430. Special National Intelligence Estimate1

SNIE 84–66


The Problem

To estimate the situation in Panama and the prospects for stability over the next six to twelve months.


Discontent with social and economic conditions, particularly with the high level of unemployment and the poor and inadequate housing in the cities, is continuing to grow among the Panamanian population. Criticism of the Robles government’s handling of the Canal negotiations will probably become more intense after the National Assembly reconvenes on 1 October. Students and urban slum dwellers [Page 917] will probably be in the forefront of any violent manifestations against the Panamanian elite or against the US.
New civil disturbances are probable over the next six to twelve months; more likely than not they will be precipitated by sudden, unpredictable incidents. We believe that the Communists in Panama have the capability to intensify and broaden such disturbances to some extent, but that the Robles government and the Guardia Nacional would still be able to restore control. Even if no disorder or upheaval takes place during the period of this estimate, the Panamanian political situation is likely to become somewhat more fragile than it is at present.
Arnulfo Arias and his Panamenista party have the strength— which the Communists lack—to transform a civil disturbance into a popular rising against the Robles government. In the event of prolonged and widespread disturbances, the Guardia probably could not maintain control without outside assistance—presumably from US forces in the Canal Zone. However, Arnulfo seems inclined to bide his time, hoping that rising discontent over the Canal issue will bring him to power in the presidential elections of May 1968, if not sooner. In the event that both the Panamenistas and the Communists should take part in a successful effort to overthrow Robles, we think that Arnulfo would dominate the successor regime without allowing the Communists to gain major influence.

[Omitted here is the 5-page Discussion section of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–R01012A, O/DDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet this estimate was prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency with the participation of the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency. The United States Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on July 14.