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101. Memorandum for the Record Prepared in the Headquarters, 470th Military Intelligence Group, Department of the Army1

SUBJECT

  • Liaison Contact with Brigadier General Omar TORRIJOS Herrera, Chief of Government of Panama (GOP) and Commandant of the National Guard (GN), 5 October 1975

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the treaty negotiations.]

8. (C/NFD) TORRIJOS, as mentioned above, remained listening attentively, but then came his turn to speak, very much aware that whatever he said would be reported by me to higher authorities. TORRIJOS began and I quote because I feel his remarks were sincere and he does mean to carry out the actions planned. These were his words:

“Look [name not declassified], I don’t think we will get a quick treaty (meaning the treaty negotiations taking place). In fact, I don’t think we will get anywhere the way things are moving. Mr. Bunker’S visits to Panama are useless and nonproductive. We are not getting what we want and just recently it was mentioned that the signing of a treaty is two years from now. This is too long a period to wait. We will have to start something—do something about it. We cannot wait; our patience is running out. I don’t know how long I can hold back the people, the students, even the young GN officers back from taking action. I believe I can hold them off about one year, at least until next summer but no longer than that. I am planning to get hold of these radicals and train them in the use of weapons and at least keep them at bay for a while. I plan to start recruiting 2000 more GN troops and I plan to purchase long-range weapons, something we can use against PQ sites from as far as La Chorrera. I know the US will not sell me these types of weapons, nor will any country over which the US has influence, but I will get them anyway. Little by little and piece by piece I will get some high caliber weapons for my GN. I will not ask help from Russia or Cuba because I was once advised by Josif “Tito” BROZ of Yugoslavia never to ask Russia for help because I would end up with Russians on my hands. This would never solve my problem of kicking the “gringos” out while allowing the Russians to come in. I [Page 267]don’t trust the Cubans for the same reasons. I could easily turn into a Communist, but I am not a Communist. I am a Panamanian whose desire is to have Panama, from border to border, for the Panamanians. When the time comes and I can no longer hold back my people, we will have to resort to drastic action, maybe harassment, maybe guerrilla action. My people can cause plenty of damage to PQ based elements and installations. They are good in jungle-type actions. I know you people have good leaders and troops for this type of warfare but I think we can do enough to start something and get the treaty moving faster. I don’t think that my GN will confront your troops in sustained combat because I know you can whip us, but we will give you plenty of trouble in guerrilla-type warfare. Don’t think I will be at the head of them as I mentioned in one of my speeches as leading and being in front of my troops against the PQ. I am not that stupid to get shot first. [name not declassified], I am backed against the wall and I can do nothing but go ahead with what I think I must do. I am tired of the whole mess and I sure as hell wish that I had never gotten into this situation. I wish I had the money to take off and leave all this to hell but I have given my word and I have no choice but to go through with it. I will let you know when the time runs out so you can get the hell out of the way. Please believe me, you are my friend and I would never wish harm to befall you.”

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the treaty negotiations.]

[name not declassified]
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 84, American Embassy, Panama, Panama Canal Treaty Negotiation Files, Lot 81F1, Box 125, POL 33.3–2/Canal Treaty Negotiations/General, July–Dec 1975. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem. Forwarded on October 7 to SOUTHCOM, Fort Amador, and the Chargé d’Affaires in Panama City under a covering memorandum from Maynes. Drafted by [name not declassified], the Liaison Officer.