CAPTION: Picture 1, Nicaraguan President Somoza: "I am like tied donkey fighting with a tiger". By Karen DeYoung -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, A local resident feeds a Sandinista guerrillas along the road toward Diriamba. AP President Anastasio Somoza acknowledge today that he has agreed to resign and said the time of his departure is up to the United States. With a virtual international embargo on supplies to his embattled National Guard and an Organization of American States resoultion demanding his resignation, Somoza said in an interview, "I am like a tied donkey fighting with a tiger." "Even if I win militarily," he said, "I have no furture." Somoza said he told U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo when he arrived here last week, "Alright,I'm ready." The 53-year-old president said he did not know where he was going or what he would do in exile. "I've got mu education," he said. "I might find a job some place. Waht can a retired general, a retired president do?" The interview was the first Somoza has given to a U.S. publication in weeks. He has not made a public appearance since a televised speech June 23 following the OAS resolution Normally aggressive and animated, full of challenges and charges. Somoza today appeared subdued and calmer than at most points during his ordeal of the past five weeks. Nicaraua's civil war has brought a steady weakening of his military position against Sandinista guerrillas and the disintegration of international support for his rule. "I feel that in my conscience, -- I have done whatever I have had to do according to the laws of this country," Somoza said. "People might have different ideas about me, but my conscience is clear." Somoza said he was offered the United States his resignation "provided. . . . the institutionally of the national Guard" and his Liberal Party are guaranteed and there is an orderly transition of power. But he admitted that he was "in no position now to impose anything. I am not negotiating." Refusing to leave, Somoza said, would mean "just lengthening the bloodshed in this country." Somoza said he believes his wishes will be ensured because they are also in the interest of the United States, which wants to avoid Nicaragua's takeover by more radical elements allied with the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Somoza acknowledged an agreement with the United States in which resignation is being postponed while U.S. and Latin America diplomats and members of the moderate Nicaraguan opposition negotiate with a guerrilla-backed provisional government junta. If the five-member junta can be persuaded to add at least two more politically conservative members, and Somoza agrees it is not "Marxist dominated" and will guarantee a place for the National Guard, he will order a cease-fire before leaving the country. "That's the whole idea," Somoza said. "If we get an agreement, we get a cease-fire." If there is no agreement, and Somoza leaves anyway, or if the National Guard does not respect his order to stop fighting, "at that time, it will be each man for himself," Somoza said. The United States, according to well-informed sources, has decided to stay away from direct negotiations with the junta, temporarily established in Costa Rica, following junta rejection of what it feels is direct intervention in Nicaraguan affairs. Negotiations are now being held in Costa Rica by members of Nicaragua's Broad Opposition Front, a politically moderate coalition that after much debate has now sent representatives to talk to the junta, and by delegates of Nicaragua's Superior Council of Private Enterprise. At the same time, other Latin-American government, including Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama, all of whom reportedly have helped the Sandinists, are believed to be participating. Somoza repeated his longstanding assertion that the Sandinistas and their government are interested in the long-term establishment of a Marxist government here. The way I understand it," Somoza said, "the junta doesn't want anything to do with the United States not because they like or dislike [The U.S. diplomats dealing with the situation] but because they dislike the way your country lives." He warned that the junta as currently constituted would turn Nicaragua to communism. "It might not happen in this century," Somoza said, "but it will happen if [the United States] is not able to create the democratic and capitalistic incentive in them. The other Latin American government have more influence over the junta, Somoza maintained, because "the only thing the junta will understand is if whoever is supplying their arms says no more arms unless you make a deal." While the United States now apprently feels a greater sense of urgency in reaching a political solution because of imminent Sandinista military victory, Somoza said that factor did not greatly influence his decision. "That's not my attitude," he said. "There are two alternatives. One is to leave in an orderly manner, and the other is to take what [we] think we should and move out of here. Arms, goods and money. Make a tactical retreat. Instead of holding a lot of small unimportant towns, we gather everything up, put up in a section (lot of the country) and we stick it out." "What I'm trying to do," he said, "is lessen the suffering of the Nicaraguan people by getting an arrangement where everybody would feel sure. Right now, nobody feels secure, because the junta has been adamant about. . .wanting it their own way." "I am the fly in the ointment," Somoza said, "but I cannot leave unless there's some kind of democratic government formed here." The United States, he said, has its own strategic reason for wanting an expansion of the junta. "Your national interest is that Nicaraguan keeps on going like it is, with different faces running it, with different attitudes. But not to fall into the hands of the Marxists, because you have problems if you let that happen." From the time his father assumed leadership of the National Guard in 1933 and the presidency in 1936, through the presidency of his brother Luis and his own presidency, the Somoza governments have been bathed in strong anticommunist philosophy. While that policy served the Somozas well for decades, earning them the strong backing of the United States it was not enough to maintain outside support when much of Nicaragua turned against Somoza beginning last year. Nicaragua prospered under 46 years of Somoza control, and so did the Somoza family. Rich and poor, communist and conservative, many felt the country had had enough of the Somoza family, and when the Sandinistas raised arms against the government last year, Nicaraguans throughout the country joined them. Despite rumors of his imminent departure for weeks now, many Nicaraguans said today that they know their president well and that they will be believe it only when he really leaves. In an initial outbreak of civil war in September and through the bloody battles that have killed thousands in recent weeks, Somoza has, at least publicily, remained stolid in his vow to stay or go down fighting. But although he is known as a shrewed politician who always has one card left up his sleeve, Somoza today gave no indication he would change his mind. Asked when he had decided, Somoza said "from the moment the OAS made that decision. Look, I'm a realist. What role do I play when I have the OAS down my neck? The only thing I can do is fight a retreating battle and try to get the best for my people." Somoza said the negotiated political solution "is not my bailiwick," but while the deals are being made for a transitional government, the National Guard will continue fighting. "I feel that I have given a pretty good and fair battle," he said. "What can you do, when you get everything cut off? The best you can do is make a honorable settlement.
Karen DeYoung Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for The Post. In more than three decades at the paper, she has served as bureau chief in Latin America and in London and as correspondent covering the White House, U.S. foreign policy and the intelligence community. Follow