The Chargé in Panama (Muccio) to the Secretary of State

No. 5422

Sir: I have the honor to refer to despatch No. 5401 of April 28, 1944, entitled “Transmitting Governor’s Report together with Embassy’s [Page 1443] Comments on Panamanian Labor Memorandum concerning Canal Zone Employment Policies”,42 and to previous correspondence relating to numerous recent protests alleging racial and nationalistic discrimination in Canal Zone employment policies.

There are now enclosed a copy and office translation of a memorandum dated April 29, 1944,42 from Dr. Fabrega, the Minister of Foreign Relations, transmitting copies of three circulars from the Engineer Division of the Panama Canal Department43 which, it is alleged, indicate discrimination against Panamanian citizens specifically in the matters of payment of overtime, wage scales and leave benefits. It is pointed out that this discrimination is contrary to the democratic principles which characterize the relations of the several American Republics, and that it is especially opposed to the contractual obligations of the United States as evidenced in the exchange of notes of March 2, 1936 which accompanied the signing of the General Treaty with Panamá.44 The Foreign Minister then goes on to cite statements by President Roosevelt and statutes of the United States Congress as indicative of the expressed policy of the United States with respect to equality of opportunity and treatment for Panamanian citizens in the works of the Canal.

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It might also be pointed out that the three memoranda cited as the causes célébres apply as much to the better class white Panamanian employee as to the lower type. The fact that this has brought forth a prompt and more or less official complaint would appear to bear out the Embassy’s contention in the despatch under reference to the effect that the danger of violent reaction would become especially acute as these better educated and qualified Panamanians who have until recently been practically at parity with American citizen employees, begin to feel directly the sting of the allegedly discriminatory measures which have hitherto motivated only the professional agitators and the less powerful lower type of Panamanian.

Furthermore, this is the first instance known to the Embassy where there has been different treatment accorded employees within the same class on the basis of their nationality. Formerly there were complaints that it was difficult for a non-American to be placed in a higher employment class. However, if he did succeed in being so placed, he received the same treatment as all other members of the same class, whether American or alien. In this instance, however, it will be [Page 1444] noted that employees within the same employment class receive one standard of treatment if Americans, and another, if not.

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Respectfully yours,

John J. Muccio
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. One of four overseas departments of the Army Service Forces.
  4. Department of State Treaty Series No. 945; 53 Stat. (pt. 3) 1807.