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


  • Nicaragua (U)

David has sent me a couple of items indicating his concern, which I share, about recent developments in Nicaragua.2 He asked: “Isn’t it time we got acting again?” (S)

The current situation in Nicaragua is one of stalemate. Somoza clearly has the military power to continue punishing the Sandinistas and to continue intimidating the middle. The Sandinistas have been taking a beating from the National Guard, but any weakness which they show will be temporary. Unquestionably, they are attracting the increasing support from the middle. Frankly, I think the situation can remain like this for a fairly long time: violence will increase, Somoza will remain in power, and the Sandinistas will continue fighting. (S)

I would recommend that we wait for two developments to occur before we begin a second round of actively searching for a solution. I believe these two conditions will occur within 3 to 4 months. What are they? (S)

—First, we need to have an Ambassador down there who begins via dialogue to resurrect and support the middle. Since the end of the mediation effort, the middle has been exposed, arrested, or driven out of Nicaragua. You may recall that in a meeting I had three weeks ago with leaders of the Nicaraguan business committee, they strongly recommended we send an Ambassador back so that they would have someone to communicate with and someone to defend them.3 To rebuild the confidence of this group, and to establish wide-ranging contacts will take 3 to 4 months. (S)

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—Secondly, before an effective solution to the Nicaraguan problem can emerge, it is necessary that both Somoza and the Sandinistas reach the conclusion that they cannot militarily defeat the other.4 Once Somoza realizes that the Sandinistas will not go away, and indeed that they are getting stronger, he will become more open to ideas about non-Communist solutions to Nicaragua’s crisis. Then, we will be in a much better position to encourage him to develop a genuinely transitional plan towards a moderate solution without Somoza. I believe that Somoza will not reach the conclusion about the Sandinistas for at least 3 or 4 months. (S)

This is the frame of reference that has been guiding my analysis of the current situation in Nicaragua. I have mentioned it to Pete Vaky, and he does not object to it. I plan to speak to him at greater length about this, and perhaps with several of our other Central American ambassadors at the Chiefs of Mission conference in San Jose these next few days. (S)

Please indicate if you disagree with this approach; otherwise I will proceed on this basis.5 (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 54, PRM/NSC–46. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Items not further identified.
  3. Solaun left post on February 26. In telegram 97023 to Managua, April 17, the Department noted that Solaun’s resignation as Ambassador was acknowledged publicly at an April 17 press briefing in the Department of State and that a subsequent press statement noted that Solaun had resigned for “personal reasons.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790177–0957)
  4. Aaron wrote in the left-hand margin: “Too passive.”
  5. Aaron wrote at the bottom of the page: “Too passive; counts on Somoza + leftists to be rational.” Brzezinski wrote in response on May 18: “DA you can review this with Vaky/Pastor—just to make sure we are not missing something important. ZB.” In a May 22 memorandum to Aaron, Pastor wrote: “U.S. policy to Nicaragua will be one of the issues addressed in PRM 46 on Central America, which should be sent to NSC in a couple of weeks. Since our new Ambassador will not arrive in Nicaragua before the PRM is completed, I don’t think it is necessary to push out a new policy before then, nor do I think we could be able to do it. However, different strategies for approaching the Nicaragua issue will be included in the PRM.” (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 54, PRM/NSC–46)