Villeda Morales, Ramón (1908–1971)

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Villeda Morales, Ramón (1908–1971)

Ramón Villeda Morales (b. 1908; d. 8 October 1971), Honduran president (1957–1963). Villeda Morales studied medicine in Europe and Honduras. Called the "Little Bird" for his small stature and oratorical prowess, he was also known for his cosmopolitan polish, rare in Honduran politicians. He dominated the Liberal Party as chairman and founded the party newspaper, El Pueblo. Although he won a plurality in the 1954 presidential election, a subsequent coup deprived him of office.

In 1957 Villeda Morales came to power after a military coup overthrew Julio Lozano Días. Between the coup and his inauguration, Villeda Morales seems to have participated in a pact of the Blue Water (named after the United Fruit Company villa where the clandestine pact was apparently devised). He agreed to conform radical agrarian and labor reforms to Alliance for Progress ideology in return for ample U.S. aid and Honduran military support. The 1958 labor code brought realistic worker benefits. The 1962 Agrarian Reform Law nationalized, with compensation, undeveloped land for peasants. In response to the 1954 United Fruit strike, peasant organizations were legalized. However, Villeda Morales's close relationship with Serafino Re-mauldi, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative and labor representative, assured that an AFL-CIO alliance of peasant and labor organizations dominated labor.

The limited reforms of Villeda Morales nonetheless brought conservative opposition and charges of Communist infiltration. Afraid that the 1963 Liberal presidential candidate would make good on Villeda Morales's "second republic" rhetoric, military chief Oswaldo López Arellano staged a successful coup two months before the election.

Several factors point to CIA involvement in the Arellano coup. Villeda Morales, who had CIA links through Remauldi, piqued the agency by pushing for a more radical successor. This apparently prompted CIA endorsement of Arellano's coup. Also, CIA backing is indicated by the quick commendation of the coup by the U.S. ambassador and the Voice of America, although this support was repudiated by the U.S. State Department.

Arriving in New York in 1971 as Honduran ambassador to the United Nations, Villeda Morales suffered a fatal heart attack. The Honduran Liberal Party continues to invoke the memory of Villeda Morales as a Kennedyesque figure.

See alsoCentral Intelligence Agency (CIA); Lozano Díaz, Julio; United Fruit Company.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Philip Agee, Inside the Company: A CIA Diary (1975).

Robert Mac Cameron, Bananas, Labor, and Politics in Honduras, 1954–1963 (1983).

James Rudolph, ed., Honduras: A Country Study (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Natalini de Castro, Stefanía. Significado histórico del gobierno del Dr. Ramón Villeda Morales. Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, Editorial Universitaria, 1985.

                                      Edmond Konrad