145. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State1


  • Estimate of Canal Problem in Latin America; Your Briefing of Latin American Ambassadors Today
Press reaction—generally favorable to Western position.
Government reaction—most appear to be watching and waiting; believe they will support us once informed.
Attitude of Panama.
Has announced will not be bound by London Conference decisions, thus revealing pique at not being invited; other governments may sympathize with her on this point.
Telegram this morning reports statement attributed to Panamanian government spokesman adverted to their traditional position which would attempt to limit our exclusive jurisdiction in Canal Zone to construction, operation, sanitation and protection.2
Above may indicate Panama rather than espouse internationalization may increase pressure on United States for further concessions under the 1903 Treaty, several times amended in Panama’s favor, last in 1955. Her efforts would probably be attended by wide publicity.
Our official line for the present with Latin American Governments should be to explain fully our unassailable moral position on Suez Canal problem. Your briefing this morning should be followed by telegraphic report to all our Embassies so that Ambassadors can discuss subject fully with Foreign Offices.
At the same time we should consider a carefully planned effort through … informational media to disassociate the questions of the Suez and Panama Canals.
  1. Source: Department of State, ARA Files: Lot 58 D 691, Suez Canal–Panama Canal 1956. Secret. This memorandum was routed through the Executive Secretariat (S/S) and initialed by Howe. A handwritten note on the source text by William B. Macomber, Jr., Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, indicates that Dulles was informed about the contents of this memorandum.
  2. Apparent reference to telegram 118 from Panama City, August 6. (Ibid., Central Files, 396.1–LO/8–656)