537. Telegram 2278 from the Embassy in Panama to the Department of State1 2

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  • State 93766

1. I informed Torrijos last night (June 16) that we were now ready have exploratory talks determine whether it would be possible negotiate new treaty. He replied that he had been studying 1967 Treaty drafts and Panama would have official position within few days. He was unwilling address himself to next step after Panama had its official position committed to paper.

2. Torrijos characterized 1967 drafts as worse than 1903 Treaty. He made following specific points:

A. Drafts create joint administration which cannot be controlled by either USG or Panama. Under present arrangement Panama can at least talk to USG, but under proposed arrangement both USG and Panama have to talk to third entity which would have its own police, courts, etc.

B. Drafts do not solve sovereignty and jurisdiction issues. First clause in each article states Panama is sovereign and subsequent clauses take it all away.

C. Panama is not made bona fide participant in Canal administration. All important matters are to be decided by majority vote and important matters (who is entitled [Page 2] commissary privileges) are to be decided by two-thirds votes.

D. Defense arrangement completely open-ended. Under it U.S. could store nuclear weapons at military bases. Procedures for consultation with Panama on use U.S. forces nothing more than notification and notification not even to Panamanian Government but member of Joint Committee.

3. Torrijos said seemed clear all Panama would get out 1967 drafts was more money. He considered first priority was arrangement that eliminated frictions between two countries. In his view 1967 draft would create more frictions.

4. He said 1967 drafts far too complicated. He wanted single treaty which could be understood.

5. In view of critical comments on draft defense treaty that it created perpetuity in different form and comments on other features of 1967 drafts in same vein, I asked if he had dropped his concept of partnership arrangement subject to periodic review every fifteen or twenty years. He said such arrangement would be fine. He objected 1967 drafts because they set up separate governmental entity with no provision for review or modification.

6. Comment: Conversation took place at dinner for departing AID Director. Torrijos seemed tense and moody and unwinding from detailed study 1967 treaty drafts and preparation instructions to De la Ossa. It was essentially monologue and I asked question only to clarify what he was saying.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33–3 CZ. Secret. Copies were sent for information to the Governor of the Canal and to USCINCSO.
  2. The Embassy reported that it had told President Torrijos that the Nixon administration sought exploratory talks on new Canal treaties. Torrijos stated his first priority was a treaty system that reduced friction between the United States and Panama and avoided the problems of the of the 1967 treaty drafts.