File No. 319.1123 L25/19.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 634.]

Sir: Referring to my despatches Nos. 599, 607, and 614 of the respective dates of August 30, September 8 and September 14 last, relating to my efforts to procure prosecution by Panama on account of the events connected with the Colon riot of April 2, 1915, I have the honor to report that on Saturday I received the first response [Page 1215] herein from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama of a character at all satisfactory. I enclose a copy of same and its translation.

The comparatively small number of witnesses thus far examined by the Panaman authorities in the matter is noticeable. With reference to my request regarding the police force the response is most meager, and I shall again request the full list.

Señor Lefevre has stated to me that he was arranging so that a representative of our Government chosen from the military authorities may be present at the further investigations and any prosecutions which may follow, with right to take part therein. He requested me to have General Edwards, Military Commander of the Canal Zone, designate some one, and stated that within a few days he expected to have the Attorney General of Panama go over with us the proceedings thus far followed and submit their plans as to the future. Upon the return of General Edwards this week from Costa Rica I shall submit Señor Lefevre’s proposition to him for his decision as to whether the military cares to share the responsibility with Panama in the matter of the prosecutions in order to obtain more definite assurance by representation therein of the good faith of the efforts of the Panaman officials.

I should be glad to have expression of the opinion of the Department upon the policy involved in the matter.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.

The Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price.


Mr. Minister: I have the honor to refer to the courteous note No. 217 from your excellency, of the 4th instant, bearing on the events which took place in Colon last April 2.

Although, as I told your excellency in my former note, according to our judicial code the report ordered by the judicial authorities is of a private character, nevertheless the Superior Judge of the Republic has told me that, as a courtesy to your excellency’s Government, he will submit to you all the information possible, and we are trying to find the way within our laws for the Government of the United States to have representation in those judicial matters in which her citizens play a part.

I have been able to obtain almost all the information necessary to reply to the questions of the last two notes of your excellency, which I now proceed to answer in the following statements:

1. No writ of procedure against any person has as yet been issued, due to the fact that this affair is in the stage of investigation; when this is concluded the Superior Judge will issue his writ of procedure, if there is occasion for it. As regards the tardiness of the whole case, it is right to take into consideration that it deals with fixing the responsibilities for various crimes; that is, not only for the death of Corporal Langdon of the American patrol, and for wounds to different soldiers, among them James Deloughery, but also for the wounds suffered by various Panamans and some foreigners, and other crimes in connection with these, such as the damage caused to the property of Benigno Palma. This circumstance, together with the delays required by our codes, justifies in part the delay.

2. The policeman is provisonally detained on account of the complaints against him made in declarations taken before the American military authorities. It is for the Superior Judge to decide about his detention.

3. As stated above, before the Superior Judge decides on a writ of procedure against any person, it is necessary that the investigation be concluded. The [Page 1216] Attorney General has promised that this shall occur with the least possible delay.

4. I enclose a list of the witnesses up to date who have given testimony in the case10 and I shall be glad if your excellency will send me the names of the witnesses which the American military authorities have ready to testify before our judicial authorities, as you told me, in order that the prosecuting attorney may present them to the superior judge and they may be able to testify.

5. I also enclose a list of the members of the police force who served in the streets of Colon where the disturbances took place on April 2.10

6. The Mayor of Colon who held the first investigations is Manuel de J. Grimaldo; he was appointed to this position by the Governor of Colon, Ruben Arcia.

7. Miguel A. Grimaldo, as Judge No. 1 of the Colon Circuit, at the designation of the Superior Judge of the Republic, conducted the investigation at the start; but when he became Judge No. 3 of the Panama Circuit, the new judge of the Colon Circuit, Gerardo Abrahams, also designated by the Superior Judge, continued it. The Superior Judge is J. Demosthenes Arosemena; the Attorney General, Chief of the Department of Prosecution, is Alfonso Fabrega.

Under the terms of the Panaman Constitution, all the judges are named by the Supreme Court; the prosecuting attorneys by the President.

8. The judge of the case, as has been stated, is the Superior Judge of the Republic and, for the second instance, for appeal or consultation, the Supreme Court.

I shall not close without telling your excellency that when it has been settled in what manner the United States Government will have representation in the case, you will be convinced that everything is being carried on with all possible fullness and justice, and the prosecuting attorney, who not only has the duty to prosecute but also to show up the truth whatever it may be, has genuine interest to see justice given in this case, which my Government is the first to deplore; and we are all anxious to cooperate so as to avoid a repetition of such events.

I take [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.