190. Memorandum From Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Phone Call From General Torrijos

At 9:45 p.m., as I was leaving my office, I got a phone call from General Torrijos and his Foreign Minister Nicolas Gonzalez-Revilla. They were obviously in good spirits, having just returned from the inauguration of the Colombian President.2 Torrijos said he had had conversations with the Presidents of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and the Special Representative of the President of Peru, and he wanted to relay them to me, my boss (Brzezinski) and my boss’ boss.

They were obviously “happy”; after reflecting on the conversation, I really don’t know if they were putting me on for parts of it, or if they were serious. I will “report” it to you as they gave it to me.

1. Honduras

Torrijos had spoken with Carlos Andres Perez (CAP) about the recent change in Honduras, and CAP had authorized Torrijos to speak on his behalf to recommend to the Hondurans that they include three more colonels in the new junta. The names of the colonels were: van Seca, Maldonado, and Suarez. He said that CAP and he were concerned that the junta had shifted to the right (our intelligence reports have the same assessment), and they wanted to include these three in the junta so as to make the government a little bit more progressive.

I pointed out to them that the communique issued by the Honduran Superior Defense Council had stated that the new government would continue the same “progressive policy” on land reform and other social issues as the previous government. They answered that was true, but “it still depends on the people who will be implementing the policies.” I asked if they would convey this recommendation privately or publicly, and they said they would do it privately.

They then said they would “speak for the U.S.” as well, and I asked them if they had spoken to any high American official and been [Page 467] authorized to do that. I said with great seriousness that they in no way should construe this conversation as giving them any authority to speak on behalf of the U.S. because I could not authorize such a statement. And frankly, I told them I would not recommend it since I didn’t think it was such a good idea.

I asked them when they intended to place the call, and they laughed and said, “Already done”. I said uneasily that they shouldn’t have spoken for the U.S., and they then backed off a bit, and said that Torrijos had told the Hondurans that he thought that the U.S. “would look on [the recommendation] with good eyes.”

2. Bolivia

Torrijos spoke with General Pereda in Bogota, and said he is a “good man; he is positive and thinks well.” The Panamanians will not recognize his government yet so as to not let it appear that they are following a crowd, but they will before too long. All in all, Torrijos feels that the alternative to Pereda probably would have been civil war.

3. Nicaragua

Torrijos believes that if the U.S. put the same pressure on Nicaragua as it had done with Bolivia, then things would be much better there. He said that Latin Americans think we have a double policy towards Somoza, and it is unclear. He said that we continue to support him, and that is confusing to him.

4. Panama

Torrijos said that there was a heavy turnout in Panama—84% voted.3 Torrijos asked me to ask you what he should do now. “What are the next moves he should make in accordance with the U.S. human rights policy? Don’t you think we have done as much as we can?”

I recommended that Torrijos add three more colonels to his government to make it more progressive, and the laughter jammed the inter-American circuits.

5. Spain

Torrijos also met with Felipe Gonzalez, who asked Torrijos to convey to the U.S. that Gonzalez is “not your [U.S.] enemy, and hopes you [Americans] have nothing against him.” Gonzalez told Torrijos that he hopes the U.S. will not oppose him.

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6. Perez

According to Torrijos, Perez spoke in a private meeting to all the Foreign Ministers and Presidents about his views with regard to the U.S. position on a number of issues. Torrijos would not elaborate except to say that Perez was clear in saying that he was not speaking for anyone other than himself.

Torrijos apparently spoke to the same group (on the afternoon of the eighth) and said he thought U.S. human rights policy had placed too much emphasis on political rights and too little on economic rights.

7. Message to Hamilton

Torrijos asked me to convey a message to Hamilton. He said that he had not seen any articles in the newspaper on Hamilton’s problems for such a long time that he wondered whether Hamilton was still in the White House.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 60, Panama: 4/78–5/79. Confidential. Sent for information. Copy was sent to Jordan. Brzezinski wrote on the top of the memorandum: “DA sounds as if he was drunk!” Aaron wrote next to Brzezinski’s comment: “Indeed!”
  2. Julio César Turbay Ayala took office on August 7.
  3. On August 6, Panama elected its 505 members of the National Assembly of Community Representatives.