819.00/12–349: Telegram

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

secret
priority

794. Deptel 473, December 2. Comment on plan initiate consultations follows: Embassy perceives no objection; it also has no evidence intervention by any foreign government, and agrees two points mentioned should be determining factors. My telegram 790, December 2, should be considered part of comment requested.

If the warning (see paragraph 2 section 1, my telegram 781, December 1) should be disregarded that demagogic press criticism misrepresenting our Government and affecting adversely the confidence of Panamanian people in US will not be successful, it is considered important that we demonstrate convincingly that blackmailing tactics will not produce or hasten result desired but quite the contrary. This point of even greater importance since Embassy has convincing evidence Harmodio Arias has abandoned earlier efforts restore Dr. Chanis to Presidency and has joined forces with his brother.

Since Dr. Chanis would have owed his restoration to power to Harmodio Arias and the Communist-dominated youth organizations had attempted; counter coup succeeded, we would have had Harmodio influence strongly entrenched in Administration and police with disadvantages that Dr. Chanis, although honest, is more easily misled and popular following Arnulfo Arias would blame US for latter’s downfall. Party line propaganda is already blaming American imperialism for entire affair resulting so disastrously to Panamanian welfare and prestige.

It seems Harmodio Arias has succeeded in administering a thorough beating to his political enemies and is in a position to exert great, if not dominating influence on Government whether Dr. Chains returns or his brother remains. The only alternative which would eliminate him would be successful coup by discredited and now disunited opposition parties, who certainly do not have popular support and so would have to depend chiefly on force to remain in power.

In summary it is recommended that we emphasize our policy to avoid intervening in Panamanian internal affairs and that Department proceed consult other governments on reasonably early recognition Arnulfo Arias as President.

Davis