453. Memorandum From Samuel W. Lewis of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


Tom Mann talked with Bill Bowdler yesterday aboutArias. At Arias’ request, Mann spent an hour with him on Sunday morning. Mann’s record of the meeting is attached.2

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Mann feels that we should do our best to continue being nice to Arias, to the extent possible, because he and his followers will continue to be important in Panamanian politics. Mann thinks we will have to retain Arias’ goodwill if we are ever to get a canal treaty which can be ratified by Panama.

So far, no US officials except Bob Anderson have talked with Arias, although Covey Oliver has been prepared to see him if he asked. Mann is suggesting some kind of “hand-holding” by State may be in order. I’ve discussed this with Oliver’s Deputy, Pete Vaky, in Oliver’s absence, and they are thinking it over. There are obvious risks because of Arias’ unpredictability and the way in which he may distort any such contacts.

Incidentally, an FBI report suggests Arias is attempting to arrange for air and sea transportation back to Panama.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Vol. X (part 3 of 3), May–December 1968. Confidential; Limdis.
  2. Attached was an October 28 memorandum prepared by Mann of his meeting with Arias on October 26.