163. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • International Political Issues: Panama Canal Treaties, Non-Proliferation, Middle East, Africa, Belize, Nicaragua, and Conventional Arms Restraint


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Terence A. Todman, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
  • W. Anthony Lake, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • Robert A. Pastor, NSC Staff Member
  • Ambassador Viron P. Vaky
  • Guy F. Erb, NSC Staff Member
  • Venezuela

    • Carlos Andres Perez, President
    • Simon Bottaro Consalvi, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Manuel Perez Guerrero, Minister of State for International Economic Affairs
    • Valentin Acosta Hernandez, Minister of Energy and Mines
    • Carmelo Lesseur Lauria, Minister, Secretariat of the Presidency
    • Hector Hurtado, Minister of State, President of the Investment Fund
    • Ambassador Ignacio Iribarren
    • Dr. Reinaldo Figuerido, Director of Foreign Trade Institute

After exchanging cordialities, President Perez asked about President Carter’s preference with regard to an agenda. President Carter said that he would like to discuss international political issues today and economic issues tomorrow.2

Panama Canal

President Perez asked President Carter for his estimate of the chances for Canal Treaty ratification. President Carter said that this was the most difficult political issue he has ever faced, with the vote still very close. We are determined, he said, that when the process is completed there is no continuation of U.S. presence after this century and no insinuation of any U.S. intent to intervene in Panama’s internal affairs. Some of the language of the reservations was unfortunate, and we will make every effort to correct the mistakes in the process of ratifying the second treaty.

President Carter said that Perez could help by adding his voice to his own in counseling Torrijos to be moderate and to wait for the process to be completed. Those who oppose the Treaty welcome any sign of disharmony between the U.S. and Panama, and this should be avoided. We are reasonably sure, President Carter said, that we can accomplish what we have set out to do. He said he recognized the Treaties as the most important challenge and opportunity for bringing a new spirit to inter-American relations which has been placed on his shoulders.

President Perez expressed his concern over amendments to the Treaties, especially the DeConcini amendment. When he learned of it, he immediately telephoned Torrijos and counseled him not to react but to wait, to be calm and “to go the mountains and address the forest.” (President Carter interjected that he had a similar conversation with Torrijos.) Perez said that Torrijos had described his conversation with President Carter3 and had agreed that he should wait until the process was completed and to evaluate the situation then. Torrijos had wanted to come to Caracas, but Perez said he talked him out of it on the [Page 410] grounds that if he were here the press would force him to make a statement. He sent his Minister of Education, Royo, instead, and Perez had a long conversation with him. They agreed, Perez said, that the wording of the DeConcini reservation was “unacceptable”. It was also unnecessary, Perez added, “since the U.S. had the power to do what it proposed anyway. War is simply declared; it is not announced ahead of time.”

Torrijos believes, Perez said, that some kind of declaration should be made in the second treaty to offset the public impact of the DeConcini Amendment. Perez said he had worked out suggested wording when Royo was here, and he wanted to give President Carter an aide memoire with that wording (Perez handed the President this memo).4 If something like this was not done, Perez said, the situation would be dangerous.

Perez said that Torrijos had sent a letter to each Latin American Chief of State who had attended the signing ceremony, since he felt obligated to keep them informed of recent developments which affected the Treaties.

President Carter said that we shared Perez’ views and concern, and these views were very helpful to him.

[Omitted here is a discussion unrelated to Panama.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 36, Memcons: President: 2–3/78. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Miraflores Palace.
  2. The memorandum of conversation for the March 29 discussion is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXIV, South America; Latin America Regional, 1977–1980.
  3. See Documents 156 and 159.
  4. Not found.