66. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Nicaragua and the Embassy in Venezuela1

30739. Subject: Proposed Initiatives With Somoza and Opposition. CINCSO for Polad. Reference: Caracas 10262 (being repeated to Managua).

1. We are concerned that continued confrontation, particularly now that FSLN attacks have begun,3 seems likely, as you suggest, to turn heretofore moderate opposition and business groups toward support of violence unless there is movement by Somoza toward at least sharing power. Situation could deteriorate to point where a number of US interests, including our human rights concerns, are damaged, and could prove seriously destabilizing to other Central American countries. While we would like the Nicaraguans to resolve this problem them[Page 189]selves in non-violent way without US input, we see little indication that this is developing.

2. As Ambassador Solaun knows, while in Costa Rica January 28, Assistant Secretary Todman spoke with Nicaraguan Ambassador Lacayo and endorsed following points which Lacayo said he planned to make immediately to Somoza. He authorized Lacayo to note Todman’s personal approval, though the points were to be those of Lacayo, not of the US:

A. Somoza should show maximum restraint in dealing with general strike/lockout and demonstrations.

B. He should continue to seek conversations with responsible opposition leaders.

C. He should inform those leaders that he is willing to push through significant changes in the electoral laws (and Constitution if necessary) to permit additional parties to obtain official status and express their views building up to fair and open elections in 1980. The exact changes can be established through dialogue.

D. He should identify some changes that can be made now, and should announce and implement them even in advance of a formal dialogue.

E. There will be no vengence or reprisals against individuals or firms which have peacefully participated in the general strike/lockout provided they now join in common effort to solve nation’s problems.

3. Above points were discussed by Todman with Ambassador Sevilla Sacasa in Washington on February 4. Additional point was made that, in order to defuse suspicions regarding Chamorro’s death,4 it would seem advisable to appoint a broadly based national investigatory commission with full subpoena powers. Todman added part para 6 re invitation to IAHRC. Sevilla Sacasa said he would communicate these points to GON and would get back to us on Tuesday.5

4. We would appreciate Managua’s urgent reaction by Niact Immediate cable, to arrive Department not later than 0900 hours Monday morning as to whether you should seek earliest possible meeting to make above points.

5. Through this scenario we will in effect signal Somoza that we give highest priority to orderly change and do not see the procedures we are suggesting as a vehicle for removing him from power. We are interested in defusing the present situation and avoiding widespread violence. To that end, if Somoza agrees to the general type of approach [Page 190] noted above, the US is willing to encourage the opposition to engage in a meaningful dialogue. We would continue that we are willing to assure opposition groups that the overthrow of Somoza by extra-legal means does not have US support. If guerrilla groups violate Nicaragua’s borders by invading from another country, we are willing to condemn that violation and call on that country to prevent a recurrence.

6. In order for our demarche with opposition leaders to have maximum chance of success, we believe we would have to assure them that Somoza would agree to a dialogue to include discussion of (1) constitutional changes to open up political participation in elections to all parties that renounce violence and (2) institutionalizing control of the National Guard. It would also be helpful if we could tell opposition Somoza was making an announcement that the Inter American Human Rights Commission was being invited by GON to Nicaragua to hear any complaints anyone might wish to make regarding human rights violations and to conduct appropriate investigations.

7. FYI: Per reftel, Nicaraguan Vice Foreign Minister Bodan-Shields told Venezuela President and/or FonMin that GON would invite IAHRC after February 5 municipal elections. If GON follows through on this, it would signal Somoza’s intention to continue improving human rights situation already demonstrated by much better National Guard human rights behavior over past year and by his refusal to reimpose state of siege and silence press critics despite provocation of repeated spectacular guerrilla attacks and unabated press antagonism. End FYI.

8. By this scenario, if Somoza’s response were reasonably conciliatory, Ambassador Solaun would then make appropriate contacts with opposition leaders.

9. FYI: We realize that opposition elements rejected dialogue in aftermath of Chamorro slaying. However, fact that Somoza has survived both lockout/general strike and renewed FSLN attacks and seems determined to retain power until 1981 might now cause them to reconsider in the light of probable retaliations from Somoza and violence from the left as the alternative to dialogue. We understand Somoza has remained willing to proceed with dialogue. Demonstration of extent of hostility to him by business community and government workers shown by the lockout/general strike must have shaken Somoza, and may have made him more willing to offer significant concessions. End FYI.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 33, Nicaragua: 1–4/78. Confidential; Niact Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to San José, Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, Guatemala City, and CINCSO. An unknown hand wrote at the top of the page: “Pastor, per your request.” Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not found.
  3. In telegram 4887 from Managua, October 21, 1977, the Embassy reported FSLN attacks on the Nicaraguan National Guard on October 12 near the northern border with Honduras, on the 13th near the southern border with Costa Rica, and on the 17th at Masaya near Managua. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770388–0402) In telegram 535 from Managua, February 3, the Embassy reported that it had “confirmed reports that insurgents, probably FSLN,” had attacked National Guard installations in Granada and Rivas. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780052–0458)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 64.
  5. February 7.