262. Telegram From the Embassy in Costa Rica to the Department of State and the Embassies in Panama, Venezuela, and Nicaragua1

2972. From Bowdler. Subj: Negotiations with Junta.

1. (Secret-Entire text)

2. Met with GNR members Sergio Ramirez, Alfonso Robelo, Violeta de Chamorro for an hour and a half at the latter’s house the morning of July 10. Marv Weissman accompanied me. Father D’Escoto and Mrs. Chamorro’s daughter, Claudia Barcenas, also were present.

3. The atmosphere was more cordial and relaxed than in either of prior two meetings. I lead off with an expression of regret that my illness had interfered with an earlier resumption of discussions. I said it was important that we now get down to specifics to bring about the departure of Somoza, an orderly transition, and the retention of domestic and foreign confidence in the GNR.

4. D’Escoto at this point launched into a four-part explanation of what the Junta is dedicated to achieving as rapidly as possible:

Somoza and entourage leaving Nicaragua, to the U.S. or wherever;

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—An immediate stop to fighting and destruction;

—A very rapid transition to the government of national reconstruction, with full emphasis on creating the environment necessary to launch reconstruction quickly;

—Confidence within and without Nicaragua in their objectives and capacity, so that a free Nicaragua can get back on its feet.

5. Accepting his presentation as a point of departure for our discussion, I returned to the need for dealing in an atmosphere of mutual confidence with the practical, carefully phased steps necessary to reaching those objectives. I suggested we get down to basic issues, starting with expansion of the GNR. I mentioned reports we had from our Panama interlocotor that they have agreed to an expanded Junta, adding two members whose names I mentioned. I said we were prepared to accept these.2

6. This was greeted by a look of bewilderment on the part of all, with the exception of D’Escoto. The GNR members asserted unanimously that no such understanding was reached with Escobar, rather that they only had promised to consider the feasibility, never had mentioned names, but had promised to give the Panamanians an answer in 48 hours, the time period expiring this evening. D’Escoto chimed in to say that all this must have been an honest misunderstanding, because he had personally talked to Escobar merely proposing hypothetically that if two people were added, they might be people like Amador or Baltorano.

7. At this point, Ramirez took over the conversation, with occasional inputs by Robelo and Mrs. Chamorro, making it very clear that their answer was that the Junta could not be expanded quickly, not because it was necessarily a bad idea, but simply because it would not be feasible (“factible”) to accomplish in the time available. They argued that extensive consultations would be necessary. Ramirez added that the results might not be as confidence-building as might appear as once the process is reopened it might well produce something less desirable than the present composition. Repeated efforts using various lines of argument to get them to consider expansion were unavailing.

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8. D’Escoto here interjected, with Mrs Chamorro’s reinforcement, that the government they were ready to name upon entering Managua would serve to reassure us and the international community of the breadth of the representation. It would come to be recognized, they maintained, not only as a model for Nicaragua, but for all of Latin America. Ramirez promised that they would shortly be able to give us the names of key officials and also advised that the sectors and organizations to be represented in the Council of State had been amplified to include the church, national university, Federation of Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of Professionals of Nicaragua.

9. I next turned the discussion to what steps they considered essential for an orderly transition, once Somoza and entourage go. They referred to a paper given them by the Panamanians and asked what I had in mind. I reviewed the elements of our scenario. They responded that they saw no significant difference between the steps I outlined and what they have decided to do. Some doubt was expressed regarding whether a functioning Congress would be in place in Managua to accept Somoza’s resignation and name a replacement but they thought if this developed there were other ways to provide for the short transition. This time they expressed no doubt as to our ability to persuade Somoza to leave, attributing this to the military situation more than to any other factor.

10. I raised the need to have a clear understanding on the new head of the Guard. They agreed on the importance of this aspect. In response to my request for their views on candidates, they half-heartedly mentioned Mendieta. I surfaced Mojica’s name as a possibility among others. None of them knew him personally but Robelo and Dona Violetta said they had good reports on him. Since they had no direct channel to Mojica, they asked if I could convey their desire to speak with him if he could come to San Jose. I said I wanted to be clear that I would extend the invitation on their behalf. They replied affirmatively.3 I said I would urge him to come right away so that they could meet tomorrow morning. Ramirez pointed out that the GNR will have a civilian Minister of Defense, who following the reorganization of the armed forces will have under him a general staff heading both military and police forces. We discussed the advisability of a military mission to help in the reorganization. They liked the idea but preferred a mixed group rather than of one nationality.

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11. Toward the end of the meeting I asked for a copy of their letter to the President sent via Senator Kennedy.4 In giving me one, D’Escoto explained this course had been decided upon last Sunday5 when they felt discussion with the Panamanians was leading nowhere. I was not available, and they wanted a direct channel to the USG. At this point I used the points in para 5 of State 177516.6 They did not press the meeting with the President. They thought it more important to focus on the transition scenario using this channel. I was not able to find out how the idea originated. I think it came from D’Escoto but it also reflects their frustration over how the Panamanians conducted the negotiations.

12. In conclusion I stressed the urgency of moving quickly to avoid a situation developing that might get beyond control. We agreed as follows:

A. I would contact Mojica in their name;

B. They would give us copies of their program of government and law of guarantees tonight.7

C. Tomorrow we would meet at 1000 hrs at which time they would give us the list of Cabinet officers with their scenario for the transition.8

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13. As I left I told Ramirez that in view of the delicacy of our talks I wanted a clear understanding on how we would handle the press. We agreed that the only comment would be to confirm that we had met and reviewed the situation.

14. Comment: I think we may be able to reach an understanding tomorrow on Mojica and the transition scenario. Amplification of the GNR remains a serious problem. We might try using CAP specifically on this issue, but I sense they will not be budged. An approach we might try is to have a clear understanding on expansion (with names) now to be put into effect once the GNR reaches Managua. In any event we need to look at the Cabinet to see what reassurance that list provides. The amplification of the Council of State is a move in the right direction provided the new groups appoint strong representatives with democratic convictions.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 12, Costa Rica: 1/77–5/80. Secret; Flash; Nodis.
  2. In telegram 5184 from Panama City, July 9, Moss noted that Salamin had reported that Escobar’s discussions with the GNR Junta members had reached an impasse on the question of adding a GN military officer to the Junta. However, Salamin went on to say that “although the Junta had not definitely agreed to expansion, the names of two civilians had emerged in the conversation, suggested by the Junta [Cesar Amador Khiel and Emilio Baltorano Pallais].” Moss concluded the telegram by commenting: “Apparently the Junta has still been expressing doubts about U.S. ability to effect Somoza’s departure, while at the same time giving indications that they feel military victory is near and there is no need to make compromises.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840150–2028)
  3. Bowdler reported in telegram 2991 from San José, July 11, that Mojica had arrived from Guatemala to meet secretly with the GNR Junta. Mojica informed Bowdler that “the meeting did not represent any kind of commitment on anyone’s part” and that he would look to the U.S. Government “for the green light” regarding his acceptance of the Directorship of the GN. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 36, Nicaragua: 7/9–11/79)
  4. See Document 261.
  5. July 8.
  6. In telegram 177516 to San José, Caracas, Managua, and Panama City, July 10, the Department instructed Bowdler to continue to seek agreement with Escobar and the PG regarding the expansion of the Junta with “the names we originally suggested or persons of similar caliber.” However, if this was “truly going to be impossible,” the Department authorized Bowdler to use a “fall-back” position that included the acceptance of Amador and Baltorano, dependent on “rapid agreement” within 48 hours concerning a new GN Director, especially Mojica, and a ceasefire upon Somoza’s departure. Paragraph five reaffirmed that the President had received the Junta’s letter and had authorized Bowdler as his representative to the PG. While the possibility existed that the Junta members might engage in discussions in Washington following the ceasefire, the Department reiterated that the Junta members should address urgent issues with Bowdler in San José. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850011–1423)
  7. In telegram 3003 from San José, July 11, the Embassy included the Spanish-language text of the proposed basic statute of the Republic of Nicaragua, prepared by the Government of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840133–1548) In telegram 3005 from San José, July 11, the Embassy transmitted the Spanish-language text of the July 9 “program of the Junta of the GRN Government of National Reconstruction of Nicaragua.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840133–1924)
  8. In telegram 3013 from San José, July 11, Bowdler transmitted the text of a GNR document received that afternoon, which included the proposed list of Cabinet officers. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 36, Nicaragua: 7/9–11/79) Telegram 179668 to San José, July 12, instructed Bowdler to continue to push the GNR to enlarge the Junta, to affirm the concept of sanctuary, and to respect human rights. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 36, Nicaragua: 7/12–14/79) In telegram 3038 from San José, July 12, Bowdler described the GNR’s continuing resistance to expanding the Junta. (Ibid.) See Document 266.