454. Special National Intelligence Estimate1
Panama City, November 1, 1968.
THE SITUATION IN PANAMA
To assess the character and the short-term prospects of the military regime.
- Military rule of Panama is likely to continue for some time, perhaps a year. The provisional government, headed by two former colonels, is mainly a front for the leaders of the coup, who are now in [Page 959]command of the Guardia Nacional.2 But the situation is fluid, and relationships among the new leaders of the Guardia and between the Guardia and the provisional government are subject to a variety of strains.
- The Guardia staged the coup of 11 October in order to protect its own position rather than to carry out any specific program for Panama. The new regime has pledged a return to constitutional government via elections, but has not specified any time-table and the procedures it has outlined could cause a considerable delay.
- It is unlikely that any effective opposition to the new regime will develop over the short term from supporters of Arnulfo Arias, extreme leftists, or the oligarchy. We expect the regime and most of the oligarchs to adjust gradually to each other.
- Although it is eager to secure recognition by the US, we doubt that the regime would be very responsive to pressure from the US, particularly with respect to a time-table for elections. A prolonged delay in recognition would bruise the feelings of the leaders of the new regime, but they would not be likely, in any case, to encourage blatant anti-Americanism.
- We doubt that the military regime will act upon the draft Canal treaties which were widely criticized in Panama. The regime, however, might move to open discussions looking toward revised agreements which would be signed and ratified only after constitutional government had been restored.
[Omitted here is the 12-page Discussion section of the estimate.]
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–R01012A, O/DDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet the Central Intelligence Agency and the Departments of State and Defense and the NSA participated in the preparation of the estimate, which was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence and concurred in by all members of the United States Intelligence Board except for the AEC and FBI representatives who abstained because the subject was outside their jurisdiction.↩
- In a November 1 memorandum to Rostow, Lewis reported that “CIA confirms that there is no communist influence visible in the Panamanian Junta or Provisional Government.” Concerns about Colonel Omar Torrijos, one of the principals in the coup, were primarily about his brother, but “Torrijos himself, however, has shown no sympathy for the Party in the past.” Lewis added: “All indications are that the problem with the Panamanian Junta is that it may succumb to the temptation to impose rightist authoritarian solutions, not that it is under leftist influence.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Vol. X (part 1 of 3), May–December 1968)↩