36. Letter From Ambassador at Large Bunker to Panamanian Foreign Minister Tack1

Dear Tony:

I should be less than honest—and that I shall not be, with you—if I did not say that I was disappointed on reading the paper dated March 19 which Nico delivered to Morey.2

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You will understand that it is difficult for us not to regard it as essentially a restatement, in interrogatory form, of the political posture of Panama made known to us in December of 1972 and, therefore, as not reflective of the accommodating spirit which has prevailed in our discussions.3

To deal with a paper of this nature, I fear it would be necessary to form teams of lawyers and historians, rather than to pursue the type of political negotiation on which I believed we had agreed.

It may well be that we are not correct in our interpretation of this document, and for that reason I have decided that Morey should proceed to Panama to discuss with Nico—and, I would hope, with you—the manner in which we can proceed, on a basis of mutual trust. I should add that I am looking forward very much to the opportunity to discuss this problem with you, but wish to emphasize that Morey has my complete confidence for the purpose of preliminary talks.4

With warm wishes.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Treaties, Lot 77D14, Box 1, Public Relations—Public Opinions and Inquiries—General Letters—1974. Confidential.
  2. A reference to Nicolas Gonzalez-Revilla. In a March 22 phone conversation, Bell and Blacken discussed the Panamanian paper. Bell described it as “highly nationalistic, accusatory, vilifying, and a few other unattractive things.” (National Archives, RG 84, American Embassy, Panama, Panama Canal Treaty Negotiation Files, Lot 81F1, Box 124, Treaty Negotiations, Jan–March 1974) In a March 29 letter to Bunker, which included the paper as an attachment, Morris concluded that “the fundamental problem with the paper is that most of the statements of issues are worded as foregone conclusions in favor of Panama’s positions.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files, FRC 330–80–0044, Negotiations—Panama and Panama Canal Zone—June 1974–April 1974)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–10, Documents on American Republics, 1969–1972, Document 563.
  4. In telegram 1808 from Panama City, March 28, the Embassy reported the receipt of a “‘back channel’ message” from Torrijos through Noreiga which stated that the paper “was intended only to show different opinions which were held by various individuals regarding the negotiations,” adding “it was not intended as a Panamanian position paper,” and that “the paper will not be withdrawn.” In telegram 1852 from Panama City, March 31, the Embassy reported that Tack refused to “clarify” the paper. The Embassy also stated that “doubt remains that General Torrijos was informed of the document prior to its transmission.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 791, Country Files, Latin America, Panama, Vol. 3, January 1972–August 1974)