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

260727. Subject: Secretary’s Conversation with Foreign Minister Ozores, Panama, September 22, 1980.

1. C—Entire text.

2. Memorandum of Conversation:

Place: United Nations, Date: September 22, 1980.

Time: 4:00–4:30 p.m.; Participants: Secretary of State, Edmund Muskie; Foreign Minister of Panama, Carlos Ozores; Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, William G. Bowdler; Panamanian Ambassador to the UN, Jorge Illueca; Acting Director for Panama Affairs, Richard R. Wyrough.

3. After amenities, the Secretary inquired whether there were any difficulties attendant to implementation of the Panama treaties and asked whether all was working to the satisfaction of the Foreign Minister.

4. Ozores responded that the situation to date has been favorable. He commented particularly on the good working relationship and high personal esteem between Administrator McAuliffe and Deputy Administrator Manfredo. He said that a visible amount of good will is being displayed by most parties although there continues to be a lack of acceptance by some individuals that the Canal Zone no longer exists. He commented that this mentality is understandable, but expressed the hope that it will change over time. Ozores also noted the important role which has been played in the past year by Ambassador Moss and his Embassy team. Ozores said that Moss was effective not only in working on treaty problems and other domestic matters of [Page 636] concern to Panama but also in dealing with shared concerns regarding Central America.

5. The Foreign Minister commented favorably on the Secretary’s morning speech2 and inquired whether he omitted references to Latin America for a specific purpose.

6. The Secretary stressed that the level of U.S. interest and purpose was very high toward Latin America. He observed that the Caribbean and Central America qualified for coverage as areas in crisis, but he choose instead to concentrate on those areas which are of greater domestic concern. He remarked that he adopted this approach because he wanted to avoid what might appear simply as a catalogue of problems. He asked that the Foreign Minister note seriously that two of the three bilaterals that had been scheduled during his first day at the UNGA session were with countries of Latin America. He observed that besides his meeting with Ozores he was also scheduled to meet with the Foreign Minister of Mexico. He observed that this schedule is evidence of the concern with which the U.S. views events in the Caribbean area.

7. The Secretary commented that he had been an early supporter of the Panama treaties because of the equities involved in the issue and because the treaties represented an opportunity to convey to the peoples of Latin America the concerns of the U.S. that we approach other nations with an attitude of mutual equality and respect. With every day, the Secretary observed, he is convinced that this was the correct course of action.

8. The Secretary said that he also wished to meet with the Foreign Minister so that he might inquire how we can work together to improve the situation in the Caribbean region. He referred again to his planned meeting with the Mexican Foreign Minister by noting his intention to address the energy concerns of the region. He observed in this regard that Mexico is an emerging force whose views must be taken into account. He remarked again that although his speech did not mention Latin America his first day’s schedule is heavily concerned with Latin American problems.

9. The Foreign Minister asked that the discussion turn to a consideration of the human rights policy pursued by President Carter. Ozores praised the policy and the U.S. motives in pursuing it. He noted that Panama is especially concerned about the human rights situation in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. He expressed understanding of [Page 637] the difficulties that we have experienced in pursuing the policy and, in this regard, referred to a statement issued earlier this year during a meeting in Ecuador by the Presidents of Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela and the Vice President of Peru to the effect that criticism of human rights conditions in a country should not be considered as intervention in another’s affairs.3 Ozores said that his government shares the human rights policy of the U.S. and that this support which is deep-seated in Panama derives from the days of Panama’s founding fathers. In this regard, Ozores recalled a remark by President Royo to the National Security Adviser for Latin America to the effect that Panama understands the human rights policy of the United States because Panama has espoused similar ideals since the days of its founding fathers. He observed that Panama holds in particularly high regard the decisive manner in which President Carter has pursued this policy.

10. Ozores referred to the high degree of cooperation between the Panamanian National Guard and the United States military forces in Panama that has developed since treaty entered into force. He stated that the recent training at Fort Bragg involving Panamanian and United States military forces should be viewed in this light and understood by everyone as being pursued within the spirit of the treaty, and in recognition of the fact that both countries are responsible jointly for the defense and protection of the Canal. He observed that some nations do not fully understand this shared purpose and indicated that it is important for Panama to explain its purpose. He said that it was necessary, for example, to refute the suggestion that these exercises are being held as part of an American effort to train Panamanian military forces for intervention in El Salvador or somewhere else.

11. Ozores likened the problem of explaining the purposes of military training with those related to our human rights policy. He said that they are problems simply because some people choose to associate or attach the wrong motive for a particular action of policy.

12. The Secretary noted that he had learned much about the countries of the Caribbean basin in recent months. He pointed out that a consistent theme of United States policy in the area has been support for centrist, moderate forces. These forces offer the best hope for improvement in the political and economic status of the citizens of these [Page 638] countries. The Secretary observed that our providing such support is often misinterpreted as intervention, and stressed that the United States has no wish to impose its will on any nation or people. Rather, U.S. policy is directed toward the elimination of political violence, restoring economic productivity and rekindling hope where none existed before. The Secretary conceded that the United States will sometimes make mistakes in pursuit of this policy, but he hoped that our central purpose would, with the help of our friends in the region such as Panama, be better understood.

13. Ozores responded by noting that if one makes no mistakes it is only because nothing has been tried. He assured the Secretary that the United States can be confident of Panama’s cooperation in this area since Panama and the United States share the same concerns.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Subject Files of Edmund S. Muskie, 1963–1981, Lot 83D066, Box 2, Memoranda 1980–1981. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Wyrough, cleared by Bremer, and approved by Bowdler.
  2. For the text of Muskie’s address before the 35th session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, see the Department of State Bulletin, November 1980, pp. 57–60.
  3. In telegram 1538 from Quito, March 5, the Embassy reported that President Roldos’s foreign policy advisor had announced on March 4 that the “Roldos Doctrine” proposed by Ecuador at the Santa Cruz meeting of the Andean foreign ministers had been ratified at a human rights meeting in Panama. The doctrine held that the “defense of human rights is an international obligation and that, therefore, any individual or collective action taken by the international community in defense of human rights does not contradict the principles of non-intervention.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800114–0930)