269. Telegram From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

3141. For Asst Secy Vaky. Subject: (S) The Urgency of Somoza Leaving Quickly.

1. (S)-Entire text.

[Page 670]

2. I received a call late last evening from Somoza inviting me to lunch on Saturday2 to “discuss your proposal.” I said we saw urgency in fast movement and wondered if he couldn’t telescope the time frame, and asked to meet with him tomorrow (July 13). He suggested 5 p.m. In response to my suggestion that we meet in the morning, he said he could not. (I learned this morning that his trip to Guatemala was the reason.)3

3. Somoza also said he had information that TCP were meeting in Costa Rica and feared they were planning another “invasion of Nicaragua.”4 I assured him that this was a positive development aimed at bringing about the peaceful transition with no reprisals we all sought. He seemed relieved.

4. When I meet with Somoza this afternoon, I believe it essential that I be authorized to get his agreement to leave on Sunday or Monday, at the latest. I realize that our posture now is to lay this decision in his lap, but we run the risk of having events overtake us if he does not leave soon. The FSLN has infiltrated units into the city and can begin the assault on short notice. I learned today that the FSLN is handing out arms to local youths, which is the prelude to an assault. Once that attack begins in Managua, the departure of Somoza will appear to have been the result of a military defeat rather than a negotiated agreement. The benefits we derive from orchestrating his departure will slip from our hands, and the survivability of any elements of the GN will be unlikely. Indeed, we will be placed in a very vulnerable position if we are seen offering safehaven to a Somoza fleeing from Nicaragua under military attack. We will be viewed as having saved his neck rather than as having negotiated his departure to bring the peaceful and orderly political transition contemplated in the OAS resolution.

5. Though there is an inconsistency in taking the position on the one hand that it is his decision as to when to leave and what to leave [Page 671] behind and, at the same time, to urge a specific deadline, I suggest that we approach the issue by indicating that, unless he leaves in the next day or so, any of the benefits that would be derived from a departure at his own choice will fall away. We would then all be acting under duress and be victims of all the negative consequences which would follow. I think he would understand from that approach, without it being stated, that his safehaven in the U.S. might be jeopardized if he doesn’t act quickly.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850036–1913. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Stadis. Sent for information Immediate to Caracas, Panama City, San José, Santo Domingo, Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, and Guatemala City.
  2. July 14.
  3. In telegram 3790 from Tegucigalpa, July 14, the Embassy reported that Paz had informed Jaramillo about his July 13 meeting with Somoza, Romero, and Lucas. Somoza told the others that “he was ready to step down, but was not yet assured there would not be a massacre of the Guardia.” Romero, Lucas, and Paz declined Somoza’s request that Condeca “‛speak’ out for him on developments in Nicaragua, raising spectre of all Central America falling to Communism.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840125–1665) In telegram 180647 to multiple posts, July 13, the Department instructed Jaramillo to urgently inform Paz prior to the meeting that “any military involvement of Condeca countries in the conflict will only spread and prolong the war and loss of life, and create a very serious international situation.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 36, Nicaragua: 7/12–14/79)
  4. See Document 268.
  5. Telegram 181058 to Managua, July 13, instructed Pezzullo to inform Somoza that “his departure should occur quickly, i.e. in the next 48 to 72 hours,” and asked Pezzullo if Somoza would indicate: “his plans, date, and transition arrangements.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850036–1919)