Honduran Presidents in the XX Century

A lot can be quickly learned about Honduras as a country and why it faces the challenges it does today by studying how it's been governed during the last 100 years and by whom.  So here we list Honduran Presidents from the early XX century to our current President, as well as short summaries with highlights (sometimes only lowlights) of their administrations.

Tiburcio Carías Andino

Tiburcio Carías Andino

Term: 1933-1949

Political Party: Partido Nacional

Tiburcio Carías Andino, army general and founder of the Partido Nacional was elected President in 1933, ending years of political disorder and fighting for control of the country.  Carías first 4 years in office were legal and constitutional, but then he managed to introduce constitutional reforms that enabled him to remain in power for 16 years, thus creating the longest dictatorship in Honduran history.

Carías remains one of the most famous and controversial figures in Honduran history.   Some remember him as a fair and honest President who brought strong leadership, peace, and stability to a troubled country and made the streets safe.  Others tell stories of corruption, oligarchy, and great cruelty towards Carías's detractors.

Juan M. Gálvez

Juan Manuel Gálvez

Term: 1949 - 1954

Political Party: Partido Nacional

Juan Manuel Gálvez won the elections after Carías's presidency came to an end.  Gálvez continued construction projects started by Carías and proved to be an effective financial manager: he created the Central Bank of Honduras, as well as government bank designed to stimulate agriculture, and reduced Honduras's foreign debt.  He created laws to improve the educational system and introduced important reforms that changed the country's atmosphere from that of a strongly controlled government to a more relaxed democratic one.  He remained in office after elections in 1953 failed to produce a clear winner, but retired voluntarily due to health reasons in 1954.  Gálvez was succeded in office by his Vice-President, Julio Lozano Díaz.

Julio Lozano

Julio Lozano Díaz

Term:  1954-1956

Political Party: Partido Nacional

Briefly served as de-facto President after Gálvez retired.  Lozano's legal right to be president was widely disputed and he was not a popular president.  He was deposed by the military in 1956.

Ramón Villeda Morales

Ramón Villeda Morales

Term: 1957-1963

Political Party: Partido Liberal

After Lozano's short term, the military assembly did not work well for very long and a provisional congressional assembly was installed by the younger ranks of the military.  The assembly organized elections and, in 1957, one of the leaders of the Liberal Party, Ramón Villeda Morales, was appointed President for a period of 6 years.  Villeda Morales, a physician by training, started a series of reforms in an effort to improve welfare and working conditions for the lower classes of Honduras.  He enacted laws that created the country's public health and education systems;  the country's first body of labour laws aimed at protecting workers and labourers from unfair working conditions;  and laws transfering ownership of land from wealthy landowners to farmers and villagers.

Despite Villeda's ideas and projects not having consistent follow up from most of his successors, many in Honduras, including the more recent president Rafael Callejas, believe that Villeda was the best president Honduras has ever had.

Oswaldo López

Oswaldo López Arellano

Terms: 1963 -1971 and 1972 -1975

In 1963, fearing that the potential winner of the upcoming national elections would be far to radical for their taste, the Honduran military staged a coup d'etat led by army general Oswaldo López Arellano.  Under López Arellano's rule, the military took control of the national police.  In 1969, the already fragile Honduran economy was hit hard by a brief but expensive war with neighbouring El Salvador.  Public discontent peaked after the war and López Arellano stepped down from the Presidency in 1970.

López Arellano's legacy to Honduran history may be his responsibility for two of the military coups that interrupted the normal course of democracy in the country during the XX century and the strong influence that the Honduran military still hold over the police even today.

Ramón E. Cruz

Ramón Ernesto Cruz

Term: 1971-1972

Political Party: Partido Nacional

Ramón Ernesto Cruz Uclés, a civilian and lawyer, won national elections in 1971. Once again, López Arellano staged a military coup and took over the Presidency in December 1972.  Three years later, López Arellano was removed from power by fellow military men after being involved in a corruption scandal over bribes from American banana companies operating in northern Honduras to reduce export taxes.

Juan A. Melgar

Juan Alberto Melgar Castro

Term: 1975-1979

Army general Juan Alberto Melgar Castro led the coup that removed Lopez Arellano in 1975.  Castro promoted the peace treaty that Honduras and El Salvador would eventually sign in 1980.  He also allowed political parties and other social institutions in drafting new electoral legislation that would pave the way for elections in 1982.  Melgar Castro did not openly support the U.S.A.'s intervention in Centralamerica as a means to control expansion of communism in the region and so when his presidency was challenged by other members of the military, the U.S.A. did not assist him.

Policarpo Paz

Policarpo Paz García

Term: 1979 - 1982

General Melgar Castro was deposed by fellow army general Policarpo Paz García in August 1978.  Paz García, who'd made a name for himself during the war with El Salvador in 1969, was the last non-civilian to be President of Honduras, remaining in power until 1983.  His government supported the U.S.A.'s military efforts in Centralamerica during the Cold War. 

Roberto Suazo

Term: 1982 - 1986

Political Party: Partido Liberal

A new constitutional assembly was formed in 1980 and elections were held two years later, with civilian doctor Roberto Suazo Córdoba, emerging as winner.  He was the first democratically elected president since Ramón Villeda Morales in the mid 1950s.  

Suazo Córdoba continued his predecessor's legacy of supporting the U.S.A. military activities in Central America using Honduras as a base of opearations.

José Azcona del Hoyo

José Simón Azcona Hoyo

Term: 1986 - 1990

Political Party: Partido Liberal

José Azcona del Hoyo, a civil engineer by training, took office in early 1986 in what was the first transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents for several decades.  Many have said that his presidency lacked managerial strength and a poor grasp on fundamental aspects of governments.  The country's deficit rose and mismanagment of foreign debt cause problems with fuel supplies.  The U.S.A.'s covert military activities in Central America peaked during Azcona's administration and Honduras was at the center of it: the Iran-Contra scandal broke in the late 1980's, revealing the extent to which Honduras's territory had been secretly used by the CIA as a base to train, protect, and supply weapons to the Nicaraguan counter-revolucionary forces (known as the Contra).

Rafael Callejas

Rafael Callejas

Term: 1990 - 1994

Political Party: Partido Nacional

Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero, an economist by training, won the elections in 1990 (his second attempt).  Callejas implemented controversial policies to reduce government spending in an effort control economic issues derived from previous administrations.  Callejas managed to increase both local and foreign investment and fostered economic growth for much of his term in office.  However, the last year of his presidency was marred by corruption scandals and government overspending that would have an impact on the next presidency.  Under pressure from international monetary institutions, his administration was the first to break away from the long-standing policy of mantaining a 2:1 fixed exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar - this had a huge impact on the cost of living in Honduras and on the Honduran economy overall.  Devaluation of the Honduran currency continues to this day and it may be the most enduring legacy of Callejas's presidency.

The last of the Nicaraguan Contra remaining in Honduras agreed to leave the country at the start of Callejas's term.

Carlos Reina

Carlos Roberto Reina

Term:1994 - 1998

Political Party: Partido Liberal

Carlos Roberto Reina, a layer and university lecturer, inherited a country in a difficult financial situation after Rafael Callejas's term and had to negotiate with international financial institutions to allow the country some leeway to grow economically during the early 1990s.

Having had a number of negative experiences with the Honduran military during his youth, Reina implemented important reforms during his presidency:   autonomy of the army was limited by transferral of top-level authority from members of the military itself to civilian authorities; the long-standing compulsory and highly-controversial military duty service was abolished.

Reina publicized his initiative to reform Honduran government to erradicate the rampant corruption that characterised it - he called this project "The Moral Revolution" and it was a common element in his rethoric.   However, many believe that this was never anything more than rethoric, as levels of government corruption were perceived to remain unchanged.

By the time Reina handed power to the next president, the Honduran economy was in no better shape than four years earlier.

Carlos Flores

Carlos Flores Facuss'e

Term: 1998 - 2002

Political Party: Partido Liberal

An engineer and economist by training, Carlos Flores Facussé was President of National Congress during Carlos Reina's term before winning the 1997 elections.

During this term in office, Flores's ability to manage resources in difficult situations was put to test, when Hurrican Mitch devastaded a large portion of the country in late October of 1998.   Many have given the speed and depth of his government's response during the crisis a "mixed rating".

Ricardo Maduro

Ricardo Maduro

Term: 2002 - 2006

Political Party: Partido Nacional

Born in Panamá, Ricardo Maduro Joest directed both of Rafael Callejas's presidential campaigns and was President of the Central Bank of Honduras during Callejas's presidency. Maduro stirred a great deal of controversy during his own presidential campaign, as his Honduran nationality was disputed (his political detractors claimed he was still a citizen of Panamá) while the Honduran Constitution specifically prohibits foreign citizens from running for the presidency of the republic. Still, Maduro managed to navigate the controversy well and eventually won the presidential elections.  

With a strong academic background in finance and economics, Maduro's selected a government team that managed to improve the country's finances (at least at a macroeconomic level) and improve relations with international financial institutions.

Yet Maduro was not able to keep government corruption at bay, which did affect the country's finances.

Manuel Zelaya

Term: 2006 - 2009 (did not finish term)

Political Party: Partido Liberal

José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, a member of the Liberal Party, won the elections in November of 2006 and took office in January of 2007.  During the first half of his term, Zelaya's government was not very different from that of his predecessors, but later forged relationships with left-wing Latinamerican presidents, such as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

Advised by Chávez and his followers (both within and outside Honduras), Zelaya crafted a plan to introduce constitutional reforms seemingly aimed at allowing him to remain in power indefinately (echoing Carías in 1930's Honduras or Chávez, in contemporary Venezuela).  During the last year of his period as President, Zelaya diverted considerable amounts of government resources to implement his plan, whilst neglecting the normal running of the country.  Zelaya earned the contempt of all political parties (including his own), the Supreme Court, the National Congress, most of the national media, organisations, and even both the Catholic and Evangelical churches (which normally don't stand together publically on anything).  Both Congress and the Supreme Court publically warned Zelaya that his actions were unconstitutional and illegal, yet he continued.  Finally, in late June 2009, the Supreme Court, in agreement with Congress, issued orders to detain Zelaya and remove him from his post as President.  The orders were carried out by the Honduran military, who then unilaterally took the fateful decision of expatriating Zelaya to Costa Rica, instead of arresting him and holding him in Honduras.  This was the start of a political crisis that lasted over 6 months, damaged Honduras's economy and reputation on an international level. 

Zelaya was extremely controversial during his presidency and he still is.

Roberto Micheletti

Roberto Micheletti

Term: 2009 - 2010

Political Party: Partido Liberal

Roberto Micheletti Bain was President of the Honduran Congress during Zelaya's Presidency.  Being an active member and leader in the same political party (Partido Liberal), initially they worked together, but eventually they grew apart.  In the weeks before Zelaya was ousted, it was Micheletti that had lead efforts within Congress to stop Zelaya's plans to apparently become a dictator.

Under Honduran law, the President of Congress is next in line for the Presidency, so when the Supreme Court removed Zelaya in June 2009, Micheletti was sworn in.  It wasn't very long before Micheletti had to deal with enormous pressure from the USA, the OAS, the UN, and the international community (in general, who saw Zelayas's ousting as nothing more than just another military coup de 'etat and applied political pressure to have him reinstated.  But Micheletti managed to resist the pressure and stayed in office until what would have been the end of Zelaya's term by law.  In November 2009 Micheletti's government held general elections (the same time in which they would have held by Zelaya's, if he had finished his term).

Although he was only in office for a few months, Micheletti has become nearly as controversial as Zelaya. It is yet unclear if he'll go down in Honduran history as either the man who saved the country from falling into a left-wing dictatorship or as the man who interrupted what had been the longest run of democratic and constitutional rule in recent Honduran history.  Either way, Micheletti must have known that, when he participated so prominently in Zelaya's ousting in June of 2009, that it would be the end his political career and forever destroy his chances of ever participating in elections as a candidate for the presidency of the republic.

Porfirio Lobo

Porfirio Lobo

Term: 2010 - (scheduled to transfer power to new president in 2014)

Political Party:  Partido Nacional

Porfirio Lobo Sosa was President of Congress during Ricardo Maduro's presidency.  He later ran as the Partido Nacional's candidate in the presidential elections in 2005 but lost to José Manuel Zelaya.

Although he has been a member of the Partido Nacional (which traditionally has been conservative) Lobo's policies and rethoric have broken with his party's typical style of government.   During Lobo's term, the Honduran economy has deteriorated, the government seems to have lost control of the country's finances, crime rates have soared, corruption runs rampant, and there doesn't seem to be a long-term strategy to run the country.  Meanwhile, Lobo has enacted highly controversial reforms that have allowed him control over the Supreme Court and is expected to have Congress aprove "censorship laws" that will impose severe restriction on freedom of the press.  Opinion polls have shown that the many Hondurans now rate Lobo's presidency no better that how they once did Zelaya's.

The Current Political Climate and the 2013 Presidential Elections

As in many other countries, there are several political parties competing for popularity and votes, yet every election since 1982 has been won by one of the two larger parties (the Partido Nacional and the Partido Liberal).  This pattern, coupled with increasing and obvious levels of corruption and mismanagement by governments of whichever of the two parties is in power, has raised levels of insatisfaction amongst Honduran voters, who are now eager to find alternative political parties and candidates.

2013 was the first election in which new political parties posed a real challenge to the two traditonal political parties.  Deposed former President José Manuel Zelaya organized a new party, called Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE), with left-wing supporters that had already attempted to help him regain power in 2009, and using his wife as presidential candidate.  A well-know entertainer and TV personality, Salvador Nasralla, formed his own political party - Partido Anticorrupción (PAC)- without previous experience in politics, no affiliation to any other existing political organization, and using an "absolutely zero-tolerance to corruption" stance as his main political ideal.   This all made for the most interesting political campaign and elections seen in Honduras in a generation.  It was quite surprising how many votes both LIBRE and PAC managed to garner in the general elections, but still, once again, one of the larger, traditional parties won it in the end.  

We'll see what happens in the elections in 2018.


So, who is the current President of Honduras?

Juan Orland Hernández

Juan Orlando Hernández, born in 1968, a lawyer by training, with a law degree from Honduras's national univeristy and an MBA from the State University of New York, Mr. Hernández rose through the ranks of the Partido Nacional until he became President of Congress during Porfirio Lobo's term as President of the Republic.

In the last presidential elections, Mr. Hernández managed to get nearly 37% of the votes - a clear 9% lead over his nearest rival.

Mr. Hernández was sworn into his post as President of the Republic on the 27th of January of 2014.

During both his tenure as President of Congress and during his presidential campaign, Mr. Hernández set a very fast pace of work, with fresh (if not always popular) ideas, and demostrated skill as a shrewed politician with clear leadership qualities.

At the time of this writing, Mr. Hernández has been in office for approximately half a year only.   So far, Mr. Hernández has shown more of a "hands on" attitude towards his role than other Presidents Honduras has had in recent years and that he is willing to work as hard while in his new job as when he was campaigning to obtain it.   But it is too early to tell whether or not he can consistently put all his qualities and skills to work for the long-term benefit of the Honduran people.  Or whether or not he will eventually settle into the "business as usual" routine that so many Honduran political leaders follow. 


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