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

5425. Subj: Nicaragua: Meeting With Foreign Minister. Ref: Caracas 54262

1. S–Entire Text

2. Summary. Foreign Minister Zambrano told me that he expects the Andean Group to approve a declaration declaring a state of belligerency within Nicaragua which will be issued probably on Saturday, June 16 or possibly on Sunday.3 Zambrano does not believe this statement will prejudice the outcome of a future reconvening of the 17th MFM and accepts our scenario of consulting, pre-cooking the MFM and then having Andean Group call for the meeting.4 The declaration he sees as not necessarily being the basis for the MFM, he would be agreeable to a plan which would have the MFM send a senior group of Foreign Ministers to Somoza for one last effort to achieve a political solution. This latest Andean Declaration he sees as means of showing how very serious and committed the Andean Group is. He believes a number of govts in the hemisphere will welcome the declaration even if they do not subscribe to it. He is not concerned if the US does not associate itself and is anxious to work with us in preparing for concrete action. End summary.

3. I met with Foreign Minister Zambrano this evening following several phone calls with Ambassador Vaky.5 He first gave me the state of play in the Andean Group. He gave me the text of the Peruvian Foreign Minister’s proposed statement declaring a state of belligerency within Nicaragua. He said that he was in process of making some changes in the statement [to] refine it, but that essentially he fully approved the idea. He had already received approval from Ecuador [Page 1047] and was waiting final approval from Colombia and Bolivia which he expected tonight or tomorrow. The Foreign Minister said the statement would probably be issued on Saturday or Sunday6 and he expected a number of countries in the hemisphere would associate themselves with it or would welcome it without necessarily agreeing with it.

4. I explained the legal and political problems that I understood would flow from such a declaration. I said we were concerned that a state of belligerency would bring about a situation in which both sides could ask and receive direct military assistance, thereby possibly internationalizing the conflict very rapidly. Secondly, it could prejudice a future OAS meeting and divide dramatically the hemisphere into two camps, thereby losing the support that had already been developed by the earlier Andean Group action. Finally, I said that I was concerned that the US would not be able to associate itself with declaring a state of belligerency and we at this time feel strongly that we would like to stand behind the Andean Group. Zambrano cooly replied that he does not believe this declaration need prejudice in any way an OAS meeting. The purpose would be to demonstrate how serious the Andean Group is and move the nations of the hemisphere further toward taking some action. He said that although legally one could argue a state of belligerency justify assistance to both sides, he anticipates that over the short run it will have the oppositive effect. Once the Andean Group has so declared itself, he is persuaded that Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador will be hesitant to assist Somoza. However, he seriously doubts that Fidel would seize the opportunity to insert himself on the side of the Sandinistas particularly if he anticipates this declaration as antecedent to some more firm action supported by the Andean Group. Moreover, he argued that the US support for the state of belligerency would not be important. If we could not support it, that would be understandable and it would in no way limit our cooperation toward bringing together OAS action. He asked me what scenario the US has in mind.

5. Based on my briefing from Assistant Secretary Vaky, I said we would like to consult Friday or Saturday7 with all nations in hemisphere on the reconvening of the 17th MFM and we would have some ideas on the terms of reference for this meeting. We would like then for the Andean Group to agree to calling the MFM and then we would consult in person with key govt, particularly Mexico, Venezuela and probably Brazil. I said if we could reach agreement, Ambassador Vaky might [Page 1048] visit Venezuela some time in the middle of next week. I then described in general terms what we hoped the MFM would do: that it would approve a resolution expressing concern over the developments in Nicaragua and authorize a visit to Nicaragua of a group of senior hemispheric Foreign Ministers. I then said that if Somoza were not agreeable to a political solution called for by the entire OAS at the highest level, he would appreciate that he is on his own and would have to expect the next steps would be more severe.

6. Zambrano was delighted by the scenario, said again that he sees no contradiction between the declaration on the state of belligerency and our scenario, added that the Andean Declaration on this issue could be one position considered at a MFM but recognized that it could be put aside were another type of action approved, particularly one which would send a high level delegation to Somoza for one last attempt at a political solution.

7. Comment: Zambrano is emerging a [garble] and activist diplomat. He said that he had actually drafted the declaration at Cartagena and has continued to mobilize the Andean Group. Although the belligerency idea was originally his he is delighted Garcia Bedoya is running with it. He sees “belligerency” as a tactic which, although legally audacious and possibly risky, is politically necessary in order to keep up the movement toward more definitive action in a situation that is rapidly deteriorating. He repeated over and over again that the Venezuelan and Andean objective is to take action soon enough so that the center parties, including the business sector, the Conservative Party and the moderates in the FAO, can be given a chance, possibly with the presence of foreign troops from the rest of the hemisphere to establish a democratic govt. He was talking in hard, practical terms about the historic moment in which Latin American govt will act firmly to assure that a dictator of the right will not be replaced by a dictator of the left. He is prepared to act boldly and apparently with force to give democracy a chance. In my talk with him and in a subsequent briefing that I gave to the Minister of the Presidency Garcia Bustillos, it is clear that the Venezuelan position is emphatically not to want to give any opening to Fidel or to the communists in Central America, to stop the civil war, and to open the door to democracy.

8. I realize the Andean Declaration will cause problems from our standpoint, but it is clear to me that Venezuela and at least some of the Andean countries are preparing to work closely with us now. Although the Foreign Minister will be out of town all day tomorrow, I will be able to reach him tonight and early in the morning or tomorrow [Page 1049] night late. We have a tentative appointment to see each other on Saturday morning. I will await instructions.8

9. In drafting the foregoing I have received the amplifications and changes Zambrano made in the operative paragraphs of the declaration (see reftel.) One can see from the last para that he wrote in a contingency that the declaration of belligerency will last until positive measures are taken to put an end to the fighting and install a democratic regime in Nicaragua.

10. We have been given a window on negotiations between the Andean states by Zambrano. I firmly hope we will not reveal to any of his colleagues that we have these texts. I also hope we do not begin lobbying with Colombia and Bolivia against Zambrano. Venezuela under this govt is continuing to press to action but unlike the Perez approach, Herrera and Zambrano are bringing more Latins with them. Let’s not cut them off.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790269-1126. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis.
  2. Dated June 15. Luers transmitted the text of the proposed Andean Pact joint declaration on Nicaragua, which was sent to Zambrano by Garcia Bedoya. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790269-1116)
  3. June 17. The Andean Pact’s declaration was issued on June 16. (Telegram 5106 from Lima, June 16, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790273-0683)
  4. For the U.S. strategy regarding the MFM, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Documents 210 and 212.
  5. No record of the telephone calls were found.
  6. June 15 or 16.
  7. June 14 or 15.
  8. In telegram 154042 to Caracas, June 15, the Department instructed Luers to “point out to Zambrano that we would have serious problems with any declaration of a state of belligerency which merely refers to status conferred upon a belligerent under international law” and recommended “that the Andean nations consider including a definition of what they mean by ‘belligerency’ in the Nicaraguan context, and what consequences that they intend to have flow from the declaration.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790271-0020) Luers met again with Zambrano on both June 16 and 17 to discuss Nicaragua. (Telegram 5491 from Caracas, June 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790273-0450 and telegram 5492 from Caracas, June 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790275-0358)