The Ambassador in Panama (Hines) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 15.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s telegrams Nos. 98321 and 984, dated November 7, 1945, and 989 dated November 9, 1945,22 regarding the return to Panamá of the defense sites occupied by the United States armed forces and to report that the Constituent Assembly and the Panamanian Government attach special importance to the return of the Rio Hato air base and early realignment of the runway which cuts across the National Highway and which results in frequent traffic interruptions. Our Army authorities regard the base as the most important defense site outside of the actual Canal Zone and they wish to continue to occupy it in the peace-time period as a part, of the overall plan for the defense of the Panama Canal.[Page 1238]
During a recent conversation General Crittenberger23 pointed out that Rio Hato is the all-important base and that instead of abandoning it the Army desires to retain it and possibly expand it in connection with future plans for the defense of the Panama Canal. The General understands, of course, that retention of the present site and any expansion thereof must be the subject of negotiations and agreement between the two governments. The General added that the rerouting of the National Highway so as to eliminate the present runway-highway intersection would cost approximately $150,000. Something like this must be done because the right to extend the runway across the highway was only for the duration of the war. The General has informed me that his Command is drafting recommendations for the peace-time defense of the Panama Canal and which will be forwarded to Washington shortly. I am hopeful that the Department and the War and Navy Departments in Washington will reach an agreement shortly on this matter so that we may initiate negotiations with the Panamanian Government within the next few months. I recommend, however, that no negotiations take place until the Constituent Assembly approves the new Constitution and the status of the Provisional President and the Constituent Assembly is clarified.