819.00/2–2145: Telegram

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

170. Shortly after Warren’s telegram of February 20, 10 p.m.45 was received, Ambassador Lewis46 called on me to discuss the political [Page 1248] situation and means of solving the problems regarding the politicians in the Tivoli Hotel before February 23 when he will leave for Washington. Next I met with General Brett and Governor Mehaffey and impressed upon them that the problem was essentially political (General Brett has not yet received the War Department’s instruction referred to in Warren’s telegram).

It was agreed that every effort should be made to end the alert (which had been placed in effect by General Brett immediately upon his receiving word of a bomb exploding in the car of two Army officers) and to effect a satisfactory and prompt settlement of the situation regarding the politicians in the Tivoli Hotel. In this connection we agreed upon the following proposed formula:

To ask President de la Guardia to withhold the request for extradition of the politicians from the Tivoli.
To assure him that the Canal Zone authorities will take precautions to: (a) Prevent the politicians in the hotel from conducting political meetings in the hotel or in the Canal Zone. (b) Prevent meetings of more than four persons at any one time.
The Canal Zone authorities to inform the present occupants (the politicians in the Tivoli Hotel) at a date to be fixed later (approximately two weeks from today) that owing to the demand for accommodations, rooms in the Tivoli Hotel would no longer be available to them.
The alert to be lifted after the Canal Zone authorities are satisfied that the Government of Panama is maintaining peace and order in the republic and that the necessity for maintaining the intensified control now in effect over the Panamanians living in the Tivoli Hotel has ceased. (In other words, after receiving word from the President that the conditions outlined in his aide-mémoire of February 1847 no longer exist).

The reasons for planning the delayed action mentioned in point 3 above are (a) the continued insistence of the President that they be denied accommodations at the hotel; (b) the desire to postpone action on this issue until shortly before or after the adjournment of the Conference in Mexico so as to preclude any possibility of their eviction becoming an issue in Mexico and (c) the conviction of all concerned that this was the only way to persuade President de la Guardia to agree not to extradite some of the politicians at this time (he had already signed the papers). General Brett and Governor Mehaffey have indicated they are most anxious to get the politicians out of the hotel.

Early this afternoon Governor Mehaffey told me that De Diego48 of the Foreign Office had telephoned that he would present the corrected extradition papers within one-half hour. By prior arrangement [Page 1249] with the Governor, De Diego called me upon his arrival with the papers at the Governor’s office and I informed him that, as we had been working on a formula to settle the problem, I would appreciate his holding up the presentation of the papers until we had had an opportunity to discuss the situation with the President. De Diego agreed and made an appointment for me to see the President at 5 p.m. It was arranged that General Brett and Ambassador Lewis would be present at this meeting.

The meeting with the President lasted 2 hours and although it was very difficult at times and the President was absolutely intransigent with respect to getting the politicians out of the hotel he finally agreed to the proposed formula set forth above. I again reminded the President of his promise to Warren that the politicians in the Tivoli would not be molested. The President confirmed the statement but added that it was made on the assumption that they would not engage in political activities in the Canal Zone or do anything to disturb the peace and order of Panama. He said that as they are guilty on both charges that Warren (to whom he referred in the highest of terms) would hardly expect him to continue to maintain an attitude of indifference to them. He said that he would instruct the Foreign Office to send the Embassy a note tomorrow stating that in his opinion peace and order prevailed in Panama and requesting that the alert be lifted. I told him that as there had not been sufficient time today to inform the Department of the proposed formula I would do so tonight.

I strongly recommend the Department’s approval of the proposed formula, especially with reference to denying accommodations to the guests at the hotel at a future date on the grounds that the rooms are needed for other purposes, with the distinct understanding of the President and of General Brett that this will not involve their expulsion from the Canal Zone to the Republic of Panama. I believe that if the Department approves the proposed formula it will be possible to lift the alert tomorrow, February 22, and that the political tension now existing here will ease.

Repeated to Mexico for Warren.

  1. Telegram 213, February 20, 10 p.m., from Mexico City, quoting message from Warren to Donnelly, not printed; Warren informed Donnelly that he had advised the Panamanian Foreign Minister (representing his country at the Conference) to suggest to his President the desirability of withholding requests for extradition (819.00/2–2045).
  2. Samuel Lewis, Appointed Panamanian Ambassador to the United States.
  3. Quoted in telegram 152, February 18, 10 p.m., from Panama, p. 1242.
  4. Mario de Diego, Director of Protocol.