Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, by Mr. Ernest V. Siracusa of the Office of Middle American Affairs


Subject: Coup d’etat in Panama

Participants: Murray M. Wise, Chargé in Panama
MID—Mr. Siracusa

Murray Wise phoned me from Panama at 11:20 p. m. to report the following:

A large mass meeting before the Presidencia tonight (Monday, May 7) enthusiastically received Government announcement of the following:
Abolition of the 1946 Constitution and restoration of the 1941 Constitution.
Dissolving of National Assembly instituting de facto Government headed by Arias.
Promise of elections in due course.
Appointment of all public officers by the President. No change in the Supreme Court at this time, but some to occur later.
All of the above with full support Remón and National Police.

This move has no doubt been planned for some time and it is known that Arias was desirous of assuming greater powers. It was precipitated by the Banking crisis1 of the “Caja de Ahorros” in the last two days, which was brought about by opposition elements to embarrass the Government.

The meeting was addressed by José Pezet and the Minister of Government, Obaldía, who read the proclamation setting forth the above conditions. He said that the 1946 Constitution was inadequate and did not give the Government flexibility to control the economic and political situation in the best interests of the country. President Arias then made a radio address, stating that this would launch a promising new era for Panama. He said he would respect all international commitments and assured security and protection of all foreigners and property. [Page 1547] He said the move was a protection against Communism, but Mr. Wise tends to discount this.

Up to the time of his call no serious disturbances had occurred. Mr. Wise felt that the situation would clarify throughout the night and today, and he will report additional facts and interpretation soonest.

  1. Telegrams reporting the development of this crisis and its domestic political ramifications are in Department of State decimal file 719.00.