The Honduran Armed Forces have been closely linked to the political system since the state’s independence in 1838.
- The first remanences of professional fighting forces in Honduras were departmental militia groups closely linked to local politicians. In this period, successful assertion to military power required relations with victorious political factions.
- The transition to a professional military institution led to increased ties between the military and more conservative political blocs; notably the National Party. Evidence of this relationship remains today.
- The 1956 coup of Julio Lozano Díaz served as the military’s entrance into the political arena. The subsequent 1957 Constitution provided that the Honduran Armed Forces would be an autonomous state institution and would serve as such for the next three decades.
- The transition to democracy did little to release the military’s hold on the political system in Honduras. It would not be until the post-Cold War period that the military would “return to the barracks.” This did not, however, dissuade military leadership from forming close alliances with the executive.
- Personal and political relationships between the president and the military leadership continue to shape civil-military relations in Honduras. President Hernández has promoted military officers considered loyal to his political project, and has appointed many military officers to government positions.
The United States is responsible for the professionalization of the Honduran Armed Forces in the post-WWII period.
- No other military institution—or country for that matter—has had as close relations with the Honduran military than the United States. Increased military aid and training both professionalized and institutionalized the military.
- The threat of communism combined with U.S. interests in the Honduran banana industry saw increased political, security, and economic support from the United States. Honduras served as the geostrategic headquarters for U.S. foreign policy in Central America and in the fight against communism.
The role of the Honduran Armed Forces has shifted since its professionalization.
- Communist threats in neighboring Central American states justified the existence and expansion of the Honduran military. In turn, the military developed an outward facing security perspectivewhere military leadership was more conscious of external threats than of internal conflict.
- The 1969 Soccer War with El Salvador confirmed the military leadership’s contention that the greatest threat to state sovereignty was external. The war would lead to an arms race between thetwo militaries, and a rivalry that remains prevalent today.
- The 1980s contra war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua sustained the external focus of theHonduran military. This period also strengthened ties between Honduras and the United States;this partnership remains the strongest in the region.
- The post-Cold War period forced the Honduran Armed Forces to justify their existence withouttrue external threats. The military pointed to border conflicts with El Salvador as a threat to statesovereignty, but would eventually reduce the size of its forces.
- The ineptitude of the National Police has forced the military to take on non-traditional roles thatthe military feels is beneath them. Nevertheless, the military remains ready to handle these duties until the police are reformed.
Sources of identity of the Honduran Armed Forces are based on sovereignty and pride.
- Honduran military beliefs are conditioned by historical relations with its neighbors and the United States. Its weariness of intentions of neighbors—primarily El Salvador—still influence theattitudes of the military.
- The Honduran Armed Forces are proud of their constitutionally defined role as protector of thestate and constitution. This elevates its perceived importance where the military would dowhatever is necessary to protect Honduras against internal and external threats.
- Military officers are wary of performing police functions but dutiful in their loyalty to the civilian elected executive and the constitution which provides for the military’s role in assisting the police.
The military is the second highest trusted institution in Honduras behind the Evangelical Church.
- This level of trust speaks to citizens’ respect of the military as a professionalized state institutionunlike other “political” institutions susceptible to corruption.
- There is a significant gap between trust in the military and trust in the police. Over 64 percent trustthe military as compared to 46 percent for the police.
- Over 80 percent of Hondurans support the military’s involvement in domestic security roles. This could be related to both the ineptitude of the police forces and the perceived integrity of the military.
To read the rest of this report, please visit the Gordon Institute site.