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

No. 3182

Sir: Reference is made to the Embassy’s despatch no. 5422 of May 3, 1944 transmitting copies and translations of a memorandum and its accompanying documents from the Panamanian Foreign Office complaining [Page 1447] against certain practices applied to laborers in the Canal Zone which are alleged to be discriminatory against Panamanian nationals and contrary to the declared policy of this Government as set forth in the exchange of notes of March 2, 1936 assuring equality of opportunity and treatment as between United States and Panamanian nationals in so far as employment in the Canal Zone is concerned.

As you are aware the treatment accorded aliens employed in the Canal Zone has been the subject of a memorandum54 left with the Secretary on behalf of Vicente Lombardo Toledano by Señor Alejandro Carrillo, both Mexican labor leaders. A copy of this memorandum was forwarded to the President, who directed the Department to prepare a study of the policy aspects of this matter. A copy of this study55 was forwarded to you informally. A copy of Toledano’s memorandum was likewise made available to the former Governor of the Canal Zone when he was in Washington last February. The Governor’s office prepared a summary study in reply to the memorandum, and the Embassy submitted a copy of this study together with observations to the Department with despatch no. 5401 of April 28, 1944.54

The Department takes a very serious view of the situation which is now the subject of complaint on the part of the Panamanian Government. For your confidential information the President, upon the recommendation of those handling the matter for him and with the approval of the Department, has written to the present Governor of the Canal Zone and has expressed his concern and asked to be informed what measures the Governor contemplates taking to bring labor employment practices into conformity with the commitments of the Government as principally set out in the exchange of notes between the United States and Panamanian Governments dated March 2, 1936.

For its part the Department of State has written to the War Department56 informing it of the official protest now received from the Panamanian Government and requesting information concerning the reasons for the issuance of Administrative Memoranda nos. 11, 12, 13–4457 when these orders appear to be so much at variance with the commitments of this Government.

You are instructed, therefore, in reply to the Foreign Minister’s memorandum to inform him that this matter has been taken under advisement by the United States Government and that the appropriate departments of this Government, viewing with concern the [Page 1448] matters complained of, are making a full study and will take the first opportunity to reply, as soon as the facts have been assembled.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Dean Acheson
  1. Not printed.
  2. For text of the conclusions of the study, see pp. 14401442.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Letter of June 5, supra.
  5. None printed.