By Yuriy Veytskin, Claire Lockerby, and Steven McMullen
The war fought between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969 may be called the “Soccer War”, but this conflict stemmed from much more than soccer matches. Named after the three hard fought World Cup qualifying matches in 1969 that were the spark that facilitated the violence, this war was a bloody reminder that the implications of a sporting event can reach far beyond the field. The real conflict started years earlier with deeply-rooted problems between the two nations. A combination of border issues and class issues built up between the two countries for years long before the 1969 qualifying matches took place. The three matches that were played in June 1969 served as, “the catalyst which helped to ignite an already inflammable situation.” Author Eduardo Galeano sums up the tension that spilled over from the matches into the conflicted areas by saying, “Soccer, metaphor for war, at times turns into real war.”
On July 14, 1969, Salvadorian planes dropped bombs on the airport at the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, effectively declaring war on their neighbor. Four days later, most of the fighting in the “100 Hours War” had ceased, yet the implications of the conflict were felt for decades. Foreign nations dismissed the “soccer madness” that helped fuel the conflict. However, the war had much deeper roots in economic and social unrest. The qualifying rounds for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico City happened to coincide with an increasingly unstable situation in Honduras and El Salvador. Rowdy fans from both nations started riots that helped push their armies to the outbreak of a war that had been building up for years. The aggressive nature of the game of football can often lead to hostility among fans, and the Football War is an extreme example of nationalistic football fervor turning violent.
As John Turnbull puts it, “Football is a game of contested space.” This was true both on and off the pitch in Honduras and El Salvador. Part of the trouble between these two countries stemmed from border issues. Honduras had a population of 2,333,000 in 1969, compared to El Salvador’s 3,000,000. The issue of space came into play because Honduras is about five times as large as El Salvador in square mileage. The overcrowding in El Salvador resulted in a decline in quality of life for a large number of Salvadoran citizens, and many spilled over to nearby spacious Honduras. These immigrants began to take jobs as factory workers and cultivators of previously unused land. A growing resentment began to surface among Hondurans in many of the rural areas, where the Salvadoran immigrants were profiting off the land. In addition, the borders between the two countries remained ambiguous in these regions. Both countries attempted to fix the problem through a string of treaties that were met with contempt. The last of these treaties, the Bilateral Treaty on Immigration, ran out in 1967, and both resentment and memories still linger today.
By the time that the first qualifying match was played between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969, there were 300,000 Salvadoran immigrants living and working in Honduras. This large number of immigrants accounted for about 20% of Honduras’s peasant population. With border disputes continuing to rage, growing Honduran resentment towards the thousands of Salvadoran immigrants, and tensions about to reach the breaking point, the three soccer matches were poised to ignite the spark that would start the “Soccer War”.
The first of the three World Cup qualifying matches took place in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. Before any of the games even started, there was hostility between fans because of the recent border issues. Reports claim that, “the El Salvadorian side were kept up all night by riotous fans outside their hotel.” The game went through the 90th minute without a score from both teams. Honduras finally scored a goal late in overtime to win the game. The immediate reaction by the fans included rioting and fighting in the stands. According to one report, “the stadium was set afire.” The fans on the Salvadoran side felt slighted by the Honduran victory and were whipped into a frenzy by the media in El Salvador, which used the game as an attempt to create “a point of national honor.”. After the match, many reports surfaced about a woman who killed herself at the conclusion of the game. The Salvadoran media spun this to their advantage, reporting it in detail and even showing the funeral on national television. They used this suicide to create hostile feelings not only towards the Honduran soccer team, but also towards the entire nation.
The events leading up to the second match proved that the Salvadoran media’s careful tactics had worked on many fans. When the Honduran team reached the airport in El Salvador, they were immediately accosted by fans. Fans singled out Honduras’s star player, Enrique “the Rabbit” Cardona, and held posters of him being beaten by a larger rabbit. The night before the game, General José Alberto Medrano led fans of El Salvador in an attempt to disturb the Honduran team’s sleep hoping to affect their game the next day. The Honduras side claimed that these raucous, rioting fans had caused, “their women [to be] defiled, their menfolk assaulted and the national flag desecrated.” At the end of the night, two men lay dead in the street, “and seven persons were injured by the police.” At some point in the night, the Honduran players were escorted out of the hotel and taken to safety at their own embassy.
During the match the next day, the effects of the rioting the night before were clear on the Honduras side. Having been hidden in a secret location before the match, the players were tired and afraid for their lives before entering the arena. During the pregame ritual, Honduras’s flag was not flown. In its stead was a rag to which the players had to sing their national anthem. The match was very one sided, with El Salvador scoring three goals in 27th, 30th, and 41st minutes by Juan Ramón Martínez, Elmer Acevedo, and Juan Ramón Martínez respectively. After the match, the Salvadorans celebrated intensely. There were riots in the streets, but this time out of jubilation rather than frustrating. “The Rabbit” Cardona recalls that, “We’re awfully lucky that we lost. Otherwise we wouldn’t be alive today.” With both matches being clouded by such intense violence, the third match was held in Mexico to lessen the violence between the two nations in the previous two matches.
Such violence was the springboard that propelled the declaration of war between El Salvador and Honduras. Local gangs in Honduras terrorized Salvadoran settlers, trying to force them to flee. If the settlers did not leave, their houses were burned to the ground. Salvadorans began to stream back across the border into their homeland. An estimated 17,000 refugees fled Honduras for the safety of El Salvador.
The Salvadoran media did not take kindly to this turn of events: one Salvadoran newspaper reporting these events stated, “El Salvador should civilize Honduras by force.” As tension and violence grew on both sides, war seemed to be the inevitable future.
Before the final match in Mexico, Argentine Gregorio Bundio, coach of the El Salvador side, was called into the president’s home. The president told him that he “had to defend the national colours, because this match was for our national dignity.” The pressure for both sides to perform well on the neutral Mexican pitch was immense. The result of this pressure was a hard fought match that, once again, went well beyond the 90th minute. El Salvador struck first, with goals in the 10th and 29th minutes scored by Juan Ramón Martínez. Honduras answered with two goals to even up the game. Both teams clearly exhibited a fierce desire to win. The defense was so intense that when Cardona recalls the game he exclaims, “They kicked me off the pitch!” With each team fighting to the bitter end, the game remained tied in the 90th minute and went into overtime. José Antonio Quintanilla of El Salvador finally scored the winning goal in the 101st minute. After this victory diplomatic relations were broken off by each government in the pretense towards war.
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On July 14, 1969 the “Soccer War” officially began when three El Salvadoran fighter aircrafts made an incursion into Honduras. The Salvadoran army was better equipped, and consequently their attacks were more effective. They made immediate advances towards Tegucigalpa and launched attacks on the main road connecting the two countries. The advance continued with the capture of Nueva Ocotepeque, but afterwards the Salvadoran army “began to encounter stiff resistance.” With a combination of weather, citizen resistance, and a lack of ammunition, the Salvadoran ground offense came to a halt. The Honduras air force had success with strategic bombings of oil refineries and major power centers of El Salvador. With both sides running out of ammunition, a cease fire was eventually called by the Organization of American States (OAS) and went into effect on July 20th.
Both sides suffered greatly over such a short war. More than 100,000 Salvadorans were displaced by the conflict. This caused a negative reaction in the markets of Honduras, where those immigrants were once consumers. The casualties on both side were well over 2,000. Most of the casualties on the Honduras side were citizens who took part in resisting the advances of the Salvadoran troops. Many people did not even know the real causes of the war. Juan Luis Gutierrez, a soldier on the Honduras side, states, “We soldiers didn’t have a clue. We went to war not knowing what we were fighting for or why. They just told us to defend the national sovereignty.”  With a combination of media propaganda and the abuse of national emotions over soccer matches, both countries were able to convince their respective citizens that there was a reason to fight this war. This war may not have been caused by the soccer matches directly, but it is a prime example of how violence can stem from games and emotions can easily transfer from the pitch onto the streets.
The overarching mystery of this conflict is why it spread beyond the “diplomatic arena” and how armed aggression was so easily conducted and justified. The answer lies in the propaganda campaigns fueled in full force by both nations. While Latin American integration and international incorporation into the Central American Common Market have always been underlying objectives in Latin American history, the Football War and its propaganda schemes served as a harsh departure from such goals and illustrated the volatility inherent in Latin American relations. The propaganda campaigns willingly prevented peace settlements that would have been instrumental in the restoration of the Central American Common Market.
The propaganda campaigns during the Football War alluded to three principles. The newspapers and government both understood that being a supporter of football is by virtue an act of micro-nationalism in itself. Football then magnifies this micro-nationalism on a grand stage and on the competitive international level. Finally, football is centered on the ideas of deprivation and frustration, which propaganda can easily fuel for a national cause. Unlike in American sports, where points are generally scored at a frenetic pace, football is based on denial and thus acts as a microcosm of dispossession and denial. Considering the territorial disputes between Honduras and El Salvador and the denial and depravity of adequate land from Salvadorans, it is easy to recognize how the propaganda campaigns took flight so easily in neighboring countries.
The media campaign can be traced all the way back to the Honduran farmers. Thousands of Salvadorans moved from El Salvador, their homeland, into the neighboring territory of Honduras for the temptation of deeply discounted land. In 1966, with hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in Honduras, the large Honduran land owners – enraged at this rapid Salvadoran influx – formed the National Federation of Farmers and Livestock-Farmers of Honduras. These farmers were intent on protecting their own interests and land for exclusive Honduran use and were able to receive government backing.
At the time, President Oswaldo López Arellano also commanded the Honduran army. Arellano seized power through military force, twice, during military coups. The National Federation of Farmers successfully pressured the Arellano government into deploying a government-sponsored propaganda campaign whose goal was to advance the farmers’ cause. As an unexpected byproduct, the campaign had the residual effect of heightening general Honduran nationalism among the population. Hondurans, overcome with national pride, began indiscriminately attacking Salvadoran immigrants. As the situation deteriorated, these initial acts of violence escalated to alleged beatings, torture, and murder in local newspapers.
Attempts to mollify the issue of immigration through agreements and reforms were met with contempt and a mounting of tensions, exacerbated by the adoption a new Honduran agrarian reform law in 1969 that deprived El Salvadoran campesinos of their farms and livelihoods. The agrarian reform law had been avoided up to that point because of Honduras’ “capacity to absorb El Salvador’s surplus” population. The legislation seized land from Salvadoran immigrants and reallocated it among native-born Hondurans, further enraging the Salvadoran citizens and government.
Another component of the propaganda campaign was graffiti. Graffiti is, in many ways, the greatest social commentary and serves as a derivative of the media, revealing the depth of national pride. The wonderful element of graffiti is that it is a civilian-owned activity. Regardless of police surveillance or draconian law decrees, citizens will always find a way of expressing themselves through graffiti, for the government cannot patrol and detain every single person or group in every location of either nation at every time of the day. And as long as graffiti is visible to even one other person, the message will have been conveyed successfully and a trickling domino effect often ensues. Graffiti is almost always used to express or suggest messages for which no one would willingly take ownership. That is the beauty of graffiti; it is an anonymous catalyst for change and is a perfect conduit to swell national pride. If one considers the startling reality that, on both sides of the border, citizens of each country were often rounded up and put into national stadiums which served as prison camps, it is easy to imagine how graffiti can muster a crowd into action and, ultimately, marshal troops to war.
Honduras and El Salvador were certainly not the only countries involved in the virulent propaganda campaigns. In his message to the nation, President Sanchez charged that Honduras “had incited the Salvadoran people to insurrection, with the cooperation of the radio of the Cuban Government.” The Honduras radio has attacked the “14 families” of El Salvador alleged to control most of his [President Sanchez’s] nation’s limited wealth, and Radio Havana has taken up the attack on the “oligarchy” of Honduras. Hence, even the Cuban media intervened in the Football War, siding with El Salvador against the Honduras radio.
However, it is important to note that coffee, the backbone of El Salvador’s economy, has always been in the hands of El Salvador’s richest families, the “Fourteen”. They also own most of the factories that have sprung up during the past decade of industrial growth, during the 1960s. Few of the benefits of this economic development have trickled down to the mass population of 3.5 million, but the hierarchy has historically always been structured this way and any sociopolitical shift would have been unprecedented. Radio Havana took advantage of a long-standing, stagnant situation that has been historically resistant to change in an attempt to arouse demonstrations.
“To add to the explosive brew, rich Honduran landowners used the Salvadoran immigrants as an easy target, scapegoating them as the villains whenever the landowners were challenged about the great imbalance of land ownership in Honduras.” As a result, “Honduras began to expel large numbers of Salvadorans. The Salvadoran press seized on this and created a fury about the mistreatment of Salvadorans by the Hondurans.”
While both nations developed official policies in response to the crisis, the nations’ government-backed media campaigns pitted themselves against one another. By 1968, a Honduran propaganda campaign was set on limiting the consumption of other Central American commodities in order to bolster national production. The following message appeared in late 1968:
Alain Rouquié and Michel Vale, trans.., “HONDURAS-EL SALVADOR, THE WAR OF ONE HUNDRED HOURS: A CASE OF REGIONAL DISINTEGRATION,” International Journal of Politics 3.3 (1973), Historical Abstracts, pg. 17.
By June 1969, the tone of the propaganda became overtly anti-Salvadoran:
Alain Rouquié and Michel Vale, trans.., “HONDURAS-EL SALVADOR, THE WAR OF ONE HUNDRED HOURS: A CASE OF REGIONAL DISINTEGRATION,” International Journal of Politics 3.3 (1973), Historical Abstracts, pg. 19.
Through the implementation of national policies, both nations gradually wound one another in a tight bind. These national policies deteriorated into propaganda campaigns, and the solution to the regional crisis was found in even more widespread press campaigns. In Honduras, the anti-Salvadoran program mollified mass aggressiveness by funneling it towards the enemy. These campaigns were at first permitted and then openly encouraged by the governments. Both nations were waiting for the straw to break the camel’s back so that a negligible event could be blown out of proportion and incite emotions in ways previously unimaginable. The Salvadoran mass media took advantage of anti-Salvadoran skirmishes that occurred in Honduras to aggravate and exploit into tangible action the mood of soccer fanatics back in El Salvador, and the timing was perfect since the upcoming occasion was a soccer game between the two nations on June 8 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
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Since in Central America television sets are rare, most news is spread through daily newspaper. As a result, the written word “takes on a kind of sacred character” of truth since much of the population is not well educated. Teams of the two fragile nations first met for a best-of-three-game series on the field in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on June 8, 1969 for the World Cup eliminations. The Salvadoran team was serenaded endlessly by the crowd during their stay in Tegucigalpa. El Salvador, which lost by a score of 1-0 in extra time, felt cheated, practically “creating a point of national honor.” When the Honduran team revisited San Salvador for a return match, tensions were irrepressible as riots erupted downtown, claiming San Salvadorans casualties.
The goal of the match was clear: “to create conditions for revenge on the Honduran soccer players” and their entourage at the match in San Salvador just a few days later on June 15. Although this goal was not advertised, it nonetheless had the triumphant effect of stimulating anti-Honduran sentiment within El Salvador. When the Salvadorans returned to their homeland, they both expanded and served the underhanded purposes of their government, in whom their allegiance was placed. “The many details of the humiliations suffered by the Salvadorans in Honduras served to intensify anew national animosity, involving even more the masses in a national unity directed against Honduras. The idea of a primitive war against those perpetrating genocide was already falling on fertile ground.” Salvadoran President Fidel Sanchez Hernandez deplored the acts of violence against Honduran citizens and blamed “communist and subversive elements.” Honduras reciprocally retaliated with bravado by circulating unsubstantiated print media claiming Honduran prisoners in San Salvador, triggering permeating attacks in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula and leading to a flow of refugees back into El Salvador.
The aftermath of the second football match was a large concentration of Salvadorans frantically fleeing Honduras as the Honduran press blew negligible incidents out of proportion, “alleging maltreatment and property confiscation” and triggering the crisis on June 15, 1969. The Honduran press and radio launched a “virulent anti-Salvadoran campaign” that contributed to the previously mentioned agrarian reform program that granted government land allocation only to “Hondurans by birth.”
Two days before this second match, Honduras sealed its borders to the flow of Salvadorans, and by natural response, on June 26 El Salvador severed all diplomatic relations with Honduras. On the same day, El Salvador spawned a diplomatic campaign with the Organization of American States and in the U.N. that was aimed not at “resolving the conflict peacefully but at demonstrating that Honduras was violating human rights, was committing the crime of genocide, and was attacking the borders of El Salvador with military skirmishes and aerial attacks.” Naturally, international relations became insolvent as demonstrations continued to be held and border skirmishes intensified amid these bold accusations.
The diplomatic actions of the Salvadoran government suggest that El Salvador never even wanted or supported a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Rather, the El Salvadoran government used the international diplomatic forum for justification of armed aggression. As a result, on July 3, the war was looming. The Salvadoran army had purposefully organized a border incident in El Poy, branded Honduras as the aggressor, and “succeeded in giving more power to the masses,” an act that was deemed unprecedented.
Hence, the propaganda campaigns transcended simple messages and local newspaper articles infuriating citizens into action. Propaganda led to drastic changes in domestic policy, as demonstrated by the Honduran agrarian reform act of 1969 in response to the heavy influx of Salvadorans. Propaganda led to the strategic bombings of pivotal petroleum refineries in El Salvador. It justified repressive military control measures. It obscured the problem of population growth. It led to the installation, by the OAS, of a force of military observers to patrol the common border.
Propaganda regimes generated the real cause of the war, political nationalism, and both governments fueled the fire until, diplomatically, they lost control of the situation. Propaganda caused El Salvador’s army to invade Honduras to “save” victimized Salvadoran immigrants from “atrocities”, as the newspapers and leaders reported. It many ways, propaganda acted as the most prominent catalyst for the war itself. The Football war is the only one of its kind, but its lessons and catalysts are common to many other historical conflicts.
The campaigns, particularly those of El Salvador, were brilliant in the sense that the press was only one factor in arousing animosity. Other tools were used in the global environment to catapult animosity into measurable action and diplomacy. One of these tools was the ability to influence the OAS, which was already being harshly criticized for their lack of mediation in the crisis. El Salvador create conditions of revenge by exploiting the game held in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, but this was relatively easy since the San Salvadoran masses were easily impressionable and ready to strike, based on past occurrences, regardless of the match results. Even if El Salvador had won, the pieces of the puzzle were already in place for rioting when the Honduran team arrived in San Salvador.
Furthermore, the fact that El Salvador never favored peaceful conflict resolution suggests that the government was pleased with the direction of its propaganda campaigns. The Salvadoran government’s next step was to manipulate the OAS as a pawn to rationalize armed aggression against Honduras. Even the Honduran chancellor protested the events to his Salvadoran counterpart, citing that the “mental and physical well-being of the National Football Team of Honduras” was being compromised. Only after this calculated protest did the OAS casually launched an investigation, calling for the Subcommittee on Human Rights to visit Honduras and verify the alleged brutal aggressions, profound offenses, and serious crimes to which the propaganda alluded. El Salvador never even favored peace settlements in the first place. El Salvador was content with its position of labeling Honduras as the aggressor because such an accusation would eventually bring in the OAS, however dilatory the OAS may be.
Ultimately, the reason that the propaganda campaigns were so successful in Honduras and El Salvador is because the accusations trickled from the leader of the nation downward rather than from the local media outlets upward. The press campaigns were a cumulative effort on the parts of both local newspapers and national governments, and centralization of power allowed for a president to also be the general for the national armies. The implications of such a statement are that Honduran President Arellano, for example, can sponsor a government-backed propaganda campaign for his oligarchy to advance his own cause for his troops.
The Salvadoran Council of Ministers was the organization that charged the crime of genocide against Honduras, not some obscure, regional, and unregulated newspaper. Salvadoran President Fidel Sanchez Hernandez was the one who blamed any acts of violence on “communist and subversive elements.” The leaders were the ones who made the accusations all the more believable, since the citizens believed that they could put their trust in the government. In both Honduras and El Salvador, as in many other Latin American countries, the presidents also functioned as politicians and generals, leading their armies into battle. This dramatically changed the dynamics of perceptions in Latin America.
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The Organization of American States (OAS) was an international organization, created on Apr. 30, 1948, at Bogotá, Colombia, by agreement of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Another 17 states have subsequently joined. The OAS is a regional agency designed to work with the United Nations to promote peace, justice, and hemispheric solidarity. One of the primary goals is cultivate economic development, especially during the 1960s in the “Alliance for Progress, and to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the signatory nations.”
The OAS did not effectively mediate the Football War. “The US State Department did not plan to intervene unilaterally in the dispute,” according to State Department spokesperson Robert McClosley, with no independent approaches being undertaken.
The United States’ desire to stay discreetly in the background during the crisis and “operate within the framework of the regional organization” represented a political maneuver. After the recent interventionist policy of previous years, the US preferred improving its image in the eyes of the OAS. Furthermore, the “United States’ domination of the OAS is so complete that the regional organization acts only when the political or strategic interests of North America are involved.” The OAS was reluctant to forcefully intervene to prevent the conflict from degenerating, and the US “never moved from a position of extreme caution, preferring to remain on the periphery of the conflict” to protect its own self-interests. US interests were never in adverse danger.
After all of this tension surrounding the 1969 qualifiers, El Salvador was knocked out of the World Cup in first-round group play after losing to Belgium, Mexico, and the USSR.
Despite its relatively short, 100-hour duration, the Soccer War was by no means an isolated conflict that was quickly resolved and then largely forgotten. Its influence continues to resonate in both Honduras and El Salvador today, and its legacy has even been felt in recent World Cup soccer qualifying matches. When it quickly became clear in July 1969 that Honduras and El Salvador were not going to end the war on their own, the Organization of American States (OAS) met in Washington to discuss the forced evacuation of El Salvador from Honduras. The OAS arranged a cease-fire that took effect on July 20, 1969. After identifying El Salvador as the aggressor, the OAS decided to impose “upon it [El Salvador] diplomatic and economic sanctions.” At this point, casualties on both sides were already greater than 2,000. Diplomatically, the OAS sanctions marked the official end of the conflict. However, both countries continued to feel the implications of the war long after the cease-fire was arranged. The Central American Common Market was suspended for twenty-two years, trade was disrupted, and vigorous propaganda still circulated in both El Salvador and Honduras. Honduras later seceded from the Central American economic union. It then decided to reestablish importation taxes on products from Common Market countries and sign bilateral commercial treaties without concern for the rules of the economic community. Consequently, Honduras remains one of Latin America’s poorest countries today.
Honduras’s inability or unwillingness to integrate into the Central American Common Market served mainly to strengthen the “existing [political] order.” Most recently, on June 28, 2009, the Honduran army ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya from power after months of mounting tensions surround his attempts to “lift presidential term limits.” The coup marked the first successful “military takeover of a Central American government in 16 years.” In the days leading up to June 28, Zelaya had been advocating a referendum regarding the rewriting of the constitution, and one of his eventual goals was probably to extend his presidential term. He ignored the Administrative Law Tribunal’s injunction against holding the referendum, and consequently, the Honduran Supreme Court issued a secret order for his detention. Early in the morning of June 28, soldiers arrived at Zelaya’s home in Tegucigalpa, disarmed the presidential guard, and roused Zelaya from his bed. He was then promptly flown to exile in Costa Rica at gunpoint and sustained no injuries. Zelaya quickly contacted media in San José and referred to the event as a kidnapping and refused to recognize anyone named president in his stead. His close friend Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela, vowed to consider the coup “an ‘act of war’ if there were hostilities against his diplomats.” Colonel Inestroza, chief lawyer in the military, later admitted that Zelaya’s deportation did in fact violate the court order, which only gave permission for the president’s removal from office. However, Inestroza justified the military’s actions by asserting that Zelaya was removed from the country strictly to prevent violence and bloodshed. After accepting Zelaya’s supposed letter of resignation, the National Congress quickly met and named Roberto Micheletti, a congressional leader and member of Zelaya’s political party, as his successor and called the coup “a democratic act.” The United States government, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and every other country in Latin America have refused to recognize Micheletti as President, condemning Zelaya’s removal as a coup. The international community has placed a lot of pressure on Honduras to resolve the issue. Zelaya denied resigning and made two unsuccessful open attempts to return to Honduras before eventually returning clandestinely and seeking asylum in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. While in Costa Rico, he stated, “I want to return to my country. I am president of Honduras.” Micheletti’s government has been characterized by multiple violations of human rights such as habeas corpus and freedom of association, as well as by restrictions on the media. On Sunday, November 29, Honduras held presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. More than 30,000 soldiers, police, and reservists monitored the elections. Both Zelaya and Micheletti were ineligible to run, according to the 1982 Constitution. Ultimately, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, candidate for the National Party, won the presidency with 56% of the vote. Elvin Santos, the candidate from Zelaya’s and Micheletti’s Liberal Party, was second with 38%. However, the coup d’état that occurred in June has undermined the legitimacy of this election, with many organizations and individuals, both within Honduras and internationally, refusing to recognize elections held under Micheletti.
In El Salvador, the Soccer War “obscured the problem of population growth and was used to justify militarily repressive control measures.” The government used the National Democratic Organization (Orden), a “peasant organization” established in the early 1960s, to coercively control the nation and protect the interests of the landed oligarchy. By the late 1970s, Orden had about 100,000 members and “functioned as a paramilitary adjunct and an important part of the rural intelligence network for the security forces.” Elections were frequently marred by fraud and corruption. However, the military was soon confronted with a new phenomenon: left-wing terrorism. During the mid-1970s, radical leftist groups began to gain widespread support, and many popular organizations began to mobilize the masses “behind a revolutionary program of radical reform.” Most of these organizations were run by guerrilla groups and drew their leadership from Christian Base Communities, which were radical Roman Catholic groups. The largest was the Revolutionary Popular Bloc, which boasted a membership of approximately 60,000. Some of the most extreme groups kidnapped government officials and held them for ransom and attacked government buildings in San Salvador. Finally, civil war broke out in 1980 between the government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition of five left-wing militias. The United States backed the right wing military government, while Cuba and the Soviet Union threw their support to the Marxist-Leninist rebels. El Salvador’s infrastructure quickly collapsed, and thousands fled, hoping to find sanctuary in Honduras. However, complicating matters was the presence of a large number of Nicaraguan refugees in Honduras, who had fled the Sandinista Revolution in 1979. “Border skirmishes flared again” between Honduras and El Salvador in May 1980, when the Honduran military killed more than 500 refugees attempting “to cross the border region of the Sumpul River.” It remains unclear whether or not the Honduran border patrol or the Salvadoran military fired first, but regardless, diplomatic relations between the two nations became even more complicated. They eventually signed a peace treaty on October 30, 1980, “agreeing to continue negotiations on the final demarcation of the border.” However, it would be an additional twelve years until the World Court finally resolved the border disputes, dividing territory between El Salvador and Honduras. In El Salvador, civil war and unrest dragged on for more than a decade. The Chapultepec Peace Accords were finally signed in Chapultepec, Mexico in 1992, creating a new Constitution, regulating the armed forces, establishing a civilian police force, and transforming the FMLN from a guerrilla army to a political party. The United Nations monitored the peace process until 1997.
Recently, some “echoes” of the Soccer War have reemerged during the 2010 World Cup qualifying matches between Honduras and the United States as well as Honduras and El Salvador. On October 10, 2009, the United States and Honduras met in a qualifier under domestic conditions similar to those in 1969: political upheaval, demonstrations, factions, and militaristic rule propelling the country’s direction. The game was to occur “smack dab in the middle of an ongoing political crisis in Honduras,” with the OAS sending delegations in an attempt to resolve the crisis. However, despite the Honduran coup, politics were not allowed to get in the way, and the qualifier was played as planned. The atmosphere leading up to the game was already intense, as both countries were vying for a bid to South Africa, but the political situation added even more tension. An article in Americas Quarterly speculated before the match that “anyone seeking to stir things up in Honduras—from within or without—might well attempt to use the passions surrounding the game as a way to provoke an over-reaction by the security forces,” which would cause Micheletti’s government to face intense international scrutiny. In addition, the article also proposed that a Honduran victory could also “increase national pride, which might well be transferred to [Micheletti’s] de facto government.” From the people’s perspective, many Hondurans were looking forward to the game simply because they wanted to feel like they were on the same side, even just briefly, “in the midst of the worst political crisis that Central America has faced in decades.” The game would give people a break from protests and curfews and allow them to forget politics for 90 minutes. Before leaving Florida, United States coach Bob Bradley briefly filled the players in on the political situation. When the team arrived in Honduras, military forces at Ramon Villeda Morales International Airport greeted the U.S. players. Ultimately, the United States won 3-2 in an exciting match, and Honduran fans, though disappointed, were generally respectful and applauded the win. During the match, Honduras took the lead with a goal in the 47th minute, but the United States eventually answered with three goals. This victory guaranteed the U.S. a trip to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, while Honduras was left to continue vying for a spot in its second World Cup appearance ever, and the first since 1982.
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Soon after the U.S.-Honduras game, another match-up also brought to mind some lingering memories of the Soccer War. On October 14, El Salvador and Honduras met in a qualifying round for the CONCACAF region. The 1969 qualifying matches between the two countries helped facilitate the outbreak of war, but thankfully peace prevailed forty years later in the 2009 game. Honduras won 1-0, securing the last automatic World Cup qualifying spot in the CONCACAF region after Costa Rica drew with the United States. 2010 will mark Honduras’s second-ever World Cup appearance, the first since 1982. The victory marked the first home loss for El Salvador during the qualifying rounds. After winning, “Honduras’s players erupted in emotional celebration.” Honduran coach Reinaldo Rueda said after the match that “his team’s achievement was a success for the whole country and the ‘happiness of the people.’” Unfortunately, politics have tainted this euphoria. Both Micheletti’s coup government and Zelaya’s ousted government have tried to use the soccer team’s victory to their advantage to gain political support. Amado Guevara, captain of the Honduran team, gave Manuel Zelaya a signed jersey after the win in a show of support for the former president. However, politics aside, the victory over El Salvador was still an exciting end to a string of qualifying matches that ended in success.
Mexican journalist Luis Suarez states that in Latin America, the “border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team. Players on the losing team are denounced in the press as traitors.” 
The war was very localized, regional, and concentrated, but that does not take away from its brutality. The conflict was propelled more by tensions from the emigration of Salvadoran peasants and by the restrictions of the Honduran oligarchy than by football.  Fifty thousand citizens of both countries lost their homes and farms in the six days of the war, but, Kapuscinski concludes, “Both governments are satisfied: for several days Honduras and El Salvador occupied the front pages of the world press and were the object of interest and concern. The only chance small countries from the Third World have of evoking a lively international interest is when they decide to shed blood.” 
How to cite this article: Claire Lockerby, Steven McMullen, Yuriy Veytskin, “The Soccer War,” at Soccer Politics Pages, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date) ).
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 Galeano, Eduardo. Soccer In Sun and Shadow. London: Verso, 1998, 129
 John Turnbull. Guest Lecture. World Cup and World Politics
 Ernesto Richter, “SOCIAL CLASSES, ACCUMULATION, AND THE CRISIS OF ‘OVERPOPULATION’ IN EL SALVADOR,” Latin American Perspectives 7.2 (1980), Historical Abstracts,, pg. 116.
 Henry Mance. “War Games.” FourFourTwo. August 2009:76-80. Print
 “The Soccer Wars: Honduras and El Salvador, 1969.” SoccerBlog.com. Shourin Roy. April 10, 2006
 Mallin, pg. 89.
 Cable, “The ‘Football War,’” 662
 Armstrong, El Salvador, 54
 “El Salvador-Details of World Cup Qualifiers.” The Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Barrie Courtney. Feb 2003
 Mance. “War Games”
 Ibid., 55
 Mance. “War Games”
 Details of World Cup Qualifiers. Barrie Courtney
 Cable, “The ‘Football War,’” 662
 Mance. “War Games”
 L. T. G. “A MICROCOSMIC VIEW OF THE OAS: THE HONDURAS-EL SALVADOR CONFLICT.” Virginia Law Review 57.2 (1971): pg. 293.
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 Diuguid, pg. 2.
 Diuguid, pg. 2.
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 Jay Mallin, “MILITARY AFFAIRS ABROAD: SALVADOR-HONDURAS WAR, 1969,” Air University Review, p. 88.
 Mallin, pg. 89.
 L. T. G., pg. 295.
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 Mallin, pg. 89.
 William M. LeoGrande and Carla Anne Robbins, “OLIGARCHS AND OFFICERS: THE CRISIS IN EL SALVADOR,” 58.5 (1980), Historical Abstracts, pg. 1084.
 Ernesto Richter, “SOCIAL CLASSES, ACCUMULATION, AND THE CRISIS OF ‘OVERPOPULATION’ IN EL SALVADOR,” Latin American Perspectives 7.2 (1980), Historical Abstracts, pg. 115.
 Anderson, pg. 96.
 Anderson, pg. 94.
 L. T. G., pg. 299.
 William M. LeoGrande and Carla Anne Robbins, “OLIGARCHS AND OFFICERS: THE CRISIS IN EL SALVADOR,” 58.5 (1980), Historical Abstracts, pg. 1084.
 LeoGrande and Robbins, pg. 1085.
 Jay Mallin. “Military Affairs Abroad: Salvador-Honduras War, 1969.” Air University
Review Vol. 21 No. 3 (1970): 92
 Ibid., 92
 Ernesto Richter. “Social Classes, Accumulation, and the Crisis of ‘Overpopulation’ in
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 Ibid., 134
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 Llana, Sara Miller. “As US soccer heads to Honduras for World Cup qualifier, politics
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 Ronald Blum. “US Beats Honduras: US Soccer Team Earns World Cup Berth.” The Huffington Post (2009). Web. Accessed 24 Nov. 2009. <http://www.huffington-Post.com/2009/10/11/us-beats-honduras-us-socc_n_316557.html>.
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 Turnbull, John. “Ryszard Kapuscinski, 1932-2007: A witness to (soccer) war that lay in wait (Wojna Futbolowa).” The Global Game: Soccer as a Second Language. 2009 JZ Editing & Publishing, 30 Jan. 2007. Web. 13 Dec. 2009. <http://www.theglobalgame.com/blog/2007/01/ryszard-kapuscinski-1932-2007-a-witness-to-soccer-war-that-lay-in-wait/>.
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