Carías Andino, Tiburcio (1876–1969)

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Carías Andino, Tiburcio (1876–1969)

Tiburcio Carías Andino (b. 15 March 1876; d. 23 December 1969), president of Honduras (1933–1948).

Carías was born in Tegucigalpa, the youngest son of General Calixto Carías and Sara Andino de Carías. An excellent student, he received his law degree from the Central University of Honduras in 1898; later he taught mathematics at the National Institute as well as night classes for poor children and workers. Standing six feet, two inches in height, unusually tall for a Central American, Carías developed natural leadership ability. As early as 1891 he was campaigning for the dominant Liberal Party, in which his father was active. Thereafter he became involved in the military conflicts related to Central American politics.

In 1903 Carías left the Liberals to support Manuel Bonilla in founding the National Party, a successor to the nineteenth-century Conservative Party. Although his part in a 1907 revolt earned him the rank of brigadier general, he was not primarily a military man but rather a skillful politician who used the military to build an effective political machine. As a congressman and governor of several departments, Carías became the National Party leader and in 1923 its presidential candidate. He won a plurality but lacked the required majority, and when the Congress failed to resolve the stalemate, his armed forces seized Tegucigalpa in 1924. Subsequent elections, assisted by United States mediation, elected Carías's running mate, Miguel Paz Baraona, as president. When, in 1928, Carías lost to the Liberals by twelve thousand votes, many of his supporters called for revolt, but Carías accepted the official results, a move that won him wide respect.

Honduran politics of the 1920s were closely related to the rise of the U.S. banana companies, which were responsible for much of the political turbulence of the era. Samuel Zemurray's Cuyamel Fruit Company supported the Liberals, while the United Fruit Company backed Carías's National Party. In 1932 Carías won a convincing victory over José Ángel Zúñiga Huete and took office in 1933 after putting down an opposition revolt. Revisions of the constitution in 1939 allowed Carías to remain in office, first to 1944 and later through 1949. When he finally stepped down on 31 December 1948, having ruled his country longer than any other president in Honduran history, he turned over power to his protégé and minister of war, Juan Manuel Gálvez Durón, following the first presidential election in the country since 1932.

Carías has been compared to contemporary dictators in the other Central American states: Jorge Ubico in Guatemala, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez in El Salvador, and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua. His regime had similar fascist tendencies, and he achieved order and a measure of economic growth at the cost of civil liberties and the general welfare. Ángel Zúñiga kept up a propaganda campaign against Carías from exile in Mexico and there was an occasional revolt attempted from within, but Carías's firm control of the military assured his continued rule. He also cooperated closely with American business and government interests, including support of the Allies in World War II. Although he promoted modernization and made his country the leader in the development of Central American commercial aviation, Honduras continued to be the least developed of the isthmian states.

Unlike his "Dictators' League" counterparts in one important respect, Carías abandoned the Liberal Party. Although he had come from a Liberal Party background, his National Party retained some of the nineteenth-century Conservative Party philosophy, which defended a curious alliance of the leading families of the elite with the masses and adopted a somewhat friendlier attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church than had the Liberals. While all of the Central American dictators were repressive and often brutal, Carías was somewhat more benign than the others, and he was the only one of them to step down gracefully. The overthrow of Hernández and Ubico by popular uprisings in 1944 probably contributed to Carías's decision to leave the presidency in 1948, for he, too, began to face student and labor unrest in 1944. In reality, his National Party, still a force in Honduras today, represented a union of nineteenth-century Liberal and Conservative elitist attitudes, allowing the Honduran Liberal Party of today to become more closely identified with middle-class interests. The major role of the military in modern Honduran politics was another legacy of Carías's dictatorship.

In the election of 1954, the seventy-nine-year-old Carías sought unsuccessfully to return to the presidency. A subsequent coup reduced his political influence even more, although he continued to live in Honduras until his death.

See alsoBanana Industry; Honduras, Political Parties: National Party (PNH).


Mario Argueta, Tiburcio Carías: Anatomía de una época, 1923–1948 (1989).

Filander Díaz Chávez, Carías, el último caudillo frutero (1982).

Gilberto González y Contreras, El último caudillo (ensayo biográfico) (1946).

James A. Morris, Honduras: Caudillo Politics and Military Rulers (1984), which reviews his regime in some detail. See also William S. Stokes, Honduras: An Area Study in Government (1950).

James D. Rudolf, ed., Honduras: A Country Study (1984).

Franklin Dallas Parker, The Central American Republics (1964).

Additional Bibliography

Contreras, Carlos A. Hacia la dictadura cariísta: La campaña presidencial de 1932. Tegucigalpa: Editorial Iberoamericana, 2000.

Dodd, Thomas J. Tiburcio Carías: Portrait of a Honduran Political Leader. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.

                         Ralph Lee Woodward Jr.