718.1915/701: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Panama (South)

17. Your 15, February 2, 11 a.m.27 You will please address the following note to the Minister for Foreign Affairs reading a copy thereof to President Chiari:

“Under instructions from my Government I have the honor to advise you that in view of the obligation assumed by the United States Government in Article I of the Treaty of 1903,28 the question of Panama’s boundaries is of great concern to it. Panama’s difficulties with its neighbors have in very large measure arisen through disputed boundaries and have caused Panama on several occasions in the past to call upon the United States Government for assistance under the terms of the treaty stipulation referred to.

The guarantee by my Government of the independence of Panama has made it necessary for it to examine carefully into the question of Panama’s boundaries in order to satisfy itself regarding the extent of the territory covered by that guarantee. The Government of the United States was highly gratified at the satisfactory solution of the boundary question between Panama and Colombia.29 It was also gratified that the boundary with Costa Rica was established by Article I of the Porras-Anderson Treaty of 191030 and by the White Award.31 It is a source of profound regret to it, however, that that Award has not yet been executed by Panama. While this noncompliance with the Award persists the possibility of misunderstanding and even of a re-occurrence of the regrettable incidents of 1921 between Panama and Costa Rica is ever likely. In view of the treaty provisions above cited such incidents would inevitably involve the United States Government. Therefore, in the interest of peace, friendly relations between Panama and its neighbors, and orderly procedure the United States Government would learn with pleasure of the definite settlement of Panama’s only remaining boundary controversy.

The Costa Rican Government has informed my Government of its earnest desire to have removed any possibility of the friction [Page 475] that is apt to occur through the lack of precise knowledge, until it is definitely surveyed and marked off, of the actual boundary between the two countries. To this end it has asked the United States Government to cooperate with it in having the line demarcated. This matter has been pending so long to the detriment of the development of the regions on both sides of the line, that the United States Government feels that the desire of the Costa Rican Government to have this matter now definitely determined is a reasonable one; and, being confident that the White Award and the Treaty of 1910 definitely establish the boundary my Government instructed me to invite Your Excellency’s Government to appoint its engineer to demarcate the line. Your Excellency’s Government declined to appoint its engineer and stated that it considered an arrangement with Costa Rica along the lines specified in your note of January 29, last, essential before Panama can appoint its engineer. You did inform me, however, that your Government is ready to enter immediately into direct negotiations with the Government of Costa Rica.

In view of the position taken by Your Excellency’s Government I am instructed to make clear to you the position of the American Government in the premises:

The Government of the United States feels that the boundary line should now be definitely established and that the Treaty of 1910 and the White Award are valid and binding on both Panama and Costa Rica. While my Government cannot depart from this position it is willing, as a further manifestation of its friendship and good-will toward Panama, to await for a reasonable time the outcome of such direct negotiations as Panama may undertake with the Government of Costa Rica. Any agreement satisfactory to both Panama and Costa Rica will of course be acceptable to my Government but in the absence of any such agreement my Government will have no other alternative than to afford facilities for the engineers appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and by the Government of Costa Rica in demarcating the boundary line, should Panama refuse to cooperate therein. In the absence of a prior arrangement between Panama and Costa Rica my Government will proceed to this in January, 1926.

With reference to the position adumbrated in Your Excellency’s note of the 29th ultimo, I am instructed to say that my Government can find no merit in the Panaman claim for indemnity against Costa Rica for the action taken by the latter in 1921. Without expressing any opinion regarding this action it should nevertheless be pointed out that Panama had then been in occupation for eleven years of territory which it clearly recognized in the Porras-Anderson Treaty of 1910 as belonging to Costa Rica and Costa Rica’s action was doubtless inspired by the desire to enter into possession of what had been recognized as belonging to it but was being withheld.

In order to further the negotiations my Government will be glad to express to the Costa Rican Government the hope that in order to bring about a settlement of this question and to pave the way for the reestablishment of friendly relations between the two countries it agree that upon marking this boundary the line should be so drawn as to give fair protection to the interests of the Panamans [Page 476] living or holding property within the district under discussion so far as this can be done consistently with the Award. Furthermore no mention will be made at this time to the Costa Rican Government of the readiness of the American Government to proceed in January, 1926, with the demarcation of the boundary line should no agreement have been reached in the meantime.”

  1. Not printed; it transmitted the substance of the note of January 30 from the Panaman Minister of Foreign Affairs, supra.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1904, p. 543.
  3. See ibid., 1924, vol. i, pp. 287 ff.
  4. Ibid., 1910, p. 820.
  5. Ibid., 1914, p. 1000.