File No. 419.11D29/90.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 484.]

Sir: Referring to my telegram of April 26, reporting the substance of a note received from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I have the honor to enclose a copy and translation of said note, transmitted on Saturday.

This note is the first and only formal response to my note No. 146, of March 12 last, copy of which was sent to the Department with despatch No. 440 of the same date. While it contains the first offer to be made in a formal manner to pay damages herein, it will be noted that its proposals in our favor do not go beyond those stated by the President of Panama informally to me, as having been decided upon by them as far back as September last. The summary of my conference [Page 1172] with President Porras in this matter was transmitted with despatch No. 286 of September 26, 1914.

Contrary to a statement contained in the note of May 30 last, that the present administration in furtherance of a desire to retain the friendship and esteem of the United States had discharged all the policemen who were on duty on July 4, 1912, Señor Lefevre in the present note admits that some of them are still in the service. I very much suspect that this admission is made in the hope of thereby offsetting to an extent a charge anticipated from us in the same matter. I obtained, promptly after the mêlée on February 14 last, in the Cocoa Grove district, the names of all policemen on the rolls in this city at that time, and, as heretofore reported, have been promised from a reliable Panaman source for some weeks a list of those now on the force, who were connected with it at the time of the 4th of July, 1912, affair, and I doubt not that Señor Lefevre has heard of the efforts of the Legation along this line.

In looking over the file in this case there are found referred to here and there in the evidence the names of the following policemen bearing names of the same as among the present force, who were connected with the organization at the time of the said riot July 4th, the first named having been wounded on that occasion: Juan Muñoz, Manuel de J. Castro, Rafael Puga, Celestino Cubilla, Isaias Pérez. I doubt not that there are quite a number of others. In view of the foregoing and the vulnerable record already made up by Panama in its handling of this affair, it would seem that there would exist very meager reason for the Panaman authorities now to appeal for favor in the matter of arriving at the amount of indemnities to be paid. I would call attention to the likelihood of the selection of an arbiter to name the amount occasioning practically a rehearsal of the whole extensive case before him entailing undoubted delay, and that the proposal seems to be purposely prefaced with a recital of considerations claimed due to Panama, which in all likelihood would be insisted upon by Panama being considered by the arbiter.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.

The Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price.


Mr. Minister: Entertaining a sincere and earnest desire that there may be no alteration of the cordial relations between the Government of Panama and the Government of the United States of America, existing since our nation started on its independent life and bound itself to your excellency’s Government with ties of close friendship and interests of a permanent nature, the regret has been deep and the uneasiness genuine for the events of July 4, 1912, in the Cocoa Grove district of this city, where two American citizens, one a soldier from the Canal Zone, died, and others of the same nationality, as well as certain Panamans who formed part of our national police force, were wounded. I am able to make this statement with certainty, in so far as it refers to the present administration, presided over by Doctor Belisario Porras, who most sincerely wishes to show on every occasion to the Government of your excellency the highest consideration and the very friendly feeling our country has for the great American nation.

Notwithstanding these sentiments, which I am glad to reiterate, the Government of the United States through your excellency has made very strong [Page 1173] reproaches of my Government, accusing it of neglect of its international duties toward itself and of not giving due consideration to the claims arising out of the disturbances of July 4, 1912, affirming that the Panaman authorities have displayed neither activity nor zeal for ascertaining the principals and accessories responsible for the deaths and wounds caused in that affair and punishing them. These charges were made by your excellency in his note No. 146 of March 12 last, which I have not answered before because I wished to be able to communicate to your excellency some definite statement by my Government showing the purpose it always has had of ending this vexatious question in a way satisfactory not only to the Government of your excellency but also to the demands of justice.

I also desired to await the decision of the Judicial Power of the Republic, which has, according to the Penal Law, the right to follow up and punish the guilty ones.

But, as your excellency will not deny, judicial proceedings in every country are slow, especially when the case, like the one to which I refer, is full of complications involving many persons. The Government of your excellency has not interpreted this aspect with justice since it considers the delay intentional. On the contrary they have also made my own Government impatient and anxious to end this serious matter.

That is why, today, without waiting for the decision of the court in regard to the affair of the 4th of July, 1912, and in accordance with instructions from the President of the Republic, I communicate to your excellency the answer of my Government to the demands presented by the Government of your excellency in notes Nos. 249, 251 and 255 of August 23 and 31, and September 25, 1912, for damages received by American citizens in the regrettable affair. These demands are:

Dismissal of Messrs. Julio Quijano and of Franklin de la Ossa from their positions as Commandant and Captain of the National Police.
That the Government of Panama punish as they deserve the individuals proved criminally responsible in the matter.
That, the Government of Panama pay an indemnity for the death of two American citizens and for the wounds inflicted on others of the same nationality.
That the Government of Panama formally express to the Government of the United States of America its regret for this deplorable matter, unless it is ultimately shown that the character of the incident is different from that which was attributed to it at the time.

I should say to your excellency that notwithstanding the conviction that the Government of the United States should now have that the fight of July 4, 1912, was not premeditated by the Panaman police, nor started by them, but by American soldiers and marines, as shown by the evidence presented in the prolonged investigation made by American and Panaman officials, my Government sincerely and deeply regrets these unfortunate occurrences, which cause damage to both countries and have an unpleasant effect on the excellent relations which unite them.

The payment of indemnity is an exaction which my Government thinks excessive and little conforming with the consideration which we might justly merit from a friendly and immensely powerful nation that prides itself on being our protector and counsellor; a nation that knows the limited resources at the disposal of this little nation, and which is morally affected, for that reason, by the obstacles and misfortunes which our Republic finds in the path of progress. Nevertheless, and in spite of the fact that the only substantial accusation which could be made against the police of Panama is that they perhaps were excessively rigorous in the repression which they had to use upon the American starters of the affray, my Government will agree to pay the indemnity if the Government of your excellency will not desist from that severe demand.

In the matter of the punishment of the persons who may be found guilty of causing the death and the wounding of American citizens, my Government will continue rigorously to apply the penal laws and will seek to hasten judicial action.

There is an important fact to which I desire to call the attention of your excellency as an example of our willingness to act justly in this matter. In the sentence of the court of first instance given on April 27, 1914, by the Superior Judge of the Republic, it was established that policeman Florencio Casiano had wounded a soldier, and that this policeman paid the penalty by being imprisoned and dying shortly before the sentence was pronounced.

[Page 1174]

Much time has passed since the events of July 4, 1912, and Messrs. Julio Quijano and Franklin de la Ossa are not members of the Panaman Police; the greater part, indeed, of those who were officers and plain policemen of that body at that time are no longer members. My Government considers that the Government of your excellency has been amply satisfied in the first of its demands, because anticipating his dismissal, Commandant Quijano voluntarily resigned from his post and Captain de la Ossa and the other officers who directly or indirectly were concerned were dismissed by the Executive Power on different dates during the previous administration or this one.

To determine the indemnities which are to be paid, supposing that the Government of your excellency will not change its attitude in this matter, and taking into account the evidence of the turbulent conduct of the American soldiers and marines on July 4, 1912, the duty which the Panaman police had of suppressing riots started by those Americans and protecting the residents of Cocoa Grove against them, the initiative taken by the American soldiers and marines against the Panaman police on duty in that district, the wounding not only of American citizens but also of Panamans of the National Police Force, and, finally, that for this reason the rights of both Governments are on the same footing, I request your excellency to transmit to the Secretary of State of the United States of America the following proposal:

That a diplomatic representative of some friendly nation accredited in Panama, chosen freely by the (government of your excellency, determine the amount of the indemnity which Panama should pay for each one of the citizens killed and for each one of the citizens wounded in the riot of July 4, 1912.

If the Government of your excellency accepts this formula of settlement, which I consider equitable, the arbitral agreement could be drafted and signed, binding the parties to respect and fulfill the decision to be rendered.

I avail [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre.