347. Telegram From the Embassy in Venezuela to the Department of State1

8293. Subject: President Perez’ Views on Nicaragua. Ref: San Jose 37502

1. I called on President Perez, who was accompanied by Acting Foreign Minister Gomez Mantellini, at 8:30 pm on September 1. Already advised of the subject, Perez immediately took the initiative and asked rhetorically “If we are all going to sit around while genocide is committed in Nicaragua”? He answered his own question by stating that it is still not too late to take some collective action to persuade Somoza to step down. If such action is not taken, he foresaw only continuing deterioration of the security situation until the U.S. finally will be forced to intervene militarily. “When this happens,” said Perez, “we will have to join with the rest of Latin America in protest.”

2. According to Perez, Somoza unfortunately regards President Carter’s letter to him (expressing appreciation for Somoza’s decision to allow the visit of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission) as a symbol of continued U.S. approval (or at least as the absence of disapproval).3 The sending of the letter (which Perez said he was obliged to regard as being at odds with the U.S.-Venezuelan understanding to consult on Nicaragua) had had this negative effect. It will now be necessary for the U.S.G. to disabuse Somoza of the notion that he enjoys American support and approval.

3. Perez thought that Somoza was not above trying to relieve internal pressures against him through a foreign adventure. He said President Carazo had privately expressed fears in this regard. Perez said he told Carazo that Costa Rica could count on complete Venezuelan support, including military, if it should become necessary.

[Page 1007]

4. The formula which Perez considered most viable for the transition was what he called “Somozaism without Somoza.” Somoza would be given guarantees for his safety and property in return for stepping down voluntarily. Governing authority would then be vested in a body composed of members of the Group of 12 and of senior National Guard officers. In this way, Sandinista influence would be minimized. The Sandinistas are a varied lot, said Perez, ranging from doctrinaire Marxists to democratic leftists. In any case, Perez thought their influence could be controlled. He added that if what was worrying the USG was the possibility that the ousting of Somoza would lead to a Communist take-over, he would be willing to send a personal emissary to Fidel Castro to request guarantees that Castro would not intervene to assist the Sandinistas. He thought at this point he could obtain them, he said. However, if the situation deteriorates further, it will be too late for anything else but a radical revolutionary solution in which Castro is bound to play a role.

5. When I asked how he thought the collective action should be organized, Perez said he thought it could be carried out in unison by the Governments of the U.S., Costa Rica and Venezuela. (As an after thought, he added the Government of Colombia). He appeared to rule out action through the OAS (although we have just learned that the Gov has decided to ask today for a consultative meeting of the UN Security Council and may request similar action in the OAS).

6. Perez said that whether or not any effective joint action can be undertaken against the Somoza regime, Venezuela is seriously considering breaking off diplomatic relations, possibly as early as Monday, September 4. He directed the Acting Foreign Minister to have the necessary documents and press communique prepared on a contingency basis and to have them ready for his return from the Andean Region on Sunday evening. Perez said he could be reached through the Acting Foreign Minister over the weekend in case we had any urgent messages for him. He reiterated strongly that action must be taken rapidly before the situation deteriorates any farther.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850101-1904. Secret; Immediate; Exdis Handle as Nodis. Sent for information immediate to Mexico City, San Jose, and the White House. The Embassy was responding to telegram 222951 to Caracas, September 1, which instructed the ambassador or chargé to deliver to Perez an oral message from Carter: “I have been watching developments in Nicaragua very closely and am very concerned, as I’m sure you are. I would very much appreciate your personal assessment of this situation.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840137-1795) See Foreign Relations, 1977–80, vol. XX, Central America, Document 88.
  2. September 1. The Embassy reported: “Carazo believes that the time may have passed for any Somoza self-initiated transition of power to trusted associates, civilian or of the GN, but that now Somoza has to go.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840139-2539)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Document 76.