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

10231. Subject: Nicaragua: Conversation With President Perez and Ramiro Cardenal. Ref: Caracas 102302

1. Summary: I met with President Perez Friday3 evening and provided him copies of the FAO press release, the most recent FAO proposal, and the Group of 12 communique. He said he was in full agreement with the most recent FAO proposal and thought the institutional solution was a good one. He still, however, reflected skepticism about Somoza leaving, is worried about FSLN impatience, and the possibility of violence. Perez, after a half hour conversation, called in visiting Group of 12 representative Ramiro Cardenal and Minister Lauria to discuss Perez’ plan to meet with Robelo, Cordova, Rivas, Pastora, Tunerman and possibly others very soon to press for support for the mediation. Cardenal said that Robelo had told him by phone that he could withstand the pressure to withdraw from the FAO only for another week or so. Perez said that if the U.S. could give guarantees that Somoza would leave if the plan being evolved by the FAO is fully accepted by the Group of 12, he was certain the Group of 12 would support it. He said the U.S. should give the FAO now a specific list of what we were prepared to do to assure Somoza’s departure. I replied we are working for a Nicaraguan solution and it is not appropriate for us to describe how we would remove Somoza. I said I could not give him guarantees on Somoza’s departure, but it was my strong impression that once the Nicaraguan solution were presented to Somoza he could be persuaded to depart. I strongly urged support for continuing the mediation process and holding off military action. Perez became impatient with my repeated appeals to avoid violence and said it was naive for the U.S. to think the Sandinistas could hold off from attacking much longer. I agreed we would try to facilitate passports for him to hold his meeting in Caracas soon. Perez is still playing the brinksman and trying to push forward our time frame. He was also [Page 1015] showing off a bit for Cardenal. But he agreed with the FAO proposal and I am persuaded he will be helpful. End Summary.

2. In an evening meeting in his office, I presented President Perez with the most recent documents on the mediation: the FAO press release, the most recent FAO proposal and the Group of 12 communique. He said he was bothered by recent developments and was anxious to summon to Caracas the major actors . . . Robelo, Cordoval, Rivas, Pastora and Tunerman, plus others if possible. Even though he was skeptical about the mediation effort, he strongly supports the institutional solution that preserves the constitution and provides for a constituent assembly. (He obviously had read the previous version I had handed him.)4 He said he had not been in touch with anyone except for Ramiro Cardenal of the Group of 12, who was next door with Minister Lauria. He summoned the two to join us after we went over some of the familiar ground of Perez’ impatience with U.S. intentions and the pace of the mediation.

3. When Cardenal joined us we discussed at first the necessity for facilitating the issuance of passports to Robelo and Cordova Riva. (See reftel.) Perez said he wanted to have the meeting as soon as possible in Caracas to see what could be done to keep the mediation effort going. Cardenal said that he had been in frequent touch with Robelo who said that there was strong pressure on him to withdraw from the FAO and that he would probably have to withdraw if significant progress was not made within the next two weeks. Cardenal also said that he had been trying to reach Pastora in Costa Rica but had talked with Pastora’s wife and hoped to be in touch within the next day or so to urge Pastora to come to Caracas.

4. Perez forcefully (partially for Cardenal’s benefit) reiterated his skepticism of U.S. intentions. He said the U.S. should now tell the FAO and the Group of 12 exactly what we will do, in case Somoza does not depart, to remove him and when we are prepared to do this. He said that if the U.S. were to take such a step, the excellent FAO plan could go into effect immediately with the support of the Group of 12. I said that we were looking for a plan that could be supported broadly by Nicaraguans, that in seeking a Nicaraguan solution it would be inappropriate and disruptive for us to describe how we would remove Somoza, which would be contrary to our whole effort thus far. I said, however, that I was persuaded that if a truly Nicaraguan solution were to evolve, and I thought we were approaching one, then Somoza would leave. Perez said that if the U.S. could give a guarantee of this to the FAO, the entire process could move very rapidly with full Group of [Page 1016] 12 support. I said I could not give such a guarantee, but that I could assure him that if violence were to break out and the Sandinistas attack at this stage, the mediation efforts, which had come so far, would be gravely damaged.

5. I told the President that the U.S. wanted his support for the mediation. I then went through what I already reported (in para 2 of Caracas 10230).5 I stressed the confidentiality of this information. Perez demonstrated impatience both with my appeals for confidentiality of our discussions and my repeated concern over the outbreak of violence. Partially he was impatient to return to his home since this is his birthday; partially he is impatient with the pace of U.S. actions and what he perceives to be naive policy, but most importantly it was his way of keeping up the pressure and moving forward our time schedule. He repeatedly says he has no control over the timing of a Sandinista attack which could occur at any time. My conclusion, however, from the conversation is that Perez wants to help move the mediation forward. I, at no time, asked that he or Venezuela press the Group of 12 to return to the FAO. What I did stress was the need to support the mediation and avoid violence.

6. I will be seeing Lauria tomorrow, and, if necessary, the President. Should the conclave being organized by Perez come off, I would at some point like guidance from both Ambassador Bowdler and Assistant Secretary Vaky on the appropriate role I should play, if any.6

7. Comment: I sense from the exchange between Perez and Cardenal that there was considerable disagreement within the Group of 12 over the tactics of withdrawal and specifically over the most recent FAO proposal. Cardenal said that he fully endorses the most recent proposal and implied that there were only a few in the Group of 12 who were opposed to it. Any thoughts on this subject will also be helpful.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850101-1958. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis.
  2. October 28. Luers reported that Perez wanted the USG to “facilitate the issuance of passports to Rafael Robelo and Cordova Rivas so that they can come quickly to Venezuela to consult with President Perez on the mediation effort.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780443-1092)
  3. October 27.
  4. Not found.
  5. See footnote 2, above. Luers reported that he told Perez that he “had no instructions on openly supporting his efforts to bring these representatives of the FAO to Caracas. I said, however, that I was certain that Ambassador Bowdler would undertake personally to try to arrange for the passports as soon as possible.”
  6. In telegram 276484 to Caracas, October 31, the Department repeated telegram 5425 from Managua, October 29, in which Bowdler recommended that Luers should not attend the meeting but should “enlist the support of Perez” to “influence” the FAO “to work together, be patient, support the mediation, and, above all, to avoid violence,” and that Luers should also “ascertain in as much detail as possible what happens at the meeting.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, N780009-0030) For the meeting between Perez and members of the FAO in Caracas, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Document 131.