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


  • Nicaragua and the USS FORRESTAL (S)

According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the USS FORRESTAL is still within six hours of MODLOK. I recommend that we keep it there for at least 72 hours. We still do not know enough about what is happening within the military hierarchy between the more nationalistic coup plotters and the Marxist elements of the FSLN. Since it appears that the FSLN penetrated the coup plot, and the Nationalists are aware of this, it is at least conceivable that one or the other will make their move very soon. (S)2

The information, which we have, is on the public dispute between the FSLN and the private sector and democratic leaders, the opposition. The opposition appear increasingly unified, and not at all reluctant to confront the FSLN. They have been galvanized by the assassination of Salazar.3 On the other hand, the FSLN are clearly divided. It is not at all clear how this will ultimately play out, but for the moment the two sides are still talking. We have received intelligence reports that Cuban Vice President and Minister of Defense Raul Castro is planning a trip to Nicaragua soon. While it increasingly looks as if the FSLN has preempted the opposition, and could be successful in knocking the leaders off one by one, our information is not conclusive yet, and the critical arena is still within the military, and we don’t know what’s happening there. (S)

[Page 791]

Therefore, I recommend that we keep the USS FORRESTAL in place for at least the next three days. I have spoken with Bowdler, who agrees with this recommendation. I have also spoken to CIA analysts who pretty much agree with the analysis above.4 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 38, Nicaragua: 11/15–30/80. Secret. Pastor did not initial the memorandum.
  2. In a November 18 note to Brzezinski, Pastor wrote: “It looks as if the Sandinistas have penetrated the coup conspiracy deeply, and in the next few days we are likely to see a confrontation between the two sectors of the military.” Pastor also commented: “My guess is that the entire battle is going on underground, and independently of the struggle between the private sector and the democratic parties on the one hand, and the Junta on the other.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/ South, Pastor Files, Subject Files, Box 55, Evening Reports: 4/80–8/80)
  3. In telegram 5558 from Managua, November 18, the Embassy reported that Salazar had been killed by Nicaraguan state security in a “round up of private sector and political leaders,” and that the “GRN said it had information for some months that Salazar was involved with ex-Guardia Nacional in planning counter-revolution and decided to make arrest when it received information of arms transfer.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800551–1078)
  4. Brzezinski wrote at the bottom of the page: “To stay there till Sat. 6 p.m.” Pastor added the following note: “Spoke to ZB at 5 P.M., Sat., & he decided to let Forrestal move on.” The date of that conversation was November 11.