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Accord in Nicaragua

Talks continued among the Central American presidents as they sought to resolve the insurgencies in El Salvador and Nicaragua. A series of summit meetings took place during 1989. The presidents agreed to a draft plan on February 14, 1989. The plan called for the demobilization and repatriation of Contra forces within ninety days, in return for elections. Nicaraguan president Daniel José Ortega Saavedra agreed to hold a February 1990 balloting. A foreign ministers' meeting also produced agreement on foreign (but non-United States) observers to supervise the demobilization.

The Central American leaders crafted the agreement largely without advice or guidance from the United States. Although the United States remained Honduras's leading supporter and ally, the United States administration gradually lost influence over events in Central America as the Esquipulas process played out. Having apparently neglected its relationship with President Azcona, the administration of George H.W. Bush (1989-93) turned to a more established connection, that between the United States government and the Honduran armed forces. Although Brigadier General López had been purged and exiled in February 1986, the armed forces maintained a pro-United States stance. After discussions with Bush administration envoys, the Honduran officer corps agreed that nonmilitary aid to the Contras should continue despite the February agreement. President Azcona, reportedly persuaded by the military, announced that humanitarian aid to the Contras would reduce the security threat to Honduras and would not violate the terms of the February 1989 agreement.

The ninety-day timetable established by the February 1989 agreement proved unworkable. In order to avoid losing momentum, the five presidents reconvened in Tela, Honduras, beginning on August 5, 1989. Once again, the presidents negotiated without input from the United States government. They produced a new schedule for Contra demobilization, with a deadline of December 5, 1989. The OAS agreed to supervise the process. Although the Bush administration expressed disapproval of the new agreement, the White House and United States Congress agreed that the Contras' aid would be cut off if the Nicaraguan rebels failed to disband; the United States Congress approved US$49.7 million in humanitarian aid to the Contras to be given through February 1990.

The December 5 deadline also proved overly optimistic. As the date approached, the Central American leaders again scheduled a summit. The first site selected was Managua. That venue changed to San José, Costa Rica, however, after the discovery of arms in the wreckage of a Nicaraguan aircraft that had crashed in El Salvador. The Salvadoran government subsequently suspended relations with Nicaragua, and an aura of conflict continued to hang over the summit. At one point, Azcona stormed out of a session after Nicaraguan president Ortega refused to drop Nicaragua's International Court of Justice suit against Honduras over the Contras' use of Honduran territory. The Nicaraguan government had previously agreed to drop the suit if the December 5 demobilization deadline were met. As the summit broke up without agreement, the Central American situation once again appeared dangerously unpredictable.

The unpredictability of events demonstrated itself once again in the Nicaraguan elections in February 1990. Contrary to most prognostications and opinion polls, opposition candidate Violeta Barrios de Chamorro handily defeated Ortega and the FSLN. Having been forced to hold free elections, the FSLN discovered that many Nicaraguans deeply resented the authoritarian rule of their revolutionary government. The Contra insurgency, which had plagued both Nicaragua and Honduras for years, slowly drew to a close.

Although Honduran president Azcona had began the process that eventually culminated in the resolution of the Nicaraguan conflict, another president would occupy the presidential palace as the Contras abandoned their camps in Honduras and marched south. The elections of November 26, 1989, were free of the makeshift electoral procedures that had rendered the 1985 balloting questionable. The PLH and PNH nominated one candidate each, rather than several. Carlos Flores Facusse, a Rodista and protégé of ex-president Suazo Córdova, won the PLH nomination and the right to oppose Rafael Leonardo Callejas, who had also carried the banner of the PNH when he lost in 1985. Callejas's convincing victory, by 50.2 to 44.5 percent, reflected public discontent with the PLH government's failure to translate increased foreign aid into improvements in the domestic economy. Callejas became the first opposition candidate to win an election in Honduras since 1932. All signs indicated that in the early 1990s, Honduras's democratic transition remained on course.

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No complete history of Honduras in English is available. Several volumes are available on the history of Central America, the best of which is Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr.'s Central America: A Nation Divided. Material on pre-Columbian Honduras can be found in John B. Glass's "Archaeological Survey of Western Honduras" in the Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 4. The period of Spanish conquest is carefully detailed in Robert S. Chamberlin's The Conquest and Colonization of Honduras, 1502-1550. Valuable material for the colonial period can be found in Murdo MacLeod's Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520-1720 and in Miles L. Wortman's Government and Society in Central America, 1680-1840. Honduras at the time of independence is well covered in Louis Bumgartner's José Cecilo del Valle of Central America.

Coverage of the nineteenth century is quite spotty. Mid-century conditions are surveyed in E. George Squier's Notes on Central America: Particularly the States of Honduras and El Salvador. There is considerable valuable material in Thomas L. Karnes's The Failure of Union: Central America, 1824-1960. There are also numerous studies of the rise of the American fruit companies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many of them polemical. The best, by far, is Karnes's Tropical Enterprise: Standard Fruit and Steamship Company in Latin America.

The pattern of United States-Honduran relations in the first third of the twentieth century is included in two volumes by Dana G. Munro, Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean, 1900-1921 and The United States and the Caribbean Republics, 1921-1933. The development of the Honduran political system, especially in the twentieth century, is covered in William S. Stokes's Honduras: An Area Study in Government. The rise of the military to political prominence is surveyed in Steve C. Ropp's "The Honduran Army in the Sociopolitical Evolution of the Honduran State." An excellent recent study is Robert MacCameron's Bananas, Labor, and Politics in Honduras, 1954-1963, which focuses on the 1954 banana workers' strike. The background to the 1969 conflict with El Salvador is covered in William H. Durham's Scarcity and Survival in Central America: Ecological Origins of tghe Soccer War; the causes, course, and results of the conflict are detailed in Thomas P. Anderson's The War of the Dispossessed: Honduras and El Salvador, 1969. Also useful is Mary Jeanne Reid Martz's The Central American Soccer War: Historical Patterns and Internal Dynamics of OAS Settlement Procedures. The immediate postwar period is described in James A. Morris's The Honduran Plan, Político de Unidad Nacional, 1971-1972: Its Origins and Demise. Morris also surveys the situation at the start of the 1980s in "Honduras: How Long an Oasis of Peace?" (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1993

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