File No. 419.11D29/87.
Minister Price to the Secretary of State.
Panama , April 17, 1915 .
Sir: I have the honor to report that on Wednesday last, Sr. Lefevre, Panaman Secretary for Foreign Affairs, asked me to come to this office for a conference. He began by stating when I arrived, that they were going to settle the Cocoa Grove riot of July 4, 1912, with our Government and pay damages and even before their Supreme Court acted in the matter; that before the week was over he would transmit to me a note to this effect. I responded to him that it would be advisable to make his note as full and satisfactory as possible; that our Government felt that if there had been an earnest prosecution in this affair, the last two deplorable happenings might not have taken place; and that my last note to him in the matter was at the express direction both by mail and cable from the Department of State. He made reference, as usual to their difficulty in controlling the action of their courts and again repeated that before the week was over he was going to send a note that he believed would conclude the whole affair. I have not yet received the note.
He then proceeded to say that they had concluded, for the purpose of avoiding further clashes between the soldiers and their police, to propose that the red-light districts of Colon and Panama, respectively, be put in charge of American policemen. He took particular occasion to say that they should be under the command of the Panama Commandante of Police and observe Panaman jurisdiction but would be placed directly under an American police officer who would be subject to their chief; that Panama would pay them the same salaries now being paid the Canal Zone policemen, and remarking that [as] all troubles arose in these districts they felt this would remedy the situation. He asked directly whether I did not think this would be the solution of the problem. I replied that I did not feel prepared to express an opinion until the Department of State might be consulted, and that the War Department, more directly concerned, would want to be heard in the matter. I expressed gratification that he and his fellow officials were giving serious thought to the situation and remarked to him that conditions at their police headquarters and in connection with their arrest and treatment of civilians (claims regarding which I reminded him I had before him now) should also be considered by them.
I asked him why the abolishment of these districts was not also considered and he replied that he did not believe it possible now. He remarked further that our police, officer in charge of our men could [Page 1171] also aid their police as an instructor and the example of our policemen’s conduct would be helpful to theirs.
I have [etc.]