Popular Organizations

Popular Organizations

A plethora of special interest organizations and associations were active during the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of these organizations, like student groups and women's groups, had been active long before the 1980s, but others, such as human rights organization and environmental groups, only formed in the 1980s. Still other groups were just beginning to organize. In 1993, for example, a newly formed homosexual rights association petitioned the government for legal recognition. Beginning in 1984, a number of leftist popular organizations were linked with the FUTH in the CCOP. Some observers maintain that the number and power of popular organizations grew in the 1980s because of the inertia and manipulation associated with the traditional political process. Others contend that the proliferation of popular organizations demonstrates the free and open nature of Honduran society and the belief of the citizens that they can influence the political process by organizing.

The student movement in Honduras, which dates back to 1910, is concentrated at the country's largest institution of higherlearning , UNAH, which had an enrollment of around 30,000 students in the early 1990s. Ideological divisions among the student population and student organizations have often led to violence, including the assassination of student leaders. Leftist students, organized into the Reformist University Front (Frente de Reforma Universitaria--FRU), largely dominated student organizations until the early 1980s, but ideological schisms within the group and an anti-leftist campaign orchestrated by General Gustavo Álvarez broke leftist control of official university student bodies. Since the early 1980s, the rightwing Democratic University United Front (Frente Unido Universitario Democrático--FUUD), which reportedly has ties to the PNH and to the military, has become the more powerful student organization, with close ties to the conservative university administration. Osvaldo Ramos Soto, the PNH 1993 presidential candidate, served as FUUD coordinator while he was UNAH's rector in the mid-1980s. In the early 1990s, political violence in the student sector escalated. FRU leader Ramón Antonio Bricero was brutally tortured and murdered in 1990, and four FUUD activists were assassinated in the 1990-92 period.

Organized women's groups in Honduras date back to the 1920s with the formation of the Women's Cultural Society that struggled for women's economic and political rights. Visitación Padilla, who also actively opposed the intervention of the United States Marines in Honduras in 1924, and Graciela García were major figures in the women's movement. Women were also active in the formation of the Honduran labor movement and took part in the great banana strike of 1954. In the early 1950s, women's associations fought for women's suffrage, which finally was achieved in 1954, making Honduras the last Latin American country to extend voting rights to women. In the late 1970s, a national peasant organization, the Honduras Federation of Peasant Women (Federación Hondureña de Mujeres Campesinas--Fehmuca), was formed; by the 1980s, it represented almost 300 organizations nationwide. As a more leftist-oriented women's peasant organization, the Council for Integrated Development of Peasant Women (Consejo de Desarrollo Integrado de Mujeres Campesinos--Codeimuca) was established in the late 1980s and represented more than 100 women's groups. Another leftist women's organization, the Visitación Padilla Committee, was active in the 1980s, opposing the presence of the United States military and the Contras in Honduras.

Numerous other women's groups were active in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including a research organization known as the Honduran Center for Women's Studies (Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras--CEM-H). Another organization, the Honduran Federation of Women's Associations (Federación Hondureña de Asociaciones Femininas--Fehaf), represented about twenty-five women's groups and was involved in such activities as providing legal assistance to women and lobbying the government on women's issues.

Although women were represented at all levels of government in the late 1980s and early 1990s, their numbers were few. According to CEM-H, following the 1989 national elections, women held 9.4 percent of congressional seats and 6.2 percent of mayorships nationwide, including the mayorship of Tegucigalpa. In the Callejas government, women held several positions, including one seat on the Supreme Court, three out of thirty-two ambassadorships, and two out of fifty-four high-level executive branch positions. For the 1993 presidential elections, the Monarca faction of the PNH originally supported the nomination of a woman as the PNH candidate, and the PLH nominated a woman as one of its three presidential designate candidates.

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