The Representatives of the National Coalition Porrista Party to the Secretary of State7

Dear Mr. Secretary: We the undersigned, members of the National Coalition Porrista Party, of the Republic of Panama, have been commissioned by it to lay before you and the American Government the present political situation in our country, and we respectfully invite your attention to a consideration of the following facts:

The next general and Presidential election in Panama will take place August 5th, 1928. January 1st the Electoral Grand Jury, four of the five members of which are selections and partisans of President Chiari, will convene, and be in session for ten days, for the purpose of naming election officers for the said election for the entire Republic. Preceding the election there is or should be a general registration of the citizens who are eligible and desire to vote at that election.

We and the leaders, officials and members of our party have reason to believe that those citizens opposed to the Chiari Government and the Chiari candidates will not be permitted to enjoy a fair and free election, that they will be deprived of their civil rights, and that the will of the people will be stifled and suppressed.

The former and present acts and utterances of Rodolfo Chiari, and his associate leaders of his party, indicate that the forthcoming election will not be fairly conducted. The treatment accorded by [Page 491] the Government to its political adversaries, and the abuses already increasing in number, further shows that they can not expect to enjoy their political rights in the approaching campaign and at the next election.

The members of our party, composing 80% of the eligible voters of our country, ask for no favors at that election. Their appeal and only request to you and your Government is for the assurance that you favor fair and honest elections in our country; that they will be so held and conducted and that you will exercise your influence and power, and in every way meet your Government’s obligations, to that end, and that you will let it be known, and especially in Panama, as did President Roosevelt in 1908, under somewhat similar circumstances, that fraud will not be tolerated and that no President chosen by fraudulent methods will be recognized by the Government of the United States.

We would call your attention to the fact that the present Government of Panama, which is making so determined an effort to continue itself in power, has recently, and in violation of the Constitution of the country, changed the electoral law by eliminating the provision of identification, a safeguard against repeating at the polls, and also the right of appeal of citizens who may be unlawfully denied registration or deprived of rights they have under the law to the Courts of the country. Such appeal now must be made to the election officers appointed by President Chiari and his associates. The object and purpose of the repeal of those two very important and long existing provisions is obvious to any one.

We do not ask for or desire intervention or anything like it. Our main object and purpose, and we believe it is also your desire, is to avert the necessity of or occasion for that very thing. But, some kind of positive declaration on the part of the United States, and perhaps surveillance or supervision may be necessary in order to guarantee and give the people of our country a fair and honest election, and a peaceable one, and thus avert disorders and such serious conditions that they may lead to intervention.

If the present Government of Panama is not planning and intending to commit fraud on a big scale at the said next election, and if President Chiari and his associates believe they have the confidence and support of a majority of the Panamanian people, they will not oppose our request for assurances by and guarantees from your Department and Government to the effect that such election will be free, honest and fair, and that the President must be chosen without resort to abuses and fraudulent methods, otherwise he will not be recognized by the United States.

For the purpose of showing our reason for coming to you with, and our belief in the result of, our appeal to you in this matter, may we [Page 492] and the about 10,000 of our citizens who have sent their written and signed petition to you through your Minister in Panama, Mr. South, cite Article 136 of the Constitution of Panama, and call your attention to that part of it whereby your Government assumes the obligation of preserving Constitutional order in our country, which provision was placed in it at the special request of your Government. That obligation, we respectfully contend, carries with it the duty to prevent or check the causes or conditions that may lead to violations of the Constitution and consequent disorders; and also to guarantee the civil rights of our people as provided in that Constitution.

Article 136 of our Constitution, is as follows:

“The Government of the United States of America may intervene in any point of the Republic of Panama, to re-establish Public Peace and Constitutional Order, should same nave been disturbed, in case that, in case of public treaty, that nation should assume, or should have assumed, the obligation to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Republic.”8 (Such a treaty was entered into, and the United States assumed that very obligation; and it is still in force.)9

Also, in 1908, when conditions in our country were very similar to those now existing, though perhaps not so threatening, or, serious as they will be later on, and especially should the said requested guarantees be not given, or be refused to us, President Roosevelt addressed the following note to Secretary of War Taft relative to the then existing political and election situation in our country:

“You are instructed to say to President Amador that the Government of the United States will consider any attempt at fraudulent methods and to refuse a large number of the people the opportunity of casting their votes in the presidential elections, as an act which constitutes disturbance of the public peace, which, according to the Constitution of Panama, calls for intervention, and that this Government will not allow the Government of Panama to pass into the hands of any one elected in such a manner.”

The honorable policy of your Government, as formulated, declared and put into force by that President of your country, who was so beloved and whose memory is now so revered by all our countrymen, as by yours, stands unimpugned and unrevoked. May we hope that [Page 493] your Government still respects it, and will now not hesitate to reaffirm it. In the interests of democracy, of fair and honest elections, and of good government, is not that policy one of the best guarantees your Government can give, adopt or follow, and applicable as well to your country as to ours?

That is all that we have come to you to ask. Is it too much? May we hope you will not refuse it to us.

In conclusion, may we say that we and our friends in Panama, and the at least 80% of the people there for whom we speak, and who are now anxiously awaiting your answer to our and their appeal, are not revolutionists, nor even interventionists; that we believe in and want to live under a reign of law and order; that we are, have always been, and desire to continue to be friends and admirers of your wonderful people and prodigious and powerful nation; that we trust in your sense of fairness and justice; and that we want to co-operate with you in every way that will be for the good, benefit and prosperity of our country and the credit and honor of yours.

With great esteem, and thanking you for the audience you have so graciously accorded us, we remain [etc.]

  • Belisario Porras
  • J. A. Jiménez
  1. Handed to the Secretary of State on Dec. 15, 1927, by ex-President Belisario Porras.
  2. Cf. the following translated text, from Foreign Relations, 1904, pp. 562, 578: “The Government of the United States of America may intervene in any part of the Republic of Panama to reestablish public peace and constitutional order in the event of their being disturbed, provided that that nation shall, by public treaty, assume or have assumed the obligation of guaranteeing the independence and sovereignty of this Republic.”
  3. Convention between the United States and the Republic of Panama for the construction of a ship canal to connect the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, signed Nov. 18, 1903, Foreign Relations, 1904, p. 543.