The Chargé in Panama ( Donnelly ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 19—4:15 a.m.]
152. President de la Guardia called me to his office yesterday afternoon (February 17). He told me that he had reached the end of his patience with the ex-Diputados now residing at the Hotel Tivoli; that they were responsible for acts of violence in Panama on February 17; that they were using the Hotel Tivoli as a center for political activities against his Government; that the self-styled Duncan36 Government was actually operating from the hotel; that the United States Government through the Canal Zone was permitting them to engage in activities hostile to his Government with which we maintain diplomatic relations and which was [has] always cooperated with the United States Government and the Canal Zone authorities on all matters relating to the war effort and security of the canal, et cetera; and requested that the ex-Diputados be turned over to the Panamanian police at once.
I told the President while I had no authority in the matter I would bring his request to the attention of General Brett37 and the Acting Governor of the Canal Zone.38 The President said that he could not extradite them. I told the President that in my opinion the Canal Zone authorities would turn over the politicians to Panama provided [Page 1243] his Government requested their extradition but that in the absence of such a request and inasmuch as there is no proof that the politicians have committed acts within the Canal Zone inimical to the security of the Canal that the Canal Zone authorities could not accede to his request. The President then suggested that we do three things: 1) deny the politicians the right to stay at the Hotel Tivoli; 2) prevent them from holding political gatherings within the Canal Zone; and 3) prohibit them from patronizing restaurants, theaters, et cetera, in the Canal Zone. I told the President that I would place these points before General Brett and the Acting Governor and that I would endeavor to give him some definite information within a few hours. The President thanked me and said that in view of the seriousness of the situation he would receive me at any hour during the night.
There followed a meeting with General Brett, the Acting Governor, and their assistants at which time I reviewed in detail the statements and requests of the President. I suggested that General Brett and the Acting Governor attend the next meeting with the President but after carefully considering all phases of the problem they decided that it would be inadvisable for them to be present. It was agreed that I should inform the President that (1) they would act immediately on his official request to extradite the politicians provided the papers were found to be in order; and (2) if he declined to extradite them and insisted that they be denied quarters at the Tivoli Hotel that the Embassy and the Canal authorities would refer the matter to their respective departments in Washington for review and decision. General Brett advanced several reasons for not forcing them to leave the Tivoli while I pointed out that as the request came from President de la Guardia and the reasons for his request were very convincing, I would recommend to the Department of State that we accede to President’s request and that I believe the Department would approve.
I met again with the President at 9 p.m., and the conference lasted until 11:15 p.m. Instead of furnishing the Department at this time with a detailed report of the meeting and in view of the President’s request that the matter be referred to Washington at once, I quote below a translation of an aide-mémoire which President de la Guardia gave me at the close of the conference:
“In an interview held between the President of Panama and the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the United States, the President formally requested the Government of the United States to proceed immediately to the expulsion from the Hotel Tivoli of those persons sheltered there who have called themselves ‘exilados’ (exiled ones) from the Republic of Panama by reason of their unsubstantiated persecution by the Panamanian authorities.
The President based his petition on the fact that these persons have made unwarranted use of the asylum that the Government of the [Page 1244] United States has granted them, plotting in diverse ways to bring about the overthrow of the established government in the Republic of Panama.
Some members of the Assembly which was dissolved as a result of the Cabinet decree of December 29, 1944 proceeded in an illegal way by the swearing of incompetent substitutes to elect a designate to the Presidency of the Republic, an act directly opposed to the principles of recognized law. After the said designation, the men referred to continued to incite public opinion in such a way as to exceed the limits of toleration. And not only have they not confined themselves to making hostile declarations against the established government in the Republic, but they have also used the asylum offered by the Government of the United States to plot armed revolutions against the government.
It is known that the same persons have perpetrated violence against the very life of public officials even threatening the President of the Republic himself. A concrete example arose today when a bomb exploded in front of the secret police in the city of Panama and another in the private home of Camilo de la Guardia, Jr., ex-Minister of Government and Justice, destroying a window.
The above mentioned facts give conclusive support to the petition being made to the Government of the United States to bar within the jurisdiction of the Canal Zone persons who not only are making hostile gestures against the legitimate government of the Republic of Panama but who have gone so far as to attempt assassination against officials and ex-officials of the government.
Panama, February 17, 1945”.
President de la Guardia repeated several times during the second meeting that “it is very important that you get them out of the Tivoli Hotel” and said that he was confident that if we do so at once the Tivoli Hotel opposition would fall apart within a few days.
In view of the opinion of the Commanding General of the Panama Canal Department as expressed to me late this afternoon that the removal from the hotel and distribution of the politicians throughout the Canal Zone (we can only presume that they would make every effort to avoid returning to Panama at this time) would be inimical to the best interests of the Panama Canal, it is believed that the best solution is deportation from the Canal Zone to Panama of the persons concerned. The Acting Governor has assured me that he has adequate authority for this action and is prepared to exercise it if the Department concurs. He said that the reasons for deportation are based upon the statements of President de la Guardia in the aide-mémoire above quoted. General Brett favors the Governor’s plan and is today submitting the facts to the War Department.
Repeated to Mexico for Assistant Secretary Rockefeller.39
- As First Designate under the provisions of the old constitution, Jeptha Duncan would have succeeded to the Presidency on February 15.↩
- Lt. Gen. George H. Brett, Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command.↩
- Brig. Gen. F. K. Newcomer.↩
- Nelson A. Rockefeller represented the United States at the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, held in Mexico City, February–March, 1945.↩