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


  • Summary of the PRC Meeting on Panama and a Letter from You to Torrijos

At the Policy Review Committee meeting on Panama on July 22,2 the PRC decided to send you a memorandum recommending a package on economic arrangements for your consideration. Secretary Vance has promised to send his memorandum by Wednesday.3 Ambassadors Linowitz and Bunker and Secretary Vance recommend that you meet with the Panamanian Negotiators and give them a letter stating clearly and firmly your commitment to reach an early agreement. At Tab B4 is Secretary Vance’s memorandum recommending such a meeting and at Tab A5 is the suggested letter from State, which has been cleared by Jim Fallows. At Tab C is a summary of the PRC meeting.6

The reason for the urgency in sending the letter before you decide on the final negotiating instructions is that Panamanian Ambassador Lewis believes it imperative that you communicate directly with General Torrijos about our position on economic arrangements. He said that unless such an approach is taken, he believes it “inevitable” that negotiations will break down. This is not the first time that Ambassador Lewis has urgently requested White House involvement, and as the intelligence report at Tab D7 suggests, his interpretation of recent developments does not appear to be accurate. That report suggests that Torrijos is prepared to conclude an agreement. If Torrijos is indeed ready to complete negotiations, then he must be basing his judgment on the “package” which was suggested by our Negotiators in the last few weeks. It is outlined as a series of “ideas” in the summary of the PRC meeting (Tab C, page 3).

The letter (at Tab A) is intended to be a general statement of support for the Negotiators, but I believe it implicitly commits you to the [Page 223] “package” of proposals before you have had an opportunity to review them. In the letter, you mention that the formal proposals, which we will make, will be less than the Panamanians expect. That is the way the package has been described to them in the past. The letter commits you to “working as closely as possible . . . on improvement of Panama’s economic health and development.” It also virtually bars any more discussion of the lands and waters issue.

I would recommend that you delay in communicating with Torrijos until you have had an opportunity to review the current issues at stake. I do not think that a delay of two–three days would in any way jeopardize the negotiations; the far greater risk is that you send a message to the Panamanians, which could be interpreted incorrectly.


That you delay in sending a letter to Torrijos until you have reviewed the status of negotiations and decided on our response to their proposals.8

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council Institutional Files, Box 63, PRC 027 Panama 7/22/77. Secret. Sent for action. According to a July 25 memorandum from Pastor to Brzezinski, the memorandum was hand carried to Carter on July 26. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 65.
  3. See Document 69.
  4. Tab B, attached, is printed in Document 67.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Tab C, attached, is printed in Document 65.
  7. Not attached. The intelligence report is printed in Document 66.
  8. Carter did not indicate his approval or disapproval of the recommendation. Brzezinski wrote under the recommendation: “Alternatively, that you sign only after you have talked to Linowitz/Bunker, and before you see Panamanian Ambassador Lewis.” At a meeting with Bunker and Linowitz on July 29, Carter expressed a desire to meet with Lewis, Escobar, and Royo before signing the letter. See Document 71.