October 24, 2005

Honduran ex-President Azcona dies

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Reuters) - Former Honduran President
Jose Azcona, who gave safe haven in the 1980s to the
U.S.-backed Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the leftist
Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua, died on Monday.

Azcona, who was president of the Central American nation
from 1986 to 1990, died at home of heart problems at age 78,
family members said.

His term was marked by controversy over the presence of
armed Nicaraguan Contra rebels on Honduran soil. The rebels
received U.S. training and aid for their fight against the
Sandinista government reviled by Washington.

The United States sent its own troops to Honduras, at
Azcona's request, when the Sandinista army crossed the border
to pursue the Contras.

Azcona's government agreed to oust the Contras if Nicaragua
would hold free elections. In 1990 the Sandinistas lost power
to U.S.-supported candidate Violeta Chamorro at the polls.

Azcona is remembered by some Hondurans as one of few clean
politicians in a country where public life is often
characterized by corruption, and credited with helping to
negotiate peace accords in a region torn by civil war.