370. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Panamanian President Chiari1
President Johnson: Hello Mr. President.
Mr. President, I wanted to say to you that we deeply regret the situation of violence that has developed there.
We appreciate very much your call to the Panamanian people to remain calm.
We recognize that you and I should do everything we can to restore quiet and I hope that you’ll do everything possible to quieten the situation and I will do the same.[Page 779]
You and I should be aware of the possibility and the likelihood that there are elements unfriendly to both of us who will exploit this situation.
I am sending immediately, my trusted representative, Secretary Thomas Mann and others associated with him and the White House to Panama to assist in finding a solution to the present situation and accurately finding the facts.
I think it’s important that we keep in close personal touch with each other, and I will be ready to do that.
I hope you’ll give Secretary Mann any suggestions he has that might result in the development of correcting the situation.
President Chiari: Would you please allow me a moment, Mr. President?
I am going to tell you now, President Johnson, the same that I plan to tell Mr. Thomas Mann when he arrives either later today or tomorrow. I feel, Mr. President, that what we need is a complete revision of all treaties which affect Panama–U.S. relations because that which we have at the present time is nothing but a source of dissatisfaction which has recently or just now exploded into violence which we are witnessing.
President Johnson: Tell him that first we must find out what caused the riot, get all the facts in this situation. Mr. Mann will be there for that purpose. We have got to see what all entered into this, and we will want to receive from Mr. Mann any suggestions he has.
President Chiari (interpreted): The President wishes to say, sir, that he wants President Johnson to be aware of the fact that President Chiari came to Washington in 1961 and at that time he spoke to President Kennedy and that since 1961 and those conversations, not a thing has been done to alleviate the situation which has provoked this violence, and Panama now has 8 to 10 dead and over 200 wounded in the hospitals.
President Johnson: Tell him there’s nothing we can ever do that justifies violence, and we want to look forward and not backward, and what we must do is to review with responsible and able and trusted officials of this government the situation that he reviewed with President Eisenhower in 1960 and with President Kennedy in 1961, and Mr. Mann can do that with him on the ground, and then we will look at the facts and try to deal with the problem in this country. We have a problem here just as he has it there.
Tell him that violence is never any way to settle anything, and I know he and Secretary Mann can get together, and he can give him a viewpoint of his country, and we will give him the viewpoint of our country and we will carefully and judiciously and wisely consider both viewpoints and reach an area of agreement.[Page 780]
President Chiari (through interpreter): The President is in complete agreement with you, Mr. President, that violence leads nowhere, however, he feels that he must take cognizance of our intransigence and our indifference to Panama problems during the past two years, especially in recent months where things have been at a standstill, and it is urgent that men of goodwill, you in the United States and President Chiari in Panama, should attempt an urgent solution to these problems.
President Johnson: Tell him the people will be in the plane in 30 minutes—the most respected people I have to talk to him about it in detail, and in the meantime I am going to count on him to preserve order there as I’m going to preserve it here.
President Chiari: At what time will the airplane arrive in Panama?
President Johnson: Approximately five hours.
President Chiari (through interpreter): He’s very grateful for your cooperation.
President Johnson: Tell him I don’t know how to act more promptly than that.
President Chiari (interpreter): They say that’s very fine, and they’re very very grateful.
President Johnson: But say to the President that we’re having a serious problem as we know he has one there, and it’s going to take the wisdom and the strength of all of us to solve it.
President Chiari (interpreter): He said one of the things that President Chiari admires in President Johnson is the fact that he is a man of action and of few words, therefore, they have great confidence that this situation will finally be resolved.
President Johnson: Thank him very much—Goodbye.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Secret; Eyes Only. President Johnson was in Washington; President Chiari in Panama City.↩