204. Memorandum From Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Nicaragua and Central America (C)

Manolo Reboso, who is formerly Vice Mayor of Miami and remains a very close friend of Somoza, came in to see me on Thursday,2 apparently at Somoza’s request. Somoza believes that the Soviets have escalated their involvement in Central America directly through their Embassy in Costa Rica and indirectly through the Cubans. Reboso, a Cuban exile, believes that the President will be destroyed politically if a Central American country goes Communist. (C)

I agreed that the consequences would be grave, but said that the important question was how to avoid that. I said that we questioned whether an indefinite continuance of the Somoza dynasty was the way to ensure stability in Central America. Reboso agreed with my point and believes that Somoza understands it as well. (C)

He said that Somoza had asked him to request a meeting with me.3 He repeated the invitation (that he has repeated to me twice before) to go to Managua, but also said that Somoza would meet with me wherever I chose, including Washington.4 He said that Somoza does not understand why I would meet with Torrijos, but continually refuse to meet with him. Reboso said that he believes Somoza is looking for an exit, for himself and his son, who wants to go to Harvard Business School. It all depends on how it is put to him. (C)

I said that the situation in Nicaragua is unique because of the 40 year Somoza dynasty. I told Reboso that if I were Somoza I would try to find a way to facilitate a peaceful transition. It would deprive the [Page 533] Sandinistas of their most compelling cause, “Somoza.” Reboso insisted that is what Somoza wants, and that I should speak to him. (C)

COMMENT: I remain skeptical of Somoza’s alleged intentions to find a peaceful exit. I am certain he still yearns for “American legitimacy.” I have no desire to play the role of intermediary with him, but at some future point—say six to eight months from now—I think we can turn seriously to him to urge him to make decisions and develop institutions, which will permit genuinely free elections in 1981. (C)

It is true that the Cubans are getting more involved, and this is a cause for great concern. Apparently, Castro is personally and deeply involved himself in bringing together the several Sandinista factions (Tab A), and they have adopted a strategy which will bring more and more violence to Nicaragua.5

The Central America PRM is now doubly urgent, and I will try to get a final PRM to you with State’s comments by the middle of next week. There are grounds for some encouragement. As a recent intelligence report suggested, the military leaders of Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras increasingly see the need for Somoza’s departure via elections in 1981 as a critical ingredient in stabilizing the situation in Central America. (S)6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 7, Central America: 10/78–5/79. Confidential. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Brzezinski saw it. Inderfurth initialed the top of the page.
  2. April 5. Reboso also met with Schneider on March 16 and argued that Somoza wished to leave power after elections in 1981. (Memorandum of Conversation, April 2; Department of State, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, Nicaragua/El Salvador Working Files, Lot 81D64, Nicaragua—Misc. Memoranda, March 19–May 31)
  3. Brzezinski underlined this sentence and placed a vertical line in the left-hand margin next to it.
  4. Brzezinski underlined the portion of sentence beginning with “also” and ending with “Washington.”
  5. Brzezinski underlined the portion of the sentence beginning with “apparently” and ending with “(Tab A).” Tab A, attached but not printed, is an April 3 Intelligence Information Cable, which noted that “it took 48 hours of negotiations in Havana in early March 1979 between Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz and three leaders of the FSLN to convince the latter that they should unite.” The cable also noted that Castro advised the FSLN leaders “that they should not stress Marxism in their program” because “at this point in time it would be impossible for a Marxist government to survive” in any Central American country. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 7, Central America: 10/78–5/79)
  6. Brzezinski drew a vertical line in the margin next to this paragraph and wrote: “1. proceed. 2. should anyone else on the NSC meet with him? would that be more ‛neutral’? e.g. Thornton? Gates? ZB.” In an April 11 note to Brzezinski, Pastor wrote: “I am working with State on a draft PRM on Central America. In response to your question, I do not believe that it would be useful for anyone on the NSC staff to meet with Somoza. Perhaps six months from now we should consider it, but right now, we should remain a cool and collected distance from Somoza, and not let him try to co-opt us. However, if we have a specific message to deliver—for example, ‛to get lost’—then I would be very happy to be the bearer of these tidings, and would not mind if someone else on the NSC staff delivered that as well.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 7, Central America: 10/78–5/79)