380. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Panama 1

7294. For Martin from Mann. In view of the agreement that all discussions between the United States and Panama should be through the Peace Committee and risk that Chiari will use meeting with you for his own political purposes, suggest that you postpone your meeting with Chiari and convey orally following message to Trucco with request that he orally deliver message to Chiari in our behalf:

From the beginning we have made it clear to all concerned that the United States is willing, in language of English text of Peace Committee report, “to discuss without limitation all existing matters of any nature which may affect the relations between the United States and Panama.” As the minutes of the Peace Committee show, this clearly [Page 807] means that the Government of Panama would be free to raise any questions it wished.
We will not negotiate under pressures whether these pressures be aggressions against the Canal Zone or threats of mob violence or the breaking of diplomatic relations or any other kinds of pressures. Nor will the United States accept Panamanian pre-conditions as Panama’s price for being willing to discuss issues with the United States.
Our insistence on the word “discuss” rather than the word “negotiate” in the Peace Committee’s English version of the communiqué was to avoid any possibility that the Government of Panama would interpret the phrase “negotiate without limitations” as any kind of a pre-commitment to replace the existing treaties with a new treaty. In this connection, the United States notes that according to a report appearing in The New York Times of January 16:

“President Chiari, in a ten minute broadcast, stated categorically that Panama regarded Washington’s accord to ‘negotiate without limitations’ as a commitment to replace existing treaties with a new one.”

The English text of the Peace Committee report therefore uses the word “discuss” instead of “negotiate”. The United States acquiesced in translating the word “discuss” as “negociar” in the Spanish text only because the word “discutir” was thought by some to have a connotation of conflict. The minutes of the Peace Committee clearly show however that the consistent United States position was that stated in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this memorandum.
The issue therefore was and remains simply this: Is the Government of Panama agreeable to discussions with the United States covering the whole range of issues affecting United States and Panamanian relations? Or does the Government of Panama refuse to enter into discussions with the United States unless the United States first agrees to Panamanian preconditions about replacing or structurally revising existing treaties?

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Mann and cleared by Rusk and the White House. A copy was passed to the White House.