297. Editorial Note

On July 23, 1979, Special Assistant to the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert Gates sent National Security Council Staff member Robert Pastor a copy of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s evening report to President Jimmy Carter for July 21, which noted the installation of the Government of National Reconstruction in Nicaragua and stated that “no anti-American sentiment was expressed during the ceremonies.” Carter wrote in the margin: “We must discourage a bloodbath—as occurred in Iran.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 36, Nicaragua: 7/18–23/79) In a July 23 handwritten note to Vance and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Zbigniew [Page 723] Brzezinski, Carter stressed: “We should have a good plan re Nicaragua to strengthen moderate forces. Humanitarian aid will be a major factor if we handle it decently and wisely. This is important.” On his copy of the note, Brzezinski added an instruction for Pastor: “I need a report on this.” (Ibid.) Pastor responded in a July 23 memorandum to Brzezinski, agreeing with Carter’s view, noting: “We are currently sending by plane 100 tons of food a day, and will continue that until July 31st, when a US ship arrives with 1,000 tons of food.” Pastor also endorsed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs John Bushnell and Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Pete Vaky’s idea for “raising our visibility and prestige in Nicaragua,” by sending a presidential plane to deliver food to Managua. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 56, Nicaragua: 7/79–9/79)

In a July 23 memorandum to Carter, Brzezinski noted that Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher would be reporting directly to Carter concerning aid to Nicaragua. He also indicated that at a July 21 Office of Management and Budget, Department of State, and National Security Council meeting, officials decided that: “$3 million is being reprogrammed for humanitarian relief now; $3–5 million will be reprogrammed for reconstruction immediately; a mission should go to Nicaragua now to appraise further aid needs, which might be covered through an FY 1980 supplemental.” Brzezinski concluded: “We will consult with the Congress immediately about the above.” (See Documents 484 and 485) Carter indicated his approval. (Ibid.) In a July 24 memorandum to Carter, Brzezinski expressed concern that “the US is not getting credit for the amount of humanitarian aid we are delivering to Nicaragua (100 tons of food a day),” and noted that he had suggested to the Department that the administration release a statement highlighting its efforts. He also suggested the sending of a presidential plane with food, medicine, and Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo to Managua as a “dramatic way to show our concern and to demonstrate our involvement.” Brzezinski added a handwritten notation that the Department had concurred in this proposal. Carter approved and added that his son, “Chip may wish to go and come right back—if Cy wishes. J.” (Ibid.)

On July 25, Gates sent Pastor a copy of Vance’s July 24 evening report to Carter, which noted that the Department had received a formal note from the new Government of Nicaragua “expressing the hope” that it could maintain relations with the United States on a basis of “mutual respect” and “friendship.” The report indicated that the U.S. Government had responded affirmatively on July 24 that Pezzullo would return to Managua by July 27 and that the humanitarian food shipments to Nicaragua would soon be increased to 150 tons per day. [Page 724] Carter wrote in the margin: “Good.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 36, Nicaragua: 7/18–23/79) The White House announced on July 27 that Carter would send a special flight to Nicaragua on July 28 “to deliver emergency food and medical supplies,” and to carry Pezzullo so that he could present his credentials to the new Nicaraguan Government. (Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book II, pages 1317–1318) Vance’s July 27 evening report to Carter noted that GRN Junta member Moises Hasan Morales had delivered a speech in Havana alongside Cuban Leader Fidel Castro. Carter wrote at the end of the report: “Cy—We should explore technician’s aid to Nicaragua—electrical power, communications, etc.—for a month or two.” (Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, 1977–1981 Cuban Files (Peter Tarnoff S/S), Lot 88D100, Alpha Channel, 1979)