President Roberto Suazo Cordova called on Hondurans today to remain "tranquil and serene" but suggested that his political opponents had helped foster a Miami-based assassination plot uncovered by the FBI.
Suazo's comments, made from a chapel where he prayed for forgiveness for the plotters, were part of a concerted effort to connect the assassination plans with Honduran political figures, particularly from the opposition National Party, who have increased criticism of the government sharply in recent months.
"The Honduran government wishes to point out that this plot . . . is related to internal destabilizing actions that have in the last few months been taking place in our country to destroy the image and credibility of the government of the republic and prepare internal and external conditions for execution of such blame-worthy actions as those mentioned," said a government communique issued by Foreign Minister Edgardo Paz Barnica.
Amilcar Santamaria, a government spokesman, said the destabilizing actions included public calls by some National Party leaders for intervention in the government by the Honduran armed forces. Diplomatic sources have reported widespread talk of a military coup in recent weeks by politicans who charge that Suazo's government is corrupt and adrift.
Juan Miguel Funes Padilla, a National Party leader, denounced the government accusations as "irresponsible" and said the effort was designed to divert attention from Suazo's mismanagement. Another National Party leader, Mario Rivera Lopez, issued a statement denouncing the plot and dissociating the party from it.
U.S. Embassy officials, apparently taken aback by the official statements, contacted Suazo's goverment to suggest that it tone down the politically oriented condemnation, knowledgeable Honduran politicians said.
In his statement over Honduran radio, Suazo was slightly more circumspect than the communique issued by his aides. He denounced the "band of thieves who are involved in this plot" and, without naming any individuals or party, also condemned "other persons who, directly or indirectly, were its intellectual directors."
According to Honduran radio, Suazo made his declarations after lighting a votive candle and kneeling before a statue of the Virgin in a personal chapel near his home. He told listeners he had just asked our Lady of Perpetual Help to ask God to forgive those implicated in the plot but that the full force of Honduran law would be used against them.
National Party officials described the plotters arrested yesterday in Miami as "a bunch of gangsters" who have nothing to do with politics.
The FBI arrested eight persons and implicated a ninth in what it said was a scheme to import cocaine to finance Suazo's assassination as a first step toward a coup. According to the FBI, the plot involved, among others, Gerard and Jerome Latchinian, arms dealers and businessmen who are naturalized Hondurans; Faiz J. Sikaffy, a Honduran businessman, and Gen. Jose Abdenego Bueso Rosa, former chairman of the Honduran joint chiefs of staff.
The FBI did not mention specifically former Army commander Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who was thrown out by other officers March 31. But Gerard Latchinian has been close to the exiled commander, and Bueso was his top military aide. Honduran officials said logic points toward the strong-willed general but so far there are no concrete indications that he was involved.
In a radio interview from Florida broadcast here, Alvarez denied any connection to the plot.
[Reuter reported that Bueso had surrendered to police in Santiago, Chile, pending consideration of extradition requests from Honduras and the United States.]