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Honduras Government - History

Honduras Government - History

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The 1982 constitution provides for a strong executive, a unicameral National Congress, and a judiciary appointed by the National Congress. The president is directly elected to a 4-year term by popular vote. The congress also serves a 4-year term; congressional seats are assigned the parties' candidates in proportion to the number of votes each party receives.
PresidentMaduro, Ricardo
First Vice Pres.Williams, Vicente
Second Vice Pres.De Lopez, Armida
Third Vice Pres.Diaz, Alberto
Min. of Agriculture & LivestockJimenez, Mariano
Min. of Culture, Arts, & SportsBatres, Mireya
Min. of DefenseBreve, Federico
Min. of EducationAvila, Carlos
Min. of FinanceAlvarado, Arturo
Min. of Foreign RelationsPerez-Cadalso Arias, Guillermo Augusto
Min. of Industry & CommerceGarcia, Norman
Min. of Interior & JusticeHernandez Alcerro, Jorge Ramon
Min. of LaborLeitzelar, German
Min. of Natural Resources & EnvironmentPanting, Patricia
Min. of the PresidencyCosenza, Luis
Min. of Public Employees' Retirement & Pension (INJUPEMP)Lupiac, David Mendoza
Min. of Public HealthLizardo, Elias
Min. of Public Works, Transportation, & HousingCarranza, Jorge
Min. of SecurityAlvarez, Oscar
Min. of TourismDe Pierrefeu, Thiery
Min. Without Portfolio (health sector)Vargas, Carlos
Min. Without Portfolio (housing sector)Kafati, Johnny
Min. Without Portfolio (investment promotion sector)Atala, Camilo
Min. Without Portfolio (public service sector)Kafati, Eduardo
Min. Without Portfolio (strategic affairs and communication sector)Medina, Ramon
Pres., Central BankMondragon de Villar, Maria Elena
Ambassador to the USCanahuati, Mario Miguel
Permanent Representative to the UN, New YorkAcosta Bonilla, Manuel


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Honduras, officially Republic of Honduras, Spanish República de Honduras, country of Central America situated between Guatemala and El Salvador to the west and Nicaragua to the south and east. The Caribbean Sea washes its northern coast, the Pacific Ocean its narrow coast to the south. Its area includes the offshore Caribbean department of the Bay Islands. The capital is Tegucigalpa (with Comayagüela), but—unlike most other Central American countries—another city, San Pedro Sula, is equally important industrially and commercially, although it has only half the population of the capital.

The bulk of the population of Honduras lives a generally isolated existence in the mountainous interior, a fact that may help to explain the rather insular policy of the country in relation to Latin and Central American affairs. Honduras, like its neighbours in the region, is a developing nation whose citizens are presented with innumerable economic and social challenges, a situation that is complicated by rough topography and the occasional violence of tropical weather patterns, including the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.


Honduras (/hɒnˈdjʊərəs, -ˈdʊər-/ , /-æs/ Spanish: [onˈduɾas] (About this soundlisten)), officially the Republic of Honduras (Spanish: República de Honduras), is a country in Central America. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Honduras is divided into 18 departments. The capital city is Tegucigalpa in the Central District within the department of Francisco Morazán.

  • Atlántida
  • Choluteca
  • Colón
  • Comayagua
  • Copán
  • Cortés
  • El Paraíso
  • Francisco Morazán
  • Gracias a Dios
  • Intibucá
  • Islas de la Bahía
  • La Paz
  • Lempira
  • Ocotepeque
  • Olancho
  • Santa Bárbara
  • Valle
  • Yoro

A new administrative division called ZEDE (Zonas de empleo y desarrollo económico) was created in 2013. ZEDEs have a high level of autonomy with their own political system at a judicial, economic and administrative level, and are based on free market capitalism.

Honduras was under Spanish colonial rule from the 15 th century until 1821 when – following a rapid decline in Spanish influence, Spain decided to grant independence to all its Central American colonies. Modern Honduras is a constitutional democracy with a US style presidential system of government.

Like most Latin American States, Honduras has had a history characterized by an alternation of military and civilian rulers. Because the constitutions were mostly designed to serve the interests of the different rulers, they were changed as many times as power changed hands and therefore had very short lives.

Constitutional development between 1825-1894

Constitutional developments during this period saw the adoption of four constitutions. The first one in 1825 and considered to be Honduras first constitution was adopted within the framework of the United Provinces of Central America – a loose federation of states made up at the time of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The 1825 Constitutions, like that of most Latin American Countries of the day reflected strong Spanish tradition- creating three branches of government. It was replaced in 1839 by a new constitution, following Honduras’s separation from the Union to become independennt. The constitution emphasized the protection of individual rights. Another constitution in 1865 guaranteed the right of habeas corpus. In 1880, a new constitution introduced many new features to the Honduran political system, including the principle of municipal autonomy and the state's role in promoting economic development. Separation of church and state was also an important feature

Another constitution promulgated under the presidency of Policarpo Bonilla Vásquez in 1894 and considered its most progressive abolished capital punishment. This constitution served as a model for future constitutions despite not being implemented for the most part.

Constitutional developments between 1924 and 1982

Although it was hardly implemented in full, the 1894 constitution remained in place until 1924 when a new constitution was adopted. The 1924 constitution introduced new social and labor provisions, and attempted to expand legislative power vis-à-vis the executive. These reforms were curtailed when in 1939 and, a new charter promulgated under the dictatorship of Tiburcio Carías Andino reinforced executive powers.

In 1957 under the presidency of Ramón Villeda Morales, a new constitution was promulgated and established a separate body as a constitutional institution, to manage electoral processes. With the establishment of military rule under Colonel Osvaldo López Arellano in 1967, another constitution was adopted and remained in force through 1982 when another constitution was adopted.

The 1982 Constitution

Following decades of military rule, a Constituent Assembly was convened in 1982 and drafted what has remained to this day Honduras’ fundamental law, despite 26 amendments to it. Although it provides for most of the political institutions and processes remniscent of the previous charters, it has been described as Honduras’ most advanced constitution. It provides for a republican, democratic and representative government composed of the legislative, executive and judiciary. Although it establishes that these branches are complementary, independent, and not subordinate to each other, the practice shows that the executive branch has occupied centre stage dominating the other two branches of government.


Mayan civilization Edit

Pre-Columbian Honduras was populated by a complex mixture of indigenous peoples representing a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and linguistic groups—the most advanced and notable of which were related to the Maya of the Yucatán and Guatemala. Maya civilization had reached western Honduras in the 5th century A.D., probably spreading from lowland Mayan centers in Guatemala's Petén region. The Maya spread rapidly through the Río Motagua Valley, centering their control on the major ceremonial center of Copán, near the present-day town of Santa Rosa de Copán. For three and a half centuries, the Maya developed the city, making it one of the principal centers of their culture. At one point, Copán was probably the leading center for both astronomical studies—in which the Maya were quite advanced—and art. One of the longest Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions ever discovered was found at Copán. The Maya also established extensive trade networks spanning as far as central Mexico. [2]

Then, at the height of the Maya civilization, Copán was apparently abandoned. The last hieroglyph date in Copán is 800 A.D. Much of the population evidently remained in the area after that, but the educated class—the priests and rulers who built the temples, inscribed the glyphs, and developed the astronomy and mathematics—suddenly vanished. Copán fell into ruin, and the descendants of the Maya who remained had no memory of the meanings of the inscriptions or of the reasons for the sudden fall. [2]

Other indigenous groups Edit

Following the period of Maya dominance, the area that would eventually comprise Honduras was occupied by a multiplicity of indigenous peoples. Indigenous groups related to the Toltec of central Mexico migrated from the northwest into parts of what became western and southern Honduras. Most notable were the Toltec-speaking Chorotega, who established themselves near the present-day city of Choluteca. Later enclaves of Nahua-speaking peoples, such as the Pipil, whose language was related to that of the Aztec, established themselves at various locations from the Caribbean coast to the Golfo de Fonseca on the Pacific coast. [3]

While groups related to indigenous peoples of Mexico moved into western and southern Honduras, other peoples with languages related to those of the Chibcha of Colombia were establishing themselves in areas that became northeastern Honduras. Most prominent among these were the Ulva and Paya speakers. Along the Caribbean coast, a variety of groups settled. Most important were the Sumu, who were also located in Nicaragua, and the Jicaque, whose language family has been a source of debate among scholars. Finally, in parts of what is now west-central Honduras were the Lenca, who also were believed to have migrated north from Colombia but whose language shows little relation to any other indigenous group. [3]

Although divided into numerous distinct and frequently hostile groups, the indigenous inhabitants of preconquest Honduras (before the early 16th century) carried on considerable trade with other parts of their immediate region as well as with areas as far away as Panama and Mexico. Although it appears that no major cities were in existence at the time of the conquest, the total population was nevertheless fairly high. Estimates range up to 2 million, although the actual figure was probably nearer to 500,000. [3]

Initial explorations Edit

European contacts with the indigenous population of Honduras began with the final voyage of Christopher Columbus. In 1502 Columbus sailed past the Islas de la Bahía (Bay Islands) and shortly thereafter reached the mainland of Central America. While at one of the islands, Columbus discovered and seized a large canoe loaded with a wide variety of trade goods. Evidence seems to indicate that the canoe's occupants were Mayan traders and that their encounter with Columbus marked his first direct contact with the civilizations of Mexican and northern Central America. Despite the fact that the canoe had been observed coming from the west, Columbus turned east and then south, sailing away from the civilizations and doing little exploring on the Honduran coast. His only direct legacy was the assigning of a few place names on the Caribbean coast, notably Guanaja for one of the Islas de la Bahía, Cabo Gracias a Dios for the eastern extremity of Honduras, and Honduras (depths in Spanish) for the overall region. The latter name suggests the deep waters off the northern coast. [4]

Little exploration took place for the next two decades. Spanish navigators Juan Díaz de Solís and Vicente Yáñez Pinzón probably touched on part of the Honduran coast in 1508 but devoted most of their efforts to exploring farther north. Some expeditions from the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola may have reached the mainland and certainly began to decimate the population of the Islas de la Bahía in the second decade of the century, but otherwise the Honduran Caribbean coast was a neglected area. [4]

Interest in the mainland was dramatically revived as a result of the expedition of Hernán Cortés to Mexico. While Cortés was completing his conquest of the Aztec, expeditions from Mexico, Panama, and the Caribbean began to move into Central America. In 1523 part of an expedition headed by Gil González Dávila discovered the Golfo de Fonseca on the Pacific coast, naming it in honor of Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca. The following year, four separate Spanish land expeditions began the conquest of Honduras. [4]

Era of the conquistadors Edit

The nearly simultaneous invasions of Honduras in 1524 by rival Spanish expeditions began an era of conflict among rival Spanish claimants as well as with the indigenous population. The major initial expeditions were led by Gil González Dávila, who hoped to carve out a territory for his own rule, and by Cristóbal de Olid, who was dispatched from Cuba by Cortés. Once in Honduras, however, Olid succumbed to personal ambition and attempted to establish his own independent authority. Word of this reached Cortés in Mexico, and to restore his own authority, he ordered yet another expedition, this one under the command of Francisco de Las Casas. Then, doubting the trustworthiness of any subordinate, Cortés set out for Honduras himself. The situation was further complicated by the entry into Honduras of expeditions from Guatemala under Pedro de Alvarado and from Nicaragua under Hernando de Soto. [5]

In the initial struggle for power, Olid seemed to gain the upper hand, capturing both González Dávila and Las Casas. His captives, however, having managed to subvert the loyalty of some of Olid's men, took Olid prisoner, and then promptly beheaded him. Although later condemned for this action by a Mexican court, none of the conspirators ever suffered any real punishment. [5]

The arrival of Cortés in Honduras in 1525 temporarily restored some order to the Spanish conquest. He established his own authority over the rival claimants, obtained the submission of numerous indigenous chiefs, and tried to promote the creation of Spanish towns. His own headquarters was located at Trujillo on the Caribbean coast. In April 1526, Cortés returned to Mexico, and the remaining Spaniards resumed their strife. [5]

Some order was again restored in October of that year when the first royal governor, Diego López de Salcedo, arrived. López de Salcedo's policies, however, drove many indigenous people, once pacified by Cortés, into open revolt. His attempt to extend his jurisdiction into Nicaragua resulted in his imprisonment by the authorities there. After agreeing to a Nicaraguan-imposed definition of the boundary between the two provinces, López de Salcedo was released but did not return to Honduras until 1529. [5]

The early 1530s were not prosperous for Honduras. Renewed fighting among the Spaniards, revolts, and decimation of the settled indigenous population through disease, mistreatment, and exportation of large numbers to the Caribbean islands as slaves left the colony on the edge of collapse by 1534. The Spanish crown renamed the depressed province as Honduras-Higueras, subdividing it into two districts. Higueras encompassed the western part while the rest remained known as Honduras. The decline in population of the province continued, and only the direct intervention of Pedro de Alvarado from Guatemala in 1536 kept Higueras from being abandoned. Alvarado was attracted by the prospect of gold in the region, and, with the help of native Guatemalans who accompanied him, he soon developed a profitable gold-mining industry centered in the newly established town of Gracias. [5]

The discovery of gold and silver deposits attracted new settlers and increased the demand for indigenous labor. The enforced labor, however, led to renewed resistance by the native people that culminated in a major uprising in 1537. The leader of the uprising was a capable young Lenca chieftain known as Lempira (after whom the Honduran national monetary unit would eventually be named). Lempira established his base on a fortified hill known as the Peñol de Cerquín and until 1538 successfully defeated all efforts to subdue him. Inspired by his examples, other native inhabitants began revolting, and the entire district of Higueras seemed imperiled. Lempira was ultimately murdered while negotiating with the Spaniards. After his death, resistance rapidly disintegrated, although some fighting continued through 1539. [5]

The defeat of Lempira's revolt accelerated the decimation of the indigenous population. In 1539 an estimated 15,000 Native Americans remained under Spanish control two years later, there were only 8,000. Most of these were divided into encomiendas, a system that left the native people in their villages but placed them under the control of individual Spanish settlers. Under terms of the encomienda system, the Spaniards were supposed to provide the indigenous people with religious instruction and collect tribute from them for the crown. In return, the Spaniards were entitled to a supposedly limited use of indigenous labor. As the native population declined, the settlers exploited those remaining even more ruthlessly. This exploitation led to a clash between the Spanish settlers and authorities on one side and on the other side the Roman Catholic Church led by Father Cristóbal de Pedraza, who, in 1542 became the first bishop of Honduras. Bishop Pedraza, like others after him, had little success in his efforts to protect the native people. [5]

While the Spanish had great success in the conquest and colonization of the Pacific parts of the country, they had much less success in the north. The northeastern region, known to the Spanish by a Nahuatl name Taguzgalpa, resisted repeated attempts at conquest successfully. Orders or grants for conquest were issued in 1545, 1562, 1567 and 1594, with no appreciable Spanish progress being reported. When these efforts failed, the Spanish attempted to "reduce" Taguzgalpa and neighboring Tologalpa (located in Nicaragua) through missionary efforts that began in 1604 and continued intermittently throughout the remainder of the Spanish period. In their efforts the missionaries sought to convert the inhabitants to Christianity and to persuade them to settle in missionary supervised new villages. While some reported conversions in the thousands, the total number resettled never amount to more than a few hundred.

On the eastern side of the north coast, the Spanish had more luck. The earliest settlers established coastal ports at Puerto de Caballos (today's Puerto Cortés), Trujillo and Gracias a Dios, as well as interior posts at San Pedro Sula and Naco. The latter experienced some growth during a brief gold rush in the 16th century, but in subsequent periods declined. There is some evidence that the Spanish presence was fairly strictly limited to just these towns and that a fairly thickly settled countryside was completely outside their control. However, in much of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish on the Pacific side shipped good across the uncontrolled space to the ports for trans-shipment to Spain.

The failure of the Spanish to control the north coast left the region open to outsiders who were prepared to work with the local people against Spanish interests, and thus northern Europeans began trading and eventually settling in the northern areas during the various wars between England, the Netherlands and Spain of the period 1580 to 1625.

Spread of colonization and growth of mining Edit

The defeat of Lempira's revolt, the establishment of the bishopric (first at Trujillo, then at Comayagua after Pedraza's death), and the decline in fighting among rival Spanish factions all contributed to expanded settlement and increased economic activity in the 1540s. A variety of agricultural activities was developed, including cattle ranching and, for a time, the harvesting of large quantities of sarsaparilla root. But the key economic activity of 16th-century Honduras was mining gold and silver. [6]

The initial mining centers were located near the Guatemalan border, around Gracias. In 1538 these mines produced significant quantities of gold. In the early 1540s, the center for mining shifted eastward to the Río Guayape Valley, and silver joined gold as a major product. This change contributed to the rapid decline of Gracias and the rise of Comayagua as the center of colonial Honduras. The demand for labor also led to further revolts and accelerated the decimation of the native population. As a result, African slavery was introduced into Honduras, and by 1545 the province may have had as many as 2,000 slaves. Other gold deposits were found near San Pedro Sula and the port of Trujillo. [6]

By the late 1540s, Honduras seemed headed for relative prosperity and influence, a development marked by the establishment in 1544 of the regional audiencia of Guatemala with its capital at Gracias, Honduras. The audiencia was a Spanish governmental unit encompassing both judicial and legislative functions whose president held the additional titles of governor and captain general (hence the alternative name of Captaincy General of Guatemala). The location of the capital was bitterly resented by the more populous centers in Guatemala and El Salvador, and in 1549 the capital of the audiencia was moved to Antigua, Guatemala. [6]

Mining production began to decline in the 1560s, and Honduras rapidly declined in importance. The subordination of Honduras to the Captaincy General of Guatemala had been reaffirmed with the move of the capital to Antigua, and the status of Honduras as a province within the Captaincy General of Guatemala would be maintained until independence. Beginning in 1569, new silver strikes in the interior briefly revived the economy and led to the founding of the town of Tegucigalpa, which soon began to rival Comayagua as the most important town in the province. But the silver boom peaked in 1584, and economic depression returned shortly thereafter. Mining efforts in Honduras were hampered by a lack of capital and labor, difficult terrain, the limited size of many gold and silver deposits, and bureaucratic regulations and incompetence. Mercury, vital to the production of silver, was constantly in short supply once an entire year's supply was lost through the negligence of officials. By the 17th century, Honduras had become a poor and neglected backwater of the Spanish colonial empire, having a scattered population of mestizos, native people, blacks, and a handful of Spanish rulers and landowners. [6]

Colonial society, economy, and government Edit

Although mining provided much of the limited revenue Honduras generated for the Spanish crown, a majority of the inhabitants were engaged in agriculture. Attempts to promote agricultural exports had limited success, however, and most production remained on a subsistence level. If anything, the province became more rural during the 17th and 18th centuries. As a result of economic declines or foreign attacks, several town governments simply ceased to function during this period. [7]

The cattle industry was probably the most important agricultural activity. Much of the cattle industry was on a small scale, but by 1714 six ranchers in the areas of the present-day departments of Yoro and Olancho owned over 1,000 head of cattle each. Some of the cattle were driven to Guatemala for sale. Such sales, however, occasionally produced meat shortages in Honduras and led to conflicts between Guatemalan and Honduran provincial officials. [7]

Much of the Honduran interior remained uncolonized and outside of effective Spanish control during the colonial era. The Jicaque, fleeing into the hills, managed to retain considerable cultural autonomy. Other indigenous groups, however, were increasingly brought under Spanish influence and began to lose their separate identities. This assimilation was facilitated by occasional expeditions of government and church officials into new areas. One such expedition into Yoro in 1689 found forty villages of native people living outside of effective Spanish control. [7]

By the end of the 17th century, governing Honduras had become a frustrating, thankless task. Only Comayagua, with 144 families, and Tegucigalpa, with 135, had over 100 Spanish settlers. The province boasted little in the way of education or culture. The lack of good ports, especially on the Pacific coast, limited contacts with the outside world. Whenever possible, the Spanish colonists forced native people to move to the Tegucigalpa area, where they were available for labor in the mines. However, illegal resettlement and corruption in the mining industry—where every available ruse was used to avoid paying taxes—created a constant series of problems for colonial authorities. Smuggling, especially on the Caribbean coast, was also a serious problem. [7]

Early in the 18th century, the Bourbon Dynasty, linked to the rulers of France, replaced the Habsburgs on the throne of Spain and brought change to Honduras. The new dynasty began a series of reforms throughout the empire designed to make administration more efficient and profitable and to facilitate the defense of the colonies. Among these reforms was a reduction in the tax on precious minerals and in the cost of mercury, which was a royal monopoly. In Honduras these reforms contributed to a revival of the mining industry in the 1730s. Efforts to promote the Honduran tobacco industry as a royal monopoly proved less effective and encountered stiff local opposition. The same was true of plans to improve tax collection. Ultimately, the Bourbons abolished most of the corrupt local governmental units, replacing them in 1787 with a system of intendencias (the name of the new local unit and also its administrator, a royal official who supervised tax collections and commercial matters, controlled prices and credit, and exercised some judicial functions). [7]

Anglo-Spanish rivalry Edit

A major problem for Spanish rulers of Honduras was the activity of the English along the northern Caribbean coast. These activities began in the late 16th century and continued into the 19th century. In the early years, Dutch as well as English corsairs (pirates) attacked the Caribbean coast, but as time passed the threat came almost exclusively from the English. In 1643 one English expedition destroyed the town of Trujillo, the major port for Honduras, leaving it virtually abandoned for over a century. [8]

Destructive as they were, raiding expeditions were lesser problems than other threats. Beginning in the 17th century, English efforts to plant colonies along the Caribbean coast and in the Islas de la Bahía threatened to cut Honduras off from the Caribbean and raised the possibility of the loss of much of its territory. The English effort on the Honduran coast was heavily dependent on the support of groups known as the Zambo and the Miskito, racially mixed peoples of Native American and African ancestry who were usually more than willing to attack Spanish settlements. British settlers were interested largely in trading, lumbering, and producing pitch. During the numerous 18th-century wars between Britain and Spain, however, the British crown found any activity that challenged Spanish hegemony on the Caribbean coast of Central America to be desirable. [8]

Major British settlements were established at Cabo Gracias a Dios and to the west at the mouth of the Río Sico, as well as on the Islas de la Bahía. By 1759 a Spanish agent estimated the population in the Río Sico area as 3,706. [8]

Under the Bourbons, the revitalized Spanish government made several efforts to regain control over the Caribbean coast. In 1752 a major fort was constructed at San Fernando de Omoa near the Guatemalan border. In 1780 the Spanish returned in force to Trujillo, which they began developing as a base for expeditions against British settlements to the east. During the 1780s, the Spanish regained control over the Islas de la Bahía and drove the majority of the British and their allies out of the area around Black River. A British expedition briefly recaptured Black River, but the terms of the Anglo-Spanish Convention of 1786 gave definitive recognition to Spanish sovereignty over the Caribbean coast. [8]

Collapse of Spanish rule Edit

In the early 19th century, Spanish power went into rapid decline. Although Spain was allied with France during the Napoleonic Wars, in 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte forced the Spanish king to abdicate and put a Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. In response, Spanish people erupted in revolt in Madrid and throughout Spain, setting off a chain of uprisings in Latin America. In Honduras, resentment against rule by the exiled Spanish king increased rapidly, especially because increased taxes for Spain's struggle against the French threatened the cattle industry. In 1812 disturbances that broke out in Tegucigalpa were more linked to long-standing rivalry with Comayagua, however, than to opposition to Spanish rule. The disturbances were quickly controlled, and, to appease local discontent, the municipal government of Tegucigalpa was reestablished. [9]

The rivalry between Tegucigalpa and Comayagua helped precipitate the final collapse of Spanish authority in Honduras. A new Spanish administration attempted to transfer Comayagua's tobacco factory to Tegucigalpa. This move led to defiance by Comayagua, which refused to acknowledge the authority of the government in Guatemala. The weakened Spanish government was unable to end Comayagua's defiance, and for a time civil strife threatened to break out. Conflict was averted by the decision made by all the Central American provinces on September 15, 1821, to declare their independence from Spain. This action failed to resolve the dispute between Tegucigalpa and Comayagua, however the former now urged the creation of a unified Central American state, while the latter favored union with the First Mexican Empire under the rule of General Agustín de Iturbide. Ultimately, Comayagua's position prevailed, and in early 1822 the Central American provinces declared their allegiance to Mexico. [9]

This union lasted just over a year and produced few if any benefits for either party. In March 1823, Iturbide was overthrown in Mexico, and the empire was replaced by a republic. The Central American Congress, in which Comayagua but not Tegucigalpa was represented, was quickly convened. With little debate, the United Provinces of Central America declared their independence from Mexico. Mexico's only effort to reverse this decision consisted in maintaining control over Chiapas, the northernmost of the six previous provinces of Central America. [9]

From its 1823 inception, the new federation (the United Provinces of Central America) faced a series of ultimately unresolvable problems. Instead of engendering a spirit of unity, Spanish rule had fostered divisions and local suspicions. In the case of Honduras, this divisiveness was epitomized by the rivalry between Tegucigalpa and Comayagua. There was even some sentiment for admitting these two cities as separate provinces within the federation, but that proposal was ultimately rejected. In addition, much of the region was suspicious of Guatemalan ambitions to dominate Central America and wished to retain all possible local authority rather than surrender any to a central government. [10]

At least equally serious was the division of the politically active population into conservative and liberal factions. The conservatives favored a more centralized government a proclerical policy, including a church monopoly over education and a more aristocratic form of government based on traditional Spanish values. The liberals wanted greater local autonomy and a restricted role for the church, as well as political and economic development as in the United States and parts of Western Europe. The conservatives favored keeping native people in their traditional, subservient position, while the liberals aimed at eventually eliminating indigenous society by incorporating it into the national, Hispanic culture. [10]

At the time of Central American independence (1823), Honduras was among the least-developed and least-populated provinces. In 1824 its population was estimated at just over 137,000. Despite its meager population, Honduras produced two of the most prominent leaders of the federation, the liberal Francisco Morazán (nicknamed the "George Washington of Central America") and the conservative José Cecilio del Valle. In 1823 del Valle was narrowly defeated by liberal Manuel José Arce for election as the federation's first president. Morazán overthrew Arce in 1829 and was elected president of the federation in 1830, defeating del Valle. [10]

The beginning of Morazán's administration in 1830 saw some efforts to reform and promote education. Success was limited, however, because of lack of funds and internal fighting. In the elections of 1834, del Valle defeated Morazán, but del Valle died before taking office, and the legislature offered Morazán the presidency. With clerical support, a conservative uprising began in Guatemala in 1837, and within a year the federation had begun to dissolve. On May 30, 1838, the Central American Congress removed Morazán from office, declared that the individual states could establish their own governments, and on July 7 recognized these as "sovereign, free, and independent political bodies." [10]

For Honduras, the period of federation had been disastrous. Local rivalries and ideological disputes had produced political chaos and disrupted the economy. The British had taken advantage of the chaotic condition to reestablish their control over the Islas de la Bahía. As a result, Honduras wasted little time in formally seceding from the federation once it was free to do so. Independence was declared on November 15, 1838. [10]

Honduras Government

chief of state: President Juan Orlando HERNANDEZ Alvarado (since 27 January 2014) Vice Presidents Ricardo ALVAREZ, Maria RIVERA, and Olga ALVARADO (since 26 January 2018) note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Juan Orlando HERNANDEZ Alvarado (since 27 January 2014) Vice Presidents Ricardo ALVAREZ, Maria RIVERA, and Olga ALVARADO (since 26 January 2018)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 4-year term election last held on 26 November 2017 (next to be held in November 2021) note - in 2015, the Constitutional Chamber of the Honduran Supreme Court struck down the constitutional provisions on presidential term limits

election results: Juan Orlando HERNANDEZ Alvarado reelected president percent of vote Juan Orlando HERNANDEZ Alvarado (PNH) 43%, Salvador NASRALLA (Alianza de Oposicion conta la Dictadura) 41.4%, Luis Orlando ZELAYA Medrano (PL) 14.7%, other .9%

Citizenship Criteria:

citizenship by descent: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 1 to 3 years

Legal System:


Legislative Branch:

description: unicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional (128 seats members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by closed, party-list proportional representation vote members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 27 November 2017 (next to be held on 28 November 2021)

election results: percent of vote by party - PNH 47.7%, LIBRE 23.4%, PL 20.3%, AP 3.1%, PINU 3.1%, DC 0.8%, PAC 0.8%, UD 0.8% seats by party - PNH 61, LIBRE 30, PL 26, AP 4, PINU 4, DC 1, PAC 1, UD 1 composition - men 101, women 27, percent of women 21.1%

Judicial Branch:

highest courts: Supreme Court of Justice or Corte Suprema de Justicia (15 principal judges, including the court president, and 7 alternates court organized into civil, criminal, constitutional, and labor chambers) note - the court has both judicial and constitutional jurisdiction

judge selection and term of office: court president elected by his peers judges elected by the National Congress from candidates proposed by the Nominating Board, a diverse 7-member group of judicial officials and other government and non-government officials nominated by each of their organizations judges elected by Congress for renewable, 7-year terms

subordinate courts: courts of appeal courts of first instance justices of the peace

Regions or States:

Political Parties and Leaders:

International Law Organization Participation:

International Organization Participation:

Diplomatic Representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Marlon Ramsses TABORA Munoz (since 24 April 2017)

chancery: Suite 4-M, 3007 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco

consulate(s): Dallas, McAllen (TX)

Diplomatic Representation from US:

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant) Charge d'Affaires Heide B. FULTON (since June 2017)

Hernandez presidency

2014 January - Juan Orlando Hernandez takes over as president.

2014 May - In the first extradition of a Honduran to the United States, Honduras hands over a wanted suspected drug lord Carlos Arnoldo Lobo.

2014 June - The US boosts aid and speeds up deportations to cope with the growing number of migrants from Central America. Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are to receive millions of dollars to combat gang violence and help citizens repatriated from the US.

2014 October - The Red Cross says more than half a million people in Honduras have been affected by a severe drought, and launches an appeal for funds to assist them.

2015 April - Congress passes a law offering special protection to journalists, human rights activists and judicial workers with the establishment of a panel under the justice to investigate threats.

2015 April - The Supreme Court nullifies a law that prohibited presidents from serving more than one term.

2015 June - Tens of thousands of Hondurans march in the capital, demanding the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez over opposition claims he received millions of dollars from the country's public health system for his 2013 election campaign.

2016 February - An international mission aimed at tackling widespread corruption in Honduras is installed with a four-year mandate.

2016 March - Indigenous leader and respected environmental rights activist Berta Caceres is killed by gunmen at her home in Esperanza, some 200 km from the capital Tegucigalpa.

2016 March - Former President Rafael Callejas pleads guilty to two counts of bribery and fraud related to the FIFA corruption scandal.

2017 November - Disputed presidential election. Incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez is declared winner.

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U.S. Senators Seek Sanctions Against Honduran President

U.S. Senators Seek Sanctions Against Honduran President

Accusations have piled up against President Juan Orlando Hernández, other Honduran officials and security forces, ranging from organized crime collusion to civil society repression. U.S. prosecutors even accuse Hernández of taking bribes to help an alleged drug trafficker move tons of cocaine into the United States, which he denies.

For Hernández's critics in the Central American country, the sanctions would be welcome punishment at the highest level of government.

"Not even the arrival of a gifted shipment of [COVID-19] vaccines causes as much joy as the introduction of [the Senate bill]," columnist Gabriela Castellanos wrote in El Heraldo, a leading Honduran newspaper that largely supports the president.


___ History of Honduras

The Republic of Honduras spans a territory of 112,492 square kilometers and has a population of 5.1 million inhabitants. Situated in the Torrid Zone of the Americas, its coasts are bathed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean (Sea of the Antilles) and the Pacific Ocean (Gulf of Fonseca). It has common borders with the Republics of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

On the arrival of the Spaniards, this area was inhabited by indigenous tribes of a great linguistic and cultural diversity. The most powerful and advanced of these were the Mayans, who also populated Yucatán, Belize, and the northeast of Guatemala and built their sacred city and ceremonial metropolis in Copán, in the western part of Honduras.

By visiting the ruins of Copán, which the Honduran government maintains in excellent condition, the traveler can appreciate the remains of ancient Mayan splendor. The ceremonial plazas, stelae decorated with figures and hieroglyphs, extraordinary staircases, and varied sculptures continue to ignite a growing interest among contemporary archaeologists. They are unequaled examples of the artistic ability of a people, who were also well versed in mathematics and astronomy, and whose extensive commercial network reached as far as central Mexico.

The scope of the great Mayan empire can be appreciated in the remains of other important cities such as Tikal in Guatemala and Chichén Itzá in Mexico, in their famous writing system, and in the strong cultural influence that still persists among their descendants. Nevertheless, by the time the Spaniards set foot on Mexican soil, the Mayan kingdom was already in full decadence and had almost disappeared from Honduras. Today archaeologists and historians are in the process of shedding new light on the mysterious causes of the sudden abandonment of the great Mayan centers.

After the collapse of Mayan culture, different groups slowly settled in various parts of the Honduran territory. Their languages reveal a relationship with the Toltecs and Aztecs of Mexico, the Chibchas of Colombia, and even tribes from the southwestern United States. The western-central part of Honduras was inhabited by the Lencas, who spoke a language of unknown origin. These autonomous groups had their conflicts but maintained their commercial relationships with each other and with other populations as distant as Panama and Mexico Descendants of these peoples and of the Mayas were the aborigines who would later oppose the Spanish conquest and produce the legendary figures of Tecún Uman, Lempira, Atlacatl, Diriagúan, Nicarao and Urraca, leaders for autonomy among the native populations of Central America.

Discovery and Conquest
On July 30, 1502, during his fourth and last trip through the Americas, Christopher Columbus reached the Bay Islands and soon afterwards the coast of the mainland. This was the first time he saw Honduran soil. From the Island of Guanaja, which he is said to have named Columbus set sail toward the northern continental coast and in Punta Caxinas, now Puerto Castilla, he ordered the celebration of the first mass on the Honduran main land. In the Rio Tinto (Tinto River), which he named Rio de la Posesion, he claimed the territory in the name of his sovereigns, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.

It is said that Columbus, while exploring the eastern coasts of the region, reached a cape where he found shelter from the inclemencies of a tropical storm and declared, Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de estas honduras! [Thank God we've escaped these treacherous depths!]. According to many historians, as a result of this exclamation the cape became known as Gracias a Dios and the territory as Honduras.

The first expeditionary forces arrived in Honduras in 1523 under the command of Gil Gonzáles de Avila, who hoped to rule the new territory. In 1524 Cristóbal de Olid arrived heading a well organized regiment sent by the conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortés. On Honduran soil, Olid founded the colony Triunfo de la Cruz and tried to establish an independent government. When Cortés learned of this, he decided to reestablish his own authority by sending a new expedition, headed by Francisco de las Casas. Olid, who managed to capture his rivals, was betrayed by his men and assassinated. Cortés had to travel to Honduras to resolve the struggle for power in the new colony. He established his government in the city of Trujillo and returned to Mexico in 1526.

Those first years of the conquest were filled with many perils. The colony was almost abandoned. Upon the arrival from Guatemala of the adelantado Don Pedro de Alvarado, the foundation of San Pedro de Puerto Caballos, now San Pedro Sula, was established. Alvarado also ordered the founding of the city of Gracias a Dios, where he began to exploit the gold mines. Later, with the arrival of the adelantado Don Francisco de Montejo, the conquest was consummated, the city of Santa Maria de Comayagua was founded, the great insurrection stirred up by Lempira was put down, and the city of Gracias a Dios was refounded where it is now located.

The Heroic Action of Lempira
By October 1537, the Lenca chief, Lempira, a warrior of great renown, had managed to unify more than two hundred Indian tribes that had been ancient rivals in order to offer an organized resistance against further penetration by the Spanish conquerors. In the village of Etempica he announced his plans to expel the Spaniards and gave instructions to all his allies for a general uprising when he gave the signal. On top of the great rock of Cerquín, an impenetrable fortress, he gathered all the neighboring tribes as well as abundant supplies and made trenches and fortifications. He finally gave the signal to attack by killing three unsuspecting Spaniards, who happened to be in the region.

Governor Montejo ordered Captain Alonso de Cáceres to attack the stronghold, but it was impossible to take. Montejo then gathered a large number of Indians from Guatemala and Mexico as auxiliary forces, mobilized nearly all the Spanish troops at his disposition, and ordered them to storm the rock. Yet Cerquín remained invincible. At the same t ime, Lempira ordered a general insurrection, Comayagua was set on fire, and the Spanish inhabitants had to flee to Gracias. Gracias was threatened by the surrounding tribes San Pedro de Puerto Caballos and Trujillo were placed under siege and the Spaniards were hard pressed to maintain their ground.

While Montejo sought help desperately from Santiago de los Caballeros in Guatemala, San Salvador, and San Miguel and even from Spain, Alonso de Cáceres resorted to treason to get rid of Lempira. He invited the chief to a peace conference and when Lempira reaffirmed his desire to continue the fight, a hidden marksman shot him in the forehead. Lempira fell from the highcliffs and with his death, his 30,000 warriors either fled or surrendered.

Montejo regained the Valley of Comayagua, established Comayagua city in another location, and vanquished the natives in Tenampúa, Guaxeregui, and Ojuera. The conquest of Honduras was consummated and later consolidated by the founding of new settlements.

The Spanish Government
In 1542, the Ordinances of Barcelona were proclaimed in order to protect the native population, which was suffering under conditions of near slavery, established by the conquerors under the encomienda system. Two years later the Audiencia de los Confines was formally established in the city of Gracias to Protect the rights of the Indians. The bishops of Guatemala, Honduras, León and Chiapas would appear before this body to obtain concessions toward a more humane treatment for the Indians. As a result of their intervention, improvements were achieved in matters of education and health services in Comayagua, the capital city of the Spanish government.

Since Honduras was a mining province, the resources that were extracted from its numerous mineral deposits served to sustain the Captaincy General of Central America, which had its headquarters in Guatemala. Nevertheless, the Spanish government used little of this wealth to further the development of Honduras. When the independence of the Central American provinces was declared in 1821, Honduras did not have a printing press, newspapers, or a university. The only material remaining from the colonial system are the churches of Comayagua and Tegucigalpa, the fort at San Fernando de Omoa and the Mallol Bridge.

Independence, Annexation to Mexico, and Federation
On September 15, 1821, the independence of Central America was proclaimed in Guatemala City, capital of the Captaincy General. The declaration was drafted by the Honduran lawyer José Cecilio de Valle, "el sabio", one of the founding fathers of the Pan American system.

Prior to 1821, there had been other insurgencies against the Spanish crown in Honduras. In 1812 the inhabitants of la Plazuela, Comayaguela and Jacaleapa demonstrated in protest against the system of perpetuating peninsular Spaniards as municipal office holders. Owing to intervention by the priest Francisco Máoquez, the protesters were pacified and a new municipality was created to represent the will of the people. At the battalion of Olancho there had also been the beginnings of an insurrection with a few people landing in jail for their ideas of independence.

The traditional rivalry between Comayagua and Tegucigalpa was rekindled by the declaration of independence. While Tegucigalpa favored unification of Central America, Comayagua favored joining the monarchy that was incubating in Mexico under Agustin de Iturbide. In 1822 a maneuver by the Guatemalan conservatives along with the Archbishop Casaus y Torres resulted in the annexation of Central America to Mexico. However, in 1823 the empire of Agustin I was toppled and replaced by a republic. As a result of the negotiations of José Cecilio del Valle, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Mexican empire, the provinces of Central America once again were separated from their forced union with Mexico.

A National Constituent Assembly was gathered in Guatemala, which after approving a second declaration of independence, enacted the Constitution of November 22, 1824, thus creating the Federal Republic of Central America. The Federation included Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica with Guatemala City as its capital. Its first President was the Salvadoran General Manuel José Arce however, civil war soon broke out in Central America due to the differences between the conservatives, who preferred the traditional values of Spain, and the liberals, who leaned towards the political and economic models of the United States and Western Europe.

President Arce, siding with the conservatives, forced the removal of Dionisio de Herrera, the first Chief of State of Honduras, who resented the president's authoritarianism. Arce invaded the Salvadoran territory to overthrow the Salvadoran Chief of State, Mariano Prado. In Guatemala he had already incarcerated the Guatemalan Chief of State, Juan Barrundia and the mobs had assassinated the Vice Chief of State, Cirilo Flores in the city of Quezaltenango. As a result, President Arce was in a position to fill the resulting vacant seats at will.

In these difficult moments of Central American history, there appeared a great statesman, Francisco Morazán. Born in Tegucigalpa on October 3, 1792, Morazán became known for his military prowess in 1827, when, with a small military column, he was able to defeat the federal troops commanded by Col. José Justo Milla. After this triumph he advanced to Tegucigalpa and Comayagua, convened the Representative Council, and by disposition of the Council he assumed the position of Chief of State. He was reaffirmed later by the will of the people.

Morazán then proceeded to help El Salvador, where he defeated the federal Guatemalan forces in Gualcho and San Antonio. He then organized the Ejército Aliado Protector de la Ley, an army made up of Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans, with which he captured Guatemala City on April 13, 1829. The defeat of Manuel José Arce and the conservatives was thus consolidated.

In 1830, Morazán rose by popular vote to the presidency of the Federal Republic of Central America and initiated short-lived liberal reforms to bring down the semifeudal structures left by the Spaniards. There was immediate opposition to his reforms on the part of the conservatives, the clergy, and the numerous exiles living in Mexico and Cuba. In 1831 and 1832, the le ader defeated the armed movements of his adversaries, but unfortunately his reform actions did not take hold.

In 1834, José Cecilio del Valle was elected president of the Federal Republic of Central America. He was a conservative with liberal ideas on economic matters, but Valle died before he could ascend to his new position. General Morazán was then elected president. The conservatives' systematic attempts to undermine him, the divisions among the Guatemalan liberals, jealousies among the provinces, epidemics of cholera and smallpox, and even natural disasters like the eruption of the Cosigina volcano in Nicaragua were all used by the enemies of the Federation as excuses to attack him and organize conspiracies against him.

Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras separated from the Federation. The conservatives took power in Guatemala. Honduras and Nicaragua went to war against Morazán, who was in El Salvador at the time and although Morazán succeeded in defeating the invaders, he subsequently failed when he tried to overthrow the new conservative Guatemalan regime. Morazán was exiled, and even though he tried to reestablish the Federation from Costa Rica, the people rebelled. Morazán was captured and executed by a firing squad in San José, Costa Rica on September 15, 1842.

The Unitarian Government
On November 5, 1838, Honduras separated from the Central American Federation. From that moment on, it has struggled to cope with the difficult tasks of development. Since 1886, the year in which Marco Aurelio Soto ascended to the presidency of the Republic, the country began to develop, especially in the Atlantic coastal region with the cultivation of bananas. In the beginning, ships came from the southern United States to load fruit at Honduran ports. Later, foreign companies were established in the country. They began to grow bananas on a large scale, utilizing the latest agricultural technologies. Those same companies opened the foreign markets to this product and obtained generous concessions from the government of Honduras. In order to further their activities, they constructed railroads, adequate port facilities, and modern buildings, all of which fostered the emergence of new towns and helped bring prosperity to existing towns. This was especially true in the ports of La Ceiba, Tela, and Puerto Cortés as well as in the city of El Progreso and the village of La Lima.

Until 1932, Honduras suffered a prolonged civil war with only brief intermissions of peace. This situation was overcome by several progressive presidents, who were able to bring the country forward. From 1954 on, social reforms began to take place. Workers' trade unions, peasants associations, and cooperatives were developed and have remained at the forefront in the fight for social equity.

The economic organization of the country began with the founding of the Central Bank of Honduras in the early 1950s. Subsequently, both the private and public sectors have continued to strive toward the goal of economic stability. Today, the country is on the way to a better future and is trying to extend the benefits of democracy to all its people and to face the challenges posed by the demands of the great majority.

The author of this piece is Ambassador Oscar Acosta, advisor to the Honduras Ministry of Foreign Relations. The article is reproduced from the book Honduras with the authorization of "Editorial Transamerica, SA", Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

External Links:
Hieroglyphs and History at Copán
Paper by David Stuart about Copán in the Decipherment of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing.
Talgua Cave Archaeological Park
Page about the Talgua Village archaeological site and the Cave of the Glowing Skulls.
Glowing Skulls
More about the finding of Cave of the Glowing Skulls in this Honduras This Week article.


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