Roberto Suazo Cordova, president of Honduras during the US-financed “Contra” war against Nicaragua in the 1980s, died on Saturday, officials said.
Suazo, who was president from 1982 to 1986, was being treated at a military hospital near Tegucigalpa for cardiac issues when he died, the Honduran armed forces spokesman told AFP. Suazo was 91.
Suazo became president after the United States pressured the Honduran military to leave after two decades in power, part of a broader effort to counter the advances of leftist movements in Central America.
Then U.S. president Ronald Reagan feared an expansion of Cuban and Soviet influence in the region after dictator Anastasio Somoza in neighboring Nicaragua was toppled by the leftist Sandinista insurgency in July 1979.
Under Suazo’s presidency, U.S. officials financed an irregular army of mostly Nicaraguan ex-Somoza National Guard soldiers to launch cross-border attacks against the Sandinistas.
This force of “Contras” at its height had 16,000 fighters, but never seriously threatened the Nicaraguan government.
A medical doctor by training, Suazo took office promising jobs in a country where today 70 percent of its nine million inhabitants live in poverty.
But as president, he focused more on the U.S.-supported low-intensity war on leftists within Honduras and in Central America.
Forced disappearances of Honduran dissidents that took place under the military regime continued under Suazo and into the 1990s.
One of his administration’s legacies is the Palmerola Air Base, built with US funds in the mid-1980s and still used by U.S. military personnel.
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