The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of War (Stimson)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: The Embassy of the United States in Panama received a memorandum from the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Panama dated April 29, 194451 in which complaint is made of the contents of three Circular Instructions issued by the Headquarters, Panama Canal Department and described as Division Memoranda nos. 11, 12 and 13–44, all dated February 4, 1944.52

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The Foreign Minister in his memorandum, a copy of [which] is enclosed, raises a very serious issue and one which has been made the subject of another protest from the Latin American labor leader, Lie. Lombardo Toledano, namely that of alleged discrimination against Panamanians in employment practices in the Canal Zone. As the Foreign Minister quite appropriately points out, the United States Government is committed to a policy of equality of opportunity and treatment as between United States and Panamanian citizens working in the Zone.

I realize the complications that arise from a consideration of this problem in the Zone. Nothing must be permitted to interfere with the efficient operation of the Canal. On the other hand, it is obviously necessary that international commitments to which this Government is a party be respected. One of these is set forth in the exchange of notes with the Panamanian Government dated March 2, 1936, a copy of which is attached for your convenient reference.52a

This Department offers no positive suggestions for the amelioration of the conditions complained about. I have, however, instructed our Embassy in Panama to acknowledge the receipt of the Foreign Minister’s memorandum and to state that the appropriate Departments of the United States Government are making a full study of this problem, in order to determine the facts and the measures to be taken to correct discrimination if in fact it exists. Since the Foreign Minister complained particularly of certain divisional memoranda, you might desire to direct that a report be made to determine the reasons for these instructions.

I have already received a copy of the report53 prepared by former Governor Edgerton of the Canal Zone Department, but the Panamanian Government points to certain specific problems which I am sure we shall want to clear up at first opportunity.

If this Department may help in any way, I hope you will be good enough to let me know how.

Sincerely yours,

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr.
  1. Not printed.
  2. None printed.
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  4. Not printed; copy transmitted to the Department in despatch 5401, April 28, 1944, from Panama.