256. Telegram 3595 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

3595. Subject: Summit Aviation Sale of Aircraft to GON. Ref: State 216121.

1. Embassy perceives no objection to proposed sale of 10 Cesna C2–337G aircraft together with 30 rocket pods, 30 flare containers and related spare parts and training services. Embassy also has no objection to sale of flares, practice bombs and 1,000 2.75 inch rockets.

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2. Aircraft are expected to be used for internal transport, medical evacuations, aerial reconnaissance of the Carribean coastal area and Honduran/Nicaraguan frontier, and for light infantry support.

3. Both the sale of aircraft and provision of seven-man training team are likely to cause some criticism as showing U.S. support of counter insurgency efforts, both among those who sympathize with aims of FSLN and those who simply dislike Somoza. However, the Ambassador, DCM, Political Officer and Defense Attaché agree that this reaction will not adversely affect U.S. interests to an unacceptable degree. Not to permit the sale of the equipment and the provision of the required training would undoubtedly seriously damage our relations with the GON. The Department might consider requiring that a restrictive clause be placed in the munitions control approval of contract prohibiting the pilots to be provided by Summit Aviation from performing operational or combat flights.

4. Both Defense Minister Sanchez and Bruce Steadman of the Summa Corporation have told the Defense Attaché that in recent months the GON has been in contact with French and Italian manufacturers of aircrafts similar to the Cesna. We believe that if the Cesna sale were prohibited, the GON would purchase aircraft from those or other sources.

5. With reference to the alleged procurement of Belgian rifles, the Defense Attaché has no knowledge of recent purchases; however, he is aware that the GON is interested in purchasing modern small arms and automatic weapons. The GON did acquire an undetermined quantity of Belgian 5.56 milimeter assault rifles within the last three years. He has received indications that the GON has been hesitant to approach the United States for such weapons for fear of a rebuff.

6. The Embassy will again bring to the attention of the GON the FMS Act provisions governing transfer of FMS items to third countries. In this connection it should be noted that the B–26s were not received through FMS or MAP.

  1. Summary: The Embassy recommended approval for the sale of aircraft and munitions and the provision of training to the Nicaraguan Government, despite concerns that the transaction might be criticized as a form of support for Nicaraguan counterinsurgency efforts.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750317–0985. Confidential. In telegram 216121 to Managua, September 11, the Department asked for the Embassy’s views on the potential political sensitivity of the transaction, noting that Somoza reportedly viewed the case “as another test of USG attitude towards him.” (Ibid., D750315–1115) In telegram 254493 to Managua, October 25, the Department reported that approval of the transaction was proceeding but that the transfer of incendiary white phosphorus ordnance would not be approved, in accordance with a new region-wide policy. (Ibid., D750372–0624) In telegram 4291 from Managua, November 6, the Embassy reported that Somoza had been furious about the denial of white phosphorus ordnance but that he would proceed with the transaction. The Embassy concluded that “there seems to have been no significant damage to U.S.-Nicaraguan relations.” (Ibid., D750388–0456)