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THE POLITICAL EFFECTS OF DISASTER AND FOREIGN AID:
NATIONAL AND SUBNATIONAL GOVERNANCE IN HONDURAS
AFTER HURRICANE MITCH
VILMA ELISA FUENTES
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Vilma Elisa Fuentes
This dissertation is dedicated to all those Hondurans who struggle to promote the
development of their country.
The work presented here would not have been possible without the support of
several institutions and individuals. I thank the Institute for the Study of World Politics,
the University of Florida's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and this same
institution's Graduate Minority Office for funding this project. Their generous financial
support enabled me to conduct approximately a year of field research in Honduras and
begin writing several chapters of this dissertation.
I am grateful to my committee members for the guidance and support they offered
me throughout the different phases of this work. Dr. Leslie Anderson and Dr. Philip
Williams shared with me their vast knowledge of Central America, democratization and
peasant politics during my first few years in the Political Science doctoral program. They
unwittingly convinced me that I should undertake doctoral research related to these
issues. Dr. Goran Hyden helped me develop the theoretical framework for this
dissertation. His books, graduate classes and experiences in the development field
encouraged me to grapple with the concept of governance and appreciate how foreign
donors and non-government organizations can influence this process. Dr. Oliver-Smith's
early enthusiasm for and interest in my topic convinced me that a political analysis of
Hurricane Mitch's impact could make a valuable contribution to the existing literature on
disasters. All of these advisors took a fairly open-minded approach to my study. Rather
than demand that I present a rigid research design, they suggested that I approach my
subject matter with some flexibility. Post-disaster situations were so dynamic and
Honduran politics so poorly understood, they argued, that I had to just "get my feet on the
ground" and be willing to change my theories and study design to better understand
political reality. This I did and my research is significantly stronger for it. Dr. Renee
Johnson kindly agreed to join my dissertation committee after I returned from Honduras.
She helped me interpret my quantitative data and make sense of what thousands of
Hondurans had told me. The work presented here is methodologically sounder as a result
of her guidance. She together with the rest of my committee patiently read numerous
drafts of my dissertation and guided my thinking throughout. This work is as much an
ideological product of them as it is of me.
Several individuals facilitated my work in Honduras and enhanced my knowledge
of this country. Roberto Reina and Patricia Licona graciously welcomed me into their
home during the many months I spent in Tegucigalpa. They allowed me to use their
personal vehicle to travel around the city and spent countless hours sharing their political
insights with me. Their three children-Camila, Lucia and Roberto-regularly forced
me to set aside my work in order to laugh, play and appreciate the beauty of life. The
happy moments they shared with me will be treasured always.
Dennis Cubero also facilitated much of my work in Tegucigalpa. He introduced
me to many of his colleagues in the National Congress, helped me obtain interviews with
key government officials and granted me valuable lists describing the organization and
composition of different political bodies. Dennis Cubero also gave me invaluable
support with my research in Northern Honduras. He and his wife, Reyna Arias,
introduced me to various people and places in the department of Cortes that had been
devastated by Hurricane Mitch. This gave me a good general view of how this part of the
country had been affected by the disaster and eventually enabled me to select Potrerillos
as one of my municipal research sites. Dennis and Reyna also welcomed me into their
home, allowed me to convert parts of it into my private office and, when possible, offered
me the use their vehicle. Their two teenage children often accompanied me in my mini-
excursions around San Pedro Sula and helped me carry out tedious office tasks. We
fought, laughed and enjoyed life as siblings often do. They will always have a special
place in my heart.
The Municipal government of Potrerillos gave me unlimited support in my study of
its region. It helped me determine the household population of Potrerillos, find and train
research assistants, discover the socio-political history of its municipality and better
understand how citizens there responded to the impact of disaster. The staff at
Potrerillos' Centro de Salud also generously offered their time and labor.
The Asociaci6n de Organizaciones No-Gubernamentales de Honduras
(ASONOG) provided logistical support for the research I conducted in San Marcos and
Dolores Merend6n, Ocotepeque. They not only transported me to these locations on
numerous occasions but also helped me find reliable research assistants there. They
together with the Consejo Departamental de Ocotepeque (CODEPO) also allowed me to
use their office equipment to facilitate my research. Efrain Deras, the regional director of
ASONOG in Ocotepeque, deserves particular thanks. He offered me the use of his
personal vehicle whenever those belonging to ASONOG were unavailable, gave me
countless hours of advice and support and introduced me to his family who lovingly
received me into their home. Juan Manuel Espinoza and his family also were extremely
gracious. They not only assisted me in my research but also offered me many hours of
laughter and good food during my stay in Western Honduras.
Both the Catholic Parish and local government of Saba facilitated my work in their
municipality. They invited me to numerous meetings and special events, offered me
logistical support and helped me obtain fairly accurate data on the region's population.
The warmth and generosity shown to me by countless residents of the region will always
be remembered and appreciated.
I especially thank my family for their unending support and encouragement. My
mother motivated me to pursue my doctoral degree and continually urged me to complete
my dissertation. She was my main source of counsel during difficult and trying times. I
doubt whether anybody has believed in me more than her or whether anybody deserves
more credit for my academic achievements than she. My maternal grandmother prepared
me for my research in Potrerillos and Honduras, more generally, by sharing with me her
vast knowledge of these areas. Her many, entertaining stories helped me develop a better
appreciation for the changing Honduran landscape and the lives of some of this country's
key historical figures. My husband made countless sacrifices to facilitate this work and
make my graduation possible. His endless love, kind words and support sustained me
throughout all my years in this doctoral program. I could not have asked for a more
caring and understanding partner in life. I look forward to sharing the fruits of these
many years of sacrifice with him. Above all, I thank God for listening to my family's
and my prayers, keeping me safe during my adventures in Honduras and ensuring this
project would come to fruition.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF TABLES ........... ............................... ............... ............. xi
LIST OF FIGURES ......... ....................... .......... ....... ............ xiv
L IST O F A C R O N Y M S .......................................................................... .....................xv
A B S T R A C T .......................................... ..................................................x x
1 IN T R O D U C T IO N ............................................................................. .............. ...
2 DISASTERS, FOREIGN AID AND GOVERNANCE ...........................................13
In tro du ctio n ......................................................... ............. ................ 13
The Political Effects of Disasters ................................................... .................. 13
The Political Effects of Foreign A id.................................... .................................... 25
International D onor Im pact ........................................ ........................... 26
N G O Im pact .......................................................................34
T heorizing G overnance ........................................... .................. ............... 40
C conclusion ...................................................................................................... ....... 52
3 A HISTORY OF HONDURAN GOVERNANCE ................................................54
In tro d u ctio n ........................................................................................................... 5 4
Early Civil Society............................. ... .............. ........... ...........54
The Development of Civil Society (1950's-1960's) ...............................................61
The Growing Strength of Civil Society (1965-1974)...............................................79
The Fragmentation of Civil Society (1975-1980's).................... ..............88
The Reunification and Political Incorporation of Civil Society ............................... 104
Conclusion ................ ......... ..................... ........ .... ..... ........ 120
4 NATIONAL-LEVEL GOVERNANCE AFTER MITCH ....................................... 125
Intro du action ......................... ......... ................... ............ ................ 12 5
State and Societal Responses to D isaster............................................................... 125
Preparing for Stockholm ............................................................ ............... .135
Civil Society Responds to Stockholm ............................................. ............... 144
D onor Pressure for Change.............................................................................. 148
The Government's Response to Donor and Civil Society Demands....................153
Foreign Donors and Civil Society Deepen their Cooperation............... ...............161
The Political Consequences of Greater Civil Society Activism and Donor
Pressure ............. ..... ........ .................................... .. .... ....... 163
The Limits to Transformation...................... ....... ............................. 166
C conclusion ............ ......... ............................................. ............ 171
5 INTRODUCING MUNICIPAL CASE STUDIES............................................... 174
Intro du action ......................... .......... ......... ............................... 174
P otrerillos ......................................................................... .... .... .. ... 177
S ab a ............. ............................. ................................................ 1 8 6
S an M arco s .......................................................................... 194
Dolores M erendon .................................... ... .. ......... ....... ..... 200
Conclusion ................................... ................................. ......... 204
6 COMPARING MUNICIPAL HISTORIES ............................................................206
In tro du ctio n ...................................... ............................................... 2 0 6
P otrerillos ......................................................................... .... .... .. ... 209
S ab a ............. ............................. ................................................2 2 0
S an M arco s ..........................................................................24 1
Dolores M erend6n .................................... ... .. ......... ....... ..... 259
Conclusion ................................... ................................. ......... 264
7 MUNICIPAL-LEVEL GOVERNANCE AFTER MITCH AND AID ....................266
In tro du ctio n ...................................... ............................................... 2 6 6
P otrerillos ......................................................................... .... .... ... ... 269
S ab a ........................................................................... .. 2 9 2
D olores M erend n ................. .... .......................... .. .... ........ .............. 328
S an M arco s ..........................................................................34 5
Conclusion ................................... ................................. ......... 360
8 C O N C L U SIO N .......... ...... .............................................................. ... ........ ........365
The Socio-Political Effects of Disasters ........................................ .............365
The Political Effects of Foreign Aid................................................ ..................369
The Insights of Governance........................ ..................... ............... 376
C onclu sion ................................................ .............. .... ............ 378
A DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH METHODS .........................3.80
The N national L evel .......................................... .. .. .... .......... ....... 380
The M municipal Level ............................................................. ... ....382
Survey Collection in Potrerillos ........................................ ..... ............... 382
Survey Collection in San Marcos .......................... ...............385
Survey Collection in Dolores M erend6n................... .............................. .. 387
Survey Collection in Saba ............................................................................388
B SAMPLE CITIZEN SURVEY ............................................................. ............... 391
LIST OF REFERENCES ......... ..................................... ........ .. ............... 402
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ........................................ ............................................417
LIST OF TABLES
4-1 Reported cooperation among civil society groups................................... 145
4-2 One-sample t test comparing reported levels of civil society participation
in 2000 with the pre-Mitch period .......................... ........................ 145
4-3 Perceptions of community organization before and after Mitch in urban
centers ..................................... .................. ............... ......... 147
4-4 How civil society groups participated in national government forums,
commissions or consultative groups ........................................................157
4-5 One-sample t test comparing urban residents' participation in cabildos abiertos
before and after M itch .......................................................... ............... 158
4-6 One-sample t test comparing urban residents' contact with government
officials before and after M itch................................................. ....... ........ 159
5-1 Selection of municipal case studies ..... ......... ......................... ...............176
5-2 Household structures compared across the four municipal case studies ............198
5-3 Education levels compared among the four municipalities...............................202
6-1 Land distributed in Potrerillos through agrarian reform ............................ 213
6-2 Land distributed in Saba through agrarian reform program .............................226
6-3 Land distributed in San Marcos through agrarian reform.................................. 245
6-4 A comparison of agrarian reform benefits in Potrerillos, Saba and San
M a rc o s ...................................... .............................................. 2 4 6
6-5 Organizational histories compared among the municipalities under study .........265
7-1 Perceptions of community organization before and after mitch in Potrerillos ....275
7-2 One-sample t test comparing perceptions of community organization in
Potrerillos in 2000 with the pre-Mitch period...................................276
7-3 A logit analysis of how different variables are associated with post-Mitch
group membership in Potrerillos...................... .... .......................... 277
7-4 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with
governm ent contact in Potrerillos ............................................. ............... 279
7-5 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with cabildo
attendance in Potrerillos...................... ...... .............................. 281
7-6 How residents from Potrerillos have participated in cabildos........................285
7-7 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with past
voting in P otrerillos....... .............................................................. .... .... .... 289
7.8 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with a desire
to vote in the future in Potrerillos ............................................. ............... 290
7-9 Comparing M itch-induced damage.................................. ........................ 293
7-10 Perceptions of community organization before and after Mitch in Sab.............311
7-11 One-sample t test to measure the mean difference in pre and post Mitch
perceptions of community organization in Sab...................... .....................311
7-12 One-sample t test to measure the mean difference in pre and post Mitch
group m em bership in Sab ........................................................ ............... 312
7-13 A logit model showing how different variables are associated with post-Mitch
group m em bership in Sab ........................................................ ............... 316
7-14 One-sample t test comparing post-Mitch levels of government contact in Saba
with the pre-M itch period .................................. ........ .................... 17
7-15 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with
participation in public marches in Saba after Mitch ................. ................318
7-16 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with ever
having participated in public marches in Saba ......................................... 320
7-17 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with pre
M itch governm ent contact in Sab ........................................... ............... 321
7-18 A logit equation analyzing how different variables are associated with post
M itch governm ent contact in Sab ........................................... ............... 322
7-19 Perceptions of community organization before and after Mitch in Dolores........332
7-20 One-sample t test comparing perceptions of community organization in
Dolores Merend6n in 2000 with the pre-Mitch period ............ ................333
7-21 One-sample t test to measure the mean difference in pre and post Mitch
group membership in Dolores M erend6n .................................... .................334
7-22 A logit analysis of how different variables are related to group membership in
Dolores Merend6n during 2000 ...... ......... ....................... 335
7-23 One-sample t test to measure the mean difference in pre and post Mitch cabildo
attendance in D olores M erend6n ........................................ ...... ............... 337
7-24 A logit model analyzing how different variables are associated with post Mitch
cabildo attendance ...................... .... ........ ................ ............338
7-25 How residents from Dolores Merend6n have participated in cabildos..............340
7-26 One-sample t test to measure the mean difference in pre and post Mitch
government contact in Dolores M erend6n............................... ......... ............341
7-27 A logit model analyzing how different variables are associated with post Mitch
government contact in Dolores M erend6n ................ ............................... .. 342
7-28 A logit model analyzing how different variables are associated with group
membership in San M arcos during 2000 .................................. ............... 347
7-29 Perceptions of community organization before and after Mitch in San Marcos .348
7-30 One-sample t test comparing perceptions of community organization in San
M arcos in 2000 with the pre-M itch period .................................. ............... 348
7-31 A logit model analyzing how different variables are associated with post Mitch
government contact in San Marcos............. ............ ...... ...............352
7-32 One-sample t test to measure the mean difference in pre and post Mitch cabildo
attendance in San M arcos .............................................................................. 353
7-33 A logit model analyzing post-Mitch cabildo attendance in San Marcos ............354
7-34 How residents from San Marcos have participated in cabildos abiertos...........354
LIST OF FIGURES
1-1 M municipal case studies in H onduras ................................... ..................................... 9
5-1 Theorized causes of governance change ..............................................................175
LIST OF ACRONYMS
Asociaci6n para el Desarrollo del Valle de Sensenti
Development Association for the Valley of Sensenti
Asociaci6n Ecol6gica de San Marcos, Ocotepeque
Ecological Association of San Marcos, Ocotepeque
Asociaci6n de Municipios de Honduras
Association of Honduran Municipalities
Asociaci6n Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras
National Association of Honduran Peasants
Asociaci6n Nacional de Industriales
National Association of Industrialists
Asamblea Permanente de las Organizaciones Populares del Agudn
Popular Assembly of Popular Organizations from the Aguan
Asociaci6n de Productores Bananeros del Norte
Northern Banana Producers Association
Asociaci6n de Organizaciones No Gubernamentales
Association of Honduran Non-Governmental Organizations
Comisi6n Cristiana de Desarrollo
Christian Development Commission
Camara de Comercio e Industria de Cortes
Cortes Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Camara de Comercio e Industria de Tegucigalpa
Tegucigalpa's Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Comite Central de Unificaci6n Campesina
Central Committee for Peasant Union
Comite Evangelica de Emergencias Nacionales
Evangelical National Emergency Committee
CGT Confederaci6n General de Trabajadores
General Workers Confederation
COAPALMA Cooperativa Agroindustrial de Palma
Agroindustrial Palm Tree Cooperative
CODECO Comisiones de Desarrollo Comunal
Community Development Commissions
CODEH ComitP para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos
Committee for the Defense of Human Rights
CODEM Comite de Desarrollo Municipal
Municipal Development Committee
CODEPO Comisi6n de Desarrollo Departamental de Ocotepeque
Development Commission of the Department of Ocotepeque
COFADEH Comite de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos de Honduras
Committee of Honduran Families of the Detained and Disappeared
COHEP Corporaci6n Hondureha de la Empresa Privada
Honduran Private Enterprise Corporation
CONE Comisi6n Nacional de Emergencia
National Emergency Commission
COPECO Comisi6n Permanente de Contingencias
Permanent Contingency Commission
CPSC Comisi6n para la Participacion de la Sociedad Civil en el Proceso
de Reconstruccion y Transformaci6n Nacional
Commission for the Participation of Civil Society in National
Reconstruction and Transformation
CTH Confederaci6n de Trabajadores de Honduras
Confederation of Honduran Workers
EAC Empresas Campesinas Asociativas
Associative Peasant Enterprises
FACACH Federaci6n de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Cr&dito de Honduras
Federation of Honduran Credit and Savings Cooperatives
FAFH Federaci6n de Asociaciones Femeninas de Honduras
Federation of Female Associations of Honduras
Federaci6n Autentica Sindical de Honduras
Authentic Federation of Honduran Syndicates
Federaci6n Central de Sindicatos de Trabajadores Libres de
Central Federation of Honduran Free Workers' Syndicates
Federaci6n de Cooperativas de la Reforma Agraria de Honduras
Federation of the Agrarian Reform Cooperatives of Honduras
Federaci6n Hondureha de Mujeres Campesinas
Honduran Federation of Peasant Women
Federaci6n Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras
National Federation of Honduran Peasants
Federaci6n Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras
National Federation of Agricultural Workers and Cattlemen
Federaci6n Sindical de Trabajadores XV1i ih'i,\ de Honduras,
Honduran Syndicated Federation of North Coast Workers
Federaci6n de Estudiantes Universitarios de Honduras
Federation of Honduran University Students
Fondo Hondureho de Inversi6n Social
Honduran Social Investment Fund
Federaci6n Obrera Hondureha
Honduran Workers' Federation
Foro Nacional de Convergencias
National Convergence Forum
Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Rural Sostenible
National Fund for Sustainable Rural Development
Foro Social para la Deuda Externa
Social Forum on Foreign Debt
Federaci6n Privada de Organizaciones en Desarrollo
Private Federation of Development Organizations
Frente Popular de Organizaciones Populares de Sabd
Popular Front of Popular Organizations from Saba
Frente de Reforma Universitaria
University Reform Front
Federaci6n Sindical Hondurena
Sindicated Workers' Federation
Frente Nacional Campesina Hondurena
Honduran National Peasant Front
Fundaci6n de Desarrollo Municipal
Foundation for Municipal Development
Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative
Inter American Development Bank
International Monetary Fund
Institute Nacional Agrario
National Agrarian Institute
Organizaci6n Regional Interamericana del Trabajadores
Regional Organization of Interamerican Workers
Program de Desarrollo para Repatriados
Development Project for Refugees and Repatriated Exiles
Proyecto Hondureho de Educaci6n Comunitaria
Honduran Project for Community Education
Secretaria Thcnica de Cooperaci6n
Secretariat for Technical Cooperation
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Mieles, Alcolesy Similares
Workers Syndicate of Honey, Alcohol and the Like
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Asociative de Isletas
Workers Syndicate of the Isletas Associative Emterprise
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria Madedera
Workers Syndicate of the Timber Industry
Sindicato de los Trabajadores de la Standard Fruit Company
Workers Syndicate of the Standard Fruit Company
Sindicato de los Trabajadores de la Tela Railroad Company
Workers Syndicate of the Tela Railroad Company
Sindicato Unificado de Trabajadores de la Standard Fruit
Unified Workers Syndicate of the Standard Fruit Company
United Fruit Company
Unidad Nacional de Asistencia THcnica
National Technical Assistance Unit
Uni6n Nacional Campesina
National Peasant Union
Uni6n Nacional de Campesinos Autinticos de Honduras
National Union of Authentic Peasants
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations High Commission for Refugees
United States Agency for International Development
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE POLITICAL EFFECTS OF DISASTER AND FOREIGN AID:
NATIONAL AND SUBNATIONAL GOVERNANCE IN HONDURAS
AFTER HURRICANE MITCH
Vilma Elisa Fuentes
Chair: Leslie E. Anderson
Major Department: Political Science
This dissertation presents qualitative and quantitative data to analyze how
Hurricane Mitch and the foreign aid that followed it affected national and subnational
governance in Honduras. Governance is understood as the way a state and its society
interact in order to manage their institutions and public affairs. The national level
analysis revealed that the state initially became more centralized and authoritarian in
response to the disaster while civil society increased its intra-group cooperation and
political activity. Foreign donors pressured the Honduran state to alter its relationship
with civil society by conditioning its aid and disseminating a development discourse
based on concepts such as citizen participation, decentralization and transparency. This
foreign pressure, though not aimed directly at civil society, nevertheless motivated it to
demand political inclusion and change. This domestic and foreign pressure together
forced the Honduran government to incorporate civil society in its decision-making
processes. This shift towards a more participatory style governance did not represent a
dramatic break with the past. The experience of disaster and foreign aid intervention
merely accelerated a political transformation that had been underway for at least a
The subnational level analysis sought to determine whether the changes witnessed
at the national level had been replicated in different Honduran municipalities. It also
tried to ascertain whether the disaster, foreign aid or both were responsible for producing
socio-political changes. Four municipalities were selected for this part of the study. One
was impacted by both the disaster and foreign aid, another by neither, and the remaining
two by only one of the independent variables. The subnational level research suggests
that the experience of disaster created a window of opportunity for change but that
foreign aid organizations were responsible for much of the socio-political transformations
that were observed.
Hurricane Mitch, a storm with sustained one-minute surface winds of 155 knots,
began battering the small country of Honduras on October 27, 1998. Mitch made
landfall near the city of La Ceiba on October 29 after hovering off the northern coast of
Honduras for nearly two days. The storm moved southward then westward, slowly
dissecting the country until finally entering Guatemalan territory on November 1.1
Although Mitch was downgraded to a tropical storm the day after reaching land, it poured
as much as 50 cubic inches of water in some parts of the country.2 The floods it
produced were larger and more damaging than any that had been recorded previously.3
The predominantly mountainous topography of Honduras aggravated the rainfall's effects
by producing several flash floods and mudslides. Within just a few days, most of the
country's major rivers had broken their banks, deposited large quantities of sediment in
new areas and thus reshaped the Honduran landscape.
1John L. Guiney and Miles B. Lawrence, Preliminary Report: Hurricane Mitch, (Miami: National
Hurricane Center, 28 January 1999) Accessed on line at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/1998mitch.html on
March 20, 2003.
2 Mark C. Mastin, Flood-hazard mapping in Honduras in response to Hurricane Mitch, (Tacoma, Wash. :
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 2002): 10. Available on-line at
http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/wri/wri01-4277. Accessed on March 20, 2003.
The disaster took a severe human toll.4 Approximately 5,600 Hondurans died,5
over 12,000 were injured and more than 8,000 were never found. The storm destroyed or
severely damaged over 85,000 homes, leaving 396,000 people homeless. An additional
260,000 individuals were forced to seek temporary shelter. Most of these victims came
from the northern departments of Cortes and Col6n and the southern department of
Choluteca. In total, it is estimated that approximately two million people or a third of
Honduras' 1998 population were directly impacted by the storm.
Mitch had a devastating effect on Honduras' infrastructure. Approximately 100
bridges and 70% of the country's road system was damaged or destroyed.6 This
inhibited the national government's ability to respond quickly to the disaster and left the
capital city of Tegucigalpa temporarily cut off from major North Coast towns. Most of
the urban and nearly half of the rural aqueduct system in the country was impaired also.
Tegucigalpa was left with no potable water for several days while other urban centers had
only limited access to this resource. Several rural areas were unable to repair their
aqueduct system for over a year after Mitch. The heavy rains and mudslides also wiped
4 Unless otherwise noted, the information reported in this paragraph is derived from Gobierno de Honduras
(GOH), Estimaciones preliminaries sobre dahos causados por el Huracan Mitch a la infraestructura
piblica y costs de recuperaci6n, (Tegucigalpa: GOH, 1998); Naciones Unidas, Comisi6n Econ6mica para
America Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), Honduras: evaluaci6n de dahos ocasionados por el Huracan Mitch,
1998, internal report written 26 de enero de 1999.
5 More conservative though also less reliable sources estimate that the death toll was less than half the
official figure. See Richard Olson et al., The Storms of'98: Hurricanes Georges and Mitch-Impacts,
Institutional Response, and Disaster Politics in Three Countries. Special Publication #38 (Boulder: Natural
Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado, 2001): 41.
6 Secretaria Tecnica y de Cooperaci6n Internacional (SETCO), Republica de Honduras, "Actualizaci6n
dafios ocasionados por el Huracin-Tormenta Tropical Mitch," noviembre diciembre 1998. Accessed on-
line at www.cetco gbm.hn on August 15, 1999.
away 63% of the land under agricultural production.' Banana and sugar, two main export
crops, suffered the bulk of the damage. In addition, over half of the surface area
cultivated with corn, beans and rice-the staples of the Honduran diet-were destroyed.
The international community responded quickly to this devastation. Bilateral and
multilateral aid agencies channeled over $93 million in emergency assistance to
Honduras. This was followed by an additional $2.38 billion in foreign assistance to
support the reconstruction process.8 Most of this money was channeled directly to the
national government. Meanwhile, countless non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
offered more direct assistance to the communities that had been most affected by the
storm. This national and local-level aid helped disaster victims not only reconstruct the
material goods that had been destroyed by the storm, but also reshape socio-political
Although the Honduran government and donor agencies have analyzed the material
effects of Hurricane Mitch, little is known about the political impact of the storm or the
foreign aid that followed it. This dissertation seeks to fill this gap by exploring how this
natural disaster and the concomitant aid that followed it have affected the nature of
democratic governance in Honduras. Rather than privy either elites, civil society or
institutions, this dissertation will look at the interaction among all of these by using the
theoretical lens of governance. Governance is understood here as the way states and
societies interact in order to create, manage and change both political institutions and the
7 Direcci6n General de Estadistica y Censos (DGEC), Secretaria de Industria y Comercio, Gobiemo de
Honduras, Encuesta para estimar perdidas ocasionadas por el Huracdn Mitch en el sector agropecuario
(Tegucigalpa: DGEC, 1999).
8 Gobiemo de Honduras, La nueva Honduras tarea para todos: informed de avances en la reconstrucci6n y
transformaci6n national (Tegucigalpa: Gobiemo de Honduras, 1999).
public policies that are designed within them. This study explores whether disasters and
foreign aid agencies encouraged political elites and civil society groups to relate to each
other in new ways and change existing institutions.
This dissertation acknowledges that governance is a multi-layered process. The
way a state and civil society interact in the capital may be very different from the way
local political elites and citizens interact at the grassroots level. Moreover, a disaster and
foreign aid organizations may have a different impact on distinct regions of a country.
Therefore, this work analyzes both national and subnational governance change in
Honduras. The subnational level analysis not only tries to determine whether the changes
witnessed in the capital were replicated at a municipal level. It also tries to control two
independent variables-the experience of disaster and foreign assistance-in order to test
whether one or both of these was responsible for the political changes observed at the
Chapter two of this dissertation presents the theoretical framework that is to guide
the analysis of Honduran politics. It reviews the literature on disasters, foreign aid,
NGOs and governance in order to show how these diverse theoretical approaches can be
used to understand state-society relations in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. The
embryonic literature on the politics of disaster reveals that hurricanes, earthquakes and
other such unforeseen events can produce significant political transformations, but it has
not specified how this change might arise. Although disasters have been shown to
increase the social cohesion and organization of an affected community, this cooperative
spirit tends to be fleeting. In a few cases, civil society has been strengthened in the
aftermath of disaster, but only because other factors have contributed to this process. The
NGO literature reveals that these aid organizations often contribute to the development of
a strong civil society. They do this by encouraging target groups to organize and become
politically involved and by becoming active participants in the political process
themselves. In either case, NGOs can contribute to democratization by working at the
grass-roots level and increasing domestic social pressure for political change. Bilateral
and multilateral aid agencies can deepen democracy also by pressuring national
governments to alter existing institutions or policies. They accomplish this by
conditioning their aid, disseminating a specific development discourse and influencing
the norms held by a country's political elite. All of these measures can coerce a national
government to change its closed, authoritarian structures and improve its relationship
with civil society. When considered together, these three theoretical approaches suggest
that if NGOs and foreign donors are sufficiently present and influential in a country after
a disaster, they may animate and help sustain autonomous forms of social organization
and pressure the state to work more closely with these groups. The literature on
governance offers us a way of studying the nature and effects of this state-society
relationship. It forces us to look at the strength and political activism of civil society
organizations, the state's responsiveness to them, and the extent to which both participate
in the maintenance and creation of public policies and institutions. In other words,
theories of governance help us focus on how external forces such as disasters, donors and
NGOs affect the relational patterns that maintain democratic regimes.
Chapter three of this dissertation offers a historical review of national-level
governance in Honduras. Since few organized groups existed in the country before the
1950's, most of this chapter is dedicated to discussing the evolution of civil society and
the way it interacted with the state after this period. The chapter notes that the initial
mass-based groups in the country-labor unions, peasant organizations and women's
groups-were forced to take a confrontational approach to the state in order to be heard
by the political elite. These organizations grew to command such a large and militant
following that by the late 1960's and 1970's they were demanding that the traditionally
closed, partisan and unrepresentative state structures be reformed. Through various
public protest activities, these groups successfully pressured for the creation of a National
Unity Government and, when this failed, for a reformist military government that was
more responsive to them. Despite these achievements, civil society groups continued to
be excluded from public decision-making processes. Moreover, these groups were
demobilized during the late 1970's and 1980's by conservative, military elements who
assumed control of the state. The state repression that was unleashed during this period
not only failed to destroy traditional, mass-based groups but also gave birth to a new
generation of civil society organizations which struggled to secure human rights,
indigenous rights and democratization. This domestic pressure eventually combined with
a changing international environment to bring about a slow transition to democracy in
Honduras. Although civil society groups were unable to sustain a strong level of
cooperation and mobilization after the re-establishment of constitutional rule, they
succeeded in enticing political elites to work more closely with them and begin
integrating them into the decision-making process. State-centered elites created new,
corporatist arrangements during the 1990's in order to unite different civil society groups
and dialogue more easily with them. Although these corporatist structures enabled the
government to coopt and appease mass organizations, they also established a new, non-
confrontational channel of communication between the state and civil society.
Consequently, the traditional, exclusionary and state-centered pattern of governance that
had typified Honduras for most of its history began to change. It was within this context
of slow, political transition that Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in late 1998.
Chapter four discusses how this devastating natural event and the flood of foreign
aid that followed it affected the Honduran state, civil society and their relationship with
each other. Both of these groups initially responded to the disaster in distinct ways. The
state, though clearly unable to manage emergency operations on its own, tried to
implement the authoritarian and exclusionary pattern of governance that traditionally had
characterized Honduras. Meanwhile, much of civil society was mobilized by the disaster.
Regular citizens, NGOs and other interest groups began to cooperate with one another
and undertake relief work that the state was unable to tackle on its own. This activism
and cooperative spirit continued in 1999 as the Honduran government began to shift its
attention to the longer-term goal of reconstruction. Initially, the state accepted the
recommendations of traditional, mass-based groups represented in the corporatist
structures it had created in the mid-1990's. But it refused to collaborate with other
members of civil society, particularly NGOs and intellectual-based groups. These later
organizations began to question the legitimacy of existing corporatist arrangements and
challenge the state to transform pre-existing social, economic and political structures.
Though hesitant to cooperate with these groups, the state was persuaded to change its
stance toward them by foreign donors who conditioned their reconstruction assistance on
the government's willingness to increase citizen participation in government. Thus,
foreign aid organizations ensured that Honduras continued the process it had begun years
earlier of establishing an open and inclusive style of governance. Although the new
spaces of citizen participation that were created during the three years after Mitch had
several limitations, citizen groups successfully used them to pressure the government for
The subsequent three chapters explore whether the gradual shift in governance that
was observed at the national level was replicated at the local level. Chapter five
introduces the reader to four municipal case studies. Each of these was chosen in order to
determine whether the experience of disaster, advent of foreign aid or both improved civil
society's activism and relationship with municipal officials. Saba and Potrerillos were
two of the most disaster-stricken areas of the country. Most of the infrastructure in these
regions was damaged or destroyed and a majority of the population there suffered partial
or total home loss. As a result, multiple NGOs began working in Saba during the two
years after the storm and encouraged target groups to organize and become active
participants in their reconstruction. Despite also having experienced major storm damage,
Potrerillos at first did not receive the same degree of external assistance as Saba. Disaster
victims were supplied with vinyl tents and basic food supplies, but they received
relatively little NGO assistance. An analysis of this case allows us to control for the
effect of aid and explore how the experience of disaster alone affected civil society and
its relationship with local government authorities. Unlike these two municipalities, San
Marcos and Dolores Merend6n experienced almost no storm damage. Nevertheless,
NGOs began working in Dolores Merend6n during 1999 and 2000 in order to counter the
high level of poverty in the region. This municipally shows how NGO assistance alone
can contribute to the development of civil society and affect local-level governance.
Saba, which experienced a disaster and massive NGO assistance, measures the socio-
political effects of both of these independent variables while San Marcos, which was not
affected by either of these external events, is used to test the null hypothesis.
Municipal Case Studies
Figure 1-1. Municipal case studies in Honduras.
Chapter six tries to add historical context to our municipal level analysis by
comparing the pre-disaster, organizational experiences of these four case studies. Both
Potrerillos and Saba were integrated into the world capitalist system and labor market
during the early part of the twentieth century foreign-owned banana plantations who
operated in these regions. Consequently, labor unions became active in both
municipalities beginning in the 1950's. Agrarian reform and other popular based groups
also proliferated there during the following two decades. In addition, the Catholic
Church became very socially active in Saba during 1970's and afterward-a pattern that
was not replicated in Potrerillos. Although the population of Saba was somewhat more
militant than the one in Potrerillos, the citizens of both regions were fairly well organized
up until the 1990's when civil society in both of these municipalities began to weaken.
Unlike these two Northern Coast towns, San Marco and Dolores Merend6n were not as
well integrated into the world capitalist system. Although farmers from both regions
were involved in coffee production, they worked for themselves and also produced basic
food crops. As a result, few labor unions emerged in these municipalities. A very active
civil society did emerge in San Marcos as a result of national agrarian reform policies, the
Catholic Church's activism and the implementation of a multi-million dollar United
Nations development program during the early 1990's. But no such social organization
developed in Dolores Merendon. These different organizational histories are highlighted
in order to see if citizens here responded to exogenous forces in ways that were familiar
Chapter seven presents a qualitative and quantitative analysis of how a disaster and
NGO assistance influenced grass-roots civil society and its relationship with municipal
authorities. The chapter reveals that the residents of Saba and Potrerillos reverted to pre-
existing, often defunct forms of organization in order to confront the disaster. Although
this solidarity was maintained for several weeks after Mitch, it began to decline once
emergency and relief operations came to an end. Over a year after Mitch, the residents of
Potrerillos were unorganized and maintained little contact with their political officials.
Consequently, this municipality maintained its traditional pattern of governance. The
advent of NGOs in Saba, however, seems to have prevented citizens there from falling
into a state of disunity. NGOs encouraged residents to maintain and deepen their new
level of cooperation. They also worked to raise citizen awareness of broader socio-
political issues and encouraged them to become active political participants. As a result,
citizens began to question the closed and authoritarian nature of governance in this
municipality. They demanded to have town hall meetings and be included in local,
public decision-making processes. All of this succeeded in initiating a change in local-
level governance here. Although Dolores Merend6n began receiving some external
assistance from NGOs during 1999 and 2000, it did note reveal as high a percentage
increase in community organization or political activity as did Saba. Nevertheless,
citizens did cooperate more with each other and try to contact their government officials
more frequently than previously. Most likely, the absence of a major crisis event
coupled with the regions' lack of organizational and political experience lessened the
socio-political effects of NGO intervention. San Marcos, which was not affected by
either a disaster or new NGOs, did not experience an increase in social or political
activity, as expected. However, this municipality had been hailed as a model of "good
governance" during the early to mid 1990's as a result of the socio-political changes that
several NGOs and a United Nations program had encouraged there at the time. An
analysis of this case in 2000 shows whether and under what conditions governance
change can endure once the forces that catalyzed this process have disappeared. The
chapter concludes by suggesting that the presence of foreign assistance has a greater
impact on social organization and governance than the experience of disaster alone.
However, the presence of both of these exogenous forces seems to heighten their socio-
political impact. Moreover, pre-existing organizational experiences can facilitate the re-
organization and political activism of civil society.
The final chapter of this dissertation summarizes the results of our post-Mitch
governance study and discusses their theoretical relevance. Building on the events that
transpired in Honduras after Mitch and the experience of San Marcos, the chapter
speculates as to whether the socio-political changes that were observed in the two years
after Mitch can be sustained in the long term to contribute to a broader process of
democratization. Together, all of these chapters help deepen our knowledge of
governance, the political effects of disaster and the way NGOs and foreign donors can
reinforce each other's socio-political effects.
DISASTERS, FOREIGN AID AND GOVERNANCE
Disasters represent dramatic shocks to human systems. They temporarily disrupt
livelihood strategies, deconstruct social arrangements and give victims the opportunity to
reconstruct their lives in new ways. Although a handful of scholars have considered how
such extraordinary events can affect the political sphere, much of this literature is still in
an embryonic stage and in need of further research. Since foreign aid often is channeled
to a locality after a disaster, the political effects of this type of intervention must also be
considered. Some scholars view the assistance that follows a disaster as part of the
experience of disaster itself. Although these two events are interrelated, this dissertation
tries to disentangle them in order to study their individual effects on governance. The
following sections will review what is currently known about the political effects of both
disasters and external assistance. Then it will explain why theories of governance are
best suited to understanding these phenomena.
The Political Effects of Disasters
Disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods are more than just
environmental events. They disrupt the daily lives and social interactions of those who
experience them and call into question prevailing social arrangements. They must,
therefore, be viewed as socio-political as well as natural events. Disasters may impact
individual behavior, community organizations and broader macro structures. They tend
to unite and mobilize victims as well as alter political structures that are unresponsive to
them. The changes prompted by natural disasters are not always enduring, however. As
life reverts to some state of pre-disaster normalcy, so too does people's behavior.
Individuals who suffer through natural disasters respond to these events in varying
ways. Hoffman, Form and Nosow claim that during the minutes immediately following
this crisis, victims act in an individualistic manner in order to safeguard their basic needs
and that of their family.1 Oliver-Smith has suggested that people's responses to disaster
may be more varied: some flee, others struggle to rescue both themselves and close
family members, while still others offer assistance to anyone who may be in need of
help.2 However, most agree that once the initial impact of a disaster subsides,
community solidarity and cooperation increases.3 Victims may unite to share scarce
food, clothing or other belongings and work teams may be formed to jointly cook food,
rescue others or build temporary shelters.4 The extended though non-affected community
also usually responds to this crisis by volunteering their time and belongings to those less
fortunate than they. Socio-cultural differences tend to be ignored during emergency
periods as people from different ethnic, racial, class or religious backgrounds assist one
1 William H. Form and Sigmund Nosow, Community in Disaster (New York: Harper, 1958): 17-18 and
Susanna Hoffman, "The Worst of Times the Best of Times: Towards a Model of Cultural Responses to
Disaster," The Angry Earth, Anthony Oliver-Smith and Susanna Hoffman, eds. (New York: Routledge,
2 Anthony Oliver-Smith, "Post Disaster Concensus and Conflict in a Traditional Society: The 1970
Avalanche of Yungay, Peru," Mass Emergencies 4 (1979): 43-45.
3 Ibid and Form and Sigmund Nosow, Community in Disaster; Hoffman, "The Worst of Times the Best of
Times"; James Thompson and Robert Hawkes "Disaster, Community Organization and Administrative
Process," Man and Society in Disasters, George Baker and Dwight Chapman, eds. (New York: Basic
Books, 1962): 268-300; Dennis Miletti, Thomas Drabek, and J. Eugene Haas, Human Systems in Extreme
Environments: A Sociological Perspective, Program on Technology, Environment and Man, Monograph
#21 (Boulder: Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, 1975).
4 Anthony Oliver-Smith, Martyred City: Death and Rebirth in the Andes (Albuquerque, N.M.: University
of New Mexico Press, 1986): chapter 4.
another.5 Often times, those previously isolated from their neighbors may unite and
cooperate with them after a disaster. Women, for instance, may be encouraged to leave
the confines of their homes and participate in community issues or join support groups
after a major crisis.6 All of these activities help to temporarily strengthen civil society.
The organizational history of a locality shapes the way people will respond to a
crisis.7 The relief crews formed during an emergency may be patterned along the lines of
pre-existing and often defunct modes of organization.8 The way people handle or bury
the dead may be consistent with long-standing community norms.9 And long-standing,
social class distinctions may shape who undertakes what type of emergency work.10 In
some cases, disasters may prompt the reemergence of deeply rooted cultural patterns that
had been replaced by more modern ones." All of this suggests, as Drabek has argued,
that "the theme of continuity is the logical starting point for trying to understand
5 Ibid and Miletti, Drabek, and Susanna Hoffman, "The Worst of Times the Best of Times," 138 and Allen
Barton, Communities in Disaster: A Sociological Analysis of Collective Stress Situations (New York:
Doubleday, 1969): 206-207.
6 Hoffman, "The Worst of Times the Best of Times," and Alejandro Massolo y Martha Schteingart,
Participaci6n social, reconstrucci6n y mujer: el sismo de 1985 (Mexico: Colegio de Mexico, 1987).
7 E.L. Quarantelli and Russell R. Dynes, "Response to Social Crisis and Disaster," Annual Review of
Sociology 3 (1977): 34.
8 John F. Alexander and Marta Lee Atkinson, Proyecto interdisciplinario de reconstruction despuds del
sismo: el caso de El Progreso, Guatemala (Gainesville, Florida: Departamento de Planificaci6n Urbana y
Regional, Universidad de la Florida, 1977): 158-160 and Juan Brisefio Guerrero and Ludka de Gortari
Krauss, De la cama a la calle: sismos y organizaci6n popular (Mexico: Centro de Investigaciones y
Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social, 1987): 58-61.
9 E.L. Quarantelli, "The Vaiont Dam Overflow: A Case Study of Extra Community Responses in Massive
Disaster," Disasters 3:2 (1979): 199-212 and Thomas E. Drabek, Human Systems Responses to Disaster An
Inventory of Sociological Fi. i,,I i, (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1986): 189-190.
10 Dennis E. Wenger and Thomas F. James, "The Convergence of Volunteers in a Concensus Crisis: The
Case of the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake," Disasters, Collective Behavior and Social O, nl,,i .I '1
Russell R. Dynes and Kathleen J. Tierney, eds. (Delaware:University of Delaware Press, 1994): 242.
1 Susanna Hoffman, "The Regenesis of Traditional Gender Patterns in the Wake of Disaster," The Angry
Earth, Anthony Oliver-Smith and Susanna Hoffman, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1999): 173-191.
organizational responses immediately after disaster impact. People do not abandon their
social histories when confronted with adversity-and organizational systems reflect it."12
Disaster victims do not unite and organize only in ways that are familiar to them.
New groups frequently emerge during the post-disaster, emergency phase. These may
include search and rescue teams, communal soup kitchens or shelter coordinating
committees.13 Although the existence of some previous organizational experience
facilitates the emergence of this type of activity, the people participating in these new
groups need not be those who were organized in the past. Various conditions may
facilitate the creation of new associations.14 Stallings has noted that "emergent groups
tend to appear where people are isolated from emergency organizations and where there
is a lack of information, control and coordination."15 Paar, Palmer and Sells also have
suggested that when the official authority lapses and fails to respond adequately to the
needs of a community or when a community is either unprepared or has no previous
experience dealing with a disaster, then new groups are more likely to arise.16 These
emergent groups differ from those that exist during normal times in that they tend to be
informal in structure and temporal in nature. Once the crisis has subsided, they generally
12 Drabek, Human Systems Responses to Disaster, 158.
13 Ibid, 154-157 and 160-162.
14 Miletti, Drabek, and Haas, Human Systems in Extreme Environments, 72-75.
15 Robert A. Stallings, "The Structural Patterns of Four Types of Organizations in Disaster," Disasters:
Theory and Research, E.L. Quarantelli, ed. (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1978): 91.
16 George Palmer and S.B. Sells, "Behavioral Factors in Disaster Situations," Journal of Social Psychology
66 (1965): 65-71 as summarized in Miletti, Drabek, and Haas, Human Systems in Extreme Environments,
More formal and permanent organizations also may arise in response to disasters.
Fox and Hernandez have noted that the number of NGOs in Mexico increased after the
1985 earthquake there.17 The same occurred in Nicaragua after the 1972 quake.18 In
both cases, the NGOs that arose and proliferated after the disaster eventually formed
linkages with one another as well as with broader, national social movements. These
organizations did not disappear as do most emergent groups. Instead, they helped build
stronger civil societies and enabled citizens to tackle national, socio-political issues in
Disasters may affect broader political structures because they represent exogenous
shocks to the political system, increasing the number of citizen demands while
simultaneously reducing a government's response capabilities.19 Cuny explains that
"disasters often highlight the social struggles in society and underscore the inherent
inequities within a political system. Earthquakes and hurricanes, for example, affect a
disproportionately high percentage of the poor in developing countries ... A disaster
makes it very evident that the poor are vulnerable because they are poor."20 Shefner,
Drury and Olson have supported this assertion by presenting a longitudinal study, which
shows that countries with an inequitable distribution of wealth and/or a history of social
17 Jonathan Fox and Luis Hernandez, "Mexico's Difficult Democracy: Grassroots Movements, NGOs and
Local Government," Alternatives 17 (1992): 165-208.
18 Laura Mac Donald, 'i17 .' ', ',,o' Civil Society: The Political Role ofNon Governmental Organizations in
CentralAmerica (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997): 99.
19 Richard Stuart Olson, "Towards a Politics of Disaster: Losses, Values, Agendas and Blame,"
International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 18:2 (August 2000).
20 Frederick C. Cuny, Disasters and Development (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983): 54.
or political strife tend to experience a rise in political conflict after disasters.21 The
incidence of such politically unsettling events has led Olson to assert that disasters "may
throw into question the very legitimacy of the authoritative allocation process itself-the
Case studies reveal that the political systems of several Latin American countries
have been destabilized by natural disasters during the last half century. The 1972
Managua earthquake set in motion forces that eventually led to the demise of the Somoza
regime and gave rise to socialism there.23 Black argues that "the importance of the
earthquake as a pivotal moment in the disintegration of Somocismo can hardly be
overstated."24 In the aftermath of the disaster Somoza, the National Guard and members
of the ruling triumvirate were involved in several incidents of corruption.25 Although
such behavior may have been accepted or may have typified the Nicaraguan political
system during normal times, citizens were unwilling to tolerate corruption during the
21 A. Cooper Drury and Richard Stuart Olson, "Disasters and Political Unrest: An Empirical Investigation,"
Journal of C. ,,ri,. ,..... a and Crisis Management 6:3 (September 1998): 153-161 and Jon Shefner, "Pre
and Post Disaster Instability and Contentious Supporters: A Case Study of Political Ferment," International
Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 17:2 (August 1999): 137-190.
22 Richard Stuart Olson, "Towards a Politics of Disaster."
23 George Black, Triumph of the People: The Sandinista Revolution in .,... .1 g1i, (London: Zed Press,
1981): 58-62; Vincent Gawronski, "The 1985 Mexico City Disaster: A Critical Juncture?" paper presented
at the XXII Latin American Studies Association Conference, 16-18 March 2000; and Drury and Olson,
"Disasters and Political Unrest: An Empirical Investigation."
24 George Black, Triumph of the People, 58.
25 Ibid, Thomas P. Anderson, Politics in Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and
.~...... i, (New York: Praeger, 1982): 155-156 and John A Booth, The End and the Beginning: The
..... g111,1 Revolution (Boulder: Westview Press, 1981): 89 and 93. Even Somoza acknowledged that
some of his army officers engaged in looting but presented excuses for his own personal gain after the
earthquake. See Anastasio Somoza, ..i... g1,1 Betrayed (Boston: Western Islands, 1980): 3-22.
emergency and reconstruction periods.26 The press exposed and denounced such
behavior27 and the bourgeoisie, which until then had offered tenuous support to Somoza,
turned against him.28 Meanwhile, dissatisfaction with the regime also grew among the
lower and middle classes who increasingly demanded fundamental political changes in
their country.29 All of these factors revived and strengthened support for the Frente
Sandinista de Liberaci6n Nacional (FSLN), a guerrilla group that had been "presumed
dead since 1970."30 The mounting opposition to the regime and rise in political violence
during the years after the earthquake eventually led to a regime transition in Nicaragua in
The Guatemalan political system also was strained after the 1976 earthquake there.
Dunkerley notes that "the political impact of the earthquake was sharp if not-in the
short term-quite the same in form as that in Nicaragua four years earlier."31 Part of the
problem arose from the government's mishandling of emergency and reconstruction
assistance. Although approximately 25,000 Guatemalans were killed and 1.25 million
were left homeless, the government offered only scant relief to the highland Mayan
26 Olson and Gawronski have shown in the case of Mexico that although incidents of corruption may be
tolerated by citizens during normal times, they are not accepted during post disaster periods. Citizen
reactions to corruption charges in Nicaragua after the 1972 earthquake suggest that the populace there
experienced a similar decline in tolerance for such behavior. See Richard Stuart Olson and Vincent T.
Gawronski, "'Normal Versus Special Time Corruption: An Exploration of Mexican Attitudes,"
forthcoming Cambridge Journal oflnternational Affairs 15:1 (Spring-Summer 2001).
27 Denis Lynn Daly Heyck, Life Stories of the ..i, ... g1,.1,, Revolution (New York: Routledge, 1990): 49.
28 James Dunkerley, Power in the Isthmus: A Political History of Modern Central America (New York:
Verso, 1988): 235-236 and John A Booth, The End and the Beginning: The ...... ogini,,i Revolution, 81.
29 John A Booth, The End and the Beginning: The ......... goi,, Revolution, 84, 113, 124-125 and 277.
30 Anderson, Politics in CentralAmerica, 156-159.
31 Dunkerley, Power in the Isthmus, 469.
communities which had been most affected by the disaster. In addition, the government
persecuted missionary and other humanitarian groups who tried to supply needed help to
these areas independently of official, state channels.32 Peasants, particularly those in
affected areas of the country, responded by organizing, criticizing the government and
articulating their demands better than ever before.33 Meanwhile, several companies took
advantage of the post-disaster crisis to lay off hundreds of workers and thus weaken labor
unions. Workers responded by consolidating themselves into a united front and
demanding that both their labor rights be secured and that the government respond to the
needs of disaster victims.34 Jonas has noted that "some of the most important, urban-
based movements" in Guatemala emerged "from the rubble of the massive earthquake of
1976 ... Not long after the earthquake, when the potential of these organizations became
clear, the repression began."35 Eventually, this post-disaster organization and the state's
responsiveness to it helped strengthen the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, which gained
much of its support from those highland communities most affected by the disaster.
Unlike the FSLN, this guerrilla group was unsuccessful in overthrowing the government
or prompting a true regime transition in Guatemala. Instead, the increasing discontent
and organization among civil society groups here led to a prolonged civil war.
The political violence that engrossed Nicaragua and Guatemala after the 1972 and
1976 earthquakes does not arise after all disasters. Nevertheless, such events may prompt
32 Ibid and Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit (New York: Anchor Books, 1983): 249.
33 Ibid, capitulo VII.
34 Jos6 Manuel Fernmndez, "Comunidades indigenas y conflict social en Guatemala," Ph.D. Dissertation
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1988: 207-215.
35 Susanne Jonas, The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads and U.S. Power (Boulder,CO.:
Westview Press, 1991): 124-125.
equally destabilizing but less violent effects on a country's political system. During the
1840's three, devastating hurricanes passed over Cuba leaving a trail of destruction in
their path. The experience of disaster and recovery united residents of the island and
encouraged them to begin viewing themselves as Cubans. The disasters, in other words,
contributed to the creation of a national identity. The Spanish government's reluctance to
offer emergency assistance to its subjects on the island or to ease temporarily import
taxes on them caused a schism between Creoles and the crown.36 Although the
dissatisfaction with monarchical rule and growing sense of national identity did not have
any immediate political or violent repercussions, they contributed to the Cuban struggle
for independence during the late 1800's.
The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake also had a non violent though more immediate
effect on that country's political system. The earthquake led to a dramatic and
spontaneous upsurge in civil society organizations whose prompt and coordinated
response to this crisis juxtaposed it to the government's slow, inappropriate and corrupt
mismanagement of emergency assistance.37 Many civil society groups eventually united
into an Earthquake Victim's Movement which effectively "undermined the repressive
discourse with which the government justified its exclusion of citizens from local
government, challenged the legitimacy of the political status quo in the Federal District
36 Louis A. Prez, Winds ofC I/,,,;. Hurricanes and the Transformation of Nineteenth Century Cuba
(Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2001): 135-138 and 143-147.
7 Ligia Tavera-Fenellosa, "The Movimiento de Damnificados: Democratic Transformation of Citizenry
and Government in Mexico City," Subnational Politics and Democratization in Mexico, Wayne A.
Cornelius, Todd A. Eisenstadt and Jane Hindley, eds. (La Jolla: Center fr U.S.-Mexican Studies, University
of California at San Diego, 1999) and Vincent Gawronski, "The 1985 Mexico City Disaster: A Critical
Juncture?" paper presented at the XXII Latin American Studies Association Conference, 16-18 March
and opened the door for the democratization of ... Mexico City."38 Although neither the
earthquake nor these emergent groups radically altered the national political system, they
accelerated socio-political changes that had already been underway and thus contributed
to the democratization process in Mexico.
Disasters may also prompt more subtle policy changes. Using the United States as
a focus of study, Birkland has argued that natural and technological disasters serve as
focusing events in public policies. They help bring new issues to the agenda and allow
new players to form part of the policy-making process.39 This may lead to the passage of
new legislation, even ones that politicians had been hesitant to consider previously.40
Although disasters can serve as catalysts for political change, they do not always
serve this function. If well managed, these events may legitimize rather than destabilize a
government or system of rule. The Argentine military's adept response to the 1944 San
Juan Earthquake helped the recently installed military junta legitimize its undemocratic
hold of government. Per6n's seemingly compassionate role and involvement in relief
efforts helped him rise in popularity and gain political control of Argentina soon after this
event.41 Similarly, Hurricane Fifi (1974) helped the Honduran military solidify and
extend its political control in Honduras. Although massive corruption diminished the
38 Tavera-Fenellosa, "The Movimiento de Damnificados," 108.
39 Thomas A. Birkland. After Disaster: Agenda ',,ima. Public Policy and Focusing Events, (Washington:
Georgetown University Press, 1997) and Thomas A. Birkland, "Natural Disasters as Focusing Events:
Policy Communities and Political Responses," International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters
14:2 (August 1996).
40 Ibid and Stephanie Joan Willson, "Disaster, Law and Power: The Oil Spill Pollution Act of 1990," Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Delaware, 1998.
41 Mark Allen Healy, "The Ruins of the New Argentina: Peronism, Architecture and the Remaking of San
Juan After the 1944 Earthquake," Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University, 2000.
effectiveness of the foreign aid that was received, the military government responded to
this disaster by implementing an agrarian reform law and distributing land to thousands
of Hondurans, many of whom had been adversely affected by the hurricane. This
enabled the military to gain support of the peasants and remain in power until the early
Although disasters can contribute to socio-political changes, their ability to
contribute to long-lasting, social transformations has been questioned by several
sociological and anthropological studies. Siegel et al have presented a longitudinal study
revealing that neither social cohesion nor disunity persists for long after a disaster.42
Once people's emergency needs have been met and they have returned to their normal
and routinized mode of life, communities tend to revert back to the way they were before
the disaster. This has been further corroborated by qualitative, post-disaster studies.43
The groups that arise during the emergency phase tend to disappear, and traditional
leaders and organizations re-emerge.44 Sweet has shown that social behavior may return
to its pre-disaster pattern as early as a month after the initial shock.45 All of this suggests
that long-term, disaster-induced, social change is rare. Those changes that do persist tend
to be ones that were under way or under consideration before the crisis.46
42 Judith M. Siegel, Linda B. Bourque and Kimberley I. Shoaf, "Victimization after a Disaster: Social
Disorganization or Community Cohesion?" International Journal ofMass Emergencies and Disasters 17:3
(November 1999): 265-294.
43 Susanna Hoffman, "After Atlas Shrugs: Cultural Change or Persistence after Disaster," The Angry Earth,
Anthony Oliver-Smith and Susanna Hottini.. eds. (New York: Routledge, 1999): 302-325.
44 Oliver-Smith, Martyred City, 120-121.
45 Stephen Sweet, "The Effect of a Natural Disaster on Social Cohesion: A Longitudinal Study,"
International Journal ofMass Emergencies and Disasters 16:3 (November 1998): 321-331.
46 Quarantelli and Dynes, "Response to Social Crisis and Disaster," 34-35; and Miletti, Drabek, and Haas,
Human Systems in Extreme Environments: 138 and Oliver-Smith, Martyred City.
The preceding literature review suggests that countries that are devastated by
disasters often experience significant political transformations soon afterward. Such
changes are more likely to occur in places with an inequitable distribution of wealth and a
history of socio-political conflict. What has not been adequately explained is why
political change arises in these contexts. One could argue that disasters encourage the
organization of victims, highlight the commonalities between them, and encourage them
to act in the interest of the public good. Such mobilization eventually spills into the
political sphere, increases people's voice in politics and often leads to a change in the
political system. In other words, one could argue that disasters strengthen civil society,
change existing governance patterns and thus contribute to a process of democratization.
Unfortunately, the existing disaster literature does not support this contention.
Although various studies have shown that disasters prompt the organization and
mobilization of affected communities, they also reveal that this activity is evanescent.
The only social transformations that do persist are those that were already underway
before the disaster. So how or why might a political change arise? Do disasters cause
enduring transformations in the way citizens participate in politics but not in the way they
interact with neighbors? Do they only catalyze political changes among people with a
history of strong organization and political mobilization? Do they hasten political
transformations that had been initiated before the disaster or can they spur new ones?
Could other factors mediate how or when disasters affect the political sphere? These are
just some of the questions to be explored in this dissertation. Before these queries are
answered, we must consider the socio-political effects of foreign aid, be it derived from
foreign governments, multilateral agencies or NGOs.
The Political Effects of Foreign Aid
Foreign aid is frequently transferred to disaster-afflicted areas soon after the initial
shock of such an event. But the way such assistance is channeled varies considerably
depending on the source of such funds. Bilateral and multilateral agencies usually extend
assistance to the central government rather than to those communities or regions most
affected by disasters. Their aid frequently is used to undertake broad socio-economic
policies or infrastructural projects as well as to improve the state's ability to implement
these. Due to their macro focus, such aid tends to have little impact on average citizens
or local structures. NGOs, on the other hand, generally offer their assistance directly to
target communities, often bypassing political authorities or at least excluding them from
participating in the dissemination of such aid. Unlike bilateral and multilateral donors,
NGOs try to address localized issues and concerns, many of which are self-identified by
recipient groups. Due to their level of intervention, international donors tend to influence
national level politics. They do so by encouraging state agencies to be more open and
responsive to the general populace and thus creating spaces for improved state-society
relations. NGOs are most likely to influence local, socio-political issues. They
encourage the organization and mobilization of aid recipients and thus enable them to
engage their government representatives more efficiently. Although both types of donors
play an active role in developing countries during normal times, their level and degree of
intervention usually increases in the aftermath of disaster, making their socio-political
impact more evident. The following sections will review what is known about the
political effects of both international donors and NGOs.
International Donor Impact
Bilateral and multilateral donors have been shown to have a significant impact on
the process of democratic consolidation. They have accomplished this by conditioning
their financial assistance, popularizing a particular development discourse and
disseminating their norms and ideas through these means. This external pressure partly
resulted in a "Third Wave" of democracy during the late 1970's and 1980's47 and to a
deepening of democracy since then.
The use of conditionalities has been one of the principal ways through which
bilateral and multilateral agencies have promoted their vision of democratic governance.
A conditionality, as Nelson explains, "entails offering a benefit if ... the receiver takes
specific actions (or refrains from taking actions which the donor disapproves)."48 These
benefits may be economic such as when an international agency offers a loan to a
developing country on the condition that certain public policies be adopted. Or the
incentive may be political such as when the European Union makes membership in its
organization contingent upon having a stable democracy.49 The incentive may also be
positive or negative in form. A donor may use its assistance to reward a country for
adopting certain policy or institutional changes or it may threaten to withdraw or not
distribute aid if specific conditions are not met. Not all countries are affected equally by
47 Huntington, The Third Wave.
48 Joan M. Nelson, Encouraging Democracy: What Role for ConditionedAid? (Washington, D.C.:
Overseas Development Council, 1992): 10.
49 Geoffrey Pridham, "The European Union, Democratic Conditionality and Transnational Party Linkages,"
Democracy Without Borders: Transnationalization and Conditionality in New Democracies, Jean Grugel,
ed. (London: Routledge: 1999); Geoffrey Pridham, "The Politics of the European Community:
Transnational Networks and Democratic Transition in Southern Europe," Encouraging Democracy: The
International Context ofRegime Transition in Southern Europe, Geoffrey Pridham, eds. (New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1991); and Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth
Century (Norman: Universit of Oklahoma Press, 1993): 87-91.
such conditionalities.50 Those possessing strong exports such as oil tend to be more
insulated from these external pressures than countries such as Honduras that are
dependent on banana and coffee production.
The use of conditionalities has evolved significantly during the last half century.
The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and several bilateral donors have
been attaching conditions to the loans they disburse since their foundation. Initially, most
of these conditions were project specific.51 The focus was on designing good
development projects and policies. After the oil crisis of the 1970's, international
financial institutions began broadening and increasing the qualifying factors for their aid
by requiring loan recipients to implement neo-liberal economic reforms. This led several
governments to transfer many of its functions to the market and adopt structural
adjustment packages.52 Initially, neither these financial institutions nor other
international donors conditioned their aid on political reforms, but this began to change
during the 1970's when a network of NGOs began publicizing and raising public
awareness of human rights abuses being committed throughout the world.53 President
Jimmy Carter's administration responded to this situation by making U.S. foreign
development assistance contingent on human rights protection. Other European
governments adopted the same policy. Since most human rights violations were
50 Nelson, Encouraging Democracy, 47.
51 Joan M. Nelson and Stephanie J. Englinton, Global Goals, Contentious Means: Issues of Multiple Aid
Conditionality (Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council, 1993): 12-15.
52 Ibid and Nelson, Encouraging Democracy, 33-39.
53 Kathryn Sikkink, "The Emergence, Evolution and Effectiveness of the Latin American Human Rights
Network," C. ,, i,,. ia,, Democracy: Human Rights, Citizenship and Society in Latin America, Elizabeth
Jelin and Eric Hershberg, eds. (Boulder: Westview, 1996): 59-84.
committed by military or authoritarian governments at the time, bilateral donors began
using their aid packages to promote transitions to democracy, as well.54 By the 1980's
most bilateral donors were encouraging both democratization and human rights
protection through the use of conditionalities.
Some multilateral aid agencies were more hesitant to advocate these political
reforms. The World Bank and International Monetary Funds, for example, claimed that
their founding charters prohibited them from becoming involved in the political
institutions and procedures of aid recipient countries.5 They together with other donors
also did not want to bias Western political norms and institutions such as those inherent
in liberal democracy. Interestingly, these financial institutions did not refrain from
encouraging the political changes associated with neo-liberal economic policies-that
also had a Western bias. Nevertheless, by the 1980's this unfettered faith in market
capitalism had begun to waiver as the private sector proved itself unable to address the
myriad problems faced by developing nations. The impressive economic
accomplishments of a few industrializing countries in Eastern Asia and Latin America
during the1970's and 1980's proved that a strong, interventionist state could help achieve
economic growth.56 Although the need for political reforms continued to be evidenced in
many countries, theorists and policy makers alike increasingly acknowledged the need to
54 Adam Przeworski et al., Sustainable Democracy, (Cambridge: Cambridge Universiy Press, 1995): 6 and
Oda Van Canenburgh, "International Policies to Promote African Democratization," Democracy Without
Borders: Transnationalization and Conditionality in New Democracies, Jean Grugel, ed. (London:
Routledge: 1999): 92-105.
55 Joan M. Nelson and Stephanie J. Englinton, Global Goals, Contentious Means: Issues of Multiple Aid
Conditionality (Washington, D.C.: Overseas Development Council, 1993): 53.
56 World Bank, The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy (Oxford: Oxford University
include the government in development policies. Still wary of promoting liberal
democracy, international policy makers began discussing the need for better, more
accountable governance.57 Donors generally defined governance as the way states,
markets and civil society manage public affairs. The focus on governance allowed aid
agencies to question the legitimacy of a political regime while seemingly avoiding the
normative bias inherent in democratic systems.58 As Hewitt de Alcantara explains,
By talking about 'governance'-rather than 'state reform' or 'social and political
change'-multilateral banks and agencies within the development establishment
were able to address sensitive questions that could be lumped together under a
relatively inoffensive heading and usually couched in technical terms, thus
avoiding any implication that these institutions were exceeding their statutory
authority by intervening in the internal political affairs of sovereign states.59
The adoption of good governance as a policy concern did not entail the abandonment of
neo-liberalism. On the contrary, attention to governance enabled many organizations to
advocate transferring what had traditionally been government responsibilities to either
civil society or the market while also not ignoring the important role of the state in public
affairs. Some development agencies, choosing not to forgo their emphasis on democracy,
began espousing the need for democratic governance rather than the more generic good
governance. By the 1990's most development agencies were conditioning their aid on
the presence of either one of these.
57 Cynthia Hewlitt de Alcintara, "Uses and Abuses of the Concept of Governance," International Social
Science Journal 50:1 (March 1998): 105-113.
58 See Goran Hyden, "Governance and the Study of Politics," Governance and Politics in Africa, eds.
Goran Hyden and Michael Bratton (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992): 5; David Rothchild, "Conclusion:
Management of Conflict in West Africa," Governance as Conflict Management: Politics and Violence in
WestAfrica, ed. I. William Zartman (Washington: Brookings Institute Press, 1998): 198-199.
59 Hewlitt de Alcintara, "Uses and Abuses of the Concept of Governance," 107.
Donors have promoted democratization and good governance not only through the
use of conditionalities and material incentives, but also by disseminating a particular
political discourse. Politicians and civil society groups in developing nations
increasingly speak of the need to make governments more accountable, increase society's
role in public decision-making and create mechanisms and institutions that will improve
state-society relations. The ideas disseminated through this discourse can help change a
state's conceptions of development.60 Although the degree of actual commitment to
these ideational goals among those who profess them may be questionable, the mere fact
that this language is being employed is politically significant. As Yee explains,
"Language is crucial to the constitution of... reality."61 In order for democracy to be
consolidated, it must be preceded by a discussion of this process. The terms democracy
and human rights, for example, were popularized by various international forces during
the 1970's and 1980's until they became fundamental aspects of the political lexicon in
much of the developed and developing world. This change in discourse eventually
contributed to the increased protection of human rights and transition to elected civilian
governments in dozens of countries.62 Of course, the mere use of such language did not
ensure that those employing it acted in concert with what they professed. Schirmer has
shown how the Guatemalan military altered its discourse during the 1980's in order to
correspond better with the one being used by international donors at the time yet did little
60 Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,
61 Albert S. Yee, "The Causal Effects of Ideation on Policy," International Organization 50:1 (Winter
62 Huntington, The Third Wave and Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink, eds. The Power
of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic ( /I I,,;.. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
to change its policies.63 This period of dissonance between speech and action was short-
lived, however, and the country eventually began to abide by human rights norms.64 This
time lapse between when the government adopted a particular discourse and when it
actually abided by what it said is not unique to Guatemala. Risse and Sikkink have
argued that although governments sometimes alter their discursive practices for
instrumental reasons, they eventually come to accept the validity of what they profess.65
By popularizing a particular discourse, foreign aid agencies can induce a shift in
political norms. Since "a norm ... creates impetus for behavior consistent with the
belief,"66 a shift in norms usually leads to a concomitant behavioral adjustment.
Therefore, normative changes can lead to significant political transformations. As
Schmitz and Sell have explained, "the diffusion of democratic values and norms
institutionalizes new ideas in a given national context, thus making available images of
alternative regime types and influencing the changes in actors' preferences and
choices."67 By transforming normative structures, donor agencies can also prompt
63 Jennifer Schirmer, "The Looting of Democratic Discourse by the Guatemalan Military: Implications for
Human Rights," C.,, i, i,.o, i. Democracy: Human Rights, Citizenship and Society in Latin America,
Elizabeth Jelin and Eric Hershberg, eds. (Boulder: Westview, 1996): 85-97.
64 Stephen C. Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink, "International Norms into Domestic Politics in Chile and
Guatemala," The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic ( /,,I,'.' Thomas Risse,
Stephen C. Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999): 172-204.
65 Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink, The Socialization of International Human Rights Norms into
Domestic Practices: Introduction," The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic
( l,,i. ,., Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1999): 1-38.
66 Ibid, 7.
67 Hans Peter Schmitz and Katrin Sell, "International Factors in Processes of Political Democratization,"
Democracy Without Borders: Transnationalization and Conditionality in New Democracies, Jean Grugel,
ed. (London: Routledge: 1999): 37-38.
domestic policy changes.68 As ideas gain prominence among a large group of people
they form an ideological structure that informs the structure of institutions, the nature
of social cooperation and conflict, and the attitudes and predispositions of the
The use of a particular discourse can also be used to gauge the performance of both
the politicians who employ it and the regime they represent. Politicians who speak of
human rights protection, government accountability, social auditing and eliminating
corruption will likely be judged by international actors and their constituents on the basis
of these concepts. In addition, political language helps frame the nature of political
interactions. It "lends representative legitimacy to some social interests more than others,
delineates the accepted boundaries of state action .. and privileges] some lines of
policy over others."70 All of this suggests that the new discourse on democratic
governance that has been popularized since the 1990's can help bring new actors to the
political scene and make the policies they advocate more tenable.
Although bilateral and multilateral donors can exert significant influence over an
aid recipient country, they do not determine the nature of politics there. The interests of
local elites as well as a series of socio-economic factors mediate the extent to which
international donors can affect national-level politics. Democracy, for example, seems
more likely to arise in countries that have industrialized and developed a bourgeoisie
68 Albert S. Yee, "The Causal Effects of Ideation on Policy," International O, ii,,ir.,, 50:1 (Winter
69 William H. Sewell, Jr., "Ideologies and Social Revolutions: Reflections on the French Case," The
Journal of Modern History 57:1 (1985): 173.
70 Peter A. Hall, "Policy Paradigms, Social Learning and the State: The Case of Economic Policymaking in
Britain," Comparative Politics 25: 3 (April 993): 289.
class than in those characterized by agrarian and feudal-type structures.71 It is also best
sustained by a strong civil society.72 Yet, the absence of these conditions does not
preclude the rise and consolidation of democracy. Politicians may decide to strengthen
democratic institutions despite the absence of these structural factors or instead choose to
weaken them in order to pursue their personal interests. Foreign actors can hasten the
process of democratization within either one of these contexts, particularly if a country is
ripe for such a change.73 They do so by changing the incentive structure of national level
politicians and forcing them to play what Putnam calls "two level games."74 In an effort
to appease international donors, national politicians may abide by their preconditions,
adopt their discourse, accept new norms and thus improve their democracy.
Periods of domestic crisis can increase the influence of foreign agents by
weakening the power of local elites and/or altering socio-economic conditions. Ikenberry
and Kupchan argue that during such times hegemonic states are better able to socialize
the elites of developing or "secondary" states into accepting their political ideas and
norms. In their words, "crisis creates an environment in which elites seek alternatives to
existing norms that have been discredited by events and in which new norms offer
opportunities for political gains and coalition realignment."75 Therefore, crisis can make
71 Barrington Moore, The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966).
72 Putnam, Making Democracy Work.
73 Huntington, The Third Wave, 86.
74 Robert Putnam, "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two Level Games," International
O l"ii:oli. "' 42:3 (Summer 1988): 427-460. For a similar argument see Geoffrey Pridham, eds.
Encouraging Democracy: The International Context ofRegime Transition in Southern Europe (New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1991).
75 John G. Ikenberry and Charles A. Kupchan, "Socialization and Hegemonic Power," International
O,,,,,,,. ., 44:3 (Summer 1990).
ideas of democracy and good governance more attractive to domestic power brokers.
Although Ikenberry and Kupchan analyze periods of political turmoil such as those
created by war, foreign agents may be able to exert similar power over domestic actors
during times of disaster-induced crisis. This research will explore whether this has
occurred in Honduras.
NGOs may contribute to the process of democratization as well. Unlike bilateral
and multilateral donors, they do not do this by pressuring national governments to adopt
certain ideas or policies. Instead, NGOs often contribute to this process by affecting the
nature and constitution of civil society. Their intervention, in other words, is directed at
the grass roots level rather than at the state-centered realm of high politics.
Several theorists have argued that NGOs can help strengthen civil society and thus
advance democratization in a country.76 They accomplish this in part by bringing people
together to implement NGO-sponsored development projects. This community building
process has a direct bearing on civil society. As Wapner explains, NGOs "organize
people into new forms of social interaction, and this makes for a more tightly woven web
of associational life."77 Yet NGOs do more than just unite people. They help beneficiary
groups translate their needs into a set of well formulated objectives and then develop
methods of action for achieving these.78 According to Carroll, this is accomplished by
76 G. Sidney Silliman and Lela Garner Noble, ed. ORGANIZING FOR DEMOCRACY: NGOs, Civil
Society, and the Philippine State ( Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1988) and Leilah Landim, "NGOs
in Latin America," World Development 15 supplement (1987):29-38.
77 Paul Wapner, "Politics Beyond the State: Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics," World
Politics 47 (April 1995): 333.
8 Telmo Frantz, "The Role of NGOs in the Strengthening of Civil Society," World Development 15
supplement (1987): 126.
encouraging beneficiaries to participate in project decision making and implementation.79
Clark adds that NGOs foster strong local leadership, build communication skills, and
encourage locals to tackle injustice.80 This often leads people to become more involved
in local political issues.81 As a result of this political activism, NGOs as well as the
community groups they support can affect the implementation of government policies
and even challenge established power structures at the local level.82 An NGOs' impact is
not always constrained to this level of politics, however. These organizations may
support social movements or encourage project beneficiaries to mobilize in order to
influence national policies. The potentially positive impact that NGOs can have on civil
society has led many bilateral and multilateral donors to finance the activities of such
organizations since the 1980s.83
Not all NGOs have this democratizing effect. Those non-governmental
organizations that only distribute credit or similar assistance or who primarily serve a
social or recreational purpose are unlikely to have any political impact. Carroll argues
that NGOs that focus on grassroots development and on organizing target communities
79 Thomas F. Carroll, Intermediary NGOs: The ij... i,, Link in Grassroots Development (West
Hartford, Conn.: Kumarian Press, 1992).
80 John Clark, ,, .. :',, Development: The Role of Voluntary Organizations (London: Earthscan
Publications, 1991): 91 and John Clark, "The State, Popular Participation and the Voluntary Sector," World
Development 23:4 (1995): 593-601.
81 Julie Fisher, The Road from Rio: Sustainable Development and the Nongovernmental Movement in the
Third World (London: Praeger, 1993): 16.
82 Michael Bratton, "Non Governmental Organizations in Africa: Can They Influence Government Policy?"
Development and ( li,,o.,.. 21 (1990): 87-118.
83 Harry Blair, "Donors, Democratisation and Civil Society: Relating Theory to Practice,"
NGOs States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort? David Hulme and Michael Edwards,
eds. (New York: St. Martin's, 1997).
are the ones most likely to encourage people to act together to tackle political issues.84
Similarly, Frantz contends that NGOs that support social movements or initiatives that
express the free will of the people are the ones most likely to strengthen civil society.85
Some scholars doubt that even these specific NGOs can make such contributions to
democracy. Hulme and Edwards accept the contention that NGOs can help form
community organizations. However, they argue that these groups are often created only
to achieve project goals and do not articulate, represent or achieve member needs.86 They
together with Huduck and Bazaara contend that the relationship between NGOs and
donors can limit further the extent to which these organizations can contribute to social
change. 87 This is because NGO projects tend to respond to the goals of and be
accountable to donor agencies rather than target groups.88 As a result, the latter are rarely
allowed to affect the design and implementation of the projects that are meant to benefit
them. This situation may engender a paternalistic and dependent relationship between
84 Carroll, Intermediary NGOs.
85 Frantz, "The Role of NGOs in the Strengthening of Civil Society,"123.
86 Michael Edwards and David Hulme, eds. Beyond the Magic Bullet: NGO Performance and
Accountability in the Post Cold War (West Hartford, Connecticut: Kumarian, 1996); David Hulme and
Michael Edwards, "Too Close to the Powerful, Too Far from the Powerless," NGOs States and Donors:
Too Close for Comfort? David Hulme and Michael Edwards, eds. (New York: St. Martin's, 1997).
87 Ann Huduck, NGOs and Civil Society: Democracy by Proxy? (Cambridge: Polity
Press, 1999) and Nyangabyak Bazaara, Contemporary Civil Society and the
Democratisation Process in Uganda: A Preliminary Exploration (Kampala, Uganda:
CBR Publications 2000) and David Hulme and Michael Edwards, eds., NGOs States and
Donors: Too Close for Comfort? (New York: St. Martin's, 1997)..
88 Ibid and Cristina Ewig, "The Strengths and Limits of the NGOs Women's Movement Model: Shaping
Nicaragua's Democratic Institutions," Latin American Research Review 34:3 (1999): 75-102.
NGOs and the communities they seek to benefit.89 Abramson argues that in some
developing countries NGOs are used by a small, professional elite as vehicles to secure
jobs and higher incomes for themselves and their cohorts and do little to contribute to
socio-political change or development.90 Although such scenarios due not typify all
NGOs, they do caution that these organizations should not be seen as "a panacea for
making uncivil societies civil."91
NGOs' potential contribution to democracy is not limited to their ability to
organize target groups and encourage them to participate in politics. NGOs are often
active participants in their country's political system, as well. Therefore, they do not
merely help strengthen civil society through their effects on others, but are themselves an
active part of it. NGOs use their experience to position themselves into and influence
political debates of the day. As Pyle has explained, "NGOs are uniquely equipped to
work simultaneously at the grassroots and the public policy levels. Their close connection
with the target beneficiary population and strong grounding in community issues by
virtue of their ongoing work with those communities makes them ideal policy
advocates."92 This unique position often leads NGOs to undertake public awareness
campaigns, propose government policies, and lobby politicians. Such activities tend to
be particularly successful when these organizations form horizontal ties with other NGOs
89 Sarah C. White "NGOs, Civil Society, and the State in Bangladesh: The Politics of Representing the
Poor," Development and ( li,,i,..- 30:2 (1999): 307 and David Lehmann, Democracy and Development in
Latin America: Economics, Politics and Religion in the Postwar (Cambridge: Polity, 1990).
90 David M. Abramson, "A Critical Look at NGOs and Civil Society as a Means to an End in Uzbekistan,"
Human O, ; a,,, :,t,. 58:3 (Fall 1999): 240-251.
91 Ibid 242.
92 Kathryn Smith Pyle, "From Policy Advocate To Policy Maker: NGOs in Recife," Grassroots
Development 21:1 (1997).
and jointly tackle political issues.93 NGOs may also influence governments through
indirect means. Their positive experiences with development and popular participation
may inspire public officials to modify the operation of government and improve their
relationship with citizens.94 In addition, NGOs can democratize the informal political
processes in countries by building stronger institutions, educating citizens and promoting
Socio-political factors mediate the extent to which politically-engaged NGOs can
affect the public sphere. Ewig argues that NGOs can help shape public policies and
collaborate with government agencies so as to change the way the state delivers services
only when government officials are open to these organizations and their intervention.96
Therefore, political opportunity is a critical factor in explaining the extent to which
NGOs can contribute to democracy. Marsouk, Luong and Weinthal have shown that if a
state limits or tries to control the activities of NGOs, these organizations will make little
contribution to deepening democracy, even if they are actively engaged in the political
sphere.97 Although Ho argues that "citizens are not stopped by state regulations" that
seek to limit non-governmental and community-based organizations, he acknowledges
93 John W. Garrison II and Leilah Landim, "Harvesting the Bounty of Citizenship: The
Fight Against Hunger and Poverty in Brazil," Grassroots Development 19:2 (1995).
94 Clark, D,. i..... i:,, Development, 65.
95 John Friedmann, Empowerment: the politics of alternative development (Cambridge, MA : Blackwell,
96 Ewig, "The Strengths and Limits of the NGOs Women's Movement Model: Shaping Nicaragua's
97 Mohsen Marsouk, "The Associative Phenomenon in the Arab World: Engine of Democratisation or
Wiress to the Crisis?" NGOs States and Donors: Too Close for Comfort? David Hulme and Michael
Edwards, eds. (New York: St. Martin's, 1997) and Pauline Jones Luong and Erika Weinthal, The NGO
Paradox: Democratic Goals and Non Democratic Outcomes in Kazakhstan," Europe-Asia Studies 51: 7
that they can be prevented from tackling the state through broad, nationally-based
movements as a result of such restrictions.98 A state can also limit the extent to which an
NGO can strengthen civil society. Mac Donald has shown that when governments
encourage or complement the politically-focused work of NGOs, these organizations are
better able to transfer democratic skills to and encourage political participation among
target groups. When such support is unavailable, NGOs run the risk of creating a
dependence on external assistance and reinforcing traditional, clientelist behavior among
project beneficiaries.99 This does not mean that NGOs must operate under a friendly or
liberal democratic government to contribute to civil society and democracy more
generally. Such organizations can emerge and function successfully even in authoritarian
systems and both promote democratic values and resist the state's attempts to control
their activities within such environments.100 However, the political system within which
they operate, be it officially democratic or not, can help to either constrain or enable their
The literature on NGOs suggests that organizations that support grass-roots
development can make a positive contribution to democracy. They help organize target
groups, raise the socio-political awareness of participants, develop their leadership skills
and encourage them to become politically active. Some NGOs further strengthen civil
society by becoming active participants in politics. But an NGOs' capacity to affect
98 Peter Ho, "Greening Without Conflict? Environmentalism, NGOs and Civil Society in China,"
Development and ( 1,1,,..- 32, no. 5 (2001): 893-921.
99 Laura Mac Donald, c',f' ." *',, ~ Civil Society: The Political Role ofNon Governmental Organizations in
CentralAmerica (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997).
100 Ho, "Greening Without Conflict?" and Brian Loveman, "Chilean NGOs: Forging a Role in Transition to
Democracy," New Paths to Democratic Development in Latin America, Charles A. Reilley, ed. (Boulder:
Lynne Rienner: 1995): 119-144.
broad structures and policies is determined by political opportunity. They are most
politically influential if the state either supports or at least does not interfere with their
This dissertation will use the theoretical lens of governance to explore how a major
natural disaster, international aid organizations and NGOs affected state-civil society
relations in Honduras. Governance generally refers to the way states and societies interact
in order to manage their public affairs. Historically, political governance has been
viewed as a primacy of states or governments101 and has been associated with those
actions that result in public policies. Recently, however, these assumptions have come
into question.102 Scholars have recognized that states cannot and often do not determine
socio-political outcomes and that important aspects of governance often exist outside of
government. 103 Scholars have also stopped associating governance with just policy and
have begun analyzing also how states and their societies govern the regimes or
institutions that constrain them.
Unfortunately, the literature on governance is far from consolidated. Different
subfields of political science have adopted slightly different interpretations of this
process. Public administration scholars tend to view governance as a process of steering
101 Gerry Stoker, "Governance as Theory: Five Propositions," International Social Science Journal 50:1
(March 1998): 17
102 Several theorists emphasize that government is not the same thing as government. For example see
Meghnad Desai, "Global Governance," Global Governance: Ethics and Economics of the World Order,
Meghnad Desai and Paul Redfern, eds. (London: Pinter, 1995): 7; James Rosenau, "Governance, Order and
Change in World Politics," Governance Without Government: Order and ( ,, i;..- in World Politics, eds.
James N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992): 4; and
R.A.W. Rhodes, Understanding Governance: Policy Networks, Governance, Reflexivity andAccountability
(Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1997): 53.
103 James Rosenau, "Governance, Order and Change in World Politics," 4.
or controlling public policy while students of international relations and comparative
politics tend see it as the way state-society relations maintain and are affected by existing
institutions. These different understandings of governance are not mutually exclusive,
however. They merely reflect and are a response to the distinct theoretical concerns that
have driven scholarship in these subfields.
The concept of governance arose in policy circles during the 1980's as a result of
previous disappointments with state reform. 104 During the 1950's and 1960's,
governments and international aid organizations had expressed an almost unwavering
faith in the state's ability to promote socio-economic development. As the limitations of
this approach became evident, scholars and practitioners began proclaiming the failure of
the welfare state in Europe and of state-led development in the Africa, Asia and Latin
America. They suggested that downsizing governments and shifting some of the state's
previous responsibilities to the private sector could secure socio-economic and political
goals more effectively. A new development discourse was needed to justify these neo-
liberal policies and have them accepted by both governments and citizens. New
theoretical constructs also had to be developed in order to better understand the socio-
political repercussions of these policies. Governance was able to fill both of these needs.
International aid organizations began using the concept of governance in order to
explain how public policies would have to be conducted in the context of neo-liberal
economics and a smaller state. The World Bank described governance as "the manner in
104 For a historical review of why governance arose in applied policy circles see Cynthia Hewlitt de
Alcintara, "Uses and Abuses of the Concept of Governance," International Social Science Journal 50:1
(March 1998) and Renate Mayntz, "Governing Failures and the Problem of Governability: Some
Comments on a Theoretical Paradigm," Modern Governance: New Government-Society Interactions, ed.
Jan Kooiman (London: Sage, 1993).
which power is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social
resources for development."105 It emphasized that the state was not the only actor
responsible for this activity; governments, the private sector and civil society all had to
participate in this process. In practice, however, the World Bank has treated the concept
of governance as little more than government management. It has claimed that effective
governance is based on technical expertise, effectiveness, accountability, rule of law and
transparency.106 Political corruption has been described as its antithesis. The
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has adopted a similar view of governance and
focused its energy on improving government management of economic issues.107 NGOs
have been encouraged to adopt a relatively minor or less powerful role in the
management process-that of monitoring the activities of governments and holding them
accountable for their actions. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
also has emphasized that accountability and public participation are integral parts of good
governance. However, this organization has de-emphasized the role of government and
highlighted the position society plays in this process. It sees governance not merely as
management, but as the way that societies distribute power to manage public resources
and problems. It further defines the term as the way in "which citizens and groups
articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations and mediate their
105 See World Bank, Governance and Development (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1992): 1 and World
Bank, Governance: The World Bank's Experience (Washington, D.C.: United Nations, 1994).
106 Ibid and World Bank, Managing Development: The Governance Dimension (Washington, D.C.: World
107 International Monetary Fund (IMF), Good Governance: The IMF's Role (Washington, D.C.: IMF,
differences."108 Although the UNDP's view of governance is more encompassing than
that of the IMF and the World Bank, all of these institutions have used the term as a code
word for government down-sizing, reform and privatization.109
Unlike these development organizations, public policy and administration analysts
turned to governance in order to study the way neo-liberalism had changed the nature of
politics. European scholars observed that their political systems were less centralized and
hierarchical during the 1990's than they had been in the past. Not only were decisions
being made in multiple, decentralized spheres of governing, but societal groups were
having an increasingly important role in this process. Kooiman et al suggested that the
concept of governance be used to describe the regularized patterns of interactions that
emerge when public and private actors try to shape the political development of their
societies.110 They argued that a governance approach to politics ceased associating needs
with society and capacities with the state. Instead, it recognized that each of these groups
had needs and capacities relevant to the other.111 Since the distinction between the state
and society was increasingly indeterminate, Rhodes also suggested that the concept of
networks be used to describe the interactions that arose between these two groups.112
108 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Reconceptualizing Governance, Discussion Paper #2
(New York: UNDP, 1997): 9.
109 See Robert Picciotto, FPo, i Institutional Economics to Work: From Participation to Governance,
World bank Discussion pipci I -'14 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1995): 13-16. For a similar view see
Gerry Stoker, "Local Governance," Public Administration 75:1 (1997): 18.
110 Jan Kooiman, ed. Modern Governance: New Government-Society Interactions (London: Sage, 1993).
111 Jan Kooiman, "Governance and Governability: Using Complexity, Dynamics and Diversity," Modern
Governance: New Government-Society Interactions, ed. Jan Kooiman (London: Sage, 1993): 43-44.
112 R.A.W. Rhodes, Understanding Governance: Policy Networks, Governance, andAccountability, 57.
Some public policy scholars argued that it was not enough to view governance as
merely the negotiations or interactions among actors, as most of the policy literature was
doing. March and Olsen asserted that governance also "involves affecting the framework
within which citizens and [state] officials act and politics occurs."113 They claimed that
an analysis of democratic governance, their particular focus of study, requires "a
discussion of how institutional frameworks can be organized to achieve democratic ideals
and how institutions are constituted and changed within the processes they define."114
Rhodes had also acknowledged, at least implicitly, that governance involves some degree
of institutional maintenance for he had noted that state-society interactions are "regulated
by rules of the game negotiated and agreed by network participants."115
International relations scholars also emphasized the institutional aspects of
governance. However, their interest in this derived not from the political changes
associated with neo-liberalism but rather with those resulting from the collapse of
communism. These scholars tried to explain why our world had not been thrown into
disarray after the collapse of both a world hegemon and a bipolar world order. Their
explanation was the emergence of world governance. Proponents of this view accept that
interdependence is an increasing characteristic of our world and argue that this has helped
create commonly accepted norms, rules and patterns of behavior that facilitate
international cooperation.116 Consequently, they try to examine those factors that enable
113 James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, Democratic Governance (New York: Free Press, 1998): 6
115 Rhodes, Understanding Governance, 53.
116 See K.J. Holsti, "Governance without Government: Polyarchy in Nineteenth Century European
International Politics," Governance Without Government: Order and ( /I,, i... in World Politics, eds. James
N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
agreement and collaboration to arise beyond the nation-state.117 While there is still some
disagreement in this subfield regarding what constitutes governance, most theorists have
defined it as either a system of rules (i.e., an institution) and/or as the act of managing
them. The latter one of these definitions has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Holsti, for example, describes governance as the authoritative and legitimate management
of the international system.118 Similarly, Young defines it as "the establishment and
operation of social institutions (in the sense of rules of the game that serve to define
practices, assign roles, and guide interactions among the occupants of these roles) capable
of resolving conflicts, facilitating cooperation or, more generally, alleviating collective-
action problems in a world of interdependent actors."119
Historically, international relation scholars have assumed that governance is a
process undertaken by governments.120 However, the recent literature on the subject has
emphasized that governance is more than just government.121 In other words, the order it
creates is not solely a product of state or government actions.122 Non state-actors also
117 See Olav Schram Stokke, "Regimes as Governance Systems," Global Governance: Drawing Insights
from the Environmental Experience (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997): 58.
118 K.J. Holsti, "Governance Without Government: Polyarchy in Nineteenth Century European
International Politics," Governance Without Government: Order and (C ,, i,,.. in World Politics, eds. James
N. Rosenau and Ernst-Otto Czempiel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992): 32-33.
119 Oran R. Young, International Governance: F, r.... ini, the Environment in a Stateless Society, (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1994): 15 and Oran R. Young, "Rights, Rules and Resources in World Affairs,"
Global Governance: Drawing Insights from the Environmental Experience, ed. Oran R. Young
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997): 4.
120 Stoker, "Governance as Theory: Five Propositions," 17.
121 For example see Meghnad Desai, "Global Governance," 7; James Rosenau, "Governance, Order and
Change in World Politics," 4 and Smouts, "The Proper Use of Governance in International Relations," 82.
121 James Rosenau, "Governance, Order and Change in World Politics," 4.
122 See Global Governance: Ethics and Economics of the World Order (London: Pinter, 1995).
play a significant role in this process. Wapner has argued that it is important to consider
not only the actions of non-state actors when explaining the maintenance of institutions,
but also their interactions within and across national boundaries.123 He along and other
theorists have suggested that non-statal, transnational interactions create a "global civil
society."124 These can impact not only a state's public policies, but also the policies
pursued by international institutions.125 By emphasizing the domestic and international
linkages between and among state and non-state actors, international relations theorists
are implicitly or explicitly suggesting that governance is the creation and management of
institutions by states and societies.126
Comparative politics scholars have adopted a similar view of governance. But,
their interest in the subject originates from a different concern-the proliferation of
democracy in the last quarter of the twentieth century, particularly after the demise of
communism in Eastern Europe. While most of this subfield dedicated itself to exploring
the factors that contribute to the establishment, consolidation and deepening of
democracy, some African scholars cautioned that this scholarly focus was causing
various political systems to be judged on the basis of Western norms and standards and
that the democracy paradigm might be inappropriate for studying some regions of the
world. They suggested that attention to governance would allow analysts to determine
123 Paul Wapner, Governance in Global Civil Society," Global Governance: Drawing Insights from the
Environmental Experience, ed. Oran R. Young (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997).
124 Ibid, Scott Turner, "Global Civil Society, Anarchy and Governance: Assessing an Emerging Paradigm,"
Journal of Peace Research 35:1 (January 1998);
125 Robert O'Brien et al., C. ',,n,. n,, Global Governance: Multilateral Economic Institutions and Global
Social Movements (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
126 See Commission on Global Governance, Our Global Neighborhood (Oxford University Press, 1995).
whether a regime was legitimate while avoiding the normative bias inherent in studies of
democracy.127 Since these African specialists also were interested in explaining regime
maintenance and change, they adopted an institutional view of governance. Hyden, one
of the leading proponents of this approach, defined governance as "the conscious
management of regime structures" by state-society interactions in order to increase the
legitimacy of the public realm.128 "Its central concern," according to Bratton and
Rothchild, "is with the interactive processes of bargaining among actors in a state and
society over the permissible limits of politics."129 They further suggested that an analysis
of governance must involve "an assessment of the capacities of contending parties to
promote or block regime-altering reforms."130
As can be seen, each of these subfields of political science has adopted the concept
of governance in order to explain different facets of political reality and address varying
theoretical concerns. Nevertheless, they share some common views on the subject. All
agree that governance is maintained by the interactions or relationship patterns between
states and societies. Comparative politics and international relations scholars are
interested in the way these actors manage political regimes. They acknowledge that
although existing institutions constrain the nature of state-society relations, these actors
can change the rules of the game as sometimes occurs during a regime transition. Policy
127 See Goran Hyden, "Governance and the Study of Politics," Governance and Politics in Africa, eds.
Goran Hyden and Michael Bratton (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992): 5; David Rothchild, "Conclusion:
Management of Conflict in West Africa," Governance as Conflict Management: Politics and Violence in
West Africa, ed. I. William Zartman (Washington: Brookings Institute Press, 1998): 198-199.
128 Hyden, "Governance and the Study of Politics," 7.
129 Bratton and Rothchild, "The Institutional Bases of Governance in Africa," 270.
analysts and practitioners are less interested in regime change and management. They
tend to view governance as the way state-society actors negotiate and arrive at policy
decisions within given institutions. However, some policy scholars argue that in order to
understand these decision-making processes, one must also evaluate the institutional
frameworks within which they are made and the ways in which these can be altered. This
dissertation accepts many of the insights offered by these varying approaches.
Consequently, governance is understood here to be the way states and societies interact in
order to manage their regimes and reach policy decisions within these mutually accepted
rules of the game.
Hyden suggests that in order to study governance, one must analyze 1) how citizens
participate in the political process, influence their political representatives and oversee
their actions; 2) how political leaders respond to the demands of their constituents; and 3)
whether citizens are equal participants in the political game.131 In addition, Rothchild
suggests that one analyze the nature and intensity of the demands made by different
actors on the political system.132 Unfortunately, few studies have tried to study these
issues systematically. As a result, the literature on governance has been constrained to
the level of theory and has been applied on rarely. This dissertation will contribute to
this body of literature by presenting a case study analysis of governance.
Although theories of governance have been presented as an alternative to those on
democracy, particularly by comparativists, the two approaches need not be antithetical.
Their difference lies mostly in their focus. The democratization literature explores the
131 Goran Hyden, "Governance and the Study of Politics," 14-16.
various factors that affect the performance and longevity of democracies. Consequently,
scholars writing within this field tend to analyze how civil society, political elites and
institutions affect these regimes. Unfortunately, they rarely explore how these three
factors interact with one another.133 Studies of governance, on the other hand, emphasize
the relational aspect of a regime. They evaluate the nature of state-society interactions
and then deduce the possible effects this may have on political institutions.
Although the concept of governance is related to that of democracy, the two should
be viewed as distinct. A democracy is a type of political system characterized, among
other things, by the presence of regular elections for choosing government officials.
Although it is often assumed that those elected into office will make most or all of the
relevant public decisions there, this is often not the case. Non-state actors frequently
influence the policies that are developed in such systems as well as the institutions or
rules of the game within which these are made. The more participatory a democracy
becomes, the more societal groups affect this process. The concept of governance
captures the behavioral dimension of democracy and the increasingly complex set of
actors involved in decision-making there. This has led Hirst to suggest that his
associative model of democracy is the one most compatible with the governance
approach to politics because it emphasizes the ongoing communication between
133 One exception is Leonardo Morlino, Democracy Between Consolidation and Crisis: Parties, Groups
and Citizens in Southern Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). Morlino looks at how the
relationship between elites and civil society affect the legitimacy and thus longevity of a democracy.
Unfortunately, he focuses almost exclusively on how political parties mediate and represent citizen
interests and ignores how other organized groups in society may do the same. Although this approach
advances our understanding of how non-elite, political interactions impact democratization, it may be
inappropriate for other newly democratic settings where parties fail to channel citizen demands.
governors and governed.134 Yet the applicability of governance is not limited to
democracies. It can be used to analyze the relational processes that occur within any
Democracies, when understood in their minimalist sense, may be sustained by
various models of governance. The state-centered model is the most common and
traditional form of governance. The state tends to dominate decision-making in these
settings to the exclusion of most societal groups. Consequently, most policies and
institutions are designed in an authoritarian, hierarchical and exclusionary manner.
Although this style of governance may be present in a country that has adopted formal
democratic structures (i.e., a constitution, elections, etc.), it is not compatible with a
deeper or consolidated democracy because social actors generally are excluded from
political participation and political elites remain unresponsive to them. This may limit
the legitimacy of the regime and cause it to be unstable. Countries like Honduras that
have recently made a transition to democracy tend to be characterized by this form of
governance. At the other end of the spectrum lies the society-centered model of
governance. In such settings, public decision-making occurs in diffuse nodes comprised
of multiple societal actors. The state, though present, is too weak vis a vis society to
perform key decision-making tasks. Although this style of governance is highly
participatory, it too may be incompatible with democracy if the social groups who make
most policy decisions are unknown or not accountable to voters. Moreover, these social
actors may themselves be organized in a highly hierarchical and undemocratic manner.
134 Paul Hirst, "Democracy and Governance," i,. i,,,n Governance: Authority, Steering and Democracy,
ed. Jon Pierre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) and Paul Hirst, Associative Democracy,
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994).
When taken to the extreme, this style of governance can breed political anarchy and
destabilize a political regime. In between these two ideal-types lie various shades of
governance. No one style of governance is compatible with all settings. Citizens and
political elites must determine jointly the most appropriate form of governance for them.
But for a democracy to be stable, a state and societal actors must cooperate with one
another on an equal footing in order to manage their regime and public affairs. This
suggests, as Hyden has noted, that the more governance is characterized by trust,
reciprocity, authority and accountability, the more legitimate a political regime will be.135
Since the hierarchical or state-centered model of governance has been the
traditional way of organizing and interpreting political relationships and continues to
characterize many existing regimes, Pierre and Peters suggest that it be used as the
benchmark against which newer, emerging models of governance should be assessed.136
But the use of this model should not preclude an analysis of society. Indeed Peters
argues that studies of governance should begin with a focus on society.137 This is
particularly critical in cases such as Honduras where civil society has traditionally been
weak. One must approach a study of governance there by analyzing the strength of
different social groups and the ways they are interacting with political elites (e.g., through
confrontation, negotiation, clientelism, etc). Only then can one determine how society is
challenging a hierarchical state and forcing it to open new channels of participation.
135 Hyden, "Governance and the Study of Politics."
136 Pierre and Peters, Governance, Politics and the State, 14-18.
137 B. Guy Peters, "Governance and Comparative Politics," D, i';' Governance: Authority, Steering and
Democracy, ed. Jon Pierre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000): 49.
This dissertation acknowledges that governance occurs at multiple levels.138 In the
international arena, it involves establishing and maintaining institutions or rules of the
game that enable cooperation and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. At a national level,
it helps maintain constitutional laws and arrive at public decisions that are made within
these legal parameters. Governance is also relevant at the subnational level. Citizens
may negotiate with local government authorities the proper conduct of politics and may
determine the types of policies that are to be implemented in their communities.139
Although the nature of governance in any one of these levels may impact what occurs in
another, this need not always be the case. States and social actors may maintain distinct
relationship patterns in different settings. For example, although civil society may play a
prominent role in the maintenance of national, democratic institutions, they may be
excluded from participating in key, decision-making processes at the local level. Such a
scenario could lead to the partial consolidation of democracy.
This chapter has reviewed four seemingly distinct bodies of theory to see how they
may inform our understanding of political change in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.
The literature on disasters suggests that crisis events can serve as catalysts for political
transformation, but it fails to specify how this might occur. Although some studies have
shown that pre-existing groups are strengthened and new ones emerge after a disaster,
both tend to disappear once the emergency period has passed. Consequently, there is no
138 This point has been made by David Rothchild, "Conclusion: Management of Conflict in West Africa,"
197 Pierre and Peters, Governance, Politics and the State.
139 For a recent analysis of some of the problems associated with local governance see Mike Raco and John
Flint, "Communities, places and Institutional Relations: Assessing the Role of Area-Based Community
Representation in Local Governance," Political Geography 20:5 (June 2001): 585-612.
strong evidence to show that disasters affect civil society. Nevertheless, mass-based
groups have arisen and become politically active in some countries during the years after
such a crisis. This suggests that other factors, not merely the experience of disaster, must
contribute to this development. Since bilateral, multilateral and NGO assistance often are
channeled to victims after a disaster, this chapter has explored how the presence of either
one of these can affect a socio-political environment. The literature on foreign aid notes
that donor countries and institutions often pressure aid-recipient governments to alter
existing political practices or structures by conditioning their aid and disseminating a
particular development discourse. NGOs may also affect socio-political processes at the
grass-roots level by encouraging target groups to organize and become more politically
active. When viewed together, these three bodies of literature suggest that bilateral and
multilateral donors may lead to political change through their effect on government while
disasters and NGOs may achieve the same by affecting the nature and activity of civil
society. In order to determine whether these changes arose in Honduras, this dissertation
has adopted the theoretical lens of governance. Governance theories assert that both state
and societal actors affect public policies and institutions. Thus an analysis of political
change, when approached from this perspective, must consider the nature of both of these
groups of actors and the pattern of interactions that exists between them. This theoretical
focus should reveal whether and how the experience of disaster and the advent of aid
affected the Honduran political system.
A HISTORY OF HONDURAN GOVERNANCE
Governance has been an elitist and state-centric process throughout most of
Honduran history. Intra-elite bargaining, periodic civil wars and the economic influence
of foreign interests determined political decision-making during the first century after
independence. Honduran society remained atomized, unorganized and detached from
politics during this period. Vibrant, mass-based, social organizations began to emerge
during the mid-twentieth century and quickly challenged elite, political hegemony.
Initially, these groups succeeded in obtaining some concessions from the state through
intense public protest. However, they remained excluded from the decision-making
process. As Honduran civil society developed, diversified and strengthened, its repertoire
of demands grew to include calls for institutional change. The state and political elites
reacted to this continual mass pressure through a variety of tactics, including
acquiescence, cooptation, repression and the extension of political representation. Each
of these responses impacted the strength and unity of civil society and their its demand
for greater political inclusion. This chapter traces the development of Honduran civil
society, its participation in politics and the state's responsiveness to it. It will end by
discussing the nature of Honduran governance on the eve of Hurricane Mitch.
Early Civil Society
Honduran civil society remained atomized and undeveloped throughout most of the
nineteenth and early twentieth century. The prevalence of small farm, subsistence-
oriented agricultural activities during this period kept most citizens isolated from each
other and more interested in survival than in socio-political issues. Caudillo politics and
occasional armed conflicts further discouraged social organization.1 Unlike other Latin
American countries, Honduras' wealthy and elite classes also remained divided.2 This is
due to the fact that no bourgeoisie or significant landed oligarchy ever developed here.3
Elite families continued to engage in feudal economic activities much as they had during
colonial times and did not take advantage of the capitalist opportunities associated with
export-led growth.4 Although elites established some social clubs during the nineteenth
and early twentieth century,5 these were dedicated primarily to leisure activities and did
not encourage broader socio-political organization and mobilization.
The country's first civil society groups emerged during the early twentieth century.
Mutual aid societies proliferated during the early 1900's such that by 1927 approximately
twenty of them existed in the country. Most of these organizations were based in the
capital. None sought to vindicate workers' rights or challenge the existing socio-political
structure. Members merely helped each other confront periods of personal crisis brought
on by illness, unemployment or death. More belligerent workers' groups arose during
this time in the export-oriented, mining and banana enclaves that had been established in
1 This view is also supported by Dario A. Euraque, '.. "t ..p '..' r, the Banana Republic: Region and State
in Honduras, 1870-1972 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996): 45
3 Dario A. Euraque, "La reforma liberal' en Honduras y la hip6tesis de la oligarquia ausente':1870-1930,"
Revista de Historia 23 (January-June 1991): 7-56.
4 Dario A. Euraque, Estado, poder, nacionalidady raza en la historic de Honduras: ensayos (Tegucigalpa:
Ediciones Subirana, 1996):46.
5 Alberto Amaya, Los Arabes y Palestinos en Honduras 1900-1950 (Tegucigalpa: Editoriales Guaymuras,
Honduras at the end of the 1880's. Employees of the Rosario Mining Company staged
one of the country's first strikes in 1909 in demand of higher wages. Although the
movement was repressed and its participants jailed, miners continued to engage in similar
acts of protest in 1912, 1932, 1947 and during the early 1950's.6 Strikes first occurred in
the Northern Coast banana plantations in 1916 and recurred thereafter with increasing
frequency and worker participation. However, most of these labor activities remained
isolated from each other.
Existing workers' groups coalesced into two labor federations during the 1920's.8
The Federaci6n Obrera Hondureha (FOH, Honduran Workers' Federation) was
constituted in 1921 by twenty-five labor groups from both the Northern Coast and
interior of the country. Initially, this organization was not very belligerent, and its leader
was easily coopted by the Liberal Party during the 1926 municipal elections.9 This
caused the more militant, Northern Coast labor unions who formed part of this federation
to disassociate themselves from it and form the Federaci6n de Sociedades Obreras del
Norte in 1926. Three years later, they together with other dissident members of the FOH
established the Federaci6n Sindical Hondureha (FSH, Sindicated Workers' Federation).
6 Mario Argueta, Historia de los sin historic (Tegucigalpa: Guaymuras, 1992): 15-26.
7 Mario Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones sindicales de Honduras (Tegucigalpa: Estudio de Artes
Graficas, 1987): 1-15; Argueta, Historia de los sin historic; and Pablo Yankelevich, Honduras (Mexico,
D.F.: Alianza Editorial, 1988): 200-201 and 210-12.
8 Unless otherwise stated, the following discussion of the FOH and FSH is derived from Argueta, Historia
de los sin historic; Yankelevich, Honduras, 203-217; Mario Posas, Luchas del movimiento obrero
Hondureno (Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio : Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana, 1981): 83-89;
Victor Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureio (Tegucigalpa: Editorial Guaymuras, 1980): 15-
66; and Ernesto Paz Aguilar and Miguel Pineda, Origenes, desarrollo yposibilidades de la
socialdemocracia en Honduras (Tegucigalpa: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 1986): 10.
9 Rina Villars, "La Sociedad Cultura Femenina," Entre Amigas: Antologia (1992-1997), ed. Blanca
Guifarro (Tegucigalpa: Guardabarranco, 1999): 394-395.
This new labor federation was influenced by Communist ideology and led by Communist
Party activists.10 The FOH, on the other hand, now mainly composed of groups from the
interior of the country, came to be influenced by social democratic thinking. In 1931 its
leaders founded the Socialist Revolutionary Party, an anti-Bolshevik group. Both the
FOH and FSH sponsored several strikes during the 1920's and early 1930's in demand of
national legislation to protect worker's rights and better working conditions. The FSH
also encouraged the formation of peasant leagues." All of this activity became possible,
as Euraque has noted, because "labor agitators ...at least until 1930, did not suffer the
systematic repression from the state visited on labor elsewhere in Central America."12
Unfortunately, neither the FSH nor the FOH were able to achieve any long lasting
benefits for their members. President Mejia Colindres (1928-1932) began repressing
strikes along the Northern Coast in 1930.13 This state repression was heightened after
1932 when Tiburcio Carias came to power. By the 1940's the FOH, FSH and peasant
leagues that had been established during this period had ceased to exist. Its members
either had been incarcerated, killed or exiled.
Female socio-political organization increased also during the early 1900's. In 1913
a group of women formed the League of Central American National Defense to protest
U.S. imperialist activities in the region. This group received so much support that it
10 Euraque, F.,. i,,.. p"'r the Banana Republic, 37 and Rina Villars, Para la casa m6s que para el mundo:
Gr, i.-;i,,. 'yfeminismo en la historic de Honduras, (Tegucigalpa: Editoriales Guaymuras, 2001): 208-209
1 Mario Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas de Honduras (Tegucigalpa: Estudio de
Artes Grificas, 19??):6-7
12 Euraque, F,. ,t.j p 'r i the Banana Republic, 38.
13 Euraque, F.. ,t-.,. ri, the Banana Republic, 58 and Rina Villars, "La Sociedad Cultura Femenina."
established a national and several municipal-level committees.14 Another group of
women established a mutual aid society, the Sociedadde Cultura Femenina (Feminine
Culture Society), in 1926. This group transcended its self-help orientation shortly after
its founding and began organizing meetings that allowed women to discuss their
country's socio-political reality and the need to end both caudillismo and political
violence. Some members became influenced by communist ideology. In 1929 the
Sociedad de Cultura Femenina together with a few female labor unions that had been
established during the same decade helped found the communist-inspired FSH. The First
National Women's Assembly was held the following year. Those present resolved to
demand new laws that would protect female workers and join other laborers in the
struggle for better working conditions.15
Interestingly, these early women's groups worked more in defense of labor rights
than to secure female suffrage. Although their closeness to unions and leftist political
organizations partly explains the former activity, their relative indifference to advancing
women's formal political incorporation seems curious. A handful of liberal-minded
politicians had been arguing for the need to extend voting rights to women since 1894;
yet, females showed little support for such measures during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries.16 Villars theorizes that women were uninspired to seek their own suffrage
during this period because they associated voting with caudillismo and political violence.
14 Villars, Para la casa, 232-242.
15 Villars, Para la casa mds que para el mundo, chapter 3.
16 For a detailed discussion of the history of women's suffrage in Honduras see Villars, Para la casa mds
que para el mundo.
Rather than participate in these often chaotic events, women chose to secure political
progress through other, peaceful forms of political activity.1
Although women achieved a significant amount of organization during the 1920's
and 1930's, the groups they established were short-lived and met with little political
success. The Sociedadde Cultura Femenina remained in existence for only seven years.
Neither this nor any of the other female labor union in the country was able to pass any
significant workers' legislation during this period. Women's groups either were branded
as communist or were not taken seriously by most of the political establishment. When
the state's anti-labor repression increased during the 1930's, women's organizations fell
into inactivity and eventually ceased to exist.
The Camara de Comercio e Industria de Tegucigalpa (CCIT or Tegucigalpa's
Chamber of Commerce and Industry) was the only civil society group established during
the early twentieth century that persisted beyond this period. The CCIT was organized
due to state initiative, however, and not strong business organization. An incipient
bourgeoisie class had begun to emerge in Honduras during the early twentieth century
with the immigration of Christian Arabs (primarily Palestinians). Anti-immigrant
legislation passed during the 1920's and 1930's had encouraged these foreigners to invest
in new economic activities or face deportation.18 This legislation enabled Arabs to gain
almost complete control of the growing import and export commercial sector and become
an incipient bourgeoisie class.19 Despite their financial power, these immigrants were
17 Villars, Para la casa, 226-231 and 402-408.
18 Dario A. Euraque, Estado, poder, nacionalidady raza en la historic de Honduras: ensayos (Tegucigalpa:
Ediciones Subirana, 1996): 54.
19 Euraque, Estado, poder, nacionalidad; Euraque, ,... ,,r. p,.. r, the Banana Republic, 33; and Amaya,
Los Arabes y Palestinos, 111-128.
excluded from participating in Honduran high society20 and prohibited from engaging in
political activities well into the 1940's.21 During that decade, the relationship between
Arabs and the state began to improve partly due to the monetary support some Arabs
extended to President Carias and the personal relationship that they consequently
established with him.22 In 1947 Carias passed legislation that created the CCIT.
Initially, the CCIT was composed primarily of Arab businessmen; it was very
conservative in orientation and easily manipulated by the state.23 As a result, it did not
represent a significant counterweight to the state's monopoly of governance. Moreover,
the CCIT did not help extend the political rights of Arabs, its original constituents, nor
unite business groups of different racial backgrounds during its first few years of
existence. Business groups did not begin to organize and unite politically until the late
1950's, and Arabs were not granted suffrage nor allowed more formal participation in
the Honduran political system until the 1960's.24 Despite its weak and state-initiated
origin, the CCIT developed into an active, independent civil society group by the late
1950's. It represents one of the first organizations to formally link the country's
bourgeoisie to the state.
As the first half of the twentieth century came to a close, Honduras had developed
only a weak civil society. The few labor groups that had arisen during the 1910's and
20 Euraque, F,,. ,,r. p,,. ,in, the Banana Republic and Amaya, Los Arabesy Palestinos, 88-91.
21 Some Arabs were granted citizenship directly by the executive before this time (See Amaya, LosArabes
y Palestinos, 84-87). However, these opportunities were not extended to the Arab population in general.
22 Amaya, Los Arabes y Palestinos, 96-101.
23 James Morris, "Interest Groups and Politics in Honduras," Ph.D. Dissertation, University of New
Mexico, 1977, 76-77.
24 Amaya, Los Arabes y Palestinos, 98.
1920's had been repressed to the point of extinction. This violence also had weakened
women's groups who had maintained a close relationship with labor. The country's elite
classes had failed to form a unified group. The only business organizations that had been
created arose due to state initiative and excluded most native Hondurans. The weakness
of civil society during the first half of the twentieth century enabled the state, or rather,
key individuals within the state, to dominate public decision-making. Although this style
of governance would persist for several decades, the nature of state-society relations
would begin to change during the 1950's with the rise of new citizen groups willing to
defend their rights and demand greater state responsiveness to them.
The Development of Civil Society (1950's-1960's)
The Honduran political landscape changed significantly with the end of Carias
dictatorship and election of President Juan Manuel Galvez in 1948. Citizens enjoyed
greater associational freedom and both old and new political parties were (re)organized.
By the 1950's mass-based, citizen groups had gathered enough social capital to burst onto
the political scene demanding more responsive state policies. Revived or newly-created
political parties tried to tap into this political resource by further organizing popular
groups, channeling their discontent and representing new citizen demands. Eventually,
this invigorated civil society and more responsive political society gave birth to a new
period of governance in Honduras-one in which social groups pressured the state more
effectively than ever before, found greater political representation and sometimes
succeeded in getting their demands met.
Women were among the first to organize and become politically active during the
mid-20th century. Female residents from the capital established two political pressure
groups in the early 1940's: the Frente Femenil Pro-Legalidad (Female Pro-Legality
Front) and the Comite Pro-Liberaci6n de Presos Politicos (Committee Pro-Liberation of
Political Prisoners). Members of both of these organizations were mainly wives of
prominent Liberal Party leaders who had been jailed, exiled or otherwise persecuted
during the Carias dictatorship.25 These Liberal Party sympathizers wrote petitions and
staged street marches requesting the return of political exiles, the release of political
prisoners, a free press, free elections and Carias' resignation from office. The president
responded to these protests by placing demonstrators under house arrest, cutting their
homes' water and electricity supply or imprisoning them.26 Although the women who
participated in these events were not explicitly trying to secure their formal incorporation
into national politics, their willingness to publicly criticize the government inadvertently
advanced such a process.
While Honduran women were calling for democracy and greater political freedom
on the streets of Tegucigalpa, international organizations were pressuring the government
to extend female political participation. Inter-American organizations dedicated to
promoting women's suffrage established national chapters in Honduras during the early
1940's. Female intellectuals as well as the wives of prominent politicians joined these
groups and began publishing magazine articles on women's right to vote. International
pressure for women's political rights was heightened at the end of this decade when the
United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man (1948) and Latin
American states ratified the Convention on Women's Political Rights (1948)-two
documents that affirmed women's right to vote. New Honduran political parties
25 Villars, Para la casa mds que para el mundo, 309-312.
26 Ibid and Mario Argueta, Tiburcio Carias: anatomia de una epoca, 1923-1948 (Tegucigalpa: Editoriales
Guaymuras, 1990): 304-305.
responded to this changing political climate by advocating female suffrage. The Partido
Democrdtico Revolucionario Hondureno (PDRH or Honduran Revolutionary Democratic
Party) was founded in 1946 from an anti-Carias movement that female organizations had
initiated during the early part of that decade. The PDRH recognized women's political
contributions, partly owed its creation to it and hoped to benefit from their electoral
strength. Existing women's groups united in 1951 to form the Federaci6n de
Asociaciones Femeninas de Honduras (FAFH or Federation of Female Associations of
Honduras). The FAFH eventually became the largest and most politically active
women's organization in the country. The FAFH held workshops and published
educational material to raise consciousness among Honduran women on their political
rights. They also lobbied the government and several political leaders for new legislation
granting female suffrage. The Honduran National Congress finally acceded to their
demands in 1954.27 Although this legislation was never signed into law by a
democratically-elected president, Julio Lozano Diaz respected the spirit of this legislation
by granting women suffrage in 1955 through Decree Law #29.28
Student groups also become more politically active during the 1950's. A student
government association, the Federaci6n de Estudiantes Universitarios de Honduras
27 Before the executive could sign this legislation into law, the country entered a political crisis.
Presidential elections were held late in 1954 and no candidate obtained a majority of the votes cast. Liberal
Villeda Morales who garnered a plurality of the votes, had declared his commitment to female suffrage.
This political stance was undoubtedly influenced by his wife who had been an activists in the FAFH. Since
the newly elected congress would not agree to nominate Villeda or any other candidate as the new
president, Vice President Lozano Diaz declared himself the de facto head of state. Lozano's wife was also
a member of FAFH and pressured him to extend the vote to women. Since the constitutional order had
been disrupted, Lozano Diaz could not approve Congress's recent law extending female suffrage.
Therefore, he legalized women's electoral participation through decree law #29 in 1955.
28 The information reported in this paragraph is derived from Villars, Para la casa m6s que para el mundo,
chapters 4 and 5 and an interview with Maria Elbina Elvir, FAFH president, November 2, 2000.
(FEUH), had existed since the first half of the twentieth century in order to represent the
interests of those enrolled in the Universidad Nacional Aut6noma de Honduras (UNAH).
Initially, the FEUH limited its activities to the university setting and to matters involving
the student body. However, this began to change during the 1950's. The FEUH began
publishing a humorist newspaper in 1956 that sharply criticized the Lozano Diaz
government. Lozano responded by shutting down the paper and exiling several student
leaders. University students organized a massive street march to protest this event and
demand an end to the Lozano dictatorship. Although the march was repressed,29 students
were unabated. A few months after the march FEUH members together with a faction of
the military sympathetic to their cause took over an army barrack in the heart of
Tegucigalpa. Troops loyal to the president quickly put down the insurrection and
arrested its participants.30 But this only postponed the inevitable: Lozano Diaz was
deposed by a military coup just a few months later. The 1956 coup against Lozano Diaz
as well as the rise in military tensions with Nicaragua during the following year helped
rally student support for the military junta. In April 1957 FEUH even organized a
meeting headed by members of the military in order to raise nationalist sentiments and
increase student enlistment in the armed forces.31 But university student support for the
military was short-lived. In 1959 university students together with members of the
Liberal Party took up arms in order to defend reformist President Villeda Morales against
29 Longino Becerra, Evoluci6n hist6rica de Honduras (Tegucigalpa: Baktun Editorial, 1998): 163.
30 Matias Funes, Los deliberantes: elpoder military en Honduras, (Tegucigalpa: Editorial Guaymuras,
1995): 182-189; Stefania Natalini de Castro et al, Significado hist6rico del gobierno del Dr. Ram6n Villeda
Morales (Tegucigalpa: Universidad Nacional Autonoma, 1985): 47.
31 Funes, Los deliberantes, 191.
an attempted military coup.32 By then, the FEUH had come to be controlled by a new,
Marxist student front known as the Frente de Reforma Universitaria (FRU). Non-
Marxists groups inspired by either the right-wing of the Nationalist Party or by Social
Christian doctrine had also been formed in 1958 and 1959 in order to vie for control of
the FEUH.33 This further politicized the university student body and increased the
FEUH's involvement in broader national politics. These student groups would give rise
to a broader Social Christian movement in Honduras and to the establishment of the
Christian Democratic Party during the 1960's. They would also become active in
supporting the organization and political activity of new labor and peasant groups.
While females organized through the FAFH and university students increased
their political activity, workers had begun reorganizing throughout Honduras. The
Galvez administration (1948-1954) had allowed labor groups to emerge in the interior of
the country and form a broad coalition, the Comite Coordinador Obrero (Workers'
Coordinating Committee), in 1950. This organization began publishing a newspaper that
spoke of the need for new labor laws, free unions and a social security system. Not all
labor groups were permitted such freedom of speech and association, however. Workers
organizations from the Northern Coast banana plantations, the mining sector and other
capitalist enterprises continued to be repressed during the Galvez administration. Foreign
owned companies either used private armed guards to squash incipient labor unions or
easily influenced local police units and military bodies within the still fragmented state to
32 Andrd-Marcel d'Ans, Emergencia dificil de una naci6n, de un estado, trans. Albert LePienne
(Tegucigalpa: Renal Video Production, 1998): 211.
33 Robert Anthony White, "Structural Factors in Rural Development: The Church and the Peasant in
Honduras," Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University, 1977: 111.
assist them in this process. President Galvez, a former United Fruit Company lawyer,
either condoned or did nothing to end these abuses. Despite this labor repression,
workers outside the capital continued to organize. A handful of leaders tried educating
workers on their rights and succeeded in establishing a few, clandestine, labor groups
during this period. 34
Worker discontent erupted in a massive strike in 1954.35 The protest originated
with workers of the Tela Railroad Company, a subsidiary of the United Fruit Company
(UFCO), who were being forced to work on holidays but not being paid extra for their
labor. The strike opened a flood gate of worker discontent. Protesters demanded better
working conditions, a wage increase, double pay for work on Sundays and holidays, the
right to unionize and national labor legislation. Within three days the strike had spread to
all of UFCO's 25,000 employees. A few days later the 10,000 workers from the Standard
Fruit Company (SFCO) joined the struggle, effectively bringing most of the North Coast
to a standstill. Workers' from other parts of the country joined the strike soon thereafter.
Small business owners, teachers, women's organizations and student groups expressed
their solidarity with the movement through their moral and financial support. The PDRH
and recently reorganized Communist Party played a key role in encouraging this national
strike. Mainstream political parties, on the other hand, initially reacted both negatively
34 Posas, Luchas del movimiento obrero Hondureho, 48-54, 123-129 and 134-142.
35 For more information on the 1954 strike see Posas, Luchas del movimiento obrero Hondureho, 130-185;
Mario Posas, Lucha ideol6gica y organization sindical en Honduras 1954-65 (Tegucigalpa: Editorial
Guaymuras, 1980): 5-9; Mario Argueta, La gran huelga bananera: los 69 dias que estremecieron a
Honduras (Tegucigalpa: Editorial Universitaria, 1995); Agapito Robledo Castro, 40 ahos despues: la
verdad de la huelga de 1954 y de laformaci6n del SITRATERCO, (Tegucigalpa: Ediciones del SEDAL,
1995); Victor Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureho, (Tegucigalpa, Honduras : Editorial
Guaymuras, 1980); and Robert MacCameron, Bananas,Labor and Politics in Honduras: 1954-1963,
Foreign and Comparative Studies / Latin American Series No.5 (Syracuse: Syracuse University, Maxwell
School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, 1983).
and defensively to this protest. Since 1954 was an election year, Nationalist President
Galvez did not respond to this popular movement with the same level of repression that
he had used against labor in the past. However, he did use state force to replace the
members of the combative Comite Central de Huelga (Central Strike Committee) with a
more conciliatory group of leaders. President Galvez then mediated negotiations between
the Comite Central de Huelga and company executives, effectively bringing an end to the
strike after sixty-nine days of protest. Employers agreed to increase workers salaries by
10-15% (not the 50% that had been requested), improve working conditions and cede
other concessions. Meanwhile, President Galvez agreed to create a Ministry of Labor
and grant workers the right to organize.
Northern Coast laborers were among the first to unionize. SFCO and Tela Railroad
Company workers established two separate unions just months after the 1954 strike's
end: the Sindicato de los Trabajadores de la Tela Railroad Company (SITRATERCO)
and the Sindicato de los Trabajadores de la Standard Fruit Company (SITRAFRUSCO).
The SITRATERCO was organized and its leadership trained with the assistance of the
American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) and the Inter-American Regional Labor
Organization (Organizaci6n Regional Interamericana del Trabajadores, ORIT). The
U.S. government influenced these foreign labor organizations. They, therefore, tried
steering Honduran labor groups away from communist ideas and teaching them how to
work within existing political and socio-economic structures. As a result of such
training, the SITRATERCO limited its struggle to obtaining moderate economic and
social benefits for its members.36 The SITRAFRUSCO, on the other hand, was
36 Tom Barry and Deb Preusch, AIFLD in CentralAmerica: Agents as Organizers, (Albuquerque: Inter-
Hemispheric Resource Center, 1990): 39-43; Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureio, 100-109;
influenced by communist ideology and was more belligerent in demanding workers'
rights. The state responded very differently to these two organizations. The leaders of
the SITRATERCO were offered training, U.S. backed housing loans and posts as
congressional deputies while those of the SITRAFRUSCO were beaten, imprisoned
periodically and some even killed.37 Despite their differing ideologies and relationship
with the state, these two unions joined together towards the end of 1954 in order to form
the Federaci6n Sindical de Trabajadores Xi rei.'i, de Honduras, (FESITRANH or
Honduran Syndicated Federation of North Coast Workers). Twenty-five additional labor
unions joined this federation by 1963 effectively bringing all workers from the Northern
Coast banana plantations under one organization.38 The FESITRANH soon became the
strongest labor federation in the country. Like the SITRATERCO, the FESITRANH
received significant support from the AFL-CIO and the ORIT. However, it did not force
a particular ideological orientation on its member unions and tolerated significant
Although the 1954 strike had originated and most impacted North Coast workers,
laborers elsewhere in the country benefited from its occurrence. New unions emerged in
the central and southern part of Honduras during the later half of the 1950's. These
represented a variety of smaller business sectors: construction workers, mechanics,
Posas, Lucha ideol6gica y organization sindical, 11; Eun iqiuc i., tr' p-.. i the Banana Republic, 99-
102; and Mario Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas de Honduras, (Tegucigalpa:
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 1987): 12.
37 Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureno, 109-110; Mario Posas and Rafael del Cid, La
construcci6n del sector piblico y del estad national de Honduras, 1876-1979 (Ciudad Universitaria
Rodrigo Facio, Costa Rica: Editorial Universitaria Centroamericana, 1981): 122-126 and Euraque,
P. i, i.. '.' i,, the Banana Republic, 101 and 104-105.
38 Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureno, 109-111 and Natalini de Castro et al., Significado
tailors, shoemakers, theater workers, etc. Those unions based primarily in the capital
formed the Federaci6n de Sindicatos del Centro de Honduras (Federation of Syndicates
from the Center of Honduras) in 1958. The federation demanded a Labor Code, the
observance of a minimum wage law, the right to strike and social benefits for workers.
Although state-centered, political elites had liberalized significantly from the preceding
decades, they were unprepared to accept such demands. Some politicians and business
leaders began accusing members of the Federaci6n de Sindicatos del Centro of being
communists. Although President Villeda Morales showed a willingness to work with
organized labor groups and respond to some of their demands, he simultaneously wanted
to purge them of any communist ideological influences.39 Rather than use violence to
achieve this goal, as some of his predecessor had done, Villeda passed anticommunist
legislation and encouraged the ORIT to work with Honduran labor unions in order to
prevent their radicalization.40 By the end of 1958 the state's and ORIT's efforts led to the
creation of a parallel labor federation in the interior of the country: the Federaci6n
Central de Sindicatos de Trabajadores Libres de Honduras (FECESITLIH or Central
Federation of Free Workers' Syndicates).41 The FECESITLIH united all labor unions
from the interior of Honduras except those suspected of having a communist orientation.
The FECESITLIH was relatively docile and non-confrontational with the state during its
first years of existence. Moreover, its creation weakened the internally divided
39 Villeda Morales passed several anticommunist laws in order to prevent the radicalization of the
Honduran labor force.
40 Posas, Lucha ideol6gicay organization sindical, 33-36.
41 Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureio, 111.
Federaci6n de Sindicatos del Centro and helped assure its quick demise. However, the
FECESITLIH did not go unchallenged for long.
The Federaci6n Autentica Sindical de Honduras (FASH of Authentic Federation of
Honduran Syndicates) was established in 1963 by a group of unions dissatisfied with the
government friendly and ORIT-oriented FECESITLIH. The FASH was influenced by
Social Christian doctrine. It was also less docile and less susceptible to government
cooptation than the FECESITLIH and directly challenged the later group's hegemony of
working class groups in the interior of the Honduras. However, it shared the
FECESITLIH's concern for containing the spread of communism among working class
groups.42 The FASH quickly spread to the Southern part of Honduras where it built on
the Catholic Church's radio schools and community building activities which had been
ongoing since the 1950's in order to organize both labor and peasant groups.43
Less than a decade after the 1954 national strike, Honduran workers from all parts
of the country had united to form local and regional level syndicates. By the 1960's
Honduras had the largest number of unionized workers in all of Central America.44
Organized labor became such a significant political force in the country by 1959 that the
government of Villeda Morales was forced to placate their demands by creating a Social
Security System and passing both a Collective Bargaining Law and the country's first
42 Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureio, 117 and White, "Structural Factors in Rural
43 White, "Structural Factors in Rural Development."
44 Euraque, F,. ,r., j,. r,,i the Banana Republic, 97-99.
45 Natalini de Castro et al., Significado hist6rico, 103-109.
Initially, business leaders remained atomized and politically inactive relative to
labor's growing strength. Political elites within the state were forced to seek out business
leaders and obtain their opinion on certain issues. In 1957, for example, the recently
installed military junta instructed the National Election Council to incorporate people
appointed by the commercial, industrial, agricultural and cattlemen associations into its
membership. That same year, the Constituent Assembly consulted members of these
same groups on the government's economic policy.46 Encouraged by this political
opening, business leaders and large landowners began establishing formal organizations
that could both coalesce and represent their interests before the state as well as counter
workers' demands. Landed elites formed the Asociaci6n Nacional de Agricultores y
Ganaderos de Honduras (ANAGH or National Association of Agricultural Workers and
Cattlemen) in 1957. That same year Northern Coast businessmen formed a regional
chamber of commerce, the Camara de Comercio e Industria de Cortes (CCIC), in 1957.
The CCIC was more progressive and less prone to comply with government directives
than the CCIT, the chamber of commerce established by Carias. The country's
industrialists also coalesced in 1958 to form the Asociaci6n Nacional de Industriales
(ANDI or National Association of Industrialists). Although ANAGH dissolved within
three years of its creation, ANDI, CCIC and CCIT quickly grew in political strength and
activity. All of these business groups expressed their opposition to the 1959 Labor Code.
Although they did not prevent the law's passage, they were able to eliminate those
46 Euraque, F,. n,,,. i,,ig the Banana Republic, 62-63.
clauses that they deemed most harmful to their interests and thus counter labor
The labor organizations that arose within Honduran capitalist enclaves during the
1950's spread to the agrarian sector of the country the following decade and directly
contributed to the rise of peasant associations. The origins of the country's first peasant
groups can be traced to the massive layoffs of UFCO and SFCO workers during the late
1950's. Just two months after the 1954 national strike had been concluded, a hurricane
ravished the Northern Coast of Honduras, destroying most banana plantations there.
Foreign fruit companies claimed that they could not bear the costs of both the disaster
and recent labor concessions. They responded to both events by laying-off thousands of
employees. By 1959 UFCO and SFCO employed less than half of the workers they had
had in 1953.48 The companies used this post-hurricane labor restructuring as an excuse to
dismiss its most militant and leftist labor leaders. Although these layoffs had the
immediate effect of reducing the numerical strength and militancy of the Honduran labor
movement, it inadvertently spread popular unrest to the countryside. Landless and
unemployed, former banana company workers tapped into their public protest and union
forming experience in order to organize peasant groups that could pressure the
government for farmland. Communist-leaning, former strike leaders established the
ComitW Central de Unificaci6n Campesina (CCUC or Central Committee for Peasant
Union) in 1959. The group began occupying lands that had been abandoned by Northern
47 Morris, "Interest Groups and Politics," 76-79; Posas and del Cid, La construcci6n del sector piblico, 119
and Natalini de Castro et al., Significado hist6rico, 103-109.
48 Euraque, r., ,. r,,i the Banana Republic, 102; Posas, Lucha ideol6gica y organization sindical, 9;
and Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureio, 97.
Coast businesses during preceding years. The CCUC was transformed into the
Federaci6n Nacional de Campesinos de Honduras (FENACH or National Federation of
Honduran Peasants) in 1962. Like its predecessor, FENACH had a Communist
orientation and was very critical of existing land tenure relations in Honduras. It took
much of its inspiration from the still recent Cuban Revolution and quickly grew to
represent approximately 15,000 members.49
The Villeda Morales government responded to FENACH's creation by encouraging
the establishment of a new, anti-communist peasant group: the Asociaci6n Nacional de
Campesinos de Honduras (ANACH or National Association of Honduran Peasants).
ANACH was created towards the end of 1962 as a result of the top-down organizing
work of the FESITRANH, the AFL-CIO and ORIT.50 It also received support from the
Unites States Agency of International Development (USAID).51 The group tried to
contain both the proliferation of communism and radicalization of unemployed and
landless agricultural workers in Honduras. Initially, ANACH was little more than an
appendage of the FESITRANH. The later group curtailed any independent or innovative
steps that the former undertook. During the late 1960's, for example, ANACH leaders
began establishing a close relationship with university professors and students in the
hopes that these could council them on agrarian issues. These measures were quickly
49 Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas, 11-13; Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero
Hondureho, 119-120; and Euraque, .,. ,t.,. ',, ini the Banana Republic,103.
50 Barry and Preusch, AIFLD in CentralAmerica, 40-42 and Morris, "Interest Groups and Politics," 167.
51 White, "Structural Factors in Rural Development," 177.
labeled as leftist by the FESITRANH's leadership. ANACH's executive committee was
forcefully replaced, and all relations with the university were discontinued.52
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church encouraged the organization of peasant groups in
the Southern part of the country. The Catholic Church had initiated a radio school
program and begun training lay spiritual leaders (i.e., Delegates of the Word) here during
the 1950s. Initially, these activities were undertaken in order to increase the Catholic
Church's presence in rural communities, deepen people's Catholic faith and contain the
spread of both Protestantism and Communism. In order to achieve the later, the Catholic
Church encouraged the faithful to organize peasant leagues, women's clubs and other
self-help groups that could address the existing social problems in the country.53 But
these grass-roots organizations were unable to confront the dramatic increase in
landlessness caused by the state-sponsored expansion of non-traditional exports in the
South during the 1950's and 1960's.54 Some peasants responded to these events by
occupying privately-held properties and negotiating better land access with the national
government. Although some peasants from Southern Honduras were granted provisional
land titles as a result of this activity, they were unable to secure broader gains for the
52 Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas, 20-21 and Meza, Historia del movimiento
obrero Hondureho, 120-121.
53 White, "Structural Factors in Rural Development," and Rodolfo Cardenal, "The Catholic Church and the
Politics of Accomadation in Honduras," Church and Politics in Latin America, ed. Dermot Keogh
(London: Macmillan, 1990): 187-204.
54 Susan Stonich, "I am Destroying the Land!" Political Ecology ofPoverty and Environmental
Destruction in Honduras, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993): 66-76; Morris, "Interest Groups and Politics,"
157-160; Robert G. Williams, ExportAgriculture and the Crisis in CentralAmerica, (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1986) and J. Mark Ruhl, "Agrarian Structure and Political Stability in
Honduras," Journal oflnteramerican Studies and World, 1I11 .. 26:1 (February 1984): 39-41; and White,
"Structural Factors in Rural Development," 172-175.
peasant population in their area.5 The FASH, the country's first Social Christian labor
organization, together with several Catholic-inspired community groups began
organizing landless peasants here more formally during the early 1960's in order to better
represent peasant needs before the state.56 Their actions helped give rise to a third
Honduran peasant group, the Asociaci6n Campesina Social Cristiana de Honduras
(ACASCH or Social Christian Peasant Association of Honduras) in 1962. ANACH was
renamed twice until it adopted the present title of Uni6n Nacional Campesina (UNC or
National Peasant Union) in 1970.57 Unlike the regionally-based.
Villeda Morales tried to contain peasant militancy as well as respond to their
demands by promulgating the country's first agrarian reform law in 1962. The law
created the Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA or National Agrarian Institute) and gave the
state the authority to expropriate unused national, ejidal5 or private property and
redistribute it to individual, landless peasants. Despite its stated objective, this agrarian
reform law did relatively little to alleviate peasant land pressure. In 1965 about a quarter
of Honduras' rural population (over 63,000 families) was landless.59 Yet the state
redistributed land to less than 9000 families during the ten years that the 1962 agrarian
5Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas, 16-17; Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero
Hondureio, 121; and Morris, "Interest Group Politics," 149.
56 White, "Structural Factors in Rural Development," and Morris, "Interest Groups and Politics," 160-168.
57 There is some disagreement about precisely when the UNC was founded. All agree that the group
emerged sometime between 1969 and 1972. See Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas,
58 Ejidal lands are held in common by towns or villages.
59 CEPAL, FAO, OIT, SIECA, IICA, Tenencia de la tierra y desarrollo rural en Centroamerica, (San Jose,
1973): 70 cited in Rachel Sieder, "Honduras: The Politics of Exception and Military Rule (1972-1978),"
Journal of Latin American Studies 27:1 (February 1995): 108.
reform law was in effect.60 However, this legislation did encourage reform beneficiaries
to organize further. Seventy-six cooperatives with a total of 3504 members were
established from 1962 to 1972.61 These coalesced into a national level Federaci6n de
Cooperativas de la Reforma Agraria de Honduras (FECORAH or Federation of the
Agrarian Reform Cooperatives of Honduras) in 1972.62 By the following year over
100,000 peasants were organized in the country.63
Conservative groups viewed the increasing organization and militancy of both
peasant and labor groups with much trepidation. Although Villeda Morales had tried to
weaken leftist organizations and control popular discontent by implementing a few social
reforms, conservative groups considered his tactics to be insufficient. Popular-based
groups were becoming more politically influential, and they seemed sure to tilt the
outcome of the 1964 election in their favor. It seemed unlikely that a conservative
presidential candidate would be able to gain control of government through electoral
means. This state of affairs encouraged the Honduran Armed Forces to depose Villeda
Morales at the end of his term in office and prevent upcoming general elections.
The 1963 military coup should be understood as a conservative reaction to
increasing student, labor and peasant activism during the preceding decade. It was
followed by a major crackdown on recently formed, popular organizations. The leftist
peasant group, FENACH, was brutally repressed and effectively destroyed. Agrarian
60 Institute Nacional Agrario (INA), Resumen bdsico de los grupos campesinos beneficiaries de la reform
agraria, (Tegucugalpa: INA, 1985): 5
62 Posas, Breve historic de las organizaciones campesinas, 25.
63See White, "Structural Factors in Rural Development," 119 and Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero
reform practically ground to a halt and peasant activism entered a period of inertia.
Leaders of the communist inspired SITRAFRUSCO were forcefully replaced with
conservative leaders while some of its rank and file members were imprisoned in order to
discourage their militant activities.
In spite of this persecution, mass-based organizations formed an even stronger
union and began challenging military rule. The SITRAFRUSCO, though temporarily
demobilized, did not fall into inactivity. The group continued to fight for labor rights and
even expanded its membership in 1964 by incorporating employees of SFCO's port and
railroad facilities. The new organization, the Sindicato Unificado de Trabajadores de la
Standard Fruit Company (SUTRASFCO), represented over 3600 workers and became
more militant and leftist than in the past.64 The FECESITLIH, the relatively passive
labor union that had been formed in the interior of the country with the state's
encouragement, began demanding a series of socio-economic reforms, the release of
political prisoners and the return of political exiles. This echoed the Liberal Party's
condemnation of the armed forces' unconstitutional rise to power.65 The FECESITLIH
also sponsored a general strike in 1965 demanding that the military government respect
and apply existing labor laws. The march was dissolved and the federation's leaders
were forcefully replaced by the Manch Brava, a paramilitary group associated with the
Nationalist Party.66 But other mass-based groups continued to demand political change.
Two Northern Coast labor groups, the FESITRANH and SITRATERCO, called for a
64 Mario Posas, Lucha ideological y organizacione sindical en Honduras (1954-1965), (Tegucigalpa:
Editorial Guaymuras, 1980): 31.
65 Euraque, F.. mr.,. r,, i the Banana Republic, 125.
66 Posas and del Cid, La construcci6n del sector pfblico, 132-133 and Posas, Lucha ideol6gica y
organization sindical, 47.
return to constitutional rule and the establishment of a unity government.67 These groups
further asked that they be granted direct representation in the new, civilian government.
The military initially ignored these petitions but finally agreed to schedule elections for
the end of 1965.
The increasing organization and mobilization of both labor and peasant groups
encouraged Honduras' business and landed elite to unite further. As was mentioned
earlier, large-scale farmers and cattlemen had tried uniting their interest in 1957 through
the creation of ANAGH, but the group dissolved after only three years of existence. The
increasing incidence of land invasions and organization of peasant groups encouraged
this conservative class to reorganize again into the Federaci6n Nacional de Agricultores
y Ganaderos de Honduras (FENAGH or National Federation of Agricultural Workers
and Cattlemen) in 1966. The following year, the CCIC suggested that FENAGH unite
with the business and industrial groups in the country to form a single organization that
could represent their joint political needs before the state. This peak business
organization was established in 1967 under the name of Corporaci6n Hondureha de la
Empresa Privada (COHEP or Honduran Private Enterprise Corporation).
As the preceding section reveals, Honduran civil society organized, became
politically active and gained considerable concessions from the state during the 1950's
and early 1960's. However, the right of association continued to be curtailed as the state
periodically destroyed communist-inspired organizations and encouraged the formation
of more conciliatory ones. Despite a general political opening, civil society groups were
unable to establish permanent dialog channels with the state or significantly alter the
67 Funes, Los deliberantes, 241-242 and Meza, Historia del movimiento obrero Hondureio, 126-127.
nature of governance. When state-centered political elites granted political concessions
during this period, they did so in order to appease mobilized groups and secure their
support. This pattern of governance would not be altered significantly until civil society
reached a more mature level of development in succeeding decades.
The Growing Strength of Civil Society (1965-1974)
Honduran civil society became more unified and politically active during the mid
to late 1960's. The pending return to constitutional rule in 1965 and continued abuses by
the military encouraged civil society groups to join with groups outside their sector in
order to maintain a constant and heightened level of political pressure on the government.
Unlike the previous decade, mass-based groups were no longer asking for the mere
vindication of their specific group rights, but for a more profound, socio-political
restructuring of society. Civil society's new belligerence eventually enabled it to push
for the creation of a National Unity Government. When this government failed to
respond to needs or demands of organized groups, these called upon the military to
intervene in the political process. The military responded not by repressing mass based
groups, as it had done in the past, but by heralding a new phase of state-civil society
relations in Honduras: a period of populist military rule.
Peasant and labor groups began uniting across their respective sectors during the
1960's in order to form stronger, mass based groups. The peasant group ANACH united
with two labor federations-the FESITRANH and FECESITLIH-in 1964 to establish
the Confederaci6n de Trabajadores de Honduras (CTH or Confederation of Honduran
Workers). Like its members, the CTH was anti-communist in orientation and influenced
by both the ORIT and the AFL-CIO. This together with the organization's numerical
strength encouraged state centered elites to be responsive to the CTH and dialog with its