Soto, Marco Aurelio (1846–1908)

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Soto, Marco Aurelio (1846–1908)

Marco Aurelio Soto (b. 13 November 1846; d. 25 February 1908), president of Honduras (1876–1883). Born in Tegucigalpa, the son of Máximo Soto and Francisca Martínez, Soto studied at universities in Honduras and Guatemala. Soto represented the best of the second generation of Liberal politicians who governed in Central America beginning in the 1870s. The Soto administration was characterized by an emphasis on scientific progress, education, foreign investment, and infrastructural development typical of the positivist governments that came to power after overthrowing Conservative regimes.

Soto had very strong connections to the Liberal Guatemalan government of Justo Rufino Barrios, whom he served at the cabinet level as minister of foreign affairs in the mid-1870s. In addition, he and Ramón Rosa had studied together with Barrios at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. It was natural for Barrios to support Soto in his efforts to remove Ponciano Leiva and José María Medina as contenders for the presidency of Honduras, and at the second Conference of Chingo on 17 February 1876, Barrios and Andrés Valle of El Salvador signed a pact to do so. Meanwhile, Medina defeated Leiva at the Battle of El Naranjo on 22 February 1876, and on 8 June 1876 Medina and Soto signed the Convenio de Cedros, agreeing to name General Marcelino Mejía interim president. (Mejía served as president one week.) Soto followed as provisional president on 27 August 1876 and became constitutional president on 30 May 1877. He remained in power until 9 May 1883, when he resigned because of differences with Barrios.

Soto's administration dedicated itself to the economic progress and developmental goals espoused by Comtian positivism. The political and philosophical strength of the Liberal regime was sufficient to allow Soto to be relatively lenient with his former Conservative enemies. He was politically tolerant as a statesman, yet he did not apply this tolerance to people belonging to the lower sector of society, whom he considered lazy and without motivation. He did open a national library and initiate free public education, which had been previously decreed several times but never implemented. At the same time, Soto lamented the military interventionism in Central American civilian governments and institutionalized the armed forces on 21 December 1876 in an effort to check the military's power while defining its social and political role. These and other policies culminated in a new Liberal constitution in 1880 and the establishment of Liberal Tegucigalpa as the permanent national capital the same year.

There was also substantial economic progress during Soto's presidency. He personally helped revive the declining silver-mining industry of Tegucigalpa, particularly the El Rosario mine (Rosario Mining Co.). The government also founded a mint (Casa de la Moneda), which acted as a central bank. Soto opened up the country to foreign investment as a matter of policy, a liberal practice that paved the way for the banana boom of the early twentieth century. Infrastructural improvements accompanied economic reforms, and Soto's regime created a national postal service and a national telegraph service that provided relatively rapid and often instant communication in a country known for its regional isolation. Soto resigned in 1883, having asserted both Tegucigalpa's primacy over Comayagua and the Liberal Party's agenda as national policy. His chosen successor, Luis Bográn Baraona, continued to support Liberal oligarchical interests.

See alsoBarrios, Justo Rufino; Honduras; Rosa, Ramón.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rómulo E. Durón y Gamero, Biografía del Doctor Marco Aurelio Soto (1944).

Charles Abbey Brand, The Background of Capitalist Underdevelopment: Honduras to 1913 (1972).

Kenneth V. Finney, Precious Metal Mining and the Modernization of Honduras: In Quest of El Dorado, 1880–1900 (1973).

Gene S. Yeager, The Honduran Foreign Debt, 1825–1953 (1975).

Luis Mariñas Otero, Honduras (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Zelaya, Gustavo. El legado de la Reforma Liberal. Tegucigalpa: Editorial Guaymuras, 1996.

                                     Jeffrey D. Samuels