158. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Panama1

72014. For the Ambassador From Deputy Secretary Christopher. Subject: Letter to General Torrijos.

Please deliver the following letter to General Torrijos from President Carter at the opening of business tomorrow:

Begin text:

“My dear General:

I appreciated your excellent letter of March 15, as well as our opportunity to converse on the telephone on that same day.2 Your statement that the Government of Panama will not take any action until the Senate has acted on both treaties is a wise and prudent course. The same calm and thoughtful approach was also reflected in the official communique issued by your government after the Senate vote.3

The Senate has now commenced debate on the Panama Canal Treaty. Once again, we will urge the Senate to resist any amendments to the body of the treaty as well as any reservations or conditions which are inconsistent with the basic purposes and spirit of the treaty. Two such amendments were defeated today.4

The Senate leadership is endeavoring to establish a date certain for the final vote on the treaty. We hope there will be an agreement reached this week for a final vote to be taken by the second week of April.

[Page 403]

Until the debate is concluded, it will be important for us to follow your wise counsel to be calm and to withhold judgment until the treaties can be considered in their entirety. As I said after the Senate acted on the first treaty, you and the Panamanian people have been patient and forebearing during this long process, and you have earned the confidence and respect of all of us here.5


Jimmy Carter

End text.

FYI. The President is agreeable to talking with General Torrijos tomorrow. He will call at 9:30 a.m.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 41, Pastor, Country, Panama, 3/78. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Sent for information Immediate to the White House.
  2. See Document 156.
  3. The official communiqué, issued March 16, stated that Panama would withhold judgment on the Senate decision regarding the Neutrality Treaty until action was taken on the Panama Canal Treaty. Once the Panamanian government had both documents in its possession, it would study them thoroughly and reach a conclusion. A copy of the communiqué is in the National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 17, WC—Official Chron.—August 1978.
  4. According to a March 20 memorandum from Moore, Beckel, and Thomson to Carter, Dole introduced an amendment that day specifying that no foreign troops would be allowed in Panama before 2000. The amendment was narrowly defeated. Senator Malcolm Wallop (R–Wyoming) also offered an amendment that would have revived the 1903 treaty if Panama abrogated all or any part of the new Panama Canal Treaty. (Carter Library, Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan’s Subject Files, Box 50, Panama Canal Treaty (CF O/A 647))
  5. A reference to Carter’s statement on the ratification of the Neutrality Treaty. See footnote 2, Document 156.
  6. See Document 159.