Honduras 1987, Always a sucker for Latin American leaders in a sash

Finding the formula for good government in small poor countries is always a challenge. In the late 80s, Honduras tried to be more democratic and were I Honduran, I would have joined 27 percent of Hondurans who voted for the man with the sash. So 27 percent though, and he won? So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

I like this stamp as a sort of mildly updated Latin American stamp of old. It usually was easy to distinguish left from right with just a portrait of the politician. A man of the right will deck himself out as a dime store fake Mussolini. A man of the left will put himself forward as a dime store Che Guevara. Today it is not so easy as there are more women involved in politics and the current generation is too self conscious to wear a costume. Already here in 1987 you see President Azcona wearing his sash with an ordinary business suit rather that a proper tuxedo.

Todays stamp is issue C754, a .85 Lempira airmail stamp issued by Honduras on February 2nd, 1987. It was a two stamp issue showing then President Jose Azcona del Hoyo and the Honduran flag on the first anniversary of the peaceful democratic transfer of power. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 85 cents in it’s used condition.

Honduras was more peaceful in the 80s than the countries around it such as Nicaragua and El Salvador. Both of the latter were plagued with well funded insurgencies acting out cold war politics. The Honduran military had done a better job clamping down on left wing elements and so was more stable. This allowed the USA to pay Honduras large sums to rout aid to the right wing contras through Honduras. The aid allowed the military to gain strength with American F5 fighters, C130 transports and Huey helicopters and Israeli training to use them properly.

Large amounts of aid from a superpower inevitably have strings attached and soon there was much pressure to  democratize. So in 1986 there was an election with very mixed results. The right of center political party could not get it’s act together and fielded four separate candidates, including Azcona. The left of center party had only one candidate who got 46 percent of the vote, the highest by far percentage. Instead of him winning or perhaps going to a runoff the vote totals of the four right wing candidates were combined and the one with highest vote total, Azcona at 27 percent. became president. This suited America well, as he was the pro business, more Spanish less indigenous leader they prefer to deal with.

Azcona’s term was less than successful. The Nicaraguan and El Salvadoran civil wars were winding down and with it aid from the USA. Azcona tried to be pro business development by trying to peg the Honduran currency to the USA dollar to prevent capital flight. This resulted in huge deficits and was ultimately unsuccessful. With more democracy it was harder to clamp down on decent and therefore the opposition became more violent. At the same time the military was shrinking and with less politics to argue about young disaffected youth turned to gang crime. This has been a plague throughout Central America and unfortunately one they seem intent on exporting north. It might make some want to build a wall.

Well my drink is empty. I paged forward in the Scott catalog and in 2005 there was another stamp of a then current Honduran President proudly wearing a sash. Good job, be proud of who you are. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.


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