203. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Panama1

291606. Distribute as Nodis, For Amb. From Assist. Secy. Vaky. Subject: Nicaraguan Mediation.

1. You should draw upon State 291407 to bring Torrijos up-to-date on the mediation effort,2 emphasizing that we hope and expect he will do everything in his power to restrain the Sandinistas from further violence. Your talking points should include the following.

2. We are deeply committed to the success of the mediation effort, which is now at a critical stage. An outbreak of widespread violence at this point would cause the effort to fail. Somoza could win, or radical elements could prevail and impose their own form of dictatorship. [Page 493] Democracy is not the likely outcome of a civil war in which thousands of persons would be killed.

3. If Panama in any significant way contributes to a renewed outbreak of fighting, this would have a profoundly negative effect on the present excellent nature of our relations and the good feeling that has been so evident in the course of 1978. Such a negative effect would be evidenced within the administration and would obviously extend to the Congress which will have the implementing legislation before it in late January. It should be clearly understood that if such an effect results as a consequence of Panamanian involvement in the Nicaraguan crisis, then Torrijos and Panama will have been responsible for the inevitable consequences in our ability to do business in the same way as we have done so successfully up to this point.

4. Certain information available to us is both disturbing and puzzling. That information ranges beyond earlier reports of support for certain elements of the Sandinistas, including the provision of arms. Even more disturbing are reports of shipments of substantial quantities of arms from Cuba through Panama destined for hostilities in Nicaragua. Such latter reports add an entirely new dimension to the equation and, in fact, to our perception of our relations. (FYI: see State 2819873 and your 8065,4 also 470th Report 2–771–0622–785 and HQ AFOSI 081900Z Nov 78,6 end FYI.)

5. In short, the success of what our two countries have sought for a substantial number of years could be jeopardized by Panamanian actions. Torrijos should know this so that there is no misunderstanding between us in interpreting our attitude.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840139–1827. Secret; Immediate; Exdis; Distribute as Nodis. Sent Immediate for information to the White House. Drafted by Grove and Haahr, and approved by Vaky and Richard Castrodale (S/S-O).
  2. In telegram 291407 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, November 16, the Department delivered instructions to brief heads of state on the Nicaraguan mediation effort and to ask for their support of the U.S. stance. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840139–1838)
  3. Not found.
  4. In telegram 8065 from Panama City, November 5, the Embassy reported on conversations with Torrijos and evaluated the motive of “alleged arms shipments as attempt to maintain supposed influence over Terciario Faction of FSLN.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Records, TIN: 980643000018, Box 15, Panama City)
  5. Not found.
  6. Not found.