BECK index

Honduras 1850-1935

by Sanderson Beck

   Honduras 1850-1909
   Honduras 1910-23
   Honduras & Carías 1924-32
   Honduras & Dictator Carías 1933-35

Honduras 1850-1909

Honduras 1839-50

      In November 1849 commissioners from Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua met at León and agreed on a union. On December 29 Felipe Jáuregui, claiming to be a commissioner for Honduras, agreed to a convention with British envoy Frederick Chatfield at San Jose, Costa Rica; but the government of Honduras disavowed the treaty on 22 March 1850. General Santos Guardiola was influenced by aristocrats in Guatemala and by the British Chatfield, and his announcement at Tegucigalpa on 12 February 1850 persuaded the Honduras President Juan Lindo (1847-52) to flee and ask for help from El Salvador and Nicaragua. Guardiola had little foreign assistance, and on March 25 he submitted to Lindo’s government. In August 1850 the British warship Bermuda claimed several islands of the north coast of Honduras that they named the Colony of the Bay Islands. Chief magistrate William Fitzgibbon protested this on September 15 for the sovereignty of Honduras because Britain and the United States in their treaty on April 19 had agreed that neither would have settlements or colonies in Central America. The US defended the rights of Honduras against the British claim. The union of Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua went into effect on 9 January 1851.
      In late 1851 Honduras elected the liberal General and War Minister Trinidad Cabañas who became President of Honduras on 1 March 1852. He had good relations with his neighbors except for Guatemala. Honduras on March 27 recognized a debt to the British of $80,000. The national constituent congress of Honduras met at Tegucigalpa on October 9. They elected Trinidad Cabañas supreme chief, and the executive also included Pedro Molina as vice chief, four senators, and two ministers of state. Fear of dictatorship led the assemblies of El Salvador and Nicaragua to declare their independence.
      General Guardiola got aid from Guatemala’s President Rafael Carrera, and General Juan López backed their revolt with 700 men. On 6 July 1855 they overthrew Cabañas who found refuge in El Salvador. The ill Vice President José Santiago Bueso let Senator Francisco Aguilar take charge. General Santos Guardiola was elected and became President on 17 February 1856, and he came back from fighting the American filibuster William Walker in Nicaragua. Guardiola was considered a tool of Guatemala’s President Rafael Carrera, and he made peace with Guatemala and settled issues with the British. After many years of disputes and negotiations Honduras on 28 November 1859 agreed to a treaty with Britain regarding the Bay Islands, the Mosquito Indians, and the claims of British subjects. President Guardiola was re-elected and served until he was assassinated on 11 January 1862. José Francisco Montes was Acting President for 24 days.
      Vice President Victoriano Castellanos was in El Salvador, and the Liberal Senator Gerard Barrios persuaded him to return to Honduras. Castellanos became Provisional President on February 4, and he renamed the State of Honduras the “Republic of Honduras.” He approved the building of schools. He died on December 11. Acting President José Francisco Montes continued the alliance with El Salvador in opposition to Guatemala and Nicaragua until troops from those two countries helped the serviles overthrow him on 21 June 1863.
      They made Senator José María Medina Acting President on September 7, and he outlawed Montes. On 15 February 1864 Medina was elected with Florencio Xatruch as Vice President. Medina became President on March 15. He convened a Constituent Assembly in 1865, and they produced a reformed constitution on September 18. Before adjourning they also decreed amnesty for all political offenses committed since February 1848. Medina was re-elected, and his second term began on 1 February 1870. On September 1 Honduras and Nicaragua agreed on a convention to solve their boundary dispute. From 1870 to 1949 Hondurans were killed in 146 military conflicts.
      After negotiation with El Salvador failed, President Medina suspended the treaties between the two nations. He complained that Salvadorans interrupted the interoceanic railway across Honduras. Medina had his army occupy Sensuntepeque on 17 March 1870 and then Ilobasco. El Salvador’s President Francisco Dueñas sent forces led by General Tomás Martinez that were repulsed at Ilobasco. General Santiago Gonzalez led the Hondurans and rebelling Salvadorans, and they occupied San Vicente on the 19th. Reserves revolted against Dueñas, and he surrendered at Santa Ana on 10 April 1871. Then troops that El Salvador’s Acting President Florencio Xatruch had raised deserted him, and on May 11 he declared he was leaving the country.
      On 25 March 1872 President Medina broke off relations with El Salvador, and that nation and Guatemala declared war and invaded Honduras. Medina’s General Velez was defeated, and towns revolted against Medina. Salvadorans occupied the Honduran capital at Comayagua, and Medina’s attempt to recaptured it was repelled on May 27. Céleo Arias formed a provisional government, and a Salvadoran general gave Omoa to the Arias government on July 20. On that day Arias with his allies El Salvador and Guatemala defeated Medina at Potrerillos and then in Santa Barbara on the 26th, the day Céleo Arias became President. Medina escaped with six officers to Omoa. Medina and two ministers were captured and excluded from the full amnesty decreed for all political offenses from 5 March 1871 to 1 November 1872.
      A decree on November 15 canceled the 1865 constitution and promised all the rights of republican institutions unless there is a public disturbance. A convention on 17 March 1873 met to write a new constitution, and elections were scheduled for the last Sunday in April. Guatemala was troubled, and conservatives landed at Trujillo in Honduras. President Arias declared martial law and claimed dictatorial power which people had offered him in July 1872. The presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador urged Arias to resign. On 19 August 1873 the British warship Niobe bombarded Fort San Fernando of Omoa because Honduran troops had sacked the residence of the British Vice Consul and stole goods worth $100,000 from the British. The provisional president Ponciano Leiva formed a government at Choluteca on November 23, and he pronounced all the acts of Arias nullified on December 8.
      On 6 January 1874 Leiva and his allies besieged Comayagua, and one week later Arias and his ministers and supporters capitulated. Former President Medina was released, recognized the government of Leiva, and went to live in La Paz. A constituent congress confirmed Leiva as provisional president on January 13, restored the 1865 constitution, and sent Arias into exile for five years. Conservatives won the elections, and a new congress was installed on 20 January 1875. On February 1 Leiva was inaugurated as a constitutional President.
      On December 21 the former president Medina began a revolt at Gracias and proclaimed that he was provisional president. El Salvador and Guatemala sent forces to support him, but on 15 February 1876 the presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala intervened to stop the revolution in Honduras. Rebels had captured the capital at Comayagua, though Leiva’s forces won a major victory at Naranjo.
      El Salvador mediated a peace treaty at Los Cedros on June 8, and five days later Crescencio Gómez became provisional president. On August 12 he offered the office to Medina, and he declined and suggested that they get the liberal Marco Aurelio Soto. He was in Amapala and announced on August 27 that he would be fair and friendly. Other governments recognized Soto, and people could enjoy peace. On May 27 President Soto described for Congress what his administration had accomplished in the previous nine months. In the 1877 elections only 7.2% of Hondurans could vote, and Soto was elected. A liberal constitution was promulgated, and he became a constitutional President. Later in the year Medina and some Salvadoran officers attempted another rebellion, and they were convicted by a court martial of high treason and were sentenced to death. Medina and General Ezequiel Marin were executed on 8 February 1878. Honduras renewed relations with Costa Rica and was friendly with all Central American nations.
      The capital of Honduras was moved to Tegucigalpa on 2 November 1880, and Soto was re-elected President in December. In his inaugural address in 1881 he said,

   The State will do everything possible to increase
the welfare and development of the country,
stimulating progress in agriculture, industry and trade,
attracting immigration, colonizing arid land,
building railroads and highways,
helping new industries and establishing lending institutions,
bringing in foreign capital,
and canalizing and utilizing the rivers and lakes,
through laws to protect these ends
and through concessions and incentives.1

On 15 September 1882 Honduras approved a plan to unify Central America. Finances were balanced; public education advanced; justice was being administered; agriculture was making progress; trade was increasing; and mining had attracted capitalists. Soto and Luis Bográn bought shares in new mining companies and encouraged the industry. President Soto in March 1883 wanted to retire because of health problems, and he was given a leave of absence. He chose Enrique Gutierrez, Luis Bográn, and Rafael Alvarado to be executive officers. Soto in October sent in his resignation from San Francisco, California.
      Conservative Luis Bográn became President on 30 November 1883, and he was re-elected and served for eight years. His presidency maintained peace, expanded education, attracted foreign investment, improved infrastructure, promoted research and investigation, and he founded the National Party of Honduras. His government’s slogan was “Peace, progress, and roads.”
      Ponciano Leiva was also a Conservative. He was Minister of War under Bográn and was elected to succeed him in 1891. The threat of a revolution persuaded President Leiva to resign on 7 August 1893. Conservative Domingo Vásquez became President of Honduras which was defeated by Nicaragua in a war.
      José Policarpo Bonilla was a lawyer and had worked for President Soto. Bonilla started the newspaper El Bien Publico on 31 October 1890, and he helped found the Liberal Party of Honduras in February 1891. In November he had lost to Leiva in the presidential election. Nicaragua’s President José Santos Zelaya supported Policarpo Bonilla, and from Nicaragua he invaded Honduras in December 1893 and set up a government on the 24th that Zelaya recognized the next day. Policarpo Bonilla’s forces besieged Tegucigalpa for several weeks, and he was appointed President on 22 February 1894. He scheduled elections for a constituent assembly. The Assembly met in June and approved a new constitution that was promulgated on October 14 and prohibited presidents from running for re-election. Supreme Court judges were to be elected directly by voters. In the presidential elections in December the Liberal Policarpo Bonilla received 98% of the votes. He was inaugurated on 1 February 1895 and served for four years.
      President Policarpo Bonilla was succeeded by the Liberal Terencio Sierra Romero. When Sierra illegally tried to get re-elected for another term in 1902, General Manuel Bonilla got the most votes; but Congress rejected him because he was an outlaw, and they made the Liberal Vice President Juan Ángel Arias Boquín the President of Honduras on 1 February 1903. On April 13 Major General Manuel Bonilla of the National Party overthrew Arias Boquín. Manuel Bonilla had been Liberal Vice President 1895-99, and Manuelistas had founded the National Party on 27 February 1902. Manuel Bonilla as a Nationalist became President on 13 April 1903, and he appointed Lee Christmas chief of the police. Manuel Bonilla granted concessions to the United Fruit Company and supported the mining industry. When Liberals opposed his government, he sent the Police Chief Christmas to arrest them and to close the Congress. Manuel Bonilla promoted education in rural areas. He kept the peace with other Central American nations and let arbitration settle the border dispute with Nicaragua. His exiled opponents in Nicaragua invaded Honduras in late 1906. Nicaragua’s President Zelaya supported them, and the Honduran rebels occupied Tegucigalpa and made the Liberal Miguel Oquelí Bustillo the Provisional President on 25 February 1907.
      Miguel Rafael Dávila became President on 18 April 1907, and an attempt to overthrow him failed in 1908. US President Taft in 1909 was concerned that Honduras had a debt of $120 million, and he arranged loans by New York bankers led by J. P. Morgan with 5% bonds. On 10 March 1909 miners in San Juancito went on strike to demand higher pay, better treatment, and safe working conditions. In 1909 the United States sent the cruiser Tacoma to Honduras, and at the Bay of Trujillo that ship captured the rebel ship Hornet.

Honduras 1910-23

      Sam Zemurray bought 5,000 acres in 1910 and started the Cuyamel Fruit Company in 1911. The north coast still did not have railroad access, and they imported laborers from the West Indies and El Salvador. In 1910 President Dávila said,

Vain indeed will all the propaganda in favor of peace be
as long as the caudillos, the shapers of public opinion,
remain examples that contradict the propaganda.
The generations transmit from one to another the instinct
for revolts, and the passage of many years of peace
are needed for the love of work to draw Hondurans
away from the demented and personalist politics that,
diverting their moral sense, demands
the blood of brothers constantly and on any pretext.
A long period of peace is indispensable
so that the generations of the future
educate themselves in another school,
so that they live in another intellectual environment
and form a true concept of la patria.2

In July 1910 the former President Manuel Bonilla and Lee Christmas led an attack on the north coast that was backed by Guatemala’s President Estrada Cabrera. Bonilla’s American friends obtained the converted yacht Hornet, and they landed near Trujillo on 10 January 1911.
      On that day President Miguel Rafael Dávila signed the Paredes-Knox Convention with the US and American banks. Dávila asked the Congress to ratify that Convention and the loan contract. When a large majority in the Congress rejected them, the United States stopped aiding the fight against the revolution. The United States sent warships to the north coast of Honduras to protect Americans and their property. They ordered Bonilla not to use the Hornet for military purposes. Bonilla objected so defiantly that the commander of the USS Marietta had the Hornet seized on January 21 while Americans from warships and a British ship established a neutral zone to protect foreigners and civilians at La Ceiba which Bonilla attacked on January 25.
      President Rafael Dávila had been the Minister of Finance, and on January 28 he cabled to US President Taft the following message:

Government is resolved to approve loan contract
and convention, but to do this there must be
a suspension of hostilities so as to avoid further bloodshed.
If your Excellency can lend your valuable intervention
to stop the war the Government and people of Honduras
will have one more reason to be grateful
to the United States and its President for the great interest
shown in the peace and prosperity of this country.3

      On 31 January 1911 President Dávila asked the Congress to approve the loan treaty, but the deputies rejected it 33 to 5. Later most deputies signed a statement that they opposed the treaty because it would violate the constitution and transform Honduras “from a free country into an administrative dependency of the United States.4 Also on the 31st the US advised an armistice and offered to mediate a peace. Thomas C. Dawson presided when the peace conference met on February 21. A New Orleans grand jury had indicted Bonilla, Christmas, and others for violating US neutrality laws. Both sides became skeptical.
      On March 1 Dawson believed that the government party of Honduras hated Americans and had dissensions which meant they could not regain the north coast without US aid. The US Secretary of State Jacob Dickinson told Dawson to use influence to get the best candidate for Honduras. Dawson on March 3 selected Francisco Bertrand, who was proposed by revolutionaries. Dávila approved, and the Congress elected Bertrand first designate so that he would succeed when Dávila and the Vice President resigned. The peace agreement called for a general amnesty, a free election, and a provisional government of both parties.
      Rebels took over ports on the north coast, and President Dávila sent forces there to regain them; but the United States declared the ports neutral zones where no fighting was permitted. US diplomats mediated between the representatives of Manuel Bonilla and Dávila from February 21 to March 15 when they agreed. Dávila resigned on March 28, and Francisco Bertrand was named Provisional President. Presidential elections were held, and Manuel Bonilla was elected with Francisco Bográn, brother of the late ex-president Luis Bográn, as Vice President. Bertrand was President until 1 February 1912 when Manuel Bonilla was inaugurated. Bertrand was also a Nationalist, and he served as Vice President.
      When President Manuel Bonilla died on 21 March 1913, Francisco Bertrand became President and governed until 9 September 1919. He had been known for being conciliatory, but President Bertrand used force against his political opponents.
      On 17 September 1914 the US Minister John Ewing in Tegucigalpa wrote the State Department that “the United Fruit Company and its subsidiaries and its railroad connections” and privileges enables them

to enter actively into the internal politics of these countries,
and it has pursued this course so systematically
and regularly until it now has its ramifications
in every department of the government
and is a most important factor
in all political movements and actions….
President [Bertrand] and some of his Cabinet are
chafing under its domination but feel themselves too weak
to act contrary to its demands
unless assured of the support of our Government.5

During the Great War (1914-18) in Europe the Central Americans enjoyed relative peace.
      Rafael Salvador López Gutiérrez became a lawyer, worked his way up in the military to general, was Minister of War twice and Vice President. In 1919 the Liberal Party nominated him for president. President Bertrand in March founded the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, and he endorsed his brother-in-law Nazario Soriano of the National Party. In the general elections in April the relatively unknown Soriana was declared the winner. Many believed the election was fixed. In June the confidential agent of the US State Department Edward W. Ames advised

the U.S. government to say politely but firmly
to President Bertrand that we put him where he is,
that we expected certain things of him,
that he is not meeting these expectations
and that we, therefore, want him to step down and out
for the obvious good of his country.6

      In July 1919 President Bertrand suspended civil rights, and the political opponents rebelled led by General López Gutiérrez. His brother Antonio López Gutiérrez was the Minister in Washington, and he asked the US State Department to supervise free elections in Honduras. Bertrand proclaimed himself dictator, and he arrested Mayor Tosta of the Plaza de Intibucá. Allies released Tosta, and other military officers swore to remove Bertrand and join General Gutiérrez in the First Honduran Civil War. Rebels in the west took over La Esperanza and Intibucá on July 25. Four days later revolutionary forces captured the Plaza de Cedros. Gutiérrez led rebels who defeated government forces in the center of Honduras. The Revolutionary Army of the West besieged Santa Rosa and captured the city on August 16. The Revolutionary Army of the East was led by three generals, and in September they fought the garrisons of Danli. They were victorious, and they freed those who promised to stop fighting for the dictator.
      On September 9 President Bertrand resigned and left for the United States. For one week the Minister of Government Salvador Aguirre was in command. General Gutiérrez in command of the Revolutionary Army entered Tegucigalpa on September 17. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vicente Mejía Colindres, was Acting President until October 5. The National Congress made the Liberal Dr. Francisco Bográn Barahona, who was not involved in the civil war, the Provisional President on October 5, and he called for general elections.
      The Liberal General Rafael López Gutiérrez was elected President in October, and he was inaugurated on 1 February 1920 and served until 10 March 1924. Artisans organized the Honduran Workers’ Federation in 1921. In August 1922, the presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador met on the USS Tacoma in the Gulf of Fonseca, and they planned a conference in Washington. In December the five Central American nations sent delegates to the conference, and in February 1923 they signed the Central American Treaty of Peace and Amity with 11 supplemental conventions. They promised not to recognize governments that had taken power by force of arms. In the October elections no candidate for president had a majority of the votes. The Legislature of Honduras was unable to obtain even a quorum to meet. President Gutiérrez said he would continue in office until another election was held; but he did not set a date, and he assumed dictatorial power.

Honduras & Carías 1924-32

      Tiburcio Carías Andino was born in Tegucigalpa on 15 March 1876. His father Calixto Carías was a successful businessman and a local politician in the Liberal Party who organized alliances and militias in the 1880s and 1890s. Early in 1893 Tiburcio and his father supported a military campaign against the Conservative President Domingo Vásquez, and they fled to Nicaragua. Tiburcio studied law and political science at the Central University of Honduras and graduated in 1898. In his master’s thesis “Has the Appearance of Machines Improved the Conditions of the Needy?” in 1900 he recognized that workers would lose jobs. Yet new jobs would be created, and he urged applying machine technology wisely while protecting workers. In the winter of 1901-02 he went into exile with his father in El Salvador. Tiburcio Carías taught at a high school there and then math, algebra, and geometry at a secondary school in Tegucigalpa.
      When the Nationalist Manuel Bonilla was elected President in 1903, Calixto and Tiburcio returned to El Salvador. They began recruiting and training militias for political purposes in 1907, and that year they went to Nicaragua to support the liberal President José Santos Zelaya. They gathered weapons to help the Liberal Policarpo Bonilla against the conservative Manuel Bonilla. During the presidency of the Liberal Miguel Dávila in 1907-11 Tiburcio Carías held several administrative positions and worked with local and regional leaders. In the militias he began as a lieutenant and rose to a colonel. He fought for the liberals in the battle at Lizapa in 1907 and was made a general. He was appointed Governor of the Copán Department for one year, and in August he issued a monthly report as their first gaceta municipal. Carías was appointed the political chief and military commander in Puerto Cortés on the north coast. On 5 April 1908 he founded the Society of Craftsmen El Porvenir and became its first president. In 1911 Tiburcio Carías defended the north coast from Manuel Bonilla’s rebels who wanted to make Manuel president.
      General Carías became famous for fighting in the civil war of 1919. When the National Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice President, Alberto Membreño, died in February 1921, Carías became the party’s leader. In 1922 he renamed them the National Party with headquarters in Tegucigalpa. In April 1923 the Central Committee made Carías their candidate for president with Miguel Paz Barahona for vice president. Barahona was a better speaker and did most of the campaigning. Carías was accused of getting money from the United Fruit Company to buy weapons in the United States and to use their boats for the military forces. In the 1923 election Carías won a plurality with 49,591 votes, which was 47%, to 33% for the Liberal Constitutionalist Policarpo Bonilla and 19% for the Liberal Ángel Arias Boquín. In the Congress the Liberals had 18 deputies to 15 for the National Party and 9 for Policarpo Bonilla’s party.
      Congress could not agree on any candidate, and in January 1924 General Tiburcio Carías led a revolt that caused a civil war for two months, declaring a War of Revindication against the government of López Gutiérrez who had stayed in office. Government troops and the rebels began fighting in La Ceiba on February 28. Carías had his friend Carlos Izaguirre fly a rented airplane and bomb military barracks in Tegucigalpa. Carías was Chief of the Revolution from 24 March 1924 to April 28 and was President of Honduras during the last four days of April.
      United States Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes sent a US Navy Squadron that put ships in Honduran waters, and US Marines landed to protect the US Embassy. The diplomat Sumner Welles arrived on April 20 to represent the US President Calvin Coolidge. On the 27th Welles proposed a peace treaty at a conference on the US cruiser Milwaukee. Government delegates said they no longer had authority. Welles claimed the war had ended, and he persuaded them to sign a peace treaty on May 3. They agreed to make the revolutionary General Vicente Tosta the Interim President. He promised to form a cabinet of all parties and to convene a Constituent Assembly within 90 days. General Gregorio Ferrera led a revolt that began on August 6 and caused much destruction for four months. President Tosta’s government survived. In the Second Honduran Civil War of 1924 about 5,000 people died.
      Presidential elections would be held, and Tosta said he would not run. The United States extended an embargo to add pressure for the election, and the leading candidate Carías was persuaded to withdraw. The National Party nominated Miguel Paz Barahona, and the Liberal Party refused to participate. The second election held on 28-30 December 1924 was without a Liberal candidate, and the National Party’s Barahona received 92% of the votes. The National Party won all but one of the 47 seats in the Congress. Miguel Paz Barahona was inaugurated on 1 February 1925, and he served for four years. The government of Honduras had lost money on railroad projects, and its debt had become almost £30 million.
      Carías worked on building up the National Party, and in the contested October 1926 elections he managed congressional campaigns. The National Party lost ten seats but still retained a majority with 36 of the 46 seats. On 26 May 1925 many labor unions had joined to form the Federation of Northern Workers’ Societies, and they gathered at a Unity Congress in November. They endorsed the Liberal Vicente Mejía Colindres in the 1928 elections. Because President Barahona was neutral, these elections were the freest in Honduras so far.
      In the general elections on 28 October 1928 the Liberal Party united behind Vicente Mejía Colindres who got 62,319 votes or 57% to 47,945 votes or 47% for the National Party’s Tiburcio Carías. In congressional elections the Liberals gained 15 seats; but the Nationalist Party, which lost 10 seats, still had a 26-21 advantage. Carías conceded defeat and made a pact with the new President to cooperate on economic issues. In 1929 the United Fruit Company bought its main competitor, Zemurray’s Cuyamel Fruit Company. Honduras had become the top exporter of bananas in the world. President Mejía Colindres was criticized for making secret deals with the United Fruit Company which allowed them to use national waters while not paying any taxes or fees. Mejía Colindres set up Juntas Patrioticas with representatives of the Liberal and National parties in each department to assure fair elections.
      The 1930 census counted 854,184 people in Honduras. Tegucigalpa had about 40,000, and most people lived in rural areas. In the October election Carías was elected to Congress, and his National Party and the Liberal Party each had 23 seats. Honduras and Guatemala agreed on a treaty, and arbitration would settle their boundary dispute by 1933.
      The fruit companies had focused production on low-cost divisions, and that helped delay the Depression in Honduras to 1931. That year Congress shut down an unauthorized railway branch of the United Fruit Company. Congress accepted the control of the United Fruit Company by its lawyer Plutarco Muñoz and agreed to their demands. At the beginning of 1932 strikes began in the three big banana companies on the North Coast. Dock workers stopped loading fruit on 3 January 1932 after the Tela Railroad Company lowered wages from 25 cents to 17 cents an hour. The next day railroad workers joined the strike. On January 8 workers agreed to 20 cents an hour, and the strike ended. The strike at the Standard Fruit Company began on January 17. President Mejía Colindres sent troops and appointed two generals to mediate, and the strike ended on February 10 without any major changes. In February strikes on banana plantations challenged the Trujillo Railroad Company. The United Fruit Company arranged loans from the Canal Bank and Trust Co. of New Orleans. Public salaries were postponed as the floating debt rose to 8.1 million lempiras by 1933.
      Tiburcio Carías was president of the National Congress in 1926-29 and 1930-31. During the campaign of 1932 US officials and company spies tried to connect the Liberal Angel Zúñiga Huete to Communists while the United Fruit Company backed Carías and the National Party. Juan Pablo Wainwright joined the Communist Party in El Salvador in 1928, escaped from the prison in Omoa, Honduras in 1930, was arrested in Guatemala in January 1932 and was executed on February 18. Gregorio Ferrera in western Honduras campaigned against President Mejía Colindres for having granted land to the United Fruit Company, and Ferrera was killed on 27 June 1931. Many of his followers turned from Mejía Colindres to support Carías.
      In 1924 and 1928 Carías had campaigned using a slogan for peace. Prior to the 1932 election he had officers loyal to him use expeditionary forces to maintain peace in the country. In early autumn he deployed forces and used airplanes to find rebels. The National Party had 500 clubs in Honduras. In the presidential election on 28 October 1932 Carías received 81,211 votes to 61,643 for Zúñiga Huete, and the National Party gained a 43 to 13 advantage over the Liberals in the Congress. Liberal forces captured the San Pedro Sula garrison on November 11, and a few days later the National forces took it back. El Salvador’s President Martínez shipped by air to Carías 500,000 11-mm cartridges, and Carías offered to recognize El Salvador’s government. He sent two pilots to the United States to buy two airplanes so that they could put down revolts.

Honduras & Dictator Carías 1933-35

      Tiburcio Carías was President of Honduras from 1 February 1933 to 31 December 1948. Some liberals revolted before his inauguration. President Carías got weapons from El Salvador and suppressed the uprising. In his inaugural address he said,

Frequent wars, unjustified factionalism,
periodic administrative anarchy,
disorder of public services has created
a situation in the country lamented by all Hondurans.
Our duty, the obligation of all Hondurans
is to end this sad situation.7

He promised national reconstruction, fiscal reform, political stability, and order. In the fall of 1932 and the spring of 1933 Carías used the telegraph to put loyalists in local positions and to end the “War of the Traitors.” In late 1932 he formed the mounted police, and in 1933 he established a presidential honor guard with 9 officers and 32 enlisted men.
      Vice President Abraham Williams supervised the National Police and the Ministries of Security, Justice, and Government. Carías appointed the lawyer Juan Manuel Gálvez the Minister of War, Navy, and Aviation. He had worked for several US banana companies in the 1920s, had shares in several banana companies, and had represented the “banana man” Samuel Zemurray. Gálvez also had worked for the San Pedro Sula municipality, and he had been President Barahona’s private secretary. Gálvez would help get loans from the United Fruit Company. Julio Lozano had been an accountant for banana companies, and he was appointed Minister of Finance. Carías chose the 78-year-old supreme court judge Salvador Aguirre to be Minister of Development, Agriculture, and Labor. The supreme court judge Antonio Bermúdez had been an attorney for an American fruit enterprise, and he became Minister of Foreign Relations. Vicente Cácares Hernández was called the “czar” of Public Education.
      Carías said that his idea of “blessed peace” was to kill and imprison labor leaders and social activists. A paramilitary force from the National Party manipulated politics, and any opposition was considered foreign-backed subversion. In 1935 he made military service mandatory. Banana exports fell sharply in the Great Depression, and in 1935 epidemics of Panama disease and Black sigatoka ruined banana farms. By the time they found a cure in 1937, the market had moved to other countries. President Carías built up the military especially the air force while managing to keep spending below revenues. The Military Aviation School under an American commandant had begun in 1934. Two small loans were paid off by 1935. By then Carías had extended the telegraph system to towns in every department. He tried to suppress the Liberal Party, and Honduras banned the Communist Party. The Liberal Party began losing seats in the Congress and in municipalities.


1. Honduras: Portrait of a Captive Nation ed. Nancy Peckenham and Annie Street, p. 24.
2. Armies Without Nations: Public Violence and State Formation in Central America, 1821-1960 by Robert H. Holden, p. 73-74.
3. Honduras: Portrait of a Captive Nation ed. Nancy Peckenham and Annie Street, p. 58.
4. Ibid., p. 68.
5. Reinterpreting the Region and State in Banana Republic Honduras, 1870-1972 by Darío A. Euraque, p. 44.
6. Ibid.
7. Tiburcio Carias: Portrait of a Honduran Political Leader by Thomas J. Dodd, p. 5.

Copyright © 2023 by Sanderson Beck

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