File No. 718.1915/236.

Minister Hale to the Secretary of State.

No. 72.]

Sir: Referring to Department’s telegram of November 256; to my despatch No. 49, of December 56; to my despatch No. 50, of December 186; and to my despatch No. 58, of January 23—I have the honor to report that I have received another communication from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, dated March 5, a copy of which and its enclosures, together with translations of all, I enclose.

I have [etc.]

E. J. Hale.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Hale.

No. 26, B.]

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to transmit to your excellency a copy of the communication which the Chancellery of Panama sent me under date of January 30 last, and a copy of the communication which, in reply, I sent back under date of March 1.

So clear and patent is the right on the side of Costa Rica in this affair, that I entertain all confidence that the Government of Panama must retrace its steps, adopting an attitude other than that which so far it has been maintaining.

Should the contrary be the case, I hope your excellency’s fairness of mind will find justified the measures which, possibly, Costa Rica may see itself compelled to take.

I am [etc.]

Manuel Castro Quesada.
[Page 1139]
[Subinclosure 1—Document A.]

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica.


Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note No. 4, A., dated the 14th instant, the contents of which have caused me profound sorrow.

The Government of Costa Rica, in the first place, expresses surprise at the repeated news which it says it has received of the establishment of various administrative authorities at points north of Punta Burica. Your excellency will kindly permit me to state to you that you have been misinformed. Various administrative authorities have not been placed north of Punta Burica. Those authorities have always been in existence, and that which has been done is to renew them, as is done periodically with all the other authorities of the Republic.

Neither can this Chancellery agree to your excellency’s asseveration that that zone was definitely adjudged to Costa Rica since the promulgation of the award of the President of the French Republic on September 11, 1900, ratified by the Porras-Anderson Convention, and considered as foreign to the jurisdiction of Panama by my Government’s resolution No. 96, of November 23, 1912. The zone in reference, to the north of Punta Burica, was definitely adjudged to Costa Rica by the Loubet Award, as was the entire zone of the Sixaola Valley, on the Atlantic slope, between the Cordillera Central and the counter-range of the Cordillera; but, as Costa Rica did not accept the award referred to, notwithstanding the promise agreed upon in the treaty that gave rise to the same, and compelled Panama to accept a new arbitration, the result was that the zone on the slope of the Atlantic side, which includes all the Sixaola valley, does not belong to Panama; nor does the zone on the Pacific slope to which your excellency refers, to the north of Punta Burica, belong to Costa Rica.

The Porras-Anderson Convention Was not a boundary convention nor a convention for territorial compensations, nor for cession of territory, but simply one of arbitration, precisely for the purpose of submitting to an arbitrator the boundary question, as follows: “What is the boundary between Panama and Costa Rica under and most in accordance with the correct interpretation and true intention of the award of the President of the French Republic made the 11th of September, 1900?”

In that convention, among other considerations, was expressed the consideration that “the boundary between their respective territories designated by the arbitral award of his excellency the President of the French Republic the 11th of September, 1900, is clear and indisputable in the region of the Pacific from Punta Burica to a point beyond Cerro Pando on the Central Cordillera”; but as Panama has not accepted, and will never accept, the judgment rendered in accordance with that convention, wherein that consideration was expressed, because it believes it null and void (in which it does nothing else, at most, than follow the example of Costa Rica, which did not accept President Loubet’s former judgment, which adjudged the entire Sixaola valley clearly and unquestionably to Panama), it is evident that the aforesaid Porras-Anderson arbitral convention is of no value and of no effect and it is futile on the part of Costa Rica to refer thereto for the foundation of any claim.

So that, not having accepted Chief Justice White’s decision, Panama has established itself in the same point of law which Costa Rica occupied when it rejected the Loubet decision, bringing matters back to the same status they held before the said decision, that is, to the line of the status quo.

The quotation of a resolution decreed by the President, Dr. Belisario Porras, and countersigned by the Secretary of Fomento, Mr. R. F. Acevedo, has, in the opinion of this Chancellery, no value in the matter. In it the President of Panama upholds the same principles of international law which he upheld in Costa Rica as Minister, by note of August 14, 1909, principles violated by Costa Rica when, because of not having accepted the Loubet Award granting to Panama the Sixaola valley, including the right and the left bank of that river, it resorted to the status quo, and, notwithstanding that the sovereignty and the sovereign faculties of both countries was in suspense in all the territory [Page 1140] in dispute, sold considerable lots of land on the left bank of said river, in spite of the protests of the then Minister of Panama in Costa Rica.

In the presence of the above-mentioned quotation of the resolution in question, I think it to the point to recall to your excellency the answers of his excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica at the time of those protests, and it will be demonstrated that if Panama has acted consistently with the principles of international law on this point of the sale of land in a disputed frontier zone, Costa Rica has not done as much, for it seeks to apply to Panama what it did not apply to itself as regards dominion and jurisdiction in that zone.

Here is what the Minister of Panama stated to your excellency’s Government on the date indicated:

My Government has instructed me not to accept that status quo; but, granting it valid and effective, the character that Costa Rica possesses in that territory (the left border of the Sixaola between the counter-range of the Cordillera and the left bank of that river) is that of a de facto sovereign in contrast with the de jure sovereignty which Panama possesses (because of the arbitral decision). This means that the character of Costa Rica is that of a mere holder and usufructuary of a territory until the award is put into effect; and the character of Panama is that of a non-occupying proprietor, a true owner thereof. As holder, Costa Rica has the essential duty of preserving the property, of not destroying it nor giving it up to any one, but of delivering it to the successor without committing any act which may impair the rights of the de jure sovereign, that is to say, the owner. Only the latter has the power to sell, cede, or transfer. Dominion includes among other rights, that of transformation and alienation, and such right of transformation and alienation includes in turn the power of the owner of a thing to modify it in whole or part; and to alienate or transmit to another the whole or part of his property, because such rights are inherent only in ownership and not in simple occupancy or mere possession.

So that, since in the resolution which your excellency quotes, the President declared that “in territories over which a boundary dispute with a friendly nation is pending, rights of dominion, which emanate only from sovereignty, must not be granted by either of the parties, since it is evident that while litigation is pending sovereignty is in suspense, together with the powers inherent in it,” it is clear that the President thought the same as the Minister, and there is continuity and concordance of doctrine in both, and in the nation which the President represented in the first case and which he represents today in another and higher capacity.

With what great surprise, then, have I seen your excellency make the quotation in question for the purpose of basing a right thereon, since the fact is that when Minister Porras protested against the concessions and grants of lands Costa Rica was making on the left border of the Sixaola River, Costa Rica adopted contrary doctrines, like those it has since maintained, when it complained of the grants of land in Burica to which the resolution gave rise.

I, in my turn, am going to lay before your excellency the quotation of the doctrines of Costa Rica on this point of law. To Minister Porras’ note of August 14, 1909, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica replied as follows:

The question so stated by your excellency was debated at length between our Government and that of the United States of America in 1906, in the matter of the claim of H. L. McConnell, of which your excellency has cognizance. The Washington Government supported at that time the same theory as your excellency’s with similar arguments. So that I cannot give a better reply to your excellency’s objections than that which Costa Rica transmitted to the United States upon the occasion referred to.

When on November 23, 1912, the President of Panama promulgated the resolution which your excellency quotes, Costa Rica was complaining of the grant of land to Mr. Lara von Chamier which had been made in the zone to the north of Punta Burica, founded, among other considerations, upon the same doctrine that Panama had supported and Costa Rica assailed.

Upon careful study of that resolution, arguments cannot be derived therefrom to support the view that Panama has not the power to maintain authorities in the region to the north of Punta Burica, where it has always maintained them because it considers that territory its own by virtue of the frontier status quo and until it is definitely decided and established that that zone does not belong to it. By that resolution what was established was that which had already been accepted “implicitly by the nation as a legal precept—the duty which up to then it had been voluntarily fulfilling of not making concessions of dominion over any part of the territories in dispute.”

Why has Panama maintained, and why does Panama maintain authorities in the zone north of Punta Burica? For the same reason that Costa Rica [Page 1141] has maintained and maintains them on the left bank of the Sixaola although the Loubet Award adjudged that valley to Panama.

The matter has been decided by the Government of Costa Rica itself. Your excellency knows very well that in 1909, in a note of May 29, Panama made claim on Costa Rica through its Minister in San José, against the establishment on the left bank of the Sixaola of an Inspección de Hacienda and a Comandancia de Armas, considering that “that territory had been adjudged to Panama by virtue of a decision expressly sought by both nations and in the execution or fulfillment, of which both also engaged their honor.”

The Government of Costa Rica through one of the predecessors of your excellency replied (note of July 5, 1909) saying that “it has not the least doubt about the full right with which in this matter it exercised jurisdiction in the territories situated to the north of the de facto line, always respected by Costa Rica and Colombia as the dividing line between the two Republics since the boundary dispute between them was begun.”

In a note of August 13, 1909, the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Costa Rica reinforced the opinion reproduced above with these others:

Notwithstanding the profound respect which every opinion of your excellency merits, I find myself obliged to state to you that the opinions cited here caused my Government profound surprise. Indeed, both prior to the Loubet Award and after it, Costa Rica has been in full possession of the territory of Gandocan and has exercised command over it in the same manner that Panama has done in Punta Burica. It is true that the execution of the award brought as a consequence the entering by Costa Rica into possession of Punta Burica and by Panama into possession of Gandocan; but it is also true that the award has not been executed and that while it is not executed each country maintains possession of and commands the territory which it has been in possession of and which by virtue of the Loubet Award has been adjudged to the other.

After the Loubet Award, Panama through a sentiment of fraternity agreed to submit to a new arbitration and signed a convention to that end; but the award having been pronounced by the new Arbitrator, Panama has formally declared that she does not accept it because she considers it null, and consequently matters return to the state in which they were before when Costa Rica did not accept the Loubet Award; that is, to the provisional frontier line, or the so-called status quo. That line, to refer only to documents of Costa Rica, is the same that was laid down by Secretary Fernandez Guardia in the said note of August 13, 1909, thus:

The frontier of the status quo * * * starts from the Golfito River, a small tributary of Golfo Dulce; follows from there the hills of Las Cruces, between the valley of the Coto de Terraba River and the Chiriquí Viejo River to the crest of the great Cordillera; and descends the north slope by the Yorquin [Zhorquin] and Sixaola Rivers.

So that, the White Award not having been accepted, Panama continued to maintain the possession and command of the territory which she has possessed, starting from the Golfito River and all along this river to Las Cruces, and then to the crest of the great Cordillera, along the whole extension of that line to the east—which is the line of the status quo which Costa Rica so stoutly defended when she did not accept the Loubet Award, in order to justify herself, not for maintaining authorities but for establishing them for the first time on the left bank of the Sixaola, where she had never before had them.

Although Panama, in accordance with her own ideas of international law, did not believe that she ought to grant lands in the disputed region, she did believe that she ought to have, authorities in it, and she always maintained them and will keep them there until it is determined by good will or by indisputable right, without reserve or protest, that that region does not belong to her any longer.

For the reasons set forth, and appreciating at its full value the declarations of Costa Rica in authentic and incontestable documents and taking into account the truth of the facts, the Government of Panama expresses to that of Costa Rica the pain caused her by the protest which the latter has made and to which this communication is a reply.

At the same time she hopes that your excellency’s Government, inspired by noble and lofty sentiments of confraternity and justice so appropriate between neighboring peoples, brothers by race, by religion, by language, history and traditions, will respect the right which Panama has in maintaining authorities in the zone to the north of Punta Burica along the whole eastward extension of the line of the status quo.

I cannot close without stating to your excellency that I appreciate at their full value the expressions of cordiality and sympathy which you are pleased to transmit in the name of the people and the Government of Costa Rica, nor [Page 1142] without assuring you in turn that this incident has not lessened in the least the sentiments of sincere friendship which the people and Government of Panama cherish toward them.

I avail [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre.
[Subinclosure 2—Document B.]

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama.

No. 12, A.]

Mr. Minister: I have been honored with the receipt of the note of January 30 last, which your excellency sent me in reply to the note of protest, which on January 14 I had the honor to transmit to your Chancellery.

In this important document your excellency informs me:

  • First, that the Government of Panama has not introduced anything new in locating in October last various administrative authorities in different places on the coast which runs to the north of Punta Burica, inasmuch as said authorities have always been maintained by that Government, and that the only thing which has been done lately is to renew them, as is customary periodically with all the others of the Republic.
  • Second, that the Porras-Anderson Convention was not a boundary convention, nor one of territorial compensations, nor a cession of territory, but simply of arbitration, and as Panama does not accept the White Award, therefore none of the dispositions contained in the convention that gave rise to the award have for her any value.
  • Third, that the conduct of Panama in this case is identical with that which Costa Rica adopted with respect to the Loubet Award, and that the same right which Costa Rica had to disregard the award of 1900 Panama has to-day to disregard the award made by Mr. Chief Justice White.
  • Fourth, that as Costa Rica did not wish to deliver to Panama the valley north of the Sixaola, adjudged to Panama in a clear and indisputable manner by the Loubet Award alleging that until an agreement was arrived at she would continue exercising temporary sovereignty over the zone which she was administering by virtue of the status quo, so Panama believes that she is entitled to retain in her power the zone which she has possessed de facto on the Pacific side.
  • Fifth, that the principles sustained by President Porras in Resolution No. 96 of November 23, 1912, are none other than those which as Minister he set forth in a note addressed to this Chancellery August 14, 1909, opposing the appointment by Costa Rica of a fiscal authority on the left bank of the Sixaola.
  • Sixth, that the Government of Costa Rica did not share the opinion of Minister Porras and on the contrary maintained and still maintains the authority in reference.
  • Seventh, that therefore the inconsistency of Costa Rica is evident in asking that the principles be applied in Panama which Costa Rica rejected in 1909.
  • Eighth, that according to a declaration of the Minister of Foreign Relations in a note of August 13, 1909, the frontier line between the Republics according to the status quo, started on the Pacific side at the mouth of the Golfito River.

Such, with difference of phraseology, are the reasons which your excellency sets forth for considering inadmissible the protest which I had the honor to present against the establishment of various administrative authorities in different places on the coast north of Punta Burica.

Knowing, as I do, the equity which at all times has inspired the proceedings of the Government of your excellency, I cherish the well-founded hope that the attitude that it to-day assumes with regard to this affair will be replaced by another entirely in conformity with the desires of my Government, as soon as your excellency has examined the reasons I shall now give as to the error of the premises on which the allegations of your excellency rest.


The information received by your excellency that the locating in October last of Panaman authorities to the north of Punta Burica introduced nothing new [Page 1143] in the administration of those places, since nothing more was done than to change the personnel in regions where Panama had always maintained these authorities, is erroneous. The data furnished to your excellency in this respect are not reliable, and I am going to demonstrate it, availing myself for this purpose of documents emanating from the contrary party.

The instructions given in Bogotá by the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Colombia to Minister Holguin on the 18th of July, 1880, in the official part say * * *

You will observe also that the 6th of the conclusions approved by the Senate says: “Costa. Rica, it is asserted, has established a town on Golfo Dulce in the territory comprised between the Golfito River, the reputed international limit, and Punta Burica.” This town has the name of Isola, and because founded and administered by Costa Rican authorities it has been stated to you that the jurisdiction of Colombia has extended to the Golfito River for a long time, since at the present time the Costa Rican Jefatura of Golfo Dulce, which before came only to the Golfito River, has extended its jurisdiction to the village of Isola, built some six years ago.

The Government of Colombia desirous of giving the matter a turn which will tend to a fraternal solution, has determined that you, instead of going directly to England, will proceed first to San José de Costa Rica and, after making the explanations contained in this instruction, you will manifest to the Government of that country that, as a measure previous to all discussion and every act which may put an end to this annoying subject, the Government of Colombia proposes that both countries respect the jurisdictional status quo, and that in consequence the Costa Rican authority placed in the cocoanut plantations of Burica should be immediately retired and the exploitations of the plantations of that district restored to the individual to whom it belongs by virtue of the grant made by Colombian functionaries in the district of Alanje. With respect to the town of Isola you will not make the same demand, because no protest was made in due time against the establishment of Costa Rican authorities in that place; and although this Government does not accept the territorial modification which that act implies, it leaves its settlement for the final agreement, because it considers that that tolerated occupation would not be voluntarily changed by Costa Rica except by virtue of agreements which shall put an end to the debate in all its parts; and a rupture for an act acquiesced in during six years would not be sufficiently justified.

Fourteen years afterwards the Minister of Foreign Relations of Colombia said in the Memoria which he presented to Congress in 1894:

On the Pacific side, the Government of Costa Rica admitted, as far back as 1880, that it could not occupy territory situated on this side of Punta Burica, at the demand of our Government it vacated that territory in a manner that may be called formal; nevertheless it has just become known from an entirely trustworthy source that in that territory, exclusively under the jurisdiction of Colombia, they are establishing colonies under the protection, it is alleged, of the San José Government and without the consent of the Government of Colombia.

The theoretical statement of our rights and the protests against their violation have not, therefore, had the desired effect; and in this situation the Vice Presiden of the Republic has instructed me to direct a note to the Minister of Gobierno setting forth the state of affairs and the necessity of organizing in Panama two peaceful but active and efficient expeditions, to go, one to Punta Burica and the other to the Sixaola, for the purpose of making at the principal points of those districts an investigation of the state of affairs and make the rectifications which the rights of the Republic require. (Taken from Foreign Relations of the United States, 1894, pp. 194195.)

As your excellency sees, the Republic of Colombia, even when it was alleging that its de jure jurisdiction extended to the Golfito River, agreed that it did not de facto reach farther than Punta Burica. This was the limit which it did not consent that the Costa Rican authorities overpass; where it exacted that the rights of the purchase of cocoanut plantations should be respected; and where it sent expeditions to verify whether there were certain intrusions of Costa Rica to the south of that place.

Colombia, then, never had authorities to the north of Punta Burica; on the contrary it respected those which Costa Rica had, provided that they did not extend to the cococanut plantations of the Point. Panama could introduce no change in this policy, because when in 1903 she arose to a life among the nations she found herself with her northern limits those which the Loubet Award had fixed, the award to which she rendered such great homage that she even incorporated it in Article 3 of her Constitution and whose effectiveness did not come to be held in doubt until the 30th of January last, the date of the note in which your excellency sets forth the theory that our frontiers ought to be considered in conformity with the doctrine of uti possidetis.

If any doubt should yet remain to your excellency in this particular, I beg that to dispel it you ask for data from the Secretary of Hacienda and you will be convinced that the authorities which he located in October, personally, are the first which Panama has had there and not successors of others, as has erroneously been stated to your excellency.

[Page 1144]


Evidently your excellency labors under an error when you consider that the Anderson-Porras Convention was not a boundary convention but purely and simply one of arbitration.

If your excellency would read the convention yon would find that it has two characters: one as a definite and perfect boundary treaty and the other as an arbitration treaty. The parties commence by declaring, in the most formal and explicit manner their acceptance of the frontier line fixed by the Loubet Award on September 11, 1900, as it runs from Punta Burica to a point in the Central Cordillera above. Cerro Pando, near the ninth degree of north latitude; and they end by saying that as they have not been able to come to an agreement as to the rest, that is to say, from Cerro Pando to the Atlantic, they agree to settle their differences by submitting them to the decision of the Chief Justice of the United States.

This double nature of the treaty is so clear and evident that I cannot suppose that your excellency insists on considering it nothing more than a convention of arbitration.

If the Government of Panama believes—without any reason indeed—that the White Award has defects that invalidate it, it could, by following a criterion extreme and untenable after even superficial examination, refuse to accept that award and therefore hold as non-existent the convention from which it emanates; but only in so far as this convention refers to arbitration and never in regard to a formally established territorial boundary.

If the Republic of Panama should insist on considering itself empowered to hold as the frontier line on the Pacific side any other than that running from Cerro Pando to Punta Burica, then, Mr. Minister, we should have the profound regret of supposing that certain novel theories about the respect which treaties deserve are finding acceptation in republican countries.

Sincere and convinced admirer as I am of Panama and of her men, I am absolutely confident that the illustrious Government of your excellency will act in this case in conformity with its clean traditions, rendering full homage to the plighted word and to the honor and dignity of the nation, given in guaranty.


The information which your excellency has received about the third point is equally unfounded.

Costa Rica never, at any time, disregarded the Loubet Award.

It could have had a thousand reasons for doing so, but it preferred to sacrifice the clearest rights rather than assume an attitude which might be interpreted as disrespectful of the sanctity of a covenant. And so great is the value which Costa Rica gives to its word that it let pass without protest an award that deprived it of one of the richest and most important regions of its territory, namely the Province of Boca is del Toro and Almirante Bay.

Well now, as the award was worded in a manner so confused, not to say incoherent; as it spoke of an imaginary counterfort and referred to the drainage basin of a river which all the Colombian maps make to appear as running in a direction contrary to that In which in reality it does run, my Government saw itself obliged to beg the Arbitrator to give a clearer explanation of the various obscure points which appear in the award.

The Arbitrator, through his Minister of Foreign Relations, M. Delcassé, stated that as he lacked the precise geographic elements he could not designate the frontier except by means of general indications and that, therefore, he believed it inopportune to mark it on a map; that, therefore, it ought to be drawn within the limits of the territory in dispute; and, finally, that he left it to the good will of the parties to settle between themselves whatever difficulties might arise in the execution of the award.

Costa Rica, then, authorized by such an explicit statement by the Arbitrator, negotiated, first with Colombia and afterwards with Panama, in order to come to an agreement as to the interpretation which should be given to the clauses which the Arbiter himself found were no more than general indications, and for the correct interpretation of which the good will of the parties was necessary.

There was no difficulty in regard to the Pacific region. The parties were agreed in considering as clear and indisputable the frontier line designated by the Arbitrator in the part from Punta Burica to Cerro Pando. But as [Page 1145] they did not, succeed in arriving at the same understanding in regard to the part which follows from Cerro Pando to the Atlantic, they agreed to submit their differences to a third party.

Admirably chosen was the third party. No one less was sought than the Chief Justice of the United States, a man selected among a hundred millions to say the last word in the controversies which divide the parties; the Magistrate whose decisions the entire world surrounds with an aureole of respect and admiration.

The immense, the unspeakable satisfaction which Costa Rica experiences on seeing that the thesis she has maintained meets the approbation of a judge of the standing of Chief Justice White, has healed in great part the wound which she received at Rambouillet the 11th of September, 1900.

After the foregoing explanations, I hope that the rectitude of judgment which so greatly distinguishes your excellency will cause you to agree that Panama, in disregarding the White Award, is not following any precedent that Costa Rica has set.


In my humble opinion your excellency has suffered another error in considering that, as Costa Rica did not wish to deliver up the valley north of the Sixaola, adjudged, in the words of your excellency, in a clear and indubitable manner to Panama, alleging that until a definite arrangement was arrived at she would continue exercising over that zone the de facto sovereignty which until then she had exercised, so Panama believes she has equal right to retain on the Pacific side the regions over which she has exercised an analogous jurisdiction.

The error evidently results from the fact that the juridical situation of the two zones is absolutely different. As I have said before, the parties never succeeded in coming to an agreement in regard to the interpretation which ought to be given to the line established by the Loubet Award on the Atlantic. Costa Rica, which from time immemorial had possessed that region in fact and in right, did not share the opinion of your excellency that you consider it adjudged to Panama in a clear and undoubted manner. Far from that, she always believed that the Loubet Award declared it to belong to her, an opinion which, as your excellency very well knows, has the unappealable confirmation of the Arbitrator before whom we agreed to submit our differences.

Costa Rica could not, therefore, divest herself of a zone belonging to her for more than three hundred years of her history because Panama erroneously believed that the Loubet Award conceded it to Panama.

On the other hand, how different is the situation of the second region, that of the Pacific. There the parties did not find the least difficulty in coming to an understanding. Costa Rica, without reserve or protest of any kind, accepted gracefully a line which, ignoring the clearest and most conclusive proofs, deprived her of all the region comprised between Punta Burica and the Chiriquí Viejo River.

Panama had already most formally declared her acceptance of that line by introducing it into her Constitution. Later, in 1910, on her word of honor, she ratified this declaration, and the Executive Power was prompt to reiterate its adhesion thereto by promulgating Resolution No. 96 of November 23, 1912.

After all this, does your excellency believe that a hypothetical possession de facto is sufficient to authorize Panama to assume the attitude of violating her Constitution, a formal treaty, and the public and decisive declarations which her Chief Magistrate has made about this matter?


I experience genuine satisfaction, Mr. Minister, in finding myself, in part, in accord with your excellency.

The ideas sustained by President Porras in Resolution No. 96 of November 23, 1912, are in principle the same that he held in 1909 when as Minister of Panama he gave us the honor of having him among us.

Only, in one case those ideas were correctly applied but not in the other, due to the error which Mr. Porras makes in considering the cases identical, they being, as I have had the honor to demonstrate to your excellency, diametrically opposed. But not for that reason does it cease to be true that he demonstrated in 1912 his adhesion to the ideas and general principles which he defended in 1909. Unfortunately, the attitude assumed by your excellency in the note under acknowledgment [Page 1146] would seem to indicate that Mr. Porras repudiates now what he has for so many years maintained.


It was not the ideas of Mr. Porras which my Government did not accept in 1909, but the conclusions which he sought to draw from them. It seems to me idle to repeat to your excellency that the opposition of Panama to the appointment of a fiscal authority of Costa Rica on the north bank of the Sixaola totally lacks foundation, since it was treating of a region which, de facto and de jure, Costa Rica had possessed from the middle of the 16th century and the judicial situation of which, in the opinion of my Government, afterwards ratified by the decision of Chief Justice White, did not suffer the least alteration from the Loubet Award.


With the foregoing I hope to have demonstrated the lack of reason there is for branding Costa Rica as inconsistent when she asks that measures be applied in the region of the Pacific which she did not consent to for that of the Sixaola. The absolute difference between the two situations has been explained to the point of satiety as a difference that logically requires distinct proceedings in its international treatment.

Consequently, we are once more forced to agree, Mr. Minister, that the allegations of your excellency in that respect lack foundation.


Neither is your excellency right when you affirm that the Minister of Foreign Relations said in a note of August 13, 1909, that the boundary line between the countries commences, on the Pacific side, at the mouth of the Golfito River. No Minister of Foreign Relations of Costa Rica has ever recognized as the status quo line on the Pacific side that of the Golfito River. It is true that on different occasions Colombia proposed or sought to impose on us the adoption of that line; but the Government of Costa Rica invariably rejected all advances in that respect, as appears from numerous documents already published and particularly in the Costa Rican note of November 20, 1893, addressed to Colombia.

As I had the honor before of setting forth to your excellency, the Colombian Government, in the Memoria which the Minister of Foreign Relations presented to Congress in 1894, made a declaration upon this subject which involves the clear recognition of our possession up to the Punta Burica; and this declaration is the more valuable as it came immediately after Costa Rica had refused to recognize the line of Golfito as that of the status quo.

What caused the confusion in the mind of your excellency in referring to the note addressed to Minister Porras on August 13, 1909, is doubtless the citation from a study published by Mr. H. Pittier in 1892.

Your excellency should recall that the Legation of Panama in San José then held that the de facto jurisdiction of Panama had come to reach the north source of the Sixaola. To disprove so great an error the said note had recourse to the opinion of Mr. Pittier, demonstrating thereby and by citation of official Colombian documents how unfounded was the idea of Mr. Porras.

On this subject of the jurisdictional status quo on the Pacific side I could go much further in impugning with a great number of incontrovertible documents the Panaman theory which marks out the Golfito River as the de facto boundary. But that would be superfluous. The line of the Loubet Award having been formally accepted by the parties as to the part running from Punta Burica to Cerro Pando, no right could be deduced as to whether the boundary in this part reached this or that other point. We are treating of a question terminated, concluded, which has passed already to the category of a cause adjudged.

Thus I answer your excellency’s communication. The argument is clearly on the side of Costa Rica, and the sentiment of justice which inspires the acts of the Government of Panama is so well known that I have not the least doubt that the matter will find no solution but that which right and equity impose: the retiring on the part of Panama of the authorities which in October last she located in various places to the north of Punta Burica, a retirement which I very respectfully ask anew.

I avail [etc.]

Manuel Castro Quesada.