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Why did the Panamanian Government embark upon such a reckless course of action at such a sensitive time? Do you know the answer to that?
General MCAULIFFE. Sir, I don't have what I would consider conclusive evidence that these actions are other than the actions of individuals who are apparently trying to make money and capitalize on a situation. There is no evidence that the Panamanian Government as such is behind this.
Mr. HUBBARD. Today, the subcommittee has heard from retired Lieutenant General Sumner as to constraints he was under when he operated while on active duty with respect to Panama.
Have you been constrained in any way in preparing your testimony for this hearing?
General MCAULIFFE. None whatsoever. I can say that assuredly. My only constraint is respecting the bounds of sensitivity as they apply to classified information.
Mr. HUBBARD. In your professional opinion, as a senior ranking military officer, what is the military situation in Nicaragua at this time?
General MCAULIFFE. The situation is, first of all, a confused one, because I do not have timely and complete reports on what is going on within the country. Like most members of the committee, we look to news reports that are coming out of the country. I do have access to some information which comes to us from other countries in the region and which in many cases corroborates what we read about in the newspapers. But it would appear that the FSLN has mounted a series of hit-and-run type attacks in various parts of the country.
Mr. HUBBARD. General, could you please hold at that point and resume in about 10 or 15 minutes? Some of us cannot run as fast as others. We are about 7 minutes away from the deadline on this rollcall vote.
We will stand in recess. [Brief recess.)
Mr. HUBBARD. We did have a quorum when we recessed. We will proceed.
General MCAULIFFE. Would you like me to continue my response to that question?
Mr. HUBBARD. I believe the last question was, in your professional opinion as a senior ranking military officer, What is the military situation in Nicaragua at this time? We had to be interrupted because of the vote, but now we are back.
Please do proceed.
General MCAULIFFE. Mr. Chairman, it is very difficult for me to know precisely what the situation is. It is somewhat confused. But in any event, we are unable at first hand to get accurate reports out of Nicaragua itself. We do have access to information coming to us from some of the neighboring countries, and from that, I can state that there is much turbulence within the country of Nicaragua. The FSLN very recently mounted a series of hit-and-run type attacks against-apparently aimed at the National Guard of Nicaragua, the armed forces of Nicaragua. These are attacks wherein they would seize a township or a small city for a short period of time, maybe a day, maybe a few days, and then when they feel
that the guardia nacional—the national guard-has mounted sufficient strength they will simply disappear into the countryside, and then attack some place else.
The strength of those attacks, as best I can gather it, is not very significant, although, within a particular area, it can be sufficient to carry that engagement until the guardia nacional can reinforce. The Nicaraguan forces of President Somoza are, in my judgment, entirely capable of dealing with this threat. They do have a sufficient supply of arms and force. They do have tactical mobility to be able to move their forces around the country; and they appear to have adequate command and control of their forces, better, I might add, than they did last September and October when this showed up as a major deficiency.
So, in summary, the Sandinista forces are quite active in the country, are retaining the initiative to try to keep the Nicaraguan forces off balance.
The Nicaraguan forces are reacting, in my judgment, adequately to the situation and are able to regain control in the contested areas fairly quickly.
Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you.
The next question, What would be the military implications if a Marxist-Leninist government took control of Nicaragua?
General MCAULIFFE. I think that that would be a situation that would split Central America and would open up access of Cuba and no doubt the Soviet Union into Central America, an access that neither country has been able to attain up until this time. It would be a bad situation. I am sure that it would affect us militarily.
It would also affect the region economically, and I am sure in a sociological sense as well.
Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, General.
Forgive me for this personal aside and for diverting from the subject at hand.
I have five constituents whom I have not been able to visit with yesterday or today. I have not even been able to speak with them because of this hearing and the running back and forth.
I would ask that the county executive judge of the largest county in my district, A. G. Pritchett, and also Landan Overfield, Mildred Wood Watson, Joe Nell Wilson, and Ruby Higginson all take seats in this area right in front of me, if you would. They do not even have seats in here. We can give them then a cordial welcome from their Congressman to the hearing.
Thank you, General McAuliffe, for permitting me to take care of constituents who have been ignored for 2 days.
The next question is, Have you ever identified Edgardo Lopez as an employee of Panama's G-2?
General MCAULIFFE. No, sir; I have not.
Mr. HUBBARD. Did you hear the testimony of Colonel Thomas this morning?
General MCAULIFFE. Yes, I did or, I should say, most of it, when a phone call interrupted some of the beginning.
Mr. HUBBARD. I have served in the Air Force and the Army and I listened to the testimony of both General Sumner and Colonel Thomas and admit I was very impressed by their testimony.
Of course, they are now retired and able to speak freely. Colonel Thomas described intelligence reports which chronicle Cuban and Panamanian armed support for the Sandinistas.
Have you seen these reports?
Mr. HUBBARD. So you have seen these reports? Are the contents of these reports classified?
General McAULIFFE. The ones I have in mind are classified; yes, sir.
Mr. HUBBARD. So Colonel Thomas, if I may repeat, is correct when he says there are intelligence reports within our country which chronicle Cuban and Panamanian armed support for the Sandinistas?
General MCAULIFFE. I would say that there are reports which relate to the Cuban arms; and there are some reports that relate to Panamanian involvement, generally along the lines of the statement that I made to the committee earlier.
Mr. HUBBARD. This involvement by Panama includes arms, does it not?
General MCAULIFFE. It depends upon whether you are talking about the Government of Panama or Panamanian nationals who have been found to have done some of this as has already been indicated in the Florida case.
Mr. HUBBARD. Having heard Colonel Thomas describe these intelligence reports which chronicle Cuban and Panamanian armed support for the Sandinistas, are you contradicting the statement, the testimony of Colonel Thomas in any way?
General MCAULIFFE. No, sir. I just want to be sure that you understand that in my instance here I am talking about a Panamanian involvement that is not necessarily an involvement of the Panamanian Government.
Mr. HUBBARD. Did you take any action subsequent to hearing General Sumner's report today on his conversation with General Torrijos concerning gun running?
General MCAULIFFE. As I recall the conversation which I had with General Sumner, I believe the day after his meeting with General Torrijos, the subject of the discussion between the two of them was Torrijos own sympathy for, and you may say, support of, the Sandinistas, at least certain members of the Sandinista group.
The subject of running arms to the Sandinistas was not, as I recall, brought out in that conversation-in that meeting.
Mr. HUBBARD. General McAuliffe—and I ask you to listen carefully to this—have you been to Nicaragua recently, during this year? Just yes or no.
General MCAULIFFE. I am just trying to think. I was there either in December or January. I believe it was in December-last December.
Mr. HUBBARD. Did you have the opportunity to speak to President Somoza?
General MCAULIFFE. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBBARD. Did you suggest to President Somoza that he resign?
General MCAULIFFE. No, sir.
Mr. HUBBARD. You never made that suggestion to President Somoza?
General MCAULIFFE. No, sir. We discussed
Let me say that what we discussed-and of course that was a sensitive discussion-but I believe that I can tell this committee that I went there to-
Mr. HUBBARD. At whose direction did you go there?
General MCAULIFFE. I went there at the request of the Department of State with the concurrence of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mr. HUBBARD. Did you tell President Somoza that it would be in the best interests of the stability of Central America if he resigned?
General MCAULIFFE. I wanted to say, sir, that our discussion was to advise General Somoza of our support; that is to say, our military support, U.S. military support, Department of Defense support, for the process of negotiations leading toward a plebescite which was then alive and under active consideration, negotiations which had been carried on between representatives of Somoza's party and the Broad Opposition Front in Nicaragua, and by three member nations of the OAS.
It perhaps was not clear, or not made clear to General Somoza that we on the military side supported that process. That was the purpose of my visit.
Mr. HUBBARD. While we give you more time to think back on that conversation with General Somoza, we need to go back for a rollcall vote.
Thank you very much.
We had two votes during that time, including final passage of housing legislation. So we should have a while without being disrupted.
We do have Congressman Dornan, a member of the minority on the subcommittee, present.
Now, back to the questions, please, General McAuliffe and Mr. Grove.
General McAuliffe, again, when was it you were in Nicaragua to speak with General Somoza?
General MCAULIFFE. As I recall, Mr. Chairman, it was in December of last year.
Mr. HUBBARD. What was the date? You say December. Do you remember if it was prior to Christmas, or after?
General MCAULIFFE. I will get the dates for the committee, but my recollection is that it was about the middle of the month, middle of December.
Mr. HUBBARD. Who was present with you?
General MCAULIFFE. Ambassador William Bowdler who, at the time, was the designated U.S. negotiator among the three-nation
group of negotiators. He represented the United States. There were also representatives of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
This group of three was trying to work out an arrangement, an accommodation, with President Somoza's Liberal Party, and the Broad Opposition Front, leading toward the plebescite.
Mr. HUBBARD. So the meeting was between you and Mr. William Bowdler and General Somoza?
General MCAULIFFE. Correct, sir.
Mr. HUBBARD. Has anyone from the State Department ever asked President Somoza to resign?
General MCAULIFFE. I really do not know.
Mr. HUBBARD. Mr. William Bowdler is with the State Department? Is that correct?
General MCAULIFFE. That is correct.
Mr. HUBBARD. Isn't it a fact that in your presence in December, Mr. William Bowdler of the State Department asked President Somoza to resign?
General MCAULIFFE. No, sir. Certainly not at that meeting. As I had indicated earlier before the vote, my presence there was to convey to General Somoza that we on the U.S. military side were supporting the negotiating process leading toward a plebescite in the country.
Now, one of the implicit purposes of the plebescite was an early resignation of Somoza as president. His term is due to expire in 1981 and the purpose, rather the plebescite process, was intended to be a means of permitting moderate opposition elements in the country to have some influential representation in the Nicaraguan Government and from our point of view on the military side, it was to try to achieve some alternative to the Sandinista.
Mr. HUBBARD. I would ask this of you and Mr. Grove, as you appear before a congressional subcommittee, did in fact Mr. William Bowdler of the State Department ask President Somoza to resign?
Mr. GROVE. I am aware of the meeting-
Mr. GROVE. Whenever General McAuliffe said it was. In December.
Mr. HUBBARD. Is that the only meeting?
General MCAULIFFE. That was my only meeting with President Somoza; that is, on this purpose. I, of course, had seen him previously, but Ambassador Bowdler was in the country for literally weeks and had many meetings with President Somoza, to my knowledge.
Mr. HUBBARD. Then, Mr. Grove, you would be aware, I assume, that Mr. William Bowdler of the State Department did ask President Somoza to resign?
Mr. GROVE. No, sir, not that I am aware of. I do recall in general the meeting and, of course, I was not present. It came at a time, if memory serves me right, when the plebescite proposal that was being considered by the mediation group and the two other parties concerned, the government of Somoza and the FAO to which I