Nicaragua National History

At about 5500 B.C. some different tribes lived in what is todays Nicaragua. Descendantes of a mongolian race, who came to Northern America from Siberia via a then existing landbridge at Alaska. Being hunters and gatherers they advanced further south and from about 3500 B.C. started to till the soil.

Present-day Nicaragua is located south of the pre-Columbian culture areas of the Maya and the Aztec in Mexico and northern Central America. Although conventional wisdom states that the culture of lower Central America did not reach the levels of political or cultural development achieved in Mexico and northern Central America, recent excavations in Cuscutlatán, El Salvador may prove that assumption erroneous. Two basic culture groups existed in precolonial Nicaragua. In the central highlands and Pacific coast regions, the native peoples were linguistically and culturally similar to the Aztec and the Maya. The oral history of the people of western Nicaragua indicates that they had migrated south from Mexico several centuries before the arrival of the Spanish, a theory supported by linguistic research. Most people of central and western Nicaragua spoke dialects of Pipil, a language closely related to Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec. The culture and food of the peoples of western Nicaragua also confirmed a link with the early inhabitants of Mexico; the staple foods of both populations were corn, beans, chili peppers, and avocados, still the most common foods in Nicaragua today. Chocolate was drunk at ceremonial occasions, and turkeys and dogs were raised for their meat.

Most of Nicaragua’s Caribbean lowlands area was inhabited by tribes that migrated north from what is now Colombia. The various dialects and languages in this area are related to Chibcha, spoken by groups in northern Colombia. Eastern Nicaragua’s population consisted of extended families or tribes. Food was obtained by hunting, fishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture. Root crops (especially cassava), plantains, and pineapples were the staple foods. The people of eastern Nicaragua appear to have traded with and been influenced by the native peoples of the Caribbean, as round thatched huts and canoes, both typical of the Caribbean, were common in eastern Nicaragua. When the Spanish arrived in western Nicaragua in the early 1500s, they found three principal tribes, each with a different culture and language: the Niquirano, the Chorotegano, and the Chontal. Each one of these diverse groups occupied much of Nicaragua’s territory, with independent chieftains (cacicazgos) who ruled according to each group’s laws and customs. Their weapons consisted of swords, lances, and arrows made out of wood. Monarchy was the form of government of most tribes; the supreme ruler was the chief, or cacique, who, surrounded by his princes, formed the nobility. Laws and regulations were disseminated by royal messengers who visited each township and assembled the inhabitants to give their chief’s orders.

The Chontal were culturally less advanced than the Niquirano and Chorotegano, who lived in well-established nation-states. The differences in the origin and level of civilization of these groups led to frequent violent encounters, in which one group would displace whole tribes from their territory, contributing to multiple divisions within each tribe. Occupying the territory between Lago de Nicaragua and the Pacific Coast, the Niquirano were governed by chief Nicarao, or Nicaragua, a rich ruler who lived in Nicaraocali, now the city of Rivas. The Chorotegano lived in the central region of Nicaragua. These two groups had intimate contact with the Spanish conquerors, paving the way for the racial mix of native and European stock now known as mestizos. The Chontal (the term means foreigner) occupied the central mountain region. This group was smaller than the other two, and it is not known when they first settled in Nicaragua.

In the west and highland areas where the Spanish settled, the indigenous population was almost completely wiped out by the rapid spread of new diseases, for which the native population had no immunity, and the virtual enslavement of the remainder of the indigenous people. In the east, where the Europeans did not settle, most indigenous groups survived. The English, however, did introduce guns and ammunition to one of the local peoples, the Bawihka, who lived in northeast Nicaragua. The Bawihka later intermarried with runaway slaves from Britain’s Caribbean possessions, and the resulting population, with its access to superior weapons, began to expand its territory and push other indigenous groups into the interior. This Afro-indigenous group became known to the Europeans as Miskito, and the displaced survivors of their expansionist activities were called the Sumu.

Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast was first seen by Spanish explorers in 1508. It was not until 1522, however, that a formal military expedition, under Gil González Dávila, led to the Spanish conquest of Nicaraguan territory. González launched an expedition from Panama, arriving in Nicaragua through Costa Rica. After suffering both illness and torrential rains, he reached the land governed by the powerful chief Nicoya, who gave González and his men a warm welcome. Soon thereafter, Nicoya and 6,000 of his people embraced the Roman Catholic faith. González continued his exploration and arrived in the next settlement, which was governed by a chief named Nicaragua, or Nicarao, after whom the country was named. Chief Nicaragua received González as a friend and gave him large quantities of gold. Perhaps to placate the Spanish, Nicaragua also converted to Roman Catholicism, as did more than 9,000 members of his tribe. All were baptized within eight days. Confident of further success, González moved on to the interior, where he encountered resistance from an army of 3,000 Niquiranos, led by their chief, Diriagén. González retreated and traveled south to the coast, returning to Panama with large quantities of gold and pearls.

In 1523 the governor of Panama, Pedro Arias Dávila (Pedrarias), appointed Francisco Hernández de Córdoba to lead the Nicaraguan conquest effort. Hernández de Córdoba led an expedition in 1524 that succeeded in establishing the first permanent Spanish settlement in Nicaragua. He quickly overcame the resistance of the native peoples and named the land Nicaragua. To deny González’s claims of settlement rights and prevent his eventual control of the region, Hernández de Córdoba founded the cities of León and Granada, which later became the centers of colonial Nicaragua. From León, he launched expeditions to explore other parts of the territory. While the rivalry between Hernández de Córdoba and González raged, Pedrarias charged Hernández de Córdoba with mismanagement and sentenced him to death. González died soon thereafter, and the Spanish crown awarded Pedrarias the governorship of Nicaragua in 1528. Pedrarias stayed in Nicaragua until his death in July 1531.

Spain showed little interest in Nicaragua throughout this period, mostly because it was more interested in exploiting the vast riches found in Mexico and Peru. By 1531 many Spanish settlers in Nicaragua had left for South America to join Francisco Pizarro’s efforts to conquer the wealthy regions of the Inca Empire. Native Nicaraguans settlements also decreased in size because the indigenous inhabitants were exported to work in Peruvian mines; an estimated 200,000 native Nicaraguans were exported as slaves to South America from 1528 to 1540. Many Spanish towns founded in Nicaragua during the first years of the conquest disappeared. By the end of the 1500s, Nicaragua was reduced to the cities of León, located west of Lago de León (today Lago de Managua), and Granada, located on Lago de Nicaragua.

Although Nicaragua had been part of the audiencia (audience or court) of Panama, established in 1538, it was transferred to the Viceroyalty of New Spain when Spain divided its empire into two viceroyalties in 1543. The following year, the new audiencia of Guatemala, a subdivision of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, was created. This audiencia extended from southern Mexico through Panama and had its capital first at Gracias, Honduras, and then at Antigua, Guatemala after 1549. In 1570 the audiencia was reorganized and reduced in size, losing the territory of present-day Panama, the Yucatán, and the Mexican state of Tabasco. The audiencia was divided into provinces for administrative purposes, and the leading official in each province was generally called an alcalde mayor, or governor. León was the capital of the Province of Nicaragua, housing the local governor, the Roman Catholic bishop, and other important appointees. An elite of creole (individuals of Spanish descent born in the New World) merchants controlled the economic and political life of each province. Because of the great distance between the centers of Spanish rule, political power was centered with the local government, the town council or ayuntamiento, which ignored most official orders from the Spanish crown.

Throughout the seventeenth century, trade restrictions imposed by Spain, natural disasters, and foreign attacks devastated the economy of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The local government neglected agricultural production, powerful earthquakes in 1648, 1651, and 1663, caused massive destruction in the Province of Nicaragua, and from 1651 to 1689, Nicaragua was subjected to bloody incursions from English, French, and Dutch pirates. In 1668 and 1670, these buccaneers captured and destroyed the city of Granada, center of the province’s agricultural wealth. The Captaincy General of Guatemala was generally neglected by Spain. Within the captaincy general, the Province of Nicaragua remained weak and unstable, ruled by persons with little interest in the welfare of its people. In the late 1600s, the Miskito, who lived in Nicaragua’s Caribbean lowlands, began to be exploited by English "filibusters" (irregular military adventurers) intent on encroaching on Spanish landowners. In 1687 the English governor of Jamaica named a Miskito who was one of his prisoners, "King of the Mosquitia Nation," and declared the region to be under the protection of the English crown. This event marked the beginning of a long rivalry between Spanish (and later Nicaraguan) and British authorities over the sovereignty of the Caribbean coast, which effectively remained under British control until the end of the nineteenth century.

Events in Spain in the early 1700s were to have long-lasting repercussions in Nicaragua. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) resulted in the Bourbons replacing the Habsburgs on the Spanish throne. The Habsburgs had supported strict trade monopolies, especially in the Spanish colonies. The Bourbons were proponents of more liberal free-trade policies. Throughout the captaincy general, groups were hurt or helped by these changes; the factions supporting changes in trading policy came to be known as liberals while those who had profited under the old rules were known as conservatives. Liberals generally consisted of growers with new crops to sell, merchants, or export interests. Conservatives were generally composed of landowners who had profited under the old protectionism and who resisted new competition. In time, conservatism also became associated with support for the Roman Catholic Church; the liberals took a more anticlerical stand.

Spain’s control over its colonies in the New World was threatened in the early 1800s by the struggle for national independence throughout the entire region. Weakened by the French invasion in 1794 and internal upheaval, Spain tried to hold onto its richest colonies, which led to even further neglect of its poorer Central American territories. Resentment toward the Spanish-born elite (peninsulares–those born in Spain and the only persons allowed to administer Spanish colonies) grew among Nicaraguan creoles. The first local movements against Spanish rule in Central America occurred in 1811, when the Province of El Salvador staged a revolt. Peninsular authorities were deposed and replaced by creoles, who demanded less repressive laws. Although the Province of Nicaragua officially refused to join the rebellion, a popular uprising soon broke out. Violence and political rivalry prevailed in all of the Central American colonies during the ensuing decade.

Establishment of an independent Nicaragua came in stages. The first stage occurred in 1821 when the Captaincy General of Guatemala formally declared its independence from Spain on September 15, which is still celebrated as independence day. At first the captaincy general was part of the Mexican Empire under General Agustín de Iturbide, but efforts by Mexico to control the region were resisted all over Central America. Separatist feelings throughout the isthmus grew, however, and five of the United Provinces of Central America–Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua–declared their independence from Mexico in July 1823. The sixth province, Chiapas, opted to remain with Mexico. Under a weak federal government, each province created
its own independent internal administration. Inadequate communication and internal conflicts, however, overshadowed efforts to institutionalize the federation for the next decade and a half. Efforts to centralize power led to civil war between 1826 and 1829. The federation finally dissolved in 1837, and a Constituent Assembly formally declared Nicaragua’s independence from the United
Provinces of Central America on April 30, 1838.

British and United States interests in Nicaragua grew during the mid-1800s because of the country’s strategic importance as a transit route across the isthmus. British settlers seized the port of San Juan del Norte–at the mouth of the Río San Juan on the southern Caribbean coast–and expelled all Nicaraguan officials on January 1, 1848. The following year, Britain forced Nicaragua to sign a treaty recognizing British rights over the Miskito on the Caribbean coast. Britain’s control over much of the Caribbean lowlands, which the British called the Mosquito Coast (present-day Costa de Mosquitos), from 1678 until 1894 was a constant irritant to Nicaraguan nationalists. The start of the gold rush in California in 1849 increased United States interests in Central America as a transoceanic route, and Nicaragua at first encouraged a United States presence to counterbalance the British.

The possibility of economic riches in Nicaragua attracted international business development. Afraid of Britain’s colonial intentions, Nicaragua held discussions with the United States in 1849, leading to a treaty that gave the United States exclusive rights to a transit route across Nicaragua. In return, the United States promised protection of Nicaragua from other foreign intervention. On June 22, 1849, the first official United States representative, Ephraim George Squier, arrived in Nicaragua. Both liberals and conservatives welcomed the United States diplomat. A contract between Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, a United States businessman, and the Nicaraguan government was signed on August 26, 1849, granting Vanderbilt’s company–the Accessory Transit Company–exclusive rights to build a transisthmian canal within twelve years. The contract also gave Vanderbilt exclusive rights, while the canal was being completed, to use a land-and-water transit route across Nicaragua, part of a larger scheme to move passengers from the eastern United States to California. The westbound journey across Nicaragua began by small boat from San Juan del Norte on the Caribbean coast, traveled up the Río San Juan to San Carlos on Lago de Nicaragua, crossed Lago de Nicaragua to La Virgen on the west shore, and then continued by railroad or stagecoach to San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast. In
September 1849, the United States-Nicaragua treaty, along with Vanderbilt’s contract, was approved by the Nicaraguan Congress.

British economic interests were threatened by the United States enterprise led by Vanderbilt, and violence erupted in 1850 when the British tried to block the operations of the Accessory Transit Company. As a result, United States and British government officials held diplomatic talks and on April 19, 1850, without consulting the Nicaraguan government, signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, in which both countries agreed that neither would claim exclusive power over a future canal in Central America nor gain exclusive control over any part of the region. Although the Nicaraguan government originally accepted the idea of a transit route because of the economic benefit it would bring Nicaragua, the operation remained under United States and British control. Britain retained control of the Caribbean port of San Juan del Norte, and the United States owned the vessels, hotels, restaurants, and land transportation along the entire transit route.

Continued unrest in the 1850s set the stage for two additional elements in Nicaragua history: frequent United States military interventions in Nicaragua and a propensity for Nicaragua politicians to call on the United States to settle domestic disputes. In 1855 a group of armed United States filibusters headed by William Walker, a soldier of fortune from Tennessee who had previously invaded Mexico, sailed to Nicaragua intent on taking over. Internal conflict facilitated Walker’s entry into Nicaragua. In 1853 conservative General Fruto Chamorro had taken over the government and exiled his leading liberal opponents. Aided by the liberal government in neighboring Honduras, an exile army entered Nicaragua on May 5, 1854. The subsequent conflict proved prolonged and bloody; Chamorro declared that his forces would execute all armed rebels who fell into their hands, and the liberal leader, General Máximo Jérez, proclaimed that all government supporters were traitors to the nation. The liberals enjoyed initial success in the fighting, but the tide turned in 1854 when Guatemala’s conservative government invaded Honduras, forcing that nation to end its support of the liberals in Nicaragua. Chamorro’s death from natural causes in March 1855 brought little respite to the beleaguered liberals, who began to look abroad for support. Through an agent, they offered Walker funds and generous land grants if he would bring a force of United States adventurers to their aid. Walker leaped at the chance–he quickly recruited a force of fifty-six followers and landed with them in Nicaragua on May 4, 1855. Walker’s initial band was soon reinforced by other recruits from the United States. Strengthened by this augmented force, Walker seized Granada, center of conservative power. The stunned conservative government surrendered, and the United States quickly recognized a new puppet liberal government with Patricio Rivas as president. Real power, however, remained with Walker, who had assumed command of the Nicaraguan army.

As Walker’s power and the size of his army grew, conservative politicians throughout Central America became increasingly anxious. Encouraged by Britain, the conservative governments of the other four Central America governments agreed to send troops to Nicaragua. In March 1856, Costa Rica declared war on the adventurer, but an epidemic of cholera decimated the Costa
Rican forces and forced their withdrawal. Encouraged by this victory, Walker began plans to have himself elected president and to encourage colonization of Nicaragua by North Americans. This scheme was too much even for his puppet president Rivas, who broke with Walker and his followers and sent messages to Guatemala and El Salvador requesting their help in expelling the filibusters. Undeterred, Walker proceeded to hold a farcical election and install himself as president. Making English the country’s official language and legalizing slavery, Walker also allied himself with Vanderbilt’s rivals in the contest for control of the transit route, hoping that this alliance would provide both funds and transportation for future recruits. His call for Nicaragua’s annexation by the United States as a slave state garnered some support from United States proslavery forces.

In the meantime, forces opposing Walker were rapidly gaining the upper hand, leading him to attack his liberal allies, accusing them of half-hearted support. Most Nicaraguans were offended by Walker’s proslavery, pro-United States stance; Vanderbilt was determined to destroy him, and the rest of Central America actively sought his demise. The British also encouraged opposition to Walker as a means of curbing United States influence in the region. Even the United States government, fearful that plans to annex Nicaragua as a new slave state would fan the fires of sectional conflict growing within the United States, became opposed to his ambitions. The struggle to expel Walker and his army from Nicaragua proved to be long and costly. In the process, the colonial city of Granada was burned, and thousands of Central Americans lost their lives. The combined opposition of Vanderbilt, the British Navy, and the forces of all of Central America, however, eventually defeated the filibusters. A key factor in Walker’s defeat was the Costa Rican seizure of the transit route; the seizure permitted Walker’s opponents to take control of the steamers on Lago de Nicaragua and thereby cut off much of Walker’s access to additional recruits and finances. Vanderbilt played a major role in this effort and also supplied funds that enabled the Costa Ricans to offer free return passage to the United States to any of the filibusters who would abandon the cause. Many took advantage of this opportunity, and Walker’s forces began to dwindle.

The final battle of what Nicaraguans called the "National War" (1856-57) took place in the spring of 1857 in the town of Rivas, near the Costa Rican border. Walker beat off the attacks of the Central Americans, but the strength and morale of his forces were declining, and it would be only a matter of time until he would be overwhelmed. At this point, Commander Charles H. Davis of the United States Navy, whose ship had been sent to Nicaragua’s Pacific coast to protect United States economic interests, arranged a truce. On May 1, 1857, Walker and his remaining followers, escorted by a force of United States marines, evacuated Rivas, marched down to the coast, and took the ships back to the United States. Walker’s forced exile was short-lived, however; he made four more attempts to return to Central America (in 1857, 1858, 1859, and 1860). In 1860 Walker was captured by a British warship as he tried to enter Honduras. The British Navy turned him over to local authorities, and he was executed by a Honduran firing squad. Walker’s activities provided Nicaraguans with a long- lasting suspicion of United States activities and designs upon their nation.

Originally a product of interparty strife, the National War ironically served as a catalyst for cooperation between the liberal and conservative parties. The capital was moved to Managua in an effort to dampen interparty strife, and on September 12, 1856, both parties had signed an agreement to join efforts against Walker. This pact marked the beginning of an era of peaceful coexistence between Nicaragua’s political parties, although the onus of the liberals’ initial support of Walker allowed the conservatives to rule Nicaragua for the next three decades. After Walker’s departure, Patricio Rivas served as president for the third time. He remained in office until June 1857, when liberal General Máximo Jérez and conservative General Tomás Martínez assumed a bipartisan presidency. A Constituent Assembly convened in November of that year and named General Martínez as president (r. 1858-67).

The Conservative Party (Partido Conservador) ruled in Nicaragua from 1857 to 1893, a period of relative economic progress and prosperity sometimes referred to as the "Thirty Years." A railroad system connecting the western part of Nicaragua with the port of Corinto on the Pacific coast was built, and roads and telegraph lines were extended. Exports of agricultural products also increased during this period. Coffee as an export commodity grew between the 1850s and the 1870s, and by 1890 coffee had become the nation’s principal export. Toward the end of the 1800s, Nicaragua experienced dramatic economic growth because of the growing demand for coffee and bananas in the international market. The local economic elites were divided between the established cattle raisers and small growers and the new coffee-producers sector. Disputes about national economic policy arose between these powerful elites. Revealing their sympathies, the ruling conservatives passed laws favoring cheap labor that benefited mostly coffee planters.

The period of relative peace came to an end in 1891 when Roberto Sacasa, who had succeeded to the presidency in 1889 after the death of the elected incumbent, was elected to a term of his own. Although a conservative, Sacasa was from León, not Granada, and his election produced a split within the ruling Conservative Party. When Sacasa attempted to retain power after the March 1893 end of his term, the liberals, led by General José Santos Zelaya, quickly took advantage of the division within conservative ranks. A revolt began in April 1893 when a coalition of liberals and dissident conservatives ousted Sacasa and installed another conservative in office. An effort was made to share power with the liberals, but this coalition soon proved unworkable. In July, Zelaya’s liberal supporters resigned from the government and launched another revolt, which soon proved successful. A constitutional convention was hurriedly called, and a new constitution incorporating anticlerical provisions, limitations on foreigners’ rights to claim diplomatic protection, and abolition of the death penalty was adopted. Zelaya was confirmed as president, a post he would retain until 1909.

Zelaya’s administration was also responsible for an agreement ending the Nicaraguan dispute with Britain over sovereignty of the Caribbean coast. Aided by the mediation of the United States and strong support from the other Central American republics, control over the Caribbean coast region was finally awarded to Nicaragua in 1894. Sovereignty did not bring the government in Managua control over this region however; the Caribbean coast remained culturally separate and inaccessible to the western part of the country. Although his reputation was boosted by resolution of the centuries-old dispute with Britain, Zelaya was regarded with suspicion abroad. His imperialistic ambitions in Central America, as well as his vocal rebukes of United States intervention and influence in Central America, won him little support. Zelaya’s nationalist anti-United States stance drove him to call upon the Germans and Japanese to compete with the United States for rights to a canal route. Opposition to these schemes from the conservative faction, mostly landowners, led Zelaya to increase repression. In 1903 a major conservative rebellion, led by Emiliano Chamorro Vargas, broke out. Another uprising in 1909, this time aided by British money and the United States marines, was successful in driving Zelaya from power.

United States interest in Nicaragua, which had waned during the last half of the 1800s because of isolationist sentiment following the United States Civil War (1861-65), grew again during the final years of the Zelaya administration. Angered by the United States choice of Panama for the site of a transisthmian canal, President Zelaya made concessions to Germany and Japan for a competing canal across Nicaragua. Relations with the United States deteriorated, and civil war erupted in October 1909, when anti-Zelaya liberals joined with a group of conservatives under Juan Estrada to overthrow the government. The United States broke diplomatic relations with the Zelaya administration after two United States mercenaries serving with the rebels were captured and executed by government forces. Soon thereafter, 400 United States marines landed on the Caribbean coast. Weakened and pressured by both domestic and external forces, Zelaya resigned on December 17, 1909. His minister of foreign affairs, José Madriz, was appointed president by the Nicaraguan Congress. A liberal from León, Madriz was unable to restore order under continuing pressure from conservatives and the United States forces, and he resigned on August 20, 1910.

Conservative Estrada, governor of Nicaragua’s easternmost department, assumed power after Madriz’s resignation. The United States agreed to support Estrada, provided that a Constituent Assembly was elected to write a constitution. After agreeing with this stipulation, a coalition conservative-liberal regime, headed by Estrada, was recognized by the United States on January 1, 1911. Political differences between the two parties soon surfaced, however, and minister of war General Luis Mena forced Estrada to resign. Estrada’s vice president, the conservative Adolfo Díaz, then became president. In mid-1912 Mena persuaded a Constituent Assembly to name him successor to Díaz when Díaz’s term expired in 1913. When the United States refused to recognize the Constituent Assembly’s decision, Mena rebelled against the Díaz government. A force led by liberal Benjamín Zelaydón quickly came to the aid of Mena. Díaz, relying on what was becoming a time-honored tradition, requested assistance from the United States. In August 1912, a force of 2,700 United States marines once landed again at the ports of Corinto and Bluefields. Mena fled the country, and Zelaydón was killed.

The United States kept a contingent force in Nicaragua almost continually from 1912 until 1933. Although reduced to 100 in 1913, the contingent served as a reminder of the willingness of the United States to use force and its desire to keep conservative governments in power. Under United States supervision, national elections were held in 1913, but the liberals refused to participate in the electoral process, and Adolfo Díaz was reelected to a full term. Foreign investment decreased during this period because of the high levels of violence and political instability. Nicaragua and the United States signed but never ratified the Castill-Knox Treaty in 1914, giving the United States the right to intervene in Nicaragua to protect United States interest. A modified version, the Chamorro- Bryan Treaty omitting the intervention clause, was finally ratified by the United States Senate in 1916. This treaty gave the United States exclusive rights to build an interoceanic canal across Nicaragua. Because the United States had already built the Panama Canal, however, the terms of the Chamorro-Bryan Treaty served the primary purpose of securing United States interests against potential foreign countries–mainly Germany or Japan–building another canal in Central America. The treaty also transformed Nicaragua into a near United States protectorate.

A moderate conservative, Carlos Solórzano, was elected president in open elections in 1924, with liberal Juan Bautista Sacasa as his vice president. After taking office on January 1, 1925, Solórzano requested that the United States delay the withdrawal of its troops from Nicaragua. Nicaragua and the United States agreed that United States troops would remain while United
States military instructors helped build a national military force. In June, Solórzano’s government contracted with retired United States Army Major Calvin B. Carter to establish and train the National Guard. The United States marines left Nicaragua in August 1925. However, President Solórzano, who had already purged the liberals from his coalition government, was subsequently forced out
of power in November 1925 by a conservative group who proclaimed General Emiliano Chamorro (who had also served as president from 1917 to 1921), as president in January 1926.

Fearing a new round of conservative-liberal violence and worried that a revolution in Nicaragua might result in a leftist victory as happened a few years earlier in Mexico, the United States sent marines, who landed on the Caribbean coast in May 1926, ostensibly to protect United States citizens and property. United States authorities in Nicaragua mediated a peace agreement between the liberals and the conservatives in October 1926. Chamorro resigned, and the Nicaraguan Congress elected Adolfo Díaz as president (Díaz had previously served as president, 1911-16). Violence resumed, however, when former vice president Sacasa returned from exile to claim his rights to the presidency. In April 1927, the United States sent Henry L. Stimson to mediate the civil war. Once in Nicaragua, Stimson began conversations with President Díaz as well as with leaders from both political parties. Stimson’s meetings with General José María Moncada, the leader of the liberal rebels, led to a peaceful solution of the crisis. On May 20, 1927, Moncada agreed to a plan in which both sides–the government and Moncada’s liberal forces–would disarm. In addition, a nonpartisan military force would be established under United States supervision. This accord was known as the Pact of Espino Negro.

A rebel liberal group under the leadership of Augusto César Sandino also refused to sign the Pact of Espino Negro. An illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner and a mestizo servant, Sandino had left his father’s home early in his youth and traveled to Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. During his three-year stay in Tampico, Mexico, Sandino had acquired a strong sense of
Nicaraguan nationalism and pride in his mestizo heritage. At the urging of his father, Sandino had returned to Nicaragua in 1926 and settled in the department of Nueva Segovia, where he worked at a gold mine owned by a United States company. Sandino, who lectured the mine workers about social inequalities and the need to change the political system, soon organized his own army, consisting mostly of peasants and workers, and joined the liberals fighting against the conservative regime of Chamorro. Highly distrusted by Moncada, Sandino set up hit-and-run operations against conservative forces independently of Moncada’s liberal army. After the United States mediated the agreement between liberal forces and the conservative regime, Sandino, calling Moncada a traitor and denouncing United States intervention, reorganized his forces as the Army for the Defense of Nicaraguan Sovereignty (Ejército Defensor de la Soberanía de Nicaragua-EDSN). Sandino then staged an independent guerrilla campaign against the government and United States forces. Although Sandino’s original intentions were to restore constitutional government under Sacasa, after the Pact of Espino Negro agreement his objective became the defense of Nicaraguan sovereignty against the United States. Receiving his main support from the rural population, Sandino resumed his battle against United States troops. At the height of his guerrilla campaign, Sandino claimed to have some 3,000 soldiers in his army, although official figures estimated the number at only 300. Sandino’s guerrilla war caused significant damage in the Caribbean coast and mining regions. After debating whether to continue direct fighting against Sandino’s forces, the United States opted to develop the nonpartisan Nicaraguan National Guard to contain internal violence. The National Guard would soon become the most important power in Nicaraguan politics.

The late 1920s and early 1930s saw the growing power of Anastasio "Tacho" Somoza García, a leader who would create a dynasty that ruled Nicaragua for four and a half decades. Moncada won the 1928 presidential elections in one of the most honest elections ever held in Nicaragua. For the 1932 elections, the liberals nominated Juan Bautista Sacasa and the conservatives, Adolfo Díaz. Sacasa won the elections and was installed as president on January 2, 1933. In the United States, popular opposition to the Nicaraguan intervention rose as United States casualty lists grew. Anxious to withdraw from Nicaraguan politics, the United States turned over command of the National Guard to the Nicaraguan government, and United States marines left the country soon thereafter. President Sacasa, under pressure from General Moncada, appointed Somoza García as chief director of the National Guard. Somoza García, a close friend of Moncada and nephew of President Sacasa, had supported the liberal revolt in 1926. Somoza García also enjoyed support from the United States government because of his participation at the 1927 peace conference as one of Stimson’s interpreters. Having attended school in Philadelphia and been trained by United States marines, Somoza García, who was fluent in English, had developed friends with military, economic, and political influence in the United States.

After United States troops left Nicaragua in January 1933, the Sacasa government and the National Guard still were threatened by Sandino’s EDSN. True to his promise to stop fighting after United States marines had left the country, Sandino agreed to discussions with Sacasa. In February 1934, these negotiations began. During their meetings, Sacasa offered Sandino a general amnesty as well as land and safeguards for him and his guerrilla forces. However, Sandino, who regarded the National Guard as unconstitutional because of its ties to the United States military, insisted on the guard’s dissolution. His attitude made him very unpopular with Somoza Garcia and his guards. Without consulting the president, Somoza Garcia gave orders for Sandino’s assassination, hoping that this action would help him win the loyalty of senior guard officers. On February 21, 1934, while leaving the presidential palace after a dinner with President Sacasa, Sandino and two of his generals were arrested by National Guard officers acting under Somoza García’s instructions. They were then taken to the airfield, executed, and buried in unmarked graves. Despite Sacasa’s strong disapproval of Somoza García’s action, the Nicaraguan president was too weak to contain the National Guard director. After Sandino’s execution, the National Guard launched a ruthless campaign against Sandino’s supporters. In less than a month, Sandino’s army was totally destroyed.

President Sacasa’s popularity decreased as a result of his poor leadership and accusations of fraud in the 1934 congressional elections. Somoza García benefited from Sacasa’s diminishing power, while at the same time he brought together the National Guard and the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal-PL) in order to win the presidential elections in 1936. Somoza García also cultivated support from former presidents Moncada and Chamorro while consolidating control within the Liberal Party. Early in 1936, Somoza García openly confronted President Sacasa by using military force to displace local government officials loyal to the president and replacing them with close associates. Somoza García’s increasing military confrontation led to Sacasa’s resignation on June 6, 1936. The Congress appointed Carlos Brenes Jarquín, a Somoza García associate, as interim president and postponed presidential elections until December. In November, Somoza García officially resigned as chief director of the National Guard, thus complying with constitutional requirements for eligibility to run for the presidency. The Liberal Nationalist Party (Partido Liberal Nacionalista–PLN) was established with support from a faction of the Conservative Party to support Somoza García’s candidacy. Somoza García was elected president in the December election by the remarkable margin of 107,201 votes to 108. On January 1, 1937, Somoza García resumed control of the National Guard, combining the roles of president and chief director of the military. Thus, Somoza García established a military dictatorship, in the shadows of democratic laws, that would last more than four decades.

Somoza García controlled political power, directly as president or indirectly through carefully chosen puppet presidents, from 1936 until his assassination in 1956. A cynical and opportunistic individual, Somoza García ruled Nicaragua with a strong arm, deriving his power from three main sources: the ownership or control of large portions of the Nicaraguan economy, the military support of the National Guard, and his acceptance and support from the United States. His excellent command of the English language and understanding of United States culture, combined with a charming personality and considerable political talent and resourcefulness, helped Somoza García win many powerful allies in the United States. Through large investments in land, manufacturing, transport, and real estate, he enriched himself and his close friends.

After Somoza García won in the December 1936 presidential elections, he diligently proceeded to consolidate his power within the National Guard, while at the same time dividing his political opponents. Family members and close associates were given key positions within the government and the military. The Somoza family also controlled the PLN, which in turn controlled the legislature and judicial system, thus giving Somoza García absolute power over every sphere of Nicaraguan politics. Nominal political opposition was allowed as long as it did not threaten the ruling elite. Somoza García’s National Guard repressed serious political opposition and antigovernment demonstrations. The institutional power of the National Guard grew in most government-owned enterprises, until eventually it controlled the national radio and telegraph networks, the postal and immigration services, health services, the internal revenue service, and the national railroads. In less than two years after his election, Somoza García, defying the Conservative Party, declared his intention to stay in power beyond his presidential term. Thus, in 1938 Somoza García named a Constituent Assembly that gave the president extensive power and elected him for another eight-year term.

Somoza García’s opportunistic support of the Allies during World War II benefited Nicaragua by injecting desperately needed United States funds into the economy and increasing military capabilities. Nicaragua received relatively large amounts of military aid and enthusiastically integrated its economy into the wartime hemispheric economic plan, providing raw materials in support of the Allied war effort. Exports of timber, gold, and cotton soared. However, because more than 90 percent of all exports went to the United States, the growth in trade also increased the country’s economic and political dependence. Somoza García built an immense fortune for himself and his family during the 1940s through substantial investments in agricultural exports, especially in coffee and cattle. The government confiscated German properties and then sold them to Somoza García and his family at ridiculously low prices. Among his many industrial enterprises, Somoza García owned textile companies, sugar mills, rum distilleries, the merchant marine lines, the national Nicaraguan Airlines (Líneas Aéreas de Nicaragua–Lanica), and La Salud
dairy–the country’s only pasteurized milk facility. Somoza García also gained large profits from economic concessions to national and foreign companies, bribes, and illegal exports. By the end of World War II, Somoza García had amassed one of the largest fortunes in the region–an estimated US$60 million.

After World War II, however, widespread domestic and international opposition to the Somoza García dictatorship grew among political parties, labor, business groups, and the United States government. Somoza García’s decision to run for reelection in 1944 was opposed by some liberals, who established the Independent Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Independiente–PLI). Somoza García’s reelection was also opposed by the United States government. The dictator reacted to growing criticism by creating a puppet government to save his rule. He decided not to run for reelection and had the PLN nominate the elderly Leonardo Argüello, believing he could control Argüello from behind the scenes. Argüello ran against Enoc Aguado, a candidate supported by a coalition of political parties that included the conservatives and the PLI. Despite the large support for the Aguado candidacy, Somoza García subverted the electoral process by using government resources and the National Guard to ensure the electoral victory of his candidate. Argüello was sworn in on May 1, 1947, and Somoza García remained as chief director of the National Guard.

Argüello had no intention of being a puppet, however, and in less than a month, when Argüello’s measures began to challenge Somoza García’s power, the National Guard chief staged a coup and placed a family associate, Benjamín Lacayo Sacasa, in the presidency. The administration of United States president Harry S. Truman responded by withholding diplomatic recognitions from the new Nicaraguan government. In an effort to legitimize the new regime and win United States support, Somoza García named a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution. The assembly then appointed Somoza García’s uncle, Víctor Román Reyes, as president. The constitution of 1947 was carefully crafted with strong anticommunist rhetoric to win United States support. Despite efforts by Somoza García’s to placate the United States, the United States continued its opposition and refused to recognize the new regime. Under diplomatic pressure from the rest of Latin America, formal diplomatic relations between Managua and Washington were restored in mid-1948.

Despite its anticommunist rhetoric, the government promoted liberal labor policies to gain support from the communist party of Nicaragua, known as the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Nicaragüese–PSN) and thwarted the establishment of any independent labor movement. The government approved several progressive laws in 1945 to win government support from labor unions. Concessions and bribes were granted to labor leaders, and antigovernment union leaders were displaced in favor of Somoza García loyalists. However, after placement of pro-Somoza García leaders in labor unions, most labor legislation was ignored. In 1950 Somoza García signed an agreement with conservative general Emiliano Chamorro Vargas that assured the Conservative Party of one-third of the congressional delegates as well as limited representation in the cabinet and in the courts. Somoza García also promised clauses in the new 1950 constitution guaranteeing "commercial liberty." This measure brought back limited support from the traditional elite to the Somoza García regime. The elite benefited from the economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the cotton and cattle export sectors. Somoza García again was elected president in general elections held in 1950. In 1955 Congress amended the constitution to allow his reelection for yet another presidential term. Somoza García had many political enemies, and coups against him were attempted periodically, even within the National Guard. For protection, he constructed a secure compound within his residence and kept personal bodyguards, independent of the National Guard, with him wherever he went. Nevertheless, on September 21, 1956, while attending a PLN party in León to celebrate his nomination for the presidency, Somoza García was fatally wounded, by Rigoberto López Pérez, a twenty-seven-year- old Nicaraguan poet, who had managed to pass through Somoza García’s security. The dictator was flown to the Panama Canal Zone, where he died eight days later.

Somoza García was succeeded as president by his eldest son Luis Somoza Debayle. A United States-trained engineer, Luis Somoza Debayle was first elected as a PLN delegate in 1950 and by 1956 presided over the Nicaraguan Congress. After his father’s death, he assumed the position of interim president, as prescribed in the constitution. His brother Anastasio "Tachito" Somoza Debayle, a West Point graduate, took over leadership of the National Guard. A major political repression campaign followed Somoza García’s assassination: many political opponents were tortured and imprisoned by guards under orders from Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the government imposed press censorship and suspended many civil liberties. When the Conservative Party refused to participate in the 1957 elections–in protest of the lack of freedom imposed by the regime–the Somoza brothers created a puppet opposition party, the National Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Nacional– PCN), to give a democratic facade to the political campaign. Luis Somoza Debayle won the presidency in 1957 with little opposition. During his six-year term, from 1957 to 1963, his government provided citizens with some freedoms and raised hopes for political liberalization. In an effort to open up the government, Luis Somoza Debayle restored the constitutional ban on reelection.

In 1960 Nicaragua joined El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Costa Rica joined later) in the establishment of the Central American Common Market (CACM). The main objective of the regional economic group was to promote trade among member countries. Under this partnership, trade and manufacturing increased, greatly stimulating economic growth. Furthermore, in the international political sphere, Luis Somoza Debayle’s anticommunist stance won government favor and support from the United States. In 1959 Nicaragua was among the first nations to condemn the Cuban Revolution and to accuse Fidel Castro Ruz of attempting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The Luis Somoza Debayle government played a leading role in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, allowing the Cuban exile brigade to use military bases on the Caribbean coast to launch the failed maneuver. Trusted friends of the Somoza family held the presidency from 1963 until 1967. In 1963 René Schick Gutiérrez won the presidential election; Somoza García’s younger son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, continued as chief director of the National Guard. Shick gave the appearance of following the less repressive programs of Luis Somoza Debayle. President Schick died in 1966 and was succeeded by Lorenzo Guerrero Gutiérrez.

When poor health prevented Luis Somoza Debayle from being a candidate, his brother Anastasio ran in the 1967 presidential election. To challenge the candidacy of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the conservatives, the PLI, and the Christian Social Party (Partido Social Cristiano-PSC) created the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Opositora-UNO). The UNO nominated Fernando Agüero as their candidate. In February 1967, Anastasio Somoza Debayle was elected president amidst a repressive campaign against opposition supporters of Agüero. Two months later, Anastasio’s brother Luis died of a heart attack. With his election, Anastasio Somoza Debayle became president as well as the director of the National Guard, giving him absolute political and military
control over Nicaragua. Corruption and the use of force intensified, accelerating opposition from populist and business groups. Although his four-year term was to end in 1971, Anastasio Somoza Debayle amended the constitution to stay in power until 1972. Increasing pressures from the opposition and his own party, however, led the dictator to negotiate a political agreement, known as the Kupia-Kumi Pact, which installed a three-member junta that would rule from 1972 until 1974. The junta was established in May 1972 amidst opposition led by Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal and his newspaper La Prensa. Popular discontent also grew in response to deteriorating social conditions. Illiteracy, malnourishment, inadequate health services, and lack of proper housing also ignited criticism from the Roman Catholic Church, led by Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo. The archbishop began to publish a series of pastoral letters critical of Anastasio Somoza Debayle’s government.

On December 23, 1972, a powerful earthquake shook Nicaragua, destroying most of the capital city. The earthquake left approximately 10,000 dead and some 50,000 families homeless, and destroyed 80 percent of Managua’s commercial buildings. Immediately after the earthquake, the National Guard joined the widespread looting of most of the remaining business establishments in Managua. When reconstruction began, the government’s illegal appropriation and mismanagement of international relief aid, directed by the Somoza family and members of the National Guard, shocked the international community and produced further unrest in Nicaragua. The president’s ability to take advantage of the people’s suffering proved enormous. By some estimates, his personal wealth soared to US$400 million in 1974. As a result of his greed, Anastasio Somoza Debayle’s support base within the business sector began to crumble. A revived labor movement increased opposition to the regime and to the deteriorating economic conditions. Anastasio Somoza Debayle’s intentions to run for another presidential term in 1974 were resisted even within his own PLN. The political opposition, led by Chamorro and former Minister of Education Ramiro Sacasa, established the Democratic Liberation Union (Unión Democrática de Liberación–Udel), an opposition group that included most anti-Somoza elements. The Udel was a broad coalition of business groups whose representation included members from both the traditional elite and labor unions. The party promoted a dialogue with the government to foster political pluralism. The president responded with increasing political repression and further censorship of the media and the press. In September 1974, Anastasio Somoza Debayle was reelected president

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional–FSLN) was formally organized in Nicaragua in 1961. Founded by José Carlos Fonseca Amador, Silvio Mayorga, and Tomás Borge Martínez, the FSLN began in the late 1950s as a group of student activists at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua–UNAN) in Managua. Many of the early members were imprisoned. Borge spent several years in jail, and Fonseca spent several years in exile in Mexico, Cuba, and Costa Rica. Beginning with approximately twenty members in the early 1960s, the FSLN continued to struggle and grow in numbers. By the early 1970s, the group had gained enough support from peasants and students groups to launch limited military initiatives. On December 27, 1974, a group of FSLN guerrillas seized the home of a former government official and took as hostages a handful of leading Nicaraguan officials, many of whom were Somoza relatives. With the mediation of Archbishop Obando y Bravo, the government and the guerrillas reached an agreement on December 30 that humiliated and further debilitated the Somoza regime. The guerrillas received US$1 million ransom, had a government declaration read over the radio and printed in La Prensa, and succeeded in getting fourteen Sandinista prisoners released from jail and flown to Cuba along with the kidnappers. The guerrilla movement’s prestige soared because of this successful operation. The act also established the FSLN strategy of revolution as an effective alternative to Udel’s policy of promoting change peacefully. The Somoza government responded to the increased opposition with further censorship, intimidation, torture, and murder.

In 1975 Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the National Guard launched another violent and repressive campaign against the FSLN. The government imposed a state of siege, censoring the press, and threatening all opponents with detention and torture. The National Guard increased its violence against individuals and communities suspected of collaborating with the Sandinistas. In less than a year, it killed many of the FSLN guerrillas, including one of its founders, José Carlos Fonseca Amador. The rampant violation of human rights brought national and international condemnation of the Somoza regime and added supporters to the Sandinista cause. In late 1975, the repressive campaign of the National Guard and the growth of the group caused the FSLN to split into three factions. These three factions–Proletarians (Proletarios), Prolonged Popular War, and the Insurrectional Faction, more
popularly known as the Third Way–insisted on different paths to carry out the revolution. The Proletarian faction, headed by Jaime Wheelock Román, followed traditional Marxist thought and sought to organize factory workers and people in poor neighborhoods. The Prolonged War faction, led by Tomás Borge and Henry Ruiz after the death of Fonseca, was influenced by the philosophy of Mao Zedong and believed that a revolution would require a long insurrection that included peasants and labor movements. The Third Way faction was more pragmatic and called for ideological pluralism. Its members argued that social conditions in Nicaragua were ripe for an immediate insurrection. Led by Daniel José Ortega Saavedra and his brother Humberto Ortega Saavedra, the Third Way faction supported joint efforts with non-Marxist groups to strengthen and accelerate the insurrection movement against Anastasio Somoza Debayle. The FSLN’s overall growing success led the factions to gradually coalesce, with the Third Way’s political philosophy of pluralism eventually prevailing.

United States support for President Somoza waned after 1977, when the administration of United States President Jimmy Carter made United States military assistance conditional on improvements in human rights. International pressure, especially from the Carter administration, forced President Somoza to lift the state of siege in September 1977. Protests and antigovernment demonstrations resumed although the National Guard continued to keep an upper hand on the FSLN guerrillas. During October 1977, a group of prominent Nicaraguan businesspeople and academics, among then Sergio Ramírez Mercado–known as Los Doce (the Group of Twelve)–met in Costa Rica and formed an anti-Somoza alliance. Los Doce strengthened the FSLN by insisting on Sandinista representation in any post-Somoza government. Nevertheless, opposition to the dictatorship remained divided. Capital flight increased, forcing President Somoza to depend on foreign loans, mostly from United States banks, to finance the government’s deficit.

The dictatorship’s repression of civil liberties and the lack of representative institutions slowly led to the consolidation of the opposition and armed resistance. The Somoza regime continually threatened the press, mostly the newspaper La Prensa and the critical editorials of its publisher and Udel leader, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal. The final act in the downfall of the Somoza era began on January 10, 1978, when Chamorro was assassinated. Although his assassins were not identified at the time, evidence implicated President Somoza’s son and other members of the National Guard. The opposition held the president and his guards responsible for Chamorro’s murder, thus provoking mass demonstrations against the regime. The Episcopate of the Nicaraguan Roman Catholic Church issued a pastoral letter highly critical of the government, and opposition parties called for Anastasio Somoza Debayle’s resignation. On January 23, a nationwide strike began, including the public and private sectors; supporters of the stride demanded an end to the dictatorship. The National Guard responded by further increasing repression and using force to contain and intimidate all government opposition. Anastasio Somoza Debayle, meanwhile, asserted his intention to stay in power until the end of his presidential term in 1981. The general strike paralyzed both private industry and government services for ten days. The political impasse and the costs to the private sector weakened the strike, and in less than two weeks most private enterprises decided to suspend their participation. The FSLN guerrillas launched a series of attacks throughout the country, but the better-equipped National Guard was able to maintain military superiority.

Indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population and abuses of human rights by National Guard members further tarnished the international image of the Somoza government and damaged the economy. In February 1978, the United States government suspended all military assistance forcing Somoza to buy weapons and equipment on the international market. The Nicaraguan economy continued its decline; the country suffered from increased capital flight, lack of investment, inflation, and unemployment. Although still fragmented, opposition to the Somoza regime continued to grow during 1978. In March, Alfonso Robelo Callejas, an anti-Somoza businessman, established the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (Movimiento Democrático Nicaragüense–MDN). In May 1978, the traditional Conservative Party joined Udel, Los Doce, and the MDN in creating the Broad Opposition Front (Frente Amplio de Oposición–FAO) to try to pressure President Somoza for a negotiated solution to the crisis. Although the FSLN was not represented in the FAO, the participation of Los Doce in the FAO assured a connection between the FSLN and other opposition groups. The FSLN responded to the FAO in July by establishing a political arm, the United People’s Movement (Movimiento del Pueblo Unido–MPU). The MPU included leftist labor groups, student organizations, and communist and socialist parties. The MPU also promoted armed struggle and a nationwide insurrection as the only means of overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship.

The FSLN strengthened its position on August 22, 1978, when a group of the Third Way faction, led by Edén Pastora Gómez (also known as Commander Zero–Comandante Cero), took over the National Palace and held almost 2,000 government officials and members of Congress hostage for two days. With mediation from Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo, as well as from the Costa Rican and Panamanian ambassadors, the crisis was solved in two days. The results of the negotiations favored the insurrection and further tarnished the government’s image. President Somoza had no alternative but to meet most of the rebels’ demands, including the release of sixty FSLN guerrillas from prison, media dissemination of an FSLN declaration, a US$500,000 ransom, and safe passage for the hostage takers to Panama and Venezuela. The attack electrified the opposition. The humiliation of the dictatorship also affected morale within the National Guard, forcing Anastasio Somoza Debayle to replace many of its officers to forestall a coup and to launch a recruitment campaign to strengthen its rank and file. Fighting broke out throughout the country, but the National Guard, despite internal divisions, kept recapturing most of the guerrilla-occupied territories.

By the end of 1978, the failure of the FAO to obtain a negotiated solution increased the stature of the insurrection movement. In October, Los Doce withdrew from the negotiation process when the FAO persisted in seeking a negotiated settlement with the dictator, and many of FAO’s members resigned in protest over the negotiations with Somoza. The insurrection
movement, meanwhile, gathered strength and increased the fighting. The Somoza regime was further isolated and discredited when in November the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a report charging the National Guard with numerous violations of human rights. The report was followed by a United Nations (UN) resolution condemning the
Nicaraguan government. In December 1978, the FSLN was further strengthened when Cuban mediation led to an agreement among the three FSLN factions for a united Sandinista front. Formal unification of the FSLN occurred in March 1979. A mediation process led by the OAS collapsed during January 1979, when President Somoza refused to hold a national plebiscite and insisted on staying in power until 1981. As fighting increased, the Nicaraguan economy faced a severe economic crisis, with a sharp decline in agricultural and
industrial production, as well as high levels of unemployment, inflation, defense spending, and capital flight. The government debt also increased mostly as a result of defense expenditures and the gradual suspension of economic support from all international financial institutions.

On February 1, 1979, the Sandinistas established the National Patriotic Front (Frente Patriótico Nacional–FPN), which included Los Doce, the PLI, and the Popular Social Christian Party (Partido Popular Social Cristiano–PPSC). The FPN had a broad appeal, including political support from elements of the FAO and the private sector. After the formal unification of the Sandinista guerrillas in March, heavy fighting broke out all over the country. By then the FSLN was better equipped, with weapons flowing from Venezuela, Panama, and Cuba, mostly through Costa Rica. The FSLN launched its final offensive during May, just as the National Guard began to lose control of many areas of the country. In a year’s time, bold military and political moves had changed the FSLN from one of many opposition groups to a leadership role in the anti-Somoza revolt.

On June 18, a provisional Nicaraguan government in exile, consisting of a five-member junta, was organized in Costa Rica. Known as the Puntarenas Pact, an agreement reached by the new government in exile called for the establishment of a mixed economy, political pluralism, and a nonaligned foreign policy. Free elections were to be held at a later date, and the National Guard was to be replaced by a nonpartisan army. The members of the new junta were Daniel José Ortega Saavedra of the FSLN, Moisés Hassan Morales of the FPN, Sergio Ramírez Mercado of Los Doce, Alfonso Robelo Callejas of the MDN, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the widow of La Prensa‘s editor. Panama was the first country to recognize the junta. By the end of June, most of Nicaragua was under FSLN control, with the exception of the capital. President Somoza’s political and military isolation finally forced him to consider resignation. The provisional government in exile released a government program on July 9 in which it pledged to organize an effective democratic regime, promote political pluralism and universal suffrage, and ban ideological discrimination–except for those promoting the "return of Somoza’s rule." By the second week of July, President Somoza had agreed to resign and hand over power to Francisco Maliano Urcuyo, who would in turn transfer the government to the Revolutionary Junta. According to the agreement, a cease-fire would follow, and defense responsibilities would be shared by elements of the National Guard and the FSLN.

On July 17, 1979, Anastasio Somoza Debayle resigned, handed over power to Urcuyo, and fled to Miami. The former Nicaraguan dictator then established residence in Paraguay, where he lived until September 1980, when he was murdered, reportedly by leftist Argentine guerrillas. After President Somoza left Nicaragua in 1979, many members of the National Guard also fled the
country, seeking asylum in neighboring countries, particularly in Honduras and Guatemala. Others turned themselves in to the new authorities after the FSLN took power, on promises of amnesty. They were subsequently tried and many served jail terms. The five-member junta arrived in the city of León a day after Somoza’s departure, on July 18. Urcuyo tried to ignore the agreement transferring power, but in less than two days, domestic and international pressure drove him to exile in Guatemala. On July 19, the FSLN army entered Managua, culminating the Nicaraguan revolution. The insurrection left approximately 50,000 dead and 150,000 Nicaraguans in exile. The five-member junta entered the Nicaraguan capital the next day and assumed power, reiterating its pledge to work for political pluralism, a mixed economic system, and a nonaligned foreign policy.

The new government inherited a country in ruins, with a stagnant economy and a debt of about US$1.6 billion.  Food and fuel supplies were exhausted, and international relief organizations were trying to deal with disease caused by lack of health supplies. Yet the attitude of the vast majority of Nicaraguans toward the revolution was decidedly hopeful. Most Nicaraguans saw the Sandinista victory as an opportunity to create a system free of the political, social, and economic inequalities of the almost universally hated Somoza regime. At first the economy experienced positive growth, largely because of renewed inflow of foreign aid and reconstruction after the war. The new government enacted the Agrarian Reform Law, beginning with the nationalization of all rural properties owned by the Somoza family or people associated with the Somozas, a total of 2,000 farms representing more than 20 percent of Nicaragua’s cultivable land. These farms became state property under the new Ministry of Agrarian Reform. Large agroexport farms not owned by the Somozas generally were not affected by the agrarian reform. Financial institutions, all in bankruptcy from the massive capital flight during the war, were also nationalized.

The second goal of the Sandinistas was a change in the old government’s pattern of repression and brutality toward the general populace. Many of the Sandinista leaders were victims of torture themselves, and the new minister of interior, Tomás Borge Martínez, tried to keep human rights violations low. Most prisoners accused of injustices under the Somoza regime
were given a trial, and the Ministry of Interior forbade cruelty to prisoners. In their first two years in power, Amnesty International and other human rights groups found the human rights situation in Nicaragua greatly improved.

The third major goal of the country’s new leaders was the establishment of new political institutions to consolidate the revolution. On August 22, 1979, the junta proclaimed the Fundamental Statute of the Republic of Nicaragua. This statute abolished the constitution, presidency, Congress, and all courts. The junta ruled by unappealable degree under emergency powers. National government policy, however, was generally made by the nine-member Joint National Directorate (Dirección Nacional Conjunto–DNC), the ruling body of the FSLN, and then transmitted to the junta by Daniel Ortega for the junta’s discussion and approval.

The new government established a consultive corporatist representative assembly, the Council of State, on May 4, 1980. The council could approve laws submitted to it by the junta or initiate its own legislation. The junta, however, had the right of veto over council-initiated legislation, and the junta retained control over much of the budget. Although its powers were
limited, the council was not a rubber stamp and often amended legislation given it by the junta. The establishment of the Council of State and the political makeup of its thirty-three members had been decided in negotiations among the revolutionary groups in 1979. The members were not elected but appointed by various political groups. In the discussions establishing the council, it was
agreed that the FSLN could name twelve of the thirty-three members. Soon after its formation, however, the junta added fourteen new members to the Council of State, with twelve of those going to the FSLN. This new configuration gave the FSLN twenty-four of the forty-seven seats. Opponents of the FSLN viewed the addition of the new members as a power grab, but the FSLN responded that new groups had been formed since the revolution and that they needed to be represented.

The membership of the junta changed during its early years. Chamorro resigned in early 1980, ostensibly for health reasons, but later asserted that she had become dissatisfied with increased FSLN dominance in the government. Robelo resigned in mid-1980 to protest the expansion of the Council of State. Chamorro and Robelo were replaced by a rancher who belonged to the PDC and a banker, one of the members of Los Doce. In 1983 the junta was reduced to three members, with Daniel Ortega clearly playing the lead role among the remaining three. Immediately after the revolution, the Sandinistas had the best organized and most experienced military force in the country. To replace the National Guard, the Sandinistas established a new national army, the Sandinista People’s Army (Ejército Popular Sandinista–EPS), and a police force, the Sandinista Police (Policía Sandinista–PS). These two groups, contrary to the original Puntarenas Pact were controlled by the Sandinistas and trained by personnel from Cuba, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. Opposition to the overwhelming FSLN influence in the security forces did not surface until 1980. Meanwhile, the EPS developed, with support from Cuba and the Soviet Union, into the largest and bestequipped military force in Central America. Compulsory military service, introduced during 1983, brought the EPS forces to about 80,000 by the mid-1980s.

Immediately after the revolution, the FSLN also developed mass organizations representing most popular interest groups in Nicaragua. The most significant of these included the Sandinista Workers’ Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores–CST) representing labor unions, the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women’s Association (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza–AMNLAE), and in 1982 the National Union of Farmers and Cattlemen (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos–UNAG) composed of small farmers and peasants. The FSLN also created neighborhood groups, similar to the Cuban Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, called Sandinista Defense Committees (Comités de Defensa Sandinista–CDSs). One of the CDSs primary purposes was the gathering and dissemination of information to all Nicaraguans. The CDSs did a block-by-block census of all numbered houses in cities and therefore knew everyone’s whereabouts. The CDSs were also responsible for distributing rationed goods and community improvement projects. The opponents of the Sandinistas made little attempt to develop effective mass organizations that could challenge the well organized and well disciplined Sandinista groups. Thus, the FSLN mass organizations were instrumental in consolidating Sandinista power over political and military institutions. By 1980 Sandinista organizations embraced some 250,000 Nicaraguans. Less than a year after their victory, the Sandinistas controlled the government.

From late 1979 through 1980, the Carter administration made efforts to work with FSLN policies. However, when President Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, the United States government launched a campaign to isolate the Sandinista government. Claiming that Nicaragua, with assistance from Cuba and the Soviet Union, was supplying arms to the guerrillas in El Salvador, the Reagan administration suspended all United States aid to Nicaragua on January 23, 1981. The Nicaraguan government denied all United States allegations and charged the United States with leading an international campaign against it. Later that year, the Reagan administration authorized support for groups trying to overthrow the Sandinistas. Using an initial budget of US$19 million and camps in southern Honduras as a staging area, the United States supported groups of disgruntled former members of the National Guards. These groups became known as the Contras (short for contrarevolucionarios). The Contras initially consisted of former members of the National Guards who had fled to Honduras after the fall of President Somoza. By the end of 1981, however, the group’s membership had multiplied because peasants from the north and ethnic groups from the Caribbean coast had joined in the counterrevolutionary war. Nevertheless, early Contra leadership was represented mostly by former members of the National Guard; this fact made the movement highly unpopular among most Nicaraguans.

The Contras established operational bases in Honduras from which they launched hit-and-run raids throughout northern Nicaragua. The charismatic Edén Pastora abandoned the Sandinista revolution in July 1981 and formed his own guerrilla group, which operated in the southern part of Nicaragua from bases in Costa Rica. The United Nicaraguan Opposition operated in the northwest, the Opposition Block of the South operated in the southeast, and the Nicaraguan Coast Indian Unity operated in the northwest. Although the Sandinista army was larger and better equipped than the Contras, the antigovernment campaign became a serious threat to the FSLN government, largely through damage to the economy. As the Contra war intensified, the Sandinistas’ tolerance of political pluralism waned. The Sandinistas imposed emergency laws to ban criticism and organization of political opposition. Most social programs suffered as a result of the war because the Sandinista regime was forced to increase military spending until half of its budget went for defense. Agricultural production also declined sharply as refugees fled areas of conflict.

By 1981 the country’s most influential papers, La Prensa, joined the growing chorus of dissent against the Sandinista government. Under the state of emergency declared in 1982, the paper was subject to prior censorship. Despite several instances of suspended publication, some mandated by the Ministry of Interior, and some in protest by the paper’s editor over cut copy, the paper continued to operate. In anticipation of upcoming elections, the government eased censorship. Increased latitude in what it could publish only increased La Prensa’s bitter criticism of the government.

By July 1984, eight parties or coalitions had announced their intention to field candidates: the FSLN with Daniel Ortega as presidential candidate; the Democratic Coordinator (Coordinadora Democrática–CD), a broad coalition of labor unions, business groups, and four centrist parties; and six other parties–the PLI, the PPSC, the Democratic Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Demócratica–PCD), the communists, the socialists, and the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement. Claiming that the Sandinistas were manipulating the electoral process, the CD refused to formally file its candidates and urged Nicaraguans to boycott the election. In October, Virgilio Godoy Reyes of the PLI also withdrew his candidacy, although most of the other candidates for the National Assembly and the PLI’s vice presidential candidate remained on the ballot. Other parties reportedly were pressured to withdraw from the election also. On November 4 1984, about 75 percent of the registered voters went to the polls. The FSLN won 67 percent of the votes, the presidency, and sixty-one of the ninety-six seats in the new National Assembly. The three
conservative parties that remained in the election garnered twenty-nine seats in the National Assembly; the three parties on the left won a total of six seats. Foreign observers generally reported that the election was fair. Opposition groups, however, said that the FSLN domination of government organs, mass organizations groups, and much of the media created a climate of intimidation that precluded a truly open election. Inauguration came on January 10, 1985; the date was selected because it was the seventh anniversary of the assassination of newspaper editor Chamorro. Attending Ortega’s swearing in as president were the presidents of Yugoslavia and Cuba, the vice presidents of Argentina and the Soviet Union, and four foreign ministers from Latin America.

Daniel Ortega began his six-year presidential term on January 10, 1985. After the United States Congress turned down continued funding of the Contras in April 1985, the Reagan administration ordered a total embargo on United States trade with Nicaragua the following month, accusing the Sandinista regime of threatening United States security in the region. The FSLN government responded by suspending civil liberties. Both the media and the Roman Catholic bishops were accused of destabilizing the political system. The church’s press, as well as the conservative newspaper La Prensa, were censored or closed at various periods because of their critical views on the military draft and the government’s handling of the civil war. In June 1986, the United States Congress voted to resume aid to the Contras by appropriating US$100 million in military and nonmilitary assistance. The Sandinista government was forced to divert more and more of its economic resources from economic development to defense against the Contras.

Debate in the United States over military aid for the Contras continued until November 1986, when the policy of the Reagan administration toward Nicaragua was shaken by the discovery of an illegal operation in which funds from weapons sold to Iran during 1985 were diverted to the Contras. The Iran-Contra scandal resulted from covert efforts within the Reagan staff to support the Contras in spite of a United States Congressional ban on military aid in 1985. In the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair, the United States Congress again stopped all military support to the Contras in 1987 except for what was called "non-lethal" aid. The result of the cutoff was a military stalemate; the Contras were unable or unwilling to keep on fighting without full United States support, and the Sandinista government could not afford to continue waging an unpopular war that had already devastated the economy. The conditions for a negotiated solution to the conflict were better than ever, leaving both parties, the Contras and the Sandinistas, with few options other than to negotiate.

After Oscar Arias Sánchez was elected to the presidency of Costa Rica in 1986, he designed a regional plan to bring peace to Central America, following earlier efforts by the Contadora Group (formed by Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, and Colombia in 1983). The Arias Plan, officially launched in February 1987, was signed by the presidents of the five Central American
republics (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) at a presidential summit held in Esquipulas, Guatemala in August 1987. This agreement, also known as Esquipulas II, called for amnesty for persons charged with political crimes, a negotiated cease-fire, national reconciliation for those countries with insurgencies (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua), an end to all external aid to insurgencies (United States support to the Contras and Soviet and Cuban support to guerrillas in Guatemala and El Salvador), and democratic reforms leading to free elections in Nicaragua. After the signing of Esquipulas II, the government created a National Reconciliation Commission headed by Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo. The United States government responded by encouraging the Contras to negotiate. At the time, there were an estimated 10,000 Contra rebels and as many as 40,000 of their dependents living in Honduras.

An additional step toward the solution of the Nicaraguan conflict was taken at a summit of Central American presidents held on January 15, 1988, when President Daniel Ortega agreed to hold direct talks with the Contras, to lift the state of emergency, and to call for national elections. In March the FSLN government met with representatives of the Contras and signed a
cease-fire agreement. The Sandinistas granted a general amnesty to all Contra members and freed former members of the National Guard who were still imprisoned. By mid-1988, international institutions had demanded that the Sandinistas launch a drastic economic adjustment program as a condition for resumption of aid. This new economic program imposed further hardship on the Nicaraguan people. Government agencies were reorganized, leaving many Nicaraguans unemployed. The Sandinista army also went through a reduction in force. To complicate matters, in October 1988 the country was hit by Hurricane Joan, which left 432 people dead, 230,000 homeless, and damages estimated at US$1 billion. In addition, a severe drought during 1989 ruined agricultural production for 1990.

With the country bankrupt and the loss of economic support from the economically strapped Soviet Union, the Sandinistas decided to move up the date for general elections in order to convince the United States Congress to end all aid to the Contras and to attract potential economic support from Europe and the United States. As a result of Esquipulas II, the Sandinista regime and the Contras successfully concluded direct negotiations on a cease-fire in meetings held at Sapoá, Nicaragua, during June 1988. In February 1989, the five Central American presidents met once again in Costa del Sol, El Salvador, and agreed on a plan to support the disarming and dissolving of Contra forces in Honduras, as well as their voluntary repatriation into Nicaragua. President Ortega also agreed to move the next national elections, scheduled for the fall of 1990, up to February 1990; to guarantee fair participation for opposition parties; and to allow international observers to monitor the entire electoral process.

As a result of the Esquipulas II peace accords, the FSLN government reinstated political freedoms. At first, the various anti-Sandinista groups were weak and divided and did not have a cohesive government program to challenge the FSLN. The Sandinistas, therefore, felt confident of their success at the polls despite deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in the country. On June 6, 1989, fourteen parties, united only in their opposition to the Sandinistas, formed a coalition called the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Opositora–UNO), whose support was drawn from a broad base, including conservative and liberal parties as well as two of Nicaragua’s traditional communist factions. Despite its determination to vote the Sandinistas out of power, however, the UNO coalition remained a weak opposition lacking a cohesive program. The UNO and the Sandinistas began their political campaigns in the summer of 1989. Although sharp divisions within the UNO remained, all fourteen parties finally compromised, and on September 2 the anti-Sandinista coalition nominated Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, publisher of LaPrensa and former member of the junta, as their candidate for president. Virgilio Godoy Reyes, head of the PLI and former minister of labor under the Sandinistas, was chosen as her running mate. The FSLN nominated Daniel Ortega for the presidency and Sergio Ramírez Mercado as his running mate.

The political campaign was conducted under the close international supervision of the OAS, the UN, and a delegation headed by former United States President Jimmy Carter. The administration of United States president George H.W. Bush provided economic assistance to the Sandinista opposition. Most of this aid was channeled through the National Endowment for Democracy, which contributed more than US$9 million. Despite some violent incidents, the electoral campaign was carried out in relative peace. The FSLN was better organized than the opposition and used government funds and resources–such as school buses and military trucks–to bring Sandinista supporters from all over the country to their rallies. In an effort to divert attention from the critical economic situation, the Sandinista campaign appealed to nationalism, depicting UNO followers as pro-Somoza, instruments of United States foreign policy and enemies of the Nicaraguan revolution. Despite limited resources and poor organization, the UNO coalition under Violeta Chamorro directed a campaign centered around the failing economy and promises of peace. Many Nicaraguans expected the country’s economic crisis to deepen and the Contra conflict to continue if the Sandinistas remained in power. Chamorro promised to end the unpopular military draft, bring about democratic reconciliation, and promote economic growth. In the February 25, 1990, elections, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro carried 55 percent of the popular vote against Daniel Ortega’s 41 percent. Exhausted by war and poverty, the Nicaraguan people had opted for change.

Although the election results surprised many observers, both sides began conversations to bring a peaceful transfer of power. In March a transition team headed by Chamorro’s son-in-law, Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren, representing the UNO, and General Humberto Ortega, representing the FSLN, began discussions on the transfer of political power. However, Sandinista bureaucrats systematically ransacked government offices and gave government assets to loyal government supporters, destroyed records; consolidated many of the government agencies (in particular, the Ministry of Interior, whose security forces were incorporated into the EPS), and passed legislation to protect their interests once they were ousted from the government. On May 30, the Sandinista government, along with the UNO transition team and the Contra leadership, signed agreements for a formal cease-fire and the demobilization of the Contras. Despite continued sporadic clashes, the Contras completed their demobilization on June 26, 1990.The FSLN accepted its new role of opposition and handed over political power to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and the UNO coalition on April 25, 1990. President Chamorro pledged her determination to give Nicaragua a democratic government, bring about national reconciliation, and keep a small nonpartisan professional army. Nicaragua underwent yet another sea change as the country stepped out of the Cold War spotlight.

Once in government, much of Chamorro’s energy was consumed by holding together the fractious UNO coalition. The
President herself had little to do with the day-to-day business of government, which was mostly in the hands of her son-in-law, Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren. Under Chamorro, Nicaraguan relations with the USA did not proceed as smoothly as either party would have liked. Bilateral aid was the major sticking point, with the US Congress imposing a series of obstacles to the US$100 million annual
subvention. However, Nicaraguan diplomacy proved enough to avoid the suspension of aid. At home, the instability and perceived lack of action on the part of the Chamorro government led to a series of armed uprisings in the more remote parts of the country, executed by disaffected ex-soldiers from both Contras and Sandinistas, whose land claims had been ignored. UNO has since been pushed out of ministerial office by Chamorro, who has replaced their representatives with members of the newly formed Partido
Socialista Nicaragüense
(PSN) and the Grupo de Centro, a faction composed of centrist UNO dissidents. While the disintegration of the anti-Sandinista UNO coalition was less than surprising, the split in the traditionally disciplined Sandinistas was unexpected. In the summer of 1995, a moderate faction led by ex-Vice-President Sergio Ramirez broke away, leaving Ortega in charge of the rump. Ortega’s fortunes have since deteriorated further, although he was once more re-elected Sandinista leader at the party’s May 1998 Congress, his future political prospects were put in serious jeopardy after he was accused of sexual molestation by his stepdaughter.

Both Ortega and the residual FSLN survived. However, both were defeated at the 1996 elections. Ortega drew on his huge popular following to register 40 per cent at the presidential poll but was overhauled by Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo leading an alliance of liberal and centrist parties. The Alianza Liberal also became the largest party in the Asamblea Nacional, following simultaneous legislative elections, albeit falling short of an absolute majority. The bitter issue of land reform continued to dominate Nicaraguan politics, with numerous disputes dating back to the Sandinista era and before. Following the passage of carefully worded legislation and the disarming of the Rearmados (rural guerrillas still pursuing some of these claims at the beginning of 1998), the issue now seems to have been settled. Ortega made another stab at the presidency in November 2001 and was widely tipped for victory. During the 1990s, he had gradually repositioned himself politically, dropping socialist policies and revolutionary rhetoric in favour of a Blairite Christian democrat posture. The FSLN was restyled as Convergencia, the ranks of which are even open to former members of Somoza’s once-loathed National Guard. In the event, Ortega lost out once again, this time to Lacayo’s vice-president, Enrique Bolanos Geyer. Convergencia also fell just short of the winning post; the Liberals have a majority of just two in the new national assembly. The new government faces several major problems, mostly related to the economy. Its work also has been paralysed by a dispute over the fate of ex-president Aleman, who was arraigned for corruption during his term of office. This was finally resolved in September 2002, when Aleman’s parliamentary immunity was removed.

References:

Mexico National History


Mexico was originally ruled by the Aztecs, one of the seven tribes that settled in the area of what is today the capital of the republic, from the land of Aztlan. The country was colonised by the Spanish from 1521 until 1821, when the war for independence was won. The country established first a Republic and later a monarchy.

Mexico still endured internal fighting between the liberal and conservative factions. The country also suffered foreign intervention from France and the United States. To the later country Mexico lost half its territory in the treaties of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848.

In the 1860’s Mexico fought against the French who, with the backing of the conservatives, tried to establish a monarchy in Mexico. With U.S. Aid the French were forced out, putting an end to Napoleon III’s dream of establishing a foothold in the America’s.

General Porfirio Diaz ruled the country for more than 30 years, triggering the start of the
Mexican revolution of 1910, that would last into the early 1920’s. This saw internal fighting between the many revolutionary factions, until the establishment of stable governments in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.

From 1936 to 1939 Mexico sided with the Spanish Republican government in their civil war, giving them support in the way of weapons and recognition of the legal government, even after their defeat. Mexico declared war on the Axis powers in 1942, after German submarines sank a number of
Mexican ships. The country fielded a fighter squadron that fought in the liberation of
The Philippines in 1945. In addition, thousands of volunteers joined and fought in the Allied armies.

Recently Mexico elected it’s first opposition president in more than 70 years of one party rule.

Jamaica National History

On the 4th of May 1494, Christopher Columbus arrived at the island of Jamaica. Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Jamaica was inhabited by Arawaks, living in simple communities based on fishing, hunting, and small scale cultivation of cassava. They had probably come from the country now known as Guyana, where Arawak Indians are still to be found. The impact of the contact with the Spanish was traumatic, and these communities disappeared in 70-80 years. But it was not occupied until Juan de Esquivel came from Santo Domingo in 1509 and for 146 years Jamaica remained a Spanish colony.

Disappointed by the absence of gold on the island, the Spanish used Jamaica as a base for supporting the conquest of the Americas, particularly Mexico with its treasures of gold and silver. The population of the Spanish settlement, including their slaves, was never large. It was administered from the Town of Santiago de la Vega, now called Spanish Town. Economic activity consisted primarily of production for domestic consumption, and to a lesser extent the supply of Spanish ships.

In 1655, on May 10, a body of English sailors and soldiers landed at Passage Fort, in Kingston harbour, and marched towards Spanish Town. They were commanded by Admiral Penn and General Venables, who had been sent by Oliver Cromwell to capture the island of Hispaniola. Penn and Venables failed to take the city of Santo Domingo and sailed on to Jamaica. On May 11, the Spaniards surrendered. By this time, the island was of little significance to the Spanish crown, and accordingly, very little was done to defend it.

In 1657 Don Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi led strong guerrilla forces in the interior. He had been appointed the last Spanish Governor of Jamaica. Two expeditions from Cuba came to the north coast to help him. General Doyley attacked both times by sailing around the island from Kingston. He defeated Ysassi near Ocho Rios in 1657 and at Rio Nuevo in 1658, the last named being the biggest battle ever fought in Jamaica. Ysassi continued to hold out until 1660, when the defection of Maroon allies made his cause hopeless, and he and his followers escaped to Cuba in canoes.

After a brief period of experimenting with indentured European labor, the British turned to large scale importation of Africans to be used as slaves on the sugar plantations. In its hey-day, Jamaica was one of "the jewels in the English crown" because of the fabulous prosperity it brought to the English plantation owners directly, and indirectly to those cities, such as Liverpool and Bristol, which serviced the trade with Jamaica and the rest of the British Caribbean (West Indies).

The political system consisted of a governor and his executive council, and an assembly of representatives elected on a limited franchise determined by property ownership. The politics of this period was characterized by an uneasy alliance between the governor as the representative of the crown, and the Assembly of planters, against the slaves. Frequently, the alliance broke down, invariably over taxation of the plantations.

Rallying to the cause of the slaves were the Maroons who were descendants of ex-slaves who had fled to the hills following the British take-over of the island in 1655. One of their outstanding leaders at the beginning of the 18th century was Nanny, a Chieftainess of Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains. "Grand Nanny", as she was fondly called, was known by both the Maroons and the British settlers as an outstanding military leader who became, in her lifetime and after, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.

In 1741 war having broken out again between England and Spain, Jamaican troops took part in Admiral Vernon’s disastrous attempt to capture Cartagena. Governor Trelawany personally led a regiment to the Isthmus of Panama the next year, but soon returned, unsuccessful.

In 1782 Rodney won his celebrated victory over the French Admiral, the Count de Grasse who had intended to invade and capture Jamaica. The colonists were in a state of fear and trepidation until the news of Rodney’s victory was received. The great battle was fought off Dominica on April 12. The French Admiral’s plan was to avoid meeting Rodney until he could join his allies, the Spaniards, whose fleet lay off Haiti. Rodney was determined to prevent this junction. He followed the French as fast as he could, and in spite of the wind being against him at first came up with them at the islets called the Saintes near Dominica. A bloody naval engagement followed. The French were completely beaten. Rodney brought the captured ships to Port Royal. His victory
saved Jamaica from a French invasion.

By the close of the 18th century, sugar was losing its economic preeminence because of competition from beet sugar as well as rising production costs. On the 1st of August 1838, the slaves were Emancipated and the plantations had to begin paying wages to its workers. One of Jamaica’s national heroes, Rev.Sam Sharpe, after whom Montego Bay’s city square is named, is celebrated for his leadership role in the famous Christmas rebellion of slaves in 1831, a few years before Emancipation.

After Emancipation, many of the ex-slaves settled down as small farmers in the mountains, cultivating steep hill slopes far away from the plantations. Still others settled on marginal lands in the plains nearby the plantations on land leased or bought in various land settlement schemes organized and sponsored by Christian groups such as the Baptists. Struggles over land were central themes in the history of this period, culminating in the Morant Bay rebellion, for which two of Jamaica’s national heroes, George William Gordon and Paul Bogle paid with their lives.

Jamaica’s importance as a military and naval station declined steadily during the nineteenth century. The wealth which came to this island through its being made, at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a depot for goods to be smuggled or sold to the neighboring Spanish-American countries, diminished also. Twenty years after the battle of Trafalgar the Jamaican planters began to complain bitterly of poverty. The great days of Jamaica’s prosperity were over. Her days of adversity had begun.

In 1815, Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of Spanish Central America, came to Jamaica as a political refugee and remained for about seven months.

In 1907 on January 14, occurred the great earthquake which destroyed the city of Kingston. Three shocks took place within twenty seconds, at about half past three in the afternoon. Every building in Kingston was damaged, and those in the lower part the city were shattered. The walls fell, killing hundreds of people. Fires started, and soon the commercial area of Kingston was in flames.

Then suddenly, the Great War broke out on August I, 1914. It involved Jamaica, as it involved every other country in the world, directly or indirectly. Its influence on this island was felt all the time it lasted and the influence of changes it brought about were felt by generations to come. Jamaica took part in the War, sending to the front about ten thousand men. When the war started, Martial Law was immediately proclaimed in Jamaica and a body of troops called the Jamaica Reserve Regiment was formed for the defence of the island. 

During 1926 the West India Regiment was disbanded. The Regiment had had a long and distinguished career. It first formed in America as the North Carolina Regiment in the year 1779. It was later re-organized and named the West India Regiment. It took part in the capture of St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica, during the wars with Napoleon. During the latter part of last century it was frequently engaged in operations on the West Coast of Africa, notably Ashantee (1873), West Africa (1887, 1892-1894), and Sierra Leone (1898), and in the Great War (1914-1918) the Regiment saw service in Palestine, the Cameroons and East Africa. The final parade of the Regiment was held at Up Park Camp on the 26th October, 1926. 

The roots of the national movement for independence reach back into the struggles for land in the 19th century. More immediately, it was inspired by the political ideas and agitation of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of Jamaica’s national heroes, and precipitated by the reaction of the sugar and dock workers to the economic crisis spawned by the Great Depression. It emerged as a political force in the context of the rebellion in 1938. Its most enduring political institutions, are the two major political parties, and the labor unions affiliated to them. Both the founder of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the Bustamante Industrial Trades Union (BITU), Alexander Bustamante, and the founder of the People’s National Party (PNP) and the National Workers Union (NWU), Norman Manley, have been declared national heroes for their individual and combined efforts in securing political independence from England. The constitutional change that facilitated the emergence of these parties was the granting of adult suffrage and a measure of self-government in 1944.

With the beginning of the Second World War, Jamaica, like other parts of the Empire, was immediately placed under the Defence of the Realm Act, under which the Governor made regulations controlling prices of all commodities to prevent profiteering, controlling foreign exchange, and imposing censorship of the press, mails and of telegraph and cable messages.

In 1940 Great Britain and the United States entered into an arrangements by which the United States was granted air, military and naval bases in British territory. Among the places selected for these bases was Jamaica, one at Portland Bight, and another at Vernamfield in Clarendon. A corps of American engineers arrived in the island shortly after the arrangement between the two countries was completed, and immediately set to work on plans for the building of the bases.

On 20 November 1944 a public holiday was declared, which is known as Constitution Day until after Independence in 1962 when it was replaced by national Heroes Day, on the third Monday of October.

The period 1944-1962 not only saw major political changes, but also major transformations of the structure of the economy. From a monocrop export economy, the economy became diversified around the export of sugar, bananas and other agricultural commodities, the export of bauxite and alumina, and the tourist industry. These in turn, stimulated a vibrant construction industry, and an import substituting manufacturing sector. The USA displaced the UK as Jamaica’s principal trading partner. There was also a tremendous migration of labor to the UK and the USA which needed labor for the post-war reconstruction and expansion of their economies.

On November 11 1957, Jamaica received full internal self-government which meant a complete change of the political structure that had existed for almost three centuries. This change gave control of all internal matters to a Council of Ministers, called the Executive Council, nominated by the Governor on the recommendation of the Chief Minister, who now became known as Premier. This Parliamentary system was modeled on that of the United Kingdom. There were now ten Ministers instead of the nine under the 1953 Constitution.

On December 31 1958 the Jamaica Regiment disbanded, most of its members being absorbed the next day by the West India Regiment.

The new Montego Bay International Air Terminal was officially opened to traffic on July 9 1959, while in August the new 7,600 ft. runway at the Palisadoes Airport, near Kingston, was opened to traffic, even though the new terminal building was still under construction.

Political Independence was granted in 1962, following Jamaica’s rejection, by referendum, of membership in the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica was given a Westminister style constitution, with a Governor-general as the representative of the British Crown, and a bicameral Parliament. There is a House of Representatives consisting of elected representatives and a Senate appointed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The government is headed by a Prime Minister, who is required to consult with the Governor General and the Leader of the Opposition on certain matters. The first two governments were formed by the JLP, which had opposed membership in the Federation.

On May 31 1962, the West Indies Federation was dissolved. Jamaica, after her decision of late September 1961, to secede, had remained a member until its dissolution. On June 22, the last British Regiment in Jamaica, The Royal Hampshire Regiment, left the island, thus bringing to a close an era which had begun in 1655, since when British troops had always been quartered in Jamaica.

At midnight on August 5, 1962, Jamaica became a free independent nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations. A ceremony marking the event was held at the newly constructed National Stadium in Kingston, which was filled to its capacity of 35,000.

A ceremony marking the inauguration of Air Jamaica was held at the Palisadoes Airport on the 1st of May 1966, coinciding with the departure of the first Air Jamaica flight to Miami.

On April 1 1969 Air Jamaica (1968) Ltd. started operations. The company was formed between the Government of Jamaica and Air Canada to operate Jamaica’s National Airline. Registered in October, 1968, it replaced Air Jamaica Ltd., which concluded operations on March 31.

Between 1972 and 1980, the PNP, the other major political party, held political office and initiated a shift in major economic policies. Most notable was the imposition of the Bauxite Levy in 1974, in order to increase Jamaica’s share of the income in that industry. The government positioned the state in the leadership role within the process of economic development, with a view to attenuating and rectifying the inherited economic inequalities.

On June 24 1980, a plot was discovered by the Jamaica Defence Force to overthrow the Government by force. Twenty-four JDF personnel and three civilians were detained. All those tried were eventually freed.

From 1980 to 1989, the JLP held political office. They were committed to the same free market development policies as the IMF, the World Bank, and the USAID. Because of a special political relationship with the Reagan administration, Jamaica benefited from generous USA assistance in the first half of the decade. The economy was substantially deregulated, the currency was devalued, and many public enterprises were divested in the process of adjustment, which has now been on-going for some 14 years.

In October 1983, Jamaica and Barbados accepted the call made by Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica to send troops to Grenada to act as police in charge of prisoners taken by the US troops. The US had invaded Grenada to seize power from Communists in the Maurice Bishop Government who had overthrown Prime Minister Bishop and then assassinated him and some of his Ministers. The rebels were keeping the Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon, hostage in the Governor General’s residence. Cubans were assisting the Grenadian Communists, an some died in the fighting following the invasion. There were no Jamaican casualties. Grenada returned to elective Governments in 1994.

The eighties also saw large volumes of emigrants, primarily to the USA, swelling the ranks of established overseas Jamaican communities, and creating new ones. Jamaicans are contributing in every sphere of human activity, and distinguishing themselves in cultural activities, such as music, and sports. In addition, Jamaicans have been accumulating significant quantities of wealth in assets in the USA and other countries.

In 1989, Manley was returned to power. Although he still enjoyed huge personal popularity, Manley was in poor health and in early 1992 he retired to be replaced by his deputy Percival (‘PJ’) Patterson. By now, the PNP leadership had reoriented the party, dropping much of its previous radical agenda, effecting free-market economic policies and making great efforts to stay on good terms with the US. Elections in April 1993 confirmed Patterson in the post with a landslide victory. The PNP under Patterson has been in power ever since; it won the most recent poll in October 2002 somewhat against expectations and once again conducted in an atmosphere of intense violence and intimidation, especially in deprived urban areas. Despite losing three elections in a row, Seaga remains the leader of the JLP. For the new government, the main priorities are dealing with the economic situation – which is still poor – and meeting persistent demands for constitutional reform.

References:

Honduras National History

At about 5500 B.C. some different tribes lived in what is todays Honduras. Descendantes of a mongolian race, who came to Northern America from Siberia via a then existing landbridge at Alaska. Being hunters and gatherers they advanced further south and from about 3500 B.C. started to till the soil.

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. Mayan civilization had reached western Honduras in the fifth 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.

Then, at the height of the Mayan civilization, Copán was apparently abandoned. The last dated hieroglyph 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.

Following the period of Mayan 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 Toltecspeaking Chorotega, who established themselves near the present-day city of Choluteca. 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. 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.

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.

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 Rodríguez de Fonseca. The following year, four separate Spanish land expeditions began the conquest of Honduras.

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 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. 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.

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.

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. 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. 

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. 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.

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 sixteenth century and continued into the nineteenth 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.

Destructive as they were, raiding expeditions were lesser problems than other threats. Beginning in the seventeenth 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 Sambo 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 eighteenth-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. 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.

Early in the eighteenth 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. 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.

In the early nineteenth 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.

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 Empire of Mexico under the rule of General Augustín de Iturbide. Ultimately, Comayagua’s position prevailed, and in early 1822 the Central American provinces declared their allegiance to Mexico.

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.

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. 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.

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, and in January 1839, an independent constitution was formally adopted. Morazán then ruled only El Salvador, and in 1839 his forces there were attacked by a Honduran army commanded by General Francisco Ferrera. Ferrera was defeated but returned to attack again in the summer, only to suffer another defeat. The following year, Morazán himself was overthrown, and two years later he was shot in Costa Rica during a final, futile attempt to restore the United Provinces of Central America.

Although the peaceful transfer of power from Bonilla to General Sierra in 1899 was important as the first time in decades that such a constitutional transition had taken place, that year was a watershed in another, even more important, sense. In 1889 the Vaccaro brothers of New Orleans, founders of what would become the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company (later known as Standard Fruit Company), shipped their first boatload of bananas from Honduras to New Orleans. The fruit found a ready market, and the trade grew rapidly. By 1902 local railroad lines were being constructed on the Caribbean coast to accommodate the expanding banana production.

In 1906 Manuel Bonilla successfully resisted an invasion from Guatemala, but this was his last major success. The friendship pact with Guatemala and El Salvador signed in 1906 was interpreted as an anti-Nicaraguan alliance by the Nicaraguans. Nicaragua’s powerful President Zelaya began to support exiled Honduran liberals in their efforts to topple Manuel Bonilla, who had become, in effect, the Honduran dictator. Supported by elements of the Nicaraguan army, the exiles invaded Honduras in February 1907 and established a provisional junta. With the assistance of Salvadoran troops, Manuel Bonilla tried to resist, but in March his forces were decisively beaten in a battle notable for the introduction of machine guns into Central American civil strife.

By 1907 the United States looked with considerable disfavor on the role Zelaya of Nicaragua was playing in regional affairs. When the Nicaraguan army entered Honduras in 1907 to overthrow Bonilla, the United States government, believing that Zelaya wanted to dominate the entire region, landed marines at Puerto Cortés to protect the North American bananas trade. Other United States naval units prevented a Nicaraguan attack on Bonilla’s last position at Amapala in the Golfo de Fonseca. After negotiations conducted by the United States naval commander, Manuel Bonilla sought refuge on the U.S.S. Chicago, and the fighting came to an end. The United States chargé d’affaires in Tegucigalpa took an active role in arranging a final peace settlement, with which Zelaya was less than happy. The settlement provided for the installation of a compromise regime, headed by General Miguel Dávila, in Tegucigalpa. Dávila was a liberal but was distrusted by Zelaya, who made a secret arrangement with El Salvador to oust him from office. This plan failed to reach fruition, but the United States, alarmed by the threat of renewed conflict in Central America, called the five Central American presidents to a conference in Washington in November.

The Central American Peace Conference of 1907 made a major effort to reduce the level of conflict within the region. A Honduran proposal to reestablish the political union of the Central American states failed to achieve acceptance, but several other measures were adopted. The five presidents signed the General Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1907 pledging themselves to establish the Permanent Central American Court of Justice, which would resolve future disputes. Of special interest was a United States-sponsored clause that provided for the permanent neutrality of Honduras in any future Central American conflicts. The first test of the new treaty involved Honduras. In 1908 opponents of President Dávila, probably supported by Guatemala and El Salvador, invaded the country. Nicaragua supported the Honduran president, and war seemed imminent. Perhaps motivated by the possibility of United States intervention, however, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to the new Central American court. The court ultimately rejected the Honduran and Nicaraguan complaints, but in the meantime the revolt collapsed, thus briefly restoring peace to Honduras.

An uprising in 1911 against Dávila interrupted efforts to deal with the national debt problem. The United States stepped in to mediate the conflict, bringing both sides to a conference on one of its warships. The revolutionaries, headed by former president Manuel Bonilla, and the government agreed to a cease-fire and the installation of a provisional president who would be selected by the United States mediator, Thomas Dawson. Dawson selected Francisco Bertrand, who promised to hold early, free elections, and Dávila resigned. The 1912 elections were won by Manuel Bonilla, but he died after just over a year in office. Bertrand, who had been his vice president, returned to the presidency and in 1916 won election for a term that lasted until 1920.

For the next two decades, the United States government was involved in opposing Central American revolutions whether the revolutions were supported by foreign governments or by United States companies. During the 1912-21 period, warships were frequently dispatched to areas of revolutionary activity, both to protect United States interests and to exert a dampening
effect on the revolutionaries. In 1917 the disputes among the companies threatened to involve Honduras in a war with Guatemala. The Cuyamel Fruit Company, supported by the Honduran government, had begun to extend its rail lines into disputed territory along the Guatemalan border. The Guatemalans, supported by the United Fruit Company, sent troops into the area, and it seemed for a time that war might break out. United States mediation ended the immediate threat, but the dispute smoldered until 1930 when a second United States mediation finally produced a settlement.

World War I had a generally negative impact on Honduras. In 1914 banana prices began to fall, and, in addition, the war reduced the overall amount of agricultural exports. The United States entry into the war in 1917 diverted ships to the war effort, making imported goods, such as textiles scarce. The shortages of goods in turn led to inflation, and the decline in trade reduced government revenues from tariffs. The banana companies, however, continued to prosper; Standard Fruit reported earnings of nearly US$2.5 million in 1917. Despite its problems, Honduras supported the United States war effort and declared war on Germany in 1918.

In 1919 it became obvious that Bertrand would refuse to allow an open election to choose his successor. Such a course of action was opposed by the United States and had little popular support in Honduras. The local military commander and governor of Tegucigalpa, General Rafael López Gutiérrez, took the lead in organizing PLH (Liberal Party of Honduras – Partido Liberal de Honduras) opposition to Bertrand. López Gutiérrez also solicited support from the liberal government of Guatemala and even from the conservative regime in Nicaragua. Bertrand, in turn, sought support from El Salvador. Determined to avoid an international conflict, the United States, offered to meditate the dispute, hinting to the Honduran president that if he refused the offer, open intervention might follow. Bertrand promptly resigned and left the country. The United States ambassador helped arrange the installation of an interim government headed by Francisco Bográn, who promised to hold free elections. However, General López Gutiérrez, who now effectively controlled the military situation, made it clear that he was determined to be the next president. After considerable negotiation and some confusion, a formula was worked out under which elections were held. López Gutiérrez won easily in a manipulated election, and in October 1920 he assumed the presidency.

From 1920 through 1923, seventeen uprisings or attempted coups in Honduras contributed to growing United States concern over political instability in Central America. In August 1922, the presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador met on the U.S.S. Tacoma in the Golfo de Fonseca. Under the watchful eye of the United States ambassadors to their nations, the presidents pledged to prevent their territories from being used to promote revolutions against their neighbors and issued a call for a general meeting of Central American states in Washington at the end of the year. The Washington conference concluded in February with the adoption of the General Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1923, which had eleven supplemental conventions. The treaty in many ways followed the provisions of the 1907 treaty.

In January 1924, López Gutiérrez announced his intention to remain in office until new elections could be held, but he repeatedly refused to specify a date for the elections. General Tiburcio Carías Andino, candidate of the National Party of Honduras (Partido Nacional de Honduras–PNH), reportedly with the support of United Fruit, declared himself president, and an armed conflict broke out. In February the United States, warning that recognition would be withheld from anyone coming to power by revolutionary means, suspended relations with the López Gutiérrez government for its failure to hold elections.

Conditions rapidly deteriorated in the early months of 1924. On February 28, a pitched battle took place in La Ceiba between government troops and rebels. Even the presence of the U.S.S. Denver and the landing of a force of United States Marines were unable to prevent widespread looting and arson resulting in over US$2 million in property damage. Fifty people, including a United States citizen, were killed in the fighting. In the weeks that followed, additional vessels from the United States Navy Special Service Squadron were concentrated in Honduran waters, and landing parties were put ashore at various points to protect United States interests. One force of marines and sailors was even dispatched inland to Tegucigalpa to provide additional protection for the United States legation. Shortly before the arrival of the force, López Gutiérrez died, and what authority remained with the central government was being exercised by his cabinet. General Carías and a variety of other rebel leaders controlled most of the countryside but failed to coordinate their activities effectively enough to seize the capital.

In an effort to end the fighting, the United States government dispatched Sumner Welles to the port of Amapala; he had instructions to try to produce a settlement that would bring to power a government eligible for recognition under the terms of the 1923 treaty. Negotiations, which were once again held on board a United States cruiser, lasted from April 23 to April 28. An agreement was worked out that provided for an interim presidency headed by General Vicente Tosta, who agreed to appoint a cabinet representing all political factions and to convene a Constituent Assembly within ninety days to restore constitutional order. Presidential elections were to be held as soon as possible, and Tosta promised to refrain from being a candidate. Once in office, the new president showed signs of reneging on some of his pledges, especially those related to the appointment of a bipartisan cabinet. Under heavy pressure from the United States delegation, however, he ultimately complied with the provisions of the peace agreement.

By 1930 Honduras had become the world’s leading producer of the fruit, accounting for one-third of the world’s supply of bananas. United Fruit had come increasingly to dominate the trade, and in 1929 it bought out the Cuyamel Fruit Company, one of its two principal remaining rivals. Because conflicts between these companies had frequently led to support for rival groups
in Honduran politics, had produced a border controversy with Guatemala, and may have even contributed to revolutionary disturbances, this merger seemed to promise greater domestic tranquility.

Despite growing unrest and severe economic strains, the 1932 presidential elections in Honduras were relatively peaceful and fair. The peaceful transition of power was surprising because the onset of the depression had led to the overthrow of governments elsewhere throughout Latin America, in nations with much stronger democratic traditions than those of Honduras. Mejía Colindres, however, resisted pressure from his own party to manipulate the results to favor the PLH candidate, Angel Zúñiga Huete. As a result, the PNH candidate, Tiburcio Carías Andino, won the election by a margin of some 20,000 votes. On November 16, 1932, Carías assumed office, beginning what was to be the longest period of continuous rule by an individual in Honduran history. Carías had made efforts to improve the military even before he became president. Once in office, both his capacity and his motivation to continue and to expand such improvements increased. He gave special attention to the fledgling air force, founding the Military Aviation School in 1934 and arranging for a United States colonel to serve as its commandant.

The method chosen by Carías to extend his term of office was to call a constituent assembly that would write a new constitution and select the individual to serve for the first presidential term under that document. Carías, by then a virtual
dictator, wanted even more, so in 1939 the legislature, now completely controlled by the PNH, obediently extended his term in office by another six years (to 1949). During his presidency, Carías cultivated close relations with his fellow Central American dictators, generals Jorge Ubico in Guatemala, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez in El Salvador, and Anastasio Somoza García in Nicaragua. Relations were particularly close with Ubico, who helped Carías reorganize his secret police and also captured and shot the leader of a Honduran uprising who had made the mistake of crossing into Guatemalan territory. Relations with Nicaragua were somewhat more strained as a result of the continuing border dispute, but Carías and Somoza managed to keep this dispute under control throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Once in office in January 1949, Juan Manuel Gálvez, who had been minister of war since 1933, demonstrated more independence than had generally been anticipated. Some policies of the Carías administration, such as road building and the development of coffee exports, were continued and expanded. By 1953 nearly one-quarter of the government’s budget was devoted to road construction. Gálvez also continued most of the prior administration’s fiscal policies, reducing the external debt and ultimately paying off the last of the British bonds. The fruit companies continued to receive favorable treatment at the hands of the Gálvez administration; for example, United Fruit received a highly favorable twenty-five-year contract in 1949.

Galvez, however, instituted some notable alterations from the preceding fifteen years. Education received increased attention and began to receive a larger share of the national budget. Congress actually passed an income tax law, although enforcement was sporadic at best. The most obvious change was in the political arena. A considerable degree of press freedom was restored, the PLH and other groups were allowed to organize, and even some labor organization was permitted. Labor also benefited from legislation during this period. Congress passed, and the president signed, legislation establishing the eight-hour workday, paid holidays for workers, limited employer responsibility for work-related injuries, and regulations for the employment of women and children.

The relative peace that Honduras had enjoyed for nearly two decades was shattered by a series of events during 1954, Gálvez’s last year in office. Tension throughout the region had been increasing steadily as a confrontation developed between the left-leaning government of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala and the United States. Part of the confrontation involved the expropriation of United Fruit Company lands and charges that the Guatemalan government was encouraging agitation among the banana workers. Starting in early May 1954, the tensions escalated to strikes. First, a series of strikes broke out against United Fruit Company operations on Honduras’s Caribbean coast. Within a few days, the strike spread to include the Standard Fruit Company operations, bringing the banana industry in the country to a near standstill. The strikers presented a wide range of grievances, involving wages, working conditions, medical benefits, overtime pay, and the right to collective bargaining. Initial government efforts to end the strike failed, and work stoppages began to spread into other industries. By May 21, the number of strikers was approaching 30,000, and the nation’s economy was under severe strain.

As the strike was spreading, Honduras was also becoming more deeply involved in the movement to topple the Arbenz government in Guatemala. In late May, a military assistance agreement was concluded between the United States and Honduras, and large quantities of United States arms were quickly shipped to Honduras. Much of this incoming assistance was passed on to anti-Arbenz rebels commanded by Castillo Armas. In June these forces crossed into Guatemala and after several days of political maneuvering but little actual fighting, Arbenz fled into exile, and Castillo Armas became president. In the midst of these conflicts, the campaign for the 1954 elections continued. Unhappy with some of Gálvez’s gestures toward liberalization, Carías, despite his advanced age, decided to run for president and secured the PNH nomination. This move, however, split the party, and more moderate members broke away to form the National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario–MNR). Their nominee was former vice president Abraham Williams Calderón. The split in the ruling party encouraged the PLH, who united behind Ramón Villeda Morales, a Tegucigalpa physician who was seen as somewhat to the left of center in the party’s political spectrum.

Unable to reconcile their differences and unwilling to accept Villeda Morales as president, the PNH and MNR deputies boycotted the legislature, producing a national crisis. The constitution provided that in case of congressional deadlock the Supreme Court of Justice would select the president. Dominated as the court was by Carías appointees, the PLH opposed such a course of action. At this juncture, Lozano Díaz suddenly suspended the legislature and announced that he would act as president until new elections could be held. He declared that he would form a national government with cabinet members taken from all major parties and received pledges of support from all three candidates in the 1954 election. A Council of State, headed by a PLH member but including members of all three major parties, was appointed to replace the suspended congress until a constituent assembly could be chosen to write yet another constitution.

As time passed, it became clear that Lozano Díaz had ambitions to replace the traditional parties with one that he controlled and could use to help prolong his hold on power. He reduced the Council of State to a consultative body, postponed elections, and set about forming his own party, the National Unity Party (Partido de Unidad Nacional–PUN). The activities of other parties were limited, and, in July 1956, Villeda Morales and other PLH leaders were suddenly arrested and flown into exile. A few weeks later, the government crushed an uprising by 400 troops in the capital. Following the August 1956 uprising, Lozano Díaz’s health began to deteriorate, but he clung stubbornly to power. Elections for the legislature in October were boycotted by most of the opposition, who charged that the process was openly rigged to favor the president’s supporters. The results seemed to confirm this charge, as the PUN candidates were declared the winners of all fifty-six seats in the congress. The joy of their victories was
short, however. On October 21, the armed forces, led by the commanders of the army and air force academies and by Major Roberto Gálvez, the son of the former president, ousted Lozano Díaz and set up a military junta to rule the country.

This coup marked a turning point in Honduran history. For the first time, the armed forces had acted as an institution rather than as the instrument of a political party or of an individual leader. The new rulers represented younger, more nationalistic, and reform-minded elements in the military. They were products of the increased professionalization of the 1940s and 1950s. Most had received some training by United States military advisers, either in Honduras or abroad. For decades to come, the military would act as the final arbiter of Honduran politics. The military’s largest problem was the holding of elections for a legislature and the selection of a new president. A system of proportional representation was agreed upon, and elections were held in October. The PLH won a majority, and in November, by a vote of thirty-seven to twenty, the assembly selected Villeda Morales as president for a six-year term beginning January 1, 1958.

Rumors of a coup began circulating in late summer of 1963. The United States endeavored to make clear its opposition to such action–even dispatching a high-ranking officer from the United States Southern Command in the Panama Canal Zone to try to convince the chief of the armed forces, Air Force Colonel Oswaldo López Arellano, to call off the coup. Villeda Morales also tried to calm military fears, taking the carbines away from the Civil Guard and opposing plans for a constitutional amendment to restore direct command of the military to the president. All these efforts failed, however. Before dawn on October 3, 1963, the military moved to seize power. The president and the PLH’s 1963 presidential candidates were flown into exile, Congress was dissolved, the constitution was suspended, and the planned elections were canceled. Colonel López Arellano proclaimed himself president, and the United States promptly broke diplomatic relations.

For a time, López Arellano had success in foreign affairs. One of his government’s first acts had been to join with Guatemala and Nicaragua in establishing the Central American Defense Council (Consejo de Defensa Centroamericana–Condeca), which was a military pact among these Central American states and the United States for coordination of counterinsurgency activities. El Salvador joined shortly thereafter, and in 1965 Condeca held its first joint military exercise on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. That same year, Honduras contributed a small contingent of troops to the Organization of American States (OAS) forces monitoring the election in the Dominican Republic.

As the political situation deteriorated, the Honduran government and some private groups came increasingly to place blame for the nation’s economic problems on the approximately 300,000 undocumented Salvadoran immigrants in Honduras. By late May, Salvadorans began to stream out of Honduras back to an overpopulated El Salvador. Tensions continued to mount during June 1969. The soccer teams of the two nations were engaged that month in a three-game elimination match as a preliminary to the World Cup. Disturbances broke out during the first game in Tegucigalpa, but the situation got considerably worse during the second match in San Salvador. Honduran fans were roughed up, the Honduran flag and national anthem were insulted, and the emotions of both nations became considerably agitated. Actions against Salvadoran residents in Honduras, including several vice consuls, became increasingly violent. An unknown number of Salvadorans were killed or brutalized, and tens of thousands began fleeing the country. The press of both nations contributed to a growing climate of near- hysteria, and on June 27, 1969, Honduras broke diplomatic relations with El Salvador.

Early on the morning of July 14, 1969, concerted military action began in what came to be known as the "El Guerra de 100 Horas". The Salvadoran air force attacked targets inside Honduras and the Salvadoran army launched major offensives along the main road connecting the two nations and against the Honduran islands in the Golfo de Fonseca. At first, the Salvadorans made fairly rapid progress. By the evening of July 15, the Salvadoran army, which was considerably larger and better equipped than its Honduran opponent, pushed the Honduran army back over eight kilometers and captured the departmental capital of Nueva Ocotepeque. Thereafter, the attack bogged down, and the Salvadorans began to experience fuel and ammunition shortages. A major reason for the fuel shortage was the action of the Honduran air force, which–in addition to largely destroying the smaller Salvadoran air force–had severely damaged El Salvador’s oil storage facilities.

The day after the fighting had begun, the OAS met in an urgent session and called for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of El Salvador’s forces from Honduras. El Salvador resisted the pressures from the OAS for several days, demanding that Honduras first agree to pay reparations for the attacks on Salvadoran citizens and guarantee the safety of those Salvadorans
remaining in Honduras. A cease-fire was arranged on the night of July 18; it took full effect only on July 20. El Salvador continued until July 29 to resist pressures to withdraw its troops. Then a combination of pressures led El Salvador to agree to a withdrawal in the first days of August. Those persuasive pressures included the possibility of OAS economic sanctions against El Salvador and the dispatch of OAS observers to Honduras to oversee the security of Salvadorans remaining in that country. The actual war had lasted just over four days, but it would take more than a decade to arrive at a final peace settlement.

The war produced only losses for both sides. Between 60,000 and 130,000 Salvadorans had been forcibly expelled or had fled from Honduras, producing serious economic disruption in some areas. Trade between the two nations had been totally disrupted and the border closed, damaging the economies of both nations and threatening the future of the Central American Common Market (CACM). Up to 2,000 people, the majority Honduran civilians, had been killed, and thousands of other Hondurans in the border area had been made homeless. Airline service between the two nations was also disrupted for over a decade. After the war, public support for the military plummeted. Although the air force had performed well, the army had not. Criticism of the army was not limited to the public; junior officers were often vocal in their criticism of superiors, and a rift developed between junior and senior officers.

The government’s greatest problem, however, centered on another aspect of the banana industry. Honduras had joined other bananaexporting nations in a joint agreement to levy an export tax on that fruit. The Honduran tax had taken effect in April 1974 but was suddenly canceled four months later. Shortly thereafter, reports began to circulate that the United Fruit Company had paid more than US$1 million to Honduran officials to secure the repeal of the tax. Prominently implicated in these accusations were López Arellano and his minister of economy and commerce. Reacting to these charges on March 31, 1975, the military relieved López Arellano of his position as chief of the armed forces, replacing him with Colonel Juan Alberto Melgar Castro. Just over three weeks later, they completed the process by removing López Arellano from the presidency and replacing him with Melgar Castro. These decisions had been made by the increasingly powerful Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Consejo Superior de las Fuerzas Armadas–Consuffaa), a group of approximately twenty to twenty-five key colonels of the armed forces who provided the institution with a form of collective leadership.

Relations with Nicaragua had also become more difficult, especially after civil conflict had increased in that nation in the late 1970s. In March 1978, Honduran soldiers captured Germán Pomares, a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional–FSLN), the guerrilla force fighting against the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua. Pomares was held until the end of June, but Nicaraguan requests for extradition were denied, and he was ultimately flown to Panama. As fighting in Nicaragua escalated in 1978 and early 1979, Honduras found itself in a difficult position. Honduras did not want to support the unpopular Somoza regime but feared the Marxist leanings of the FSLN. In addition, beginning in September 1978, Honduras had become burdened with an ever-growing number of refugees from Nicaragua.

On August 7, 1978, Melgar Castro and his cabinet were replaced by a three-member junta. Led by General Policarpo Paz García, chief of the armed forces, and including the air force commander and the chief of military security, the junta had close ties to the large landowners and moved to protect the military men involved in the Ferrari Case. Early indications for the 1980 elections pointed toward a victory for the PNH, headed by Ricardo Zúñiga. The PNH appeared more unified and organized than the rival PLH, and most people assumed that the PNH would be favored by the ruling military. The April 1980 election produced a record registration and voter turnout More than 1.2 million Hondurans registered, and over 1 million voted–over 81 percent of those eligible. The high number of voters evidently favored the PLH, which won 49.4 percent of the votes cast. The Congress took more than a year to draft a new constitution and an electoral law for the 1981 presidential and congressional elections.

In keeping with this conciliatory approach, on March 23, 1982, Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgardo Paz Barnica proposed a peace plan to the permanent council of the OAS. The plan was based on the following six points: general disarmament in Central America, the reduction of foreign military and other advisers (then a real point of contention with the Nicaraguan government), international supervision of any final agreement, an end to regional arms traffic, respect for delineated and demarcated borders, and the establishment of a permanent multilateral dialogue. The proposal met with little support from other Central American states, particularly Nicaragua. Gradually, the Suazo Córdova administration began to perceive the FSLN (commonly referred to as Sandinista) administration as obstructionist in regional and international forums, as well as a subversive force that intended to undermine political stability in Honduras through intimidation, propaganda, and direct aid to incipient insurgent groups. The emergence of a consensus on this point within both the Honduran administration and armed forces coincided with a significant expansion of the United States role in Honduras, both as policy adviser and as purveyor of military and economic aid.

Brigadier General Gustavo Álvarez Martínez, who assumed the position of commander of the armed forces in January 1982 emerged as a hardliner against the Sandinistas. Álvarez publicly declared Honduras "in a war to the death" with Nicaragua; he believed such a war should be conducted under the auspices of a triple alliance among Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Álvarez’s strong-arm tactics drew criticism from some observers, particularly the foreign press and international human rights groups. Álvarez strongly supported United States policy in Central America. He reportedly assisted in the initial formation of the Nicaraguan Resistance (more commonly known as the Contras, short for contrarevolucionarios–counterrevolutionaries
in Spanish), arranged large-scale joint exercises with United States forces, and agreed to allow the training of Salvadoran troops by United States special forces at a facility near Puerto Castilla known as the Regional Center for Military Training (Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar–CREM). The latter action eventually contributed greatly to Álvarez’s ouster in early 1984.

The other major factor in the Álvarez ouster was the general’s attempt to streamline the command structure of the armed forces. Traditionally, a collegial board made up of field-grade officers consulted with the commander in the formulation of policy for the Honduran armed forces. Álvarez proposed to eliminate this organization, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Consejo Superior de las Fuerzas Armadas–Consuffaa), and to replace it with a board of eight senior officers. The reorganization would have concentrated and enhanced Álvarez’s power over the military by allowing him to name his most trusted commanders to a leadership board that would rubber-stamp his policy proposals. At the same time, the reorganization had promised to make the armed forces function more efficiently, an important consideration if hostilities broke out between Honduras and Nicaragua.

Alvarez’s view on involvement in Nicaragua led directly to the 1984 rebellion by his officers. Most observers had expected Honduras to serve as one staging area for a United States military intervention in Nicaragua if such an operation took place. The flawed but successful Operation Urgent Fury on the Caribbean island of Grenada in November 1983 had seemed to increase the likelihood of military action against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Although Álvarez supported a military solution to the "Nicaraguan problem," a significant faction of the Honduran officer corps held divergent convictions. The prospect of early, involuntary retirement, with its attendant loss of licit and illicit income, prompted a clique of senior officers to move against Álvarez on March 31, 1984, seizing him and dispatching him on a flight to Miami.

The ouster of Álvarez produced a number of repercussions both in Honduran domestic politics and in Honduran-United States relations. The armed forces, which had appeared to be moving in a more activist and outward-looking direction under Álvarez, assumed a more isolationist stance toward regional relations and United States policy initiatives. Air Force Brigadier General Walter López Reyes, the new commander in chief, demanded further increases in military aid in return for Honduran cooperation in regional affairs. After some equivocation, López closed the CREM. He also scaled back Honduran-United States military exercises. On May 21, 1985, President Suazo Córdova and United States President Ronald W. Reagan signed a joint communiqué that amended a 1982 annex to the 1954 Military Assistance Agreement between the two countries. Although the new accord allowed the United States to expand and improve its temporary facilities at Palmerola Air Base near Comayagua, it generally limited Honduran cooperation in comparison to the terms of the 1982 annex.

By 1984 the armed forces under López began to exert pressure on the United States-backed Contra forces, the bulk of which operated from bases in the southern departments of El Paraíso and Olancho. Honduran foreign minister Edgardo Paz Barnica reflected the new attitude toward the Contras in January 1985, when he announced that the government planned to expel them from Honduras. Although that statement reflected bravado and frustration more than reality, the Honduran military took more active steps to pressure both the Contras and, indirectly, the United States government. In February 1985, the armed forces ordered the Contras to close a hospital that they had set up outside of Tegucigalpa. The Hondurans also ordered the Contras to shut down an office that
had been used to receive official visitors, mainly from the United States. Around the same time, Honduran troops turned back two United States Department of State employees from a planned visit to a Contra training camp; the troops told the Americans that they lacked a newly required permit to enter the area.

As the Nicaraguan conflict spread, Hondurans were left to ponder the merits of the deal the armed forces had brokered. On March 22, 1986, approximately 1,500 EPS ground troops crossed the Honduran border and engaged Contra forces near the hamlet of Las Vegas. The EPS withdrew into northern Nicaragua without making contact with Honduran forces. Honduran officials acknowledged the incursion publicly, but only after United States spokespersons had trumpeted the incident as proof of the Sandinistas’ aggressive intentions toward their northern neighbor. Shortly thereafter, the United States Congress approved US$100 million in military aid to the Contra forces.

The forced departure of Brigadier General Álvarez on March 31, 1984, and his succession by a group of officers who demonstrated less interest in political affairs than he had markedly changed the political situation prevailing in the country. President Suazo Córdova, previously restrained by his trepidations concerning lvarez, began to show signs of becoming a caudillo. Although the constitution forbade his reelection, Suazo Córdova conspired to nominate for the 1985 presidential elections Oscar Mejía Arellano, a fellow Rodista (the PLH faction founded by Modesto Rodas Alvarado). Every politician in Honduras recognized the octogenarian Mejía for what he was, namely someone who would perpetuate Suazo’s control of the Presidential Palace. Nevertheless, Suazo Córdova went about promoting Mejía’s candidacy with every power at his disposal.

José Azcona Hoyo faced multiple national and regional problems as his inauguration took place on January 27, 1986. The new president’s inaugural address noted the country’s many social problems, but promised "no magic formulas" to solve them. He also noted the growing national debt and promised to adhere to foreign policies guided by the principle of nonintervention. Azcona’s prospects for a successful presidency appeared dim, partly because his party’s bloc in the Congress was still splintered, unlike the more united PNH deputies on the other side of the aisle.

Although the crisis in Central America derived primarily from domestic pressures, the region’s growing instability during the 1980s had drawn the attention and intervention of numerous foreign actors, chief among them the United States, the Soviet Union, and concerned nations of Latin America. The Contadora negotiating process (named for the Panamanian island where it was initiated in January 1983) sought to hammer out a solution among the five Central American nations through the mediation of the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama. The negotiations proved arduous and protracted. By mid-1985, the talks had bogged down. The Nicaraguan delegates rejected discussion of democratization and internal reconciliation as an unwarranted intervention in their country’s internal affairs. Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Costa Rica maintained that these provisions were necessary to ensure a lasting settlement. In an effort to break this impasse, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay announced in July 1985 that they would join the Contadora process as a "support group" in an effort to resolve the remaining points of contention and achieve a comprehensive agreement.

Despite the combined efforts of the original "core four" nations and the "support group," the Contadora process unofficially came to a halt during June 1986 when the Central American countries still failed to resolve their differences sufficiently to permit the signing of a final treaty draft. The United States Congress’s approval of military aid to the Contras during the same month hampered the process, according to representatives of most of the mediating countries. Although the mediators vowed to continue their diplomatic efforts and did convene negotiating sessions subsequent to the unsuccessful June 6 meeting in Panama City, the Contadora process was clearly moribund.

The five Central American presidents continued to seek a strictly Central American diplomatic solution. They held a meeting in May 1986 in Esquipulas, Guatemala, in an effort to work out their differences over the revised Contadora draft treaty. This meeting was a precursor of the process that in early 1987 superseded Contadora. The leading proponent and architect of this process was the president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sánchez. After consultations with representatives of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the United States, Arias announced on February 15, 1987, that he had presented a peace proposal to representatives of the other Central American states, with the exception of Nicaragua. The plan called for dialogue between governments and opposition groups, amnesty for political prisoners, cease-fires in ongoing insurgent conflicts, democratization, and free elections in all five regional states. The plan also called for renewed negotiations on arms reductions and an end to outside aid to insurgent forces.

Including the Nicaraguan administration in the negotiations was a sensitive issue. The first formal negotiating session to include representatives of that government took place in Tegucigalpa on July 31, 1987. That meeting of foreign ministers paved the way for an August 6, 1987, gathering of the five Central American presidents in Esquipulas. The negotiations, reportedly marked by blunt exchanges among the leaders, produced an agreement that many had considered unachievable only months before. The agreement, signed on August 7, called for the cessation of outside aid and support to insurgent forces but did allow the continuation of such aid to government forces. As a democratic government free from domestic insurgent problems, Honduras could easily comply with the terms of the Esquipulas accord.

The Central American Peace Agreement, variously referred to as "Esquipulas II" or the "Arias Plan," initially required the implementation of certain conditions by November 5, 1987. The conditions included establishing decrees of amnesty in those countries involved in insurgent conflicts, initiating dialogue between governments and unarmed political opposition groups or groups that had taken advantage of amnesty, undertaking efforts to negotiate cease-fires between governments and insurgent groups, ceasing to allow outside aid to insurgent forces, denying the use of each country’s national territory to "groups trying to destabilize the governments of the countries of Central America," and ensuring conditions conducive to the development of a "pluralistic and participatory democratic process" in all of the signatory states.

Nicaragua’s compliance with the Arias Plan was uneven by late 1988, and the process appeared to be losing momentum. The Nicaraguan government took a number of initial steps to comply with the treaty. These included allowing the independent daily La Prensa to reopen and the radio station of the Roman Catholic Church to resume broadcasting, establishing a national reconciliation committee that incorporated representatives of the unarmed opposition, and eventually undertaking cease-fire negotiations with representatives of the Contras. The optimism engendered by the signing of a provisional cease-fire accord on March 23, 1988, at Sapoá, Nicaragua, however, had largely dissipated by July. During that month, the Nicaraguan government broke up a protest demonstration in the southern city of Nandaime, expelled the United States ambassador and seven other diplomats for alleged collaboration with the demonstrators, and again shut down La Prensa and the Roman
Catholic radio station.

Talks continued among the Central American presidents as they sought to resolve the insurgencies in El Salvador and Nicaragua. A series of summit meetings took place during 1989. The presidents agreed to a draft plan on February 14, 1989. The plan called for the demobilization and repatriation of Contra forces within ninety days, in return for elections. Nicaraguan president Daniel José Ortega Saavedra agreed to hold a February 1990 balloting. A foreign ministers’ meeting also produced agreement on foreign (but non-United States) observers to supervise the demobilization. The ninety-day timetable established by the February 1989 agreement proved unworkable. In order to avoid losing momentum, the five presidents reconvened in Tela, Honduras, beginning on August 5, 1989. Once again, the presidents negotiated without input from the United States government. They produced a new schedule for Contra demobilization, with a deadline of December 5, 1989. The OAS agreed to supervise the process. Although the Bush administration expressed disapproval of the new agreement, the White House and United States Congress agreed that the Contras’ aid would be cut off if the Nicaraguan rebels failed to disband.

The unpredictability of events demonstrated itself once again in the Nicaraguan elections in February 1990. Contrary to most prognostications and opinion polls, opposition candidate Violeta Barrios de Chamorro handily defeated Ortega and the FSLN. Having been forced to hold free elections, the FSLN discovered that many Nicaraguans deeply resented the authoritarian rule of their revolutionary government. The Contra insurgency, which had plagued both Nicaragua and Honduras for years, slowly drew to a close.

Although Honduran president Azcona had began the process that eventually culminated in the resolution of the Nicaraguan conflict, another president would occupy the presidential palace as the Contras abandoned their camps in Honduras and marched south. The elections of November 26, 1989, were free of the makeshift electoral procedures that had rendered the 1985 balloting questionable. The PLH and PNH nominated one candidate each, rather than several. Carlos Flores Facusse, a Rodista and protégé of ex-president Suazo Córdova, won the PLH nomination and the right to oppose Rafael Leonardo Callejas, who had also carried the banner of the PNH when he lost in 1985. Callejas’s convincing victory, by 50.2 to 44.5 percent, reflected public discontent with the PLH government’s failure to translate increased foreign aid into improvements in the domestic economy. Callejas became the first opposition candidate to win an election in Honduras since 1932.

The 1990s, however, were dominated by the PLH, which gained control of the presidency and legislature in 1994 and held on to them in 1997. But at the most recent polls in November 2001, the Nacional candidate Ricardo Maduro recovered the presidency for his party, while the Liberals also lost their majority in the national assembly. The government was faced with repeated outbreaks of civil and labour unrest throughout the late 1990s as it tried to bring austerity measures to tackle the country’s economic difficulties. There has also been persistent domestic and international pressure to address the numerous human rights abuses that have continued despite the return to civilian government (mostly recently the killing of large numbers of ‘street children’). Wary of antagonising the military, the government has moved carefully, although the soldiers are gradually coming to terms with its loss of political influence and by 1999 were prepared to submit to full control by the civilian government. Among those who had suffered the most at the hands of the military was the indigenous Indian population. In 1994, the government offered them a long-overdue package of rights and assistance: not unreasonably, it was rejected as inadequate and relations between the communities and the government remain poor. Honduran foreign policy during much of the 1990s was heavily influenced by economic matters, in particular the conclusion of free trade and other economic agreements with El Salvador and Guatemala. Honduras is also involved in a number of complex disputes over territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea, involving Nicaragua and Colombia.

References:

Haiti National History

The island of Hispaniola (La Isla Española), which today is occupied by the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was one of several landfalls Christopher Columbus made during his first voyage to the New World in 1492. Columbus established a makeshift settlement on the north coast, which he dubbed Navidad (Christmas), after his flagship, the Santa María, struck a coral reef and foundered near the site of present-day Cap Haïtien.

The Taino Indian (or Arawak) inhabitants referred to their homeland by many names, but they most commonly used Ayti, or Hayti (mountainous). Initially hospitable toward the Spaniards, these natives responded violently to the newcomers’ intolerance and abuse. When Columbus returned to Hispaniola on his second voyage in 1493, he found that Navidad had been razed and its inhabitants, slain. But the Old World’s interest in expansion and its drive to spread Roman Catholicism were not easily deterred; Columbus established a second settlement, Isabela, farther to the east. Hispaniola, or Santo Domingo, as it became known under Spanish dominion, became the first outpost of the Spanish Empire. The initial expectations of plentiful and easily accessible gold reserves proved unfounded, but the island still became important as a seat of colonial administration, a starting point for conquests of other lands, and a laboratory to develop policies for governing new possessions. It was in Santo Domingo that the Spanish crown introduced the system of repartimiento, whereby peninsulares (Spanish-born persons residing in the New World) received large grants of land and the right to compel labor from the Indians who inhabited that land.

Columbus, Santo Domingo’s first administrator, and his brother Bartolomé Columbus fell out of favor with the majority of the colony’s settlers, as a result of jealousy and avarice, and then also with the crown because of their failure to maintain order. In 1500 a royal investigator ordered both to be imprisoned briefly in a Spanish prison. The colony’s new governor, Nicolás de Ovando, laid the groundwork for the island’s development. During his tenure, the repartimiento system gave way to the encomienda system under which all land was considered the property of the crown. The system also granted stewardship of tracts to encomenderos, who were entitled to employ (or, in practice, to enslave) Indian labor. The Taino Indian population of Santo Domingo fared poorly under colonial rule. The exact size of the island’s indigenous population in 1492 has never been determined, but observers at the time produced estimates that ranged from several thousand to several million. An estimate of 3 million, which is almost certainly an exaggeration, has been attributed to Bishop Bartolomé de Las Casas. According to all accounts, however, there were hundreds of thousands of indigenous people on the island. By 1550 only 150 Indians lived on the island. Forced labor, abuse, diseases against which the Indians had no immunity, and the growth of the mestizo (mixed European and Indian) population all contributed to the elimination of the Taino and their culture.

Several years before the Taino were gone, Santo Domingo had lost its position as the preeminent Spanish colony in the New World. Its lack of mineral riches condemned it to neglect by the mother country, especially after the conquest of New Spain (Mexico). In 1535 the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which included Mexico and the Central American isthmus, incorporated Santo Domingo, the status of which dwindled still further after the conquest of the rich kingdom of the Incas in Peru. Agriculture became the mainstay of the island’s economy, but the disorganized nature of agricultural production did not approach the kind of intense productivity that was to characterize the colony under French rule.

Although Hispaniola never realized its economic potential under Spanish rule, it remained strategically important as the gateway to the Caribbean. The Caribbean region provided the opportunity for seafarers from Britain, France, and the Netherlands to impede Spanish shipping, to waylay galleons crammed with gold, and to establish a foothold in a hemisphere parceled by papal decree between the Roman Catholic kingdoms of Spain and Portugal. This competition was carried on throughout the Caribbean, but nowhere as intensely as on Hispaniola. Sir Francis Drake of England led one of the most famous forays against the port of Santo Domingo in 1586, just two years before he played a key role in the English navy’s defeat of the Spanish Armada. Drake failed to secure the island, but his raid, along with the arrival of corsairs and freebooters in scattered settlements, was part of a pattern of encroachment that gradually diluted Spanish dominance.

Reportedly expelled by the Spanish from Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts), the original French residents of Tortuga Island (Ile de la Tortue), off the northwest coast of Hispaniola, sustained themselves mostly through two means: curing the meat and tanning the hides of wild game, and pirating Spanish ships. The former activity lent these hardy souls the colorful designation of buccaneers, derived from the Arawak word for the smoking of meat. It took decades for the buccaneers and the more staid settlers that followed them to establish themselves on Tortuga. Skirmishes with Spanish and English forces were common. As the maintenance of the empire tried the wit, and drained the energies, of a declining Spain, however, foreign intervention became more forceful. The freewheeling society of Tortuga that was often described in romantic literature had faded into legend by the end of the seventeenth century. The first permanent settlement on Tortuga was established in 1659 under the commission of King Louis XIV. French Huguenots had already begun to settle the north coast of Hispaniola by that time. The establishment in 1664 of the French West India Company for the purpose of directing the expected commerce between the colony and France underscored the seriousness of the enterprise. Settlers steadily encroached upon the northwest shoulder of the island, and they took advantage of the area’s relative remoteness from the Spanish capital city of Santo Domingo. In 1670 they established their first major community, Cap François (later Cap Français, now Cap-Haïtien). During this period, the western part of the island was commonly referred to as Saint-Domingue, the name it bore officially after Spain relinquished sovereignty over the area to France in the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.

By the mid-eighteenth century, a territory largely neglected under Spanish rule had become the richest and most coveted colony in the Western Hemisphere. By the eve of the French Revolution, Saint-Domingue produced about 60 percent of the world’s coffee and about 40 percent of the sugar imported by France and Britain. Saint-Domingue played a pivotal role in the French economy, accounting for almost two-thirds of French commercial interests abroad and about 40 percent of foreign trade. The system that provided such largess to the mother country, such luxury to planters, and so many jobs in France had a fatal flaw, however. That flaw was slavery. The origins of modern Haitian society lie within the slaveholding system. The mixture of races that eventually divided Haiti into a small, mainly mulatto elite and an impoverished black majority began with the slavemasters’ concubinage of African women. Today Haiti’s culture and its predominant religion (voodoo) stem from the fact that the majority of slaves in Saint Domingue were brought from Africa. (The slave population totalled at least 500,000, and perhaps as many as 700,000, by 1791.) Only a few of the slaves had been born and raised on the island. The slaveholding system in Saint-Domingue was particularly cruel and abusive, and few slaves (especially males) lived long enough to reproduce. The racially tinged conflicts that have marked Haitian history can be traced similarly to slavery.

While the masses of black slaves formed the foundation of colonial society, the upper strata evolved along lines of color and class. Most commentators have classified the population of the time into three groups: white colonists, or blancs; free blacks (usually mulattoes, or gens de couleur–people of color), or affranchis; and the slaves. Conflict and resentment permeated the society of SaintDomingue . Beginning in 1758, the white landowners, or grands blancs, discriminated against the affranchis through legislation. Statutes forbade gens de couleur from taking up certain professions, marrying whites, wearing European clothing, carrying swords or firearms in public, or attending social functions where whites were present. The restrictions eventually became so detailed that they essentially defined a caste system. However, regulations did not restrict the affranchis’ purchase of land, and some eventually accumulated substantial holdings. Others accumulated wealth through another activity permitted to affranchis by the grands blancs–in the words of historian C.L.R. James, "The privilege of lending money to white men." The mounting debt of the white planters to the gens de couleur provided further motivation for racial discrimination.

Violent conflicts between white colonists and black slaves were common in Saint-Domingue. Bands of runaway slaves, known as maroons (marrons), entrenched themselves in bastions in the colony’s mountains and forests, from which they harried white-owned plantations both to secure provisions and weaponry and to avenge themselves against the inhabitants. As their numbers grew, these bands, sometimes consisting of thousands of people, began to carry out hit-and-run attacks throughout the colony. This guerrilla warfare, however, lacked centralized organization and leadership. The most famous maroon leader was François Macandal, whose six-year rebellion (1751-57) left an estimated 6,000 dead. Reportedly a boko, or voodoo sorcerer, Macandal drew from African traditions and religions to motivate his followers. The French burned him at the stake in Cap Français in 1758. Popular accounts of his execution that say the stake snapped during his execution have enhanced his legendary stature.

Many Haitians point to the maroons’ attacks as the first manifestation of a revolt against French rule and the slaveholding system. The attacks certainly presaged the 1791 slave rebellion, which evolved into the Haitian Revolution. They also marked the beginning of a martial tradition for blacks, just as service in the colonial militia had done for the gens de couleur. The maroons, however, seemed incapable of staging a broad-based insurrection on their own. Although challenged and vexed by the maroons’ actions, colonial authorities effectively repelled the attacks, especially with help from the gens de couleur, who were probably forced into cooperating. The arrangement that enabled the whites and the landed gens de couleur to preserve the stability of the slaveholding system was unstable. In an economic sense, the system worked for both groups. The gens de couleur, however, had aspirations beyond the accumulation of goods. They desired equality with white colonists, and many of them desired power. The events set in motion in 1789 by the French Revolution shook up, and eventually shattered, the arrangement.

The National Assembly in Paris required the white Colonial Assembly to grant suffrage to the landed and tax-paying gens de couleur. (The white colonists had had a history of ignoring French efforts to improve the lot of the black and the mulatto populations.) The Assembly refused, leading to the first mulatto rebellion in Saint-Domingue. The rebellion, led by Vincent Ogé in 1790, failed when the white militia reinforced itself with a corps of black volunteers. (The white elite was constantly prepared to use racial tension between blacks and mulattoes to advantage.) Ogé’s rebellion was a sign of broader unrest in Saint-Domingue. A slave rebellion of 1791 finally toppled the colony. Launched in August of that year, the revolt represented the culmination of a protracted conspiracy among black leaders. According to accounts of the rebellion that have been told through the years, François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture helped plot the uprising, although this claim has never been substantiated. Among the rebellion’s leaders were Boukman, a maroon and voodoo houngan (priest); Georges Biassou, who later made Toussaint his aide; Jean-François, who subsequently commanded forces, along with Biassou and Toussaint, under the Spanish flag; and Jeannot, the bloodthirstiest of them all. These leaders sealed their compact with a voodoo ceremony conducted by Boukman in the Bois Cayman (Alligator Woods) in early August 1791. On August 22, a little more than a week after the ceremony, the uprising of their black followers began.

The carnage that the slaves wreaked in northern settlements, such as Acul, Limbé, Flaville, and Le Normand, revealed the simmering fury of an oppressed people. The bands of slaves slaughtered every white person they encountered. As their standard, they carried a pike with the carcass of an impaled white baby. Accounts of the rebellion describe widespread torching of property, fields, factories, and anything else that belonged to, or served, slaveholders. The inferno is said to have burned almost continuously for months. News of the slaves’ uprising quickly reached Cap Français. Reprisals against nonwhites were swift and every bit as brutal as the atrocities committed by the slaves. Although outnumbered, the inhabitants of Le Cap (the local diminutive for Cap Français) were well-armed and prepared to defend themselves against the tens of thousands of blacks who descended upon the port city. Despite their voodoo-inspired heroism, the ex-slaves fell in large numbers to the colonists’ firepower and were forced to withdraw. The rebellion left an estimated 10,000 blacks and 2,000 whites dead and more than 1,000 plantations sacked and razed.

Even though it failed, the slave rebellion at Cap Français set in motion events that culminated in the Haitian Revolution. Mulatto forces under the capable leadership of André Rigaud, Alexandre Pétion, and others clashed with white militiamen in the west and the south (where, once again, whites recruited black slaves to their cause). Sympathy with the Republican cause in France inspired the mulattoes. Sentiment in the National Assembly vacillated, but it finally favored the enfranchisement of gens de couleur and the enforcement of equal rights. Whites, who had had little respect for royal governance in the past, now rallied behind the Bourbons and rejected the radical egalitarian notions of the French revolutionaries. Commissioners from the French Republic, dispatched in 1792 to Saint-Domingue, pledged their limited support to the gens de couleur in the midst of an increasingly anarchic situation. In various regions of the colony, black slaves rebelled against white colonists, mulattoes battled white levies, and black royalists opposed both whites and mulattoes. Foreign interventionists found these unstable conditions irresistible; Spanish and British involvement in the unrest in Saint-Domingue opened yet another chapter in the revolution.

Social historian James G. Leyburn has said of Toussaint Louverture that "what he did is more easily told than what he was." Although some of Toussaint’s correspondence and papers remain, they reveal little of his deepest motivations in the struggle for Haitian autonomy. Born sometime between 1743 and 1746 in Saint-Domingue, Toussaint belonged to the small, fortunate class of slaves employed by humane masters as personal servants. While serving as a house servant and coachman, Toussaint received the tutelage that helped him become one of the few literate black revolutionary leaders. Upon hearing of the slave uprising, Toussaint took pains to secure safe expatriation of his master’s family. It was only then that he joined Biassou’s forces, where his intelligence, skill in strategic and tactical planning (based partly on his reading of works by Julius Caesar and others), and innate leadership ability brought him quickly to prominence. Le Cap fell to French forces, who were reinforced by thousands of blacks in April 1793. Black forces had joined the French against the royalists on the promise of freedom. Indeed, in August Commissioner Léger-Félicité Sonthonax abolished slavery in the colony.

Two black leaders who warily refused to commit their forces to France, however, were Jean-François and Biassou. Believing allegiance to a king would be more secure than allegiance to a republic, these leaders accepted commissions from Spain. The Spanish deployed forces in coordination with these indigenous blacks to take the north of Saint-Domingue. Toussaint, who had taken up the Spanish banner in February 1793, came to command his own forces independently of Biassou’s army. By the year’s end, Toussaint had cut a swath through the north, had swung south to Gonaïves, and effectively controlled north-central Saint- Domingue.

Some historians believe that Spain and Britain had reached an informal arrangement to divide the French colony between them– Britain to take the south and Spain, the north. British forces landed at Jérémie and Môle Saint-Nicolas (the Môle). They besieged Port-au-Prince (or Port Républicain, as it was known under the Republic) and took it in June 1794. The Spanish had launched a two-pronged offensive from the east. French forces checked Spanish progress toward Port-au-Prince in the south, but the Spanish pushed rapidly through the north, most of which they occupied by 1794. Spain and Britain were poised to seize Saint- Domingue, but several factors foiled their grand design. One factor was illness. The British in particular fell victim to tropical disease, which thinned their ranks far more quickly than combat against the French. Southern forces led by Rigaud and northern forces led by another mulatto commander, Villatte, also forestalled a complete victory by the foreign forces. These uncertain conditions positioned Toussaint’s centrally located forces as the key to victory or defeat. On May 6, 1794, Toussaint made a decision that sealed the fate of a nation.

After arranging for his family to flee from the city of Santo Domingo, Toussaint pledged his support to France. Confirmation of the National Assembly’s decision on February 4, 1794, to abolish slavery appears to have been the strongest influence over Toussaint’s actions. Although the Spanish had promised emancipation, they showed no signs of keeping their word in the territories that they controlled, and the British had reinstated slavery in the areas they occupied. If emancipation wasToussaint’s goal, he had no choice but to cast his lot with the French. In several raids against his former allies, Toussaint took the Artibonite region and retired briefly to Mirebalais. As Rigaud’s forces achieved more limited success in the south, the tide clearly swung in favor of the French Republicans. Perhaps the key event at this point was the July 22, 1794, peace agreement between France and Spain. The agreement was not finalized until the signing of the Treaty of Basel the following year. The accord directed Spain to cede its holdings on Hispaniola to France. The move effectively denied supplies, funding, and avenues of retreat to combatants under the Spanish aegis. The armies of Jean-François and Biassou disbanded, and many flocked to the standard of Toussaint, the remaining black commander of stature.

In March 1796, Toussaint rescued the French commander, General Etienne-Maynard Laveaux, from a mulatto-led effort to depose him as the primary colonial authority. To express his gratitude, Laveaux appointed Toussaint lieutenant governor of Saint-Domingue. With this much power over the affairs of his homeland, Toussaint was in a position to gain more. Toussaint distrusted the intentions of all foreign parties–as well as those of the mulattoes–regarding the future of slavery; he believed that only black leadership could assure the continuation of an autonomous Saint-Domingue. He set out to consolidate his political and military positions, and he undercut the positions of the French and the resentful gens de couleur. A new group of French commissioners appointed Toussaint commander in chief of all French forces on the island. From this position of strength, he resolved to move quickly and decisively to establish an autonomous state under black rule. He expelled Sonthonax, the leading French commissioner, who had proclaimed the abolition of slavery, and concluded an agreement to end hostilities with Britain. He sought to secure Rigaud’s allegiance and thus to incorporate the majority of mulattoes into his national project, but his plan was thwarted by the French, who saw in Rigaud their last opportunity to retain dominion over the colony.

Once again, racial animosity drove events in Saint-Domingue, as Toussaint’s predominantly black forces clashed with Rigaud’s mulatto army. Foreign intrigue and manipulation prevailed on both sides of the conflict. Toussaint, in correspondence with United States president John Adams, pledged that in exchange for support he would deny the French the use of Saint-Domingue as a base for operations in North America. Adams, the leader of an independent, but still insecure, nation, found the arrangement desirable and dispatched arms and ships that greatly aided black forces in what is sometimes referred to as the War of the Castes. Rigaud, with his forces and ambitions crushed, fled the colony in late 1800. After securing the port of Santo Domingo in May 1800, Toussaint held sway over the whole of Hispaniola. This position gave him an opportunity to concentrate on restoring domestic order and productivity. Like Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri (Henry) Christophe, Toussaint saw that the survival of his homeland depended on an export-oriented economy. He therefore reimposed the plantation system and utilized nonslaves, but he still essentially relied on forced labor to produce the sugar, coffee, and other commodities needed to support economic progress. He directed this process through his military dictatorship, the form of government that he judged most efficacious under the circumstances. A constitution, approved in 1801 by the then still-extant Colonial Assembly, granted Toussaint, as Governor-general-for-life, all effective power as well as the privilege of choosing his successor.

Toussaint’s interval of freedom from foreign confrontation was unfortunately brief. Toussaint never severed the formal bond with France, but his de facto independence and autonomy rankled the leaders of the mother country and concerned the governments of slave-holding nations, such as Britain and the United States. French first consul Napoléon Bonaparte resented the temerity of the former slaves who planned to govern a nation on their own. Moreover, Bonaparte regarded Saint-Domingue as essential to potential French exploitation of the Louisiana Territory. Taking advantage of a temporary halt in the wars in Europe, Bonaparte dispatched to Saint-Domingue forces led by his brother-in-law, General Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc. These forces, numbering between 16,000 and 20,000–about the same size as Toussaint’s army–landed at several points on the north coast in January 1802. With the help of white colonists and mulatto forces commanded by Pétion and others, the French outmatched, outmaneuvered, and wore down the black army. Two of Toussaint’s chief lieutenants, Dessalines and Christophe, recognized their untenable situation, held separate parleys with the invaders, and agreed to transfer their allegiance. Recognizing his weak position, Toussaint surrendered to Leclerc on May 5, 1802. The French assured Toussaint that he would be allowed to retire quietly, but a month later, they seized him and transported him to France, where he died of neglect in the frigid dungeon of Fort de Joux in the Jura Mountains on April 7, 1803.

The betrayal of Toussaint and Bonaparte’s restoration of slavery in Martinique undermined the collaboration of leaders such as Dessalines, Christophe, and Pétion. Convinced that the same fate lay in store for Saint-Domingue, these commanders and others once again battled Leclerc and his disease-riddled army. Leclerc himself died of yellow fever in November 1802, about two months after he had requested reinforcements to quash the renewed resistance. Leclerc’s replacement, General Donatien Rochambeau, waged a bloody campaign against the insurgents, but events beyond the shores of Saint-Domingue doomed the campaign to failure. By 1803 war had resumed between France and Britain, and Bonaparte once again concentrated his energies on the struggle in Europe. In April of that year, Bonaparte signed a treaty that allowed the purchase of Louisiana by the United States and ended French ambitions in the Western Hemisphere. Rochambeau’s reinforcements and supplies never arrived in sufficient numbers. The general fled to Jamaica in November 1803, where he surrendered to British authorities rather than face the retribution of the rebel leadership. The era of French colonial rule in Haiti had ended.

On January 1, 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence. Through this action, it became the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere and the first free black republic in the world. Haiti’s uniqueness attracted much attention and symbolized the aspirations of enslaved and exploited peoples around the globe. Nonetheless, Haitians made no overt effort to inspire, to support, or to aid slave rebellions similar to their own because they feared that the great powers would take renewed action against them. For the sake of national survival, nonintervention became a Haitian credo. Dessalines, who had commanded the black and the mulatto forces during the final phase of the revolution, became the new country’s leader; he ruled under the dictatorial 1801 constitution. The land he governed had been devastated by years of warfare. The agricultural base was all but destroyed, and the population was uneducated and largely unskilled. Commerce was virtually nonexistent. Contemplating this bleak situation, Dessalines determined, as Toussaint had done, that a firm hand was needed. White residents felt the sting most sharply. While Toussaint, a former privileged slave of a tolerant white master, had felt a certain magnanimity toward whites, Dessalines, a former field slave, despised them with a maniacal intensity. He reportedly agreed wholeheartedly with his aide, Boisrond-Tonnerre, who stated, "For our declaration of independence, we should have the skin of a white man for parchment, his skull for an inkwell, his blood for ink, and a bayonet for a pen!" Accordingly, whites were slaughtered wholesale under the rule of Dessalines.

Although blacks were not massacred under Dessalines, they witnessed little improvement in the quality of their lives. To restore some measure of agricultural productivity, Dessalines reestablished the plantation system. Harsh measures bound laborers to their assigned work places, and penalties were imposed on runaways and on those who harbored them. Because Dessalines drew his only organizational experience from war, it was natural for him to use the military as a tool for governing the new nation. The rule of Dessalines set a pattern for direct involvement of the army in politics that continued unchallenged for more than 150 years. In 1805 Dessalines crowned himself Emperor of Haiti. By this point, his autocratic rule had disenchanted important sectors of Haitian society, particularly mulattoes such as Pétion. The mulattoes resented Dessalines mostly for racial reasons, but the more educated and cultured gens de couleur also derided the emperor (and most of his aides and officers) for his ignorance and illiteracy. Efforts by Dessalines to bring mulatto families into the ruling group through marriage met with resistance. Pétion himself declined the offer of the hand of the emperor’s daughter. Many mulattoes were appalled by the rampant corruption and licentiousness of the emperor’s court. Dessalines’s absorption of a considerable amount of land into the hands of the state through the exploitation of irregularities in titling procedures also aroused the ire of landowners.

The disaffection that sealed the emperor’s fate arose within the ranks of the army, where Dessalines had lost support at all levels. The voracious appetites of his ruling clique apparently left little or nothing in the treasury for military salaries and provisions. Although reportedly aware of discontent among the ranks, Dessalines made no effort to redress these shortcomings. Instead, he relied on the same iron-fisted control with which he kept rural laborers in line. That his judgement in this matter had been in error became apparent on the road to Port-au-Prince as he rode with a column of troops on its way to crush a mulattoled rebellion. A group of people, probably hired by Pétion or Etienne-Elie Gérin (another mulatto officer), shot the emperor and hacked his body to pieces. Under Dessalines the Haitian economy had made little progress despite the restoration of forced labor. Conflict between blacks and mulattoes ended the cooperation that the revolution had produced, and the brutality toward whites shocked foreign governments and isolated Haiti internationally. A lasting enmity against Haiti arose among Dominicans as a result of the emperor’s unsuccessful invasion of Santo Domingo in 1805. Dessalines’s failure to consolidate Haiti and to unite Haitians had ramifications in the years that followed, as the nation split into two rival enclaves.

Many candidates succeeded Dessalines, but only three approached his stature. Most Haitians saw Henry Christophe as the most logical choice. He had served as a commander under Toussaint and could therefore claim the former leader’s mantle and some of his mystique. Christophe was black like Dessalines, but he lacked Dessalines’s consuming racial hatred, and he was much more pragmatic in this regard. His popularity, especially in the north, however, was not strong enough to offset the mulatto elite’s growing desire to exert control over Haiti through a leader drawn from its own ranks. The mulattoes had two other candidates in mind: Gérin and Pétion, the presumed authors of Dessalines’s ssassination. In November 1806, army officers and established anciens libres (pre-independence freedmen) landowners–an electorate dominated by the mulatto elite–elected a constituent assembly that was given the task of establishing a new government. Members of the assembly drafted a constitution that established a weak presidency and a comparatively strong legislature. They selected Christophe as president and Pétion as head of the legislature, the earliest attempt in Haiti to establish what would later be known as the politique de doublure (politics by understudies). Under this system, a black leader served as figurehead for mulatto elitist rule.

The only defect in the mulattoes’ scheme was Christophe himself, who refused to be content with his figurehead role. He mustered his forces and marched on Port-au-Prince. His assault on the city failed, however, mainly because Pétion had artillery and Christophe did not. Indignant, but not defeated, Christophe retreated to north of the Artibonite River and established his own dominion, which he ruled from Cap Haïtien (which he would later rechristen Cap Henry). Periodic and ineffectual clashes went on for years between this northern territory and Pétion’s republic, which encompassed most of the southern half of the country and boasted Port-au-Prince as its capital. The northern dominion became a kingdom in 1811, when Christophe crowned himself King Henry I of Haiti. Unlike Dessalines, who as emperor declared, "Only I am royal," Christophe installed a nobility of mainly black supporters and associates who assumed the titles of earls, counts, and barons. Christophe was a great believer in discipline. He brought African warriors from Dahomey (present-day Benin), whom he dubbed Royal Dahomets. They served as the primary agents of his authority. Incorruptible and intensely loyal to Christophe, the Dahomets brought order to the countryside.

In the more permissive southern republic, where Pétion ruled as president-for-life, people’s lives were not improving. The crucial difference between the northern kingdom and the southern republic was the way each treated landownership. Christophe gave ownership of the bulk of the land to the state and leased large tracts to estate managers. Pétion took the opposite approach and distributed state-owned land to individuals in small parcels. Pétion began distributing land in 1809, when he granted land to his soldiers. Later on, Pétion extended the land-grant plan to other beneficiaries and lowered the selling price of state land to a level where almost anyone could afford to own land. Pétion’s decision proved detrimental in the shaping of modern Haiti. Smallholders had little incentive to produce export crops instead of subsistence crops. Coffee, because of its relative ease of cultivation, came to dominate agriculture in the south. The level of coffee production, however, did not permit any substantial exports. Sugar, which had been produced in large quantities in Saint-Domingue, was no longer exported from Haiti after 1822. When the cultivation of cane ceased, sugar mills closed, and people lost their jobs. In the south, the average Haitian was an isolated, poor, free, and relatively content yeoman. In the north, the average Haitian was a resentful but comparatively prosperous laborer. The desire for personal autonomy motivated most Haitians more than the vaguer concept of contributing to a strong national economy, however, and defections to the south were frequent, much to the consternation of Christophe.

Pétion, who died in 1818, left a lasting imprint upon his homeland. He ruled under two constitutions, which were promulgated in 1806 and 1816. The 1806 document resembled in many ways the Constitution of the United States. The 1816 charter, however, replaced the elected presidency with the office of president for life. Pétion’s largely laissez-faire rule did not directly discriminate against blacks, but it did promote an entrenched mulatto elite that benefited from such policies as the restoration of land confiscated by Dessalines and cash reimbursement for crops lost during the last year of the emperor’s rule. Despite the egalitarianism of land distribution, government and politics in the republic remained the province of the elite, especially because the control of commerce came to replace the production of commodities as the focus of economic power in Haiti. Pétion was a beneficent ruler, and he was beloved by the people, who referred to him as "Papa Bon Coeur" (Father Good Heart). But Pétion was neither a true statesman nor a visionary. Some have said that his impact on the nations of South America, through his support for rebels such as Simón Bolívar Palacios and Francisco de Miranda, was stronger and more positive than his impact on his own impoverished country.

Although Christophe sought a reconciliation after Pétion’s death, the southern elite rejected the notion of submission to a black leader. Because the president-for-life had died without naming a successor, the republican senate selected Pétion’s mulatto secretary and commander of the Presidential Guard (Garde Présidentielle), General Jean-Pierre Boyer, to fill the post. In the north, King Henry committed suicide in October 1820, after having suffered a severe stroke that caused him to lose control of the army, his main source of power. The kingdom, which had been ruled by an even narrower clique than the republic, was left ripe for the taking. Boyer claimed it on October 26 at Cap Haïtien at the head of 20,000 troops. Haiti was once again a single nation.

Boyer shared Pétion’s conciliatory approach to governance, but he lacked his stature as a leader. The length of Boyer’s rule (1818-43) reflected his political acumen, but he accomplished little. Boyer took advantage of internecine conflict in Santo Domingo by invading and securing the Spanish part of Hispaniola in 1822. He succeeded where Toussaint and Dessalines had
failed. Occupation of the territory, however, proved unproductive for the Haitians, and ultimately it sparked a Dominican rebellion. Boyer perceived that France’s continued refusal to settle claims remaining from the revolution and to recognize its former colony’s independence constituted the gravest threat to Haitian integrity. His solution to the problem–payment in return for recognition–secured Haiti from French aggression, but it emptied the treasury and mortgaged the country’s future to French banks, which eagerly provided the balance of the hefty first installment. The indemnity was later reduced in 1838 from 150 million francs to 60 million francs. By that time, however, the damage to Haiti had been done.

In the late 1830s, legislative opposition to Boyer clustered around Hérard Dumesle, a mulatto poet and liberal political thinker. Dumesle and his followers decried the anemic state of the nation’s economy and its concomitant dependence on imported goods. They also disdained the continued elite adherence to French culture and urged Haitians to forge their own national identity. Their grievances against Boyer’s government included corruption, nepotism, suppression of free expression, and rule by executive fiat. Banding together in a fraternity, they christened their organization the Society for the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The group of young mulattoes called for an end to Boyer’s rule and for the establishment of a provisional government. The government expelled Dumesle and his followers from the legislature and made no effort to address their grievances. The perceived intransigence of the Boyer government triggered violent clashes in the south near Les Cayes. Forces under the command of Charles Rivière-Hérard, a cousin of Dumesle, swept through the southern peninsula toward the capital. Boyer received word on February 11, 1843, that most of his army units had joined the rebels. A victim of what was later known as the Revolution of 1843, Boyer sailed to Jamaica. Rivière-Hérard replaced him in the established tradition of military rule.

Leyburn summarizes this chaotic era in Haitian history. "Of the twenty-two heads of state between 1843 and 1915, only one served out his prescribed term of office, three died while serving, one was blown up with his palace, one presumably poisoned, one hacked to pieces by a mob, one resigned. The other fourteen were deposed by revolution after incumbencies ranging in length from three months to twelve years." During this wide gulf between the 1843 revolution and occupation by the United States in 1915, Haiti’s leadership became the most valuable prize in an unprincipled competition among strongmen. The overthrow of a government usually degenerated into a business venture, with foreign merchants–frequently Germans–initially funding a rebellion in the expectation of a substantial return after its success. The weakness of Haitian governments of the period and the potential profits to be gained from supporting a corrupt leader made such investments attractive. Rivière-Hérard enjoyed only a brief tenure as president. It was restive and rebellious Dominicans, rather than Haitians, who struck one of the more telling blows against this leader. Nationalist forces led by Juan Pablo Duarte seized control of Santo Domingo on February 27, 1844. Unprofessional and undisciplined Haitian forces in the east, unprepared for a significant uprising, capitulated to the rebels. In March Rivière-Hérard attempted to reimpose his authority, but the Dominicans put up stiff opposition. Soon after Rivière-Hérard crossed the border, domestic turmoil exploded again.

Discontent among black rural cultivators, which had flared up periodically under Boyer, re-emerged in 1844 and led to greater change. Bands of ragged piquets (a term derived from the word for the pikes they brandished), under the leadership of a black, former army officer named Louis Jean-Jacques Acaau, rampaged through the south. The piquets who were capable of articulating a political position demanded an end to mulatto rule and the election of a black president. Their demands were eventually met but not by the defeated Rivière-Hérard, who returned home to a country where he enjoyed little support and wielded no effective power. In May 1844, his ouster by several rebel groups brought to power Philippe Guerrier, an aged black officer who had been a member of the peerage under Christophe’s kingdom. Guerrier’s installation by a mulatto-dominated establishment represented the formal beginning of politique de doublure; a succession of short-lived black leaders was chosen after Guerrier in an effort to appease the piquets and to avoid renewed unrest in the countryside. During this period, two exceptions to the pattern of abbreviated rule were Faustin Soulouque (1847-59) and Fabre Nicolas Geffrard (1859-67). Soulouque, a black general of no particular distinction, was considered just another understudy when he was tapped by the legislature as a compromise between competing factions. Once in office, however, he displayed a Machiavellian taste for power. He purged the military high command, established a secret police force–known as the zinglins–to keep dissenters in line, and eliminated mulatto opponents. In August 1849, he grandiosely proclaimed himself as Haiti’s second emperor, Faustin I.

Soulouque, like Boyer, enjoyed a comparatively long period of power that yielded little of value to his country. Whereas Boyer’s rule had been marked by torpor and neglect, Soulouque’s was distinguished by violence, repression, and rampant corruption. Soulouque’s expansive ambitions led him to mount several invasions of the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans turned back his first foray in 1849 before he reached Santo Domingo. Another invasion in 1850 proved even less successful. Failed campaigns in 1855 and in 1856 fueled mounting discontent among the military; a revolt led by Geffrard, who had led a contingent in the Dominican campaign, forced the emperor out of power in 1859. Geffrard, a dark-skinned mulatto, restored the old order of elite rule. After the turmoil of Soulouque’s regime, Geffrard’s rule seemed comparatively tranquil and even somewhat progressive. Geffrard produced a new constitution based largely on Pétion’s 1816 document, improved transportation, and expanded education (although the system still favored the upper classes). Geffrard also signed a concordat with the Vatican in 1860 that expanded the presence of the Roman Catholic Church and its preponderantly foreign-born clergy in Haiti, particularly through the establishment of parochial schools. The move ended a period of ill will between Haiti and the church that had begun during the revolutionary period.

Intrigue and discontent among the elite and the piquets beset Geffrard throughout his rule. In 1867 General Sylvain Salnave–a light-skinned mulatto who received considerable support from blacks in the north and in the capital- -forced Geffrard from office. The overthrow profoundly unsettled the country, and Salnave’s end came quickly. Rural rebellion among anti-Salnavist peasants who called themselves cacos (a term of unknown derivation) triggered renewed unrest among the piquets in the south. After several military successes, Salnave’s forces weakened, and the leader fled Port-au-Prince. Caco forces captured him, however, near the Dominican border, where they tried and executed him on January 15, 1870. Successive leaders claimed control of most of the country and then regularly confirmed their rule ex post facto through a vote by the legislature, but none succeeded in establishing effective authority over the entire country. Rebellion, intrigue, and conspiracy continued to be commonplace even under the rule of Louis Lysius Félicité Salomon (1879-88), of the National Party (Parti National–PN), the most notable and effective president of the late nineteenth century. During one seven-year term and the beginning of a second, Salomon revived agriculture to a limited degree, attracted some foreign capital, established a national bank, linked Haiti to the outside world through the telegraph, and made minor improvements in the education system. Salomon, the scion of a prominent black family, had spent many years in France after being expelled by Riviére- Hérard. Salomon’s support among the rural masses, along with his energetic efforts to contain elite-instigated plots, kept him in power longer than the strongmen who preceded and followed him. Still, Salomon yielded–after years of conflict with forces led by the Liberal Party (Parti Liberal–LP), and other disgruntled, power-hungry elite elements.

Political forces during the late nineteenth century polarized around the Liberal and the National parties. Mulattoes dominated the Liberal ranks, while blacks dominated the National Party; both parties were nonideological in nature. The parties competed on the battlefield, in the legislature, within the ranks of the military, and in the more refined but limited circles of the literati. The more populist Nationalists marched under the banner of their party slogan, "the greatest good for the greatest number," while the blatantly elitist Liberals proclaimed their preference for "government by the most competent." Haitian politics remained unstable. From the fall of Salomon until occupation by the United States in 1915, eleven men held the title of president. Their tenures in office ranged from six and one-half years in the case of Florvil Hyppolite (1889-96) to only months–especially between 1912 and 1915, the turbulent period that preceded the United States occupation–in the case of seven others.

Although domestic unrest helped pave the way for intervention by the United States, geostrategic concerns also influenced events. The United States had periodically entertained the notion of annexing Hispaniola, but the divisive issue of slavery deterred the nation from acting. Until 1862 the United States refused to recognize Haiti’s independence because the free, black, island nation symbolized opposition to slavery. President Ulysses S. Grant proposed annexation of the Dominican Republic in 1870, but the United States Senate rejected the idea. By the late nineteenth century, the growth of United States power and the prospect of a transoceanic canal in either Nicaragua or Panama had increased attention given to the Caribbean. Annexation faded as a policy option, but Washington persistently pursued efforts to secure naval stations throughout the region. The United States favored the Môle Saint-Nicolas as an outpost, but Haiti refused to cede territory to a foreign power.

The French and the British still claimed interests in Haiti, but it was the Germans’ activity on the island that concerned the United States most. The small German community in Haiti (approximately 200 in 1910) wielded a disproportionate amount of economic power. Germans controlled about 80 percent of the country’s international commerce; they also owned and operated utilities in Cap Haïtien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf and a tramway in the capital, and a railroad in the north. The Germans, as did the French, aiming to collect the nation’s customs receipts to cover Haiti’s outstanding debts to European creditors, also sought control of the nearly insolvent National Bank of Haiti. This kind of arrangement was known technically as a customs receivership. Officials in Washington were especially concerned about Germany’s aggressive employment of military might. In December 1897, a German commodore in charge of two warships demanded and received an indemnity from the Haitian government for a German national who had been deported from the island after a legal dispute. Another German warship intervened in a Haitian uprising in September 1902. It forced the captain of a rebel gunboat (that had waylaid a German merchant ship) to resort to blowing up his ship–and himself–to avoid being seized.

Reports reached Washington that Berlin was considering setting up a coaling station at the Môle Saint-Nicolas to serve the German naval fleet. This potential strategic encroachment resonated through the White House, at a time when the Monroe Doctrine (a policy that opposed European intervention in the Western Hemisphere) and the Roosevelt Corollary (whereby the United
States assumed the responsibility for direct intervention in Latin American nations in order to check the influence of European powers) strongly shaped United States foreign policy, and when war on a previously unknown scale had broken out in Europe. The administration of President Woodrow Wilson accordingly began contingency planning for an occupation of Haiti. Escalating instability in Haiti all but invited foreign intervention. The country’s most productive president of the early twentieth century, Cincinnatus Leconte, had died in a freak explosion in the National Palace (Palais National) in August 1912. Five more contenders claimed the country’s leadership over the next three years. General Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, who had helped to bring Leconte to power, took the oath of office in March 1915. Like every other Haitian president of the period, he faced active rebellion to his rule. His leading opponent, Rosalvo Bobo, reputedly hostile toward the United States, represented to Washington a barrier to expanded commercial and strategic ties. A pretext for intervention came on July 27, 1915, when Guillaume Sam executed 167 political prisoners. Popular outrage provoked mob violence in the streets of Port-au-Prince. A throng of incensed citizens sought out Guillaume Sam at his sanctuary in the French embassy and literally tore him to pieces. The spectacle of an exultant rabble parading through the streets of the capital bearing the dismembered corpse of their former president shocked decision makers in the United States and spurred them to swift action. The first sailors and marines landed in Port-au-Prince on July 28. Within six weeks, representatives from the United States controlled Haitian customs houses and administrative institutions. For the next nineteen years, Haiti’s powerful neighbor to the north guided and governed the country.

Representatives from the United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in the provinces. Local institutions, however, continued to be run by Haitians, as was required under policies put in place during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. In line with these policies, Admiral William Caperton, the initial commander of United States forces, instructed Bobo to refrain from offering himself to the legislature as a presidential candidate. Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave, the mulatto president of the Senate, agreed to accept the presidency of Haiti after several other candidates had refused on principle.

With a figurehead installed in the National Palace and other institutions maintained in form if not in function, Caperton declared martial law, a condition that persisted until 1929. A treaty passed by the Haitian legislature in November 1915 granted further authority to the United States. The treaty allowed Washington to assume complete control of Haiti’s finances, and it gave the United States sole authority over the appointment of advisers and receivers. The treaty also gave the United States responsibility for establishing and running public-health and public-works programs and for supervising routine governmental affairs. The treaty also established the Gendarmerie d’Haïti (Haitian Constabulary), a step later replicated in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The Gendarmerie was Haiti’s first professional military force, and it was eventually to play an important political role in the country. In 1917 President Dartiguenave dissolved the legislature after its members refused to approve a constitution purportedly authored by United States assistant secretary of the navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. A referendum subsequently approved the new constitution (by a vote of 98,225 to 768), however, in 1918. Generally a liberal document, the constitution allowed foreigners to purchase land. Dessalines had forbidden land ownership by foreigners, and since 1804 most Haitians had viewed foreign ownership as anathema.

The occupation by the United States had several effects on Haiti. An early period of unrest culminated in a 1918 rebellion by up to 40,000 former cacos and other disgruntled people. The scale of the uprising overwhelmed the Gendarmerie, but marine reinforcements helped put down the revolt at the estimated cost of 2,000 Haitian lives. Thereafter, order prevailed to a degree that most Haitians had never witnessed. The order, however, was imposed largely by white foreigners with deep-seated racial prejudices and a disdain for the notion of self-determination by inhabitants of less-developed nations. These attitudes particularly dismayed the mulatto elite, who had heretofore believed in their innate superiority over the black masses. The whites from North America, however, did not distinguish among Haitians, regardless of their skin tone, level of education, or sophistication. This intolerance caused indignation, resentment, and eventually a racial pride that was reflected in the work of a new generation of Haitian historians, ethnologists, writers, artists, and others, many of whom later became active in politics and government. Still, as Haitians united in their reaction to the racism of the occupying forces, the mulatto elite managed to dominate the country’s bureaucracy and to strengthen its role in national affairs.

The occupation had several positive aspects. It greatly improved Haiti’s infrastructure. Roads were improved and expanded. Almost all roads, however, led to Port-au-Prince, resulting in a gradual concentration of economic activity in the capital. Bridges went up throughout the country; a telephone system began to function; several towns gained access to clean water;
and a construction boom (in some cases employing forced labor) helped restore wharves, lighthouses, schools, and hospitals. Public health improved, partially because of United States-directed campaigns against malaria and yaws (a crippling disease caused by a spirochete). Sound fiscal management kept Haiti current on its foreign-debt payments at a time when default among Latin American nations was common. By that time, United States banks were Haiti’s main creditors, an important incentive for Haiti to make timely payments. In 1922 Louis Borno replaced Dartiguenave, who was forced out of office for temporizing over the approval of a debt consolidation loan. Borno ruled without the benefit of a legislature (dissolved in 1917 under Dartiguenave) until elections were
again permitted in 1930. The legislature, after several ballots, elected mulatto Sténio Vincent to the presidency.

The occupation of Haiti continued after World War I, despite the embarrassment that it caused Woodrow Wilson at the Paris peace conference in 1919 and the scrutiny of a congressional inquiry in 1922. By 1930 President Herbert Hoover had become concerned about the effects of the occupation, particularly after a December 1929 incident in Les Cayes in which marines killed
at least ten Haitian peasants during a march to protest local economic conditions. Hoover appointed two commissions to study the situation. A former governor general of the Philippines, W. Cameron Forbes, headed the more prominent of the two. The Forbes Commission praised the material improvements that the United States administration had wrought, but it criticized the exclusion of Haitians from positions of real authority in the government and the constabulary, which had come to be known as the Garde d’Haïti. In more general terms, the commission further asserted that "the social forces that created [instability] still remain–poverty, ignorance, and the lack of a tradition or desire for orderly free government." The Hoover administration did not implement fully the recommendations of the Forbes Commission, but United States withdrawal was well under way by 1932, when Hoover lost the presidency to Roosevelt, the presumed author of the most recent Haitian constitution. On a visit to Cap Haïtien in July 1934, Roosevelt reaffirmed an August 1933 disengagement agreement. The last contingent of marines departed in mid-August, after a formal transfer of authority to the Garde. As in other countries occupied by the United States in the early twentieth century, the local military was often the only cohesive and effective institution left in the wake of withdrawal.

The Garde was a new kind of military institution in Haiti. It was a force manned overwhelmingly by blacks, with a United States- trained black commander, Colonel Démosthènes Pétrus Calixte. Most of the Garde’s officers, however, were mulattoes. The Garde was a national organization; it departed from the regionalism that had characterized most of Haiti’s previous armies. In theory, its charge was apolitical–to maintain internal order, while supporting a popularly elected government. The Garde initially adhered to this role. President Vincent took advantage of the comparative national stability, which was being maintained by a professionalized military, to gain absolute power. A plebiscite permitted the transfer of all authority in economic matters from the legislature to the executive, but Vincent was not content with this expansion of his power. In 1935 he forced through the legislature a new constitution, which was also approved by plebiscite. The constitution praised Vincent, and it granted the executive sweeping powers to dissolve the legislature at will, to reorganize the judiciary, to appoint ten of twenty-one senators (and to recommend the remaining eleven to the lower house), and to rule by decree when the legislature was not in session. Although Vincent implemented some improvements in infrastructure and services, he brutally repressed his opposition, censored the press, and governed largely to benefit himself and a clique of merchants and corrupt military officers.

Under Calixte the majority of Garde personnel had adhered to the doctrine of political nonintervention that their Marine Corps trainers had stressed. Over time, however, Vincent and Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina sought to buy adherents among the ranks. Trujillo, determined to expand his influence over all of Hispaniola, in October 1937 ordered the
indiscriminate butchery by the Dominican army of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Haitians on the Dominican side of the Massacre River. Some observers claim that Trujillo supported an abortive coup attempt by young Garde officers in December 1937. Vincent dismissed Calixte as commander and sent him abroad, where he eventually accepted a commission in the Dominican military as a reward for his efforts while on Trujillo’s payroll. The attempted coup led Vincent to purge the officer corps of all members suspected of disloyalty, marking the end of the apolitical military. In 1941 Vincent showed every intention of standing for a third term as president, but after almost a decade of disengagement, the United States made it known that it would oppose such an extension. Vincent accommodated the Roosevelt administration and handed power over to Elie Lescot.

Lescot was a mulatto who had served in numerous government posts. He was competent and forceful, and many considered him a sterling candidate for the presidency, despite his elitist background. Like the majority of previous Haitian presidents, however, he failed to live up to his potential. His tenure paralleled that of Vincent in many ways. Lescot declared himself commander in chief of the military, and power resided in a clique that ruled with the tacit support of the Garde. He repressed his opponents, censored the press, and compelled the legislature to grant him extensive powers. He handled all budget matters without legislative sanction and filled legislative vacancies without calling elections. Lescot commonly said that Haiti’s declared state-of-war against the Axis powers during World War II justified his repressive actions. Haiti, however, played no role in the war except for supplying the United States with raw materials and serving as a base for a United States Coast Guard detachment. Aside from his authoritarian tendencies, Lescot had another flaw: his relationship with Trujillo. While serving as
Haitian ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Lescot fell under the sway of Trujillo’s influence and wealth. In fact, it was Trujillo’s money that reportedly bought most of the legislative votes that brought Lescot to power. Their clandestine association persisted until 1943, when the two leaders parted ways for unknown reasons. Trujillo later made public all his correspondence with
the Haitian leader. The move undermined Lescot’s already dubious popular support.

In January 1946, events came to a head when Lescot jailed the Marxist editors of a journal called La Ruche (The Beehive). This action precipitated student strikes and protests by government workers, teachers, and shopkeepers in the capital and provincial cities. In addition, Lescot’s mulatto-dominated rule had alienated the predominantly black Garde. His position became untenable, and he resigned on January 11. Radio announcements declared that the Garde had assumed power, which it would administer through a three-member junta. The Revolution of 1946 was a novel development in Haiti’s history, insofar as the Garde assumed power as an institution, not as the instrument of a particular commander. The members of the junta, known as the
Military Executive Committee (Comité Exécutif Militaire), were Garde commander Colonel Franck Lavaud, Major Antoine Levelt, and Major Paul E. Magloire, commander of the Presidential Guard. All three understood Haiti’s traditional way of exercising power, but they lacked a thorough understanding of what would be required to make the transition to an elected civilian government. Upon taking power, the junta pledged to hold free elections. The junta also explored other options, but public clamor, which included public demonstrations in support of potential candidates, eventually forced the officers to make good on their promise.

Haiti elected its National Assembly in May 1946. The Assembly set August 16, 1946, as the date on which it would select a president. The leading candidates for the office–all of whom were black–were Dumarsais Estimé, a former school teacher, assembly member, and cabinet minister under Vincent; Félix d’Orléans Juste Constant, leader of the Haitian Communist Party (Parti Communiste d’Haïti–PCH); and former Garde commander Calixte, who stood as the candidate of a progressive coalition that included the Worker Peasant Movement (Mouvement Ouvrier Paysan–MOP). MOP chose to endorse Calixte, instead of a candidate from its own ranks, because the party’s leader, Daniel Fignolé, was only twenty-six years old–too young to stand for the nation’s highest office. Estimé, politically the most moderate of the three, drew support from the black population in the north, as well as from the emerging black middle class. The leaders of the military, who would not countenance the election of Juste Constant and who reacted warily to the populist Fignolé, also considered Estimé the safest candidate. After two rounds of polling, legislators gave
Estimé the presidency.

Estimé’s election represented a break with Haiti’s political tradition. Although he was reputed to have received support from commanders of the Garde, Estimé was a civilian. Of humble origins, he was passionately anti-elitist and therefore generally antimulatto. He demonstrated, at least initially, a genuine concern for the welfare of the people. Operating under a new constitution that went into effect in November 1946, Estimé proposed, but never secured passage of, Haiti’s first social- security legislation. He did, however, expand the school system, encourage the establishment of rural cooperatives, raise the salaries of civil servants, and increase the representation of middle-class and lower-class blacks in the public sector. He also attempted to gain the favor of the Garde–renamed the Haitian Army (Armée d’Haïti) in March 1947–by promoting Lavaud to brigadier general and by seeking United States military assistance. Estimé eventually fell victim to two of the time-honored pitfalls of Haitian rule: elite intrigue and personal ambition. The elite had a number of grievances against Estimé. Not only had he largely excluded them from the often lucrative levers of government, but he also enacted the country’s first income tax, fostered the growth of labor unions, and suggested that voodoo be considered as a religion equivalent to Roman Catholicism–a notion that the Europeanized elite abhorred. Lacking direct influence in Haitian affairs, the elite resorted to clandestine lobbying among the officer corps. Their efforts, in combination with deteriorating domestic conditions, led to a coup in May 1950.

To be sure, Estimé had hastened his own demise in several ways. His nationalization of the Standard Fruit banana concession sharply reduced the firm’s revenues. He alienated workers by requiring them to invest between 10 percent and 15 percent of their salaries in national-defense bonds. The president sealed his fate by attempting to manipulate the constitution in order to extend his term in office. Seizing on this action and the popular unrest it engendered, the army forced the president to resign on May 10, 1950. The same junta that had assumed power after the fall of Lescot reinstalled itself. An army escort conducted Estimé from the National Palace and into exile in Jamaica. The events of May 1946 made an impression upon the deposed minister of labor, François Duvalier. The lesson that Duvalier drew from Estimé’s ouster was that the military could not be trusted. It was a lesson that he would act upon when he gained power. The power balance within the junta shifted between 1946 and 1950. Lavaud was the preeminent member at the time of the first coup, but Magloire, now a colonel, dominated after Estimé’s overthrow. When Haiti announced that its first direct elections (all men twenty-one or over were allowed to vote) would be held on October 8, 1950, Magloire resigned from the junta and declared himself a candidate for president. In contrast to the chaotic political climate of 1946, the campaign of 1950 proceeded under the implicit understanding that only a strong candidate backed by both the army and the elite would be able to take power. Facing only token opposition, Magloire won the election and assumed office on December 6.

Magloire restored the elite to prominence. The business community and the government benefited from favorable economic conditions until Hurricane Hazel hit the island in 1954. Haiti made some improvements on its infrastructure, but most of these were financed largely by foreign loans. By Haitian standards, Magloire’s rule was firm, but not harsh: he jailed political opponents, including Fignolé, and shut down their presses when their protests grew too strident, but he allowed labor unions to function, although they were not permitted to strike. It was in the arena of corruption, however, that Magloire overstepped traditional bounds. The president controlled the sisal, cement, and soap monopolies. He and other officials built imposing mansions. The injection of international hurricane relief funds into an already corrupt system boosted graft to levels that disillusioned all Haitians. To make matters worse, Magloire followed in the footsteps of many previous presidents by disputing the termination date of his stay in office. Politicians, labor leaders, and their followers flocked to the streets in May 1956 to protest Magloire’s failure to step down. Although Magloire declared martial law, a general strike essentially shut down Port-au-Prince. Again like many before him, Magloire fled to Jamaica, leaving the army with the task of restoring order.

The period between the fall of Magloire and the election of Duvalier in September 1957 was a chaotic one, even by Haitian standards. Three provisional presidents held office during this interval; one resigned and the army deposed the other two, Franck Sylvain and Fignolé. Duvalier is said to have engaged actively in the behind-the-scenes intrigue that helped him to emerge as the presidential candidate that the military favored. The military went on to guide the campaign and the elections in a way that gave Duvalier every possible advantage. Most political actors perceived Duvalier–a medical doctor who had served as a rural administrator of a United States-funded anti-yaws campaign before entering the cabinet under Estimé–as an honest and fairly unassuming leader without a strong ideological motivation or program. When elections were finally organized, this time under terms of universal suffrage (both men and women now had the vote), Duvalier, a black, painted himself as the legitimate heir to Estimé. This approach was enhanced by the fact that Duvalier’s only viable opponent, Louis Déjoie, was a mulatto and the scion of a prominent family. Duvalier scored a decisive victory at the polls. His followers took two-thirds of the legislature’s lower house and all of the seats in the Senate.

Like many Haitian leaders, Duvalier produced a constitution to solidify his power. In 1961 he proceeded to violate the provisions of that constitution, which had gone into effect in 1957. He replaced the bicameral legislature with a unicameral body and decreed presidential and legislative elections. Despite a 1957 prohibition against presidential reelection, Duvalier ran for office and won with an official tally of 1,320,748 votes to zero. Not content with this sham display of democracy, he went on in 1964 to declare himself president for life. For Duvalier, the move was a matter of political tradition; seven heads of state before him had claimed the same title. An ill-conceived coup attempt in July 1958 spurred Duvalier to act on his conviction that Haiti’s independent military threatened the security of his presidency. In December the president sacked the armed forces chief of staff and replaced him with a more reliable officer. This action helped him to expand a Presidential Palace army unit into the Presidential Guard. The Guard became the elite corps of the Haitian army, and its sole purpose was to maintain Duvalier’s power. After having established his own power base within the military, Duvalier dismissed the entire general staff and replaced aging Marinetrained officers with younger men who owed their positions, and presumably their loyalty, to Duvalier.

Duvalier also blunted the power of the army through a rural militia formally named the Volunteers for National Security (Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale–VSN), but more commonly referred to as the tonton makouts (derived from the Creole term for a mythological bogeyman). In 1961, only two years after Duvalier had established the group, the tonton
makouts
had more than twice the power of the army. Over time, the group gained even more power. While the Presidential Guard secured Duvalier against his enemies in the capital, the tonton makouts expanded his authority into rural areas. The tonton makouts never became a true militia, but they were more than a mere secret police force. The group’s pervasive influence throughout the countryside bolstered recruitment, mobilization, and patronage for the regime. After Duvalier had displaced the established military with his own security force, he employed corruption and intimidation to create his own elite. Corruption–in the form of government rake-offs of industries, bribery, extortion of domestic businesses, and stolen government funds–enriched the dictator’s closest supporters. Most of these supporters held sufficient power to enable them to intimidate the members of the old elite who were gradually co-opted or eliminated (the luckier ones were allowed to emigrate).

Duvalier was an astute observer of Haitian life and a student of his country’s history. Although he had been reared in Port-au-Prince, his medical experiences in the provinces had acquainted him with the everyday concerns of the people, their predisposition toward paternalistic authority (his patients referred to him as "Papa Doc," a sobriquet that he relished and often applied to himself), the ease with which their allegiance could be bought, and the central role of voodoo in their lives. Duvalier exploited all of these points, especially voodoo. He studied voodoo practices and beliefs and was rumored to be a houngan. He related effectively to houngan andbokò (voodoo sorcerers) throughout the country and incorporated many of them into his intelligence network and the ranks of the tonton makouts. His public recognition of voodoo and its practitioners and his private adherence to voodoo ritual, combined with his reputed practice of magic and sorcery,
enhanced his popular persona among the common people (who hesitated to trifle with a leader who had such dark forces at his command) and served as a peculiar form of legitimization of his rapacious and ignoble rule.

Duvalier weathered a series of foreign-policy crises early in his tenure that ultimately enhanced his power and contributed to his megalomaniacal conviction that he was, in his words, the "personification of the Haitian fatherland." Duvalier’s repressive and authoritarian rule seriously disturbed United States president John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy administration registered particular concern over allegations that Duvalier had blatantly misappropriated aid money and that he intended to employ a Marine Corps mission to Haiti not to train the regular army but to strengthen the tonton makouts.
Washington acted on these charges and suspended aid in mid-1962. Duvalier refused to accept United States demands for strict accounting procedures as a precondition of aid renewal. Duvalier, claiming to be motivated by nationalism, renounced all aid from Washington. At that time, aid from the United States constituted a substantial portion of the Haitian national budget. The move had
little direct impact on the Haitian people because most of the aid had been siphoned off by Duvalierist cronies anyway. Renouncing the aid, however, allowed the incipient dictator to portray himself as a principled and lonely opponent of domination by a great power. Duvalier continued to receive multilateral contributions. After Kennedy’s death in November 1963, pressure on Duvalier eased, and the United States adopted a policy of grudging acceptance of the Haitian regime because of the country’s strategic location near communist Cuba.

A more tense and confrontational situation developed in April 1963 between Duvalier and Dominican Republic president Juan Bosch Gaviño. Duvalier and Bosch were confirmed adversaries; the Dominican president provided asylum and direct support to Haitian exiles who plotted against the Duvalier regime. Duvalier ordered the Presidential Guard to occupy the Dominican chancery in Pétionville in an effort to apprehend an army officer believed to have been involved in an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap the dictator’s son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, and daughter, Simone Duvalier. The Dominican Republic reacted with outrage and indignation. Bosch publicly threatened to invade Haiti, and he ordered army units to the frontier. Although observers throughout the world anticipated military action that would lead to Duvalier’s downfall, they saw events turn in the Haitian tyrant’s favor. Dominican military commanders, who found Bosch’s political leanings too far to the left, expressed little support for an invasion of Haiti. Bosch, because he could not count on his military, decided to let go of his dream to overthrow the neighboring dictatorship. Instead, he allowed the matter to be settled by emissaries of the Organization of American States (OAS). Resistant to both domestic and foreign challenges, Duvalier entrenched his rule through terror (an estimated 30,000 Haitians were killed for political reasons during his tenure), emigration (which removed the more activist elements of the population along with thousands of purely economic migrants), and limited patronage. At the time of his death in 1971, François Duvalier designated his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, as Haiti’s new leader. To the Haitian elite, who still dominated the economy, the continuation of Duvalierism
without "Papa Doc" offered financial gain and a possibility for recapturing some of the political influence lost under the dictatorship.

The first few years after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s installation as Haiti’s ninth president-for-life were a largely uneventful extension of his father’s rule. Jean-Claude was a feckless, dissolute nineteen-year-old, who had been raised in an extremely isolated environment and who had never expressed any interest in politics or Haitian affairs. He initially resented the dynastic arrangement that had made him Haiti’s leader, and he was content to leave substantive and administrative matters in the hands of his mother, Simone Ovid Duvalier, while he attended ceremonial functions and lived as a playboy. By neglecting his role in government, Jean-Claude squandered a considerable amount of domestic and foreign goodwill and facilitated the dominance of Haitian
affairs by a clique of hard-line Duvalierist cronies who later became known as the dinosaurs. The public displayed more affection toward Jean-Claude than they had displayed for his more formidable father. Foreign officials and observers also seemed more tolerant toward "Baby Doc", in areas such as human-rights monitoring, and foreign countries were more generous to him with economic assistance. The United States restored its aid program for Haiti in 1971. Jean-Claude limited his interest in government to various fraudulent schemes and to outright misappropriations of funds. Much of the Duvaliers’ wealth, which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, came from the Régie du Tabac (Tobacco Administration). Duvalier used this "nonfiscal account," established decades earlier under Estimé, as a tobacco monopoly, but he later expanded it to include the proceeds from other government enterprises and used it as a slush fund for which no balance sheets were ever kept.

Jean-Claude’s kleptocracy, along with his failure to back with actions his rhetoric endorsing economic and public-health reform, left the regime vulnerable to unanticipated crises that were exacerbated by endemic poverty, including the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic and the widely publicized outbreak of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the 1980s.
A highly contagious and fatal disease, ASF plagued pigs in the Dominican Republic in mid-1978. The United States feared that the disease would spread to North America and pressured Jean-Claude to slaughter the entire population of Haitian pigs and to replace them with animals supplied by the United States and international agencies. The Haitian government complied with this demand, but it failed to take note of the rancor that this policy produced among the peasantry. Black Haitian pigs were not only a form of "savings account" for peasants because they could be sold for cash when necessary, but they were also a breed of livestock well-suited to the rural environment because they required neither special care nor special feed. The replacement pigs required both. Peasants deeply resented this intrusion into their lives. Initial reporting on the AIDS outbreak in Haiti implied that the country might have been a source for the human immune deficiency virus. This rumor, which turned out to be false, hurt
the nation’s tourism industry, which had grown during Jean-Claude Duvalier’s tenure. Already minimal, public services deteriorated as Jean- Claude and his ruling clique continued to misappropriate funds from the national treasury.

Jean-Claude miscalculated the ramifications of his May 1980 wedding to Michèle Bennett, a mulatto divorcée with a disreputable background. (François Duvalier had jailed her father, Ernest Bennett, for bad debts and other shady financial dealings.) Although Jean-Claude himself was light-skinned, his father’s legacy of support for the black middle class and antipathy toward the established mulatto elite had enhanced the appeal of Duvalierism among the black majority of the population. By marrying a mulatto, Jean-Claude appeared to be abandoning the informal bond that his father had labored to establish. The marriage also estranged the old-line Duvalierists in the government from the younger technocrats whom Jean-Claude had appointed. The Duvalierists’ spiritual leader, Jean-Claude’s mother, Simone, was eventually expelled from Haiti, reportedly at the request of Michèle, Jean-Claude’s wife. The extravagance of the couple’s wedding, which cost an estimated US$3 million, further alienated the people. Popular discontent intensified in response to increased corruption among the Duvaliers and the Bennetts, as well as the repulsive nature of the Bennetts’ dealings, which included selling Haitian cadavers to foreign medical schools and trafficking in narcotics. Increased political repression added to the volatility of the situation. By the mid-1980s, most Haitians felt hopeless,
as economic conditions worsened and hunger and malnutrition spread.

Widespread discontent began in March 1983, when Pope John Paul II visited Haiti. The pontiff declared that "Something must change here." He went on to call for a more equitable distribution of income, a more egalitarian social structure, more concern among the elite for the well-being of the masses, and increased popular participation in public life. This message revitalized both laymen and clergy, and it contributed to increased popular mobilization and to expanded political and social activism. A revolt began in the provinces two years later. The city of Gonaïves was the first to have street demonstrations and raids on food-distribution warehouses. From October 1985 to January 1986, the protests spread to six other cities, including Cap Haïtien. By the end of that month, Haitians in the south had revolted. The most significant rioting there broke out in Les Cayes. Jean-Claude responded with a 10 percent cut in staple food prices, the closing of independent radio stations, a cabinet
reshuffle, and a crackdown by police and army units, but these moves failed to dampen the momentumof the popular uprising against the dynastic dictatorship. Jean-Claude’s wife and advisers, intent on maintaining their profitable grip on power, urged him to put down the rebellion and to remain in office. A plot to remove him had been well under way, however, long before the demonstrations
began. The conspirators’ efforts were not connected to the popular revolt, but violence in the streets prompted Jean-Claude’s opponents to act. The leaders of the plot were Lieutenant General Henri Namphy and Colonel Williams Regala. Both had privately expressed misgivings about the excesses of the regime. They and other officers saw the armed forces as the single remaining cohesive institution in the country. They viewed the army as the only vehicle for an orderly transition from Duvalierism to another form of government.

In January 1986, the unrest in Haiti alarmed United States president Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration began to pressure Duvalier to renounce his rule and to leave Haiti. Representatives appointed by Jamaican prime minister Edward Seaga served as intermediaries who carried out the negotiations. The United States rejected a request to provide asylum for Duvalier, but offered to assist with the dictator’s departure. Duvalier had initially accepted on January 30, 1986. The White House actually announced his departure prematurely. At the last minute, however, Jean-Claude decided to remain in Haiti. His decision provoked increased violence in the streets. The United States Department of State announced a cutback in aid to Haiti on January
31. This action had both symbolic and real effect: it distanced Washington from the Duvalier regime, and it denied the regime a significant source of income. By this time, the rioting had spread to Port-au-Prince. At this point, the military conspirators took direct action. Namphy, Regala, and others confronted the Duvaliers and demanded their departure. Left with no bases of support,
Jean-Claude consented. After hastily naming a National Council of Government (Conseil National de Gouvernement–CNG) made up of Namphy, Regala, and three civilians, Jean-Claude and Michèle Duvalier departed from Haiti on February 7, 1986. They left behind them a country economically ravaged by their avarice, a country bereft of functional political institutions and devoid of any tradition of peaceful self-rule. Although the end of the Duvalier era provoked much popular rejoicing, the transitional period initiated under the CNG did not lead to any significant improvement in the lives of most Haitians. Although most citizens expressed a desire for democracy, they had no firm grasp of what the word meant or of how it might be achieved.

A succession of military governments followed before Haiti began the transition to civilian rule. Presidential elections were held in mid-December 1990 under the supervision of the United Nations and brought to the presidency the radical priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. 9 months later, on the September 30 1991, army chief Brigadier-General Raoul Cedras seized power in a military coup. Aristide was exiled. In June 1992, the army installed a civilian government under Marc Bazin, one of the conservative presidential candidates defeated by Aristide. 12 months later, as the country suffered under the weight of international opprobrium, a deal between the Cedras/Bazin regime and Aristide allowed the latter to come back to the country. Political violence, orchestrated by a right-wing militia known as the Front Revolutionnaire pour l’Avancement et le Progrès d’Haiti (FRAPH), composed largely of ex-Tontons and financed by American intelligence (which was opposed to Aristide’s alleged radicalism) delayed Aristide’s resumption of the presidency. Ironically, it took the intervention of several thousand American troops at the end of 1994 – followed by a UN force – to restore some semblance of order. In December 1995 Aristide’s truncated term of office came to an end. The presidential election that followed – from which Aristide was constitutionally barred – brought to power one of his close associates, René Préval. The Préval administration was dogged by violence and instability throughout its term and, in January 1999, Préval dissolved parliament pending parliamentary elections. These were repeatedly postponed until May 2000, when Aristide himself was able to stand once again under the banner of the ‘Famni Lavalas’ (literally, ‘Waterfall Family’). The poll had to re-run in November but both polls produced a decisive victory for Aristide. The UN pulled out, but political violence re-emerged with an attempted coup in December 2001 and serious street protests the following summer. The main cause was the country’s deteriorating economic situation. Aristide appointed a new premier, Yvon Neptune, in March 2002 after the removal of his predecessor, Jean-Marie Cherestal.

References:

Guyana National History

The first humans to reach Guyana belonged to the group of peoples that crossed into North America from Asia perhaps as much as 35,000 years ago. These first inhabitants were nomads who slowly spread south into Central America and South America. Although great civilizations later arose in the Americas, the structure of Amerindian society in the Guianas remained relatively simple. At the time of Christopher Columbus’s voyages, Guyana’s inhabitants were divided into two groups, the Arawak along the coast and the Carib in the interior. One of the legacies of the indigenous peoples was the word Guiana, often
used to describe the region encompassing modern Guyana as well as Suriname (former Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana. The word, which means "land of waters" is highly appropriate, considering the area’s multitude of rivers and streams.

Historians speculate that the Arawak and Carib originated in the South American hinterland and migrated northward, first to the present-day Guianas and then to the Caribbean islands. The peaceful Arawak, mainly cultivators, hunters,
and fishermen, migrated to the Caribbean islands before the Carib and settled throughout the region. The tranquility of Arawak society was disrupted by the arrival of the bellicose Carib from the South American interior. Carib warlike behavior and violent movement north made an impact still discussed today. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Carib had displaced the Arawak throughout the islands of the Lesser Antilles. The Carib settlement of the Lesser Antilles also affected Guyana’s future development. The Spanish explorers and settlers who came after Columbus found that the Arawak proved easier to conquer than the
Carib, who fought hard to maintain their freedom. This fierce resistance, along with a lack of gold in the Lesser Antilles, contributed to the Spanish emphasis on conquest and settlement of the Greater Antilles and the mainland. Only a weak Spanish effort was made at consolidating Spain’s authority in the Lesser Antilles (with the arguable exception of Trinidad) and the Guianas.

Although Columbus sighted the Guyanese coast in 1498, during his third voyage to the Americas, the Dutch were the first Europeans to settle what is now Guyana. The Netherlands had obtained independence from Spain in the late 1500s and by the early 1600s had emerged as a major commercial power, trading with the fledgling English and French colonies in the Lesser Antilles. In 1616 the Dutch established the first European settlement in the area of Guyana, a trading post twenty-five kilometers upstream from the mouth of the Essequibo River. Other settlements followed, usually a few kilometers inland on the larger rivers. The
initial purpose of the Dutch settlements was trade with the indigenous people. The Dutch aim soon changed to acquisition of territory as other European powers gained colonies elsewhere in the Caribbean. Although Guyana was claimed by the Spanish, who sent periodic patrols through the region, the Dutch gained control over the region early in the seventeenth century. Dutch sovereignty was officially recognized with the signing of the Treaty of Munster in 1648.

In 1621 the government of the Netherlands gave the newly formed Dutch West India Company complete control over the trading post on the Essequibo. This Dutch commercial concern administered the colony, known as Essequibo, for more than 170 years. The company established a second colony, on the Berbice River southeast of Essequibo, in 1627. Although under the general jurisdiction of this private group, the settlement, named Berbice, was governed separately. Demerara, situated between Essequibo and Berbice, was settled in 1741 and emerged in 1773 as a separate colony under direct control of the Dutch West India Company.

Although the Dutch colonizers initially were motivated by the prospect of trade in the Caribbean, their possessions became significant producers of crops. The growing importance of agriculture was indicated by the export of 15,000
kilograms of tobacco from Essequibo in 1623. But as the agricultural productivity of the Dutch colonies increased, a labor shortage emerged. The indigenous populations were poorly adapted for work on plantations, and many people died from diseases introduced by the Europeans. The Dutch West India Company turned to the importation of African slaves, who rapidly became a key element in the colonial economy. By the 1660s, the slave population numbered about 2,500; the number of indigenous people was estimated at 50,000, most of whom had retreated into the vast hinterland. Although African slaves were considered an essential element of the colonial economy, their working conditions were brutal. The mortality rate was high, and the dismal conditions led to more than half a dozen slave rebellions.

The most famous slave uprising began in February 1763. On two plantations on the Canje River in Berbice, slaves rebelled, taking control of the region. As plantation after plantation fell to the slaves, the European population fled; eventually only half of the whites who had lived in the colony remained. Led by Cuffy (now the national hero of Guyana), the rebels came to number about 3,000 and threatened European control over the Guianas. The insurgents were defeated with the assistance of troops from neighboring French and British colonies and from Europe.

One of the most significant Dutch legacies in Guyana was the method of land management. Settlement and agriculture initially were limited to a belt of land extending 50 to 150 kilometers upriver. The marshy coast flooded at high tide
and did not appear conducive to European settlement. The prospect of large profits for tropical agricultural products, especially sugar, led to the reclamation of coastal lands in the second half of the 1700s. The Dutch were eminently suited to this task, having originated the polder system, a technique by which a tract of usable land is created by damming and then draining a water-covered area. Using this system, the Dutch created a coastal plain that remains one of Guyana’s most productive plantation areas. The polder system entailed the use of a front dam, or facade, along the shorefront. This dam was supported by a back dam of the same length and two connecting side dams, which formed a rectangular tract of land known as a polder. The dams kept the salt water out, and fresh water was managed by a network of canals that provided drainage, irrigation, and a system of transportation. The labor for the "polderization" of Guyana’s coast was provided by the Dutch colony’s African slaves.

Eager to attract more settlers, in 1746 the Dutch authorities opened the area near the Demerara River to British immigrants. British plantation owners in the Lesser Antilles had been plagued by poor soil and erosion, and many were lured to the Dutch colonies by richer soils and the promise of landownership. The influx of British citizens was so great that by 1760 the English constituted a majority of the population of Demerara. By 1786 the internal affairs of this Dutch colony were effectively under British control.

As economic growth accelerated in Demerara and Essequibo, strains began to appear in the relations between the planters and the Dutch West India Company. Administrative reforms during the early 1770s had greatly increased the cost of government. The company periodically sought to raise taxes to cover these expenditures and thereby provoked the resistance of the planters. In 1781 a war broke out between the Netherlands and Britain, which resulted in the British occupation of Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara. Some months later, France, allied with the Netherlands, seized control of the colonies. The French governed for two years, during which they constructed a new town, Longchamps, at the mouth of the Demerara River. When the Dutch regained power in 1784, they moved their colonial capital to Longchamps, which they renamed Stabroeck. The capital eventually would become known as Georgetown.

The return of Dutch rule reignited the conflict between the planters of Essequibo and Demerara and the Dutch West India Company. Disturbed by plans for an increase in the slave tax and a reduction in their representation on the colony’s judicial and policy councils, the colonists petitioned the Dutch government to consider their grievances. In response, a special committee was appointed, which proceeded to draw up a report called the Concept Plan of Redress. This document called for far-reaching constitutional reforms and later became the basis of the British governmental structure. The plan proposed a decision-making body to be known as the Court of Policy. The judiciary was to consist of two courts of justice, one serving Demerara and the other Essequibo. The membership of the Court of Policy and of the courts of justice would consist of company officials and planters who owned more than twenty-five slaves. The Dutch commission that was assigned the responsibility of implementing this new system of government returned to the Netherlands with extremely unfavorable reports concerning the Dutch West India Company’s administration. The company’s charter therefore was allowed to expire in 1792 and the Concept Plan of Redress was put into effect in Demerara and Essequibo. Renamed the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo, the area then came under the direct control of the Dutch government. Berbice maintained its status as a separate colony.

The catalyst for formal British takeover was the French Revolution and the resulting Napoleonic Wars. In 1795 the French occupied the Netherlands. The British declared war on France and in 1796 launched an expeditionary force from Barbados to occupy the Dutch colonies. The British takeover was bloodless, and local Dutch administration of the colony was left relatively uninterrupted under the constitution provided by the Concept Plan of Redress. Both Berbice and the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo were under British control from 1796 to 1802. By means of the Treaty of Amiens, both were returned to Dutch control. Peace was short-lived, however. War between Britain and France resumed in less than a year, and the United Colony and Berbice were
seized once more by British troops. At the London Convention of 1814, both colonies were formally ceded to Britain. In 1831, Berbice and the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo were unified as British Guiana. The colony would remain under British control until independence in 1966.

Political, economic, and social life in the 1800s was dominated by a European planter class. Although the smallest group in terms of numbers, members of the plantocracy had links to British commercial interests in London and often
enjoyed close ties to the governor, who was appointed by the monarch. The plantocracy also controlled exports and the working conditions of the majority of the population. The next social stratum consisted of a small number of freed slaves, many of mixed African and European heritage, in addition to some Portuguese merchants. At the lowest level of society was the majority, the African slaves who lived and worked in the countryside, where the plantations were located. Unconnected to colonial life, small groups of Amerindians lived in the hinterland.

Colonial life was changed radically by the demise of slavery. Although the international slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807, slavery itself continued. However, the momentum for abolition remained, and by 1838
total emancipation had been effected. The end of slavery had several ramifications. Most significantly, many former slaves rapidly departed the plantations. Some ex-slaves moved to towns and villages, feeling that field labor was degrading and inconsistent with freedom, but others pooled their resources to purchase the abandoned estates of their former masters and created village communities. Establishing small settlements provided the new Afro-Guyanese communities an opportunity to grow and sell food, an extension of a practice under which slaves had been allowed to keep the money that came from the sale of any surplus produce. The emergence of an independent-minded Afro-Guyanese peasant class, however, threatened the planters’ political power, inasmuch as the planters no longer held a near-monopoly on the colony’s economic activity.

Emancipation also resulted in the introduction of new ethnic and cultural groups into British Guiana. The departure of the Afro-Guyanese from the sugar plantations soon led to labor shortages. After unsuccessful attempts throughout the 1800s to attract Portuguese workers from Madeira, the estate owners were again left with an inadequate supply of labor. The Portuguese had not taken to plantation work and soon moved into other parts of the economy, especially retail business, where they became competitors with the new Afro-Guyanese middle class. Some 14,000 Chinese came to the colony between 1853 and 1912. Like their Portuguese predecessors, the Chinese forsook the plantations for the retail trades and soon became assimilated into Guianese society. Concerned about the plantations’ shrinking labor pool and the potential decline of the sugar sector, British authorities, like their counterparts in Dutch Guiana, began to contract for the services of poorly paid indentured workers from India. The East Indians, as this group was known locally, signed on for a certain number of years, after which, in theory, they would return to
India with their savings from working in the sugar fields. The introduction of indentured East Indian workers alleviated the labor shortage and added another group to Guyana’s ethnic mix.

When Britain gained formal control over what is now Guyana in 1814, it also became involved in one of Latin America’s most persistent border disputes. At the London Convention of 1814, the Dutch surrendered the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo and Berbice to the British. Although Spain still claimed the region, the Spanish did not contest the treaty because they were preoccupied with their own colonies’ struggles for independence. In 1835 the British government asked German explorer Robert Hermann Schomburgk to map British Guiana and mark its boundaries. As ordered by the British authorities, Schomburgk began
British Guiana’s western boundary with Venezuela at the mouth of the Orinoco River. A map of the British colony was published in 1840. Venezuela protested, claiming the entire area west of the Essequibo River. Negotiations between Britain and Venezuela over the boundary began, but the two nations could reach no compromise. In 1850 both agreed not to occupy the disputed zone.

The discovery of gold in the contested area in the late 1850s reignited the dispute. British settlers moved into the region and the British Guiana Mining Company was formed to mine the deposits. Over the years, Venezuela made repeated protests and proposed arbitration, but the British government was uninterested. Venezuela finally broke diplomatic relations with Britain in 1887 and appealed to the United States for help. The British at first rebuffed the United States government’s suggestion of arbitration, but when President Grover Cleveland threatened to intervene according to the Monroe Doctrine, Britain agreed to let an international tribunal arbitrate the boundary in 1897. For two years, the tribunal consisting of two Britons, two Americans, and a
Russian studied the case. Their three-to-two decision, handed down in 1899, awarded 94 percent of the disputed territory to British Guiana. Venezuela received only the mouth of the Orinoco River and a short stretch of the Atlantic coastline just to the east. Although Venezuela was unhappy with the decision, a commission surveyed a new border in accordance with the award, and both sides accepted the boundary in 1905. The issue was considered settled for the next half-century

The constitution of the British colony favored the white planters. Planter political power was based in the Court of Policy and the two courts of justice, established in the late 1700s under Dutch rule. The Court of Policy had both legislative and administrative functions and was composed of the governor, three colonial officials, and four colonists, with the governor presiding. The courts of justice resolved judicial matters, such as licensing and civil service appointments, which were brought before them by petition. The Court of Policy and the courts of justice, controlled by the plantation owners, constituted the center of power in British Guiana. The colonists who sat on the Court of Policy and the courts of justice were appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by two electoral colleges. In turn, the seven members of each College of Electors were elected for life by those planters possessing twenty-five or more slaves. Though their power was restricted to nominating colonists to fill vacancies on the three major governmental councils, these electoral colleges provided a setting for political agitation by the planters.

Raising and disbursing revenue was the responsibility of the Combined Court, which included members of the Court of Policy and six additional financial representatives appointed by the College of Electors. In 1855 the Combined Court also assumed responsibility for setting the salaries of all government officials. This duty made the Combined Court a center of intrigues resulting in periodic clashes between the governor and the planters. Other Guianese began to demand a more representative political system in the 1800s. By the late 1880s, pressure from the new Afro-Guyanese middle class was building for constitutional reform. In particular, there were calls to convert the Court of Policy into an assembly with ten elected members, to ease voter qualifications, and to abolish the College of Electors. Reforms were resisted by the planters, led by Henry K. Davson, owner of a large plantation. In London the planters had allies in the West India Committee and also in the West India Association of Glasgow, both presided over by proprietors with major interests in British Guiana.

Constitutional revisions in 1891 incorporated some of the changes demanded by the reformers. The planters lost political influence with the abolition of the College of Electors and the relaxation of voter qualification. At the same time, the Court of Policy was enlarged to sixteen members; eight of these were to be elected members whose power would be balanced by that of eight appointed members. The Combined Court also continued, consisting, as previously, of the Court of Policy and six financial representatives who were now elected. To ensure that there would be no shift of power to elected officials, the governor remained the head of the Court of Policy; the executive duties of the Court of Policy were transferred to a new Executive Council, which the governor and planters dominated. The 1891 revisions were a great disappointment to the colony’s reformers. As a result of the election of 1892, the membership of the new Combined Court was almost identical to that of the previous one. The next three decades saw additional, although minor, political changes. In 1897 the secret ballot was introduced. A reform in 1909 expanded the limited
British Guiana electorate, and for the first time, Afro-Guyanese constituted a majority of the eligible voters.

Political changes were accompanied by social change and jockeying by various ethnic groups for increased power. The British and Dutch planters refused to accept the Portuguese as equals and sought to maintain their status as aliens with no rights in the colony, especially voting rights. The political tensions led the Portuguese to establish the Reform Association. After the anti-Portuguese riots of 1889, the Portuguese recognized the need to work with other disenfranchised elements of Guianese society, in particular the Afro-Guyanese. By the turn of the century, organizations including the Reform Association and the Reform Club began to demand greater participation in the colony’s affairs. These organizations were largely the instruments of a small but articulate emerging middle class. Although the new middle class sympathized with the working class, the middle-class political groups were hardly representative of a national political or social movement. Indeed, working-class grievances were usually expressed in the form of riots.

The 1905 Ruimveldt Riots rocked British Guiana. The severity of these outbursts reflected the workers’ widespread dissatification with their standard of living. The uprising began in late November 1905 when the Georgetown stevedores went on strike, demanding higher wages. The strike grew confrontational, and other workers struck in sympathy, creating the country’s first urban-rural worker alliance. On November 30, crowds of people took to the streets of Georgetown, and by December 1, 1905, now referred to as Black Friday, the situation had spun out of control. At the Plantation Ruimveldt, close to Georgetown, a large crowd of porters refused to disperse when ordered to do so by a police patrol and a detachment of artillery. The colonial authorities opened fire, and four workers were seriously injured. Word of the shootings spread rapidly throughout Georgetown and hostile crowds began roaming the city, taking over a number of buildings. By the end of the day, seven people were dead and seventeen badly injured. In a panic, the British administration called for help. Britain sent troops, who finally quelled the uprising. Although the stevedores’ strike failed, the riots had planted the seeds of what would become an organized trade union movement.

Even though World War I was fought far beyond the borders of British Guiana, the war altered Guianese society. The Afro-Guyanese who joined the British military became the nucleus of an elite Afro-Guyanese community upon their return. World War I also led to the end of East Indian indentured service. British concerns over political stability in India and criticism by Indian nationalists that the program was a form of human bondage caused the British government to outlaw indentured labor in 1917.

In the closing years of World War I, the colony’s first trade union was formed. The British Guiana Labour Union (BGLU) was established in 1917 under the leadership of H.N. Critchlow. Formed in the face of widespread business opposition, the BGLU at first mostly represented Afro-Guyanese dockworkers. Its membership stood around 13,000 by 1920, and it was granted legal status in 1921 under the Trades Union Ordinance. Although recognition of other unions would not come until 1939, the BGLU was an indication that the working class was becoming politically aware and more concerned with its rights. After World War I, new economic interest groups began to clash with the Combined Court. The country’s economy had come to depend less on sugar and more
on rice and bauxite, and producers of these new commodities resented the sugar planters’ continued domination of the Combined Court. Meanwhile, the planters were feeling the effects of lower sugar prices and wanted the Combined Court to provide the necessary funds for new drainage and irrigation programs.

To stop the bickering and resultant legislative paralysis, in 1928 the British Colonial Office announced a new constitution that would make British Guiana a crown colony under tight control of a governor appointed by the Colonial Office. The Combined Court and the Court of Policy were replaced by a Legislative Council with a majority of appointed members. To middle-class and working-class political activists, this new constitution represented a step backward and a victory for the planters. Influence over the governor, rather than the promotion of a particular public policy, became the most important issue in any political campaign. The Great Depression of the 1930s brought economic hardship to all segments of Guianese society. All of the colony’s major exports–sugar, rice and bauxite–were affected by low prices, and unemployment soared. As in the past, the working class found itself lacking a political voice during a time of worsening economic conditions. By the mid-1930s, British Guiana and the whole British Caribbean were marked by labor unrest and violent demonstrations. In the aftermath of riots throughout the British West Indies, a royal commission under Lord Moyne was established to determine the reasons for the riots and to make recommendations.

In British Guiana, the Moyne Commission questioned a wide range of people, including trade unionists, Afro-Guyanese professionals, and representatives of the Indo-Guyanese community. The commission pointed out the deep division between the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Afro-Guyanese and the Indo-Guyanese. The largest group, the Indo-Guyanese, consisted primarily of rural rice producers or merchants; they had retained the country’s traditional culture and did not participate in national politics. The Afro-Guyanese were largely urban workers or bauxite miners; they had adopted European culture and dominated national politics. To increase representation of the majority of the population in British Guiana, the Moyne Commission called for increased democratization of government as well as economic and social reforms. The Moyne Commission report in 1938 was a turning point in British Guiana. It urged extending the franchise to women and persons not owning land and
encouraged the emerging trade union movement. Unfortunately, many of the Moyne Commission’s recommendations were not immediately implemented because of the outbreak of the World War II.

With the fighting far away, the period of World War II in British Guiana was marked by continuing political reform and improvements to the national infrastructure. The reform-minded governor, Sir Gordon Lethem, reduced property qualifications for officeholding and voting, and made elective members a majority on the Legislative Council in 1943. Under the aegis of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, a modern air base (now Timehri Airport) was constructed by United States troops. By the end of World War II, British Guiana’s political system had been widened to encompass more elements of society and the economy’s foundations had been strengthened by increased demand for bauxite. The immediate postwar period witnessed the founding of Guyana’s major political parties, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the People’s National Congress (PNC). These years also saw the beginning of a long and acrimonious struggle between the country’s two dominant political personalities–Cheddi Jagan and Linden Forbes Burnham.

The end of World War II began a period of worldwide decolonization. In British Guiana, political awareness and demands for independence grew in all segments of society. At the same time, the struggle for political ascendancy between Burnham, the "Man on Horseback" of the Afro-Guyanese, and Jagan, the hero of the Indo-Guyanese masses, left a legacy of racially polarized politics that remained in place in the 1990s.

Jagan had been born in Guyana in 1918. His parents were immigrants from India. His father was a driver, a position considered to be on the lowest rung of the middle stratum of Guianese society. Jagan’s childhood gave him a lasting insight into rural poverty. Despite their poor background, the senior Jagan sent his son to Queen’s College in Georgetown. After his education there, Jagan went to the United States to study dentistry, graduating from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1942. Jagan returned to British Guiana in October 1943 and was soon joined by his American wife, the former Janet Rosenberg, who was to play a significant role in her new country’s political development. Although Jagan established his own
dentistry clinic, he was soon enmeshed in politics. After a number of unsuccessful forays into Guiana’s political life, Jagan became treasurer of the Manpower Citizens Association (MPCA) in 1945. The MPCA represented the colony’s sugar workers, many of whom were Indo-Guyanese. Jagan’s tenure was brief, as he clashed repeatedly with the more moderate union leadership over policy issues.
Despite his departure from the MPCA a year after joining, the position allowed Jagan to meet other union leaders in British Guiana and throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.

The springboard for Jagan’s political career was the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), formed in 1946 as a discussion group. The new organization published the PAC Bulletin to promote its Marxist ideology and ideas of liberation and decolonization. The PAC’s outspoken criticism of the colony’s poor living standards attracted followers as well as detractors.

In the November 1947 general elections, the PAC put forward several members as independent candidates. The PAC’s major competitor was the newly formed Labour Party, which, under J.B. Singh, won six of fourteen seats contested. Jagan won a seat and briefly joined the Labour Party. But he had difficulties with his new party’s center-right ideology and soon left its ranks. The Labour Party’s support of the policies of the British governor and its inability to create a grass-roots base gradually stripped it of liberal supporters throughout the country. The Labour Party’s lack of a clear-cut reform agenda left a vacuum, which Jagan rapidly moved to fill. Turmoil on the colony’s sugar plantations gave him an opportunity to achieve national standing. After the June 16, 1948 police shootings of five Indo-Guyanese workers at Enmore, close to Georgetown, the PAC and the Guiana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU) organized a large and peaceful demonstration, which clearly enhanced Jagan’s standing with the Indo-Guyanese population. Jagan’s next major step was the founding of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) in January 1950. Using the PAC as a foundation, Jagan created from it a new party that drew support from both the Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese communities. To increase support among the Afro-Guyanese, Forbes Burnham was brought into the party.

Born in 1923, Burnham was the sole son in a family that had three children. His father was headmaster of Kitty Methodist Primary School, which was located just outside Georgetown. As part of the colony’s educated class, young Burnham was exposed to political viewpoints at an early age. He did exceedingly well in school and went to London to obtain a law degree. Although not exposed to childhood poverty as was Jagan, Burnham was acutely aware of racial discrimination. The social strata of the urban Afro-Guyanese community of the 1930s and 1940s included a mulatto or "coloured" elite, a black professional middle class, and, at the bottom, the black working class. Unemployment in the 1930s was high. When war broke out in 1939, many Afro-Guyanese joined the military, hoping to gain new job skills and escape poverty. When they returned home from the war, however, jobs were still scarce and discrimination was still a part of life. By the time of Burnham’s arrival on the political stage in the late 1940s, the Afro-Guyanese community was ready for a leader.

The PPP’s initial leadership was multiethnic and left of center, but hardly revolutionary. Jagan became the leader of the PPP’s parliamentary group, and Burnham assumed the responsibilities of party chairman. Other key party members included Janet Jagan and Ashton Chase, both PAC veterans. The new party’s first victory came in the 1950 municipal elections, in which Janet Jagan won a seat. Cheddi Jagan and Burnham failed to win seats, but Burnham’s campaign made a favorable impression on many urban Afro-Guyanese.

From its first victory in the 1950 municipal election, the PPP gathered momentum. However, the party’s often strident anticapitalist and socialist message made the British government uneasy. Colonial officials showed their displeasure with the PPP in 1952 when, on a regional tour, the Jagans were designated prohibited immigrants in Trinidad and Grenada. A British commission in 1950 recommended universal adult suffrage and the adoption of a ministerial system for British Guiana. The commission also recommended that power be concentrated in the executive branch, that is, the office of the governor. These reforms presented British Guiana’s parties with an opportunity to participate in national elections and form a government, but maintained power in the hands of the British- appointed chief executive. This arrangement rankled the PPP, which saw it as an attempt to curtail the party’s political power.

Once the new constitution was adopted, elections were set for 1953. The PPP’s coalition of lower-class Afro-Guyanese and rural Indo-Guyanese workers, together with elements of both ethnic groups’ middle sectors, made for a formidable constituency. Conservatives branded the PPP as communist, but the party campaigned on a center-left platform and appealed to a growing nationalism. The other major party participating in the election, the National Democratic Party (NDP), was a spin-off of the League of Coloured People and was largely an Afro-Guyanese middle-class organization, sprinkled with middle-class Portuguese and IndoGuyanese. The NDP, together with the poorly organized United Farmers and Workers Party and the United National Party, was soundly defeated by the PPP. Final results gave the PPP eighteen of twenty-four seats compared with the NDP’s two seats and four seats for independents.

The PPP’s first administration was brief. The legislature opened on May 30, 1953. Already suspicious of Jagan and the PPP’s radicalism, conservative forces in the business community were further distressed by the new administration’s program of expanding the role of the state in the economy and society. The PPP also sought to implement its reform program at a rapid pace, which brought the party into confrontation with the governor and with high-ranking civil servants who preferred more gradual change. The issue of civil service appointments also threatened the PPP, in this case from within. Following the 1953 victory, these appointments became an issue between the predominantly Indo-Guyanese supporters of Jagan and the largely Afro-Guyanese backers of Burnham. Burnham threatened to split the party if he were not made sole leader of the PPP. A compromise was reached by which members of what had become Burnham’s faction received ministerial appointments.

The PPP’s introduction of the Labour Relations Act provoked a confrontation with the British. This law ostensibly was aimed at reducing intraunion rivalries, but would have favored the GIWU, which was closely aligned with the ruling party. The opposition charged that the PPP was seeking to gain control over the colony’s economic and social life and was moving to stifle the opposition. The day the act was introduced to the legislature, the GIWU went on strike in support of the proposed law. The British government interpreted this intermingling of party politics and labor unionism as a direct challenge to the constitution and the authority of the governor. The day after the act was passed, on October 9, 1953, London suspended the colony’s constitution and, under pretext of quelling disturbances, sent in troops.

Following the suspension of the constitution, British Guiana was governed by an interim administration consisting of small group of conservative politicians, businessmen, and civil servants that lasted until 1957. Order in the colonial government masked a growing rift in the country’s main political party as the personal conflict between the PPP’s Jagan and Burnham widened into a bitter dispute. In 1955 Jagan and Burnham formed rival wings of the PPP. Support for each leader was largely, but not totally, along ethnic lines. J.B. Lachmansingh, a leading Indo- Guyanese and head of the GIWU, supported Burnham, whereas Jagan retained the loyalty of a number of leading Afro-African radicals, such as Sydney King. Burnham’s wing of the PPP moved to the right, leaving Jagan’s wing on the left, where he was regarded with considerable apprehension by Western governments and the colony’s conservative business groups.

The 1957 elections held under a new constitution demonstrated the extent of the growing ethnic division within the Guianese electorate. The revised constitution provided limited selfgovernment , primarily through the Legislative Council. Of the council’s twenty-four delegates, fifteen were elected, six were nominated, and the remaining three were to be ex officio members from the interim administration. The two wings of the PPP launched vigorous campaigns, each attempting to prove that it was the legitimate heir to the original party. Despite denials of such motivation, both factions made a strong appeal to their respective ethnic constituencies. The 1957 elections were convincingly won by Jagan’s PPP faction. Although his group had a secure parliamentary majority, its support was drawn more and more from the Indo-Guyanese community. The faction’s main planks were increasingly identified as Indo-Guyanese: more rice land, improved union representation in the sugar industry, and improved business opportunities and more government posts for Indo-Guyanese. The PPP had abrogated its claim to being a multiracial party.

Jagan’s veto of British Guiana’s participation in the West Indies Federation resulted in the complete loss of Afro-Guyanese support. In the late 1950s, the British Caribbean colonies had been actively negotiating establishment of a West Indies Federation. The PPP had pledged to work for the eventual political union of British Guiana with the Caribbean territories. The Indo-Guyanese, who constituted a majority in Guyana, were apprehensive of becoming part of a federation in which they would be outnumbered by people of African descent. Jagan’s veto of the federation caused his party to lose all significant Afro-Guyanese support.

Burnham learned an important lesson from the 1957 elections. He could not win if supported only by the lower-class, urban Afro-Guyanese . He needed middle-class allies, especially those Afro-Guyanese who backed the moderate United Democratic Party. From 1957 onward, Burnham worked to create a balance between maintaining the backing of the more radical Afro-Guyanese lower classes and gaining the support of the more capitalist middle class. Clearly, Burnham’s stated preference for socialism would not bind those two groups together against Jagan, an avowed Marxist. The answer was something more basic–race. Burnham’s appeals to race proved highly successful in bridging the schism that divided the Afro-Guyanese along class lines. This strategy convinced the powerful Afro-Guyanese middle class to accept a leader who was more of a radical than they would have preferred to support. At the same time, it neutralized the objections of the black working class to entering an alliance with those
representing the more moderate interests of the middle classes. Burnham’s move toward the right was accomplished with the merger of his PPP faction and the United Democratic Party into a new organization, the People’s National Congress (PNC).

Following the 1957 elections, Jagan rapidly consolidated his hold on the Indo-Guyanese community. Though candid in expressing his admiration for Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, and, later, Fidel Castro Ruz, Jagan in power asserted that the PPP’s Marxist-Leninist principles must be adapted to Guyana’s own particular circumstances. Jagan advocated nationalization of foreign holdings, especially in the sugar industry. British fears of a communist takeover, however, caused the British governor to hold Jagan’s more radical policy initiatives in check.

The 1961 elections were a bitter contest between the PPP, the PNC, and the United Force (UF), a conservative party representing big business, the Roman Catholic Church, and Amerindian, Chinese, and Portuguese voters. These elections were held under yet another new constitution that marked a return to the degree of self-government that existed briefly in 1953. It introduced a bicameral system boasting a wholly elected thirty-five-member Legislative Assembly and a thirteen-member Senate to be appointed by the governor. The post of prime minister was created and was to be filled by the majority party in the Legislative Assembly. With the strong support of the Indo-Guyanese population, the PPP again won by a substantial margin, gaining twenty seats in the Legislative Assembly, compared to eleven seats for the PNC and four for the UF. Jagan was named prime minister.

Jagan’s administration became increasingly friendly with communist and leftist regimes; for instance, Jagan refused to observe the United States embargo on communist Cuba. After discussions between Jagan and Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara in 1960 and 1961, Cuba offered British Guiana loans and equipment. In addition, the Jagan administration signed trade agreements with Hungary and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). From 1961 to 1964, Jagan was confronted with a destabilization campaign conducted by the PNC and UF. Riots and demonstrations against the PPP administration were frequent, and during disturbances in 1962 and 1963 mobs destroyed part of Georgetown. Labor violence also increased during the early 1960s. To counter the MPCA with its link to Burnham, the PPP formed the Guianese Agricultural Workers Union. This new union’s political mandate was to organize the Indo-Guyanese sugarcane field-workers. The MPCA immediately responded with a one-day strike to emphasize its continued control over the sugar workers.

The PPP government responded to the strike in March 1964 by publishing a new Labour Relations Bill almost identical to the 1953 legislation that had resulted in British intervention. Regarded as a power play for control over a key labor sector, introduction of the proposed law prompted protests and rallies throughout the capital. Riots broke out on April 5; they were followed on April 18 by a general strike. By May 9, the governor was compelled to declare a state of emergency. Nevertheless, the strike and violence continued until July 7, when the Labour Relations Bill was allowed to lapse without being enacted. To bring
an end to the disorder, the government agreed to consult with union representatives before introducing similar bills. These disturbances exacerbated tension and animosity between the two major ethnic communities and made a reconciliation between Jagan and Burnham an impossibility.

Jagan’s term had not yet ended when another round of labor unrest rocked the colony. The pro-PPP GIWU, which had become an umbrella group of all labor organizations, called on sugar workers to strike in January 1964. To dramatize their case, Jagan led a march by sugar workers from the interior to Georgetown. This demonstration ignited outbursts of violence that soon escalated beyond the control of the authorities. On May 22, the governor finally declared another state of emergency. The situation continued to worsen, and in June the governor assumed full powers, rushed in British troops to restore order, and proclaimed a moratorium on all political activity. By the end of the turmoil, 160 people were dead and more than 1,000 homes had been destroyed. In an effort to quell the turmoil, the country’s political parties asked the British goverment to modify the constitution to provide for more proportional representation. The colonial secretary proposed a fifty-three member unicameral legislature. Despite opposition from the ruling PPP, all reforms were implemented and new elections set for October 1964.

As Jagan feared, the PPP lost the general elections of 1964. The politics of apan jhaat, Hindi for "vote for your own kind" were becoming entrenched in Guyana. The PPP won 46 percent of the vote and twenty-four seats,
which made it the majority party. However, the PNC, which won 40 percent of the vote and twenty-two seats, and the UF, which won 11 percent of the vote and seven seats, formed a coalition. The socialist PNC and unabashedly capitalist UF had joined forces to keep the PPP out of office for another term. Jagan called the election fraudulent and refused to resign as prime minister. The constitution was amended to allow the governor to remove Jagan from office. Burnham became prime minister on December 14, 1964.

In the first year under Burnham, conditions in the colony began to stabilize. The new coalition administration broke diplomatic ties with Cuba and implemented policies that favored local investors and foreign industry. The colony applied
the renewed flow of Western aid to further development of its infrastructure. A constitutional conference was held in London; the conference set May 26, 1966 as the date for the colony’s independence. By the time independence was achieved, the country was enjoying economic growth and relative domestic peace. The newly independent Guyana at first sought to improve relations with its
neighbors. For instance, in December 1965 the country had become a charter member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (Carifta). Relations with Venezuela were not so placid, however. In 1962 Venezuela had announced that it was rejecting the 1899 boundary and would renew its claim to all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River. In 1966 Venezuela seized the Guyanese half of Ankoko Island, in the Cuyuni River, and two years later claimed a strip of sea along Guyana’s western coast.

Another challenge to the newly independent government came at the beginning of January 1969, with the Rupununi Rebellion. In the Rupununi region in southwest Guyana, along the Venezuelan border, white settlers and Amerindians rebelled against the central government. Several Guyanese policemen in the area were killed, and spokesmen for the rebels declared the area independent and asked for Venezuelan aid. Troops arrived from Georgetown within days, and the rebellion was quickly put down. Although the rebellion was not a large affair, it exposed underlying tensions in the new state and the Amerindians’ marginalized role in the country’s political and social life.

The 1968 elections allowed the PNC to rule without the UF. The PNC won thirty seats, the PPP nineteen seats, and the UF four seats. However, many observers claimed the elections were marred by manipulation and coercion by the PNC. The PPP and UF were part of Guyana’s political landscape but were ignored as Burnham began to convert the machinery of state into an instrument of the PNC.

After the 1968 elections, Burnham’s policies became more leftist as he announced he would lead Guyana to socialism. He consolidated his dominance of domestic policies through gerrymandering, manipulation of the balloting process, and politicalization of the civil service. A few Indo-Guyanese were coopted into the PNC, but the ruling party was unquestionably the embodiment of the Afro-Guyanese political will. Although the Afro-Guyanese middle class was uneasy with Burnham’s leftist leanings, the PNC remained a shield against Indo-Guyanese dominance. The support of the Afro-Guyanese community allowed the PNC to bring the economy under control and to begin organizing the country into cooperatives.

On February 23, 1970, Guyana declared itself a "cooperative republic" and cut all ties to the British monarchy. The governor general was replaced as head of state by a ceremonial president. Relations with Cuba were improved, and Guyana became a force in the Nonaligned Movement. In August 1972, Burnham hosted the Conference of Foreign Ministers of Nonaligned Countries in Georgetown. He used this opportunity to address the evils of imperialism and the need to support African liberation movements in southern Africa. Burnham also let Cuban troops use Guyana as a transit point on their way to the war in Angola in the
mid-1970s.

In the early 1970s, electoral fraud became blatant in Guyana. PNC victories always included overseas voters, who consistently and overwhelmingly voted for the ruling party. The police and military intimidated the Indo-Guyanese. The army was accused of tampering with ballot boxes. Considered a low point in the democratic process, the 1973 elections were followed by an amendment to the constitution that abolished legal appeals to the Privy Council in London. After consolidating power on the legal and electoral fronts, Burnham turned to mobilizing the masses for what was to be Guyana’s cultural revolution. A program of national service was introduced that placed an emphasis on self-reliance, loosely defined as Guyana’s population feeding, clothing, and housing itself without outside help.

Government authoritarianism increased in 1974 when Burnham advanced the "paramountcy of the party". All organs of the state would be considered agencies of the ruling PNC and subject to its control. The state and the PNC became interchangeable; PNC objectives were now public policy. Burnham’s consolidation of power in Guyana was not total; opposition groups
were tolerated within limits. For instance, in 1973 the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) was founded. Opposed to Burnham’s authoritarianism, the WPA was a multiethnic combination of politicians and intellectuals that advocated racial harmony, free elections, and democratic socialism. Although the WPA did not become an official political party until 1979, it evolved as an alternative to Burnham’s PNC and Jagan’s PPP.

Jagan’s political career continued to decline in the 1970s. Outmaneuvered on the parliamentary front, the PPP leader tried another tactic. In April 1975, the PPP ended its boycott of parliament with Jagan stating that the PPP’s policy would change from noncooperation and civil resistance to critical support of the Burnham regime. Soon after, Jagan appeared on the same platform with Prime Minister Burnham at the celebration of ten years of Guyanese independence, on May 26, 1976.

Despite Jagan’s conciliatory move, Burnham had no intention of sharing powers and continued to secure his position. When overtures intended to bring about new elections and PPP participation in the government were brushed aside, the largely Indo-Guyanese sugar work force went on a bitter strike. The strike was broken, and sugar production declined steeply from 1976 to 1977. The PNC postponed the 1978 elections, opting instead for a referendum to be held in July 1978, proposing to keep the incumbent assembly in power. The July 1978 national referendum was poorly received. Although the PNC government proudly proclaimed that 71 percent of eligible voters participated and that 97 percent approved the referendum, other estimates put turnout at 10 to 14 percent. The low turnout was caused in large part by a boycott led by the PPP, WPA, and other opposition forces.

Burnham’s control over Guyana began to weaken when the Jonestown massacre brought unwanted international attention. In the 1970s, Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple of Christ, moved more than 1,000 of his followers from San
Francisco to form Jonestown, a utopian agricultural community near Port Kaituma in western Guyana. The People’s Temple of Christ was regarded by members of the Guyanese government as a model agricultural community that shared its vision of settling the hinterland and its view of cooperative socialism. The fact that the People’s Temple was well-equipped with openly flaunted weapons hinted that the community had the approval of members of the PNC’s inner circle. Complaints of abuse by leaders of the cult prompted United States congressman Leo Ryan to fly to Guyana to investigate. The San Francisco-area representative was shot and killed by members of the People’s Temple as he was boarding an airplane at Port Kaituma to return to Georgetown. Fearing further publicity, Jones and more than 900 of his followers died in a massive communal murder and suicide. The November 1978 Jonestown massacre suddenly put the Burnham government under intense foreign scrutiny, especially from the United States. Investigations into the massacre led to allegations that the Guyanese government had links to the fanatical cult.

Although the bloody memory of Jonestown faded, Guyanese politics experienced a violent year in 1979. Some of this violence was directed against the WPA, which had emerged as a vocal critic of the state and of Burnham in particular. One of the party’s leaders, Walter Rodney, and several professors at the University of Guyana were arrested on arson charges. The professors were soon released, and Rodney was granted bail. WPA leaders then organized the alliance into Guyana’s most vocal opposition party. As 1979 wore on, the level of violence continued to escalate. In October Minister of Education Vincent Teekah was mysteriously shot to death. The following year, Rodney was killed by a car bomb. The PNC government quickly accused Rodney of being a terrorist who had died at the hands of his own bomb and charged his brother Donald with being an accomplice. Later investigation
implicated the Guyanese government, however. Rodney was a well-known leftist, and the circumstances of his death damaged Burnham’s image with many leaders and intellectuals in less-developed countries who earlier had been willing to overlook the authoritarian nature of his government.

A new constitution was promulgated in 1980. The old ceremonial post of president was abolished, and the head of government became the executive president, chosen, as the former position of prime minister had been, by the majority party in the National Assembly. Burnham automatically became Guyana’s first executive president and promised elections later in the year. In elections held on December 15, 1980, the PNC claimed 77 percent of the vote and forty-one seats of the popularly elected seats, plus the ten chosen by the regional councils. The PPP and UF won ten and two seats, respectively. The WPA refused to participate in an electoral contest it regarded as fraudulent. Opposition claims of electoral fraud were upheld by a team of international observers headed by Britain’s Lord Avebury.

The economic crisis facing Guyana in the early 1980s deepened considerably, accompanied by the rapid deterioration of public services, infrastructure, and overall quality of life. Blackouts occurred almost daily, and water services were increasingly unsatisfactory. The litany of Guyana’s decline included shortages of rice and sugar (both produced in the country), cooking oil, and kerosene. While the formal economy sank, the black market economy in Guyana thrived. In the midst of this turbulent period, Burnham underwent surgery for a throat ailment. On August 6, 1985, while in the care of Cuban doctors, Guyana’s first and only leader since independence unexpectedly died. An epoch had abruptly ended. Guyana was suddenly in the post-Burnham era.

Despite concerns that the country was about to fall into a period of political instability, the transfer of power went smoothly. Vice President Desmond Hoyte became the new executive president and leader of the PNC. His initial tasks were threefold: to secure authority within the PNC and national government, to take the PNC through the December 1985 elections, and to
revitalize the stagnant economy. Hoyte’s first two goals were easily accomplished. The new leader took advantage of factionalism within the PNC to quietly consolidate his authority. The December 1985 elections gave the PNC 79 percent of the vote and forty-two of the fifty-three directly elected seats. Eight of the remaining eleven seats went to the PPP, two went to the UF, and one to the WPA. Charging fraud, the opposition boycotted the December 1986 municipal elections. With no opponents, the PNC won all ninety-one seats in local government.

Revitalizing the economy proved more difficult. As a first step, Hoyte gradually moved to embrace the private sector, recognizing that state control of the economy had failed. Hoyte’s administration lifted all curbs on foreign activity and ownership in 1988. Although the Hoyte government did not completely abandon the authoritarianism of the Burnham regime, it did make certain political reforms. Hoyte abolished overseas voting and the provisions for widespread proxy and postal voting. Independent newspapers were given greater freedom, and political harassment abated considerably.

In September 1988, Hoyte visited the United States and became the first Guyanese head of state to meet with his United States counterpart. By October 1988, Hoyte felt strong enough to make public his break with the policies of the Burnham administration. In a nationally televised address on October 11, he focused Guyana’s economic and foreign policies on the West, linking Guyana’s future economic development to regional economies and noting that the strengthening of Guyana’s relations with the United States was "imperative". While these objectives were in contrast to the policies of the past two decades, it was unclear what the long-term political and economic results would be.

In 1992 the PPP reemerged, winning a majority in the general election. Jagan became president, and the former Marxist succeeded in reviving the economy. After his death in 1997, his wife, Janet Jagan, was elected president. Former finance minister Bharrat Jagdeo assumed the presidency in 1999.

Guyana’s potential economic development was hurt in 2000 as border disputes with both Venezuela to the west and Suriname to the east heated up. Suriname and Guyana have been unable to resolve the border dispute in an oil-rich coastal area. Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez has revived the 19th-century claim to more than half of Guyana’s territory.

In March 2001, Bharrat Jagdeo won a second term in elections that underscored Guyana’s bitter racial tensions. The reelection of Jagdeo, an ethnic East Indian, caused rioting among Afro-Guyanese, who claimed widespread election fraud.

In January – February 2005, the country experienced its worst natural disaster. More than a third of the country’s population was affected by devastating flooding.

References:

Guatemala National History

The fishing and farming villages which emerged on Guatemala’s Pacific coast as early as 2000 BC were the forerunners of the great Maya civilization which dominated Central America for centuries, leaving its enigmatic legacy of hilltop ruins. By AD 250, the Early Classic Period, great temple cities were beginning to be built in the Guatemalan highlands, but by the Late Classic Period (AD 600 to 900) the center of power had moved to the El Petén lowlands. Following the mysterious collapse of the Maya civilization, the Itzaes also settled in El Petén, particularly around the present-day site of Flores.

When Pedro de Alvarado, who became the first captain general of Guatemala, came to conquer Guatemala for the king of Spain in 1523, he found the faded remnants of the Maya civilization and an assortment of warring tribes. In 1524, he founded the city of Guatemala and gained total control over the country two years later.The remaining highland kingdoms of the Quiché and Cakchiquel Maya were soon crushed by Alvarado’s armies, their lands carved up into large estates and their people ruthlessly exploited by the new landowners. The subsequent arrivals of Dominican, Franciscan and Augustinian friars could not halt this exploitation, and their religious imperialism caused valuable traces of Mayan culture to be destroyed. In 1527 the first colonial capital, Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala (later named Ciudad Vieja) was founded.

Guatemala was a region that included most of Central America and was a dependency of the viceroyalty of Mexico. Independence from Spain was attained on September 15, 1821, when large landowners and local business interests joined forces with colonial officials, to peacefully proclaim the independence of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, including the five countries of Central America, and in 1824, Guatemala became part of the United Provinces of Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras and Nicaragua). In 1831, under tremendous debt pressure, the Government yielded large portions of territory to Britain for timber. This later became British Honduras, now the independent nation of Belize. In 1839 the union broke up, largely due to a revolt against it led by José Rafael Carrera, an Indian general who had seized control of Guatemala and ruled until 1865, which thereupon became an independent country.

Carrera and his immediate successors were Conservatives. In 1871, however, a Liberal caudillo, Justo Rufino Barrios, seized power, and the Liberals remained in control until World War Two. Barrios was president from 1873 to 1885, enacted extensive anticlerical legislation, took the first steps toward establishing a national education system, and sponsored the beginning of the coffee industry. The discovery of synthetic dyes in Europe in the mid-18th century caused a serious economic crisis in Guatemala, where the main export products were vegetable dyes. Coffee replaced dyes as the country’s main cash crop, and
plantation owners deprived the Indians of most of their communal lands through the Liberal Reform of 1871. During the late 19th century, Guatemalan politics were dominated by the antagonism between liberals and conservatives. German settlers in Guatemala developed ties with German companies and initiated an import-export business which damaged the interests of the incipient national
bourgeoisie. From 1871 until 1944, Guatemala was ruled by caudillos, or military dictators, who were associated with either the
Conservative party or Liberal party.

Toward the end of the 19th century, Manuel Estrada Cabrera rose to power and governed Guatemala until 1920. He began an "open door policy" for US transnationals, who eventually owned the railroads, ports, hydroelectric plants, shipping, international mailing services and the enormous banana plantations of the United Fruit Company (Unifruco). General Jorge Ubico Castañeda, the last of a generation of military leaders, was elected President in 1931.

After Guatemala declared war on the Axis powers in 1941, the large German-owned coffee holdings were expropriated. Popular discontent led to Ubico’s overthrow in 1944 and his replacement by Juan José Arévalo. Arévalo’s government heralded a climate of political and economic liberalization. In 1945, literate women were granted the right to vote. That same year the first campesino labor union was formed. The land reform program, under which extensive tracts of unused Unifruco land were expropriated, was considered "a threat to US interests" by Washington. An aggressive anti-communist campaign was launched, with the sole aim of harassing Arévalo and in 1951, his successor, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán. A law expropriating large estates angered foreign plantation owners, particularly the United Fruit Company. As Communist influence in the Arbenz government increased, relations with the United States deteriorated. In 1954 the United States aided the anti-Arbenz military force that placed Col. Carlos Castillo Armas in power in June 1954. When Castillo Armas was assassinated three years later, Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes became president. With the fall of Arbenz, UFCO managed to get back its lands, and subsequently changed its name to United Brands. Guatemalan bases were used to train anti-Castro guerrillas in the early 1960s; around the same time, dissident leftist military officers and students combined to form a guerrilla movement.

In 1963 the prospect of the return to power of Arévalo led to a military coup under the defense minister, Enrique Peralta Azurdia. However, leftist guerrilla activity and terrorism mounted, in turn provoking rightist repression. In 1966 the moderate leftist Julio César Méndez Montenegro was elected president; he allowed the army to conduct a major anti-insurgency campaign against the guerrillas in which thousands were killed. In August 1968, in the continuing violence, the U.S. ambassador was assassinated.

In the 1970 election, Col. Carlos Arana Osorio, an extreme conservative, was chosen president. He imposed a one-year state of siege in an attempt to end the violence. In the early 1970s many labor and political leaders were killed and several foreign diplomats were kidnapped. When no candidate received an absolute majority in the presidential election of 1974, the legislature declared Gen. Kjell Laugerud García the winner, even though Gen. José Efraín Ríos Montt, the antigovernment candidate, had allegedly won a plurality.

Violence continued in the 1970s and 1980s, with reports that anti-insurgency campaigns were destroying Indian villages and killing tens of thousands. In 1977 the United States cut off military aid to Guatemala. In February 1982 leftist guerrillas formed what became known as the "Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca" (URNG) (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union), which united the "Las Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes" (FAR) (The Rebel Armed Forces), who entered the scene in 1962, followed by the "Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres" (EGP) (Poor People’s Guerrilla Army) and the "Organización del Pueblo en Armas" (ORPA) (Organization of the People in Arms) in 1975 and 1979 respectively,and began an insurgency against the government.

On March 23 1982, only a few days after a rigged election which brought him to power, Lucas Garcia was ousted in a military coup and replaced by General Efraín Ríos Montt. Ríos Montt’s counter-insurgency campaign surpassed that of his predecessor’s in terms of ferocity. Over 15,000 Guatemalans were killed in the first year of Ríos Montt’s administration. 70,000 took refuge in neighboring countries, especially Mexico, and 500,000 fled to the mountains to escape the army. Hundreds of villages were razed, while the number of «model hamlets» increased systematically. Peasants were taken by force to these hamlets, where they were required to produce cash crops for export, rather than growing subsistence crops.

In August 1983, another coup staged by the CIA deposed Ríos Montt and General Oscar Mejía Víctores came into power, promising a quick return to a democratic system. An 88-seat Constituent Assembly was elected on July 18 1984, to replace the
legal framework in effect since 1965, but annulled after the 1982 coup. The Assembly offered new constitutional guarantees, habeas corpus and electoral regulations. Seventeen parties ran candidates; however lack of guarantees forced the Left to abstain from running yet another time. The Constituent Assembly approved the right to strike for civil servants, authorized the return from exile of leaders of the Socialist Democratic Party and called for elections in November 1985.

The election, boycotted by the URNG, gave a clear victory to the Christian Democratic candidate, Vinicio Cerezo. One of the first measures was the "total and definitive" suspension of secret police activities. In January 1986, the newly elected civilian government of President Cerezo announced that its top priorities would be to end the political violence and
establish the rule of law. Reforms included new laws of habeas corpus and amparo (court-ordered protection), the creation of a legislative human rights committee, and the establishment in 1987 of the office of Human Rights Ombudsman. The Supreme Court also embarked on a series of reforms to fight corruption and improve legal system efficiency.

With Cerezo’s election, the military returned to its more traditional role of fighting against the insurgents. The first two years of Cerezo’s Administration were characterized by a stable economy and a marked decrease in political violence. Two coup attempts were made in May 1988 and May 1989 by dissatisfied military personnel, but military leadership supported the constitutional order. The government was heavily criticized for its unwillingness to investigate or prosecute cases of human rights violations. The final two years of Cerezo’s Government also were marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and allegations of widespread corruption. The government’s inability to deal with many of the nation’s problems (such as infant mortality, illiteracy, deficient health and social services, and rising levels of violence) contributed to popular discontent.

In October 1987, representatives of the URNG and Vinicio Cerezo’s government met in Madrid, the first direct negotiations between the Government and guerrilla forces in 27 years of conflict. That year, the National Reconciliation Commission of Guatemala (CNR) played a decisive role in the rapprochement process. The commission was created as a result of the Esquipulas II peace plan for Central America, signed by 6 countries in the region. On March 30, in Oslo, guerrillas and government agreed on an operational pattern for the meetings and the role of CNR and UN mediators. Despite the persistence of political persecution and assassination, on June 1, 1990 a basic agreement was signed in Madrid by the National Commission for Reconciliation, the political parties and the URNG. The overall aim of the accord was to continue the search for peace in Guatemala.

During the last few months of 1990, negotiations came to a standstill and a high degree of skepticism developed among voters, which led to a 70 per cent abstention rate in the November 11, 1990 presidential elections. During the second round of the elections, held on January 6, 1991, Jorge Serrano Elías, of the "Movimiento de Acción Solidaria" (MAS) (Solidarity Action Movement), was elected president. The Serrano Government and the URNG decided to take up peace negotiations. A fortnight later, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, a three-day meeting was held. After three decades of violence, during which over 100,000 people were murdered and 50,000 went missing, the Government and the guerrillas committed themselves to the negotiation process, attended by top level delegates and with the aim of achieving a firm and lasting peace agreement in the shortest possible time. The agenda included topics such as: democratization, human rights, the strengthening of civil groups, rights of the indigenous peoples, constitutional reforms, the resettlement of the landless, the incorporation of the URNG into legal political life. In July, the US Senate suspended military aid to Guatemala. The URNG demanded that human rights violations cease immediately. Human rights organizations found that in the first 9 months of Serrano’s rule there had been 1,760 human rights
violations, 650 of them executions without trial. Several deaths of street children below the age of six were also reported.

Also in September 1991, the Guatemalan president recognized the sovereignty and self-determination of Belize, the former British colony which proclaimed its independence in 1981. The announcement caused the resignation of chancellor Alvaro Arzú, the leader of the Plan por el Adelantamiento Nacional (PAN) (National Advancement Party), and one of the ruling party’s main allies.

In 1992, a national debate began on the existence of government armed civilian groups, such as the Patrullas de Autodefensa Civil (PAC) (Civilian Self-Defense Patrols) or Comités Voluntarios de Defensa Civil (CVDC) (Voluntary Civil-Defense Committee). The Catholic Church criticized the Government’s economic policy and spoke out in favor of agrarian reform. In the meantime, organizations representing the indigenous peoples demanded the ratification of ILO Agreement 169, dealing with indigenous and tribal peoples.

The Government created the «Hunapú» force, made up of the Army, the National Police and the «Hacienda Guard», replacing the former PACs. In April, members of the «Hunapú» provoked an incident during a student demonstration demanding improvements in the education policy. One student was killed and 7 injured. The World Bank, the US Government and the European Parliament urged the Guatemalan government to end political violence.

In October, while the quincentenary of Columbus’ arrival on the continent was celebrated by some, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, an indigenous leader from the Quiché ethnic group, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Menchú travelled world-wide, denouncing
the situation of her country’s indigenous peoples.

On May 25, 1993, President Serrano, backed by a group of military officers, carried out a coup themselves, revoking several articles of the constitution and dissolving Congress and the Supreme Court. On June 1, national and international rejection of this measure – including pressure from the United States – forced Serrano from office. On June 6, after several days of uncertainty, former Human Rights attorney Ramiro De León Carpio was elected head of the Executive, to finish Serrano’s term. De León Carpio began by purging the officers that had supported Serrano, changing five military commands. Shortly afterwards, Jorge Carpio Nicolle, leader of the Union of the National Center and the president’s cousin, was assassinated.

Despite the intense campaign against the PACs and compulsory military service, President De León Carpio stated that he would maintain both institutions as long as the situation of armed conflict persisted, a U-turn on his previously stated opinion. On August 5, the Government announced that the «Files» – records kept on citizens considered a «danger» to State security – had disappeared. However, the loss of these papers also implied the elimination of evidence against those responsible for human rights violations. In November, excavations in several clandestine cemeteries uncovered the remains of 177 women and children assassinated by the military in the 1982 «Rio Negro Massacre».

The 1994-95 Government Plan, presented in August, reaffirmed the structural adjustment program already in effect, prioritizing the end of state intervention in the economy, along with fiscal reform and the privatization of enterprises. De León Carpio’s stated goal was to fight corruption in the public sector. On August 26, the President called for the resignation of legislative deputies and members of the Supreme Court, causing a confrontation between the President and Congress. This led to a clash of economic and political interests, culminating in the Executive and Congress agreeing on constitutional reform. A plebiscite was scheduled for January 30, 1994, for nation’s voters to decide on reforms to public administration and in the constitution. Following a 22-day occupation of the local Organization of American States (OAS) office by members of the Committee for Campesino Unity and the National Commission of Widows of Guatemala, some 5,000 members of indigenous groups carried out a march demanding the dissolution of the PACs. In January 1994, the Government and guerrillas signed agreements for the resettlement of the population displaced by the armed conflict, without a mediated cease fire. As a result of the accords 870 people were able to settle in the zones of Chacula, Nenton and Huehuetenango, but the majority of the resettlement areas were still under army control.

Around the same date, a referendum for constitutional reform registered an abstention rate of 85 per cent. Of those who did vote, 69 per cent supported the moves for a new Congress and a new Supreme Court. In general elections with a similar abstention rate, the Frente Republicano – Guatemalteco (FRG) (Guatemalan Republican Alliance) led by former dictator Efrain Ríos Montt took the majority. The Partida de Avanzada Nacional (PAN) (National Vanguard Party) came second. Monica Pinto, the UN Human Rights observer, recommended the demilitarization of society through the gradual reduction in size of the army, the disbanding of the PACs and the Presidential Staff, along with the creation of a Truth Commission. Following a prolonged silence in early 1994, the Minister of Foreign Affairs recognized Belize as an independent State, but upheld Guatemala’s territorial claim, meaning no frontier could be established.

In March 1994, the Government and the URNG ratified an agreement related to the disbanding of the PACs and the international verification of human rights by the UN. Three days later the President of the Court of Constitutionality, Epaminondas González, was murdered. In April, the police evicted 300 rural workers’ families from an estate they had occupied in Escuintla. In May a new contingent of nearly 2,000 refugees returned, heading for the Quiche area, which was still occupied by the military.

The URNG and the Government signed a draft agreement for the «Resettlement of the People Uprooted by the Armed Confrontation», in Oslo, Norway, in June 1994. The Communities of Peoples were recognized as non-fighting civilians and the vital
importance of land for these uprooted populations was explicitly stated. The second agreement in Oslo enshrined the principle of not individualizing responsibility for human rights violations as a way of neutralizing the action of sectors opposed to a negotiated outcome.

The peace negotiations between the guerrillas and the Government reached stalemate during 1995, due to the elections lack of interest by the army and landowners, and the Government weakness in face of them. The UN mission reported that impunity continued to be the main obstacle to the respect for human rights, and described hundreds of cases of torture, illegal detentions and extrajudicial executions. In August 1995, Congress leader Efrain Rios Montt and another two members of the FRG lost their legal immunity and were tried by the Supreme Court on charges of bugging telephones, falsifying documents and abuse of power.

National elections for President, the Congress, and municipal offices were held in November 1995. With almost 20
parties competing in the first round, the presidential election came down to a January 7, 1996 runoff in which PAN candidate Alvaro
Enrique Arzú Irigoyen defeated Alfonso Portillo of the FRG by just over 2% of the vote. Arzú won because of his strength in Guatemala City, where he had previously served as mayor, and in the surrounding urban area. Portillo won all of the rural departments. The biggest surprise of the election was the strong showing of the newly formed Frente Democrático Nueva Guatemala (FDNG) (New Guatemala Democratic Front), the first legitimate party of the left to compete in 40 years. The FDNG presidential candidate won almost 8% of the vote, and six FDNG deputies, including several internationally known human rights advocates, were elected to Congress. In the other November races, the PAN won 43 of the 80 seats in Congress and leadership of one-third of the municipal governments. The FRG won 21 seats to become the principal opposition party. The formerly powerful but discredited Partido Democracia Cristiana Guatemalteca (PDCG) (Christian Democratic Party of Guatemala) and Union del Centro Nacional (UCN) (Union of the National Center) elected only seven deputies between them.

Within two weeks of taking office, President Arzú initiated a major shakeup of the military high command and oversaw the firing of almost 200 corrupt police officials. In September 1996, the government uncovered a large smuggling scheme involving a number of government officials and military and police officers. The case, which is expected to take a number of years to resolve, resulted in the dismissal of several additional military, police, and customs officials. The Arzú Administration also began a series of actions to boost the economy, including a reform of the tax system, and demonopolization and privatization of the
electricity and telecommunication sectors. President Alvaro Arzú has strongly and publicly condemned human rights abuses. Positive political developments and the demobilization of 200,000 members of the Civilian Defense Patrols were major factors in the positive change. In contrast to past years, there was a marked decline in new cases of human rights abuse, but problems remain in some areas. Common crime, aggravated by a legacy of violence and vigilante justice, presents a serious challenge to the government. Impunity remains a major problem, primarily because democratic institutions, including those responsible for the administration of justice, have developed only a limited capacity to cope with this legacy.

In December 1996 – first in Europe and then in Mexico and Guatemala – the Government and the URNG signed a series of peace agreements which put an end to a civil war which had cost more than 100,000 lives. The cease-fire was respected and was followed by a large increase in crime. Around 80 per cent of the population were living below the poverty threshold at this time.

In December 1997, Guatemala was amongst the five Latin American countries most affected by climatic change resulting from El Niño. According to the Comisión Económica para América Latina (CEPAL) (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean – ECLAC) preliminary figures Hurricane Mitch’s passage through Central America in September 1998 caused damage in the region of $5.36 million and left around 24,000 dead, 256 of them Guatemalan. More than 100,000 people were made homeless and worsening health conditions left the country in a «state of emergency».

Investigation of human rights violations during the war produced an avalanche of threats against investigators and members of the judiciary. After presenting a report condemning the armed forces for several massacres, Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera was murdered in 1998. The public prosecutor working on the case fled to the United States where he requested asylum, claiming he had been under heavy pressure and had received several death threats. In October that year, the Government ordered hundreds of bodies to be dug up in the grounds of an elite police unit in the capital. A United Nations report estimated this same year that 96 per cent of the deaths during the war were the responsibility of the army and armed forces.

In the second round of the elections held in late December 1999, Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, lawyer and rightist associated with former dictator Ríos Montt, of the FRG took 68 per cent of the vote, defeating Oscar Berger of the ruling PAN. Abstention reached 59 per cent, while more than 50 per cent of registered voters had turned out in the first round ballot. Guatemala swore in a new government January 14, 2000, under its recently elected right-wing president, Alfonso Portillo Cabrera.

In early 2000, Guatemala lodged a claim for nearly half the territory of the neighboring Belize. The country recognized the independence of the former British colony in 1991, but still claims this part of the territory. Representatives of both parties talked briefly in Miami in February and March 2000, under the auspices of the OAS. Despite international mediation efforts, relations between the two remained tense. Then, in September 2002, the OAS brokered a draft settlement of the dispute which may form the basis for a permanent accord.

El Salvador National History

At about 5500 B.C. some different tribes lived in what is todays El Salvador. Descendantes of a mongolian race, who came to Northern America from Siberia via a then existing landbridge at Alaska. Being hunters and gatherers they advanced further south and from about 3500 B.C. started to till the soil.

When the Spanish first ventured into Central America from the colony of New Spain (Mexico) in the early sixteenth century, the area that would become El Salvador was populated primarily by Indians of the Pipil tribe. The Pipil were a subgroup of a nomadic people known as the Nahua, who had migrated into Central America about 3000 B.C. The Nahua eventually fell under the sway of the Maya Empire, which dominated the Mesoamerican region until its decline in the ninth century A.D. Pipil culture did not reach the advanced level achieved by the Maya; it has been compared, albeit on a smaller scale, to that of the
Aztecs in Mexico. The Pipil nation, believed to have been founded in the eleventh century, was organized into two major federated states subdivided into smaller principalities. Although primarily an agricultural people, the Pipil built a number of large urban centers, some of which developed into present-day cities, such as Sonsonate and Ahuachapan.

The Pipil were a determined people who stoutly resisted Spanish efforts to extend their dominion southward. The first such effort by Spanish forces was led by Pedro de Alvarado, a lieutenant of Hernan Cortes in the conquest of Mexico. It met with stiff resistance from the indigenous population. Alvarado’s expeditionary force entered El Salvador–or Cuscatlan, as it was known by the Pipil–in June 1524. The Spaniards were defeated in a major engagement shortly thereafter and were forced to withdraw to Guatemala. Two subsequent expeditions were required–in 1525 and 1528–to bring the Pipil under Spanish control. Alvarado found San Salvador in 1525. It is noteworthy that the name of the supposed leader of the Indian resistance, Atlacatl, has been perpetuated and honored among the Salvadorans to the relative exclusion of that of Alvarado. In this sense, the Salvadoran ambivalence toward the conquest bears a resemblance to the prevailing opinion in Mexico, where Cortes is more reviled than celebrated.

The Spanish had come to Central America seeking, at least in part, to add to the store of precious metals that constituted the most immediate spoils of the Mexican conquest. In the small colony that they dubbed El Salvador ("the saviour"), they were severely disappointed in this regard. What little gold was available was accessible only through the laborious and timeconsuming method of panning, a process that consumed the effort of numerous impressed Indian laborers for a number of years. Denied the opportunity for quick riches, the conquistadors and later the Spanish settlers eventually came to realize that the sole exploitable resource of El Salvador was the land.

El Salvador thus was relegated to the status of a backwater of the Spanish Empire. In this state of neglect and isolation, the seeds of the country’s politico-economic structure were planted. Large tracts of land were granted by the crown, initially under the terms of the encomienda system, whereby the grantee was invested with the right to collect tribute from the native inhabitants of a designated area. The manifest abuse of the Indian population that resulted from the encomienda system contributed to its replacement in the mid-sixteenth century by the repartimiento system. Under repartimiento, representatives of the crown were empowered to regulate the work allotment and treatment of Indian laborers. Although more humane in theory, it was a system that was extremely vulnerable to abuse. The colony’s distance from the mother country, the ease with which royal officials could be corrupted, and the prevailing disregard among the elite–made up of peninsulares, born in Spain, and criollos born in the New World of Spanish parentage–for the plight of the Indians militated against any substantive improvement in living conditions for the indigenous population.

Although landholders in El Salvador exercised nearly absolute power within their fiefdoms, they did not begin to realize the full economic potential of their holdings until they instituted the system of widespread cultivation of a single lucrative export commodity. The first of these commodities was cacao, which flourished during the latter half of the sixteenth century. Cultivation of indigo followed and produced tremendous profits during the eighteenth century. Largely as a result of the importance of the indigo trade, the colonial capital of San Salvador eventually came to be considered the second city of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, the Spanish administrative unit that encompassed most of Central America during the colonial period. The indigo boom effectively played itself out by the midnineteenth century, however, after the discovery in Germany of a synthetic dye that could be produced much more economically.

The fortunes of the Spanish Empire waned throughout the eighteenth century and were dashed completely by the Napoleonic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 1808. As the Salvadorans moved toward independence, the legacies of their progenitors, both Indian and Spanish, were firmly fixed. The predominance of agriculture was a fact of life well before the Conquest; the Spanish contributed to this basic system by emphasizing production for export versus cultivation for subsistence. Individual loyalties under the pre-Conquest civilization were given primarily to one’s family and to one’s village; Spanish
rule did little or nothing to change this attitude or to build any substantial sense of national identity among the common people.

The colonies comprising the Captaincy General of Guatemala declared their independence from Spain on September 15, 1821. It was not long before the new states, particularly El Salvador, had to contend with attempted annexation by another large power in the form of an independent Mexico under self-proclaimed Emperor Agustin de Iturbide. A Mexican force dispatched by Iturbide succeeded in bringing to heel the uncooperative Salvadorans, but only briefly. When the emperor himself fell from power in 1823, his dream of a Central American empire died with him. The five states of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica went on to establish themselves as the United Provinces of Central America on July 1, 1823. The United Provinces, unworkable though they proved to be, constituted the only successful political union of the Central American states in the postcolonial era. Many optimistic residents of the region no doubt held high hopes for this new nation at its inception. Their sentiments were expressed elegantly, though ironically–given the subsequent course of events–by the liberator of South America, Simon Bolivar, who expounded in 1815 on the prospects for such a federation:

Split by the dichotomy between liberals and conservatives, the United Provinces never functioned as the unified national unit envisioned by its founders. Control of the federal government passed from liberal to conservative hands in 1826, only to be restored to the liberal faction under the leadership of the Honduran Francisco Morazan in 1829. Neither faction, however,
was able to assert federal control over all five Central American states. Therefore, although the liberal governments enacted political, economic, and social reforms, they were never able to implement them effectively. The period of the United Provinces was thus one of Central American polarization impelled by deep divisions among the populace, not the unification originally anticipated
by idealists.

Aquino was a laborer on an indigo hacienda in the region of Los Nonualcos in the central part of the country. He led a brief but violent uprising in 1833. The Indian participants aimed to end their impressment into the army and effect the return of tribute paid to the government under false pretenses after 1811, when tribute requirements were discontinued by the Spanish parliament (but payments were still collected by the local authorities). In the initial uprising, several thousand rebels, mainly Indians, successfully captured several army posts between Santiago Nonualco and San Vicente, where Aquino’s forces won a battle against government troops only to be defeated the next day by reinforcements mustered during the rebels’ march. Had Aquino chosen to proceed directly to San Salvador after his early victories, the capital would have been largely undefended. As it was, the defeat at San Vicente effectively ended the rebellion, reestablished governmental control over the rural areas, led to Aquino’s capture and execution some months later, and deterred any comparable act of violent dissent for approximately 100 years.

El Salvador was a stronghold of liberal sentiment. Most Salvadorans, therefore, supported the rule of Morazan, who served as president of the federation from 1829 to 1840 when he was not leading forces in the field against the conservative followers of Rafael Carrera of Guatemala. In the waning days of liberal rule, San Salvador served as Morazan’s last bastion. Unable to stem the tide of conservative backlash, the liberal forces fell to those of Carrera in March 1840. Morazan died before a firing squad in September 1842. The almost unceasing violence that attended the effort to unite Central America into one federated nation led the leaders of the five states to abandon that effort and declare their independence as separate political entities. El Salvador did so in January 1841. Although their destinies would remain intertwined and they would intervene in each other’s affairs
routinely in the years to come, the countries of Central America would from that time function as fragmented and competitive ministates readily exploitable by foreign powers. Despite the continued participation of conservatives, however, the period of the establishment of the coffee republic (roughly 1871 to 1927) is described commonly as the era of the liberal state in El Salvador. The church was not as powerful in El Salvador as in other Latin American states at the time; therefore, the economic aspects of liberalism–an adherence to the principles of free-market capitalism–dominated the conduct of the state. Anticlericalism was a distinctly secondary theme, expressed primarily through social legislation (such as the establishment of secular marriage and education) rather than though the kind of direct action, e.g., repression and expropriation, taken against the church in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mexico.

The men who served as presidents of the liberal state in El Salvador came to power through a limited array of means. Santiago Gonzalez, who assumed the office in 1871, apparently sought to establish a personalist dictatorship. He never successfully consolidated his rule, however, and was defeated by Andres Valle in the elections of 1876. Valle fell victim to one of
the chronic afflictions of Salvadoran political history–intervention from Guatemala. He was replaced less than a year after his election by Rafael Zaldivar, who was more to the liking of the Guatemalan dictator Justo Rufino Barrios. Zaldivar proved exceptionally durable; he was twice elected president after his initial violent installation, serving as the country’s leader from
1876 until his overthrow in 1885 by forces led by Francisco Menendez, who was ousted and executed by his army commander, General Carlos Erzeta, in 1890. Erzeta is the only president during the period of the liberal state who is reputed to have made some effort to improve the lot of the lower classes by attempting to enforce an agricultural minimum wage, though the evidence for even this small gesture is sketchy.

The coffee industry grew inexorably in El Salvador, after a somewhat tentative start in the mid-1800s. Between 1880 and 1914, the value of coffee exports rose by more than 1,100 percent. Although the coffee industry itself was not taxed by the government, tremendous revenue was raised indirectly through import duties on goods imported with the foreign currencies that coffee sales earned (goods intended for the consumption of the small coffee-producing elite). From 1870 to 1914, an average of 58.7 percent of government revenue derived from this source. Even if the coffee elite did not run the government directly (and many scholars argue that they did), the elite certainly provided the bulk of the government’s financial support. This support, coupled with the humbler and more mundane mechanisms of corruption, ensured the coffee growers of overwhelming influence within the government and the military.

Another process worthy of note during this period despite its lack of tangible results was the ongoing series of unification efforts by the Central American states. El Salvador was a prime mover in most of these attempts to reestablish an isthmian federation. In 1872 El Salvador signed a pact of union with Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica, but the union was never
implemented. In 1876 a congress of all five Central American states failed to achieve agreement on federation. A provisional pact signed by the five states in 1889 technically created the "Republic of Central America"; that effort too never was realized. Undaunted, the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the "Greater Republic of Central America" (República Mayor de Centroamerica) via the Pact of Amapala (1895). Although Guatemala and Costa Rica considered joining the Greater Republic (which was rechristened "the United States of Central America" when its constitution went into effect in 1898), neither country joined. This union, which had planned to establish its capital city at Amapala on the Golfo de Fonseca, did not survive Regalado’s seizure of power in El Salvador in 1898. Although the Central American spirit seemed
willing, the commitment was weak. The notion of unification was another manifestation of the idealistic liberal ethos, and it proved durable and quite resistant to political realities.

Another confrontation with Guatemala contributed to the downfall of Erzeta, who was ousted in 1894 by Rafael Gutierrez; he, in turn, was replaced four years later in a bloodless coup led by General Tomas Regalado. His term took El Salvador rather uneventfully into the twentieth century. Regalado’s peaceful transfer of power in 1903 to his handpicked successor, Pedro Jose Escalon, ushered in a period of comparative stability that extended until the depression-provoked upheaval of 1931-32. The only exception to this pattern of peaceful succession was the assassination of President Manuel Enrique Araujo in 1913. Araujo was reputed to have held somewhat reformist views toward some of the policies of the liberal state, in particular the notion of financing development through foreign loans. His assassination may have sprung from this sort of policy dispute, although the full motive has never been established satisfactorily.

The priorities of the coffee industry dictated a shift in the mission of the embryonic Salvadoran armed forces from external defense of the national territory to the maintenance of internal order. The creation of the National Guard (Guardia Nacional–GN) was in the town of Suchitoto in 1912. El Salvador was plagued with bandit gangs. The National Police (Policia Nacional–PN) and military forces at the time were not prepared to handle these bandits and so a rural police force was established.

The presidency of Pio Romero Bosque (1927-31) was a transitional period in Salvadoran history that ended the relatively stable functioning of the coffee republic and the liberal economic system that sustained it. The world depression of the 1930s, which precipitated a sharp fall in world coffee prices, hit hard in El Salvador. The loss of income reverberated throughout the society; as always, those on the lower end of the economic scale felt the deprivation most keenly, as wages were reduced and employment levels cut back. The government first responded with limited reform to ease this situation and the popular unrest it produced. The subsequent response was brutal repression. President Romero was the designated successor of President Quinonez, who apparently expected Don Pio, as he came to be known, to carry on the noninterventionist political tradition of his predecessors. Romero, however, for reasons of his own, decided to open up the Salvadoran system to a limited but still significant degree. He turned on Quinonez, exiling him from the country, and sought to exclude other members of the elite from the government. He is best remembered for allowing the presidential and municipal elections of 1931, the freest held in El Salvador up to that time. These elections still excluded any radical party that might have sought to overturn the existing governmental system; nevertheless, they resulted in the election of Arturo Araujo, who enjoyed a mildly reformist reputation despite his oligarchic family background.

Araujo assumed the presidency at a time of severe economic crisis. Between 1928 and 1931, the coffee export price had dropped by 54 percent. The wages paid agricultural workers were cut by an equal or greater extent. Food supplies, dependent on imports because of the crowding out of subsistence cultivation by coffee production, likewise fell sharply. Privation
among the rural labor force, long a tolerated fact of life, sank to previously unknown depths. Desperate campesinos began to listen more attentively to the exhortations of radicals such as Agustin Farabundo Marti.

Marti came from a relatively well-to-do landowning family. He was educated at the University of El Salvador (commonly referred to as the National University), where his political attitudes were influenced by the writings of Karl Marx and other communist theorists. He was an original member of the Central American Socialist Party (founded in Guatemala in 1925) and a propagandist for the Regional Federation of Salvadoran Workers. He also spent a few months in Nicaragua with that country’s noted guerrilla leader, Augusto Cesar Sandino. Marti and Sandino parted ways over the Nicaraguan’s refusal to add Marxist flourishes to his nationalistic battle against a United States occupation force. Jailed or expelled several times by Salvadoran authorities, Marti kept up his efforts to organize popular rebellion against the government with the goal of establishing a communist system in its place. The widespread discontent provoked by the coffee crisis brought ever-increasing numbers of Salvadorans under the banner of such Marxist organizations as the Communist Party of El Salvador (Partido Comunista de El Salvador–PCES), the AntiImperialist League, and the Red Aid International (Socorro Rojo Internacional–SRI). Marti was the Salvadoran representative of the SRI, which
was closely associated with the other two groups.

In the tense political atmosphere of the time, this last concession aroused both the landholding elite and, more important, the military. A December coup staged against Araujo drew support from a large number of military officers, who cited Araujo’s ineptitude to justify their action. This rationalization did not match the portentous significance of the event, however. The 1931 coup represented the first instance when the Salvadoran military took direct action as an institution to curtail a potential political drift to the left. This watershed event ushered in a period of direct and indirect military rule that would last for fifty years. The rebellious officers shortly installed as the country’s leader General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez (known in El Salvador by his matronymic, Martinez), who had been Araujo’s vice president and minister of war. Surprisingly, Martinez allowed the promised elections to take place only a month later than originally scheduled, and with the participation of the PCES. The general’s motivations in this regard, however, seem to have run more toward drawing his enemy into the open than toward the furthering of democratic government, for the communist candidates who won municipal offices in the western part of the country subsequently were barred from assuming those offices.

The denial of the municipal posts has been cited as the catalyst for the launching of a rural insurrection that had been in the planning stages for some time. Unfortunately for the rebels, the military obtained advance warning of their intentions. Marti and other rebel leaders were arrested on January 18, 1932. Confusion and poor communications led the insurgents to go ahead with their action as planned four days later. The rebels succeeded in capturing government buildings in the towns of Izalco, Sonzacate, Nahuizalco, Juayúa, and Tacuba. They were repulsed by the local garrisons in Sonsonate, Santa Tecla, and Ahuachapan. Even the small successes of the insurgents were short lived, however, as GN and army units were dispatched to relieve local forces or to retake areas held by the rebels. Less than seventy-two hours after the initial uprising, the government was again firmly in control. It was then that reprisals began.

The military’s action would come to be known as la matanza. Some estimates of the total number of campesinos killed run as high as 30,000. Although the true number never will be known, historian Alastair White has cited 15,000 to 20,000 as the best approximation. No matter what figure one accepts, the reprisals were highly disproportionate to the effects of
the communist-inspired insurgency, which produced no more than thirty civilian fatalities. The widespread executions of campesinos, mainly Indians, apparently were intended to demonstrate to the rural population that the military was now in control in El Salvador and that it would brook no challenges to its rule or to the prevailing system. That blunt message was received, much as it had been after the failure of Aquino’s rebellion a century earlier. The memory of la matanza would linger over Salvadoran political life for decades, deterring dissent and maintaining a sort of coerced conformity.

The assumption of power by Martinez initiated an extended period of rule by a military institution that continued to struggle with its own conception of its role as director of the country’s political process. Older, more conservative officers were pushed by their younger subordinates to loosen up the system and institute at least some limited reforms in order to minimize the likelihood of another violent disruption like that of 1932. The notion of guided reform, instituted and controlled from above, generally came to be accepted as the best course for the military to steer between the twin shoals of heavy-handed repression and radical revolution. The first of many military presidents to come, Martinez was an autocrat who enjoyed the longest tenure in office of any Salvadoran president. His anticommunist fervor, so amply demonstrated by la matanza, has made him an enduring hero of the political right (a right-wing death squad of the 1970s would bear his name).

Martinez was confirmed as president by the legislature in 1932. He was elected to a four-year term of office in 1935 and a six-year term in 1939. Although it was marked by institutionalized repression of dissent, Martinez’s tenure was not altogether a negative period for the country. It provided a stability and continuity that contributed to a general improvement in
the national economy. Like other Salvadoran presidents before him, Martinez did not interfere greatly with the elite-dominated economic system. He did, however, make some minor concessions to the poor, establishing a government welfare institution known as Social Improvement (Mejoramiento Social), continuing a very limited land redistribution program begun under Araujo, and attempting to protect the domestic handicraft industry. Although he was personally drawn to the fascist movements in Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany, Martinez committed El Salvador to the Allied effort during World War II. This pragmatic move apparently bought El Salvador a fair amount of goodwill in Washington.

The last straw for the general’s detractors was his effort to extend his term beyond 1944 by means of legislative fiat rather than direct election. The coalition that united in support of his overthrow was a somewhat eclectic one: civilian politicians, pro-Axis military officers, businessmen and bankers (who objected to the government’s limited economic restrictions), and irate coffee producers. An initial attempt to oust Martinez by force was unsuccessful, but subsequent unrest in the capital, including a general strike, moved him to resign his office in May 1944. His successor, General Andres Ignacio Menendez, called for political liberalization and free elections; the sincerity of his appeal was never tested, however, as he was turned out of office by the military in October. Menendez’s replacement was Colonel Osmin Aguirre y Salinas, the director of the PN and a former follower of the deposed Martinez. The Aguirre regime went ahead with elections scheduled for January 1945 but manipulated the results to ensure the victory of its candidate, General Salvador Castaneda Castro. Castaneda’s rule was unremarkable. The events of 1944 had left the country in an unresolved state of political uncertainty. Fearing some action against him and his conservative followers, Castaneda sought to weed out young reform-minded officers by dispatching them abroad for training. This sector of the officer corps, however, was substantial, and its members could not be excluded indefinitely from the political process. They made their influence felt in 1948, when Castaneda made his own attempt to extend his term in office by way of legislative maneuvering without recourse to the ballot box. The movement that ousted him from power on December 14, 1948, referred to itself as the Military Youth (Juventud Militar). For as long as its members exerted control in El Salvador, they would refer to their action as the Revolution of 1948.

The coup leaders established a junta, which was referred to as the Revolutionary Council; it included three mid-level officers and two civilian professionals. The council ruled for some twenty-one months and guided the country toward comparatively open elections in March 1950. During this period, it became clear that Major Oscar Osorio was the dominant force within the junta and among the officer corps. Osorio was so sure of his support that he resigned from the junta in order to run in the elections as the candidate of the Revolutionary Party of Democratic Unification (Partido Revolucionario de Unificacion Democratica–PRUD). Osorio eked out a victory over Colonel Jose Asencio Menendez of the Renovating Action Party (Partido Accion Renovadora–PAR) and went on to establish the PRUD as a quasi-official party modeled roughly on the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional–PRI) of Mexico. Although the PRUD enjoyed some measure of support, it was never able to replicate the broad base of the PRI, mainly because the process that produced the PRUD–the so-called Revolution of 1948–was not itself a mass movement.

The election of Lemus in 1956 did much to discourage the notion of possible political pluralism in El Salvador. As the candidate of the PRUD, Lemus initially was challenged by the standard-bearers of three other ad hoc parties. The most popular of the three appeared to be Roberto Canessa, a civilian who had served as Osorio’s foreign minister. A month before the
election, however, Canessa was disqualified by the government-controlled Central Electoral Council on a technicality. Another opposition candidate was barred from the race because of allegations of fiscal impropriety during his tenure as ambassador to Guatemala. Although the opposition attempted to unite behind the remaining candidate, Lemus topped the official election returns with an improbable 93 percent of the vote. Lemus was deposed in a bloodless coup on October 26, 1960.

Governmental authority again passed into the hands of a military-civilian junta. The ranking military representative was Lieutenant Colonel Julio Adalberto Rivera. Aside from Rivera, the junta member who drew the most attention was Fabio Castillo, a university professor and known sympathizer with the Cuban Revolution. Castillo’s presence, along with the renewed reformist policies of the junta, convinced the elite and the conservative military officers that the government was influenced by communism. Again, it was the military that acted to head off this perceived threat to stability. A coup by young officers overthrew the junta on January 25, 1961. The officers affirmed their anticommunist and anti-Castro convictions, retained Rivera as part of a
new junta, and promised elections. The electoral preparations that had begun under the 1960 junta stimulated the mobilization of political parties of moderate and leftist inclinations. These opposition parties were unable to establish their organizations and followings sufficiently to present any effective challenge to the 1962 election of Rivera to the presidency. Rivera ran as the candidate of the National Conciliation Party (Partido de Conciliacion Nacional–PCN), which would succeed the PRUD as the official party in El Salvador. The PCN began as a splinter group from the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Democrata Cristiano–PDC), which eventually became the leading opponent of the PCN and a major force for peaceful change in the Salvadoran system.

Rivera was a proponent of the sort of guided reforms initiated by the military’s revolution of 1948. His developmentalist economic policies received a boost from the United States in the form of generous aid allocations under the banner of United States president John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress. Although he discussed publicly the need for economic reforms, including agrarian reform, Rivera did nothing to further them. Perhaps his major contribution to Salvadoran political life was the decision to allow the participation of opposition parties through a liberalized electoral system that called for proportional representation in the country’s Legislative Assembly. Previously, the party that won the most votes in each department (the equivalent of states under the Salvadoran system) was awarded all the legislative seats allocated to that department. The proportional allocation of seats based on each party’s departmental electoral showing represented a significant step forward for the opposition, which obtained some voice in government even if it was still denied any real power.

In March 1964, the first elections were held under the new system. Although the PCN retained an unchallenged majority in the Legislative Assembly, the PDC won fourteen seats in that body, along with thirty-seven mayoralties. Perhaps the most significant victory was Duarte’s election as mayor of San Salvador. He built a strong base of popular support in this post through improvements in municipal services and the organization of local self-help groups to promote small-scale civic improvements such as school renovations, establishment and maintenance of parks, and adult education programs. He was reelected in 1966 and 1968. Leadership of the populous capital city heightened Duarte’s political profile and made him a national figure. The leading contenders in the elections of 1967 were the PCN, the PDC, and the PAR. The PCN’s candidate was Rivera’s interior minister, Colonel Fidel Sanchez Hernandez. The PDC nominated Abraham Rodriguez, who proved to be a lackluster campaigner. The PAR had undergone an internal dispute that led its more conservative members to bolt and form a new party, the Salvadoran Popular Party (Partido Popular Salvadoreno–PPS). The PPS chose as its candidate a retired army major, Alvaro Martinez. The remaining leftist members of the PAR nominated Fabio Castillo, who had served on the 1960 junta. By the standards of the Salvadoran right, Castillo was a communist.

The issue of the supposed communist nature of the PAR came to dominate the 1967 campaign. By election day, the PAR had been denied media access by broadcasters who either disagreed with the party’s political line or feared some retaliation from the government if they granted air time to the PAR. The PDC condemned the red-baiting engaged in by Sanchez and the PCN, even though many Christian Democrats differed with some of the proposals made by Castillo, such as establishing relations with Cuba and broadening ties with other communist countries. In the balloting on March 5, the PAR actually garnered more votes in San Salvador than did the PDC, although the Christian Democrats had a better showing in rural areas than they had anticipated. All of this was
academic in terms of the presidential race, however, since Sanchez won an absolute majority.

Like many other conflicts in Salvadoran history, the 1969 war with Honduras, sometimes referred to as the Soccer War, was rooted in economic disparity. El Salvador is a small country with a large and rapidly growing population and a severely limited amount of available land. Honduras is a larger country with a smaller population and a less-developed economy. By 1969 some 300,000 Salvadorans had drifted over the border and taken up residence in more sparsely populated Honduras. The vast majority of these Salvadorans were squatters, technically illegal immigrants whose sole claim to the land they worked was their physical presence on it. For Hondurans, the land itself was not so much the issue. What rankled them was the image of being pushed and potentially enveloped by the Salvadorans. Throughout the 1960s, the mechanisms of the Central American Common Market worked to the advantage of the more developed economies of the region, particularly those of Guatemala and El Salvador. The growth of Salvadoran-owned businesses in Honduras– shoe stores were the most visible of these enterprises– underscored for Hondurans the relative economic disparity between the two countries. The issue of the Salvadoran squatters, despite its lack of real economic significance, became a nationalistic sore point for Honduras, a question of adding territorial insult to perceived economic injury.

The border situation became increasingly tense during the two years preceding the outbreak of hostilities. In early 1969, the regime of Honduran president Oswaldo Lopez Arellano (1963-71) invoked a dormant agrarian reform law as a pretext to evict Salvadoran squatters and expel them from the country. The Lopez government was experiencing economic and political difficulties and saw the Salvadorans as convenient scapegoats. Stories and images of displaced refugees filled the Salvadoran press and the airwaves. Tales of violent displacement by the Honduran military began to circulate throughout El Salvador. Tension between the two countries continued to build. The incident that provoked active hostilities–and lent the conflict its popular designation as the Soccer War–took place in San Salvador in June 1969. During and after a soccer match between the Honduran and Salvadoran national teams, the Honduran team members were vilified and harassed by Salvadoran fans. The reportage of this incident brought matters to a fever pitch.

Beyond national pride and jingoism–which was expressed by Duarte and the PDC with a fervor equal to that of Sanchez and the PCN–the Salvadorans had other motivations for launching a military strike against Honduras on July 14, 1969. The influx of displaced Salvadoran squatters was placing a burden on services and threatening to provoke widespread social unrest. The situation was undermining the political support of the Sanchez government; action against Honduras became the most expedient option to turn this situation around. Although war with Honduras almost certainly would lead to the breakdown of the CACM, the Salvadorans were willing to pay that price. In their estimation, the CACM was already close to a breakdown over the issues of comparative advantage; war with Honduras would only hasten that outcome. The actual fighting was brief. Despite early Salvadoran air strikes, the Hondurans eventually dominated in that area, destroying most of the Salvadoran Air Force. The Salvadoran Army, however, clearly bested the Hondurans on the ground. The Salvadorans pushed rapidly into Honduran territory before fuel and ammunition shortages and diplomatic efforts by representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) curtailed their progress. As many as 2,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed in the action.

The war had a number of immediate repercussions. The Salvadorans had expended large quantities of ordnance, necessitating heavy military expenditures to replenish depleted stocks. Trade between the two countries was disrupted completely, and the CACM ceased to function as anything more than a paper entity. El Salvador lost the economic "safety valve" formerly provided by illegal emigration to Honduras; land-based pressures again began to build. Although the vast majority of Salvadorans, including all the legal political parties, had united in support of the war, this unity did not last long. The 1972 elections took place in an uneasy political atmosphere. The 1970 election of socialist Salvador Allende Gossens as president of Chile had resurrected anxieties over communist gains in Latin America. This concern was shared not only by the political right and the military but also by the majority of Christian Democrats. In El Salvador, organizational efforts by leftist parties such as the PCES and by activist Roman Catholic clergy were viewed with alarm by conservative sectors. The fears of the economic elite in particular were provoked by the 1971 kidnapping and murder of Ernesto Regalado Duenas, the son of a prominent family, by a leftist terrorist organization calling itself "the Group".

The PDC opted to participate in the elections as the leading party of a coalition designated the United National Opposition (Union Nacional Opositora–UNO). The other members of the coalition were smaller and more radical than the PDC. The National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario–MNR) was originally a social democratic party. The MNR was pushed further to the left, however, as former PAR supporters joined its ranks after their party was legally proscribed in 1967. The National Democratic Union (Union Democratica Nacional–UDN) was an even smaller grouping that had once described itself as the party of the noncommunist left in El Salvador. By this time, however, the UDN had been infiltrated by the PCES and was functioning as a communist front group. Despite the leftist leanings of the MNR and UDN and the lingering effect of the agrarian reform congress, the UNO platform was moderate in tone, calling for measured reform, respect for private property, and the protection of private investment. As expected, Duarte was tapped as the presidential candidate. He in turn chose the MNR’s Guillermo Manuel Ungo Revelo as his running mate.

President Sanchez chose Colonel Arturo Armando Molina as the PCN candidate. The PPS also entered the contest, led by Jose Antonio Rodriguez Porth. A small PCN splinter party calling itself the United Democratic Independent Front, funded by some leading oligarchic families, rounded out the field. The campaign was a violent and dangerous one for the opposition. UNO’s leaders decried numerous incidents of harassment, kidnapping, and assault against their activists. The leading perpetrators of these actions, according to the opposition, were troops of the GN. Further roadblocks were thrown in the way of UNO by the PCN- controlled Central Electoral Council, which disqualified the opposition coalition’s candidate slates for the Legislative Assembly in the departments of San Salvador, San Miguel, Usulutan, Sonsonate, La Union, and San Vicente.

The actual vote count in the presidential balloting of February 20, 1972, probably will never be known. As expected, Duarte ran strongly in San Salvador, offsetting the traditional PCN advantage in the countryside. Poll watchers for UNO claimed that the final tally nationwide was 327,000 for Duarte and 318,000 for Molina. Tabulations were suspended by the government, however, and a recount was initiated. The official results of that count placed Molina ahead of Duarte by 10,000 votes. The selection of the president thus was relegated to the assembly, where the PCN majority affirmed Molina’s tainted victory after a walkout by opposition deputies. An appeal by Duarte and Ungo for new balloting was denied by the Central Electoral Council. The blatancy of the fraud employed to maintain the PCN in power outraged and disillusioned many Salvadorans, including members of the
armed forces. One faction of the officer corps, a new Military Youth, attempted to take direct action to redress the official exploitation of a system that had until that point shown some promise of evolving in a genuinely democratic direction. This group of young army officers, led by Colonel Benjamin Mejia, launched a coup on March 25, 1972. Their immediate goal was the establishment of a "revolutionary junta." It seemed clear, however, that the officers favored the installation of Duarte as president.

Mejia and his followers initiated their action by seizing the presidential residence and taking Sanchez and some of his family members hostage. From that point on, however, events ran against the insurgents. The thunder of aerial bombing over the capital soon announced the loyalty of the air force to the government. The coup attempt never gained the support of more than a minority within the officer corps, and that only in the army. Some residents of the capital took to the streets in support of the young officers, but they were no match for the loyalist military forces. In desperation, Mejia turned to Duarte, urging him to deliver a radio address in support of the rebels. Despite some misgivings, Duarte agreed. His address was broadcast shortly after noon and may have saved some lives by warning civilians to evacuate areas targeted for rebel artillery strikes. Its overall impact, however, was insufficient to reverse the tide of action in the streets. Loyalist forces regained effective control of San Salvador by early that evening.

Like many other government opponents, Duarte sought refuge within the foreign diplomatic community. He was taken in by the first secretary of the Venezuelan embassy but was soon tracked down by government security forces, who broke into the diplomat’s house and dragged Duarte away amidst kicks and blows from rifle butts. The Christian democratic leader was detained briefly, beaten, and interrogated, then dispatched to Guatemala. From there, he flew to exile in Venezuela. He left behind a country where aspirations for change had been dashed and where repression was once again the official antidote to dissent. Soon after the failed coup attempt of 1972, kidnappings for ransom and hit-and-run attacks on government buildings and other targets became increasingly common in San Salvador. The groups claiming credit for the majority of these actions were the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo– ERP) and the Farabundo Marti Popular Liberation Forces (Fuerzas Populares de Liberacion Farabundo Marti–FPL), both radical offshoots of the PCES (the ERP was the new designation of "the Group" that had killed Regalado in 1971).

Popular support for radical leftist groups appeared to expand rapidly in El Salvador in the mid-1970s, although the ideological uniformity of that support was suspect. The vehicles for the mobilization of the "masses" behind a revolutionary program of radical reform were the so-called mass organizations (also known as popular organizations). Established and run clandestinely by the guerrilla groups, these organizations drew much of their leadership from radical Roman Catholic groups known as Christian Base Communities (Comunidades Eclesiasticas de Base–CEBs) that had been established by activist clergy throughout the country. The largest of the mass organizations was the FPL-affiliated Revolutionary Popular Bloc (Bloque Popular Revolucionario–BPR), with nine constituent peasant groups and an estimated 60,000 members. Other mass organizations included urban trade unions among their ranks. Through public demonstrations, strikes, seizures of buildings, and propaganda campaigns, these organizations sought to undermine the government and create conditions conducive to a revolutionary assumption of power by the left.

Right-wing reaction to the rise of the radical left took several forms. The Molina government made a belated and feeble attempt to appease rural demands for land by passing a law in 1974 calling for the forced rental or possible expropriation of unexploited or inefficiently used land, but the law was not enforced. The government, however, took another step toward reform in 1976, when it declared an agrarian transformation zone of some 60,000 hectares in San Miguel and Usulutan departments that was to be divided among 12,000 peasant families. Large landowners, incensed by this prospect, sent a delegation to meet with the president, who subsequently agreed to exempt from redistribution all lands fulfilling a "social function." This euphemism effectively encompassed all the land in question, and the redistribution never was effected.

The first of the squads to make itself known publicly was the Wars of Elimination Anti-Communist Liberation Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Anti-comunista de Guerras de Eliminacion–FALANGE), a title obviously concocted more for its acronym than for its coherence. Others, such as the White Warriors Union (Union de Guerreros Blancos–UGB), would follow. These organizations found their inspiration in the severe anticommunist tactics of the military regimes in Guatemala (many Salvadoran death squad members had direct ties to the Guatemalan right) and Brazil. The example of extreme military reprisals against the left in Chile after the 1973 coup against Allende also was influential. Official repression also prevailed during the 1970s. Crowds of antigovernment demonstrators that had assembled in the capital were fired on by the military in July 1975 and February 1977. The passage of the Law for the Defense and Guarantee of Public Order in November 1977 eliminated almost all legal restrictions on violence against civilians.

The government’s record in the electoral arena was equally discouraging for the opposition. The UNO coalition participated in the Legislative Assembly and municipal elections of 1974. Duarte even managed to slip back into the country to campaign briefly on behalf of coalition candidates. His efforts were wasted, though, as the balloting was manipulated even more flagrantly than that of 1972. In 1976 the opposition parties decided that electoral participation was pointless and declined to run candidates. Presidential elections in 1977 were too important to pass up, however. The atmosphere was too volatile to allow another run by Duarte, so UNO nominated retired Colonel Ernesto Claramount Rozeville to head its ticket. He was opposed by the official PCN candidate, General Carlos Humberto Romero Mena. Once again, electoral fraud was clumsy and poorly disguised. Claramount, his running mate Jose Antonio Morales Ehrlich, and a crowd of thousands gathered in the Plaza Libertad in San Salvador to protest Romero’s election. Their assembly was the occasion for the February 1977 attack that left as many as fifty protesters dead. As he was taken from the scene in a Red Cross ambulance, Claramount declared, "This is not the end. It is only the beginning."

The tenure of President Romero was characterized by the abandonment of any official pretense of reform and a precipitous rise in politically motivated violence. The leftist guerrilla groups stepped up their operations–assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings–as a form of self-defense, as retaliation against government forces, and as part of a larger strategy of impelling the country further toward political anarchy, a state perceived by the left as one of the "objective conditions" necessary for a broad-based antigovernment insurrection. This process of extreme polarization alarmed those political actors who saw the old system of domination by the military and the elite as no longer workable, but who feared the consequences of a successful communist-led revolt. This loose coalition included young military officers, Christian democratic and social democratic politicians, and more progressive Salvadoran industrialists.

Many of these groups, with the exception of private sector representatives, came together in August 1979 to establish a political pressure group known as the Popular Forum (Foro Popular). The Popular Forum issued a call for an end to official and unofficial repression, the establishment of political pluralism, short-term and long-term economic reforms (including agrarian reform), and the incorporation of the mass organizations into the government. This last demand, coupled with the participation in the Popular Forum of the 28 of February Popular Leagues (Ligas Populares 28 febrero–LP-28), the most radical of the mass organizations (it was affiliated with the ERP), convinced many young military officers that some action was necessary to head off a leftist political victory in El Salvador. The government of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua had fallen only the month before, and, from the point of view of the Salvadoran military, the Popular Forum bore a suspicious resemblance to the Broad Opposition Front that had brought the FSLN to power in that country. Although the final form and nature of the new Nicaraguan government was not yet in evidence, the dissolution of Somoza’s National Guard was seen in El Salvador as a precedent and a direct threat to the military institution.

Thus, in a climate of extreme violence, sharp political polarization, and potential revolution, yet another generation of young officers staged a coup in an effort to restore order and address popular frustrations. This new Military Youth deposed President Romero on October 15, 1979, issuing a proclamation decrying the violent, corrupt, and exclusionary nature of the
regime. Beyond their concern with preventing "another Nicaragua," the young officers also were motivated by a desire to address the country’s critical economic situation. Their vague aspirations in this regard apparently revolved around the achievement of an acceptable level of political stability that would staunch the flight of capital out of the country and restore to some degree the smooth functioning of the economy. In this regard, the 1979 coup resembled those of 1948 and 1960. Where it differed, however, was in the realization that effective and radical (by Salvadoran standards) reforms would have to be included in their program even at the risk of alienating the economic elite.

The first junta established by the coup leaders included the officer who headed the reformist faction within the officer corps, Colonel Adolfo Arnoldo Majano Ramos, along with another officer of more uncertain political inclinations, Colonel Jaime Abdul Gutierrez. The other junta members were Ungo from the MNR, Roman Mayorga (a former president of the Jesuit-run Central American University Jose Simeon Canas), and Mario Andino, a representative of the private sector. This junta wasted little time in
announcing and attempting to implement a reformist program. It enacted decrees to freeze landholdings over ninety- eight hectares and to nationalize the coffee export trade. It did not move immediately to effect agrarian reform, but it promised that such a reform would be forthcoming. Another decree officially disbanded Orden. The implementation of that decree, like that of many others during the period of the reformist juntas, was hampered seriously by the limited influence of the reformist faction over the more conservative security force apparatus. Perhaps the best indication of this limitation was the fact that the level of violence carried out by the security forces against members of the mass organizations increased after the installation of the junta.

The military’s reaction in general to the junta’s reformism was mixed. The reformists sought to incorporate new sectors into the political system but stopped short of including the mass organizations in that effort because of the radical ties of those organizations. Conservative officers, led by the defense minister, Colonel Guillermo Garcia, saw the reformists as playing into the hands of the left, weakening the military institution, and increasing the likelihood of a seizure of power by "extremist" elements. Garcia, abetted by Gutierrez, worked to undermine the reformists by excluding Majano’s followers from key commands and positions through transfer or denial of promotion. The majority of Salvadoran officers seemed to fall into neither the reformist nor the conservative camp. Although they shared a generalized anticommunism and a strong commitment to the military institution, they were not sufficiently convinced that the kind of radical reform advocated by the junta was necessary. They opted for a sort of concerned neutrality and inaction that ultimately worked in favor of the aggressive conservative faction.

The first reformist junta eventually failed because of its inability to curb the increasing violence against the left. It was replaced on January 10, 1980, by a second junta. Majano and Gutierrez remained as the military representatives, but the civilian members now included two prominent Christian Democrats– the party’s 1977 vice presidential candidate, Morales, and
Hector Dada. Jose Avalos was the third civilian, replacing Andino, whose departure left the government without significant ties to the private sector. Direct participation in the government by the Christian Democrats was by no means universally accepted among the party membership. It was viewed as a bad precedent by those who still clung idealistically to their commitment to the democratic process.

The second junta was dogged by the human rights issue no less than its predecessor. The continued high level of political violence was attributable not only to the actions of the death squads and the security forces but also to the decision by the left to shun cooperation with the junta in favor of a call for armed insurrection. The three major mass organizations, along with the UDN, issued such a call on January 11, 1980. They established an umbrella front designated the National Coordinator, subsequently amended to Revolutionary Coordinator of the Masses (Coordinadora Revolucionaria de las Masas–CRM), to advance "the struggle." The MNR endorsed the manifesto of the CRM, further undermining the legitimacy of the junta government. The heightened militancy of the CRM was manifested in stepped-up demonstrations, occupations of churches and buildings, and strikes. On January 22, a mass rally held in San Salvador was fired on by the police, and twenty-four demonstrators were killed. On February 25, PDC activist Mario Zamora and others were murdered, apparently because they had been denounced publicly as subversives by now ex-Major D’Aubuisson. Zamora’s killing led directly to the resignation of his brother, Ruben, from the government. Ruben Zamora established his own political party, the Popular Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Popular Social Cristiano–MPSC), taking a number of other disillusioned Christian Democrats with him. Reflecting the intense renewed debate within the PDC over participation in the government, Dada resigned from the junta. His place was taken in a third junta by Duarte, who finally decided to take a direct role in the process that he had supported previously from behind the scenes.

That violence reached a dramatic apex in March 1980 with the murder of the archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, on March 24, 1980. Romero, who had been selected as archbishop in part because of his moderate political views, was influenced strongly by the liberation theology movement, and he was appalled by the brutality employed with increasing
frequency by government forces against the populace and particularly against the clergy. In his weekly radio homilies, he related statistics on political assassination and excesses committed by the military. He frequently urged soldiers to refuse to carry out what he characterized as immoral orders. His high profile made him an important political figure, and he had used his influence to urge the PDC to pull out of the junta and to argue against United States military aid to El Salvador. Despite his stature as the country’s Catholic primate, he was targeted for assassination; all indications are that the killing was carried out by the right wing. Romero’s funeral on March 30 produced a dramatic clash between demonstrators and security forces. The BPR, seeking to capitalize politically on the archbishop’s assassination, organized an antigovernment rally in San Salvador’s Plaza of the Cathedral. What had been billed as a peaceful protest, however, turned violent. Responsibility for the melee that followed never has been firmly placed. Shooting erupted, apparently from both sides, and the police opened fire on the crowd. The resultant news footage of unarmed demonstrators being gunned down on the steps of the National Cathedral had a strong impact abroad, especially in the United States. El Salvador became almost overnight a focus of international debate and scrutiny.

Another high-impact incident was the murder of four churchwomen from the United States in December 1980. The murders themselves drew the ire of the United States government and public and prompted the administration of Jimmy Carter to suspend a program of limited military aid it had granted to the junta government (United States military aid had been rejected by the Romero government in 1977 when the Carter administration sought to link disbursement to human rights compliance). The subsequent investigation frustrated United States officials, angered the American public, and enhanced the suspicion that high-ranking officers in the security forces were orchestrating a cover-up of the affair.

The violent incidents that drew foreign attention to the chaotic situation in El Salvador were played out against a backdrop of a continuing power struggle within the military. While Garcia continued to undermine the position of the reformist faction led by Majano from within the institution, other conservative commanders were plotting to stage a coup to force out the Majanistas once and for all. What at first appeared to be a preemptive strike against these conspirators on May 7, 1980, later proved to be the last nail in Majano’s political coffin. A number of plotters, including D’Aubuisson, were captured by Majano loyalists during a planning session; incriminating documents also were seized at the site. The Majanistas, backed by the PDC members of the junta, demanded that D’Aubuisson and the others be tried for treason. The ex-major’s release on May 13 and the subsequent failure of efforts to bring him to trial demonstrated the power shift within the military and the almost complete lack of PDC influence outside the reformist faction.

Majano’s personal fall from power began with the announcement by Colonel Garcia on May 10 that Colonel Gutierrez was to function as sole commander in chief of the armed forces, a responsibility previously shared with Majano. The reassignment of Majanist officers, usually to foreign diplomatic positions, continued until September, when almost all remaining reformist officers were removed from their posts. Colonel Majano himself survived an assassination attempt by right-wing gunmen in November, only to be ousted from the junta on December 6 while on a visit to Panama. Majano returned in a vain effort to shore up his support among the ranks. By this time, however, he was practically bereft of support within the officer corps, the focus of real power in El Salvador at the time. Majano eventually fled into foreign exile rather than risk further attempts on his life. Many observers believed at the time that he took with him the last hopes of averting a major civil conflict through effective social and economic reform.

Foreign influences on these Salvadoran guerrilla groups served in large part to convince their leadership of the need to sublimate old ideological quarrels in favor of a coordinated and cooperative effort to arouse the Salvadoran masses. The example of the Nicaraguan revolution served as both an inspiration and a loose blueprint for the Salvadorans. Nicaragua demonstrated the importance of incorporating as many sectors of society as possible into a revolutionary movement while still ensuring the predominance of a Marxist-Leninist "vanguard" group within the coalition. In Nicaragua the vanguard role was played by the FSLN, a group that had represented singlehandedly the pro-Cuban insurrectionist left in that country since the
early 1960s. In El Salvador, the situation was more complicated. Clearly, several ideologically diverse (Maoist, pro-Soviet, and pro-Cuban) guerrilla groups could not fulfill simultaneously the role of revolutionary vanguard. Salvadorans recognized a need for unity that was not achieved until Cuba’s Fidel Castro took a direct hand in the matter. The negotiating process began in Havana in December 1979, some two months after the reformist coup in El Salvador, and was concluded by May 1980, when the major guerrilla groups announced their unity under the banner of the Unified Revolutionary Directorate (Direccion Revolucionario Unificada– DRU). Despite some continued infighting, the DRU succeeded in coordinating the groups’ efforts to organize and equip their forces.

While the military strategy of the left was proceeding along one path, some opposition parties and the mass organizations were following a similar and eventually convergent course. On April 1, 1980, the Revolutionary Democratic Front (Frente Democratico Revolucionario–FDR) was established by the CRM, the umbrella group of the mass organizations. It brought together all five of the mass organizations associated with the DRU guerrilla groups as well as Ungo’s MNR, Zamora’s MPSC, another party known as the Popular Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberacion Popular– MLP), forty-nine labor unions, and several student groups. FDR political leaders such as Ungo and Zamora began to travel abroad, where they found political and moral support, particularly in Mexico and among the social democratic parties of Western Europe. Meanwhile, the mass organizations began a campaign of general strikes in an effort to pave the way for a full or partial leftist assumption of power, either through insurrection or through negotiations.

In November 1980, the FDR was struck a traumatic blow when one of its leaders, Enrique Alvarez, was killed along with five other members of the front by a right-wing death squad. This incident underscored the danger of the FDR’s strategy of open organization and opposition and contributed to its formal unification with the DRU. Although the leadership of the mass organizations had long been cooperating with the guerrilla groups, the politicians of the MNR and MPSC had sought to steer a slightly more independent path. After the Alvarez murder, however, they felt compelled to make common cause with the DRU; they took this action not only for their own protection but also because they believed that the prevailing level of violence in the country legitimized a violent response. By 1981 the FDR had been united formally with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional–FMLN), the successor organization to the DRU. The first public announcement of the FMLN-FDR was made in Mexico City in January 1981, some four days after the FMLN guerrollas initiated an operation that they dubbed, prematurely and inaccurately, the "final offensive."

The guerrilla offensive began on January 10, 1981. From the perspective of the FMLN, its timing proved to be premature in a number of respects. The guerrillas’ logistics network was not prepared to support an operation on an almost countrywide level; the rebels generally were not well armed and clearly were not well trained. The Salvadoran armed forces, although initially taken by surprise, were sufficiently cohesive to rally and beat back the guerrilla attacks. The FMLN hoped to establish operational control over Morazan Department and to declare it a "liberated territory." This major objective never was achieved. On a basic level, the final offensive demonstrated the limited extent of the guerrillas’ support among the Salvadoran population. The anticipated countrywide insurrection on which the FMLN had staked so much of its hopes for victory never materialized.

The final offensive was not a total loss for the FMLN, however. It retained military strongholds, especially in Chalatenango Department, where its forces settled in for a protracted guerrilla conflict. The offensive focused further international attention on El Salvador and established the FMLNFDR as a formidable force both politically and militarily; in August 1981, the governments of France and Mexico recognized the front as a "representative political force" and called for a negotiated settlement between the rebels and the government. Seeking to capitalize on such support, FDR representatives carried on a "political offensive" abroad while the FMLN forces dug in, resupplied, and continued their organizational and operational efforts in the field. On the down side for the guerrillas, however, the armed forces continued to repulse their assaults with relative ease, even without the benefit of United States military aid. The timing of the final offensive had in large part reflected the desire of the FMLN to take power before the inauguration of United States president Ronald Reagan. Although it failed militarily, the offensive still drew considerable attention from observers and policymakers in Washington.

The Carter administration had lost considerable leverage in El Salvador when the Romero government renounced United States aid in 1977. The United States therefore welcomed the October 1979 coup and backed up its approval with an economic aid package that by 1980 had become the largest among Western Hemisphere recipients. A small amount of military aid also was provided. United States advisers contributed to the third junta’s agrarian reform program, particularly Phase III, of the reform, the socalled Land to the Tiller decree of April 28, 1980, granting title to smallholders. Phase II, expropriating holdings between 100 and 500 hectares, was decreed in March 1980, but implementation was postponed. The government cited lack of administrative and financial resources for its inaction; many observers believed that political considerations were equally influential. United States policy and influence in El Salvador, however, was fitful and inconsistent from 1979 through 1981. It was driven by two conflicting motivations in the complex and shifting political prism of El Salvador. The first motivation was the prevention of a leftist takeover. Both economic and military aid for the junta governments seemed to be intended to promote a centrist alternative to either a Marxist-led revolution or a conservative military regime. The assumption of power by the FSLN in Nicaragua increased the pressure on the United States to prevent a similar result in El Salvador; this pressure grew by 1981 as the Sandinistas consolidated their dominant role in the Nicaraguan government.

The second motivation was human rights. The Carter administration had established the promotion of human rights as a cornerstone of its foreign policy, particularly in Latin America. Like many Salvadorans, United States officials were frustrated by the inability of the junta governments to contain political violence. Nevertheless, Carter’s policy was sufficiently
flexible to allow increased aid levels despite a generalized upswing in human rights violations in El Salvador, as long as the government there appeared to be making good faith efforts at reform. It was not merely the general level of violence, however, but the specific murders of United States citizens that most affected dealings with El Salvador. As previously mentioned, the December 1980 murder of the four churchwomen produced a complete cutoff of aid pending an investigation of the case. On January 4, 1981, two American land reform advisers from the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) were gunned down along with a Salvadoran in the Sheraton Hotel in San Salvador. This action alarmed not only the White House but also the United States Congress, and it added fuel to the effort to disburse aid based on improvements in the Salvadoran human rights situation.

The Reagan administration initially appeared to stress the need to shore up El Salvador as a barrier against communist expansion in Central America. The United States Department of State issued a special report on February 23, 1981, entitled Communist Interference in El Salvador, which emphasized Nicaraguan, Cuban, and Soviet support for the FMLN. The report was widely criticized in the American media and the United States Congress. Nevertheless, the administration succeeded in increasing substantially the levels of United States military and economic aid to El Salvador, first by executive order, then by legislative appropriation. Although Reagan downplayed the importance of human rights considerations, Congress voted in January 1982 to require certification by the executive every six months of Salvadoran progress in such areas as the curbing of abuses by the armed forces, the implementation of economic and political reforms (particularly agrarian reform), and the demonstration of a commitment to hold free elections with the participation of all political factions (all those that would renounce further military or paramilitary activity). The administration accepted the certification requirement, albeit reluctantly, and proceeded with a policy that emphasized economic maintenance in the face of guerrilla attacks on the country’s infrastructure, military buildup to contain the insurgency, and low-key efforts in the human rights area.

As the FMLN guerrillas settled in for a protracted conflict marked by economic sabotage, the seizure of lightly defended towns and other targets, and the establishment of rural zones of influence, events in El Salvador increasingly began to be driven by decisions made in Washington. One area in which a consensus was reached among the Reagan administration, Congress, and Salvadoran moderates (mainly the PDC) was the desirability of establishing a legitimate government through a process of free elections. The Salvadoran right reluctantly joined this process after it became clear that the administration did not favor a conservative military coup. Duarte, who had been named provisional president on December 13, 1980, under a fourth junta government,
announced on September 15, 1981, that elections for a Constituent Assembly would be held in March 1982. The Constituent Assembly would draft a constitution that would lay the groundwork for a presidential election. It also was hoped that the assembly would incorporate all or most of the reforms decreed by the junta governments into the new document.

The Constituent Assembly elections were participated in by six parties, but only three were of major significance. Two of these were familiar actors in El Salvador, the PDC and PCN. The third was a new party–the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista–Arena)–led by D’Aubuisson, which represented the interests of the right. The FDR refused to participate in the elections, citing fears for the safety of possible candidates, the lack of proper political conditions, and the inordinate influence of the United States. It maintained that negotiations between the FMLN-FDR and the government should precede the holding of elections. Despite a clear preference for Duarte and the PDC in Washington, the Christian Democrats captured only a plurality (35.5 percent, equating to twenty-four seats) of the balloting for the sixty-member Constituent Assembly. Although this was the largest total of any single party, it left the PDC facing a conservative majority in that body as Arena garnered nineteen seats and 25.8 percent of the vote and the PCN won fourteen seats with its 16.8 percent of the total ballots. This result took policymakers in Washington somewhat by surprise. Advocates of reform suddenly were faced with the prospect of a new constitution drafted by a conservative, and presumably antireform, Constituent Assembly. An even more worrisome eventuality for the United States was the possible election of D’Aubuisson as the country’s provisional president. D’Aubuisson had been elected speaker of the Constituent Assembly, and many observers expected him to win the provisional presidency as well. The fact that he was passed over for this post in favor of the moderate independent Alvaro Magana Borja reportedly reflected pressure both from the United States government, which did not wish to be put in the position of requesting increased levels of aid for a D’Aubuisson-led government, and the Salvadoran armed forces, which shared the Reagan administration’s interest in raising the level of military aid.

In the 1984-88 period, the military largely adhered to its new constitutional obligations to remain apolitical and obedient to civilian rule. It made no effort to influence the outcome of the elections that brought Duarte and the Legislative Assembly into office. The elected leadership determined the country’s domestic and foreign policy, generally without discernible interference by the military. President Duarte normally made the basic decisions on how to deal with the guerrillas, and he set the rules of engagement, which the military obeyed. Military leaders spurned attempts by antidemocratic right-wing extremists to incite coups, and by late 1988 no military coup attempt had been made. Nevertheless, there were occasions when civil-military relations were seriously strained. For example, in October 1985 a group of army officers accused Duarte of endangering the national security by allowing 123 rebels to go free in exchange for the release of his kidnapped daughter. Although the officers asked the High Command to consider replacing the president, a day-long debate in that body defused the dissent. The military reportedly also still set its own rules of conduct much of the time, despite Duarte’s efforts to strengthen civilian control. For example, the military resisted civilian efforts to force it to make a public accounting of the involvement of some officers in a multimillion-dollar kidnapping ring, a corrupt arms deal, and the murder of several United States citizens. In addition, some army officers with records of human rights abuses continued to be promoted. Moreover, with the exceptions of Vides and Blandon, who became identified with Duarte and his administration, the military kept its distance from the PDC government and cultivated its own ties with political parties, the Roman Catholic Church, and business and labor groups.

Although the armed forces remained a powerful institution, exerting a strong, behind-the-scenes influence on national security affairs during the Duarte administration, usually through the High Command, the military’s direct political involvement decreased. Observers cited three reasons why a consensus toward a professional, apolitical military institution gradually developed. First and foremost, the military understood that its submission to civilian authority was essential for obtaining United States support to carry out its primary national security mission, namely counterinsurgency. Second, a more apolitical stance by the military was necessary if the country wished to end its international isolation and improve economic, diplomatic, and perhaps even military cooperation with West European and Latin American democracies. And third, most military leaders understood that the political appeal of the insurgency could best be neutralized by setting up representative civilian
institutions and the infrastructure of a democratic society, even though these were historically alien to the country. Thus, the military’s role in Salvadoran political life changed dramatically during the Duarte administration. The military publicly supported the democratic process and remained neutral in it; military leaders stated repeatedly that civilian officials were responsible for
determining El Salvador’s political, economic, social, and foreign policies.

In 1987 the Duarte administration’s relations with the military were strained, however, by the government’s long-range plans to build up a police force independent of the army, by the release of guerrilla prisoners, and by a brief unilateral ceasefire declared by the president in order to comply with the Central American Peace Agreement that Duarte signed on behalf of El Salvador on August 7, 1987. Although the High Command approved peace talks with the guerrillas in September 1987, the military’s public support for the dialogue seemed less than enthusiastic. Two events in late November 1987 further strained civil military relations. One was the temporary return from exile of two leaders of the political front of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional–FMLN), the Revolutionary Democratic Front (Frente Democratico Revolucionario–FDR). Another was Duarte’s release of new evidence purportedly linking Roberto D’Aubuisson Arrieta, the Arena leader, with the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez. In response to these two events, Salvadoran right-wing political leaders, including D’Aubuisson and Ochoa, began appealing for "patriotic action" by their traditional ally, the army. Ochoa stressed the duty of the military commanders in the field to defend El Salvador from both the "terrorists" and the Christian democratic government. These rightist leaders also attempted to appeal to the nationalism of army officers who resented the United States embassy’s influence over their actions. One target of the rightists was Colonel Carlos Reynaldo Lopez Nuila, a senior army officer and the PN director general. Lopez Nuila had strongly supported Duarte, had tried to loosen the army’s control over police forces in San Salvador, and had actively investigated human rights abuses and other crimes by some senior army officers.

The High Command held a series of meetings to define its position and also met with politicians to discuss the electoral dispute that delayed the convening of the Legislative Assembly elected in March 1988. Defense Minister Vides publicly dismissed the possibility that a coup would result from the political crisis that had developed by June 1988, when Duarte left the
country to receive medical treatment for what was reported to be terminal cancer. Meanwhile, members of the military academy’s class of 1966 (the so-called tandona, or big class), led by Colonel Ponce, were beginning to move into positions of power. By mid-1988, after five years on the job, General Vides and General Blandon appeared to be losing influence as younger, more aggressive officers, some of whose attitudes toward the democratic process were unclear, anticipated the generals’ approaching retirement.

In mid-1988 the military, like the government, appeared to be in a transitional period. Reportedly disenchanted with the Christian democratic government over its handling of the economy and its efforts at dialogue with the guerrillas, and uneasy over the potential investigation of military officers accused of crimes, the military appeared receptive to the assumption of power by the right and by Arena. The military was particularly worried that after the 1989 presidential election the country would still have a weak civilian government. By mid-1988 Lieutenant Colonel Rene Emilio Ponce Torres, commander of the army’s First Infantry Brigade in eastern San Miguel Department, had become publicly critical of civilians, saying bureaucratic infighting and the political parties’ inability to resolve their differences were weakening the war effort. Ponce’s renewed efforts to win over citizens in zones of conflict worried some in the civilian government, who felt that the powerful, more cohesive military was usurping their functions.

Elections were held in October 1989; these were boycotted by some of the guerrillas, but civilian sectors of the FDR (members of the social democratic and Social Christian parties) participated, with Guillermo Ungo as their presidential candidate. Alfredo Cristiani, the ARENA (right-wing) party’s candidate, won the election. In November 1989, the FMLN launched an offensive occupying several areas of the capital and surrounding regions. The Government responded by bombing several densely populated areas of the capital. Six Jesuits, including the rector of the University of Central America, Ignacio Ellacuria, were tortured and killed by heavily armed soldiers. This provoked a world-wide outcry, especially from the Catholic Church, and American economic aid was threatened. According to the El Salvador Human Rights Commission, women, students and members of labor unions were the people who suffered most from repression. During those years, the human rights movement was led by mothers, wives, daughters and relatives of the thousands of victims of repression, and by the National Union of Salvadoran Workers (UNTS).

On March 10 1991, the legislative and local elections reflected a new spirit of negotiation. For the first time in 10 years the FMLN did not call for the boycott of the elections, instead they decreed a 3-day unilateral truce. Abstention was still above 50 per cent, and there were acts of paramilitary violence immediately prior to the polls. The voters narrowly elected the ruling party with 43 out of 84 seats. In Mexico on April 4 1991 delegates of the Cristiani Government and the FMLN started negotiations for a cease fire agreement. On April 19, 10,000 demonstrators, from 70 social organizations, gathered in the Permanent Committee for National Debate (CPDN), demanding that the Constitution be reformed. On April 27, after several attempts, representatives of the Government and the Farabundo Marti Front signed the "Mexico Agreements" restricting the function of the Armed Forces to the defence of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The formation of paramilitary groups was banned, and it was agreed to reform article 83 of the constitution to say that sovereignty "resides in the people, and that it is from the people that public power emerges". In New York another agreement was reached in June. The Salvadoran Government committed itself to dismantling the National Guard and the Rural Police (Policia de Hacienda), replacing it with Civilian Police including FMLN-members.

On November 16 1991, new talks began in the UN headquarters. This time, the FMLN declared an indefinite unilateral truce until a new, definite, cease-fire was signed. A Spanish parliamentary delegation wrote a report on the murders of the six Spanish Jesuits from the Central American University (UCA). The report, submitted to the Spanish, European, Salvadoran, and American parliaments, accused the Salvadoran government and the army of concealing evidence which could help to clarify the facts. On January 1 1992, after 21 weeks of negotiation and 12 years of civil war, both parties met in New York to sign agreements and covenants establishing peace in El Salvador. The war left 75,000 people dead, 8,000 missing, and nearly one million in exile.

The final agreements were signed in the Mexican city of Chapultepec on January 16 1992. They included substantial modifications to the Constitution and to the structure, organization, regulation, and form of the Armed Forces. They guaranteed to change rural land tenure and to alter the terms of employee participation in the privatization of State companies; they established the creation of bodies for the protection of human rights, and guaranteed the legal status of the FMLN. According to the peace accords the Government was to reduce its troops by half by 1994, bringing the number down to 30,000; in addition, it was to disband its intelligence service. As of March 3, a new civilian police was to be created, made up in part by former members of the FMLN. In January 1992, according to the terms of the Law of National Reconciliation, amnesty was granted to all political prisoners. In addition, the Government pledged to turn over lands to the combatants and provide assistance to campesinos belonging to both bands. The FMLN became a political party as of April 30 1991, and held its first public meeting on February 1 1992. After years of being underground, it was presided over by guerrilla commanders Shafick Handal, Joaquin Villalobos, Fernan Cienfuegos, Francisco Jovel and Leonel Gonzalez.

In early March 1992, the first implementation difficulties began to be seen. Several leaders of the National Union of Salvadoran Workers accused the Government of violating the accords, and launching a propaganda campaign against grassroots organizations. On February 15 1993, the last 1,700 armed rebels turned over their weapons in a ceremony which was attended by several Central American heads of State and by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The National Civil Police was created, as well as a Human Rights Defense Commission and a Supreme Electoral Court.

The result of the investigation of human rights violations, carried out by the Truth Commission created by the UN, led to the resignation of Defence Minister General Rene Emilio Ponce, singled out in that investigation as being the one who ordered the assassination of six Jesuits at the University of San Salvador in 1989. According to the Commission’s final document, the military, the death squads linked to these and the State were responsible for 85 per cent of the civil rights violations committed during the war. The Truth Commission recommended the dismissal of 102 military leaders and that some former guerrilla leaders be deprived of their political rights. President Cristiani proposed a general amnesty for cases where excesses had been
committed; this proposal was approved on March 20 1993, only 5 days after the document drawn up by the Truth Commission had been made public. With this measure, the most serious crimes committed during the war met with total impunity.

A year later on March 20 1994, the first elections since the civil war were held. The candidate of the left coalition, Democratic Convergence – made up of the FMLN and other groups – won 25.5 per cent in the first round of voting, against 49.2 per cent for the right-wing candidate, Armando Calderón Sol, from the ARENA party. After the elections, the FMLN faced an internal crisis triggered by discrepancies between the groups that make up the alliance. According to ONUSAL, the peace accords did not bring an end to the violence. In addition to the existence of intelligence activities within the Armed Forces, members of the military were linked to organized crime. Likewise, the fact that nothing was done to create viable employment opportunities for discharged troops (from both bands) led to an increase in petty crime. The long-promised award of land to demobilized fighters was slow and inefficient. By mid-1994, only one-third of the potential beneficiaries -12,000 of a total 37,000 former members of the army or the guerrillas – had obtained their plots. The rest remained inactive, living in substandard temporary housing and often drifting into organized crime.

An agreement concluded on May 1995 between ARENA and the Democratic Party – split from the FMLN – enabled a 3 per cent rise of the valued added tax from 10 to 13 per cent. This raise was explained on the need to collect funds to finance land reform, infrastructure works and reconstruction of the country’s electoral and judicial apparatus. In August 1996 demonstrators who
considered themselves affected by the slowness of the process, which included the transfer of plots of land and payment of retribution to war veterans, occupied streets and government buildings in downtown San Salvador. In May, the Democratic Party withdrew from its deal with ARENA, which left the Government without a parliamentary majority. In March 1997, the opposition’s FMLN obtained an important victory in municipal elections, after winning in the capital and dozens of provincial cities. In Parliament, ARENA, with 33.3 per cent of the vote, won 28 seats while FMLN with 32.1 per cent ended up with 27 deputies. Electoral turnout was just 40 per cent of those eligible to vote.

The March 1999 elections ratified ARENA’s dominance. At the age of 39 Francisco Flores, a philosophy and political science graduate, became the youngest president in South America, providing an image of rejuvenation. The day after Flores was sworn in as president, peasant farmers and environmental leaders marched through the main streets of San Salvador, calling for a plan to overcome the disasters caused by hurricane Mitch. Flores’s government program, "The New Alliance", had four priorities: work, social investment, citizen security and sustainable development. However the opposition, led by Schaffic
Handal, thought the president would continue the policy of favoring the country’s financial and business sectors. In March 2000, however, the FMLN won the greatest number of seats in the National Assembly, although not enough to control the legislature. In January 2002 the FMLN was split, as 6 members (renovadores) left the party, because they were accused of working with the government. They built an allianz with the Centro Democrático Unido (CDU), which in turn made the ARENA the strongest party with 29 seats in parliament.

References:

Ecuador National History

Ecuador offers little archeological evidence of its preHispanic civilizations. Nonetheless, its most ancient artifacts– remnants of the Valdivia culture found along the coast north of the modern city of Santa Elena in Guayas Province–date from as early as 3500 B.C. Other major coastal archaeological sites are found in the provinces of Manabí and Esmeraldas; major sites in the Sierra are found in Carchi and Imbabura provinces in the north, Tungurahua and Chimborazo provinces in the middle of the Andean highlands, and Cañar, Azuay, and Loja provinces in the south. Nearly all of these sites are dated in the last 2,000 years. Large parts of Ecuador, including almost all of the Oriente, however, remain unknown territory to archaeologists.

Knowledge of Ecuador before the Spanish conquest is limited also by the absence of recorded history within either the Inca or pre-Inca cultures as well as by the lack of interest taken in Ecuador by the Spanish chroniclers. Before the Inca conquest of the area that comprises modern-day Ecuador, the region was populated by a number of distinct tribes that spoke mutually unintelligible languages and were often at war with one another. Four culturally related Indian groups, known as the Esmeralda, the Manta, the Huancavilca, and the Puná, occupied the coastal lowlands in that order from north to south. They were
hunters, fishermen, agriculturalists, and traders. Trade was especially important among different coastal groups, who seem to have developed considerable oceanic travel, but the lowland cultures also traded with the peoples of the Sierra, exchanging fish for salt.

The Sierra was populated by elements, from north to south, of the Pasto, the Cara, the Panzaleo, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Palta cultures. These people lived mostly on mountainsides and in widely dispersed villages located in the fertile valleys between the Cordillera Occidental (Western Chain) and the Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Chain) of the Andes. The Sierra natives were a sedentary, agricultural people, cultivating maize, quinoa, beans, and many varieties of potatoes and squashes. The use of irrigation was prevalent, especially among the Cañari. A wide variety of fruits, including pineapples and avocados, was grown in the lower, warmer valleys. Historians believe that political organization centered around local chieftains who collaborated with one another in confederations or were subjected to "kings." Such local chiefs had considerable authority; they could raise armies, for example, and administer communal lands.

The Inca expansion northward from modern-day Peru during the late fifteenth century met with fierce resistance by several Ecuadorian tribes, particularly the Cañari, in the region around modern-day Cuenca; the Cara in the Sierra north of Quito; and the Quitu, occupants of the site of the modern capital, after whom it was to be named. The conquest of Ecuador began in 1463 under the leadership of the ninth Inca, the great warrior Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. In that year, his son Topa took over command of the army and began his march northward through the Sierra. After defeating the Quitu, he moved southward along the coast, and from there he launched an extensive ocean journey that took him, depending on the account, to the Galápagos Islands or to the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia. Upon his return, he tried unsuccessfully to subdue the populations around the Gulf of Guayaquil and the island of Puná. By 1500 Topa’s son, Huayna Capac, overcame the resistance of these populations and that of the Cara, and thus incorporated all of modern-day Ecuador into Tawantinsuyu, as the Inca empire was known.

The influence of these conquerors based in Cuzco (modern-day Peru) was limited to about a half century, or less in some parts of Ecuador. During that period, some aspects of life remained unchanged. Traditional religious beliefs, for example, persisted throughout the period of Inca rule. In other areas, however, such as agriculture, land tenure, and social organization, Inca rule had a profound effect despite its relatively short duration. Farming remained the major form of subsistence, but the Inca introduced a variety of new crops, including yucca, sweet potatoes, coca, and peanuts. The use of llamas and irrigation was expanded considerably. Largely in private hands previously, land became, in theory at least, the property of the Inca emperor. In practice, most land was held collectively by the ayllu, an agrarian community group headed by a curaca, that was the basic social grouping under the Inca. Within the ayllu, each domestic family unit was allotted a small plot of arable land to grow food for its own consumption. The state and the clergy also held a substantial amount of land, which was worked by the emperor’s subjects as part of their obligatory public service.

Emperor Huayna Capac became very fond of Quito, making it a secondary capital of Tawantinsuyu and living out his elder years there before his death in about 1527. He preferred to rule through local curacas as long as they were willing to accept the divine authority of the Inca and to pay tribute. When he met opposition, the emperor dispersed large parts of local populations to other areas of the empire and replaced them with colonists who were brought from as far away as Chile. This wholesale movement of populations helped spread Quechua, the language of Cuzco, into Ecuador. A standing army, a large bureaucracy, and a temporally important clergy further enforced the rule of the emperor.

Huayna Capac’s sudden death from a strange disease, described by one Spanish chronicler as "probably smallpox or measles," precipitated a bitter power struggle between Huascar, a son borne by Huayna Capac’s sister and thus the
legitimate heir, and Atahualpa, a son who, although borne by a lesser wife, was reputedly his father’s "favorite." This struggle raged during the half-decade before the arrival of Francisco Pizarro’s conquering expedition in 1532. The key battle of this civil war was fought on Ecuadorian soil, near Riobamba, where Huascar’s northbound troops were met and defeated by Atahualpa’s southbound troops. Atahualpa’s final victory over Huascar in the days just before the Spanish conquerors arrived resulted in large part from the loyalty of two of Huayna Capac’s best generals, who were based in Quito along with Atahualpa. The victory remains a source of national pride to Ecuadorians as a rare case when "Ecuador" forcefully bettered a "neighboring country."

The discovery and conquest of Ecuador by Spanish forces in the early sixteenth century are adjuncts to the history of the conquest of Peru, the richest of the New World prizes won for the Spanish crown. The central figure of that history is Pizarro, an illiterate adventurer from Trujillo in the Spanish region of Extremadura, who had accompanied Vasco Núñez de Balboa in his crossing of the Isthmus of Panama to discover the Pacific in 1513. Eleven years later, Panamanian governor Pedro Arias de Avila ("Pedrarias") authorized Pizarro, in partnership with an equally questionable character, a Castilian named Diego de
Almargo, and a priest named Fernando de Luque, financing to explore southward down the west coast of South America. Their first two voyages, in 1524 and 1526, ended in failure; not until the third voyage, launched in 1531, would the Peruvian prize be won and the Inca be conquered.

The first European to set foot on the territory of modern-day Ecuador was probably Bartolomé Ruiz de Estrada, the pilot for Pizarro on his second voyage, who pushed southward while Pizarro explored the Colombian coast and Almargo returned to Panama for supplies. Pizarro himself landed on the Ecuadorian coast later during his exploratory voyage and traveled as far as Tumbes in the extreme north of present-day Peru, in defiance of official orders to return to Panama.

Having thus lost the favor of the king’s representatives in Panama, Pizarro was forced to return to the royal court in Spain to petition King Charles I personally for authorization of a third voyage. Flush with the success of Hernán Cortés in Mexico and tantalized by the gold pieces brought by Pizarro from Tumbes and growing fables of great wealth in the South American interior, Charles granted Pizarro authorization and much more: the titles of governor and captain-general of Peru, a generous salary, and extensive territorial concessions. Almargo was granted important, although less generous, titles and privileges; his resentment of this slight would affect relationships for the rest of the conquest. At the time that Charles granted various titles to Pizarro and Almargo, he named de Luque Bishop of Tumbes. Before returning to Panama in 1530, Pizarro recruited for the conquest several immediate family members, including two full brothers named Gonzalo and Juan as well as two half-brothers. The participation of so many of Pizarro’s relatives further strained relations between the two partners in conquest.

Pizarro then embarked from Panama with some 180 men while Almargo remained there to gather additional recruits. After thirteen days at sea, Pizarro landed once again on the coast of Ecuador, where he procured some gold, silver, and emeralds, which were dispatched to Panama and put to good use in Almargo’s efforts. Although the capture of the Inca stronghold of Tumbes was Pizarro’s first objective, he was forced to spend several months in Ecuador, first nursing a rash of ulcers and then fighting the fierce warriors of the island of Puná. By the time the conquerors arrived in Tumbes, it had been destroyed by the Puná warriors and its population dispersed. Just to the south, they founded the first Spanish settlement in Peru, San Miguel de Tangarará. Upon their fateful departure to Cajamarca on September 24, 1532, Pizarro left a lieutenant, Sebastián de Benalcázar, in charge of protecting and developing San Miguel as a Spanish base of operations. Two years later, Benalcázar would lead the conquering forces that moved northward into Ecuador.

Meanwhile, Atahualpa was resting near Cajamarca, in the Sierra of northern Peru, following the defeat and capture of his brother. He had known of the arrival of foreign invaders for several months; it is not clear why he did not order their obliteration before they could penetrate into the heart of the empire. After a march of almost two months, Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca and summoned Atahualpa from the nearby thermal baths known today as the Baños del Inca. Reluctantly, accompanied by several thousands of his best troops, Atahualpa went to Cajamarca’s central plaza, where he was met, not by the conquistadors, but by their chaplain, Fray Vicente de Valverde, who called upon the Inca emperor to submit to the representatives of the Spanish crown and the Christian god. Atahualpa replied disparagingly and, upon his throwing a Christian prayer book to the ground in contempt, concealed Spanish soldiers opened fire, killing thousands of Atahualpa’s defenders and taking the Inca emperor captive. This slaughter, called "the decisive battle" of the conquest of Peru by historian Hubert Herring, took place on November 16, 1532.

A panic-stricken Atahualpa, fearing that Pizarro might be planning to depose him in favor of his rival brother, summoned Huascar, at this time imprisoned in Cuzco, to Cajamarca, then ordered him to be executed along with hundreds of Huascar’s nearest of kin. It served the Spaniards’ purposes to allow Atahualpa the freedom, from his cell, to command his forces. Thus continued the rapid annihilation, through a vicious civil war that now overlapped with the Spanish conquest, of the army and leadership of one of the great polities of modern history. Pizarro was not planning to depose Atahualpa, of course, but to execute him. First, however, he had Atahualpa fill his cell, once with gold, then twice with silver (estimated at 4,850 kilograms of gold and 9,700 kilograms of silver) supposedly as ransom for his release. Instead the Spaniards garrotted Atahualpa on August 29, 1533, following a mock trial at which he was convicted of every charge that Pizarro could invent for the occasion. Having deprived the Inca empire of leadership, Pizarro and another conquistador, Hernando de Soto, moved south to Cuzco, the heart of Tawantinsuyu, which they captured in November 1533; they then led their men in an orgy of looting, pillaging, and torture in search of more precious metals.

Benalcázar, Pizarro’s lieutenant and fellow Extremaduran, had already departed from San Miguel with 140 foot soldiers and a few horses on his conquering mission to Ecuador. At the foot of Mount Chimborazo, near the modern city of Riobamba, he met and defeated the forces of the great Inca warrior Rumiñahui with the aid of Cañari tribesmen who, happy to throw off the yoke of their Inca rulers, served as guides and allies to the conquering Spaniards. Rumiñahui fell back to Quito, and, while in pursuit of the Inca army, Benalcázar encountered another, quite sizable, conquering party led by Guatemalan Governor Pedro de Alvarado. Bored with administering Central America, Alvarado had set sail for the south without the crown’s authorization, landed on the Ecuadorian coast, and marched inland to the Sierra. Pizarro had heard of this competing expedition some time earlier and had sent Almargo north to reinforce Benalcázar. Together, Pizarro’s two representatives managed to convince Alvarado, with the help of a handsome amount of gold, to call off his expedition and allow the "legal" conquest to proceed as planned. Most of Alvarado’s men joined Benalcázar for the siege of Quito.

Rumiñahui left Quito in flames for the approaching conquistadors. It was mid-1534 and, after the customary orgy of violence, in December the Spanish established the city of San Francisco de Quito on top of the ruins of the secondary Inca capital. Benalcázar was soon off on more conquests in Colombia to the north; it was not until December 1540 that Quito received its first captain-general in the person of Gonzalo Pizarro, the brother of Francisco. Benalcázar had also founded the city of Guayaquil in 1533, but it had subsequently been retaken by the local Huancavilca tribesmen. Francisco de Orellana, yet another lieutenant of Francisco Pizarro from the Spanish city of Trujillo, put down the native rebellion and in 1537 reestablished this city, which a century later would become one of Spain’s principal ports in South America.

Orellana is chiefly remembered, however, for being the first European to travel the length of the Amazon River. This journey, one of the great adventure tales of Spain’s conquest of America, began in February 1541, when the lure of spices, particularly cinnamon, led Pizarro’s brother Gonzalo to set off from Quito to the eastern jungle with a party that included 210 Spaniards and some 4,000 Indians. Orellana was second in command. After several months of hardship and deprivation during a crossing of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes that cost the lives of nearly half the party, Gonzalo Pizarro placed Orellana in charge of building a brigantine in the Coca River in present-day Ecuador. Together with fifty-seven Spaniards and several hundred Indians, Orellana sailed downstream in search of food and friendly natives. The explorers never rejoined Pizarro, however, but set out on their own in search of neither food nor spices, but gold. "Having eaten our shoes and saddles boiled with a few herbs," wrote Orellana in a caricature of the ruggedness for which the Extremaduran conquerors were noted, "we set out to reach the Kingdom of Gold." The group reached the mouth of the Amazon, a name given by Orellana because he believed that they had been attacked by the legendary giant female warriors at a point below the Negro River, and sailed northward along the Atlantic coast as far as Venezuela, then back to Spain. The journey completed by the expedition headed by Orellana was not to be repeated for 100 years.

In the same August 1542, as Orellana reached the Atlantic, Gonzalo Pizarro was stumbling back to Quito with the few surviving members of his party. He found Peru in political chaos. Several years earlier, Almargo had entered into open rebellion against Francisco Pizarro and been defeated in battle, tried, and executed in his newly founded capital city of Lima. The resentment among Almargo’s followers did not end, however, and in June 1541, Francisco Pizarro had been assassinated by the remnants of Almargo’s army. In an attempt to try to control the unruly conquistadors and to end the enslavement of the native population of America, the Spanish crown had promulgated the New Laws in 1542, which in theory though not in practice abolished encomiendas, and two years later it sent its first viceroy to head a newly created colonial administrative system. Gonzalo, who had little interest in being controlled by anyone, defeated and killed the first viceroy on a battlefield near Quito. After a brief period of glory, however, the younger Pizarro was himself defeated by the forces of a subsequent royal emissary, and in 1548 he was tried and hung for treason. It was the end of the tumultuous era of the conquistadors and the beginning of two and
a half centuries of relatively pacific colonial rule.

Spain’s colonies in the New World were, legally, the personal patrimony of the king, and he held absolute control over all matters in Ecuador. Colonial administration at all levels was carried out in the name of the monarch. The king’s chief agency in Madrid was the Council of the Indies, which devoted most of its energies to formulating legislation designed to regulate virtually every aspect of colonial life. The House of Trade, seated in Seville, was placed in charge of governing commerce between Spain and the colonies. In America, the king’s major administrative agents were the viceroyalty, the audiencia
(court), and the municipal council (cabildo). Between 1544 and 1563, Ecuador was an integral part of the Viceroyalty of
Peru, having no administrative status independent of Lima. It remained a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until 1720, when it joined the newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada; within the viceroyalty, however, Ecuador was awarded its own audiencia in 1563, allowing it to deal directly with Madrid on certain matters. The Quito Audiencia, which was both a court of justice and an advisory body to the viceroy, consisted of a president and several judges (oidores). The territory under the jurisdiction of Quito considerably exceeded that of present-day Ecuador, extending southward to the port of Paita in the north of
present-day Peru, northward to the port of Buenaventura and the city of Cali in the south of present-day Colombia, and well out into the Amazon River Basin in the east. Quito was also the site of the first (founded in 1547) and most important municipal council within the area comprising modern-day Ecuador. It consisted of several councilmen (regidores) whose extensive responsibilities included the maintenance of public order and the distribution of land in the vicinity of the local community.

The borders of the Audiencia (or kingdom as it was also known) of Quito were poorly defined, and a great deal of its territory remained either unexplored or untamed throughout much of the colonial era. Only in the Sierra, and there only after a series of battles that raged throughout the mid-sixteenth century, was the native population fully subjugated by the Spanish. The jungle lowlands in both the Oriente and the coastal region of Esmeraldas were, in contrast, refuges for an estimated one-quarter of the total native population that remained recalcitrant and unconquered throughout most or all of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite Orellana’s harrowing journey of discovery, the Oriente remained terra incognita to the Spanish until its settlement by Jesuit missionaries beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, and it continued to be largely inaccessible throughout the remainder of the colonial period.

The coastal lowlands north of Manta were conquered, not by the Spanish, but by blacks from the Guinean coast who, as slaves, were shipwrecked en route from Panama to Peru in 1570. The blacks killed or enslaved the native males and married the females, and within a generation they constituted a population of zambos (mixed black and Indian) that resisted Spanish authority until the end of the century and afterwards managed to retain a great deal of political and cultural independence. The relative autonomy of this coastal region nearest to Quito enhanced the effect of the Andes in isolating the Ecuadorian Sierra from the rest of the world during most of the nearly three centuries of colonial rule. Behind these barriers a social system was established that was essentially a replica of the Spanish feudal system at the time of the conquest, with the peninsulares (Spanish-born persons residing in the New World) being the ruling, landed elite and the Indians being the subject people who worked the land. Although a few towns, particularly Quito, Riobamba, and Cuenca, grew along with the administrative and Roman Catholic bureaucracies and the local textile industries, colonial Ecuador was essentially a rural society.

The most common form in which the Spanish occupied the land was the encomienda. Settlers were granted land, along with its inhabitants and resources, in return for taking charge of defending the territory, spiritually indoctrinating the native population, and extracting the crown’s annual tribute (payable half in gold, half in local products) from the encomienda‘s Indian population. By the early seventeenth century, there were some 500 encomiendas in Ecuador. Although many consisted of quite sizable haciendas, they were generally much smaller than the estates commonly found elsewhere in
South America. A multitude of reforms and regulations did not prevent the encomienda from becoming a system of virtual slavery of the Indians, estimated at about one-half the total Ecuadorian population, who lived on them. In 1589 the president of the audiencia recognized that many Spaniards were accepting grants only to sell them and undertake urban occupations, and he stopped distributing new lands to Spaniards; however, the institution of the encomienda persisted until nearly the end of the colonial period.

Land that was less desirable was never distributed, but rather was left to traditional Indian communities or simply remained open public land. In the late sixteenth century, the estimated one-quarter of the total native population on such public lands was resettled into Indian towns called reducciones in order to facilitate the collection of the Indians’ tribute, their conversion to Christianity, and the exploitation of their labor. Outside the encomienda, Indian labor was most commonly exploited through the mita, modeled after the Inca institution of the same name. All able-bodied "free" Indians were required to devote one year of their labor to some public or private Spanish concern, be it constructing a church, road, or public building, or working in a textile mill. Although mitayos were paid for their labor, the amount was extremely meager, often less than debts accumulated through purchases from their employer, thus requiring the them to continue working, sometimes indefinitely, after their assigned period of service. In this way, the mita system disintegrated into debt peonage. Debts were commonly passed on to ensuing generations, in which cases the mita was, in effect, slavery. Black slaves, in comparison, were extremely expensive and were thus used almost exclusively in the lowland plantation culture along the hot, humid coast, where the Sierra Indians proved unable to adapt. Black slaves numbered some 60,000 by the end of the colonial period.

The best estimates of the size of Ecuador’s native population at the time of the conquest range between 750,000 and 1 million. Diseases imported by the Spanish, particularly smallpox and measles, virtually wiped out the indigenous coastal population during the sixteenth century and also decimated the Sierra population, although not as thoroughly as in the Costa or many other areas of Latin America. Despite a succession of deadly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the native population increased steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries except in the 1690s, when an epidemic of smallpox and diphtheria was reported to have killed one-third of Ecuador’s population.

Ecuador’s Indians probably owe their relative prosperity during the colonial period to the audiencia‘s lack of mineral resources. The hardships of working in the silver and mercury mines of Peru cost the lives of millions of Indian mitayos; Ecuador, in contrast, had only small deposits of gold and silver in its southern provinces of Cuenca and Loja, and these deposits were depleted by the end of the sixteenth century. Its serrano economy was based, instead, on agriculture and textiles. Cotton, grown on the eastern slope of the Andes in Quijos Province, and wool, from imported merino sheep that thrived in the high Andean valleys, provided the raw materials for high-quality textiles that were manufactured in hundreds of sweatshops, called obrajes, and exported throughout Latin America. Indian mitayos, who commonly worked from dawn to dusk chained to their looms, provided the labor. As appalling as were the preindustrial working conditions in the obrajes, most historians agree that they were more bearable than those found in the Peruvian mines at the time. The coastal economy revolved around shipping and trade. Guayaquil, despite being destroyed on several occasions by fire and incessantly plagued by either yellow fever or malaria, was a center of vigorous trade among the colonies, a trade that was technically illegal under the mercantilist philosophy of the contemporary Spanish rulers. The guiding principle of mercantilism in the New World was that the colonies existed to serve the commercial needs of Spain. Since trade among the colonies would not enrich Spain, it was banned. In addition to textiles and other light manufactures from the Sierra, hardwoods and cacao from coastal plantations were exported from the port of Guayaquil to points all over Spanish America, while a wide variety of items were imported, including foods and wines from Peru. Guayaquil also became the largest shipbuilding center on the west coast of South America before the end of the colonial period.

The Ecuadorian economy, like that in the mother country, suffered a severe depression throughout most of the eighteenth century. Textile production dropped an estimated 50 to 75 percent between 1700 and 1800. Ecuador’s cities gradually fell into ruins, and by 1790 the elite was reduced to poverty, selling haciendas and jewelry in order to subsist. The Indian population, in contrast, probably experienced an overall improvement in its situation, as the closing of the obrajes commonly led Indians to work under less arduous conditions on either haciendas or traditional communal lands. Ecuador’s economic woes were, no doubt, compounded by the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 by King Charles III. Missions in the Oriente were abandoned, and many of the best schools and the most efficient haciendas and obrajes lost the key personnel that made them outstanding institutions in colonial Ecuador.

The Bourbon kings were best known for their economic and administrative reforms, which, like the expulsion of the Jesuits, were designed to enhance the flagging power of the crown in Spanish America. As a result of those reforms, the Quito Audiencia was transferred in 1720 from the authority of the Peruvian viceroyalty to the newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, whose capital was in Bogotá. In the process, the Quiteño authorities gained jurisdiction over their own political and military affairs, while the audiencia‘s southern and eastern boundaries were delineated more specifically and retracted. A royal decree (cédula) in 1802 further shrank the area of the audiencia by transferring the provinces of Quijos and Mainas in the Oriente to Peru. Another decree by Charles IV in 1803 transferred the port of Guayaquil to Peru, but resistance by port citizens led to its being returned to the jurisdiction of Quito in 1819.

Between 1736 and 1745, a French scientific mission with some of the best minds in Europe resided in Quito and contributed to the development of ideas in Ecuador. While carrying out their scientific mission–measuring the earth’s circumference at the equator–the members of the mission disseminated the message of the Enlightenment, which stressed nationalism, individualism, and a questioning of authority and tradition. Works of Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine, introducing such revolutionary concepts as equality and freedom, managed to elude the censors of both the Inquisition and a languishing political authority, and penetrated Ecuador’s historical cultural isolation. The most famous Ecuadorian intellectual of the age, Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, was a physician and a writer who advocated emancipation from Spain and a republican, democratic system of government. Honored today as the precursor of Ecuadorian independence, Espejo was imprisoned for his ideas and died in jail in 1795.

The coming of independence was also foreshadowed by the numerous civil disturbances that rocked the Ecuadorian Sierra from the 1760s until the end of the colonial era. In 1765 the Quiteño white and mestizo or cholo (a person of mixed white and Indian ancestry) population revolted against reforms in the colonial tax system. Potentially more serious was a subsequent series of Indian rebellions in Latacunga and Riobamba. Although clearly of a political nature, calling for the overthrow of the Spanish regime and the expulsion of all the whites from the land in addition to putting an end to the odious mita system, these uprisings never led to such large-scale insurrections as occurred in Peru at the same time. Ironically, the passing of the colonial era, according to most historians, occasioned a worsening of conditions for the indigenous population.

The struggle for independence in the Quito Audiencia was part of a movement throughout Spanish America led by criollos (persons of pure Spanish descent born in the New World). The criollos resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the peninsulares was the fuel of revolution against colonial rule. The spark was Napoleon’s invasion of Spain, after which he deposed King Ferdinand VII and, in July 1808, placed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne. Shortly afterward, Spanish citizens, unhappy at the usurpation of the throne by the French, began organizing local juntas loyal to Ferdinand. A group of Quito’s leading citizens followed suit, and on August 10, 1809, they seized power from the local representatives of Joseph Bonaparte in the name of Ferdinand. Thus, this early revolt against colonial rule (one of the first in Spanish America) was, paradoxically, an expression of loyalty to the Spanish king.

It quickly became apparent that Quito’s criollo rebels lacked the anticipated popular support for their cause. As loyalist troops approached Quito, therefore, they peacefully turned power back to the crown authorities. Despite assurances against reprisals, the returning Spanish authorities (Bonaparte’s men) proved to be merciless with the rebels and, in the process of ferreting out participants in the Quito revolt, jailed and abused many innocent citizens. They actions, in turn, bred popular resentment among Quiteños, who, after several days of street fighting in August 1810, won an agreement to be governed by a junta to be dominated by criollos, although with the president of the Audiencia of Quito acting as its figurehead leader. In spite of widespread opposition within the rest of the Quito Audiencia, the junta called for a congress in December 1811 in which it declared the entire area of the audiencia to be independent. Two months later, the junta approved a constitution for the state of Quito that provided for democratic governing institutions but also granted recognition to the authority of Ferdinand should he return to the Spanish throne. Shortly thereafter, the junta elected to launch a military offensive against the Spanish, but the poorly trained and badly equipped troops were no match for those of the viceroy of Peru, which finally crushed the Quiteño rebellion in December 1812.

The second chapter in Ecuador’s struggle for emancipation from Spanish colonial rule began in Guayaquil, where independence was proclaimed in October 1820 by a local patriotic junta under the leadership of the poet José Joaquín Olmedo. By this time, the forces of independence had grown continental in scope and were organized into two principal armies, one under the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Palacios in the north and the other under the Argentine José de San Martín in the south. Unlike the hapless Quito junta, the Guayaquil patriots were able to appeal to foreign allies, Argentina and Venezuela, each of whom soon responded by sending sizable contingents to Ecuador. Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá, the brilliant young lieutenant of Bolívar who arrived in Guayaquil in May 1821, was to become the key figure in the ensuing military struggle against the royalist forces.

After a number of initial successes, Sucre’s army was defeated at Ambato in the central Sierra and he appealed for assistance from San Martín, whose army was by now in Peru. With the arrival from the south of 1,400 fresh soldiers under the command of Andrés de Santa Cruz Calahumana, the fortunes of the patriotic army were again reversed. A string of victories culminated in the decisive Battle of Pichincha, on the slopes of the volcano of that name on the western outskirts of Quito, on May 24, 1822. A few hours after the victory by the patriots, the last president of the Audiencia of Quito signed a formal capitulation of his forces before Marshal Sucre. Ecuador was at last free of Spanish rule.

Two months later Bolívar, the liberator of northern South America, entered Quito to a hero’s welcome. Later that July, he met San Martín in Guayaquil and convinced the Argentine general, who wanted the port to return to Peruvian jurisdiction, and the local criollo elite in both major cities of the advantage of having the former Quito Audiencia join with the liberated lands to the north. As a result, Ecuador became the District of the South within the Confederation of Gran Colombia, which also included present-day Venezuela and Colombia and had Bogotá as its capital. This status was maintained for eight tumultuous years. They were years in which warfare dominated the affairs of Ecuador. First, the country found itself on the front lines of Bolívar’s war to liberate Peru from Spanish rule between 1822 and 1825; afterward, in 1828 and 1829, Ecuador was in the middle of an armed struggle between Peru and Gran Colombia over the location of their common border. After a campaign that included the near destruction of Guayaquil, the forces of Gran Colombia, under the leadership of Sucre and Venezuelan General Juan José Flores, proved victorious. The Treaty of 1829 fixed the border on the line that had divided the Quito audiencia and the Viceroyalty of Peru before independence.

The population of Ecuador was divided during these years among three segments: those favoring the status quo, those supporting union with Peru, and those advocating autonomous independence for the former audiencia. The latter group was to prevail following Venezuela’s withdrawal from the confederation during an 1830 constitutional congress that had been called in Bogotá in a futile effort to combat growing separatist tendencies throughout Gran Colombia. In May of that year, a group of Quito notables met to dissolve the union with Gran Colombia, and in August, a constituent assembly drew up a constitution for the State of Ecuador, so named for its geographic proximity to the equator, and placed General Flores in charge of political and military affairs. He remained the dominant political figure during Ecuador’s first fifteen years of independence.

Independence did not occasion a revolutionary liberation of the masses of Ecuadorian peasants. On the contrary, as bad as the peasants’ situation was, it probably worsened with the loss of the Spanish royal officials who had protected the indigenous population against the abuses of the local criollos. This criollo elite, which had spearheaded the struggle for independence, was to be its principal beneficiary. The early battle to define the political parameters of the new state was fought, to a great extent, among the various sectors–Ecuadorians and foreigners, military personnel and civilians–of this elite. Flores was of the foreign military variety. Born in Venezuela, he had fought in the wars for independence with Bolívar, who had appointed him governor of Ecuador during its association with Gran Colombia. Although of humble origins with little formal education, Flores married into the Quiteño elite, gaining acceptance, initially at least, within the local criollo upper class. As a leader, however, he appeared primarily interested in maintaining his power. Military expenditures, from the independence wars and from an unsuccessful campaign to wrest Cauca Province from Colombia in 1832, kept the state treasury empty while other matters were left unattended.

In 1833 four intellectuals who had begun publishing El Quiteño Libre to denounce the "pillaging of the national treasury by foreigners" were killed by the authorities at a time when Flores was absent from Quito. Although not
directly responsible for the killings, Flores inevitably became associated with them, and criticism of his regime grew. In 1834 opponents staged a rebellion in an effort to place José Vicente Rocafuerte y Rodríguez de Bejarano, a member of the Guayaquil aristocracy who had recently returned from fourteen years abroad, into the presidency. The rebels effort failed; Flores then coopted his opponent and sponsored Rocafuerte as a presidential candidate. For four years following this Machiavellian political move–in effect the nation’s first coup d’état–Flores continued to wield considerable power from behind the scenes as commander of the military.

President Rocafuerte’s most lasting contribution was to begin development of a public school system. Although he had previously condemned Flores’s violations of civil liberties, Rocafuerte argued that "the backwardness of Ecuador makes enlightened despotism necessary." At the end of his term in 1839, Rocafuerte returned to his native Guayaquil as provincial governor, while in Quito Flores was again inaugurated into the presidency. After four years in office, Flores summoned a constitutional convention that wrote a new constitution, dubbed "the Charter of Slavery" by his opponents, and elected him to a new eight-year term of office. After 1843 the opposition to Flores often manifested itself in unpleasant ways: in reference to the dark skin of Flores and his fellow Venezuelan and Colombian soldiers, Rocafuerte (by now exiled in Lima) wrote that "the white oppressors of the peninsula were less oppressive than the Negro vandals who have replaced them." A young student named Gabriel García Moreno–later to become the most infamous of all of Ecuador’s nineteenth century dictators–tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Flores. Discontent had become nationwide by 1845, when an insurrection in Guayaquil forced Flores from the country. Because their movement triumphed in March (marzo), the anti-Flores coalition members became known as marcistas. They were an extremely heterogeneous lot that included liberal intellectuals, conservative clergymen, and representatives from Guayaquil’s successful business community.

The next fifteen years constituted one of the most turbulent periods in Ecuador’s century and a half as a nation. The marcistas fought among themselves almost ceaselessly and also had to struggle against Flores’s repeated attempts from exile to overthrow the government. The first marcista president was a businessman, Vicente Ramón Roca, who served a full four-year term of office. The most significant figure of the era, however, was General José María Urbina, who first came to power in 1851 through a coup d’état, remained in the presidency until 1856, and then continued to dominate the political scene until 1860. During this decade and the one that followed, Urbina and his archrival, García Moreno, would define the dichotomy–between Liberals from Guayaquil and Conservatives from Quito–that remained the major sphere of political struggle in Ecuador in the 1980s. Liberalism under Urbina took on anticlerical, ethnic, and regional dimensions. In 1852 he accused a group of Jesuit priests– admitted by his predecessor, Diego Noboa, only a year earlier–of political meddling and expelled them. Urbina freed the nation’s slaves exactly one week after his coup of 1851, and six years later, his successor and life-long friend, General
Francisco Robles, finally put an end to three centuries of required annual payments of tribute by the Indian population. Henceforth, liberalism associated itself with bettering the position of Ecuador’s non-white population. Urbina’s and Robles’s favoring of the Guayaquil business classes over the Quito landowners reinforced the regional aspect of the political dichotomy.

Opposition against Robles intensified after his signing, in 1857, of an unpopular contract aimed at alleviating the burdensome foreign debt. By 1859–known by Ecuadorian historians as the Terrible Year–the nation was on the brink of anarchy. Local caudillos had declared several regions autonomous of the central government. One of these caudillos, Guayaquil’s Guillermo Franco, signed the Treaty of Mapasingue ceding the southern provinces of Ecuador to an occupying Peruvian army led by General Ramón Castilla. This action was outrageous enough to unite some previously disparate elements. García Moreno, putting aside both his project to place Ecuador under a French protectorate and his differences with General Flores, got together with the former dictator to put down the various local rebellions and force out the Peruvians. This effort opened the last chapter of Flores’s long career and marked the entrance to power of García Moreno.

García Moreno is the father of Ecuadorian conservatism and no doubt the most controversial figure in the nation’s history, condemned by Liberal historians as Ecuador’s worst tyrant but exalted by Conservatives as the nation’s greatest nation-builder. In the end, both appraisals may be accurate; the man who possibly saved Ecuador from disintegration in 1859 and then ruled the nation with an iron fist for the subsequent decade and a half was, in fact, an extremely complicated personality. Born and raised under modest circumstances in Guayaquil, he studied in Quito, where he married into the local aristocracy, then traveled to Europe in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutionary uprisings and studied under the eminent Catholic theologians of the day.

President García Moreno saw Roman Catholicism as the ingredient of Ecuadorian culture that, through its emphasis on order, hierarchy, and discipline, could unite the nation and save it from the multiple crises and disorder of the 1850s. Catholicism thus held a prominent position in each of the two new constitutions that he introduced: the charter of 1861 named Catholicism as the exclusive religion, and its replacement in 1869, in addition to providing for a six-year presidential term and unlimited reelection, made citizenship dependent on one’s adherence to the Roman Catholic religion. In 1863 García Moreno promulgated Ecuador’s first concordat with the Vatican, bestowing vast powers on the Ecuadorian Roman Catholic Church, especially with respect to education. A decade later, the dictator’s puppet congress dedicated the republic to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The highly anticlerical Liberals were, of course, livid. Urbina organized an invasion in 1864, which was defeated with the help, once again, of General Flores. García Moreno was ruthless in his repression of the captured rebels, as he was commonly with less formidable opponents as well. Nor did he hesitate to manipulate the presidential succession. Finding his hand-picked successor deficient after two years in office, in 1867 García Moreno presided over the installation of a second puppet, whom he also overthrew in 1869, when it appeared that the Liberals might win scheduled elections. In 1869 García Moreno also formally established the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador–PC).

Shortly after the onset of his third presidential term in 1875, García Moreno was hacked to death with a machete on the steps of the presidential palace. The exact motives of the assassin, a Colombian, remain unknown, but the dictator’s most outstanding critic, the liberal journalist Juan Montalvo, exclaimed, "My pen killed him!". Although maligned for his highly proclerical and dictatorial ways, García Moreno made a number of vital contributions to the development of the nation. Perhaps the most important advances were in education. The generation of many new schools at all levels, from primary to the polytechnical training school in Quito, elicited universal praise, despite the fact that the Jesuits were largely responsible for these accomplishments. Transportation links with Quito were also vastly improved with the building of roads to Esmeraldas and to Babahoyo, near Guayaquil, as well as the first portion of the railroad linking Quito with Riobamba and Guayaquil. These public works not only promoted national unity but also helped Quito begin a long-delayed effort to overcome the geographic barriers that had historically caused its isolation, an isolation that had hindered the nation’s integration into the world economy.

Five different presidents governed during the two decades of transition between Conservative and Liberal rule. The first, Antonio Borrero, tried valiantly to return the nation to the rule of law, but, after only ten months in office, he was overthrown by the only military dictator of the period, Ignacio de Veintemilla. Although he came to power with the help of the old Liberal General Urbina, Veintemilla later evolved into a populist military dictator rather than a politician with any party or ideological affiliation. He was extremely popular with his troops and able to woo the masses with employment on public works programs and large-scale public festivals and dances during holiday periods. In office until 1883, Veintemilla enjoyed a period of relative prosperity resulting primarily from increased maritime activity while Peru, Bolivia, and Chile were mired in the War of the Pacific.

José María Plácido Caamaño, a Conservative, then served as president until 1888, and he remained a powerful figure during the administrations of the duly elected Progressive Party (Partido Progresista) presidents who followed him, Antonio Flores Jijón and Luis Cordero Crespo. Flores, who was the son of President Juan José Flores, intended progressivism to represent a compromise position between liberalism and conservatism. The Progressive program called for support for the Roman Catholic Church, rule by law, and an end to dictatorship and military rule. Although neither Caamaño, Flores, nor Cordero was able to curtail the growing animosity between Conservatives and Liberals, their periods in office were, for the most part, characterized by relative political stability and prosperity. The latter resulted more from favorable international circumstances for cacao exports than from astute government policy making.

In 1895, midway through his term in office, Cordero fell victim to scandal and charges of "selling the flag" over an agreement made with Chile. Cordero allowed the warship Esmeralda, which Chile was selling to Japan, to fly the Ecuadorian flag briefly in order to protect Chile’s neutrality in the conflict between Japan and China. Bribes were apparently involved and, tremendously weakened by the scandal and also challenged by the outbreak of several military rebellions, the president resigned in April. In June the Liberals seized power in Guayaquil in the name of their most popular caudillo, General José Eloy Alfaro Delgado. Three months later, "the old battler" (a name Alfaro had earned during his armed struggle against García Moreno) returned after a decade of exile in Central America and marched triumphantly into Quito. It was the end of Ecuador’s brief experiment with progressivism and the beginning of three stormy decades of rule by the Radical Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Radical–PLR), commonly referred to as the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal).

Eloy Alfaro is the outstanding standard-bearer for Ecuador’s Liberals, much as García Moreno is for the Conservatives. Some Marxist groups have also looked to Alfaro; although his political program was in no way socialist, it did prove to be revolutionary in the extent to which it stripped the Roman Catholic Church of the power and privileges previously granted to it by García Moreno. Catholic officials and their Conservative allies did not give up without a fight, however. During the first year of Alfaro’s presidency, Ecuador was ravaged by a bloody civil war in which clergymen commonly incited the faithful masses to rise in rebellion against the "atheistic alfaristas" and were, just as commonly, themselves victims of alfarista repression. The foreign-born Bishops Pedro Schumacher of Portoviejo and Arsenio Andrade of Riobamba led the early resistance to Alfaro. A fullfledged bloodbath may well have been averted only through the magnanimous efforts of the outstanding historian and Archbishop Federico González Suárez, who urged the clergy to abandon the pursuit of politics.

This final ecclesiastical struggle for control of Ecuador was in vain, however. By the end of the Liberals’ rule in 1925, Roman Catholicism was no longer the constitutionally mandated state religion, official clerical censorship of reading material had been suppressed, many powerful foreign clergy had been expelled, education had been secularized, civil marriage as well as divorce had been instituted, the concordat with the Vatican had been broken, most of the church’s rural properties had been seized by the state, and the republic was no longer dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church in Ecuador would never again hold prerogatives as extensive as those it enjoyed during the late nineteenth century.

The other accomplishment for which the three decades of PLR rule are remembered is the completion, in 1908, of the Guayaquil-Quito railroad. At the time, however, Alfaro was condemned by his critics for "delivering the republic to the Yankees" through a contract signed with North American entrepreneurs to complete the project begun by García Moreno. Although the criticism did not halt Alfaro on this project, a similar nationalistic outcry did force him to end negotiations with the United States, which wanted to protect the soon-to-be-completed Panama Canal, over military base rights in Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands. Alfaro’s affinity for the United States was also evident in 1910, when war between Peru and Ecuador over their perennial boundary dispute was narrowly averted through the mediation of the United States, together with Brazil and Argentina.

The Liberals can be credited with few further accomplishments of major proportions. The system of debt peonage that lingered in the Sierra came under government regulations, albeit weak ones, and imprisonment for debts was finally outlawed in 1918. These and other limited social benefits gained by the Indians and the mixedblood montuvio (coastal mestizo) working class were overshadowed by the ruinous economic decline world wide and the severe repression of the nascent labor movement at the hands of the Liberals during the early 1920s. Furthermore, Liberal rule did little to foster the development of stable democracy. On the contrary, the first half of the period saw even more illegal seizures of power and military-led governments than in previous decades.

A major cause of the instability of the period was the lack of unity within the PLR itself. Alfaro and a second military strongman, General Leónidas Plaza Gutiérrez, maintained a bitter rivalry over party leadership for almost two decades. Following Alfaro’s first period in the presidency, Plaza was elected to a constitutional term of office that lasted from 1901 until 1905. In 1906, shortly after a close associate of Plaza had been elected to succeed him, however, Alfaro launched a coup d’état and returned to the presidency. Alfaro, in turn, was overthrown in 1911 after refusing to hand power over to his own hand-picked successor, Emilio Estrada. Four months later, Estrada’s death from a heart attack precipitated a brief civil war that climaxed the rivalry between Alfaro and Plaza. Alfaro returned from his exile in Panama to lead the Guayaquil garrison in its challenge to the Quito-based interim government, which was under the military authority of General Plaza. The rebellion was quickly defeated, however; Alfaro was captured and transported to Quito via the same railroad that he had done so much to complete. Once in the capital, Alfaro was publicly and unceremoniously murdered, along with several of his comrades, by a government-instigated mob.

Shortly thereafter, Plaza was inaugurated into his second presidential term in office. It was the first of four consecutive constitutional changes of government: following Plaza (1912-16) came Alfredo Baquerizo Moreno (1916-20), then José Luis Tamayo (1920-24), and Gonzalo S. Córdova (1924-25). Real power during this second half of the period of Liberal rule was held, not by the government, but by a plutocracy of coastal agricultural and banking interests, popularly known as la argolla (the ring), whose linchpin was the Commercial and Agricultural Bank of Guayaquil led by Francisco Urbina Jado. This bank gained influence by loaning vast quantities of money to the free-spending government as well as to private individuals. According to Ecuadorian historian Oscar Efrén Reyes, the bank was influential "to the point that candidates for president and his ministers, senators, and deputies had to have the prior approval of the bank." Many of the private loans were to members of the Association of Agriculturists of Ecuador, an organization that also received government funds intended to promote an international cartel of cacao growers, but which instead were used to line members’ pockets.

All parties involved in la argolla, from the government officials to the bankers and the growers, were professed militants of the Liberal cause. It was not only the political fortunes of the party that fell victim to their financial activities, however, but also the national economy, which experienced runaway inflation as a result of the printing of money by the private banks. The severe economic problems during the final years of Liberal rule were also partially caused by factors beyond the control of the politicians. A fungal disease that ravaged Ecuador’s cacao trees and the growth of competition from British colonies in Africa abruptly ended conditions that had favored Ecuador’s exportation of cacao for over a century. What was left of the nation’s cacao industry fell victim to the sharp decline in world demand during the Great Depression. Ecuador’s economic crisis of the early 1920s was especially devastating to the working class and the poor. With real wages, for those lucky enough to have jobs, eaten away by inflation, workers responded with a general strike in Guayaquil in 1922 and a peasant rebellion in the central Sierra the following year. Both actions were aimed at improving wages and working conditions; both were put down only after massacres of major proportions.

President Córdova, closely tied to la argolla, had come to office in a fraudulent election. Popular unrest, together with the ongoing economic crisis and a sickly president, laid the background for a bloodless coup d’état in July 1925. Unlike all previous forays by the military into Ecuadorian politics, the coup of 1925 was made in the name of a collective grouping rather than a particular caudillo. The members of the League of Young Officers who overthrew Córdoba came to power with an agenda, which included a wide variety of social reforms, the replacement of the increasingly sterile Liberal-Conservative debate, and the end of the rule of the Liberals, who had become decadent after three decades in power. The reformist officers initially named a governing junta consisting of prominent opponents of the Liberal plutocracy, but neither it nor a succeeding junta was able to consolidate the power necessary to govern effectively. In 1926 they named as provisional president Isidro Ayora, a dedicated reformer who, although married into one of the wealthiest coastal families, possessed a social conscience and the vision to see that reform would help preserve the status of the upper classes. Ayora quickly assumed dictatorial powers, with which he set out to institute reforms that were partly of his own making and partly the making of the League of Young Officers.

An advisory mission from Princeton University, headed by Edwin W. Kemmerer, was invited to propose measures to reorganize Ecuador’s fiscal and monetary structures. Its major accomplishment was the creation of the Central Bank of Ecuador (Banco Central), which replaced the private banks’ authority in the issuing of currency; in addition, the Kemmerer mission also reorganized the state budgeting and customs agencies. The appropriation of these functions, which were previously under the control of la argolla, brought a revenue windfall to the government during the next half-decade. In addition to building state fiscal and social agencies, the funds were used to initiate a number of programs, including pensions for state workers, that enhanced the security of the middle and lower economic sectors of the population. A range of social legislation–quite progressive for its day–intended to protect the working class from unscrupulous employers and to improve working conditions emerged from the enactment of the 1929 constitution.

The same constitution, Ecuador’s thirteenth in just under a century as a republic, also provided for a powerful legislative body with authority to censure presidential ministers. This diminution of executive power, the appearance of a wide variety (socialist, communist, and populist) of new groupings in political competition with the traditional parties and with the military, and the devastating effects of the Great Depression combined to make Ecuador’s political record especially unstable during subsequent years. Ayora was the first of fourteen chief executives during the 1930s.

World demand for cacao and other Ecuadorian export crops dropped precipitously in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash: export crop value fell from US$15 million in 1928 to US$7 million in 1931 and US$5 million in 1932, causing widespread unemployment and misery. Few objections were voiced in 1931 when Ayora was the victim of a military coup. Neptalí Bonifaz Ascázubi was then elected with the help of a quasi-fascist grouping of the serrano lower classes called the Consolidation of National Workers (Compactación Obrera Nacional). In August 1932, after various Liberal and leftist elements in Congress blocked Bonifaz’s assumption of power, the Compactación fought a bloody four-day civil war against other paramilitary forces amassed by opponents of the president-elect. The latter were victorious, largely because the great majority of the government military forces remained in their barracks rather than defend Bonifaz.

Another election two months later brought victory for the Liberal candidate, Juan de Dios Martínez Mera, but soon accusations arose that the election had been fraudulent. The congressional opposition censured virtually every minister as soon as he was named and also encouraged the Compactación to lead demonstrations against the president in the streets of Quito. The campaign against Martínez was led by the charismatic president of the Chamber of Deputies, José María Velasco Ibarra, who at the time professed a "total lack of presidential ambitions." In September 1934, less than a year after Martínez was forced to resign, Velasco assumed the presidency after having won popular elections by an overwhelming margin.

The first of Velasco’s five periods as president lasted only eleven months. He was overthrown by the military after attempting to assume dictatorial powers by dissolving Congress and jailing his congressional opponents. Shortly thereafter, the military placed Federico Páez in the presidential palace. An engineer and former senator, Páez ruled precariously for two years, first with the political support of the socialist left and then with that of the right, and he tried to advance the reforms undertaken by Ayora a decade earlier. Ongoing fiscal difficulties severely limited Páez’s efforts, however, and in September 1937 he was overthrown by his minister of national defense, General Alberto Enríquez Gallo. Although he ruled for less than a year, Enríquez achieved note as a social reformer by his promulgation of the Labor Code of 1938.

Enríquez is also remembered for having initiated a protracted confrontation with the United States-based South American Development Company over the terms of its Ecuadorian concession and the wages it paid its Ecuadorian employees. The company refused to comply with Enríquez’s entreaty that more of the profits from its mining operations stay in Ecuador, and it won the support of the United States Department of State. The Ecuadorian government continued its demands despite United States pressure. In 1940 the United States, hoping to obtain Ecuadorian cooperation in its anticipated war effort, ended its support for the mining firm. Ecuadorian President Carlos Alberto Arroyo del Río, in turn, proved generous in his cooperation with the Allies, allowing the United States to build a naval base on the Galápagos Islands and an air base at Salinas on the Ecuadorian mainland.

In addition to being a genuine friend and admirer of the United States, Arroyo del Río was the leader of the PLR and a representative of the Guayaquil-based "plutocracy." He came to power constitutionally in November 1939 upon the death of his predecessor, but he continued in office in January 1940 through fraudulent elections that were universally believed to have been won by Velasco, and continued in power later, through repression. Despite such antipopular methods of ruling, he managed to remain in office for almost four years, thanks to economic support by the United States and the recuperation of Ecuador’s export markets as worldwide economic depression gave way to recovery during World War II.

Arroyo del Río’s undoing was the disastrous 1941 war with Peru. Although the prior sequence of events–the breakdown of talks aimed at resolving the boundary issues in 1938, followed by repeated border skirmishes–had given ample warning
of a possible outbreak of large-scale hostilities, Ecuador was unprepared to meet the July 5 Peruvian invasion. Furthermore, the president’s fear of being left unprotected from his opponents led him to keep the nation’s best fighting forces in Quito while Peruvian troops continuously attacked the nation’s southern and eastern provinces until a ceasefire went into effect on July 31. Peru’s occupation ended only after January 1942, when the two nations signed the Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Boundaries while attending the Third Conference of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics in Rio de Janeiro. Under the terms of the Rio Protocol, the informal name of the agreement, Ecuador renounced its claim to some 200,000 square kilometers of territory. Shortly afterward, the Rio Protocol was ratified by a bare plurality of the Ecuadorian legislature.

The Ecuadorian government quickly regretted having become a party to the Rio Protocol. The protocol became the focus of a surge of Ecuadorian national pride and concomitant opposition to Arroyo in a new coalition–the Democratic Alliance. The coalition brought together a wide array of Ecuadorian politicians dedicated to replacing the "president who had been unable to defend the national honor." Arroyo’s rejoinder that he would remain in office the full four years, "neither one day more nor one day less," and his being prominently hailed in Washington as "the Apostle of PanAmericanism " only increased his political isolation. A persistent inflation that whittled away at the purchasing power of salaried workers was a further cause of popular resentment against Arroyo.

In May 1944, following an uprising in Guayaquil that pitted the military and civilian supporters of Velasco against Arroyo’s police, the president finally resigned. The military handed power to the Democratic Alliance, which in turn named Velasco, whose electoral candidacy had recently been vetoed by Arroyo, as the popularly acclaimed president of the republic. The populist master returned triumphantly from exile in Colombia, greeted by throngs of enthusiasts during a three-day journey to Quito, to assume the presidency for the second time. The Quiteño multitudes standing in the pouring rain on May 31, 1944,
to hear Velasco promise a "national resurrection," with social justice and due punishment for the "corrupt Liberal oligarchy" that had been responsible for "staining the national honor," believed that they were witnessing the birth of a popular revolution. Arroyo partisans were promptly jailed or sent into exile, while Velasco verbally baited the business community and the rest of the political right. The leftist elements within Velasco’s Democratic Alliance, which dominated the constituent assembly that was convened to write a new constitution, were nonetheless destined to be disappointed.

In May 1945, after a year of growing hostility between the president and the assembly, which was vainly awaiting deeds to substantiate Velasco’s rhetorical advocacy of social justice, the mercurial chief executive condemned and then repudiated the newly completed constitution. After dismissing the assembly, Velasco held elections for a new assembly, which in 1946 drafted a far more conservative constitution that met with the president’s approval. For this brief period, Conservatives replaced the left as Velasco’s base of support. Rather than attending to the nation’s economic problems, Velasco aggravated them by financing the dubious schemes of his associates. Inflation continued unabated, as did its negative impact on the national standard of living, and by 1947 foreignexchange reserves had fallen to dangerously low levels. In August, when Velasco was ousted by his minister of defense, nobody rose to defend the man who, only three years earlier, had been hailed as the nation’s savior. During the following year, three different men briefly held executive power before Galo Plaza Lasso, running under a coalition of independent Liberals and socialists, narrowly defeated his Conservative opponent in presidential elections. His inauguration in September 1948 initiated what was to become the longest period of constitutional rule since the 1912-24 heyday of the Liberal plutocracy.

Galo Plaza differed from previous Ecuadorian presidents. The son of former President Plaza Gutiérrez, he had been born in the United States, where he also attended several universities. His ties to the United States grew even closer as a result of serving there as ambassador under President Arroyo del Río. These links, as Pike points out, "rendered him vulnerable to charges by Velasco Ibarra and other demagogic opponents of being the lackey of U.S. imperialism." Galo Plaza was not a professional politician, but a gentleman farmer with a sizable cattle ranch near Quito, where he customarily spent weekends throughout his four years as president. Galo Plaza brought a developmentalist and technocratic emphasis to Ecuadorian government. He invited a wide variety of foreign experts in economic development and in governmental administration to recommend and catalog reforms in both areas. In large part because of a lack of political will within either the executive or the legislature, however, virtually none of the recommended reforms was enacted. Nevertheless, the economy experienced a marked improvement, with inflation finally slowing down and both government budget and foreign currency accounts balancing for the first time in many years. This achievement was even more remarkable in light of the series of major earthquakes, landslides, and floods suffered by Ecuador in 1949 and 1950.

No doubt Galo Plaza’s most important contribution to Ecuadorian political culture was his commitment to the principles and practices of democracy. Galo Plaza endorsed such democratic guarantees as freedom of the press and the freedom of opponents to voice their opinions, to assemble for political purposes without fear of being jailed or worse, and to be elected to the legislature without fear of being defrauded or arbitrarily dismissed. Galo Plaza was able to create a mystique around the idea of his completing his term in office, something no president had accomplished since 1924, and this mystique no doubt helped him achieve his goal. As Galo Plaza readily admitted, however, his greatest asset, both politically and economically, was the onset of the nation’s banana boom, as diseases plaguing plantations in Central America turned Ecuador into an alternative supplier to the huge United States market. Ecuador’s banana exports grew from US$2 million to US$20 million between 1948 and 1952. During these years, Ecuador also benefited from sizable price increases–generated by the Korean War–for its commodity exports. A proof of the politically stabilizing effect of the banana boom of the 1950s is that even Velasco, who in 1952 was elected president for the third time, managed to serve out a full four-year term. He continued to spend as before–building bridges, roads, and schools at will and rewarding his political supporters (including, this time, the military) with jobs, salary increases, and weapons– but, in contrast to his previous times in office, there were now sufficient funds to pay for everything.

Always the master populist, Velasco (who by now liked to be known as "the National Personification") again came to power with the support of the common man, this time through the vehicle of the Guayaquil-based Concentration of Popular Forces (Concentración de Fuerzas Populares–CFP). Once in office, however, he arrested and deported the CFP boss, Carlos Guevara Moreno, together with several other party leaders. Guevara Moreno reassumed control of the CFP in 1955 following a three-year exile. Velasco’s subsequent party support during the 1950s came from the Conservatives, the conservative Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Social Cristiano–MSC), and the highly nationalistic, anticommunist, quasi-fascist Ecuadorian Nationalist Revolutionary Action (Acción Revolucionaria Nacionalista Ecuatoriana–ARNE).

On repeated occasions, members of ARNE acted as thugs and shock troops, attacking students, labor unions, and the press. In 1955 Velasco also chose to pick a fight with the United States. In the opening round of what would later become known as the "tuna war," Ecuadorian officials seized two fishing boats carrying the United States flag, charging them with fishing inside the 200-nauticalmile limit claimed by Ecuador as territorial seas under its sovereignty. In 1956 Camilo Ponce Enríquez, the MSC founder who had served in Velasco’s cabinet, assumed the presidency after a close election replete with allegations of fraud. Although late support from Velasco proved crucial to Ponce’s victory, shortly afterward "the National Personification" became the principal opponent of the new chief executive. In a display of statesmanship and political acumen, Ponce co-opted the Liberal opposition by including it, along with Conservatives and the MSC, in his cabinet.

Although Ponce did not enact the Social Christian reforms of which he spoke vaguely during the campaign, the relative political calm that prevailed during his four years in office was, in itself, an accomplishment given the worsening economic situation. Ponce’s term saw the end of the banana boom that had sustained more than a decade of constitutional rule. Falling export prices led to rising unemployment and a social malaise that briefly erupted into riots in 1959. By the following year, the effects of the discontent were ready to be exploited by the populist appeal of the irrepressible Velasco, who was elected
with his widest margin of victory ever. Velasco’s fourth turn in the presidency initiated a renewal of crisis, instability, and military domination and ended conjecture that the political system had matured or developed a democratic mold.

The instability began immediately. Ponce was so angry over Velasco’s vicious campaign attacks on his government that he resigned on his last day in office rather than preside over the inauguration of his successor. During his campaign, "the National Personification" had promised government support to the masses of urban poor, many of whom had recently migrated to Guayaquil and other major cities in search of a decent job and a place to live. Velasco’s populism continued into his inaugural address, when he renounced the hated 1942 Rio Protocol. He thus came to power with the adoration of the masses, but he saddled himself with expensive commitments to the poor at a time when deficits in the state coffers were approaching a critical level. Additionally, Velasco threatened Ecuador’s shaky economy with what amounted to a declaration of hostilities against Peru and the guarantors of the Rio Protocol, namely Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United States.

Sensing the direction of the political wind in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, Velasco magnified his anti-United States rhetoric and included leftists in his government. Meanwhile, the United States encouraged Latin American governments to break diplomatic relations with Cuba. Before long, Ecuador’s widening political polarization became manifest in outbreaks of violence between leftist students and the anticommunist right. The rapidly deteriorating economic situation soon brought about a split in the velasquista coalition, however, with the left, led by Vice President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy (who was also president of the Chamber of Deputies) openly opposing the government in July 1961. By October relations between Velasco’s government and Congress had deteriorated to the point where legislators and progovernment spectators engaged in a gun battle. Although dozens of bullet holes were later found in the Chamber, no one was injured.

A series of new sales taxes imposed during the same month in order to raise desperately needed revenues then sparked a general strike and a series of demonstrations and riots in several major cities. Amid growing chaos, Velasco ordered the arrest of his vice president, a move that opened him to charges of violating the constitution. On November 8, after only fourteen months in office, Velasco was ousted by the military and replaced by Arosemena, who was his constitutional successor as well as his leading opponent. Arosemena came from a well-known Guayaquil family; his father had briefly served as president following a previous anti-Velasco coup in 1947. In an attempt to allay concerns about his being a dangerous leftist (as Velasco’s vice president he had expressed warm sympathy for Cuban leader Fidel Castro Ruz and made a much-criticized trip to the Soviet Union), Arosemena named a cabinet that included Liberals and even Conservatives and quickly sent former President Galo Plaza on a goodwill trip to Washington.

Arosemena’s insistence on maintaining relations with Cuba, however, became a major domestic political issue in Ecuador. Political opponents labeled Arosemena a dangerous communist, and part of the military went into open rebellion in March 1962. The following month, Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Cuba, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The crisis over Cuba proved to be very costly for Arosemena, who lost not only much of his local political support, but also the self-confidence to pursue his own, independent course. Afterward, the government drifted with little leadership from the president, who allegedly indulged in
frequent drinking bouts. The brief appearance of a guerrilla movement in the coastal jungle and a rash of small-scale terrorist incidents (many of which later were found to have been staged by right-wing provocateurs) also left Arosemena open to accusations of being either unable or unwilling to stop communist subversion. By early 1963, military conspiracy was again afoot. On July 11 the high command of the armed forces decided, without dissent, to depose Arosemena.

The four-man military junta that seized power announced its intention not to return the nation to constitutional rule until the institution of basic socioeconomic reforms, which both Velasco and Arosemena had promised but never implemented. This failure by their two civilian predecessors, the junta believed, had become a source of growing frustration within the lower classes, thus making them more receptive to the lure of communism. The junta combined its reformist anticommunism with the more traditional hard-line variety. After jailing or exiling the entire leadership of the communist left, the new government reorganized the nation’s two leading universities in an effort to eliminate them as sources of left-wing political activity. In July 1964, the junta decreed the Agrarian Reform Law to commemorate the first anniversary of its assumption of power. The law abolished the
huasipungo
system, the feudalistic land tenure arrangement widely used in the Sierra. However, the law resulted in little real improvement in the lives of the long-suffering Sierra peasants and died from lack of funding under subsequent civilian governments.

Meaningful reform was precluded, in part at least, by the increasingly cumbersome process of decision making within the politically heterogeneous, plural executive. Insubordination by the air force representative on the junta led to his dismissal and arrest in November 1965; thereafter, the junta had only three members. In 1965 Ecuador also saw a dramatic drop in its revenue from banana exports and, despite generous development assistance from the United States government and the Inter-American Development Bank, the junta suddenly faced an economic crisis of major proportions. The announcement of increased taxes on imports sparked the opposition of the powerful Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce, which in March called for a general strike. Long-disgruntled student groups and labor unions were only too happy to join in the protest, which rapidly spread to other cities. On March 29, 1966, following a bloody and demoralizing attack on the Central University in Quito, the disillusioned military reformers stepped down.

The following day, a small group of civilian leaders named Clemente Yerovi Indaburu, a non-partisan banana grower who had served as minister of economy under Galo Plaza, to be provisional president. In October a popularly elected constituent assembly drafted a new constitution and elected Otto Arosemena Gómez, a cousin of Carlos Julio and a political centrist, to act as a second provisional president. During his twenty months in office, the new constitution went into effect in May 1967, and popular elections for president were held in June 1968. Incredibly, Velasco–now seventy-five years old–was voted into the presidency for the fifth time, an incredible thirty-four years after his initial victory.

The weakness of Velasco’s mandate–he managed only a plurality of barely one-third of the popular vote in a crowded field of five candidates–foreshadowed political difficulties that plagued him during his final term. His newly formed National Velasquista Federation (Federación Nacional Velasquista–FNV) was far short of a majority in either house of Congress, and a failure to build any working coalition made for a stalemate in the legislative process. Even Velasco’s own vice president, a Guayaquileño Liberal named Jorge Zavala Baquerizo, turned into a strident and vocal critic. Cabinet ministers came and went with astonishing frequency. This political impasse soon combined with the fiscal and balance-of- payments crises, which by now had become customary under the spendthrift habits and administrative mismanagement associated with each of Velasco’s terms in office, to spawn a major political crisis. The turning point came on June 22, 1970, when Velasco, in an action known as an autogolpe (self-seizure of power), dismissed Congress and the Supreme Court and assumed dictatorial powers.

Velasco subsequently decreed a number of necessary, though extremely unpopular, economic measures. After devaluing the sucre for the first time since 1961, he placed tight controls on foreign exchange transactions and then decreed a number of new tax measures, the most controversial of which raised import tariffs considerably. Velasco attempted to compensate for his lost prestige by baiting the United States, seizing and fining United States fishing boats found within 200 nautical miles of the Ecuadorian coast. The intensification of the "tuna war" inflamed tempers in both countries; Ecuador dismissed United States military advisers, and the United States withdrew almost all economic and military aid to Ecuador. Such nationalistic adventures were of only momentary value to Velasco, however. In 1971, amid mounting civic unrest that verified the extent of the opposition, he was forced to cancel a scheduled national plebiscite in which he hoped to replace the 1967 constitution, with the charter written under his own auspices in 1946 the Constitution, Velasco argued, made the president too weak to be effective.

The president’s autogolpe and his continuance in power were possible because of support from the armed forces. Velasco’s key ally was his nephew and minister of defense, General Jorge Acosta Velasco, who continually reshuffled the high command in order to retain velasquistas in key posts. In the wake of a failed attempt to oust the powerful commandant of the Quito military academy in April 1971, however, Acosta himself was forced to resign his ministerial portfolio and was summarily dispatched to Madrid as ambassador. Having lost the man who was his linchpin in the armed forces and the only apparent heir to the velasquista throne, Velasco was left to the mercy of the high command.

Two circumstances proved critical in persuading the military to overthrow Velasco before the scheduled completion of his term in 1972. On the one hand, the state was due very shortly to begin reaping vast revenues under a 1964 petroleum concession. On the other hand, the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency in 1972 was Asaad Bucaram Elmhalim, a former street peddler who in 1960 had seized the leadership of the CFP from Guevara Moreno and later had twice been an extremely popular mayor of Guayaquil. Both the military and the business community regarded Bucaram as dangerous and unpredictable and unfit to be president, especially at a time when unprecedented income was expected to flow into the state coffers. On February 15, 1972, four months before the scheduled elections, the military once again overthrew Velasco, who was sent into his final period of exile. He was replaced by a three-man military junta headed by the Army chief of staff, General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara.

The military regime called itself "nationalist and revolutionary," but the well-known connections of Rodríguez Lara to the Guayaquil business community signaled disappointment for those who anticipated that he would head a progressive military regime such as was ruling in Peru at the time. It shortly became apparent that, ideologically, the Rodríguez Lara regime was a hybrid, reflecting a tenuous equilibrium among the widely divergent political tendencies within the Ecuadorian armed forces. Nevertheless, like the contemporary Peruvian and Brazilian regimes, the regime of Rodríguez Lara, he promised, would not be an interim government, but rather a long-term venture dedicated to introducing structural changes thought necessary to unfreeze the development process. Rodríguez Lara’s regime gave early emphasis to a campaign designed in part to exert firm control over the nation’s petroleum resources and in part to consolidate the government’s political authority. Several former political leaders, including ex-President Otto Arosemena, were tried for corruption in connection with oil concessions granted during the 1960s. In addition, a large number of functionaries of the Velasco government, supporters of Bucaram, as well as drug traffickers, legitimate importers, and customs officials were charged with corruption and "illegal enrichment." Although it thus assailed its major opponents from the start the military regime, however, failed to build its own civilian base of political support.

Promises of a "meaningful agrarian reform" under the auspices of Minister of Agriculture Guillermo Maldonado, a dedicated reformer, were frustrated by intense opposition from traditional elites. Maldonado was eventually forced out, and by the end of Rodríguez Lara’s four years in office less than 1 percent of Ecuador’s cultivable land had changed hands under the reform. More notable achievements came in the areas of building infrastructure projects, such as the major oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Esmeraldas; various highway and electrification projects; and state capitalist enterprises, particularly the Ecuadorian State Petroleum Corporation (Corporación Estatal Petrolera Ecuatoriana– CEPE). The lateter corporation was founded in 1972 and grew to become the major actor in Ecuador’s exploitation of its oil reserves. Oil policy was the regime’s vehicle for its most forceful expression of nationalism. Minister of Natural Resources Gustavo Jarrín Ampudia presided over Ecuador’s 1973 entry into the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with all its attendant prestige and economic benefits. He was also responsible for Ecuador’s renegotiation of a number of oil concessions, including the key Texaco-Gulf concession in the Oriente, on terms much more favorable to the state, such as substantial increases in both the royalties paid by foreign firms and the tax rate they paid on petroleum exports. These efforts were initially successful in allowing the government to retain a larger share of Ecuador’s petroleum earnings.

The oil companies became increasingly disconcerted, however, when Jarrín proposed in late 1974 that the share of stock in the Texaco-Gulf subsidiary held by CEPE be increased from 25 to 51 percent. Claiming that the terms of their concessions negotiated with Jarrín had priced Ecuadorian oil beyond the world market price, the oil companies cut back drastically on their exports, at a cost to the government of hundreds of millions of dollars over the following nine months. This intense financial pressure finally led to a July 1975 announcement that taxes on the oil companies’ exports were being reduced. It was thus clear that the military regime had overplayed its nationalistic oil policy, having failed to keep in mind that Ecuador was, after all, a relatively small oil producer and thus not a powerful player within OPEC. The moderation of the regime’s oil policy, however, did not result in the anticipated resolution of mounting economic problems. Oil exports rose only slightly, while imports, particularly of luxury items, continued to soar, aided by a low-tariff policy that had been designed to soak up petroleum earnings, and thus control inflation. In excess of 22 percent during 1974, inflation was rapidly eroding the real value of wages within the middle class.

In August, in an effort to resolve its balance-of-payments difficulties, the regime decreed a 60 percent duty on imported luxury items. The measure was condemned by the Chambers of Commerce in Quito and Guayaquil, whose constituents had grown dependent on the sale of imports, and caused, a week later, a bloody attempt led by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Raúl González Alvear, to overthrow Rodríguez Lara. Although this coup attempt failed, at a cost of twenty-two lives, on January 11, 1976, a second, bloodless coup was successful in removing Rodríguez Lara. He was replaced by a Supreme Council of Government consisting of the commanders of the three armed services. Virtually the only item on the agenda of the new military triumvirate was to preside over a return of the government to constitutional, civilian rule. The bloody September 1975 coup attempt had revealed the depth of the breach in the institutional unity of the armed forces. Handing the government back to civilians, it was hoped, might remove the causes of divisions within the military, or at least make it easier to hide them from public view. The original timetable, announced in June 1976, called for a transition that was to culminate in presidential elections in February 1978. First, new government charters and electoral laws were to be drafted by appointed commissions, and then a public referendum would choose between two proposed constitutions. The transition was repeatedly slowed down, however, and in the end, instead of the less than two years originally scheduled, three years and eight months elapsed between the 1976 coup and the inauguration of a civilian president.

Two reasons are commonly cited for the delay: the slowness of decision making within the Supreme Council of Government because of ongoing disagreement within the military high command and repeated maneuverings by the military government to manipulate the electoral process, thereby controlling its outcome. Like the Rodríguez Lara government, the Council was particularly interested in seeing a poor electoral performance by the CFP and, especially, preventing Bucaram from winning the presidency. The national referendum to choose the constitution was finally held on January 15, 1978. The results saw 23 percent of the voting population nullify their ballots, an action that had been advocated by the traditional right; 31 percent of the population voted in favor of a revised version of the 1945 constitution, and a plurality of 44 percent voted in favor of the newly drafted national charter. The charter was the more progressive of the two constitutions, its major reforms being the acknowledgement of a role for the state in socioeconomic development, the legalization of a worker self-managed (autogestional) sector in the economy, a unicameral legislature, no presidential reelection, and, for the first time in Ecuador, electoral suffrage for illiterates.

Five candidates then campaigned for the presidency. The consistent favorite in polls was Rodrigo Borja of the social democratic Democratic Left (Izquierda Democrática–ID). Because the Supreme Council of Government made sure that Bucaram was barred from running, the CFP strongman named his second in command, Jaime Roldós, to be the party’s candidate. In order to broaden the appeal of the ticket, Osvaldo Hurtado, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano–PDC), was tapped to be Roldós’s vice presidential running mate. The traditional rightist vote was split between two candidates, and the various parties of the Marxist left coalesced to name one candidate. After a lengthy recount, the final results of the July 16 election confirmed the initial tally of a surprise victory by Roldós, with 27 percent of the national vote. Sixto Durán Ballén, candidate of a coalition of rightist parties, finished second with 24 percent. The electoral law mandated that when no candidate achieved a majority vote, a run-off election between the two top finishers be held.

It was more than nine months before the second-round election took place, however. They were months of considerable political tension and doubt as to whether the transition would proceed as planned. First, widespread problems in organizing the election and in the vote count during the first round left serious doubts as to the competence and honesty of the electoral authorities. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Superior Electoral–TSE) was, as a result, completely reorganized. Second, the government– remembering a campaign slogan calling "Roldós to the government, Bucaram to power"–was understandably dismayed with results of the first-round election. By delaying the second round, the government sought to give rightists the time to build an anti-Roldós coalition under which Durán could emerge as the second-round victor. To complicate matters further, Abdón Calderón Múñoz, a populist candidate who had won 9 percent of the vote in the first round, was murdered under circumstances implicating the government. Finally, as a further distraction during this difficult period, Velasco returned from exile to bury his wife and died in March 1979 at age eighty-six.

The second round was finally held on April 29, 1979, with the Roldós-Hurtado ticket sweeping to an overwhelming 68.5 percent victory against a weak performance by Durán. Doubts persisted, however, up to the moment that the winners took office three months later, that the military would allow them to assume their duly elected offices. The size of their popular mandate and,
according to political scientist John D. Martz, pressure from the administration of President Jimmy Carter in Washington made it difficult for the military to stop the "democratization" process at this late date. The military did extract as a price, in any case, unprecedented powers to name representatives to the boards of directors of major state corporations and to participate directly in the naming of the minister of defense. The outgoing government also made it clear to Roldós (who had an early campaign slogan of "we will not forgive, we will not forget") that it would not tolerate any investigation into the behavior of the military with respect to human rights. With his autonomy thus diminished, Roldós finally assumed the presidency on August 10, and thus Ecuador returned to constitutional, civilian rule after almost a decade of dictatorship.

Roldós presided over a nation that had undergone profound changes during the seven years of military rule. During the ceremony to pass the mantle of power to Roldós, Admiral Alfredo Poveda Burbano pointed proudly to impressive indicators of economic growth between 1972 and 1979: the government budget expanded some 540 percent, whereas exports as well as per capita income increased a full 500 percent. Industrial development had also progressed, stimulated by the new oil wealth as well as Ecuador’s preferential treatment under the provisions of the Andean Common Market (Ancom, also known as the Andean Pact). Past export "booms" in cacao and bananas were managed by and for private coastal interests, but the state controlled the petroleum bonanza and thereby transformed the social landscape. Quito–the seat of the bureaucracy and the closest major city to the oil fields–reaped the benefits of the economic growth. The capital city lost much of its sleepy Sierra character and in the
1980s competed with Guayaquil as a center of modern economic endeavor. Employment in the public sector grew in excess of 10 percent annually throughout the late 1970s, creating a new consumption-oriented middle class in Quito. But such change highlighted the persistence of the traditional rural campesino and the unskilled urban subproletariat; petroleum revenues thus widened Ecuador’s
habitual inequality in income distribution.

Expectations that the economic and social changes would transform the traditional political culture were unfulfilled. Customary aspects of civilian politics, such as regionalism and personalism, reflected in the proliferation of political parties; and rivalry between the executive and legislature persisted during the five years that Roldós and his vice president, Osvaldo Hurtado, were in power. The most destructive of these traditions was evident in the intense rivalry that developed between Roldós and Bucaram, the strongman of the president’s own CFP who, having twice been prevented from running for the presidency, was now determined to run the country from his power base in the unicameral legislature, the National Congress (Congress Nacional–hereafter, Congress). Bucaram’s coalition building secured him the presidency of the legislature during the
first year of the new government. The president, for his part, was determined to retain his independence from the autocratic and increasingly conservative party boss. Bucaram had no apparent agenda other than blocking the reformist agenda of the president, who was thus forced to spend most of his first year in office scratching together his own political base, independent of the CFP, in order to achieve a legislative majority.

Roldós proved successful in this effort; in August 1980, his candidate for the congressional presidency narrowly defeated the bucaramista candidate, and the CFP also suffered major losses in the municipal and provincial elections in December. The president was not able to enjoy the fruits of his success, however; on May 24, 1981, he was killed, along with his wife and the minister of defense, in an airplane crash in the southern province of Loja. The death of Roldós generated intense popular speculation. Some Ecuadorian nationalists attributed it to the Peruvian government because the crash took place near the border where, four months previously, the two nations had participated in a bloody flare-up in their perpetual border dispute. Many of the nation’s leftists, pointing to a similar crash that had killed Panamanian President Omar Torrijos Herrera less than three months later, blamed the United States government.

Roldós’s constitutional successor, Hurtado, immediately faced an economic crisis brought on by the sudden end of the petroleum boom. Massive foreign borrowing, initiated during the years of the second military regime and continued under Roldós, resulted in a foreign debt that by 1983 was nearly US$7 billion. The nation’s petroleum reserves declined sharply during the early 1980s because of exploration failures and rapidly increasing domestic consumption. The economic crisis was aggravated in 1982 and 1983 by drastic climatic changes, bringing severe drought as well as flooding, precipitated by the appearance of the unusually warm ocean current known as "El Niño". Analysts estimated damage to the nation’s infrastructure at US$640 million, with balance-of-payments losses of some US$300 million. The real gross domestic product fell to 2 percent in 1982 and to -3.3 percent in 1983. The rate of inflation in 1983, 52.5 percent, was the highest ever recorded in the nation’s history.

Although widely considered a center-leftist, Hurtado confronted the economic crisis by instituting highly unpopular austerity measures aimed at gaining the approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the international financial community at large. Hurtado eliminated government subsidies for basic foodstuffs–thus contributing to both inflation and the impoverishment of the masses–and substantially devalued the sucre. With unemployment increasing to as high as 13.5 percent, the United Workers Front (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores–FUT) launched four general strikes during Hurtado’s period in office. The most militant of these nationwide strikes, in October 1982, was called off after forty-eight hours because of union leaders’ fears of provoking a coup d’état. Outside observers noted that, however unpopular, Hurtado deserved credit for keeping Ecuador in good standing with the international financial community and for consolidating Ecuador’s democratic political system under extremely
difficult conditions. The political right, nevertheless, believing that the economic crisis was caused by presidential policies that were inimical to free-enterprise capitalism, bitterly criticized Hurtado. The right united for the 1984 elections in order to back León Febres Cordero Ribadeneyra, a businessman from Guayaquil, with Borja running a close second. As Febres Cordero entered office on August 10, there was no end in sight to the economic crisis nor to the intense struggle that characterized the political process in Ecuador.

Partly as a result of this, the Liberal/Conservative stranglehold on domestic politics was broken in 1988, when
the Izquierda Democratica (Democratic Left) party took over as the largest party in a coalition government. The right recovered its control during the early 1990s but, in May 1996, the presidential election was won by the Bucaram Ortiz of the Partido Roldosista Ecuatoriano (PRE). The PRE was little more than a vehicle for Bucaram, who had a reputation as a charismatic though eccentric politician. Unfortunately, he was entirely unsuited to presidential office, and his bizarre personal behaviour and irresponsible attitude towards the conduct of government led Congress to impeach him in February 1997. Bucaram promptly fled into exile in Panama, although he has since returned and contested the 2002 presidential election in which he came fifth, polling a respectable 12 per cent.

The 1998 summer presidential election brought to power the former major of Quito, Jamil Mahaud of the centre-right Popular Democracy Party. The party also took control of the National Congress, in a coalition government led by Eduardo Huerta. Mahaud’s main achievement was to settle Ecuador’s principal foreign policy problem – the long-running border dispute with Peru, concerning a potentially mineral-rich region of Amazonian jungle, which had flared up into full-scale fighting on several occasions during the 1990s. However, he proved unable to arrest Ecuador’s deteriorating economic situation and after just 18 months in office, in January 2000, Mahaud was forced out under pressure from the military, led by General Gutierrez, with vital support from the influential federation of ethnic Indian organisations, CONAIE. He was replaced by his deputy, Gustavo Noboa Bejarano. Under strong international pressure Noboa introduced a highly unpopular austerity programme which, by the time of the most recent presidential poll in October 2002, had undermined his prospects for retaining office. In the event, he lost the second round run-off to Edwin Gutierrez Borbua of the 21 January Patriotic Movement. This was the same Gutierrez who had led the coup against Mahaud in January 2000: his party is named after the date of the action. Simultaneous national assembly elections returned a coalition government led by centre-leftist Alfredo Palacio. The rise of Gutierrez has inevitably drawn comparisons with South America’s other left-wing populist leader, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. But the more cautious Gutierrez is not keen to promote the connection and there are significant differences in the approaches and policies of the two leaders.

Lucio Gutierrez, a leftist colonel best known for orchestrating the 2000 coup against President Jamil Mahuad, was elected to the presidency in 2003 on an anti-corruption platform. He became Ecuador’s sixth president in seven years. His attempts to introduce austere fiscal reforms, however, quickly alienated his political base, and numerous national strikes took place over 2003. But some economic improvements were seen in 2003: the GDP grew by an estimated 2.7%, and inflation dropped to a remarkable 6%. In November, President Gutierrez narrowly escaped impeachment for the alleged misuse of government funds.

On April, 20 2005 Ecuador’s Congress fired Lucio Gutierrez and appointed Vice President Alfredo Palacio as the country’s new president — its ninth in 10 years. The armed forces immediately declared their support for the new Palacio government. He assumed the presidency minutes after Congress voted to fire President Gutierrez for "abandoning his post." Sixty of the 62 legislators present at an emergency session of the 100-member unicameral Congress voted to dismiss Gutierrez. The former president fled to Panama.

References:

Dominican Republic National History

The island of Hispaniola (La Isla Española) was the first colony in the Caribbean settled by Spain. As such, it served as the logistical base for the conquest of the rest of Latin America. Christopher Columbus first sighted the island in 1492 toward the end of his first voyage to "India". Columbus and his crew found the island inhabited by a large population of
friendly Taino Indians (Arawaks). The land was fertile, but of greater importance to the Spaniards was the discovery that gold could be obtained either by barter with the natives or by extraction from alluvial deposits on the island.

After several attempts to plant colonies along the north coast of Hispaniola, the first permanent European settlement was founded in 1493 at Isabella, on the north coast of the island not far east of Puerto Plata. Santo Domingo was the first permanent settlement on the southern coast, founded in 1496. Under Spanish sovereignty, the entire island bore the name
Santo Domingo. Their relations with the Taino Indians, whom they ruthlessly maltreated, deteriorated from the beginning. Aroused by continued seizures of their food supplies, other exactions, and abuse of their women, the formerly peaceful Indians rebelled- -only to be crushed decisively in 1495.

Columbus, who ruled the colony as royal governor until 1499, attempted to put an end to the more serious abuses. He devised the repartimiento system of land settlement and native labor under which a settler, without assuming any obligation to the authorities, could be granted in perpetuity a large tract of land together with the services of the Indians
living on it. The repartimiento system did nothing to improve the lot of the Indians, and the Spanish crown changed it by instituting the system of encomienda in 1503. Under the encomienda system, all land became in theory the property of the crown, and the Indians thus were considered tenants on royal land.

The hard work demanded of the Indians and the privations that they suffered demonstrated the unrealistic nature of the encomienda system, which effectively operated on a honor system as a result of the absence of enforcement efforts by Spanish authorities. The Indian population died off rapidly from exhaustion, starvation, disease, and other causes. By 1548 the
Taino population, estimated at 1 million in 1492, had been reduced to approximately 500. The consequences were profound. The need for a new labor force to meet the growing demands of sugarcane cultivation prompted the importation of African slaves beginning in 1503. By 1520, black African labor was used almost exclusively.

As early as the 1490s, the landowners demonstrated their power by successfully conspiring against Columbus. His successor, Francisco de Bobadilla, was appointed chief justice and royal commissioner by the Spanish crown in 1499. Bobadilla sent Columbus back to Spain in irons, but Queen Isabella soon ordered him released. Bobadilla proved an inept administrator, and he was replaced in 1503 by the more efficient Nicolás de Ovando, who assumed the titles of governor and supreme justice. He decided
to take action to domesticate the Indians once and for all. He arranged for the widely respected Indian princess Anacoana, the widow of Caonabo, to organize a feast that was supposedly intended to welcome the new governor to the island. When all of the 80-plus of the island’s chiefs were assembled in one large house, the Spanish soldiers surrounded it, then set it on fire. Those who were not killed immediately were brutally tortured to death. After a mock trial, Anacaona was also hanged. With no remaining leaders, future resistance from the Indians was eliminated.

In 1509 Columbus’s son, Diego Columbus, was appointed governor of the colony of Santo Domingo. Diego’s ambition and the splendid surroundings he provided for himself aroused the suspicions of the crown. As a resulted, in 1511 of the crown established the audiencia, a new political institution intended to check the power of the governor. The first audiencia was simply a tribunal composed of three judges whose jurisdiction extended over all the West Indies. In this region, it formed the highest court of appeal. Employment of the audiencia eventually spread throughout Spanish America.

The Council of the Indies, created by Charles V in 1524, was the Spanish crown’s main agency for directing colonial affairs. During most of its existence, the council exercised almost absolute power in making laws, administering justice, controlling finance and trade, supervising the church, and directing armies.

Santo Domingo’s prestige began to decline in the first part of the sixteenth century with the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés in 1521 and the discovery there, and later in Peru, of great wealth in gold and silver. These events coincided with the exhaustion of the alluvial deposits of gold and the dying off of the Indian labor force in Santo Domingo. Large numbers of
colonists left for Mexico and Peru; new immigrants from Spain largely bypassed Santo Domingo for the greater wealth to be found in lands to the west. The population of Santo Domingo dwindled, agriculture languished, and Spain soon became preoccupied with its richer and vaster mainland colonies.

The stagnation that prevailed in Santo Domingo for the next 250 years was interrupted on several occasions by armed engagements, as the French and the English attempted to weaken Spain’s economic and political dominance in the New World. In 1586 the English admiral, Sir Francis Drake, captured the city of Santo Domingo and collected a ransom for its return to Spanish control. In 1655 Oliver Cromwell dispatched an English fleet, commanded by Sir William Penn, to take Santo Domingo. After meeting heavy resistance, the English sailed farther west and took Jamaica instead.

The withdrawal of the colonial government from the northern coastal region opened the way for smugglers, run-away indentured servants and members of ships’ crew of various European nationalities, who were for the most part a gang of lawless rifraff. Most earned their living by capturing animals to sell for their leather, or roasting the meal over smoking (boucan, in French) fires, and so came to be called buccaneers. Tortuga Island (Ile de la Tortue), off the northwest coast of present-day Haiti, later became the headquarters of the pirates of the Caribbean who raided the Spanish treasure ships, and was a recruitment centre for expeditions mounted by many notorious scoundrals including the British pirate Henry Morgan. Although the Spanish destroyed the buccaneers’ settlements several times, the determined French would not be deterred or expelled. The creation of the French West India Company in 1664 signalled France’s intention to colonize western Hispaniola. Intermittent warfare went on between French and Spanish settlers over the next three decades; however, Spain, hard-pressed by warfare in Europe, could not maintain a garrison in Santo Domingo sufficient to secure the entire island against encroachment. In 1697, under the Treaty of Ryswick, Spain ceded the western third of the island to France. The exact boundary of this territory (Saint-Domingue–now Haiti) was not established at the time of cession and remained in question until 1929.

The Bourbon dynasty replaced the Habsburgs in Spain in 1700. The new regime introduced innovations–especially economic reforms–that gradually began to revive trade in Santo Domingo. The crown progressively relaxed the rigid controls and restrictions on commerce between the mother country and the colonies and among the colonies. The last convoys sailed in 1737; the monopoly port system was abolished shortly thereafter. By the middle of the century, both immigration and the importation of slaves had increased. In 1765 the Caribbean islands received authorization for almost unlimited trade with Spanish ports; permission for the Spanish colonies in the Americas to trade among themselves followed in 1774. 

As a result of the stimulus provided by the trade reforms, the population of the colony of Santo Domingo increased from about 6,000 in 1737 to approximately 125,000 in 1790. Of this number, about 40,000 were white landowners, about 25,000 were black or mulatto freedmen, and some 60,000 were slaves. The composition of Santo Domingo’s population contrasted sharply with that of the neighboring French colony of Saint-Domingue, where some 30,000 whites and 27,000 freedmen extracted labor from at least 500,000 black slaves.

Although they shared the island of Hispaniola, the colonies of Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo followed disparate paths. Cultural differences explained the contrast to some extent, but the primary divergence was economic. Saint-Domingue was the most productive agricultural colony in the Western Hemisphere, and its output contributed heavily to the economy of France. By contrast, Santo Domingo was a small colony with little impact on the economy of Spain. Prosperous French plantation owners sought to maximize their gain through increased production for a growing world market. Thus, they imported great numbers of slaves from Africa and drove this captive work force ruthlessly.

Inspired by momentous events taking place in France during the French Revolution, and by the disputes between the different classes of whites and mulattos, a slave revolt broke out in the French colony in 1791 and soon came to be led by Toussaint Louverture. In danger of completely losing their colony, France abolished slavery in 1794. Toussaint’s soldiers and the French easily overwhelmed the Spanish part of the island which surrendered the next year.

Although Toussaint succeeded in re-establishing order and stability and renewing the economy which had been badly devastated by the slave revolt, the new leader in France, Napoleon Bonaparte, could not accept having France’s richest colony governed by a black man. Succumbing to the complaints of former colonists who had lost their plantations, a large expedition was mounted whose ultimate purpose was to conquer the blacks and re-establish slavery. Led by Napoleon’s brother-in-law, General Leclerc,  in 1802, the expedition turned into a disaster, and shortly after the black army definitively defeated the French, the blacks, led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, declared their independence and established the republic of Haïti on the western third of the island in January 1804.

By 1808 a number of émigré Spanish landowners had returned to Santo Domingo. These royalists had no intention of living under French rule, however, and they sought foreign assistance for a rebellion that would restore Spanish sovereignty. Help came from the Haitians, who provided arms, and from the British, who occupied Samaná and blockaded the port of Santo Domingo. The remaining French representatives fled the island in July 1809.

The 1809 restoration of Spanish rule ushered in an era referred to by some historians as España Boba (Foolish Spain). Under the despotic rule of Ferdinand VII, the colony’s economy deteriorated severely. Some Dominicans began to wonder if their interests would not best be served by the sort of independence movement that was sweeping the South American colonies. In keeping with this sentiment, Spanish lieutenant governor José Núñez de Cáceres announced the colony’s independence as the state of Spanish Haiti on November 30, 1821. Cáceres requested admission to the Republic of Gran Colombia (consisting of what later became Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela), recently proclaimed established by Simón Bolívar and his followers. While the request was in transit, however, the president of Haiti, Jean-Pierre Boyer, decided to invade Santo Domingo and to reunite the island under the Haitian flag.

For the next 22 years the whole island came under Haïtian control and domination. Because of their loss of political and economic control, this occupation was deeply resented by the former Spanish ruling class. During the late 1830s an underground resistance group called La Trinitaria (The Trinity) was organized under the leadership of Juan Pablo Duarte. The overthrow of Boyer in the Revolution of 1843 provided a catalyst for the Dominican rebels. Charles Rivière-Hérard replaced Boyer as president of Haiti. After several attacks on the Haïtian army, and due to internal discord, the Haïtians retreated. Independence of the eastern side of the island was officially declared on February 27, 1844, and the name of Dominican Republic was adopted, when the rebels seized the Ozama fortress in the capital. The Haitian garrison, taken by surprise and apparently betrayed by at least one of its sentries, retired in disarray. Within two days, all Haitian officials had left Santo Domingo. Mella headed the provisional governing junta of the new Dominican Republic. Duarte, finally recovered, returned to his country on March 14.

For nearly the next quarter of a century the leadership seesawed between that of General Pedro Santana and General Buenaventura Baez, whose armies continuously fought each other for control over the government. In their efforts to maintain control, the 2 military leaders and their disciples resorted to outside assistance. In 1861 General Santana invited the Spanish to return and take over control of their former colony. But after a short period of mis-management, the Dominicans quickly realized their mistake and forced the Spanish out in 1865. Apparently not learning their lesson, another group begged the United States to come in and take over a decade later. Although US President Grant supported the move, the plan was defeated by the US Congress and then abandoned.

After a successful uprising that forced Báez to flee the country in May 1866, a triumvirate of Cibaeño military leaders, the most prominent of whom was Gregorio Luperón, assumed provisional power. General José María Cabral Luna, who had served briefly as president in 1865, was reelected to that post on September 29, 1866. The baecistas, however, were still a potent force in the republic; they forced Cabral out and reinstalled Báez on May 2, 1868. Once again, his rule was marked by peculation and efforts to sell or to lease portions of the country to foreign interests. These included an intermittent campaign to have the entire country annexed by the United States. He was once again overthrown by rebellious groups in January 1874.

After a period of infighting, backing from Luperón helped Ulises Francisco Espaillat Quiñones to win election as president on March 24, 1876. Espaillat, a political and economic liberal, apparently intended to broaden personal freedoms and to set the nation’s economy on a firmer footing. He never had the opportunity to do either, however. Rebellions in the south and the east forced Espaillat to resign on December 20, 1876. Ever the opportunist, Báez returned once more to power. The most effective opposition to his rule came from guerrilla forces led by a politically active priest, Fernando Arturo de Meriño Ramírez. In February 1878, the unpopular Báez left his country for the last time; he died in exile in 1882.

Both Santana and Báez had now passed from the scene. They had helped to create a nation where violence prevailed in the quest for power, where economic growth and financial stability fell victim to a seemingly endless political contest, and where foreign interests still perceived parts of the national territory as available to the highest bidder. This divisive, chaotic situation invited the emergence of a Machiavellian figure who would "unite" the republic.

This strongman who came to power in 1882 was General Ulysses Heureux. Luperón’s lieutenant, stood out among his fellow Dominicans both physically and temperamentally. The illegitimate son of a Haitian father and a mother who was originally from the island of St. Thomas, he was distinguished by his blackness from most other contenders for power, with the exception of Luperón. As events were to demonstrate, he also possessed a singular thirst for power and a willingness to take any measures necessary to attain and to hold it.

During the four years between Báez’s final withdrawal and Heureaux’s ascension to the presidency, seven individuals held or claimed national, regional, or interim leadership. Among them were Ignacio María González Santin, who held the presidency from June to September 1878; Luperón, who governed from Puerto Plata as provisional president from October 1879 to August 1880; and Meriño, who assumed office in September 1880 after apparently fraudulent general elections. Heureaux served as interior minister under Meriño; his behind-the-scenes influence on the rest of the cabinet apparently exceeded that of the president. Although Meriño briefly suspended constitutional procedures in response to unrest fomented by some remaining baecistas, he abided by the two-year term established under Luperón and turned the reins of government over to Heureaux on September 1, 1882.

Heureaux’s first term as president was not particularly noteworthy. The administrations of Luperón and Meriño had achieved some financial stability for the country; political conditions had settled down to the point that Heureaux needed to suppress only one major uprising during his two-year tenure. By 1884, however, no single potential successor, among the various caciques who constituted the republic’s ruling group, enjoyed widespread support. Luperón, still the leader of the ruling Blue Party, supported General Segundo Imbert for the post, while Heureaux backed the candidacy of General Francisco Gregorio Billini. A consummate dissembler, Heureaux assured Luperón that he would support Imbert should he win the election, but Heureaux also had ballot boxes in critical precincts stuffed in order to assure Billini’s election.

Inaugurated president on September 1, 1884, Billini resisted Heureaux’s efforts to manipulate him. Thus denied de facto rule, Heureaux undermined Billini by spreading rumors to the effect that the president had decreed a political amnesty so that he could conspire with ex-president Cesareo Guillermo Bastardo (February 27-December 6, 1879) against Luperón’s leadership of the Blues. This precipitated a governmental crisis that resulted in Billini’s resignation on May 16, 1885. Vice President Alejandro Woss y Gil succeeded Billini. Heureaux assumed a more prominent role under the new government; a number of his adherents were included in the cabinet, and the general himself assumed command of the national army in order to stem a rebellion led by
Guillermo, whose suicide when he was faced with capture, removed another potential rival for power and further endeared Heureaux to Luperón, a longtime enemy of Guillermo.

Luperón accordingly supported Heureaux in the 1886 presidential elections. Opposed by Casimiro de Moya, Heureaux relied on his considerable popularity and his demonstrated skill at electoral manipulation to carry the balloting. The blatancy of the fraud in some areas, particularly the capital, inspired Moya’s followers to launch an armed rebellion. Heureaux again benefited from Luperón’s support in this struggle; it delayed his inauguration by four months, but it further narrowed the field of political contenders. Having again achieved power, Heureaux maintained his grip on it for the rest of his life.

Several moves served to lay the groundwork for Heureaux’s dictatorship. Constitutional amendments requested by the president and effected by the Congress extended the presidential term from two to four years and eliminated direct elections in favor of the formerly employed electoral college system. To expand his informal power base, Heureaux (who became popularly known as General Lilís, thanks to a common mispronunciation of his first name) incorporated both Reds and Blues into his government. The president also established an extensive network of secret police and informants in order to avert incipient rebellions. The press, previously unhampered, came under new restrictions.

In the face of impending dictatorship, concerned Dominican liberals turned to the only remaining figure of stature, Luperón. The elections of 1888 therefore pitted Heureaux against his political mentor. If the dictator felt any respect for his former commander, he did not demonstrate it during the campaign. Heureaux’s agents attacked Luperón’s campaigners and supporters, arresting and incarcerating considerable numbers of them. Recognizing the impossibility of a free election under such circumstances, Luperón withdrew his candidacy, declined the entreaties of those of his followers who urged armed rebellion, and fled into exile in Puerto Rico. Although plots, intrigue, and abortive insurrections continued under his rule, Heureaux faced no serious challenges until his assassination in 1899. 

After a brief period of armed conflict, the revolutionaries prevailed. Vásquez headed a provisional government established in September 1899. Free, direct elections brought to the presidency Juan Isidro Jiménez Pereyra on November 15. The Jiménez administration faced a fiscal crisis when European creditors, led by the French, began to call in loans that had been contracted by Heureaux. Customs fees represented the only significant source of government revenue at that time. When the Jiménez government pledged 40 percent of its customs revenue to repay its foreign debt, it provoked the ire of the San Domingo Improvement Company. A United States-based firm, the Improvement Company had lent large sums to the Heureaux regime. As a result, it had not only received a considerable percentage of customs revenue, but also had been granted the right to administer Dominican customs in order to ensure regular repayment. Stung by the Jiménez government’s resumption of control over its customs receipts, the directors of the Improvement Company protested to the United States Department of State. The review of the case prompted a renewed interest
in Washington in Dominican affairs.

The death of Heureaux, however, had by no means ushered in an era of political tranquility. Jiménez’s various financial negotiations with foreign powers had aroused opposition among nationalists, particularly in the Cibao, who suspected the president of bargaining away Dominican sovereignty in return for financial settlements. Government forces led by Vásquez put down some early uprisings. Eventually, however, personal and political competition between Jiménez and Vásquez brought them into more serious conflict. Vásquez’s forces proclaimed a revolution on April 26, 1902; with no real base of support, Jiménez fled his office and his country a few days later. Although highly principled, Vásquez was not a strong leader. Squabbles among his followers and opposition to his government from local caciques grew into general unrest that culminated in the seizure of power by ex-president Woss y Gil in April 1903.

Dominican politics had once again polarized into two largely nonideological camps. Where once the Blues and the Reds had contended for power, now the jimenistas (supporters of Jiménez; sing., jimenista) and the horacistas (supporters of Vásquez and Cáceres; sing., horacista) vied for control. Woss y Gil, a jimenista, made the mistake of seeking supporters among the horacista camp and he was overthrown by the jimenista general, Carlos F. Morales Languasco, in December 1903. Rather than restore the country’s leadership to Jiménez, however, Morales set up a provisional government and announced his own candidacy for the presidency– with Cáceres as his running mate. The renewed fraternization with the horacistas incited another jimenista rebellion. This uprising proved unsuccessful, and Morales and Cáceres were inaugurated on June 19, 1904.

Conflict within the Morales administration between supporters of the president and those of the vice president debilitated the government. By late 1905, it became clear that Morales had lost effective control to Cáceres and the cabinet. Morales resolved to lead a coup against his own government; his plan was discovered by the horacistas, however, and he was captured and dispatched into exile. Cáceres assumed the presidency on December 29, 1905.

Around the turn of the century, the sugar industry was revived, and so many American businessmen came to invest and buy plantations that they came to dominate this vital sector of the economy. With the advent of the First World War, and using the excuse that political instability was creating a situation whereby a European power (Germany) might be able to take advantage of the country" s weakness – whereas the real reason was to expand American influence over the Dominican economy – the United States sent in its Marines to occupy the Dominican Republic in 1916. Only a few months earlier, the Americans had also used the same argument as a pretext to occupy neighboring Haïti. The initial military administrator of Haiti, Rear Admiral William Caperton, had actually forced President Arias to retreat from Santo Domingo by threatening the city with naval bombardment on May 13. The first Marines landed three days later. Although they established effective control of the country within two months, the United States forces did not proclaim a military government until November. Most Dominican laws and institutions remained intact under military rule, although the shortage of Dominicans willing to serve in the cabinet forced the military governor, Rear Admiral Harry S. Knapp, to fill a number of portfolios with United States naval officers. The press and radio were censored for most of the occupation, and public speech was limited.

The US occupation in the Dominican Republic lasted 8 years (it went on for 19 years in Haïti), and from the beginning the Americans quickly took over complete control. It ordered the disbanding of the Dominican army and the competing rival strongman armies and forced the population to disarm. The puppet government that was installed was obliged to obey the orders generated by the occupying force commanders. Among the changes made was the re-modeling of the legal structure in order to benefit American investors, who took over greater sectors of the economy and to remove all customs and import barriers for American products brought to the country. The results of the heavy penetration of the local economy by American investors was that many small Dominican businessmen and entrepreneurs were forced out of business. The changes, however, were not all negative, because during this period the former patten of political violence was eliminated, and many improvements in infrastucture and the educational system were introduced.

The most intense opposition to the occupation arose in the eastern provinces of El Seibo and San Pedro de Macorís. From 1917 to 1921, the United States forces battled a guerrilla movement in that area known as the gavilleros. The guerrillas enjoyed considerable support among the population, and they benefited from a superior knowledge of the terrain. The
movement survived the capture and the execution of its leader, Vicente Evangelista, and some initially fierce encounters with the Marines. However, the gavilleros eventually yielded to the occupying forces’ superior firepower, air power (a squadron of six Curtis Jennies), and determined (often brutal) counterinsurgent methods.

After World War I, public opinion in the United States began to run against the occupation. Warren G. Harding, who succeeded Wilson in March 1921, had campaigned against the occupations of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In June 1921, United States representatives presented a withdrawal proposal, known as the Harding Plan, which called for Dominican ratification of all acts of the military government, approval of a loan of US$2.5 million for public works and other expenses, the acceptance of United States officers for the constabulary–now known as the National Guard (Guardia Nacional)–and the holding of elections under United States supervision. Popular reaction to the plan was overwhelmingly negative. Moderate Dominican leaders, however, used the plan as the basis for further negotiations that resulted in an agreement allowing for the selection of a provisional president to rule until elections could be organized. Under the supervision of High Commissioner Sumner Welles, Juan Bautista Vicini Burgos assumed the provisional presidency on October 21, 1922. In the presidential election of March 15, 1924, Horacio Vásquez Lajara handily defeated Francisco J. Peynado. Vásquez’s Alliance Party (Partido Alianza) also won a comfortable majority in both houses of Congress. With his inauguration on July 13, control of the republic returned to Dominican hands.

One of the changes made by the Americans was to establish and train a local armed forces (as they also did in Haïti) whose supposedly intended purpose was to maintain law and order and public security. In both counties the end result of this change in the system was to shift power from the civilians to the military. During the time of the occupation, the head of the army was a former telegraph clerk named Raphael Leonidas Trujilo. This unscrupulous strongman utilized his position in power to amass an enormous personal fortune from embezzlement activities which initally involved the procurement of military supplies. Although the Dominican Republic had its first relatively free election after the US forces left in 1924, within a short time Trujilo was able to block any government reform actions, and in 1930 he took over complete control of the reins of power.

Using the army as his enforcer, Trujilo wasted no time in setting up a repressive dictatorship, organizing a vast network of spies to eliminate all potential opponents. His henchmen did not hesitate to use torture, intimidation, or assassination of political foes to terrify and oppress the population and consolidate his rule and fortune. Before long he had so
consolidated his power as to be able to treat the country as his own personal kingdom. After only 6 years at the head of government, Trujilo was confident enough to even change the name of the capital city from Santo Domingo (which had held this name for over 400 years) to Cuidad- Trujilo (Trujilo City).

Initially Trujilo continued to receive American support because he offered generous and favorable conditions to American businessmen wanting to invest in the Dominican Republic, and after World War II showed his political support of the USA’s stand against the spectre of Communism. By 1942 he even arranged to repay all of the foreign debt due to the United States, which had for decades limited economic initiatives of the Dominican government. But after several years of confiscating ownership of the majority of the most important domestic businesses and moved to control virtually all large industrial development in the country, he then moved to also take over several of the major American-owned industries, particularly in the sugar industry. These take-over activities, plus Trujilo’s meddling in the internal affairs of other neighboring countries in the region, led increasingly to American disenchantment with the Dominican dictator.

One of Trujilo’s most notorious acts was committed against his island neighbor, Haïti. For centuries the lack of clear definition of the location of the border between the two countries had been a source of aggrevation and conflict between the two countries. Not only had the border areas always been a thorn from incessent smuggling activities, but many thousands of Haitians had also been increasingly settling on lands around the border. Trujilo had always made it clear that he held racist ideas and considered the black-skinned Haitians to be inferior. In 1937 he took action to resolve this problematic issue by giving the order to his army to massacre all Haitians found to be in the Dominican Republic. Estimates of as many as 17,000 unarmed Haitian men, women and children were slaughtered in a bloodbath of violence, particularly around the border region of the town of Dajabon and the aptly named Massacre River.

To attempt to deflect international criticism of this notorious scandal, Trujilo offered to accept to the Dominican Republic as many as 100,000 refugees from the scourge of Nazi-Germany in Europe. But when it came to action, only about 600 Jewish families were offered refuge in 1942, and came to settle in what is known today as the El Batey section of Sosua, opposite the small bay from the fishing village of Charamicos. Of these, only a dozen or so families remained there in the long run.

Trujilo remained in power for over 30 years, but toward the end he succeeded in alienating even his former most avid supporters, including the USA. The final straw came when he was linked with an abortive assassination attempt against Venequelan President Romulo Bétancourt. In August 1960, the United States embassy in Santo Domingo was downgraded to consular level. According to journalist Bernard Diederich, US President Eisenhower asked the National Security Council’s Special Group (the organization responsible for approving covert operations) to consider the initiation of operations aimed at Trujillo’s ouster. A year later, on May 30, 1961, Trujilo’s personal automobile was ambushed after a rendez-vous with his mistress, and the dictator and his chauffeur met a violent end. According to Diederich, the United States Central Intelligence Agency supplied the weapons used by the assassins. When he died, Trujilo was considered to be one of the richest men in the world, having amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of $500 million US dollars, including ownership of most of the large industries and a major sector of
productive agricultural land. The anniversary date of his assassination is today celebrated as a national holiday in the Dominican Republic.

After Trujilo’s untimely death, he was succeeded by his vice-president, Dr. Joachim Balaguer. A year and a half later, Juan Bosch Gaviño of the Dominican Revolutionary Party was elected president. The next 2 years were the scene of political and economic chaos, which culminated when the dissatisfied working classes rose in rebellion, and allied with a dissident army faction, took action to re-establish constitutional order on April 24, 1965. President Lyndon Johnson then ordered the US Marines to occupy the Dominican Republic under pretext that communists were in control of the political uprising. The intervention was subsequently granted some measure of hemispheric approval by the creation of an OAS-sponsored peace force, which supplemented the
United States military presence in the republic. A year later, Dr. Joachim Ballaguer, one of Trujilo’s former trusted lieutenants, was elected president again in what was acknowledged by all observers to have been a rigged election. Ballaguer remained in power during this time for a continuous period of 12 years, winning re-election in 1970 and 1974. In both instances the opposition parties maintained that the elections were rigged, so they did not nominate candidates to participate in the electoral races.

Wanting a change, in 1978 Dominicans went to the polls and elected Antonio Guzman of the Dominican Revolutionary Party. Unwilling to cede defeat, when Balaguer’s supporters became aware that the results were moving in the direction of a victory for Guzman, they attempted to put an end to the vote counting to maintain Balaguer in the presidency. But under international pressure, particularly Jimmy Carter’s government in the United States, Balaguer was forced to give in and admit to defeat.

Just before his 4-year term ended in 1982, Guzman allegedly committed suicide after becoming aware that close family members were involved in massive corruption and embezzlement of government funds. He was replaced by Salvador Blanco of the D.R.P. Blanco continued in the time honored tradition of rewarding family members, close friends and political supporters with lucrative governmental posts. His term in the Dominican presidency was in the end marred by allegations of massive corruption and mis-appropriation of government funds. He was later found guilty and convicted to 20 years in prison on charges of corruption.

Thoroughly disallusioned by the mis-rule of the leaders of the D.R.P., Dominicans returned to the polls in 1986 to opt for the former dictator, Dr. Joachim Ballaguer. He was successful in winning the election in 1990 against divided and disorganized opposition parties. The year 1992 was marked by the 500-year anniversary celebration of Columbus’ discovery of America. In honor of the event, a massive concrete momument, the Faro de Colón (Columbus’ Lighthouse) was erected on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. The celebration events were somewhat diminished by international criticism of the massive spending required to pay for this structure when millions of Ballaguer’s countrymen were suffering from living in conditions of poverty.

In 1994 Balaguer again declared victory in an election which O.A.S. and other international observers unanimously agreed was rigged. The names of thousands of voters were removed who were known to be supporters of his main opponent, the former mayor of Santo Domingo, Jose Francisco Peña Gomez of the D.R.P. In a bid to avoid a major outbreak of violence, Balaguer and Peña Gomez met and negotiated an agreement whereby Balaguer promised to remain in power no longer than 2 years, and not to run for re-election the next time around.

Run-off elections were then scheduled for May, 1996 and early returns showed Peña Gomez holding a plurality. On July 2, 1996 Leonel Fernandez Reyna of the Partia Libertad Democratica (P.L.D.) edged out Gomez in the run-offs. Balaguer, at age 90, almost completely blind and partially deaf, gave his support to help Fernandez come from behind to win. Leonel finished in July with 51% of the vote compared with 49% for Peña Gomez. Dominicans seemed to accept the vote with little protest, but most people are waiting to see if he can accomplish significant reforms. According to international observatory organizations the election was declared clean.

Part of Reyna’s anticipated reforms depended on his party gaining a majority in the National Assembly, which held elections in May 1998. A few weeks before the elections, Peña Gomez died from cancer. The country declared a two day period of mourning to honor the politician who many believed would have been president had past elections not been tampered with. Election results in the National Assembly gave a majority to the opposing Peña Gomez party and many Dominicans feel that Leonel will have difficulties passing his proposed legislation. However, this kind of political debate is now more representative of a true democracy in which divided elections are the result of the people’s shifting opinions. In May 2000, now aged 92 and in failing health, Balaguer attempted to secure an eighth presidential term, although this too ended in defeat at the hands of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (P.R.D) candidate, Hipolito Mejia. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in May 2002, also gave control of both chambers to the P.R.D.

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