388. Telegram From the Department of State to the U.S. Southern Command1

USCINCSO 17. For Martin from Mann. Re Your SC1666A.2 Appreciate your helpful analysis of current situation in Panama.

I am sure you understand that we would prefer to see Chiari continue in office because of inevitable risks for us inherent in any political upheaval and probability that United States will be blamed for causing Chiari’s downfall. At same time I do not believe we should alienate [Page 825]Arnulfo Arias or any other non-communist political group for the reason that they may come to power no matter what we do or say. If they do we will have to deal with them. It seems to me, therefore, that as between non-communist groups our attitude should be one of strict nonintervention and that we should take special care to avoid the appearance of having intervened against Chiari.3

You are correct in saying that our main concern at moment is to prevent growth of commie influence and especially any commie takeover. In this connection, we will, as you suggest, review all evidence available to us regarding Arnulfo Arias and his group and their connections with leftists and extremists, especially communists. I think it is obviously important for us to have as clear an idea as we can get of the role and influence which the communists would have should Arnulfo Arias take over.

I learned this morning that the General Committee acting under the Rio Treaty has appointed a five man committee consisting of representatives of Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Costa Rica to do both the mediation and the investigation job.4

Sanchez Gavito says the strategy is to go slow on the investigation and to push hard on mediation with the aim of getting relations restored and United States-Panamanian bilateral talks started.

At the same time, Sanchez Gavito stated that there is an OAS consensus that the OAS should have a presence in Panama City and that the plan is for the five man committee to depart for Panama soon. Sanchez Gavito estimated that the five man committee might stay in Panama a week or ten days and then return.

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Even though Cottrell is arriving in Balboa today, I think you should stay on in Panama long enough to be sure that the committee is not going to plunge immediately into an investigation of the facts or take other important action during its stay there. When had you planned to return to Washington?

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL PAN–US. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Mann and cleared by Bunker.
  2. In telegram SC1666A, February 7, Martin provided Mann with a long analysis of political developments and possibilities. (Ibid.)
  3. In a meeting between representatives of ARA and CIA on February 5, Mann had inquired what the Communists would do should Chiara fall. He said “if the commies take over we are ready to send in troops, but we want to know in advance.” Mann was told that there was no evidence the Communists were working with Arnulfo Arias and that it would not be “the end of the world” if Arias took over, since “Arnulfo was probably the only one that could control the streets.” (Memorandum from Carter to Hughes, Denney, and Evans, February 6; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, ARA/CIA Weekly Meetings, 1964–1965)
  4. On February 4 Bunker defended the U.S. record in Panama concerning the events of January 9 and 10 before the Organization of American States Council. (Department of State Bulletin, February 24, 1964, pp. 302–304) On February 7 the Council met and adopted a resolution calling upon both sides not to take steps that might endanger the peace and creating a general committee of all members of the Organ of Consultation, except Panama and the United States, to investigate the events of January 9 and 10, to submit a report on efforts of the Governments of Panama and the United States to find a solution, to assist in finding a “just solution,” and to create special subcommittees as needed. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 15–0–2 (Chile and Colombia). The text of the resolution is ibid., p. 304.