440. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1


  • Robles Delays Signing of Panama Canal Treaties

Panamanian President Robles has assured Ambassador Adair that the Panama Canal Treaties will be signed but not without further delay.

Robles hopes to be able to sign before the end of August but the State Department believes a more realistic date would be the middle or end of September.

In the attached copy of a cable from Panama,2 Adair reports that Robles says he needs additional time for discussions with Panamanian leaders. He believes, and Adair agrees, that the delay in signing is working in favor of eventual approval. Adair believes Robles will not press for ratification of the treaty before his 1968 elections.

State officials agree with Adair that we should not pressure Robles into an early signing.

Secretary Rusk will be making recommendations shortly. He is expected to suggest that key members of Congress be informed of the current situation at an early date. Consideration is also being given to releasing to the press the texts of the treaties accompanied by an explanation of the delay in signing.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Vol. IX, June 1967–April 1968. Secret. There is an indication on this memorandum that Johnson saw it.
  2. Telegram 368 from Panama, August 8, is attached but not printed.
  3. Memorandum from Rusk to President Johnson, August 8. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 37, August 1–10, 1967) On August 10 Sayre informed Rusk that the President had approved the official release of the draft treaties, but only after consultation with Panama. On August 11 Anderson stated he “saw no positive advantage to releasing the draft treaties.” Eleta and Panama’s chief negotiator both thought release at this time “undesirable.” (Memorandum from Sayre to Rusk, August 16; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL PAN–US) Leaked texts of the treaties had already appeared in the Chicago Tribune and were printed in the Congressional Record of July 17, 21, and 27, 1967.