restoring economic growth, and, perhaps most importantly, holding down spending.
In January 1998, Honduras and El Salvador signed a border demarcation treaty to implement the terms of the ICJ decree although delays continue due to technical difficulties. Honduras and El Salvador maintain normal diplomatic and trade relations; however, they continue to disagree over the status of their maritime borders in the Gulf of Fonseca.