File No. 819.1052/55.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 680.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit a copy of a note and its translation received day before yesterday from the Panaman Foreign Office in response to my late note in reference to the disarmament of the National Police of Panama in the cities of Panama and Colon of large arms.

I have not yet had the opportunity of conferring with Governor Goethals and General Edwards regarding this note, but will do so promptly.

In a conversation with Señor Lefevre a few days prior to transmission of the note he indicated that we might come and get the rifles, if we insisted, but that no voluntary compliance with our request would be forthcoming.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Price.

No. S–8358.]

Mr. Minister: In due course the polite note of your excellency, No. 247, of October 15, was received in this office, in which, after various considerations on the riots occurring in the cities of Panama and Colon between American citizens and Panamans or nationals of other countries in which the Panaman police intervened, and on the results of the riots, your excellency affirms that in the riots the police were armed with high-powered rifles in addition to small arms, and you conclude requesting from the Government of Panama the disarmament, with as little delay as possible, of the National Police stationed in the two cities, with the exception of the small arms in the form of pistols; and that the police may be prevented in any way possible from having access to any arms which are not of the last category. Your excellency also requests that energetic and persistent means of vigilance may be taken in order that the law may be strictly observed which prohibits the bearing of fire arms by people who are not authorized by law.

This communication was sent to the Secretary of Government and Justice, who states to me he supposes your excellency in making the request contained therein, thinks that our police generally use rifles in its service, and that they intervened with them in the riots which occurred between individuals, or that in such use there has sometimes been disastrous results, which were not justified or which should have been avoided; since otherwise it would be strange to suggest a measure already adopted as suitable and necessary, as I have verbally told your excellency.

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At any rate the Secretary tells me that I may communicate to your excellency the complete assurance that the police will not use these rifles in municipal service, since they are its emblem in military use only; and that they will not be permitted, for any reason, to use this class of arms to establish order in the riots or fights which arise between individuals and much less when in these riots American soldiers off duty take part within the cities of Panama and Colon.

The Government is at present giving efficient civic instruction to the police force with the strictest discipline, so as to avoid at all cost the occurrences of events on which just claims of the American Government or any other government may be founded. Efficient measures have been taken to avoid all disturbances occasioned by drunkenness on national holidays, and orders that rifles be made inaccessible to the police who take part in stopping fights or riots will be most rigorously put into force.

As a result of the energetic and wise measures carried out up to now, the quiet in which the national holidays passed this year is evidence, and we are sure that the persistent application of these preventive police measures will maintain the greatest tranquility even on occasions that naturally draw crowds to the places of amusement.

As the Panama Government eliminated the military a few years ago, it is the duty of the police to receive military instruction in the handling of arms, in monthly parades for review, and in the official ceremonies on national holidays. Further, the police in the necessary military service acts as guard of honor in the Palace of the President of the Republic, and as guard in the principal jail in this city and in Colon, the same as the prison guards do, and in the custody of the prisoners on public works, in all of which the carrying of rifles is necessary as a suitable arm for these duties. In the secondary jails of both cities there is used and kept for use only a gun with bayonet with which the sentinel does his duty.

Relating to the prohibition of carrying arms by people not authorized by law, the Secretary of Government and Justice tells me that he has given to the mayors of the districts of Panama and Colon, who are the officials giving out such permits, an order that they shall cancel the permits already given out and shall abstain from giving out in future permits to people who do not enjoy good reputations, showing due care to take away the arms carried by people not authorized by law, as your excellency indicates. This measure has its basis in our laws.

Concerning the reference which your excellency makes to the rights which the United States of America possess in accordance with Article VII of the Canal Treaty of 1903, I must say that my Government does not give to that article the interpretation that your excellency appears to give to it. This is a point which we consider should be cleared up and for that reason I intend to address myself later to your excellency about it.

I take [etc.]

E. T. Lefevre.