296. Telegram From the Embassy in Paraguay to the Department of State1

3742. Subject: (C) Somoza Hoping to Come to Paraguay. Ref: Asuncion 3706; Asuncion 3667.2

1. (C–Entire text)

2. During afternoon church service August 15, Presidential Adviser Conrado Pappalardo told Charge he needed to consult with him on an “urgent, sensitive matter/during Foreign Minister’s reception evening of same day in celebration of Stroessner’s 25th anniversary. During the reception Pappalardo and Charge held 15-minute conversation regarding Somoza. Pappalardo said Somoza is “terrified, desperate and half-crazy” about his personal safety and has been exerting intense pressure on the GOP for over a week to grant him permission to come here. He said Somoza is hiding out at the House of Mario Sandoval in Guatemala,3 that Somoza has called President Stroessner several times, Sandoval and Luis Pallais4 have spoken with Pappalardo a number of times and Sevilla Sacasa5 is pressing the Paraguayan Ambassador in Washington hard to grant Somoza entry.

3. Pappalardo said he has worked hard to fend off these requests because he recognizes how much bad press Paraguay will get for accepting Somoza but the President feels it is a “humanitarian act” to take him in and completely in keeping with Paraguay’s long tradition of harboring political exiles. Pappalardo said Somoza was terrified to return to the United States because he thought the USG might extradite him to Nicaragua, as it had returned Perez Jimenez to Venezuela,6 and he asked the Charge to make a special appeal to Washington to give Somoza guarantees against extradition. Charge promised to relay this [Page 844] message but said his understanding was Somoza had a visa to return to the U.S. any time. Pappalardo said real question was guarantee against extradition and, unless this was offered to Somoza, he would not return.

4. It was impossible for him to fend off a decision on this problem much longer Pappalardo said because pressure from Somoza was almost irresistible and President Stroessner was nearly ready to concede him permission to enter on humanitarian grounds. Charge asked when Somoza might come and how. Pappalardo cautioned decision was still not taken and reiterated his hope that the USG would readmit Somoza with guarantees against extradition. But, if nothing eventuated, Somoza would arrive with a tourist visa early next week, perhaps Monday, August 20. Somoza has asked to charter a LAP (Paraguayan Airlines) aircraft to bring him here since he is afraid to travel on any regular airliner because it might set down in Manauga. Pappalardo said if the GOP let Somoza in, it would be for a brief stay, “no more than a week or two weeks at the most.” He would then have to find somewhere else to take refuge. Speaking very confidentially, Pappalardo told Charge that Luis Pallais said the reason why “the Americans are out to get Somoza” is because he intervened in the Panama Canal question by pressing his friends in Congress to work to defeat the implementing legislation. Pallais said President Carter himself regarded this as gross intervention in U.S. Internal Affairs and would not forgive Somoza.

5. Pappalardo also appealed to the Charge and through him to Ambassador White to do everything possible to diminish the bad reaction to the GOP’s decision in the American press. He asked if the Embassy could not report the conversation in such a way as to emphasize Paraguay’s humanitarianism and tradition of harboring exiles in order to diminish the adverse reaction that is bound to result.

6. Pappalardo said the President had ordered that everything be done to “clean up Paraguay’s image” and that was why all the political prisoners had been let go, the Croats expelled and Mengele’s citizenship cancelled.7 The Charge suggested that handing over Mengele to the German Ambassador at about the same time as Somoza arrived would [Page 845] help to assuage the image problem. Pappalardo denied heatedly that Mengele is still here but said the cancellation of citizenship was intended to demonstrate that Paraguay wants nothing to do with Mengele. Naturally, Mengele would be afraid to return here now since he would be open to extradition. Conversation ended with Charge’s promise to report details to Washington.

7. Comment: Dr. Pappalardo’s veracity is never wholly assured and we suspect GOP is fending off Somoza only long enough to complete 25th anniversary celebrations. His plea for the U.S. to readmit Somoza with undertaking never to extradite him strikes us as a cover for Paraguay’s “humanitarian” decision, already taken, to let him come here. Regarding Pappalardo’s request for an undertaking about Somoza’s immunity from extradition, we do not regard it as necessary to respond but leave this to the Department’s discretion.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840133-2610. Confidential; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 3706 from Asuncion, August 11, the Embassy reported that Stroessner had given Somoza permission to come to Paraguay. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, N790006-0739) In telegram 3667 from Asuncion, August 9, the Embassy reported that “no one in the Foreign office or most other ministries will know whether or not Somoza is coming here until he actually arrives.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840133-2608)
  3. Mario Sandoval Alarcon, leader of a Guatemalan right-wing political party, the National Liberation Movement (MLN).
  4. Luis Pallais Debayle, cousin of Somoza and a spokesperson for the Liberal Party.
  5. Guillermo Sevilla Sacasa, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United States from 1977 until 1979.
  6. In 1963, the United States extradited former President Marcos Perez Jimenez to Venezuela for trial on embezzlement charges.
  7. In October, the Embassy’s annual human rights report stated that six people were then political prisoners. (Telegram 4655 from Asuncion, October 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790470-1217) On July 17, 1979, Paraguay expelled Miro Baresic and Ivan Vujicevic, members of a Croatian nationalist group who were wanted in the United States for extortion and murder. (Telegram 3265 from Asuncion, July 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840133-2596 and telegram 85119 to Asuncion, April 6; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840131-2098) (S) On August 8, the Paraguayan Supreme Court revoked the Paraguayan citizenship of Josef Mengele, who was wanted in West Germany for Nazi-era war crimes. (Telegram 3672 from Asuncion, August 9; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790365-0947)