358. Telegram From the Embassy in Honduras to the Department of State1

2755. Subject: Electoral Strategy: Meeting with General Paz.

1. (C-Entire text)

[Page 886]

2. Summary: General Paz believes that he is the choice of both major parties to be interim President. He does not think a civic-military junta will be called for. He also feels that both major parties favor direct elections, the only issue being the length of an interim government. Paz seems to want two years, whereas the two major parties prefer a year. End summary.

3. I met with General Paz on May 2, informing him that I had met also with Roberto Suazo Cordoba of the Liberal Party and Ricardo Zuniga of the National Party.2 I did not reveal the contents of these conversations to Paz but did tell the General that I had reviewed American thinking for them. Specifically, I said the Embassy is supporting as open a democratic process as possible with direct elections. We favor a short, active interim government, one that will make itself known for initiating reforms and a new constitution.

4. Paz revealed he met with Liberals on April 25 and that they thought Paz should be the sole head of a provision government. Their main concern was jobs, a concern that provincial commanders had told Paz is being pressed actively by Liberals who want to replace Nationals now in municipal and departmental jobs.

5. The General further revealed that he met with Suazo and Celeo Arias (Suazo’s top deputy) on May 1, after Suazo’s meeting with me. Paz claimed that the Liberals favored direct elections (a significant turnaround in their position) and a short interim government headed by Paz. The Liberals attached the highest priority to controlling provincial and municipal governments in those areas where they secured a majority of votes.

6. Suazo and Arias raised the problem of corruption and austerity with Paz. They reportedly complained about the high cost of infrastructure projects, for example the cost per kilometer of roads. Paz told his visitors that he had tried to stop corruption but [had] been foiled when investigating commissions proved to be as corrupt as the target of their inquiries. Paz urged that the interim government period be used to institute good laws.

7. The Liberals asked reportedly about the military’s stance. Paz said that he has Superior Council support but encouraged his visitors [Page 887] to get the parties to adopt a united stance. If all the parties agree on something, Paz seemed to imply to me the military would go along.

8. Paz expressed his concern to me that an interim government have sufficient time to do its job. I took this as a hint that Paz feels he should be President for two years. Nevertheless, I replied that a short interim seemed indicated, perhaps one year. I noted that April 20, 1981 had been mentioned to me as a possible date for elections and that this might be a good idea.

9. Perhaps ignoring my one suggestion, Paz observed that if the period is short, the constituent assembly may devote its energies to trying to recoup campaign expenditures.

10. Paz added that the assembly is expected to recognize the Christian Democrats as a party.

11. He commented that the Liberals will not take a public stance on direct elections until they hold a party convention. He expected that the Liberals would announce that Suazo Cordoba will be their presidential candidate, thereby depriving Alipo and the Liberal left of a chance to strip Suazo of his leadership role.

12. Paz underlined that both the National and Liberal Party wanted him to be interim President. He indicated that the idea of a civic-military junta appears dead. He also noted that the Supreme Council supports his presidency.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800221–0305. Confidential; Priority; Exdis.
  2. In telegram 2723 from Tegucigalpa, May 2, Jaramillo recounted her meeting with Suazo who “seemed to resign himself to the fact that he should opt also for new election.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800219–0299) Telegram 2751 from Tegucigalpa, May 3, reported on Jaramillo’s meeting with Zuniga, who favored direct elections and “agreed with Liberal position that they take place in one year but was adamantly opposed to slicing an interim Paz government into pieces for each party.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800221–0304)