Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger yesterday denied from Mexico a statement contained in a story on his vacation. Kissinger said he was delivered to his Mexican holiday "privately," not on a "U.S. Air Force DC-9," as reported yesterday in The Washington Post.
It would be a rare thing to find anycommotion around this langorous little bay, just south of Acapulco. But should one of America's most famous, though no longer powerful, men want to take a dip in its waters, at that very moment a team of U.S. government frogmen will be ready to act.
Two Secret Service divers, armed with wicked anti-shark gear, will search the depths for lurching beast or man while other pairs of eyes scan the surface. If need be, those underwater can talk to those on shore.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with wife, Nancy is having a long, long rest here. Like an ordinary vacationer, he sleeps late, eats long lunches and mostly keeps his frogmen stranded on land.
What with successor Cyrus Vance now carrying out the diplomatic chores in the Middle East, Kissinger has been sitting in some splendor by the pool for more than a week and a half, reading, rummaging through the past, doing some writing, and "working on my memoirs," as he told a Mexican friend.
There may be time for memoir writing in the mornings, when the bay and the shore are perfectly still. Yet in the afternoons when wild turkeys cackle and tepid stream oozes from the soggy coconut grove nearby, the Kissingers slip out for lunches and dinners with familar faces of Mexican officialdom.
Efforts to talk to "HAK" as his walkie-talkies call him, are politely discouraged by aide Lawrence S. Eagleburger, till among the faithful. "The Secretary is deeply sorry but he's made an absolute commitment to himself. He's tried to keep out of the news and not make any news himself. He really just wants to take it easy."
But if the pressures of state are now fading with time and the sweltering heat, there is plenty to remind a bystander that the old days and the heady glories are not altogether gone. A U.S. Air Force DC-9, for instance, dropped off the Kissingers and eight members of their entourage before midnight on Feb. 8 and ran another errand flight down here later in the week.
Not that any unnecessary fuss was made. The visitors were discreetly whisked into a private terminal, and like the old days, customs and immigration people could safely be ignored.
At the home of former Mexican President Miguel Aleman, Secret Service advance men had already installed those familiar direct telephone lines to the United States, one by the pool, one by the Kissinger bed.
Now with everyone in their proper places, almost two dozen Secret Servicemen and a flock of staffers and local domestic servants are tiptoeing among the crotons and laurels with a clockwork precision rarely seen around this lazy little bay.
(Under a bill proposed by President Ford before he left office, Congress authorized Secret Service protection for Kissinger and his immediate family for six months, ending July 20. Former Vice President Rockefeller and Treasury Secretary William E. Simon also are eligible for the same protection.The White House is to make a monthly review during the six-month period to determine if protection is needed that long.
(The Secret Service refuses to disclose the number of agents needed to give one man round-the-clock protection, nor will it put a dollar figure on the cost.)
Of course Kissinger has stretched and sunned his muscles befor this gaudiest of Mexican resorts. Inspired by generous Mexican hosts, he's been in and out at least five times, including his honeymoon.
His arrival, though, has barely provoked a paragraph in the local press. The constant traffic of mighty and wealthy here has made people just a little blase about name dropping.But there has been the odd comment. Like the lady about town who suggested that what with Kissinger's third Acapulco visit in three months, "He's clearly shifted his Middle East shuttle down to here."
Even Miguel Aleman, Kissinger's host, isn't getting much attention from the residents after being around here for a good 30 years. President of Mexico from 1946 to 1952, Aleman is perhaps best remembered for "inventing" Acapulco. That happened back in the '40s when it was just a nothing little port with only distant memories of Spanish galleons unloading merchandise from the Far East.
Then Aleman came and drove a wide boulevard through the shrubbery and palmgroves edging the magnificent bay, opening it up for the wealthy and their servants. That boulevard now bears his name, along with tall, air-conditioned tropical palaces, boutiques, pizza and chicken joints, all of which have made Acapulco into everyone's dream - or nightmare - a tropical beach.
Aleman's own homes, one on each side of the Sierra Madre foothill that rolls right into the sea - with private beach and private pier - are studies in seclusion and discretion. Getting to the one on Pichilingue Beach, where the Kissingers are staying, is like peeling off layer after layer of security blankets. No one can say that the Mexicans are not taking good care of "El Supergringo."
The normal Aleman roadblock if six soldiers has been boosted to 20, with another 20 in civilian clothes discreetly hidden among the breadfruit trees. A second camp has been set up by Mexican federal agents pulled down from Mexico City. And as though there were any doubt, Acapulco's transit police put up another check point outside the gates.
With so much authority about, you'd think the Secret Service might, be taking it easy. But "Position One," on a sprawling terrace - walkie talkie, machine gun at hand - is absolutely alert. "What I'm afraid of is that out there, there may be a tendency to sleep," he said pointing at the bushes, "and how for example did you get into here?"
"We may well be here another 12 days or so," said one of the tanned Secret Service faces, handcuffs shining through his thin tropical shirt. "I don't even know what day it is today. You kind of lose touch with things down here."
Despite the limbo, they aren't saying how many are sharing the chore of Acapulco duty, "for that would be telling the assassins how many they're dealing with." But at the end of each eight-hour shift, a little bus with eight new faces arrives from the Secret Service digs, the "Acapulco Princess," where Howard Hughes was ailing not so long ago.
How about their boss, down there by the pool, how's he taken to stepping down from the throne. Do they notice any change in him?
Those guards who have been with him for awhile don't think so. He looks in better shape than ever, they believe; no pressures, more jokes, plenty of tan, still overweight, a lot of kidding.
But don't they think he might feel just a little down after all that height? "No way," one of the faithful insists. "After all, there hasn't been that much change. People still recognize him. He hasn't been stripped, you know. He's still got us. And when we're gone, he's still got money and fame. He'll write books and go on TV. He's a celebrity. So what's he got to worry about?"