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

1354. Subject: Nicaragua: Talk With President Perez Feb 13. Ref: A. State 0344702 B. State 0344883

1. S–Entire Text

2. Summary: President Perez says that he is not supplying any money or arms to the Sandinistas. He will not and cannot because of the restraints of his political system, although he says rhetorically he thinks he should. Secondly, in discussing the OAS/MFM on Nicaragua,4 Perez will initially take a strong stand on sanctions and breaking relations for tactical reasons to enable the U.S. to reach a resolution which Venezuela will support which will be at least as strong as the UNGA resolution on Nicaragua. He also said, at my request, that he will instruct his Ambassador to the OAS not to have the session turn into personalized debate between Machin and Sevilla Sacasa. Perez said he had talked to Acting President of Guatemala Villagrand who promised that Guatemala would sign the mediation report and maybe agree to participate in discussing it at the OAS. He also said he would call President Padilla of Bolivia and urge him to support a strong resolution in the OAS. In sum, he (Perez) will end up supporting a strong resolution as described by the Department. He also continues to wring his hands about what else can be done, agrees that breaking off diplomatic relations is not desirable, but strongly believes that the U.S. should take more steps and suggested we might work with the Guardia Nacional to undermine Somoza. End summary.

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3. President Perez invited me to breakfast Feb 13 for another tour d’horizon, but specifically to talk with Nicaragua again. Foreign Minister Consalvi was present and we covered many issues. I carried out my instructions contained in reftels.

4. Regarding the demarche on arms to Nicaragua and the Sandinistas, I went through the talking points in para 4 of Reftel A and I also used the additional talking point in para 7.5 Perez welcomed our efforts to control arms deliveries to Somoza. He is still skeptical that we can control private arms sales or even the secret transmission of Israeli arms on the question of arms to the Sandinistas, he said he is providing no military or financial assistance of any type to the Sandinistas and is inhibited by his political process from doing so. He said he would like to be able to help the Sandinistas now since they are most certainly going to turn to Fidel sooner or later. He says that once that happens and once the Sandinistas develop a romantic image of opposing Somoza, Latin America may have lost much of what has been achieved over the last decade of eliminating this romantic image of the guerrilla. He predicts that the Sandinistas will go to war and need help. No one can help them but Fidel. He then went into his geopolitical nightmare now that Iran has “fallen” and that the Soviets are upset over our relations with China, the Soviets will be much more inclined to support Fidel’s trouble making in Central America. I gave the President my own perspective on Soviet strategy worldwide and described the problems I saw with his analysis and tried to persuaded him that I doubted seriously that the Soviets would be pushing Fidel into Nicaragua. He assured me, however, that Venezuela is not and will not be supplying any assistance to the Sandinistas.

5. On the OAS/MFM. CAP was very supportive. I gave him the estimate of the voting positions of the various countries and explained the background of Brazilian/Argentine concerns over the IAHRC report as well as the problems we are encountering in dealing with the mediation group report. Perez said that on the mediation report, he had called acting Guatemalan President Villagrande following our last Friday6 conversation on this subject and urged Guatemala to sign the report. Villagrande assured Perez that Guatemala would sign the mediation report and said he would try to get President Lucas to agree to participate in a discussion of the report at the OAS. I told Perez that was not consistent with our information. Perez agreed that the [Page 1032] mediation report should probably not be discussed. Moreover, on the IAHRC report, Perez said he would call President Padilla of Bolivia immediately and try to urge Bolivia’s agreement to favor a strong resolution.

6. On the resolution, Perez said that for tactical reasons, he thought Venezuela’s opening position in the debate should favor a very strong resolution which would mention sanctions and possibly the breaking of diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. This would be tactically helpful for the U.S. since the objective is to end up with a strong resolution. He agreed that Venezuela would ultimately agree to a resolution that was at least as strong as the UNGA resolution of December 1978. I said I was going beyond my instructions but believed the debate would be improved if it did not degenerate, as it has in the past, into a personal feud between Venezuela’s OAS Ambassador Machin and Sevilla Sacasa. I said that these exchanges tended to degrade the debate and ultimately favored Nicaragua. Perez said he would call Machin back to Caracas. He will instruct him, to be low key in the debate and avoid turning the issue into a personalized feud between Venezuela and Nicaragua.

7. I think we can count on Venezuela to be helpful. Should Machin exceed the instructions he will personally receive, I request the Department inform me immediately. The President wants a large majority voting for a strong resolution and I think he will ultimately work with us to achieve that.

8. Perez did lament about what more could be done on Nicaragua. He is not inclined to break diplomatic relations, but tempted. He said that what the U.S. military should do is work with the Guardia Nacional to undermine Somoza. He recounted at length Somoza’s deep distrust of the GN that emerged in his discussions of last summer with Somoza. I told the President we, including all branches of the U.S. Government, are out of that business and I hope we stay out.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790068-1117. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information immediate to Managua, Panama City, and San Jose.
  2. Dated February 9. The Department instructed the Embassies in Panama, Venezuela, Cuba and Costa Rica to make a demarche to their host governments regarding arms supplies to the Sandinistas. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790066-0647)
  3. Dated February 9. The Department informed all American Republics posts except for the Embassies in Georgetown and Nassau and the Interests Section in Havana that it was likely that the MFM would be reconvened during the week of February 19 “to consider IAHRC report on Nicaragua” and “to hear report on activities of mediating group.” Regarding a potential OAS resolution “which clearly indicates the concern of the OAS members about the gross violations of human rights in Nicaragua, and is sufficiently strong to serve as an incentive for the Somoza government to undertake remedial actions,” the Embassies were asked for their “assessment of degree of flexibility of host country to accept formula which may be less strong than ideal from its point of view,” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790063-0798)
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Document 198.
  5. The talking points outlined the steps the USG was taking after the Nicaragua mediation had “come to an impasse,” including restrictions on arms shipments to the GON and reducing aid. They also asked host governments to “do whatever possible to prevent transit of arms to the Sandinistas.” See footnote 2, above.
  6. February 9.