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Updated 05/06/2009

Remembering 25 Years Ago—April 1984

April 5

Air force head Brig. Gen. Walter López Reyes is sworn in as commander in chief of the Honduran Armed Forces, replacing Gen. Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, who was ousted in a barracks coup and exiled on March 31. Álvarez headed the Honduran intelligence and security forces as well as the defense ministry. During his tenure, disappearances and other heavy-handed military tactics became a mounting concern for civilian leaders, among whom Álvarez had become highly unpopular. Even though a democratically elected civilian government had been in place since January 1982, one diplomatic observer described the Álvarez defense ministry, flush with U.S. aid, as a "military tail wagging the Democratic dog."

López pledges to keep the military subordinate to civilian rule, saying, "We will never make any attempt against the legally constituted powers. We reiterate our full subordination to the juridical institution of the state, since it is our responsibility to preserve and consolidate it." Nevertheless, López appears to have been the key military leader in a coup carried out by the military with only marginal consultation with the civilian president. And as the Honduran Congress met to vote on the general's election, A-37 jet fighter-bombers repeatedly roared over the building, which was surrounded by military-police armored cars—circumstances that congressman Efraín Díaz described as "pressure." The final vote was 78-0, with one abstention.

U.S. officials say they are pleased by the election of Lopez, who has studied in the United States and has close ties to American military officers in Honduras. "I don't consider it a coup," says a ranking U.S. Embassy official, who refuses to be further identified. "Let me be clear about this, this is a restructuring of the armed forces."

Sources

"The ouster of Gen. Alvarez." Boston Globe; April 3, 1984.

"Honduras names new military commander." New York Times; April 5, 1984.

"New Honduran commander named." Philadelphia Inquirer; April 5, 1984.

"4,000 Hondurans march to protest U.S. presence." Philadelphia Inquirer; April 6, 1984.

"In Honduras, a coup or a constitutional shakeup?" Philadelphia Inquirer; April 22, 1984.


April 6

Some 4,000 workers, students and teachers march through the streets of Tegucigalpa, chanting "Out with the gringos!" in protest of the presence of U.S. troops and military advisers in the country. Protesters say they want their government to kick out the 2,500 U.S. soldiers participating in joint military exercises with Honduran troops, and to dismantle the Regional Military Training Center, a U.S.-funded and -staffed camp near Puerto Castilla, on the Caribbean coast north of Tegucigalpa. The center provides counterinsurgency training to Salvadoran and Honduran soldiers, and—it is later learned—operates as a clandestine detention center where at least 20 individuals are held. (See June 1983 edition.)

Source

"4,000 Hondurans march to protest U.S. presence." Philadelphia Inquirer; April 6, 1984.


To read past editions, go to the Remembering 25 Years Ago archive.