Two-time Honduran dictator Oswaldo López Arellano dies a free man

Two-time Honduran dictator Oswaldo López Arellano died over the weekend after being hospitalized for several weeks. He was 89. Born in Danlí in eastern Honduras, López Arellano would lead two coups d'état as an army officer. In October 1963, López, then a colonel, ousted President José Ramón Villeda of the Liberal Party, when was just months from finishing his six-year term in office. In 1965, with the backing of the currently ruling National Party, López took office as constitutional president and handed over power in 1971 to Ramón Ernesto Cruz—only to oust him in a second coup in December 1972.

As president, López Arellano oversaw Honduras' short but bloody war with El Salvador in 1969, dubbed the "Football War" because it was sparked by stadium violence in El Salvador-Honduras World Cup play-offs. Thousands died in the brief conflict. But his political and military career ended in April 1975, when he was overthrown in yet another coup after the "Bananagate" scandal, in which it was revealed that he had accepted a $2.5 million bribe from US banana company United Brands to reduce an export tax. Retired from power, López became a businessman with holdings in banks and the now-defunct Honduran airline TAN-SAHSA. (Canadian Press, EFE, May 18)

See our last post on Honduras.