The Panamanian Minister for Foreign Affairs ( De Roux ) to the American Ambassador in Panama ( Dawson )24


The aide-mémoire which His Excellency the Ambassador of the United States delivered, in the name of his Government, to the Minister of Foreign Relations of the Republic under date of February 27 last has received the careful attention of the Government of Panamá.

There has been received with particular pleasure the assurance given by the Government of the United States that “when the conditions which have now arisen and which require the utilization of [Page 437] additional lands for the defense of the Panama Canal cease to exist” these lands will revert to the Republic; it being understood that such conditions cannot be other than those indicated in the statement made by the Government of the United States in the aide-mémoire of February 18, which reads:

“The Government of the United States has reached the conclusion that, in accordance with the terms of Article X of the Treaty of 1936 an international conflagration has broken out bringing with it the existence of a threat to the security of the Panama Canal which requires the taking of measures for the defense of the Canal on the part of the United States.”

With respect to the jurisdiction that the Government of the United States would exercise on the above-mentioned areas of land the Government of Panama sees itself constrained to insist on its already known points of view, invariably maintained in its previous communications, whereby the Republic reserves to itself civil jurisdiction over all the lands and cedes to the United States jurisdiction over its military personnel on duty. However, appreciating the apprehension of the United States that acts of espionage or sabotage might endanger the military installations and its desire to protect them adequately against such emergencies, the Government of Panama would agree that crimes of such nature be tried and punished by the competent authorities of the United States. Consequently, the proposed agreement might read as follows:

“The Republic of Panama retains its sovereignty and complete civil jurisdiction over the required areas of land, water, and air space, and agrees that during the period of temporary occupation by the United States the latter has the complete use of such areas and exclusive jurisdiction over its military personnel on duty, being empowered, moreover, to try and punish all persons, without regard to nationality, who in the above-indicated areas may be apprehended and accused of crimes of espionage or sabotage.”

The citation which is made in connection with the jurisdiction that the Treaty of 1936 grants to the Government of Panama in the customs houses that the Republic is to establish in the Canal Zone does not appear pertinent inasmuch as these lands have never ceased to belong to the Isthmian Nation and the latter has always retained its sovereignty over them. In the case cited, it is not a question of lands the property of the United States passing to Panamanian jurisdiction and therefore there is no similarity whatever between the concession established by the Treaty of 1936 and that requested of the Panamanian Government for the establishment of the Canal defenses.

The statement made by the Government of the United States in its aide-mémoire of February 18 and repeated in the one of the 27th of [Page 438] the same month, promising to consult with the Government of Panamá in order to fix by common agreement the adequate compensation which will be in order, is pleasing.

The Government of the Republic of Panama deems it desirable to point out that there has existed on its part no desire to delay the agreement permitting the Government of the United States the utilization of lands necessary for the adequate defense of the Canal, and that the sole reason for this delay must be sought in the original form in which the request of the United States was presented, which did not really accord with the provisions of the General Treaty of 1936. Only in the aide-mémoire of February 18 of the Embassy of the United States was the request formulated within the letter and spirit of the contractual obligations devolving upon Panama by reason of the above-mentioned international convention.

So sincere and profound is the desire of the Government of Panama to cooperate in the effective defense of the Canal, and so firm its intentions to respect and meet its obligations toward the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere, that “in view of the urgency with which,” according to the statement of the American Government, “these defense sites are needed”, it is ready to authorize immediately the necessary military preparations in the certainty that in a full spirit of understanding and justice its aspirations will be duly considered and received with sympathy in the contracts to be signed later.

The Government of the Republic of Panamá will reach an agreement with the military authorities of the Canal Zone to provide the measures which may be required for the indicated purposes.

The National Assembly of Panama will be informed of this situation beforehand, and an official communiqué given to the press for the information of the people in general.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Panama in his despatch No. 980, March 5; received March 10.