263. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Vice President Rockefeller1


Tuesday, April 20, 1976, 5:30 p.m.

I. Purpose

To recognize the presence of President Somoza in Washington and reassure him of the strength of our hemispheric commitment.

II. Background, Participants & Press Arrangements

A. Somoza will be in Washington visiting his 81-year-old mother who is recuperating in the Washington Hospital Center from a broken leg. The leg was broken while visiting her son-in-law (the President’s brother-in-law) Ambassador Sevilla Sacasa. An operation was necessary and she was quite ill but is now recovering. Somoza is going on to Chicago on the 21st where he will be received by Mayor Daley, attend the Chicago World Trade Conference, and undoubtedly receive considerable publicity. A biography is attached at Tab A.

Anastasio Somoza Debayle, third in his line, has been President or de facto ruler since 1967. He remains firmly in control, although discontent with his centralized political control has grown since the earthquake which destroyed Managua in 1972. A small leftist guerrilla organization, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, seeks to overthrow the regime. With the exception of a spectacular terrorist attack in Managua in December 1974, the National Guard has managed to limit the guerrillas to sporadic and ineffective operations in the mountains. Somoza’s moderate political opposition is divided and ineffectual. The security situation is stable. Still, martial law and tight media censorship have been in effect for a year primarily in order to insulate the government from public criticism. The regime’s overall human rights record is about average for Latin America, with occasional abuses directed against those suspected of cooperating with the guerrillas, and against union organizers. This record has come in for increasing criticism in the Congress and U.S. media over the past year, and Somoza has grown increasingly irritated on this score.

Somoza has expressed his concern recently over the strength of our commitment to the defense of Latin America in the face of new evidence of Cuban expansionism.

The American Ambassador to Nicaragua is James D. Theberge, who, as you know, was responsible for the Latin American section in the Critical Choices Study.

B. Participants: Captain Howe and Ambassador Sevilla Sacasa.

C. Press Arrangements: There will probably be photographers present when you arrive.

III. Talking Points

1. I understand you are here to see your mother. I was sorry to hear about her accident. That sort of fracture can be especially difficult for an older person. Mrs. Rockefeller and I both hope her recovery will be rapid and without complication.

2. Ambassador Theberge reports on the good state of our relations. I am glad to hear that and I want to add that we have been gratified by the continued staunch support you give us in the UN and elsewhere. We hope to continue our traditional cooperation.

3. We are greatly concerned over the Cuban adventure in Angola and we have no intention of permitting Castro to get away with anything of that kind here in this hemisphere. Insofar as our relations with Nicaragua are concerned, they have been traditionally close and mutually helpful and we do not plan to make any changes.

  1. Summary: Scowcroft briefed Rockefeller on Nicaraguan affairs and U.S.-Nicaraguan relations in advance of an April 20 courtesy call on Somoza at the Nicaraguan Ambassador’s residence in Washington.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Latin American Affairs Staff Files, Box 14, Vice President, 7. Confidential. So[Page 705]moza’s biography (Tab A) is not attached and not found. In an April 16 memorandum to Davis, Jon Howe of the Office of the Vice President requested a briefing paper. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Latin American Affairs Staff Files, Box 14, Vice President, 7) In an April 17 memorandum to Scowcroft, Low noted that “Sevilla Sacasa wanted a Presidential meeting [between Ford and Somoza] but was not encouraged by State.” (Ibid., Box 11, President Ford—General, 3) Ford telephoned Somoza on April 20 and noted that he “had a very good 10 minute conversation.” (Notation on undated paper entitled “Recommended Phone Call”; ibid.) According to an April 21 memorandum for the record by Stuart Rockwell of S/CPR, Somoza stated at the conclusion of his conversation with Ford “that he was very pleased that the President should have taken the time to call him.” (Ibid.) The April 19 Department of State briefing paper for Rockefeller is ibid., White House Central Files, Subject File, Box 39, Nicaragua.