231. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Moss-Pastor Mission to Panama

On Monday2 morning, after the third urgent plea from Gabriel Lewis for Ambassador Moss and Bob Pastor to go to Panama to speak to General Torrijos, they went.3 They held five hours of discussions with Torrijos and his advisers on Monday night and met with President Royo on Tuesday4 morning.

Moss and Pastor explained the current precarious status of the implementing legislation and the efforts by Nicaragua and the opponents of the Canal Treaties to try to undermine the implementing legislation by linking Panama to the Sandinistas. Moss and Pastor requested from both Royo and Torrijos their personal assurances that [Page 568] Panama “is not intervening and will not intervene” in the internal affairs of Nicaragua. Royo and Torrijos gave these assurances orally and in letters to you (Tab A).5 Moss and Pastor confronted Royo and Torrijos with evidence of DC-6 flights from Cuba to Nicaragua to Costa Rica, but both insisted that these flights were for cultural and sports exchanges. We do not have any firm evidence which contradict their assurances, and we believe it would be very useful for you to convey these assurances to Murphy and key people in the House.6 If you agree that it would be useful to show these letters to certain Congressmen, we will inform Royo as he will want to release the letters in Panama first.

Torrijos had asked Moss and Pastor to meet with him because he felt that Somoza was nearing his end in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas apparently believe that the general strike in Managua and their all-out offensive will toll the end for Somoza, and Torrijos wanted to give us his assessment of the situation and recommend that we begin to open channels of communication with the more moderate and pragmatic elements of the Sandinista movement. Next Monday,7 Cy will chair a PRC meeting on Central America,8 and we will have an opportunity to reexamine our strategy to Nicaragua and all of Central America and make recommendations to you.

Apparently, the Moss/Pastor trip succeeded in calming down Torrijos and the letters could be very helpful in delinking the implementing legislation from the Nicaraguan crisis. In his letter, Royo clearly places his concerns for Nicaragua in a broadly multilateral context (including Costa Rica, Mexico, Andean Pact) and his assurances on non-intervention are unequivocal.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 38, Brzezinski Office File Country Chron., Panama, 1–7/79. Confidential. Carter initialed the top-right corner of the memorandum and wrote: “good.”
  2. June 4.
  3. See Document 230.
  4. June 5.
  5. Tab A is not attached. See footnote 5, Document 230.
  6. Carter underlined “convey these assurances to Murphy and key people in the House” and wrote in the left margin “do so thru Vance or Moore.”
  7. June 11.
  8. The meeting minutes are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America.