164. Telegram 258 from Tegucigalpa, October 271
CINSCO for POLAD. Reference: Embassy Telegram 256.
Following are conclusions from conversation with Lopez Oct 25:
(1) Lopez determined maintain military control govt in transition period prior to new elections. Obvious various proposals put forward thus far for replacement military regime—Villeda plan, and Rivera proposal for designation civilian provisional president—unacceptable to Lopez.
(2) Prospects for early development civilian cabinet with real influence on overall policies of regime remote. Low opinion expressed by Lopez some of its members suggests he might be willing reshuffle govt if more capable figures, especially among liberals, were willing accept posts.
(3) Lopez views on duration transition period not yet completely jelled. Judge his inclination be for minimum period at least of year prior new elections, but at moment trying maintain flexibility on this point to accommodate himself to circumstances, especially to possibilities US recognition.[Facsimile Page 2]
(4) Lopez, despite assertions Kennedy interview, probably continues entertain ambitions achieving presidency for himself but again mind not made up as best means achieve this end. Believe Lopez present inclination is toward extended period military mandate as best means remold political milieu in manner favorable to Lopez candidacy.
(5) Lopez, although anxious achieve US recognition, seems reconciled probability this will not be immediately forthcoming. Appears believe regime can weather this problem for perhaps another month or two and perhaps enhance its prestige by appearance maintaining “national dignity” under US pressure.
(6) Lopez not yet greatly concerned by economic and military consequences withdrawal US assistance although obviously unhappy about implications for political acceptability his regime.
Certain events of recent days tend to reinforce some of above conclusions. Recent appointment Lopez wife as president Social Welfare Board, position previously occupied by Sra. Villeda, may indicate Lopez intending use board as device enhance Lopez political image as it was successfully used by Villeda. Appointment Oct 25 new political [Typeset Page 386] governors for 18 departments shows overwhelming preponderance military officers, indicating military determination assert supremacy over civilian authority in transition period and possibly indicating intent remain in power prolonged period. Furthermore, military appears be employing Health Ministry and its network politically useful rural health centers as means enhance military image. Major jobs in ministry staffed by army officers and Embassy has unverified report civilian directors health centers being replaced by army doctors.
Suggested course of action based on foregoing and on recent conversations with prominent liberals and nationalist figures will follow in subsequent message.
- Conclusions from October 25 conversation with Lopez. Confidential. 2 pp. DOS, CF, POL 15 HOND.↩