819.00/4–2748: Telegram

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


329. In case of riot or revolution attending elections, probability of which will be discussed in report tomorrow, question of possible US intervention will inevitably arise. From conversation with Secretary Marshall (Embtel 321, April 26) I understand that while we will not permit conditions to reach a stage that could produce another Bogotá, we will not pull anyone’s chestnuts out of the fire to maintain a government in power.

Crittenberger has had a brief (which I have not seen) prepared for him by his Judge Advocate, Colonel Miller, covering the possibility [Page 668] of intervention after consultation with Panama, as foreseen by Article 10 of the 1936 treaty, and of emergency intervention under the provisions of paragraph three of the notes exchanged by US and Panama on February 1, 1939,1 the latter as interpreted by Crittenberger, to take place only under instructions of President Truman.

Colonel Miller called on me today to ask (1) whether preliminary conversations with Panama could not take place anticipating consultation, and (2) what would be my attitude in the case of extreme emergency, with regard to the note cited.

To first question I replied negatively because (a) it would give Panamanian Government a false sense of security and not lead it to extend its full efforts to reestablish order, and (b) the administration could use our request as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and postpone elections, leading to charges against US of intervention in internal affairs.

To second question I answered that I intended, with the help of Crittenberger, to arrange in case of need thereof for evacuation of all American citizens to Canal Zone; to lodge those unable to reach Zone in the residence; to maintain communications and operate Embassy with skeleton male staff indefinitely; to keep Department informed constantly of conditions developing and, in case of breakdown of communications and extreme urgency endangering Canal, to request Crittenberger to take adequate measures.

I explained to Colonel Miller that I believe our position may well be disagreeable if time or facilities do not permit us to request instructions from Washington, since the primary responsibility for deciding on intervention might rest on me, and the ultimate responsibility on Crittenberger for effecting the same.

The Department’s comments would be much appreciated.

  1. Department of State Treaty Series No. 945.