235. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Telephone Call to General Torrijos (S)

Cy and I both recommend that you phone General Torrijos and urge him to stop the transfer of arms to the Sandinistas. (Talking Points are at Tab A.)2 (S)

We have received word from Somoza that he recognizes that the end is near, and would be prepared to step aside if he can be assured of two things: (1) asylum in the U.S. and a promise that we will not extradite him; and (2) that his departure would not lead to a political vacuum that could be filled by the Sandinistas. He has conveyed the second part of this message to the Andean Pact countries through the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, and their thinking is running parallel to our own. The Andean Pact Foreign Ministers are meeting in Caracas now, and will fly to Washington Thursday3 morning to press for an OAS resolution calling for a ceasefire, a transitional government of national reconciliation, and a Foreign Ministers’ mission to Nicaragua to work out the details with Somoza. We expect the resolution will be accepted by the OAS and by Somoza. They are not contemplating a peacekeeping force yet, but Venezuelan President Herrera has indicated to us that he is absolutely opposed to a Sandinistas victory. (S)

It is therefore all the more urgent for Torrijos to turn off the faucet of arms to the Sandinistas. We have reports now that the Panamanians are sending at least one airplane a day to the Sandinistas, and landing it outside of Managua. If we can cut that supply, we may gain sufficient time to insure a democratic transition. (S)

Torrijos is coming from a very different direction than we are. He believes the Sandinistas will win, and he is positioning himself alongside the more moderate faction in order to try to assure some influence over the new government. Torrijos wants you to do something “audacious”—like drop bombs on the Somoza, and he recommends that you [Page 573] make a symbolic gesture to put the US in a better position to deal with a future Sandinista government.4 (S)

You need to be very blunt and firm with Torrijos. We do not see the Sandinista provisional government as a friendly one; we believe that it will ultimately align with the Cubans. We do believe there is time—if Torrijos stops shipping arms to the Sandinistas—to structure a non-Somoza, democratic solution. (S)


That you phone General Torrijos. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 38, Brzezinski Office File Country Chron., Panama, 1–7/79. Secret. Sent for action. Carter initialed the top-right corner of the memorandum and wrote: “Not done.”
  2. Tab A is not attached. A copy of the June 20 talking points are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 60, Panama: 6/79–1/80.
  3. June 28.
  4. In telegram 4585 from Panama City, June 20, Moss reported on his June 20 meeting with Torrijos during which Torrijos requested that Moss deliver a “special message” to Carter containing the “crazy idea” that the U.S. Air Force launch two strikes against Somoza and “drop a few bombs symbolically to rout the Somoza forces.” Torrijos described this idea as a “spectacular humanitarian gesture” that would “salvage the image” of the United States which had suffered from the “wide-spread belief” that it had “shored up Somoza.” If the United States were not willing to take this action, Torrijos suggested that some other Latin American nation do it. Moss said he would relay the message but tried to dissuade Torrijos of the idea. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 38, Brzezinski Office File Country Chron, Panama, 1–7/79)