The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Panama (Dawson)
51. Your despatch no. 980, March 5.25 You are requested to obtain promptly an interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and hand him an aide-mémoire in the following words:
“The Government of the United States has received the aide-mémoire which His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama handed on March 5, 1941 to the Ambassador of the United States. It is gratified to note that the Government of Panama, in view of the urgency with which the military authorities of the United States desire to obtain the use of certain sites in the Republic of Panama in connection with the defense of the Panama Canal, is disposed to make these sites available at once.
The Government of the United States has noted with much pleasure this manifestation of the desire of the Republic of Panama to cooperate in the defense of the Panama Canal and accepts with grateful thanks its kind offer to make these sites immediately available. It has directed its military authorities to proceed at once with the military preparation of these sites. The Government of the United States, moreover, is confident that since agreement has now been reached on the fundamental issue between the two Governments, the corresponding details may be rapidly and satisfactorily worked out in a continuing atmosphere of cordial and mutual understanding.
With respect to the question of length of time during which these sites for the defense of the Panama Canal will be required, the Government of the United States observes that the Government of the Republic of Panama has taken due note of the assurance given by the Government of the United States that ‘when the conditions which [Page 440] have now arisen and which require utilization of the additional lands for the defense of the Panama Canal cease to exist’, the use of these lands will revert to the Republic of Panama. The Government of the United States has been pleased in this connection to give an assurance to the Republic of Panama that there exists in accordance with the terms of Article X of the Treaty of 1936 an ‘international conflagration’ which endangers the security of the Panama Canal. The Government of the United States likewise assures the Government of Panama that there exists an ‘unforeseen contingency’ such as that contemplated in Article II of the same treaty, under the provisions of which the two Governments have pledged themselves to agree upon such measures as may be necessary to insure that additional lands which may be needed for the effective protection of the Canal shall be made available. It is with this in mind that the Government of the United States feels that it cannot consent to the reversion of the desired lands to Panama as soon as the present ‘international conflagration’ terminates, for neither Panama nor the United States can now foresee what new and possibly greater threats to the security of the Panama Canal might conceivably follow in the wake of the termination of present hostilities and thus create new and additional dangers to the Panama Canal, to the Republic of Panama, to the United States of America, and to the other countries of this Hemisphere. The Government of the United States is therefore confident that the Government of Panama, in strict accordance with the letter and spirit of the Treaty of 1936, will agree to make the desired lands available for the duration of the ‘unforseen contingency’ specified in Article II of that treaty, or for so long as they may be needed to insure the effective protection of the Panama Canal.
With regard to the question of jurisdiction over the desired sites, the Government of the United States again assures the Government of the Republic of Panama that, in seeking a measure of jurisdiction, no impairment of Panamanian sovereignty over the sites is desired or implied. A practical and workable measure of jurisdiction, however, to be exercised by the military authorities of the United States is essential. The Government of the United States has attentively examined the counterproposal respecting jurisdiction included in the aide-mémoire of March 5, 1941 but feels that it can hardly consent to relinquish jurisdiction at any time over its civil and military personnel on the sites, whether on duty or not, or over their families. As a practical matter, moreover, it could not consent to a joint policing of the areas by the police of the Republic of Panama and the military authorities of the United States. The Government of the United States invites the attention of the Republic of Panama to the fact that since the areas are to be used entirely as military reservations, it could not consent that its military authorities would lack the practical and essential authority to arrest and punish unauthorized persons for trespass thereon. The military authorities of the United States, however, would be glad to turn over to the authorities of the Republic of Panama for trial and punishment all persons other than its own civil and military personnel and their families apprehended on the sites in the commission of civil crimes other than that of trespass and of crimes against the safety and security of the military installations to be placed on them.[Page 441]
The Government of the United States desires in the most friendly manner to say that its requirements as to the length of tenure and jurisdiction as outlined above are a minimum which would be practical and workable, and it confidently hopes, therefore, that these minimum requirements will now be acceptable to the Government of Panama in order that contracts may be speedily concluded with full agreement as to the details now under discussion.”