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


  • Follow-up on the President’s Pan American Day Speech: Peacekeeping

In the Pan American Day Speech, when the President said that the United States will support the efforts and initiatives of the Secretary General of the OAS in his “active and effective involvement in the search for peaceable solutions to several longstanding disputes in this hemisphere,” he was signalling a departure from past policy. Since U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic, U.S. policy has been to keep our distance from any territorial problems in the hemisphere because it was felt that our involvement would be the “kiss of death” for any initiative, regardless how desirable. Thus, the U.S. did not even [Page 56] comment favorably when the Andean countries signed the Declaration of Ayacucho in 1974 calling for mutual arms limitation in the region.

This non-profile policy may have been appropriate for the decade after the Dominican Republic, but times have changed. There are now many leaders in the hemisphere—and I would count Secretary General Orfila as a potential leader—who are either looking for U.S. support or leadership in this area. The President signalled the possibility of such a new posture in the Pan American Day speech not only in his reference to the OAS peacekeeping efforts, but also in his positive comment about the Ayacucho Declaration.

“I spent most of this morning working on a new United States policy to reduce the sale of conventional arms around the world. Again, you in Latin America have taken the lead. The pledge of eight South American nations to limit the acquisition of offensive arms in their region is a striking example. If the eight nations can implement their pledge, their own people will not be the only ones to benefit. They will have set a standard for others, throughout the world, to follow.”

There are three relatively serious territorial disputes and several others less serious problems in the hemisphere. The three deserve our attention:

1. Belize-Guatemala. Belize is a colony of Great Britain which would have achieved independence had it not been for the fact that Guatemala, which has claims to Belize, has threatened to invade if it becomes independent.2 This is the most urgent issue because it has divided Latin America, which supports Guatemala, in varying degrees, and the Caribbean, which supports Belize. Panama has recently shifted to the side of Belize, and Guatemala broke diplomatic relations. The British have asked us to help, and Secretary Vance asked ARA for options, which I believe they provided, albeit reluctantly. (Luers said he thought it would be a mistake for us to get involved.)3

2. El Salvador and Honduras still do not have diplomatic relations. A little support for Orfila’s efforts might help there.4

3. Andean Tensions.

In the memorandum asking for follow-up on the President’s speech, options on peacekeeping efforts were requested, but we never received any.5 ARA is split on this issue. Bob White, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Mission to the OAS, believes that we should take a more active [Page 57] role in this area, and Secretary Vance’s request for options on Belize is one indication that he may be in agreement with this new posture. Obviously, I think an active—not necessarily as a leader, but at the least, as an interested party searching for the most effective way to get involved—role is entirely consistent with the main theme in the President’s speech.6 I mentioned this to Bob White, and he immediately organized a meeting in ARA on May 25, and in my opinion, it was the most productive meeting I have ever gone to in ARA.7 The people he brought in knew each of the disputes and had some good ideas on what the U.S. could do. Luers attended the meeting only for the first ten minutes, and I suspect he was the one who slipped that ridiculous note to the Secretary which you mentioned on Friday.8 The irony is that I would bet that the Secretary would support a more active role by the United States in this area.

Anyway, I suspect that the only way that we will get any movement on this issue is either by a formal request or perhaps a phone call to Secretary Vance.

I would recommend a formal request for two reasons: (1) in order to give us the opportunity to show something to the President on this subject—letting him choose the options on the questions of future involvement; and (2) so that we can monitor the interagency process to ensure that it is not sandbagged in ARA.


That you send the memorandum at Tab I.9

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 58, Organization of American States, 5/77–1/81. Confidential. Sent for action. On the first page of the memorandum, Aaron wrote, “ZB—See my comments. DA.” Dodson also initialed the memorandum.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Document 4.
  3. In the right-hand margin next to this sentence, Aaron wrote, “I agree. DA.”
  4. In the right-hand margin next to this sentence, Aaron wrote, “Maybe, what’s the catch? DA.”
  5. See Document 10.
  6. Inderfurth underlined most of this sentence and wrote in the left-hand margin, “I agree. RI.”
  7. No record of this meeting has been found.
  8. Not found. “Friday” presumably refers to May 27.
  9. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of the recommendation, but Dodson wrote: “signed 6/14/77.” The memorandum, attached, is printed as Document 18. In the left-hand margin next to the recommendation, Inderfurth wrote, “A good idea. I believe this is the kind of follow-up to the President’s speeches, etc. that should be taken. RI.” At the bottom of the memorandum, Aaron wrote: “ZBARA is a State Dept within the State Dept. Bill Luers is extremely uncooperative with us. (By the way he is being considered for the Dep Asst Secretary slot in the Bureau of European Affairs dealing with the Soviet Bloc.) We should sign out the directives for disciplinary reasons, if no other. DA.”