239. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs (Lazar) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Kubisch)1


  • The Secretary’s Proposed Visit to Nicaragua

Problem: Current planning for the Secretary’s visit to Latin America may include a proposed stop in Nicaragua. I believe that in the context of U.S. relations with Latin America, the Secretary should be advised not to make this visit.

Discussion: I understand the choice of Nicaragua is based on (a) a decision to visit a Central American country to provide regional balance to the Secretary’s itinerary and (b) the belief that the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of last December provides the opportunity to demonstrate a continuing humanitarian concern by the United States in Latin America. I strongly agree with the first basis for the decision but take issue with the second.

U.S. concern for the victims of the Managua earthquake has been and continues to be amply demonstrated. Full publicity has been given to the $27.0 million in disaster relief already provided by us and to the two visits to Nicaragua by Maurice Williams as the President’s Coordinator for Nicaraguan Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation. It is anticipated that further funds will be forthcoming.

On the other hand, there is a danger that in the rest of Central America, and in Latin America, a visit to Nicaragua by the Secretary may be taken to demonstrate a preference by the United States for “client-state” relationships, and an embrace by us of political behavior which most Latin Americans now reject. This would reinforce in the minds of many Latin Americans the charges made against us, most recently in Bogotá, Panama and in the OAS sessions in Washington.

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I know of no basis for supposing that the Secretary’s failure to visit Nicaragua would give rise to any adverse comment either within Nicaragua or elsewhere in Latin America.

Thus, in my opinion, the proposed visit by the Secretary to Nicaragua would stand to gain little but would incur the risk of being misunderstood (or deliberately misinterpreted) to the detriment of U.S. relations with Latin America.

If the Secretary can visit Central America—and his visit would be most useful—I recommend Costa Rica or Guatemala.

Recommendation: I recommend that the Secretary not include Nicaragua on his itinerary. I further recommend he substitute Costa Rica or Guatemala.

  1. Summary: Lazar recommended that Nicaragua not be included on the itinerary for Secretary Rogers’ upcoming trip to Latin America, noting that such a visit might be misinterpreted in the region as a sign of a U.S. preference for “client-state” relationships.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, ARA/CEN/N Files, Lot 75D469, Nicaragua–Political, 1973. Confidential. Sent through Hurwitch. An April 19 notation by Kubisch reads: “a thoughtful memo and much appreciated.” At the end of the recommendation, Kubisch wrote: “will consider further.” Rogers made a five-hour stop in Managua on the afternoon of May 14. In a July 2 letter to Lazar, Shelton wrote that he had “never seen an official trip go off so smoothly,” adding that Rogers appeared to have been “touched by the scene of total destruction in Central Managua” and that his “sympathetic understanding was felt by others who were deeply appreciative of his feeling.” (Ibid.)