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

4164. For Ambassador Bowdler from Ambassador Jaramillo. Subject: Interim Government: Talks Failing; Military Consider Staying Two Years.

1. (C-Entire text. Foreign Government Information)

2. Summary: This morning (July 10) and at General Paz’s request I met for two hours with Paz and key colonels on military council. [Page 888] Military expressed total frustration and inability to promote compromise among political parties, and said they planned inform parties that military will rule for two years while constitution is drafted. Other option would be to return to barracks; this is unlikely. Elections will be held January 25, 1982 and new civilian government would assume office in April 1982. End summary.

3. Paz was accompanied by Colonels Gustavo Alvarez, Torres Arias, Bonilla Blanco, Bodden and Bueso. After Paz gave 30-minute review of situation, Alvarez and Torres did most of the talking.

4. Paz reviewed situation and military efforts since April 20 to organize interim government representative of all parties which military could support. It was obvious that General Paz was deeply rpt deeply concerned over turn of events. (Paz repeated much that he had told me already because colonels are unaware of degree to which he has been sharing information with me.)

5. Military reported that National Party felt military proposal (on dividing Ministries) was unacceptable.2 Liberal Party told military yesterday (July 9) that Liberals had no intention of moderating party demand for six Ministries and twelve autonomous agencies. Moreover, Liberals said they would not meet with National Party to try to reach compromise. Liberals told military flatly to take their proposal or leave it.

6. Military then told me that Superior Council would meet tomorrow (July 11) and following would be discussed:

—The military would stay in control of Executive power.

—Direct elections would be held January 25, 1982.

—Power would be turned over to a civilian government in April 1982.

—Military will try to work with all parties, including PINU and Christian Democrats.

—A minimal program for the interim government will be drawn.

—The civil service will not be touched (to avoid disruptive strikes of public servants).

—Municipalities (mayors) will be given to political parties in accordance with electoral results in various districts.

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—The electoral census (voter list) will be checked for accuracy.

—Constituent assembly will be given clear instructions on what it may (write constitution, electoral law) and may not (govern or legislate) do.

7. Option of return to barracks will also be aired by Council but military said it is straw option because almost certain chaos would result.

8. Military said that they gave their word that there would be clean, honest election and they want to abide by it. They said they have made many mistakes but are trying to do their best for Honduras. They were insistent that they have tried and are trying to give up power in orderly fashion but that the parties refuse to listen.

9. Liberal leader Suazo Cordoba was characterized as an irresponsible man who keeps disappearing. Jose Azcona was described as totally uncompromising man.

10. I told military that I too had been meeting with parties, doing all I could to promote responsibility and compromise. I stressed our desire to support democratic process and said I warned politicians that if anything else was done, the United States could not be counted on. I said I made strong plea for administrative reform. The military replied that they had been giving same message to politicians, stressing also problems of internal security.

11. I said that I would inform the Department of State of their remarks. I urged that they not move too quickly on what they are proposing and that they keep looking for compromise. I also warned them that any announcement would have to be handled wisely, without lashing out at anyone. I reminded them that Honduran military’s handling of Salvadoran border massacre had been defensive and damaging to army.3

12. Comment: Given Suazo Cordoba’s disastrous lack of leadership skills, I cannot help but suspect that Liberals may have wanted to paint military in corner the colonels now find themselves. This would allow Liberals to accuse military of perpetuating themselves in power and give that party an even more resounding electoral victory when elec [Page 890] tions are held. National Party presumably lost because it was saddled with image of cooperation with military.

13. I do not want to suggest that military have acted disinterested themselves. Military are tainted with corrupt image and there is as yet no sign that they intend to do something about it. First evidence of seriousness of military purpose will come when names of new Ministers are known. If those with bad reputations continue in office, civilian discontent will rise sharply.

14. I will continue to meet with military and politicians in hope compromise may still be possible. But it looks as if civilians will want military to assume full responsibility for an interim government that will find very tough going ahead. Military themselves will become targets of politicians, which will do nothing to promote Honduran unity in this dangerous region.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800331–0089. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 4049 from Tegucigalpa, July 3, reported that Honduran military and political officials had met on July 2. After studying proposals advanced by the Liberals and the Nationals, the military offered proposals to the Liberals: “(A) If military are to remain in Executive Branch, the Executive power must control the Ministries of Finance, Communications and Public Works and Defense.” According to the proposal, the Executive power would also control telecommunications, immigration, and civil aviation. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800320–0792)
  3. Telegram 3854 from Tegucigalpa, June 25, reported that the Bishop of Santa Rosa de Copan, José Carranza, had issued a communiqué on June 19 accusing the Salvadoran National Guard and ORDEN of killing 600 civilians on May 14 across the Honduran border. The communiqué charged that the Honduran Army refused to let Salvadorans flee into Honduras to avoid attacks by the Salvadoran National Guard and ORDEN. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800307–0404) Telegram 3883 from Tegucigalpa, June 26, noted that during the evening of June 24 the Government of Honduras issued a statement on national television denying accusations of collaboration with Salvadoran forces in a “massacre.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800308–0830)