519. Memorandum From the Acting Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Walsh) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

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  • Substantive Briefing Materials for the Presentation of Credentials to the President by Panamanian Ambassador Roberto Ramon Aleman

Enclosed are copies of the briefing papers which are enclosed with the Chief of Protocol’s memorandum to Mr. Chapin for the presentation of credentials to the President by Panamanian Ambassador Roberto Ramon Aleman at 10:00 a.m. Friday, February 21.

John P. Walsh
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Briefing Materials


1. Although Ambassador Aleman’s call is strictly protocolary in nature, he may raise the following matters of substance:

a. Panama Canal Treaty negotiations.

The Ambassador may urge the resumption of the U.S.-Panamanian negotiations for a new treaty governing the Panama Canal. Ambassador Aleman has been appointed by his Government to serve in the dual capacity of Ambassador to the United States and also as Special Representative under the U.S.-Panamanian agreement of April 3, 1964, whereby the two countries agreed to appoint special Ambassadors to discuss “without limitations” the “causes of conflict” between them. The U.S. Special Ambassador is former Treasury Secretary Robert B. Anderson.

Negotiations, in which Ambassador Aleman participated, were held from 1964 to 1967; and three draft treaties on canal matters were agreed to by the negotiators. The Government of Panama, however, did not accept the proposed treaties or take further action on them, and the negotiations which thus came to a halt in 1967 have not been resumed. In October 1968, as the result of a coup against the constitutional government, a military regime took power in Panama and suspended the National Assembly. Treaties concluded with the military government might be repudiated by a subsequent constitutional regime; and the U.S. Senate would probably be reluctant to approve them. For this reason, it will be difficult for us to enter into substantive treaty negotiations at this time, although we might agree to informal talks.

b. Economic assistance.

The Ambassador may request a “restoration” of U.S. economic assistance. Because of the coup last October we suspended the AID program in Panama, but since November, when we extended diplomatic recognition to [Page 3] the de facto regime, we have resumed implementation of the AID commitments existing before the coup. We have deferred most new undertakings while we await progress toward the restoration of constitutional government.

2. The President may wish to make the following points:

  • a. If Ambassador Aleman raises the question of treaty negotiations, assure him of our desire to work out existing problems with Panama but point out that it will be difficult for us to go very far in discussing new treaties until Panama returns to constitutional government. (Ambassador Anderson has already told Aleman this.)
  • b. If Ambassador Aleman brings up economic assistance, point out that we have continued existing aid projects in Panama and suggest that Panamanian proposals for changes in our present program be presented to our Ambassador in Panama.
  • c. Assure him of our desire for continuing friendly relations with Panama.
  • d. Express hope for continued progress toward restoration of constitutional government in Panama.
  • e. Express confidence in the United States Ambassador to Panama, Charles W. Adair, Jr.

3. Ambassador Aleman has not yet called on Secretary Rogers. Aleman arrived in Washington in early January and made an initial call on Secretary of State Rusk. Immediately afterward a change in the Panamanian cabinet caused him to return to Panama for several weeks. It was not until his return to Washington early in February that Aleman was able to proceed with the presentation of his credentials.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17–1 PAN–US. Confidential. Drafted by Parker. J.W. Davis signed above John Walsh’s typed signature. Also enclosed but not published is a biographical sketch of Aleman. No memorandum of their conversation has been found, but according to the President’s Daily Diary, President Nixon, Mosbacher, Vaky, and Aleman met on February 21 from 10:04 to 10:16 a.m. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. The Department of State suggested that, if Ambassador Aleman raised the question of treaty negotiations, President Nixon tell him that it would be difficult for the United States and Panama to discuss new treaties until Panama returned to constitutional government.