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

225519. For Ambassador Moss. Subject: Panama/Belize.

1. (S–Entire text)

2. Reference is made to [less than 1 line not declassified]. We note also Gabriel Lewis’s conversation with you on Belize (Panama 6493).2

3. As you know Torrijos has long had an interest in the Belize issue,3 and is unsympathetic—even antagonistic—to Guatemala’s position. Torrijos could very well be tempted to engage in another adventure in this case. In short, what is worrisome about the [less than 1 line not declassified] cited above is that it is not implausible. Any thought by Torrijos—even a gleam in the eye—of getting involved in the Belize issue as he did in Nicaragua should therefore be discouraged promptly; especially so if there is any suggestion of cooperation with Cuba in that regard.

4. The referenced TD alleges that “Panamanian Air Force planes have been recently and regularly flying from Panama to Belize City.” Can the Embassy confirm whether this is correct or not?4

5. Even though information is not hard as regards the [less than 1 line not declassified], the coincidental interest in Belize described by Gabriel Lewis in Panama 6493 suggests that a “word to the wise” in this regard would not be remiss. Given Lewis’s approach to you, he might be the appropriate return channel.

6. We therefore suggest that you take an early appropriate occasion to tell Lewis (and ensure that he tells Torrijos) that:

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—Recognizing the desirability of a resolution of the Belize issue, we do not think that anything should occur which encourages confrontation as a way to solve it.

—The emphasis should be on encouraging the UK and Guatemala to negotiate it out.

—Above all we would hope that no one would be tempted to supply any kind of material support (or personnel) to the Belizeans; this could only stimulate confrontation and tempt the Belizeans to believe they could meet the issue with force.

—You may mention that there are rumors—and consequent concern—in Guatemala to the effect that the GOP is doing something of this sort. We are sure this is not true.

—Above all Cuba should be discouraged from any role in the Belizean issue; we hope the GOP will do so if there is any indication that Cuba is tempted to involve itself.

—Obviously any kind of external involvement by anyone ala Nicaragua would not be tolerated by the UK, and would require a serious response by us.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Records, Box 15, Panama City. Secret; Roger Channel; Immediate. Drafted by Vaky and approved by McAfee and Grove. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified.
  2. Telegram 6493 from Panama City, August 17, in which Moss reported on his conversation with Lewis about his trip to Belize, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790374–0968.
  3. Is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America.
  4. In telegram 6914 from Panama City, August 31, the Embassy reported that it had no confirmation of Panamanian planes being “recently and regularly flown from Panama to Belize City” but that it was attempting to obtain further data. Moss made all the points in telegram 225519 to Lewis on August 30 and particularly stressed the U.S. hope that Torrijos would not see the Belize situation as his “next project.” Lewis “got the point instantly.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Records, Box 15, Panama City)