File No. 319.1112C64/9.
Minister Price to the Secretary of State.
Panama, April 8, 1915.
Sir: In continuance of reports upon the mêlée on February 14, 1915, between our soldiers and Panaman Police and civilians in the city of Panama, I have the honor to enclose clippings10 from the Panaman newspapers appearing shortly after the trouble.
It will be noted that the recommendation made by Generals Goethals and Edwards to the War Department that the policing of the cities of Panama and Colon be taken over by us under the Canal Treaty of 1903, became public a few days after the mêlée.
It will be observed, I think, that the objection to the recommendation was not as emphatic as might have been expected. Realization of the nearness to the exercise of this treaty right by us, to which the outbreak had brought Panama, pervades the editorials of the “Diario,” an administration paper and owned partially by Minister Morales, the Panaman Minister to Washington. The recommendation [Page 1192] made that action be taken by the National Assembly to provide for improvement of police conditions was not heeded before the Assembly adjourned.
I procured a list of the police force on duty in this city on the night of the trouble. It consists of 575 men, of whom 125 were added about two weeks before the Carnival. One Indolencio Franco appears on the force and I have been told by a leader of the opposition to the Porras administration that he was involved in the trouble with our sailors from the United States ship “Buffalo” in 1908, and that he ran away from Panama then to avoid prosecution. This same leader states that he has good reason to believe that quite a number of the policemen who were on duty when the riot of July 4, 1912, took place have been reinstated and were on the force on the night of February 14 last.
The copies of the reports of our authorities forwarded with despatch No. 461 of April 5, 1915, do not overlook the fact of a certain amount of blame resting upon some of our soldiers in connection with this affair. However, it seems quite well established that the soldiers were without arms, except the three Flobert rifles taken from a shooting gallery during the trouble; that the police were armed not only with pistols, but quite a number of them with high-power bayoneted rifles; that the first shooting was done by them and that there were evident quite early in the riot the loss of self-control and the exhibition of bad disposition toward Americans by the large body of them.
I have [etc.]
- Not printed.↩