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The US in HAWAII, the PHILIPPINES and LATIN AMERICA in the 1920s (4 of 6)

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The Marines to Honduras

During the World War, investments and loans from the United States to Honduras increased. US investors were replacing Germans as the dominant investors in Honduras, while there remained the investments of Syrians, Lebanese and others from the Middle East who had migrated to Honduras. A company called United Fruit, headquartered in Boston, had grown from trading in Honduras to owning land and growing bananas in the northern part of the country. United Fruit contributed to Honduras' foreign-exchange earnings. It supplied Honduras with tax revenues. United Fruit provided its Honduran workers with relatively good pay, and it built schools, hospitals and housing for the Hondurans. And United Fruit, along with the US government, developed an interest in political stability in Honduras.

Politics in Honduras involved rival cliques among the nation's well-to-do families. It was from these families that the nation's educated came, and these families were supposed to be the nation's practitioners of refinement. The well-to-do had their social clubs, which excluded Arabs and Jews. They grouped themselves around one or another military general, one general being perhaps more liberal in outlook or younger and more idealistic than an older general. Politics in Honduras had been a history of periodic war, leaving an empty national treasury.

To end its most recent civil war, the United States had sent in the Marines, bringing an end to fighting that had killed about one thousand. Those called Liberals emerged victorious. In 1919, the leader of the Liberals, General Rafael López Gutierrez, became the country's president. In the elections of 1923 none of the candidates for president won a majority of the votes, and General López tried to extend his presidency for another term. But he was assassinated, and civil war erupted again in another scramble for political power. The United Fruit Company supported a conservative, General Tiburcio Carías Andino. The United States sent in its Marines again – to protect the US legation and as a force for mediation. This war between the Hondurans left 5,000 dead, and the alliance to which the insurgent General Carías belonged emerged victorious. But, in keeping with its hostility toward leaders of coups, the United States declared that it would not recognize Carías if he were made president. A conservative ally of Carías became President while Carías remained the dominant political figure in the country and in control of the military. Then in 1928 elections were held again. Carías was the National Party's candidate but lost to Vicente Mejía Colindres of the Liberal Party. The election has been described as comparatively free and fair and there was a peaceful transfer of power between the two major parties. After the new administration took office in February 1929 it was challenged by the effects of global economic depression.

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.