819.00/11–2349: Telegram

The Ambassador in Panama (Davis) to the Secretary of State


730. National Assembly convened afternoon November 22 and took up question resignation Dr. Daniel Chanis, Jr.1 At first vote on minor issues indicated majority favoring acceptance resignation but the dramatic appearance in Assembly of Chanis in person resulted in complete reversal of attitude.2 Embassy informed Assembly approved by acclamation motion permit Chanis withdraw resignation.

With characteristic Latin fervor Assembly members surrounded Chanis and accompanied by approving crowd of citizens started conduct him back to Presidenicia. At Cathedral Plaza police fired on crowd wounding number people including prominent deputy from Chirique Province, Gonzalez Rivilla. Former President of Assembly Aguilera also suffered injuries and at least one child was killed.

This action by police is contemplated to cause serious repercussions and yesterday’s statement by Assistant Secretary Miller is considered [Page 722] particularly opportune.3 Initial reaction of public seems to be entirely unfavorable to police.

Embassy informed Dr. Chanis took refuge in private house and unconfirmed report has been received that he returned to his home unmolested. It is understood Roberto Chiari convened last night’s Cabinet meeting at which it was decided continue status quo until situation clarified.

  1. Dr. Chanis was Provisional President of Panama from July 28, 1949, because of the illness of Sr. Diaz, and became President upon the latter’s death August 23. He resigned on November 20; for the circumstances of his resignation see despatch No. 550, November 25, from Panama, infra.
  2. In despatch No. 584 from Panama City, December 3, 1949, Ambassador Davis reported he had been told by an informed source that followers of Harmodio Arias, together with members of the Frente Patriótico de la Juventud, had played an important role in arranging Dr. Chanis’ appearance before the Assembly (819.00/12–349).
  3. According to a transcript of his press conference held November 22, 1949, Edward G. Miller, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, had stated in part: “[Dr. Chanis] was the President of the duly elected government and came into power in a constitutional manner. He was forced to leave his position under duress. We therefore deplore that. I also had formed a very good opinion of the Vice President who was a member of the same government, Mr. Chiari. However, the situation down there seems to be unclear and the basic problem remains unsolved, namely, the problem as to whether the national police is going to subordinate itself to duly-constituted civilian authorities.

    “As far as concerns the purely technical point of succession, as Mr. McDermott stated yesterday, no question of recognition has thus far arisen in connection with the succession to the Presidency of the former Vice President Chiari. We take that position upon the assumption that the action of the Supreme Court of the Republic in passing upon the resignation and succession on Sunday was done in accordance with the constitutional processes of the Republic of Panama. We are clearly not in a position to go into questions Of a purely domestic nature of that type.” (819.01/11–2249)