711F.1914/179: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Panama (Dawson)

21. Your 22, February 6, 4 p.m. The Under Secretary has had a further conversation with the Panamanian Ambassador regarding the leases of defense sites. Dr. Brin stated that his Government was prepared to proceed at once with the leases. He took occasion, however, to raise the question of the impairment to the sovereignty of Panama which his Government thought might occur if jurisdiction were accorded the United States over the desired lands. The Under Secretary stated that this point of view was entirely theoretical; that the United States does not feel that its jurisdiction over the Canal Zone will be impaired by granting Panama jurisdiction over the [Page 425] precincts of the proposed Panama customhouses in the Canal Zone. The Ambassador finally appeared to agree.

With respect to the term of the leases, the Ambassador stated that President Arias did not wish to grant the leases for a term longer than that of his administration or, in any event, that term plus one additional year.

The Under Secretary stated that this Government could not consent to that thesis; that the obligation to cooperate in this manner for the defense of the Canal was undertaken not by any particular administrations in Panama, but by the Republic of Panama; that the lands should be leased for so long a period as the two Governments consider their use necessary to the defense of the Canal.

With reference to the communication to be delivered to President Arias, the Department considers the following text to be preferable:

“Confirming his conversation of February 6 with His Excellency the President of Panama and supplementing his aide-mémoire of December 30 last, the Ambassador of the United States of America has the honor to state that the Government of the United States considers that, with the coming into effect of the general treaty, it has generously met the aspirations of Panama to take full advantage of its geographical position in relation to the Canal, while at the same time the Republic of Panama has undertaken to cooperate in the defense of the Canal. The Government of the United States therefore considers that with regard to the leasing of lands required for that defense, Panama should make these sites available immediately and that the Panamanian and Canal Zone authorities should agree upon an equitable annual rental therefor, based on the fair value of the desired lands.

“Upon the compliance by the Government of Panama with its treaty obligations in this respect, the Government of the United States will be glad to give friendly and careful consideration to the suggestions for assistance advanced by the Government of Panama.”18

For your confidential information, the Department will consider carefully which of the various “compensations” which have been proposed by Panama it might be willing to grant as “friendly gestures”. It might, for example, favor the removal of the railway station and the construction of certain highway projects, including the P–8 road, as well, possibly, as maintenance of roads used during the period of the emergency to an unusual degree by our armed forces. It is not desired to offer the construction of the P–8 road in any way as an inducement to Panama to make the defense sites available and reference to this road should accordingly be deleted from the communication you make to President Arias.

  1. The Ambassador in Panama delivered this communication to the Secretary General of the Presidency of Panama on Monday, February 10.