117. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Holland) to the Secretary of State1
- Political Developments in Panama
Fast moving political developments in Panama have placed a new man in the Presidency over the weekend. The most recent changes have resulted from the cracking of the hitherto unsolved murder of President Remón on January 2. An attorney in Panama City has confessed to the crime2 and has implicated President Guizado and two of his business associates. The assassin was heavily in debt from gambling and allegedly had been promised a Cabinet post for carrying out the deed. The National Assembly rejected President Guizado’s request for leave of absence pending an investigation of the charges against him and has instituted impeachment proceedings. Guizado has been suspended from office and placed under arrest. The Second Vice President, Ricardo Arias Espinosa, was sworn in as President early Saturday morning, January 15. The new President appears to have the support of the National Guard and there have been no disorders or disturbances.
The new President is 43 years old, a scion of one of Panama’s wealthiest and most influential families. He was educated in the United States at the Shenandoah Military Academy and Georgetown University. He has widespread business interests in Panama and has held a number of high Government posts, chiefly by appointment. He was Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry under Arnulfo Arias from 1949–1951 and Minister of Labor, Social Welfare and Public Health under Colonel Remón from 1952–1955. He is believed to be friendly toward the United States and the Embassy reports that he wishes to push ahead with the signing of the treaty. The new President is regarded by most observers as being much preferable to his immediate predecessor from the viewpoint of the welfare of Panama and U.S. interests on the Isthmus, in view of the tainted reputation of the latter and his past history of anti-Americanism. No question of recognition arose as Constitutional procedures were followed. Ambassador Chapin is conducting relations normally. Dr. Fabrega, who was chief spokesman of Panama’s Special Negotiating Mission here last year, has been named Foreign [Page 249] Minister and we are proceeding with the engrossing of the treaty. Barring adverse developments, it is hoped that the treaty can be signed before the end of the month.3