353. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of President’s Meeting with General Policarpo Paz Garcia, President on Honduras (U)


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State
  • William Bowdler, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
  • Ambassador Mari-Luci Jaramillo, US Ambassador to Honduras
  • Robert Pastor, Staff Member, National Security Council
  • Anthony J. Hervas, State Department Interpreter
  • General Policarpo Paz Garcia, President of Honduras
  • Mr. Rafael Leonardo Callejas, Minister of Planning and Natural Resources
  • H.E. Ricardo Midence Soto, Honduran Ambassador to the U.S.

President Carter expressed his deepest appreciation for the visit by General Paz. He said that the U.S. valued the friendship of Honduras, and he was deeply grateful for the opportunity to meet with President Paz in order to discuss the problems and the opportunities in Central America and to try to agree on a common approach to these problems. (C)

General Paz said that it was a special honor of his government and of himself to meet with President Carter. The people of Honduras had deep admiration for President Carter and the U.S. for all that the U.S. had done to help his people. (U)

President Carter asked for General Paz’s assessment of the elections in Honduras in April. (C)

General Paz said that the prospects for election in April are good, and he hoped for clear and just results. He saw the elections as an opportunity for the Honduran people to express their collective will, and the armed forces will make it possible for the people of Honduras to have a freely elected government. He believes that this in turn will lead to greater stability in Honduras. At the same time, he said that Honduras faces some very difficult problems, and there is some discontent, particularly as elections draw near. He feared that if this discontent should increase, Honduras may face more problems. He therefore intends to widen the scope of social programs, and to help the rural as well as the urban poor. General Paz said that if Honduras does not face further problems before April 20th, that they would extend an invitation to international organizations such as the OAS to oversee the elections. (S)

President Carter said that he was certain that the entire world would be grateful to hear of that invitation. President Carter said that he is also deeply concerned about increasing evidence of instability in Central America, and to a lesser extent in the Caribbean. He said that he wanted to consult very closely with the Government of Honduras, and to consider Honduras as a partner in order to consider how best to address the problems and the Communist threat in the region. He said that in particular, he is concerned about Nicaragua and Salvador. He asked General Paz how our two countries could lend stability to the area. He also asked General Paz whether he felt that Cuba was using any access through Honduras as a way to get supplies to the Communist insurgents in El Salvador. (S)

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General Paz said that Honduras has always been ready to cooperate to combat Communism both within Honduras and in the area of Central America and the Caribbean. Honduras was physically present and supportive in the Santo Domingo crisis. Honduras expressed its solidarity and support with the United States with regard to Afghanistan and Iran. With regard to the question about Cuban use of Honduras, he said that it is feasible that they are doing that. It is true that the threat exists. Honduras is a large area with three land borders and access by rivers and two oceans. Honduras lacks surface communication. Honduras lacks helicopters in order to monitor activities along the border. He said that he does not discard the possibility that Cuba might be using Honduras, particularly by using certain navigable rivers in isolated areas to send arms or support to the communists in El Salvador. (S)

General Paz added that Honduras would not go to the summer Olympics in response to the message which the President sent him.2 He said that he totally supported the United States in this effort to stop Soviet aggression. (C)

President Carter said that General Paz’s response was very much appreciated by the United States. It is necessary to stand together against Soviet aggression. (C)

President Carter said that it would be useful to exchange intelligence in order to be better able to counter subversive actions in the region. President Carter said that the United States has just approved the granting of ten helicopters to Honduras without charge.3 This will present another opportunity to consult closely and to work together to stabilize this situation. (S)

President Carter asked about the border dispute with El Salvador. He understood that progress had been made on negotiations with El [Page 873] Salvador, and he asked whether General Paz saw the possibility of opening the border soon and restoring diplomatic relations with El Salvador. (S)

General Paz said that he is very happy that Honduras will have the use of ten helicopters. This will help Honduras with its border patrol. He also shared with President Carter the wish to stay in touch and communicate directly. It would be very useful to have a direct link. Now Honduras is going through Guatemala and Mexico, and Honduras believes that it can contribute directly to peace in the region. (S)

General Paz said that to date, Honduras has been able to maintain peace and tranquility. Honduras would also be prepared to cooperate with others in dealing with Communist efforts elsewhere in the region. He is ready to cooperate on intelligence matters. With regard to the border dispute, he recounted that President Romero of El Salvador had re-opened negotiations, and an agenda of seven points had been set. Two problems still remain on trade and on the delineation of the border. The recent change in the Salvadorean government may provide an opportunity, but up to now, there has been no progress on those two points. However, there are several meetings which are now scheduled with the Salvadorean Junta, and Honduras hopes to find solutions on the remaining differences as soon as possible. Recently, Honduras’ Foreign Minister met with the Guatemalan, Costa Rican, and Salvadorean to look into opportunities for trade integration. But for the moment, they are inhibited from going forward with this until the border dispute is settled. (S)

General Paz said that he hoped that the United States will help find a peaceful solution to the border dispute. Honduras is ready. The dispute on defining the border’s “pockets” is the main problem which separates Honduras from El Salvador. Honduras has asked to move rapidly, using a mediator in resolving all of the outstanding problems, and then submitting the remainder to arbitration by the International Court of Justice. (S)

In answer to a question from President Carter about the mediator, General Paz said that the mediator was Bustamente of Peru (S)

In answer to a question from President Carter about whether there had been any recent actions, General Paz said that there had been, but there remains a lot of work to be done. He said that Honduras has recently sent a delegation to Peru, but he said that because of the changing political situation in El Salvador, our two delegations have not yet met. He said that the last meeting was in Miami, but there has not been any communication since. However, when he returns there may be certain meetings soon. (S)

[COMMENT: The two Foreign Ministers had just completed negotiations on February 29, 1980, in San Jose, and issued a press statement [Page 874] saying that the reestablishment of diplomatic relations would probably occur soon. Obviously General Paz had not been in touch with his Foreign Minister. (RP)]4 (S)

President Carter asked Mr. Christopher to comment on development assistance to Honduras, and Mr. Christopher said that he had had lunch with General Paz, and they had talked about Honduras’ development program and our aid effort.5 U.S. AID officials have great admiration for Honduras’ accomplishments. And indeed, Honduras is one of the few countries where we have expanded our FY 1980 aid, and made sure that it is reaching out to rural areas as well as urban areas. (C)

General Paz said that he wished to report that he was greatly concerned about peace and tranquility in his country. He has tried to stimulate development and to work with different people and groups in order to insure that this peace and tranquility could be maintained. However, he feels that this stable situation may be coming to an end, and therefore he is anxious to start a three-pronged action program. First, he wanted to invigorate the Agrarian Reform. Second, he wanted to undertake an education reform. Third, he wanted to invest in health, rural electrification, housing, and roads. If Honduras focuses on these areas, it will be able to counteract those of the left who pretend their interest in these areas. Therefore, he is requesting assistance and help from the United States. In the past, the United States has been helpful, but most of its funds have gone to large projects, like the Cajon Dam and relatively little has gone for the poor. Moreover, the loans have been subject to major conditions, and it takes a long time to implement them. He requested a donation, or perhaps a soft loan, or a half-loan to start this program rapidly without having too many complicated conditions. Honduras needs to do these things very quickly. In 1980, Honduras needs to assist these sectors. At the same time it is necessary to move very rapidly to counteract the leftists, who will threaten these reforms with acts of violence. It is very important to counteract them, and while Honduras cares greatly about the human rights policy of the United States, and supports that policy, and he has maintained respect for human rights in Honduras, it may be necessary to take action to counteract the leftists. He hopes in those cases that the United States and President Carter will not see Honduras as violating human rights because he is deeply committed to them. But Honduras wants [Page 875] to work in peace and to assure a better life for its people and to work with other countries in a cooperative spirit. (S)

President Carter repeated his gratitude for this meeting. He said that he knew that General Paz would be meeting with U.S. officials from AID in the afternoon.6 He is gratified to know that General Paz will be moving towards democracy and honoring and protecting the human rights of people in their country. He said that he hoped that the situation in Honduras will remain stable and that any action on the part of General Paz against the voters or groups will not be necessary. President Carter said that he is grateful for the meeting, and he hopes to work closely and directly with General Paz. He said that General Paz should not hesitate to personally get in touch with the President if that were necessary. (S)

President Paz said that he had a letter which mentioned the number of requests which he had made to the President, and which he hoped the President would appoint a working group to consider this letter and prepare a response.7 He thanked the President again for the meeting. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 38, Memcons: President, 3–4/80. Secret. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Drafted by Pastor, who sent the memorandum to Brzezinski under a March 4 memorandum requesting that he approve the memorandum and send a copy to the Department. Brzezinski indicated his approval of both items. Paz visited Washington on a trip which included the Central American Trade Mart conference in New Orleans and meetings in New York at the invitation of the Council of the Americas.
  2. Telegram 39975 to all diplomatic and consular posts, February 14, reported that the International Olympic Committee had decided to proceed with the summer Olympic Games in Moscow and instructed posts to request governments to join with the United States in a boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800078–1050) Telegram 1366 from Tegucigalpa, March 1, reported that Honduras would not participate in the games even though the Honduran Olympic Committee had already accepted the invitation. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800108–0086) In a March 3 memorandum to Carter, Brzezinski noted that the Honduran Government “would not participate in the Moscow Olympics,” adding, “Paz views this as a gesture to you.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 25, Honduras: 1–4/80.)
  3. Telegram 2981 from Tegucigalpa, May 13, reported that the Government of Honduras had signed an FMS agreement and a no-cost lease for the helicopters. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800243–0343) Ten UH–1H helicopters arrived in Tegucigalpa by June 3. (Telegram 3405 from Tegucigalpa, June 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800275–0442)
  4. Telegram 1132 from San José, March 3, reported that on February 29 Carlos Lopez Contreras and Alejandro Gomez Vides announced “that their two countries had agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations probably in the next few weeks.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800110–0629)
  5. No record of this meeting has been found.
  6. No record of this meeting has been found.
  7. Paz’s letter to Carter, dated February 23, requested $150 million to assist with development projects in Honduras. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 8, Honduras, President Policarpo Paz Garcia, 3–8/80)