File No. 819.1052/61

Chargé Spencer to the Secretary of State

No. 773

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith copy of a letter of yesterday’s date received this morning from Governor Goethals. It refers to the presence at a fire two days ago in this city of several Panaman policemen patrolling with rifles with bayonets attached. The fire occurred at 4.30 in the morning and as there was a considerable blaze in the heart of the city, the reserves of the police force were immediately called and responded armed with rifles. This is in contradiction to the verbal assurances of the Panaman Minister for Foreign Affairs, as, also, in contradiction to the Foreign Office letter from Señor Lefevre, which was sent to the Department as an enclosure in despatch No. 680 of November 17, 1915,2 in which the Panaman idea was expressed that the police force of the cities of Panama and Colon should only use bayonets in guarding the President’s Palace and possibly convict camps, but not in municipal service.

It is a bad sign that after these many weeks of understanding between the provost guard in the red light district and the Mayor of Panama, and, also, by the military authorities, on the zone and the higher Panaman authorities that on the occasion of this fire, which was the first occasion that police reserves have been needed, they should respond with rifles and bayonets, an act directly in violation of all the verbal agreements.

I have [etc.]

Willing Spencer
[Page 939]

Governor Goethals to Chargé Spencer.

Sir: With reference to our correspondence regarding disarming the Panama police force of the high-power rifles used by them on certain occasions, I beg to state that I noticed a couple of Panaman policemen yesterday patrolling in the vicinity of the fire opposite the Panama Railroad station with rifles.


Geo. W. Goethals
  1. Not printed.