Morazania, the unrealized dream of Central America

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Various ambitious projects, from national to continental in scale, were proposed and realized during a rule of various military dictators and right-wing parties in Latin America. It is an old dream of the right-wing leaders and parties to make a concept of an «anticommunist international» a real thing. The methods may vary from creating a united central-American army (Somoza, Trujillo) to a united political space (Stroessner ) or a united anti-terrorist block (Uribe, Molina). But one of the most curious Latin America’s integration projects in the 50s was Morazania – a country to be created by merging Honduras and El Salvador.
Various demographic, economical and political problems surrounded the idea of Morazania. Apart from poverty and dependency issues of the countries participating in the project, there was the consideration of the cruel and blood-stained reputation of the right-wing regimes and juntas in small central-American republics. Blood and dirt clung to everybody: right-wing, left-wing, armies, guerrilla troops, peacemakers and even diplomats. The only exception was the Somoza dynasty regime, introvert to the point of near autism, famous for its nearly anarchistic libertarian view on economics and management and a complete indifference towards the social life. But Somoza’s regime is not the subject of this article.

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In 1950 in El Salvador, worn out by poverty, military mayhem and dictatorship, first free elections in almost 20 years were held, and Oscar Osorio was victorious. The problems facing the new government weren’t new. The same problems were faced by Osorio’s predecessors, who were backed by the oligarchy and by the fairly progressive Salvadoran regime of general Castaneda Castro, who, by the way, had also been a proponent of creating the Central American Union. Neither of these regimes had been able to solve these problems. The ideas of uniting the small poverty-stricken and dependent countries of Central America were entertained by many leaders, right-wing and left-wing alike. Rafael Trujillo, Anastasio Somoza and the aforementioned Castaneda Castro all understood that the main problem of the region was a «divide and conquer» policy used by the region’s larger and more powerful partners, who were interested in a fragmented and noncompetitive Central America. By uniting several countries in a single federation (the left-wing and moderate right-wing liberal concept) or a confederation (the ultra right-wing and military radicals concept) structure, founded on mainly militaristic and anti-terrorist basis, these unions were thought to be capable of solving problems that couldn’t be solved by small CA countries on their own.

But alas, Castaneda Castro failed to succeed. He was caught in the classic Salvadoran militaristic and etatistic rhetoric until his removal from power by the Revolutionary Government Council’s officers. The Council promoted the idea of a “manageable revolution” and strove to reform the country while keeping its capitalistic model. These were the main factors that brought Oscar Osorio to power in 1950. Osorio was a politician in opposition to colonel José Menéndez Ascencio who was controlled and backed by the richest families of El Salvador. Ascencio was a candidate from “Partido de Acción Renovadora” that he himself founded. After his victory the newly-elected Osorio skillfully used international market’s high coffee prices to provide the funds for the electrification of El Salvador. Osorio also improved the situation of the middle class and strengthened Salvador-US ties. But at the same time he increased the repressions against the
left-wing democrats and socialists and almost surpassed his oligarchy-backed predecessors in his eagerness to “uproot communists”.

I won’t go deeper into those grim pages of Salvadoran history as it’s not a subject of this article. But it is important to understand that Osorio made great efforts to integrate region’s countries into one political and economical union. In October of 1951 he arranged a meeting of Central-American foreign ministers. At this meeting a decision to create Organización de los Estados Centroamericanos or Central-American States Organization was made. OCEAD secretariat was located in the capital of El Salvador and Salvadoran foreign minister was elected to be its General Secretary.

But that’s not all: El Salvador has reinforced its role in UN Economic Commission for Latin America. Being a member of this organization, El Salvador worked intensively to extend collaboration between Central-American countries. Salvadoran government was interested in collaboration with Honduras. Honduran lands were to solve the problem of the overpopulation (El Salvador remains one of the most populated countries in the world even to this day) and the peasantry poverty problems. Salvadoran industrial class was also quite interested in the integration with Honduras – its markets, as yet virtually unexploited, looked very attractive to Salvadoran fairly developed business. The industry of El Salvador complex was well-developed thanks to the participation of its American partners – in transportation and mining fields foreign investors’ shares amounted to 59 and 57 per cent respectively. It’s interesting to note that from the point of view of agriculture El Salvador was still a very secluded country – foreign capital’s share in this sphere was nearly lowest in all of region’s countries.

Information Affairs Secretariat – a special governmental body – had released a series of books of diplomatic and historical nature in which the ideas of regional integration, “brotherhood of Central-American peoples” and “shared destiny” were strongly advocated.

Juan_Manuel_Galvez

In 1949 Honduras was under the rule of one of the most independent and sane presidents in the entire region – Juan Manuel Galvez. His rise to power had put an end to a harsh military dictatorship of Tiburcio Carias Andino, ending his 16 years reign. Galvez skillfully used the coffee pricing and foreign fruit companies’ interests. He allowed those companies to do business in Honduras in exchange for social responsibility. Galvez made the efforts to reduce the country’s debts and engaged in solving logistical problems: almost a quarter of Honduras’s budget was being spent in road-building and urban development. Another quarter went into education. During Galvez’s rule social freedoms were reinstated, various parties were given permission to participate in politics, 8-hour working day was implemented along with paid vacations and employer’s responsibility for any work-related injuries.

In foreign affairs Galvez was US-oriented. Military air-transportation agreement, bilateral military aid treaties and bilateral agreements to establish navy and air-force missions – all these testify to US-Galvez Administration strong partnership.

Galvez was wary of regional unity ideas and took his time considering Salvador’s attempts to press alliance agreements. But he was considerate of his neighbors and supported any projects that could benefit Honduras. In 1954 Galvez granted lands to found the training camps for Guatemalan guerillas who were at war with the left-wing government of Jacobo Arbenz. Honduras supplied guerillas with arms and provisions and granted them a passage to Guatemala. This support played a crucial part in Guatemalan coup’s success. Money and arms for the coup were also supplied by USA, Rafael Trujillo’s Dominican Republic and Somoza’s Nicaragua.

But in the same 1954 Galvez was deposed by the national elite and army, who were displeased by the economic openness which benefited the more powerful market players, and by the changes in favor of “the rabble” and their “impossible” political rights. The drastic strengthening of the nationalistic and Catholic groups led to the weakening of the ties between Honduras and USA and to the increased interest toward regional structures.

FMorazanR. Cleaves, former Salvador’s ambassador in Honduras, voiced a proposition to create a united state as early as in 1955. The state was to be named Morazania after Francisco Morazan, president of Federal Republic of Central America. The idea of Morazania, the strong and large state with important geopolitical position, large human resources, strong army and guaranteed freedoms found avid supporters in moderate military circles and right-wing liberal constitutionalists alike.
Tired of any Constitution being thrown out at a moments’ notice by the next military coup, the “integralists” wanted to create Morazania based on a patriotic people’s liberation movement. They aimed to politicize people, to create a
coalition government and to steer the country to liberalization that was the goal of Francisko Morazan himself. They wanted to loosen the nuts and finally start building a national state.

Apart from that, El Salvador pursued it’s own earthly interests: in case Honduras refused to participate, a colonization of the neighboring Honduran lands followed up by directing the peasantry’s fervor to developing these lands was proposed. The plan was to either buy the land directly or to colonize it discreetly and then declare it to be a part of the state.

But destroying the patriotic segment of Honduran political scene backfired and led to a new iteration of the «divide and conquer» policy. El Salvador and Honduras did not unite; this was opposed by the US and the powerful regional players alike. Under the new president Villede Morales, Honduras once again focused strictly on the US relations and abandoned the regional projects. Guatemala started its fall into a monstrous and bloody civil war. This war would result in 250 000 victims – probably the highest death toll in all Latin America in the 20th century. The Salvadoran overpopulation issues were not settled at all and aren’t settled to this day. It’s interesting to note that this geopolitical failure pushed El Salvador to extend their diplomatic endeavours to farther countries and markets. For example, El Salvador became close to Japan in the 60s. After the two countries signed a trade agreement in 1964, the Japanese investors began to pour money
into the Salvadoran textile business and into the newly founded cement industry alike.

But despite these successes the region’s fate was an unfortunate one. War, violence and poverty are still rampant in Central America. And maybe this fate could have been averted if only the idea of Morazania – or another economical and political union – hadn’t been destroyed.

Kitty Sanders, 2014
Перевод Г. Николаев

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