120. Telegram From the Embassy in Panama to the White House1

[telegram number not declassified].

Subject: [less than 1 line not declassified] The White House For the President Eyes Only. From Ambassador Jorden (Panama).

1. General Torrijos has asked me to convey directly to President Carter the following very personal comments on the just concluded visit of Senator Robert Byrd and his six senatorial colleagues to Panama.2 Text follows:

2. Quote I observed a high degree of morality in the U.S. Senators in their investigations related to the treaties and I am certain that they acted in good faith. I feel that the Senators recognized that one who is not convinced of the rightousness or justice of a cause can hardly convince others. This trip served the purpose of providing the visiting Senators with knowledge and information on situations that will require some time to be fully understood. I saw in them open minds and a willingness to change their concepts once they established contact with a reality that previously had been unknown to them.

3. I think Senator Byrd and the Senators who accompanied him all gave a clear demonstration of the moral attitude of the American people. At times I feared that because of the liveliness and enthusiasm surrounding the visit and the conversations, the visiting Senators might come to think that there was a prefabricated scenario. There was not, and I believe they realized that.

4. The Senators had an unusual opportunity to establish contact with the whole political spectrum in Panama. They talked with the sweet and the sour, and even with the H2O, i.e., with those of the [Page 337] extreme Right, the extreme Left and even with the colorless and tasteless.

5. I noticed that the Senators’ visit and their contact with the country made them realize the urgent need for prompt ratification of the treaties. It is one thing to be a colonizer and another to be colonized.

6. The interest shown by the visiting Senators and their knowledge of the situation as presented gained them my deep appreciation. They were not like some U.S. politicians who think in terms of living off the Panama problem without caring about the consequences which a delay in ratification may bring to the Panamanian people.

7. Finally, I explained to the visiting Senators that in spite of the fact that we have been exposed to Communists, anarchists, imperialists, and the many cultures that pass through our country, our people are mature enough to choose the path best suited to our nation. I appreciated the feeling of pride in the attitude of these Senators who, through the ratification issue, wish to place their constituencies in the forefront of imaginative and constructive political development.

8. Warmest personal regards, Omar Torrijos. End quote.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 8, Backchannel Messages: Latin America: 6/77–12/78. Secret; Immediate; Sensitive; Eyes Only. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified.
  2. See Document 119.