76. Telegram From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

3125. Subject: Meeting With Somoza: June 11. Ref. A) State 172394,2 B) Solaun-Matthews Telcon of 7/11/78.3

Summary. The Ambassador met with Somoza today at the Ambassador’s request. Topics discussed included President Carter’s message to President Somoza, recent events at Jinotepe and Marxist infiltration of “The Twelve.”4 Somoza again asked for a public statement of USG support of the GON. Other topics included the quesion of amnesty for political prisoners, electoral reform, and the Chamorro assassination. End summary.

1. Pursuant to reftel, the Ambassador requested a meeting with Somoza and spoke with him for one-half hour. The Ambassador told [Page 214] Somoza that he had asked for this appointment on instructions from President Carter (reftel) to convey the President’s satisfaction regarding Somoza’s statements and some steps recently taken. In accordance with ref telcon, the Ambassador verbally described the points in President Carter’s message (IAHRC visit, the Twelve, amnesty, and electoral reform) and mentioned President Carter’s interest in Nicaragua’s signing and ratification of the American Convention of Human Rights. The Ambassador emphasized that President Carter had personally sent the message, was closely following events in Nicaragua and wished to be kept informed regarding action taken to implement the various proposals which had been made.

2. Somoza appeared visibly pleased by the knowledge that the President was the source of this message. He said that he was encouraged to see that President Carter was able to see through anti-GON propaganda. Somoza said that he wanted to end his term of office with free elections in order to consolidate the achievements of the Somozas. The problem, however, is that while his philosophy is the same as President Carter’s Nicaraguans are not Americans and it is difficult to rule Nicaragua because of the tumultuous nature of some political elements here. Somoza then said that he has already signed the American Convention of Human Rights and that ratification by the Nicaraguan Congress is pending. He wanted the Amb to know that he was in favor of all human rights organizations because, at some point in the future when he is out of power he himself would need international protection for his rights.

3. The Amb raised the recent events in Jinotepe and expressed his deep concern that the insurrectionist line continued strong with the opposition. Furthermore, the Amb noted that upon the arrival of “The Twelve”, he had not seen any signs carrying slogans supporting the various traditional oppositions nor UDEL, but rather only signs carrying FSLN slogans. Somoza agreed and added that this showed that the Communists were “after his head.” Somoza said that he was happy that he had “allowed” the Twelve to enter Nicaragua without reprisals. At first, he said, he had misgivings because he felt that the arrival of the Twelve could encourage more people toward insurrection, but upon reflection, decided that the best way was to permit the Twelve to return to Nicaragua and publicly express their views—thereby permitting everyone to see the extent of the Communist infiltration of the group. This infiltration, he said, has already scared the Conservative Party (PCN) and the members of the private sector and, therefore, in his opinion has worked to GON advantage. However, Somoza added, the problem was that he could not control Guardia when they became scared from shooting at demonstrators even though this was against his orders. What was needed to calm the situation, he said, was a sign [Page 215] or a statement from the USG, perhaps not necessarily backing him personally, but publicly discouraging insurrection. He observed that some people still believe the USG will intervene to destabilize the GON and this is keeping them going.

4. The Amb raised the issue of amnesty and questioned whether it might be linked to electoral reform, thereby defusing an explosive situation. Somoza expressed his willingness to use the OAS to monitor elections here and repeated his desire to end his term of office with free elections. Of course, he said, he wanted the Liberal Party to win and would work toward that end, but he was willing to accept, within reasonable numerical limits, OAS supervision of elections. He insisted that he remains convinced that the Liberal Party is the majority.

5. The Amb raised the Chamorro assassination investigation, suggesting that the involvement of some international expert might help clear the air and dispel mistrust. The Amb told Somoza that he had talked to Xavier Chamorro (Director of La Prensa and brother of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro) who had shown interest in the idea. The Amb had encouraged Chamorro to press publicly for this, but no results were as yet visible. Somoza said that the opposition was not being constructive, only blaming him, and expressed interest in the idea saying that perhaps the Minister of Government could propose such international participation in the investigation. Somoza said he knew who had killed Chamorro, but that he understood the problem with the Chamorro family. When his father had been assassinated, the President said, he also had misgivings for a number of years afterwards. Somoza said that he was hopeful that the conservatives would move forward the discuss [discussion of?] an electoral plan. He said that he understood there was no need for a political pact, simply an agreement on a mechanism acceptable to all to avoid continuing confrontation and bloodshed and achieve an electoral solution.

6. Comment: In conveying Pres. Carter’s message, Amb did not state that a signed letter was being sent and did not refer to confidentiality of the message. Somoza did not ask for the message in writing or inquire whether there was a written message to follow the Amb’s presentation. Emb view on the issue of handling the President’s letter follows septel.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 33, Nicaragua: 5–7/78. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room.
  2. In telegram 172394 to Managua, July 8, the Department instructed Solaun to convey to Somoza the text of a letter from Carter to Somoza. Carter’s letter noted his “great interest and appreciation” of Somoza’s June 19 press conference in which Somoza announced: his willingness to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, his decision to allow the Group of 12 members to return to “peaceful lives in Nicaragua,” a possible amnesty for political prisoners, and reform of the electoral system. Carter’s message also encouraged Somoza to sign and ratify the American Convention of Human Rights. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P780187–2568) Brzezinski’s June 26 memorandum to Carter noted that Carter had asked for a letter to be drafted for his signature to Somoza encouraging Somoza to take the “human rights steps” announced in his June 19 press conference. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 14, Nicaragua, President Anastasio Somoza Debayle, 8/77–8/78)
  3. No record of the telephone conversation between Solaun and Matthews has been found.
  4. In telegram 3108 from Managua, July 10, the Embassy reported that the GN had killed six or seven youths during anti-Somoza demonstrations in Jinotepe on July 9. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of the Office of the Deputy Secretary, Warren Christopher, Lot 81D113, Box 17, Human Rights—Nicaragua II)
  5. In telegram 3201 from Managua, July 14, the Embassy wrote: “Because of the recent upsurge in violence, the potential problems, if the Presidential message is delivered as instructed, and because the objective of the message has already been accomplished, Emb. requests authorization to return the message.” The Embassy also suggested the “release of a public, not private, expression of concern and call for democratic action.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P780187–2570)