The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Panama (Dawson)
34. Your 32, February 21, 4 p.m. You are requested to obtain promptly an interview with the Minister for Foreign Relations and hand him an aide-mémoire in the following words:
“The Government of the United States has received the aide-mémoire of the Government of Panama transmitted by His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Relations of the Republic to the Ambassador of the United States under date of February 21.22 The Government of the United States appreciates fully the cordial and [Page 433] friendly spirit demonstrated by the Government of Panama in the communication under acknowledgement and is happy to have confirmed in this manner its understanding that the Government of Panama is determined to comply both in spirit and in letter with the obligations which it assumed under the terms of the treaty between the two countries of March 2, 1936, as well as to cooperate fully in the defense of the Hemisphere.
The Government of the Republic of Panama states that if the Government of the United States would be willing to agree that once the present international conflagration has terminated, the additional lands now urgently required by the United States for the defense of the Panama Canal, will revert to the Republic; and that if the Government of the United States will further agree that jurisdiction by authorities of the United States over such lands will be exercised only over the military personnel of the United States on duty ‘the Government of Panama will proceed without loss of time to authorize the preliminary preparation of the lands, and in accordance with the spirit of cooperation which animates the two Governments, will then begin to study and determine the terms of the pertinent agreements.’
With reference to the former of the two desires expressed by the Government of Panama, the Government of the United States reiterates the statement contained in the aide-mémoire transmitted to the Government of Panama under date of February 18 which reads:
‘The Government of the United States takes pleasure in stating that when and if the conditions which have now arisen and which require the utilization of the said tracts of land for the defense of the Panama Canal or for its effective protection cease to exist, the Government of the United States will return to the jurisdiction of the Republic of Panama the tracts of land in question.’
With reference to the second of the two desires expressed by the Government of Panama, the Government of the United States draws the attention of the Government of Panama to the fact that the latter is granted full jurisdiction by the United States within the customs houses to be set up by the Republic of Panama within the Canal Zone by virtue of the Treaty between the two Governments signed on March 2, 1936. The Government of the United States was glad to enter into this agreement because of its realization that in order to make it possible for the Government of Panama effectively to administer its customs services within these customs houses, the authorities of the Republic of Panama within the customs houses must be accorded full jurisdiction within those sites.
It is for exactly the same kind of a practical reason that the Government of the United States must be assured of adequate jurisdiction within the defense sites now required. The question is solely of a practical nature and carries with it no implication of any infringement of sovereignty. Its principal and obvious purpose is to safeguard military installations within the sites from possible espionage and sabotage.
The Government of the United States, accordingly, desires to propose that the question of jurisdiction over the necessary defense sites shall be regulated by an agreement between the two Governments as follows: [Page 434]
‘The Republic of Panama retains its sovereignty over the desired areas of land and water but nevertheless consents that during the period of the temporary occupation by the United States of the said areas, the United States shall have complete use of the said areas, exclusive jurisdiction over military and civilian personnel of the United States, and their families, and over all other persons within these areas except citizens of the Republic of Panama. It is understood that within a reasonable time after the coming into effect of this agreement, the Government of the Republic of Panama will enact and keep in force adequate legislation to insure the prosecution, and severe punishment in case of conviction, of all citizens of the Republic of Panama for offenses committed within the said areas, and conferring jurisdiction for the trial of offenders upon the superior courts of the Republic of Panama to the exclusion of all inferior courts of the said Republic. It is further understood that if this agreement does not prove satisfactory for the maintenance, sanitation or efficient operation of the Canal or for its effective protection, the United States reserves the right to request the Republic of Panama to grant exclusive jurisdiction to the United States over the desired areas.’
The Government of the United States confidently hopes that the Government of the Republic of Panama, in view of the urgency with which the defense sites are needed, will accord its prompt and sympathetic consideration of the practical character of the above suggested agreement.
Several months have already passed since the Government of the United States requested the Government of Panama, in accordance with the clear stipulations of Article II and of Article X of the Treaty of March 2, 1936, to transfer to the appropriate authorities of the United States the additional sites required for the defense of the Canal. The effective protection and the adequate defense of the Canal are problems which involve not only the security of the Republic of Panama and of the United States, but the safety of every one of the other American Republics as well. In view of the present world situation, the continued operation of the Canal is essential to the economic well-being of a great number of the American Republics; full and adequate defense of the Canal is of vital importance in order that the independence and integrity of the Western Hemisphere may be rendered unassailable.
The Government of the United States finds it necessary in the most friendly way to request of the Government of Panama that it authorize not only the ‘preliminary preparation of the lands’ required, but that it likewise transfer immediately to the proper authorities of the United States these sites in order that the necessary military preparations may be undertaken by these authorities without any further delay. As was stated in the aide-mémoire communicated to the Government of Panama under date of February 18, the Government of the United States stands ready thereupon to consult with the Government of Panama in order that an agreement may be had by the two Governments as to the amounts to be fixed as equitable compensation for the lands whose utilization is now required for the defense of the Canal.
The Government of the United States feels sure that as a result of the clarification above set forth, the desired steps will be immediately taken by the Government of Panama in order to prevent any further continuation of this delay which has already proven seriously prejudicial to the adequate protection of the Canal.”
- See supra.↩