819.00/12–349: Telegram

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


795. Following comment refers my telegram 794, December 3. Embassy has had reason suspect from outset that Harmodio Arias was at bottom of recent events (Embdesp 584, December 31). It was obvious that Dr. Chanis was badly advised, and Embassy inclined agree with view expressed by Times correspondent to effect that coup would not have taken place had Enrique Jimérez been in Panama, and that it also would not have occurred had Harmodio Arias been absent. To effect removal of police, who were interfering with his cattle business, was important, though probably not principal reason motivating Harmodio, and after Chanis Government was forced out Harmodio Arias and his sons attempted effect return by whipping up political activity on part Communist-influenced youth organizations. Achieving this objective, they were frustrated by second coup d’etat.

After long conference between Harmodio and Arnulfo Arias recently, leaders suddenly called off strike, and Embassy was given information reported by telephone to Murray Wise yesterday to effect Harmodio Arias is now endeavoring convince Col. Remón, Arnulfo and Panamanian people that US Government is making elimination police chief prerequisite recognition. AP Washington despatch published this a. m. will strengthen impression Harmodio thesis correct, and Embassy regards it as important we should not permit success this strategy since it attempts utilize US for selfish personal ends and makes US appear to be intervening in domestic affairs despite protestations to contrary.2 Embassy understands Remón already responding to expert Harmodio treatment, and in great irritation is reverting to his earlier statement that President Chanis told him he was being asked to resign at insistence US Government (Embtel 721 November 21).1 He talks of attempting press campaign in US to vindicate his honor. Embassy informed Remón told Acting Chief Civil Intelligence Service, Canal Zone, yesterday that he has no intention of resigning or making changes in police. It is Embassy’s view that with Harmodio Arias supporting his brother, the statement in paragraph 3, Section 2, my telegram 781, December 1, to effect that delay favors Arnulfo can now be made more, emphatically. In fact unless Remón acts quickly and decisively in the very near future, it is believed he will find himself unable to do so later as he is no match for above [Page 737] combination in the long run. In any event risk of serious clash is believed greatest now and should diminish steadily, so that by time consultations other American Republics completed, danger another police coup should be definitely lessened.

The greatest danger to American interests believed to be emergence Harmodio Arias as collaborating factor in Government with prospect of exercising important influence. Hence risk of having Panamanian Government work secretly with our enemies to endeavor gain advantages by devious means believed greatly increased, but this should be considered calculated risk, with appeal to self-interest still believed to be our best protection. Methods with Harmodio Arias in picture will of course have to be different from those which would have been employed had he continued to work at cross purposes with his brother.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram 798 from Panama, December 4, 1949, infra.
  3. Not printed.