254. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Letter to President Royo (U)

The Panamanians are becoming increasingly irritated at the US failure to appoint a nine-man binational Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Commission, as required under the Canal Treaties.2 While the delay was caused by requirements imposed at the last minute in the implementing legislation, Panama has, with justification, termed this delay a violation of the Treaty. (C)

I understand that the US members have been approved by the Administration and that on January 7, Jody Powell will announce that the nominations are being sent to the Senate. Nevertheless, I believe it would go far in soothing Panamanian irritations if you were to have Secretary Goldschmidt carry a letter to President Royo when he represents you at the Centennial Celebration of the Panama Canal on January 9. Royo, who is already being criticized by students for receiving the Shah, is under increasing pressure to toughen Panama’s stand on US failure to live up to its treaty obligations. He told Ambassador Moss on January 4 that he feels “obliged” to send you an open letter on our non-compliance.3 (C)


That you sign the letter to Royo at Tab A. (State and the speechwriters have cleared the letter.)4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 15, Panama: President Aristides Royo, 1–11/80. Confidential. Sent for action. Carter initialed the memorandum and wrote: “cc Ham, Zbig, Jack. Why wasn’t this done when I approved the names? The Panamanians were already justifiably angry.”
  2. In telegram 10375 from Panama City, December 20, Moss reported Panamanian frustration over the U.S. delay appointing the board. According to Moss, the contrast between Panamanian actions to affirm the country’s alliance with the United States by accepting the Shah and the U.S. Government’s inaction and apparent disregard for a central, legitimate Panamanian claim under the treaties was noted by Panamanian commentators, resulting in a “highly embarrassing predicament.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC: 330–82–0205, Panama (May–Dec 1979)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 263.
  4. Carter checked the approve option and initialed below the recommendation. Tab A, not attached, is printed in Document 255.