72. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Nicaragua1

58395. For the Ambassador from the Deputy Secretary. Subject: U.S. Posture in Nicaragua Crisis.

1. As result of your consultations and the opportunity they afforded for a review of the Nicaraguan situation, we have come to the following conclusions.

2. Nicaragua may well present a crucial test for our Latin America policy, affecting not only Nicaragua but our interest in the promotion of human rights and political independence as well as the avoidance of instability in the Central American region. The current situation is serious, presenting considerable potential for increasing polarization and growing violence, and the possibility of civil war, or something close to it, that could lead either to the emergence of a retrogressive and repressive right-wing dictatorship (led by Somoza or a successor from the National Guard) or a breakdown reminiscent of pre-Castro Cuba, leading to a repressive regime of the extreme Left along the Cuban model. Either of these “worst case” scenarios would constitute a major setback to our policy in the hemisphere, our human rights policy and necessarily affect Nicaragua’s neighbors.

3. We intend to maintain our policy of non-intervention and will not seek to impose a “made in U.S.” solution. But it is clear that our human rights policy imposes an obligation to encourage by legitimate means the concerned parties to work out a made-in-Nicaragua solution that would minimize violence and put Nicaragua on the democratic road. This is particularly so because Nicaraguans look to us for support for democracy and human rights. Failure to stress those goals would enhance the possibility that the scenario of violence would play out at a probable cost of considerable human suffering.

4. Accordingly, you are instructed to take the following general approach, with the caveat that anything that poses questions about whether it will deviate from these instructions should be referred to Washington immediately.

—Maintain strict neutrality among political groupings and avoid identification with Somoza or with any political faction.

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—Maintain a reasonable level of contact with all legitimate forces in the society, but avoid being perceived as a hub of domestic political activity.

—In conversations with political elements of any persuasion, encourage avoidance of violence both by the National Guard and the political opposition, which could exacerbate the present crisis, and encourage all factions to communicate with each other and to seek a democratic and peaceful solution. This should not, however, include acting as a negotiator on behalf of any group nor serving as a guarantor for any agreements.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 33, Nicaragua: 1–4/78. Confidential; Eyes Only; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Solaun, Shelton, Welter, and McNeil in ARA; cleared by Todman and in S/S–O; approved by Christopher.