Today in Latin America, the US invasion of Honduras

honduras-guerrillas

Honduras entered the US vernacular, like most Caribbean countries (islands or mainland), in 1898. After Puerto Rico was taken, and Cuba “defended,” the US often set its Latin American foreign policy around the region. It was today in 1924 (85 years ago) that United States invaded Honduras for the second time.

The first insurrection occurred in 1907, when a current-Hugo Chavez figure, José Santos Zelaya of Nicaragua decided to invade neighboring Honduras. The United States, fearing Zelaya’s control of the region, although unlikely, sent Marines to Puerto Cortés to protect its trade lines, especially the banana trade. From this event emerged the Central American Peace Conference. Some say this was the death of pan-Americanism in Latin America, as Honduras attempted to reestablish the Federation of Central America. Agreements were reached, but just after the meeting war seemed imminent again as forces tried to overthrow Honduras again.

honduras-marines-19241It is during this time, which is described in great detail by my professor Robert Holden in his book Armies Without Nations: Public Violence and State Formation in Central America, 1821-1960 (Oxford Press, 2004), that Honduras felt that to be a modern nation it had to have a strong military, a sentiment shared in that time throughout Central America. This never truly materialized, as Honduras remained the most inept armies in Central America, but this drive would come to fruition in the 1950s and 1960s, as public violence became culturally immersive.

Instability wracked Honduras. Golpe de estadas were attempted chronically against Dávila, with the United States consistently having to support the regime through the troubles. It was also during this time that United Fruit entered Honduras (1910). Followed was massive public works projects, like railways and roads for commerce. What followed, logically, was a resistance to social and political revolutions in Central America.

It was often the people who were suppressed. The merger of government and business oppressed the local inhabitants and stifled dignified work. Towns along the railway mentioned
above became company towns – payments with tokens and goods only available through the plot owners. Strikes (often for wages in actual currency and a living minimum), were some of the first in Central America, against United Fruit and its subsidiaries were crushed – often by the rising of the military.

honduras-united-fruit-workersIn order to avoid the convoluted nature of Honduran politics, in in 1920, after a brief arrangement with the US, General Rafael López Gutiérrez was “elected” president. Under Gutiérrez, there were nearly 20 coup attempts and the US was tiring of the situation. It did the same thing as 1907. Under the tutelage of US ambassadors, the presidents of Central America agreed again, in 1923, to peace.

In 1924, elections were held in Honduras with the US watching. Conservative Tiburcio Carías Andino won the majority of votes, but failed to reach 50%. The legislature, who would decide the president, was unable to select the next president. Gutiérrez made it clear that he would stay in office until new elections could be scheduled. Carías (now widely seen as in cahoots with United Fruit) declared himself president and thus, conflict began anew.

Today in 1924, a battle began in La Ceiba between Gutiérrez and Carías. The US Marines, stationed on the USS Denver outside the country, invaded to stop the violence and massive looting that occurred from the event. Gutiérrez died during this fighting and the US attempted to find someone they could put in power. The US during this time would only accept governments in the region who had been democratically elected. Agreements were made, elections were held and Miguel Paz Barahona was elected in 1925.

While tame in regards to the past US occupations, these bouts of intervention (US Marines were put on Honduran soil in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924, and, again, 1925) was important as it showed the clout the US held over Central American presidents and the business interests held that affected, negatively, the lives of Honduran workers.

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~ by Daniel on February 28, 2009.

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