245. Letter From President Carter to Colombian President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen1

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your letter of November 25, which Ambassador Barco transmitted to me.2 I understand from Ambassador Asencio, whom you very graciously received for the presentation of his credentials, that you and he talked further about some of the topics raised in your letter, particularly the Belize-Guatemala dispute. I am pleased that you raised the question of narcotics trafficking with Ambassador Asencio.3 As I stated in my November letter to you,4 that problem continues to be of special concern to both our countries.

I also share your concern over the serious problems created for Central America and other areas by wide fluctuations in the prices of coffee, sugar, and other commodities. The United States hopes that the recently-negotiated International Sugar Agreement will alleviate much of the difficulty over sugar prices. We continue to expect that the International Coffee Agreement will stabilize coffee prices around a long-term trend.5 Fortunately, the recovery of the United States from the 1974–75 recession has helped the countries of Central America and a number of other nations in the Hemisphere achieve a general increase in their nontraditional exports. This increase in export revenues should make it easier to adjust to commodity price fluctuations.

Price changes of principal exports can profoundly affect the political systems of small countries. This is one of many reasons for improv [Page 720] ing the various international commodity agreements so as to make prices more stable and equitable.

I share your concern about Belize. During the past several weeks there have been some indications that negotiators from Guatemala and Great Britain have managed to reduce substantially the areas of difference between them.6 I especially appreciate Foreign Minister Lievano’s assistance in helping to move the issue toward a solution.

I hope the narrowing of the differences between Guatemala and Britain will lead to an early restoration of relations between Guatemala and Panama. General Torrijos and I have tried to keep each other informed on recent developments about Belize. We all share an interest in a just and durable settlement.

I appreciated your analysis of recent political developments in Central America. Your point that failure by the United States to ratify the Panama Canal Treaties could lead to greater political turbulence in Central America is well taken. As you know, I am pressing hard for public approval and Senate ratification of the treaties as soon as possible. While the treaties have aroused strong emotional reactions in my country, I perceive an increasing degree of support. I am optimistic about ratification of the treaties. I value highly your continuing strong support for this endeavor, which is of such great significance for the entire Hemisphere.

Ratification of the Canal Treaties will remove a possible source of tension in Central America and will lead to a new spirit of cooperation and the establishment of respect in which democracy can flourish.

I appreciate your sharing your views with me and hope that you will find mine useful. In this season, Rosalynn and I send to Mrs. Lopez and you our best wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 4, Colombia: President Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, 5/77-6/78. No classification marking.
  2. The letter and the translation are Ibid.
  3. In telegram 11346 from Bogota, December 6, the Embassy described Asencio’s meeting with Lopez and reported: “A considerable portion of the conversation was on the drug problem (raised by the president) and included a reaffirmation by the President of his political commitment to the eradication of Colombian participation in trafficking.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770452-1196)
  4. In his November 7 letter to Lopez Michelsen, Carter noted Lopez’s “plan to reorganize the narcotics enforcement functions within a single civilian agency,” and wrote: “I welcome and support this attempt to strengthen your country’s narcotics enforcement capability because it should facilitate our cooperative narcotics enforcement programs.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron, Box 7, Colombia, 1977–1979)
  5. The International Coffee and Sugar Agreements regulated commodity prices and sales among their signatories, which included both importing and exporting nations. In 1975, the United States signed the then most recent version of the Coffee Agreement; in 1977, it signed the latest iteration of the Sugar Agreement.
  6. See related documents in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America.