U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Johnson Administration > Volume XXXI
Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 367-396


367. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation/1/

January 10, 1964, 0151Z.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama II, Part B, January-February, 1964. No classification marking. Taylor was in Washington; O’Meara was in Panama.

Conversation between General Taylor and General O’Meara

Gen OMeara: Some Panamanian school kids came up into the area in the afternoon and tried to plant a Panamanian flag on the Balboa High School Flag Pole. The crowd built up but the Panamanian police were able to eject them from the Zone.

Gen Taylor: When did it all start?

Gen OMeara: It started about 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon.

Gen Taylor: Was this carefully premeditated?

Gen OMeara: It was spontaneous to begin with. I have no indication that this was a planned operation, however, during the evening when the kids went back to the school, the mob started forming. They got beyond the competence of the Canal Zone Police to handle it. Reports we have were that some of the police were physically attacked and used their weapons to defend themselves. Apparently, there were some wounded. At 1959 (local) the Acting Governor asked me to assume Command which I have done (Fleming, by the way, is on his way to the States). We immediately moved troops into position. The initial reports we get are that wherever troops have made contact, the mob has fallen back, without any difficulty. As far as I can determine now, there are not many Panamanians in the Canal Zone though some of them who are there have set some fires. That is the situation as of this moment./2/

/2/ Background information on the riot and a report by Colonel David Parker, Acting Governor of the Canal Zone, is in "Panamanian Situation Report for the President of the United States," prepared by the NSC, January 10, 4:30 a.m. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964) An initial report on the riot was transmitted in telegram 305 from Panama City, January 10, 5:53 a.m. (Ibid.) Director of the Office of Central American and Panamanian Affairs V. Lansing Collins’ account of his actions during the evening of January 9 is in a January 10 memorandum for the record. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US)

Gen Taylor: Have you any estimate of the size of the mob involved?

Gen OMeara: Yes, there are varying estimates. They say Fourth of July Avenue is pretty well jammed. There are some estimates of 4000 people. A lot of these reports we are getting are rather exaggerated. Some of them have established to be false, once we got our own people on the ground to look the situation over. However, it is unquestionably a sizable mob. We got an intercept from the CZ police about 20 minutes ago and orders went out to the Guardia Nationale to clear the mob from Panama without using gunfire if possible. About 5 minutes ago we got a report that the Acting Governor had talked to Diarino?/3/ (spelling) and asked him if he would break up the situation. Viariano as you know is the Commandant of the Guardia Nationale. He said it was much too large for him to handle and he was not moving on it. This is certainly a contradiction of what we heard over the radio but that doesn’t mean that both things are not correct. Viarino is not a terribly courageous man. Some of his underlings are much stronger.

/3/ Commander Bolivar Vallarino, Commandant of the National Guard.

Gen Taylor: This is a picture of considerable disorder in Panama itself and all along the borders.

Gen OMeara: Probably some buildings have been set fire to but so far as we know everything is under control. Some fires have been set within the Zone. Some automobiles have been burned along Fourth of July Avenue. These were probably Panamanian automobiles.

Gen Taylor: Meanwhile your troops are being used simply to back up the -?

Gen OMeara: No, I have taken over completely. Wherever the troops appear on the scene, the CZ police fall back and come under the command of my troop commanders. I am in complete command.

Gen Taylor: You are in command of all forces now?

Gen OMeara: I am law and order now. I am in command of the Canal Zone.

Gen Taylor: Of course, you are keeping all your people out of Panama and defending only the Canal Zone.

Gen OMeara: That is correct. We will not move out of the Canal Zone boundaries. I made an announcement over the radio telling all people to return to their quarters and anyone not living in the Zone, working in the Zone, or going to school in the Zone to leave the Zone immediately.

Gen Taylor: Is there anything we can do up here?

Gen OMeara: No, I don’t think so. I think we will have the situation well in hand in less than an hour. If not, I will certainly call you back.

Gen Taylor: Your estimate is that this was spontaneous and gradually building up?

Gen OMeara: We have no evidence that it is other than spontaneous. This is very hard to assess at this time. There is no evidence that this was an organized affair. Though it is possible in view of the large numbers who developed between 1800 and 2000 local.

Gen Taylor: Has this flag affair been an issue before?

Gen OMeara: Yes. It started in the Zone with the school kids when the flags were taken down in front of the school the-US flag. US school kids made a big fuss about it and after about 3 days fussing in the papers, the Governor who is arriving in Miami now, has been handling this and I have not been involved at all-this is not my business. After about 3 days of furor in the local papers the Panamanian students today finally entered into the thing and started putting some Panamanian flags on the grounds of the American High School in Balboa. This is what really triggered the affair.

Gen Taylor: This is a question of whether they have a Panamanian flag flying in front of the High School in Balboa. Was that the start of it?

Gen OMeara: The Governor has 16 sites which by the agreements between the two governments, confirmed by the two Presidents, at which the Panamanian flag will be flown with the American Flag. The US schools were not included. The issue of whether the US flag would be pulled down was raised by the US students. Several of them raised flags where they had previously been taken down. That’s been the fuss over the last three days. Today the Panamanians joined in the fun.

Gen Taylor: Are these Panamanian students who are attending American Schools?

Gen OMeara: No, these are Panamanians who came from Panama.

Gen Taylor: Let me know if I can be of any help.

Gen OMeara: I believe we will have it in hand in the next hour.

Gen Taylor: Has Secretary McNamara called you?

Gen OMeara: No one has called me except you.

Gen Taylor: I will block him off then.


368. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, January 10, 1964.

/1/ Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80-B01285A, Meetings with the President. Secret. Copies were sent to the DCI and the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division.

White House Meeting on Panama, 10 January 1964


The President

For State
Messrs. Rusk, Ball, Mann, Martin, and Collins

For Defense
Messrs. McNamara, Vance, and Ailes

Mr. Wilson

For the White House
Messrs. Bundy, Dungan, Salinger, and Moyers

Messrs. McCone and Helms

1. The meeting opened at 0930 without the President who joined at 1015. The initial effort was to establish the facts which had caused the riots of the night before in Panama City and the Canal Zone. Mr. Mann briefed on the flag incident and the background of the flag controversy between the United States and Panama. Casualty figures up to that point were cited and agreed on at least as far as Americans were concerned (3 United States soldiers dead, 34 Americans injured). Mr. McCone pointed out that Panamanian Communists had taken advantage of the flag incident to kick off trouble of a kind which we had been predicting ever since last summer would occur the end of December or early in January./2/ [3 lines of source text not declassified] (Mr. McCone repeated this briefing later when the President had joined the meeting.) The undersigned spoke of the Panamanian student-organized demonstration which was scheduled to begin at 1100 today, also of the problems which might arise depending upon where it was decided to bury the students killed in the rioting the night before. There then followed a general discussion of the tactics to be used in dealing with these problems in the OAS, the United Nations Security Council, with President Chiari, etc. Attention was given to the handling of the Senate and House leadership in connection with the problem. It was also decided to destroy cryptographic and other sensitive material in the Embassy so that it could be evacuated if this seemed desirable.

/2/ In a telephone conversation with McCone, McGeorge Bundy stated that he was "most dissatisfied" that trouble in Panama had "been brewing for 3 days and nobody was informed of it. I think that is disgraceful." McCone responded: "Yes. I didn’t know a thing about it." (Telephone conversation between DCI and McGeorge Bundy, January 10, 8:45 a.m.; ibid., DCI Telephone Calls, January 1-March 30, 1964)

2. After the President took over the meeting, he was brought up to date on the situation in Panama and on the actions which the Secretary of State was proposing. After considerable discussion of these proposals, the following were decided upon:

A) The President would speak on the telephone with President Chiari, provided that Mr. Salinger was able to ascertain through President Chiari’s Press Secretary that President Chiari would receive the telephone call.

B) Mr. Mann would head a delegation representing President Johnson to leave for Panama immediately, this group to include Messrs. Vance, Martin, and Dungan. [1 line of source text not declassified]

C) The OAS Peace Committee would be encouraged to make an immediate investigation of the situation on the ground.

D) Mr. Ball would get in immediate touch with the congressional leadership to brief them on developments.

E) The White House would issue a statement to the press announcing the Mann mission and appealing for an end to violence in Panama.

3. There was considerable attention paid to the history of difficulties with Panama over the Canal Zone. Touched on were the legal problems, financial considerations, and the traditional attitudes of the "Zonies" who have always had strong support from certain congressional committees.

Deputy Director for Plans


369. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell/1/

Washington, January 10, 1964, 11:25 a.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between the President and Richard Russell, Tape F64.04, Side B, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: Dick?

Russell: Yes sir.

President: I want to talk to you-off the record a minute-about this Panama situation. What do you think about it?

Russell: Well, Mr. President, I predicted as far back as 1956 that something like this was going to happen. I’m not at all surprised. I don’t know all the facts of it-Harry McPherson talked to Bill Dodd on the phone and told him something about it, but I just don’t know. ’Course, I know that nobody is going to agree with this except me, but I think this is a pretty good time to take a strong stand; people in this country, I think, are ready for it. I may be a fool, but if I had said anything, if I were the President, I’d just tell them-I’d say this is a most regrettable incident and it will be thoroughly investigated, and-however the Panama Canal Zone is a property of the United States, the Canal was built with American ingenuity and blood, sweat, and sacrifices, that it was of vital necessity for the economy and defense of every nation of this hemisphere and that under no circumstances would you permit the threat of interruption by any subversive group that may be undertaking to establish itself in this hemisphere. I’d give a little lick to Castro in there. I don’t know what the State Department-I suppose they have suggested you make an apology.

President: No, but it looks like-it doesn’t look good from our standpoint.

Russell: Well, it started with a bunch of school boys, from what I hear about it, and those people down there-they’ve had a chip on their shoulders for a long time.

President: Yeah, they have and we’ve known it.

Russell: And we’ve helped it on four different occasions, and if I made a statement, I’d point that out. We have voluntarily increased payments to them and they have that high standard of living there proportionally-not as compared with our country, but with the other Latin American countries-because I think that some 40-50 thousand of ’em worked on that Canal in conjunction with the operation, and one thing I certainly would do is-if it were me-that man-if the fellow got up in the United Nations and went to attack us on account of anything that happened about the Canal, I’d have Adlai Stevenson ask them if they’re willing to go back to the status quo. People that we did the injury [to in] connection with the Canal is not the Panamanians-we brought them out of the jungles, where they were hiding, thinkin’ that old Cortez was still trying to get ’em for slaves-several hundred years after Cortez’ death. People we did an injustice with was Colombia-took that isthmus away from ’em and set up that puppet government down in Panama. So anything that’s happened out of the Canal is more of an injury to Colombia than it is to Panama, and if I wanted to be Machiavellian about it, I’d get that Colombia delegate to get up and just raise the devil about that. It’s really injurious to Colombia to even have a Panama-that’s part of Colombia. I don’t know how the State Department is going to handle it-of course it does look like-but it all happened on American soil. That’s one thing, primarily, that you can-and it grew out of this agreement about the flag down there that started with Eisenhower, and I think Kennedy fortified it when he went down there, and that was a mistake to start with-but it was done. He insisted to the State Department that it increase payments every two years. What does the State Department think you ought to do about it?

President: We’ve had a meetin’ of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, Cy Vance, Bundy, and the group that we normally meet with. Tom Mann says that-I talked to him a couple of times during the night,/2/ and he’s a pretty solid fellow, pretty strong, pretty pro-American-he says that our students went out and put up our flag in violation of our understanding. They started to put up their flag and we refused it, and we made our people take down our flag, and their rioters increased-Communists we know there, we’ve been having some contact with-they had a lot of Molotov cocktails and they’d planned this thing apparently just usin’ the flag as an excuse. But they would have kicked it off some other way some other time, but this was ideal. Then our damned fool police started shootin’ into ’em, and they say-

/2/ No record of the President’s telephone conversations with Mann has been found.

Russell: I hear they killed 13-14 Americans.

President: Yeah, yeah, when they started doin’ that, then snipers started pickin’ off American troops a little later. But we fired into our civil guard, which are our employees and Panama Canal Zone employees. They started firin’ into the crowd and shot off 4500 rounds of ammunition, and-

Russell: Well, if they’d stayed on American soil, and if there’s any one thing that is essential to the economic life as well as the defense of every nation in the hemisphere, it is the Panama Canal, and we can’t risk having it sabotaged or taken over by any Communist group. And there’s no question in my mind but what Castro’s-that’s his chief aim there.

President: That’s what he tells-that’s what he tells.

Russell: And I would certainly say that in any statement I made even if I had to be rather apologetic to the Panamanians in accordance with the State Department’s idea-undoubtedly was inspired-right after Castro came into power, you know, he sent a group down there and like to have taken the damn country over-they landed on the coast there.

President: I thought I might do this: I thought I might call-if I could talk to him-he claims he’s broken off diplomatic relationship-but I might call their President and say I regret it is a situation of violence that developed, and I thought we should do everything we could to restore quiet, and I appreciate his calling the Panamanian people last night to remain calm and hope he’ll do everything possible to quiet the situation, and I’ll do the same. And I’m going to send my trusted representatives, Tom Mann and other Panama Canal Board people in there today to assist in findin’ a solution to the situation, and both of us are aware of the possibility that the elements unfriendly to both of our countries are tryin’ to exploit the situation, and I want to keep in close personal touch with him. Then I thought I’d send Tom Mann and Ed Martin and the Assistant Secretaries, Cy Vance, on the Panama Canal Board, and probably this boy Dungan, who’s handled it here at the White House and who is a pretty level-headed fellow-used to be on Kennedy’s committee.

Russell: That’s sensible, but I-

President: Don’t know, I might ask Harry McPherson-he’s been down there and been awful concerned about it. I might ask him to go with ’em.

Russell: Well, you couldn’t get a better boy to come back and give you a clear report as an observer-he wouldn’t be stampeded in any way. I certainly take a chunk out of the Communists; you’re going to have trouble there all through your entire tenure as President-in that area down there. Castro is going to pick up the tempo of his activities down there, in his desperation, and that’s goin’ to be a trouble spot. I have held that opinion for several years, now, and especially when they extended-they increased the payments here the last time-in which I said that we were in danger there because if we [unintelligible] on the part of the Panamanians that we’ve done them some injustice. We’ve really done them a hell of a favor. They’re a whole lot better off than the Colombians. They have better income, everything else. Not that that satisfies ’em; the only way you can satisfy ’em is to give ’em the Canal and that wouldn’t completely satisfy ’em. You’d have to operate it for ’em too.

[Here follows conversation unrelated to Panama]

President: They’re going to get the President of Panama. I’ll call you back./3/

/3/ The President called Russell again at 1:25 p.m. to inform him of the substance of the conversation with Chiari. The President told Russell that he informed his advisers, "I was damned tired of their attacking our flag and Embassy, and our USIA, every time somebody got a little emotional outburst-so they had better watch out." Johnson informed Russell that Mann, Martin, and Vance were going to Panama and that, "Cy Vance can be pretty tough." Russell responded that O’Meara was "a pretty good man." Johnson stated that O’Meara "has had to order his people to start shooting again" and that it was "hot as a firecracker" in Panama. Johnson then told Russell that the "position we ought to be on the Hill" is that the administration acted swiftly and properly and was sending the right men there. Johnson remarked, "they tell me that everyone in Latin America is scared of this fellow Mann. They highly regard him because he’s a tough guy." Russell responded that he hoped there was "iron" under Mann’s "velvet gloves." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Richard Russell, Tape F64.04, Side B, PNO 3)

Russell: All right.

President: Bye.


370. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Panamanian President Chiari/1/

January 10, 1964, 11:40 a.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Secret; Eyes Only. President Johnson was in Washington; President Chiari in Panama City.

President Johnson: Hello Mr. President.

Mr. President, I wanted to say to you that we deeply regret the situation of violence that has developed there.

We appreciate very much your call to the Panamanian people to remain calm.

We recognize that you and I should do everything we can to restore quiet and I hope that you’ll do everything possible to quieten the situation and I will do the same.

You and I should be aware of the possibility and the likelihood that there are elements unfriendly to both of us who will exploit this situation.

I am sending immediately, my trusted representative, Secretary Thomas Mann and others associated with him and the White House to Panama to assist in finding a solution to the present situation and accurately finding the facts.

I think it’s important that we keep in close personal touch with each other, and I will be ready to do that.

I hope you’ll give Secretary Mann any suggestions he has that might result in the development of correcting the situation.

President Chiari: Would you please allow me a moment, Mr. President?

I am going to tell you now, President Johnson, the same that I plan to tell Mr. Thomas Mann when he arrives either later today or tomorrow. I feel, Mr. President, that what we need is a complete revision of all treaties which affect Panama-U.S. relations because that which we have at the present time is nothing but a source of dissatisfaction which has recently or just now exploded into violence which we are witnessing.

President Johnson: Tell him that first we must find out what caused the riot, get all the facts in this situation. Mr. Mann will be there for that purpose. We have got to see what all entered into this, and we will want to receive from Mr. Mann any suggestions he has.

President Chiari (interpreted): The President wishes to say, sir, that he wants President Johnson to be aware of the fact that President Chiari came to Washington in 1961 and at that time he spoke to President Kennedy and that since 1961 and those conversations, not a thing has been done to alleviate the situation which has provoked this violence, and Panama now has 8 to 10 dead and over 200 wounded in the hospitals.

President Johnson: Tell him there’s nothing we can ever do that justifies violence, and we want to look forward and not backward, and what we must do is to review with responsible and able and trusted officials of this government the situation that he reviewed with President Eisenhower in 1960 and with President Kennedy in 1961, and Mr. Mann can do that with him on the ground, and then we will look at the facts and try to deal with the problem in this country. We have a problem here just as he has it there.

Tell him that violence is never any way to settle anything, and I know he and Secretary Mann can get together, and he can give him a viewpoint of his country, and we will give him the viewpoint of our country and we will carefully and judiciously and wisely consider both viewpoints and reach an area of agreement.

President Chiari (through interpreter): The President is in complete agreement with you, Mr. President, that violence leads nowhere, however, he feels that he must take cognizance of our intransigence and our indifference to Panama problems during the past two years, especially in recent months where things have been at a standstill, and it is urgent that men of goodwill, you in the United States and President Chiari in Panama, should attempt an urgent solution to these problems.

President Johnson: Tell him the people will be in the plane in 30 minutes-the most respected people I have to talk to him about it in detail, and in the meantime I am going to count on him to preserve order there as I’m going to preserve it here.

President Chiari: At what time will the airplane arrive in Panama?

President Johnson: Approximately five hours.

President Chiari (through interpreter): He’s very grateful for your cooperation.

President Johnson: Tell him I don’t know how to act more promptly than that.

President Chiari (interpreter): They say that’s very fine, and they’re very very grateful.

President Johnson: But say to the President that we’re having a serious problem as we know he has one there, and it’s going to take the wisdom and the strength of all of us to solve it.

President Chiari (interpreter): He said one of the things that President Chiari admires in President Johnson is the fact that he is a man of action and of few words, therefore, they have great confidence that this situation will finally be resolved.

President Johnson: Thank him very much-Goodbye.


371. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 10, 1964.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Mc-George Bundy, Vol. I, November 1963-February 1964. No classification marking.

Panama Situation Report, 7:00 p.m.

1. The OAS without debate is sending the peace committee to Panama at once. This committee as now set up includes Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela./2/ Dean Rusk says it is friendly to us.

/2/ On January 10 the OAS issued a communiqué announcing the formulation of the Inter-American Peace Committee comprised of representatives of Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina. The committee was to travel to Panama to investigate the situation and recommend measures for a settlement of the dispute. The text of the communiqué is in Department of State Bulletin, February 3, 1964, p. 152.

2. Panamanians have sent in a note definitely breaking relations,/3/ and their political noise level remains high. We are not confirming break in relations, since after all we expect Mann to see Chiari.

/3/ The message severing diplomatic relations was from Panamanian Foreign Minister Galileo Solis to Secretary Rusk, January 10, 3:10 p.m. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964)

3. The U.N. Security Council meets tonight and while there will be some noise, Rusk expects that the dispatch of the OAS peace mission will hold the line for tonight./4/

/4/ Rusk had urged that the OAS Peace Commission take up the problem in a noon meeting with departing Panamanian Ambassador Augusto Arango. (Memorandum of conversation, January 10; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US)

4. On the central front of restoring peace and safety, the immediate prognosis is better. Rusk, McNamara, and I agree that tonight will be the test whether we have a turning point here./5/

/5/ On the night of January 10 Johnson told Senator Mike Mansfield: "I’m waiting on that Panama thing to see if they have another riot there." He added: "I think these damned Communists are goin’ to cause trouble every place in this country they can, and I think we’ve got to get a little bit hard with ’em." Johnson continued: "I don’t know-Dick Russell may be right. He says that they’re goin’ to do this in every damned nation they can." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Mike Mansfield, January 10, 10:25 p.m., Tape F64.05, Side A, PNO 1)

5. Mann has landed.

McG. B./6/

/6/ Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.


372. Telegram From the U.S. Southern Command to the Department of State/1/

Panama City, January 11, 1964, 0840Z.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Confidential. Repeated to OSD and JCS and passed to the White House.

SC1118A. For Secretary Rusk from Assistant Secretary Mann.

Secretary Vance and I met for an hour and a half with President Chiari, Foreign Minister Solis, and Mr. Morgan, Head of the US Section, Foreign Office.

We first said that in our opinion the most urgent question was to reestablish peace and law. President readily agreed. Vance made point that US would maintain order in the Canal Zone.

Chiari then referred to his telephone conversation with President Johnson/2/ and in forceful tones said that more conversations would serve no useful purpose unless Washington group had authority to agree immediately to a "structural revision" of outdated 1903, 1936, and 1955 treaties. Chiari said that unless we had this authority he would proceed to break diplomatic relations and leave the whole problem to his successor. He said little had come of his talk two years ago with President Kennedy and that the Panamanian people were tired of excuses and delays and particularly tired of hearing the US say "this or that treaty provision is not negotiable."

/2/ See Document 370.

I made it very clear that I had no authority to agree to discuss "structural revision" of the treaty, but said I would report his statement to the President and to the Secretary of State. I said that in my personal and unofficial opinion the answer would be automatically negative simply because there were certain things politically impossible in the US just as there are in Panama; that politics was the art of the possible; that there were a number of states we did not have relations with; and while we would regret having no relations with Panama, this was something we could live with even though this would create an impasse which would make it impossible for the two governments to deal with urgent problems; and finally, this would be contrary to the best interests of both governments.

While we were stuck on this point, I inquired what he meant by use of expression "structural revision." He said he simply meant an agreement under which representatives of the two countries would meet and start with a clean slate to negotiate a completely new treaty. He thought that specifics of the needed revisions could best be developed during the course of those negotiations.

I then inquired whether he thought it was worth while for the US and Panama to try to reach as large an area of agreement as possible on what had actually happened in the last two days. I said that Washington regretted this as much as Panama and I pointed out that American lives had also been lost. I said I hoped we could stipulate a good many facts. Chiari replied that he thought that this was the job of the Peace Committee and so there was no reason to try to reach an understanding on what had happened because "Our people will blame you and your people will blame us." To this I replied that there were a number of gaps in our information and I presumed a number of gaps in his, for example, was the Panamanian flag torn by American students or by Panamanian students? We have some pictures of this part of the incident that might be of interest to him. Who fired the first shot? What factors were responsible for the relatively heavy gunfire? Toward the end of this part of discussion, Chiari seemed to warm to this idea of a fact finding Panama-US group. It is not impossible that we will get to work with a Panamanian committee to determine the true facts.

I told Chiari that we had information which indicated that the Communists were involved in the disturbances. Chiari readily agreed that this was the case. I pointed out that Castro agents in Panama were as great a danger to Panama as they are to the US Government. We are both in the same boat.

I then pointed out to him that considerable progress had been made in cooperating with Panama since 1960. The Thatcher Bridge exists; the Zone honors Panamanian exequaturs; Panamanians have received wage increases; the number of security jobs for which Panamanians were not eligible has been reduced; agreement has been reached on withholding Panamanian income taxes for Panamanian employees; agreements have been reached on flying the Panamanian flag along with US flags in the Zone. Chiari agreed that this was progress but stated that the Thatcher Bridge had been agreed to in 1942 and that Governor Fleming unilaterally decided on wage increases without Washington’s instructions.

Chiari then took off on the flag issue in very strong language and said the US had not lived up to its agreement. He said that after his conversation with President Kennedy in 1961 he believed that Panama and the US had reached a reasonable agreement. In the ensuing months, however, US restrictions were noted with respect to flying the Panamanian flag at military installations, the US schools, and on ships tran-sitting the Canal, moreover, he pointed out that the US elected to lower the US flags at certain installations rather than fly the Panamanian flag at those agreed to places. He seemed to be impressed when we replied that Washington was not aware until last night that this was a serious issue. I said he should understand very clearly that the US lives up to its agreements. He agreed that flag issue should be discussed, stating that it was the "hot potato" of the moment.

We agreed to discuss the flag issue tomorrow evening at a time and place to be arranged after discussions with the Foreign Minister. I suggested that we might meet with the Foreign Minister and report back to him.

Chiari said that the US ought to withdraw its military forces from the Zone border area and replace them with police and firemen. I said that this illustrated the divergencies in our information since we understand that General O’Meara’s troops fired only at individual snipers. It was police that were engaged in the heaviest fire. Chiari did not reply to this.

We both deplored the loss of life and I pointed out that American lives had been lost on the Atlantic side without any return shots being fired by US. Chiari said "All I know is that 16 Panamanians died and over 200 are wounded."

We were met at the airport and conducted to the palace in cloak and dagger fashion and much of the conversation was conducted with background of 600 Panamanians outside chanting "Out with the gringos." All of this could have been staged. Nevertheless, conversation which began in a cool and almost hostile atmosphere ended on warm note. In beginning Chiari’s intention may have been to probe hard for a soft spot on issue of "structural revision" of treaty.

Recommend I be authorized to inform Chiari that US will not now agree to negotiations to bring about "structural" changes in treaty; and that I be authorized to say that this does not necessarily close the door for all time for discussions on treaty revisions, since it is possible that current studies on feasibility of sea level canal may eventually lead to a change in our attitude. Entire Washington group concurs in this recommendation.

Saturday morning we expect to send separate telegram on flag issue./3/

/3/ In telegram SC1125A to McNamara, January 11, Vance reported that he planned to inform the Panamanian Foreign Minister that U.S. and Panamanian flags would be flown outside public schools in the Canal Zone. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Riots, Part A, Vol. II, January-February, 1964)


373. Editorial Note

On January 11, 1964, President Johnson considered instructions for Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas Mann and his party for their discussions in Panama. In consultation with McNamara and Bundy, the Department of State prepared instructions that were based on Mann’s recommendation earlier that day as outlined in the last substantive paragraph of Document 372.

The President sought the advice of Senator Russell and read the draft instructions to him over the phone. According to their conversation, the draft instructions proposed that both sides agree on the facts surrounding the riots; that "we should be forthcoming on flag issues since our good faith is involved"; that, with regard to structural revision of the treaty, "we cannot agree to formal negotiation in which revision of fundamental relationships and responsibilities would be a pre-arranged and accepted objective," but "that does not mean that there might not be certain aspects of the treaty of importance to Panama which could, after informal discussion, be taken up between the two governments." The draft instructions urged Mann to "remind Chiari that considerable progress has been made on many points" as a result of his discussion with President Kennedy, and that after restoration of relations, if further progress is made in talks not earlier than February or March, and if "Chiari’s mood improves, it might be well to suggest that highly discreet cooperation between us about the Communists and especially Castro plotting, both against Panama and the United States, be continued and strengthened." The instructions concluded that events taking place in Panama "have demonstrated clearly that the reality behind the reports pointed toward Panama as a special target of Communist conspiracy." The draft instructions were not found.

In reviewing the draft instructions with Russell, the President voiced his concerns: "I’m a little bit dubious. I’m afraid that we’re going a little bit further than we ought to go, but it is pretty difficult to say to people that you just won’t talk, I mean, it won’t be courteous if you won’t listen to ‘em." In particular, with respect to the instruction concerning structural revision of the treaty, the President said: "It seems to me that we’re kinda givin’ in there and respondin’ at the point of a pistol." Johnson then stated: "What I am doing here, if I approve these instructions-I am agreein’ to discussion of the treaty." He reflected, "I know damned well one thing-I can take the position of discussion-we’ll discuss it but we won’t do anything. But I guess if you’re goin’ to discuss it you ought to discuss it in good faith, and that’s what they want, and I don’t know how that’s goin’ to be interpreted in the public eye-whether they’ve got to kill a few American soldiers to get us to discuss somethin’-I don’t like that. On the other hand we’ve got to do somethin’."

Russell responded that the draft instruction to Mann was "a hell of a long thing you’re sendin’ down there. It would confuse me if I were down there with all the pressures that he must feel in that atmosphere down there." Johnson reported that Mann and Vance "had a good talk" with Chiari and "both of ’em were awfully tough with him." Johnson also pointed out the sensitive political aspects of the crisis: "Every damned one of ’em are runnin’ against us for their re-

election. Six hundred of ’em stood outside and said ‘get out of here Gringos.’ " Russell agreed: "They’ve been doin’ that-the one that denounces the colossus of the north most vociferously is the one that wins, and that’s been true the last three elections they’ve had. On the surface we haven’t got a friend there, but if we weren’t there they wouldn’t have anything. They would be livin’ out there half-naked in those swamps. . . . You can’t close the door to any negotiations, but you can certainly [say] that we can’t negotiate in this atmosphere, but we’ll talk to you some time later."

In response to Johnson’s inquiry if the draft instruction was "softening up" what Mann had recommended, Russell said: "One or two sentences seem to me like it’s sort of puttin’ him in a halter." "That’s what it seems to me" the President responded. Russell suggested that the President simply tell Mann that he agrees with his recommendation and that he’s "depending on your good judgment." (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell, January 11, 1964, 1:05 p.m., Tape F64.05, Side A, PNO 2)

Johnson then called Bundy and told him that he had "confidence in Mann’s good judgment." The President said that he would tell Mann:

"Tom, you are a man on the ground with common sense and we trust you and Cy Vance or we wouldn’t have sent you there, and we are prepared to support you, and we agree in essence with your recommendation. We-therefore-we’re not goin’ to discuss structural changes in the treaty at this point. However, you are at liberty to assure the President that under appropriate circumstances, we’ll be very happy to discuss any troublesome problems with them, but we’re not goin’ to do it at the point of a gun. We’ve got the rest of the world to live with. People just can’t take the law into their own hands and they didn’t protest what these kids did-they just started shootin’ and riotin’. And if we go in there and start opening up a treaty under those circumstances, we’d be the laughing stock of the world." (Ibid., Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Mc-George Bundy, January 11; 1:25 p.m., Tape F64.05, Side A, PNO 3)

Bundy included these points, along with concurrence in Mann’s proposed flag plan, in a revised instruction and told the President that he had been "up and down the question of all the other things that are at issue." Bundy also had a January 11 memorandum from Gordon Chase on these matters. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Riots, Part B, Vol. II, January-February, 1964) "Each and every one of them," he told the President, "in one way or another, has a political hooker attached to it" and that "every one of them has either a Congressional obstacle or a legal obstacle and it’s a tricky business." He suggested that Mann take up these matters at a later time. (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and McGeorge Bundy, January 11, 1964, 1:25 p.m.) The portions of the conversations printed here were prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.


374. Telegram From President Johnson to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) in Panama/1/

Washington, January 11, 1964, 5:34 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Confidential; Flash. Repeated to Rusk, McNamara, and McCone.

CAP 64016. Reference your CINCSO 110840Z SC1118A./2/

/2/ Document 372.

1. We have full confidence in you and in Vance, and fully concur in what you have done so far.

2. We agree in essence with your recommendation in last paragraph of reftel and also with you and Vance on flag issue.

3. You should tell President that we cannot negotiate under pressure of violence and breach of relations and that therefore his demand for agreement to structural revision of treaties is unacceptable.

4. You should also tell him that in the appropriate circumstances and when peace has been restored, we will give sympathetic welcome to discussion of all troubles and problems with our Panamanian friends.


375. Telegram From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Panama City, January 12, 1964, 0656Z.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Confidential; Immediate. Passed to the White House, CIA, OSD, and USUN.

SC1144A. Vance, Mann, Martin, Stuart and LtCol Moura met this afternoon with Panamanian Foreign Minister Solis, David Samudio, Director of Planning of the Presidency, Eloy Benedetti, Judiciary Advisor of the Foreign Office, William Arango, recalled Panamanian Ambassador to Washington, and Morgan Morales, Head of U.S. Section of the Foreign Office. The meeting was in two parts. Between the two meetings, all of the Panamanians, except Arango, went by car to the palace where they consulted with President Chiari and returned with the President’s reply. Foreign Minister said at end of first conversation he could make no comment until he had consulted with Chiari. Five topics were discussed:

1. We informed the Panamanians of Secretary Vance’s decision that American flags would be flown outside of schools in the Zone and, in compliance with U.S.-Panama agreement, Panamanian flags would be flown side by side with U.S. flags. I said this meant 18 new flag stations and would raise the total number of flag stations to about 35. He pointed out Vance’s decision involved no new concession but only execution of prior agreement. We pointed out no concession possible under duress.

Panamanians pressed hard for display of Panamanian flag on ships transiting canal and in U.S. military installations in Zone. We replied we were disposed to study these two issues but could make no commitment. After return from Presidency, Panamanians stated that flying of flag at 18 schools should not in any sense be interpreted as settlement of question of whether U.S. was complying with Kennedy-Chiari communiqué during Presidential visit./2/ During conversation on this point, we offered to coordinate press release covering this with Panamanians. After returning from Presidency, Panamanians made clear Vance’s decision was U.S. unilateral decision. We said we understood both sides reserved their position on remaining flag issues. We have reports that Panamanians in streets applauded radio announcements of Vance’s press release.

/2/ The text of the communiqué is in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 481-482.

2. We informed Panamanians that five known agitators were at that moment haranguing large and growing crowd in Shaler triangle and requested that Guardia Nacional be instructed to arrest these five men, all of who have received training in Cuba. The Foreign Minister requested names of the five men and these were supplied him. We stated that situation was urgent and if there was further delay in authorizing Guardia Nacional to act, situation could become critical in terms of Panamanian ability to maintain law and order and could lead to bloodshed on a much greater scale than had taken place in the last few days. We also informed Panamanians that there have been four more U.S. military casualties today on the Atlantic side of Zone. Fire returned with shotgun today on only one sniper. Also snipers were firing regularly into the Tivoli Hotel from Panamanian territory. U.S. lieutenant was wounded by this fire after meeting. (Shortly before midnight, Mann telephoned Foreign Minister and told him four snipers on roof of legislative palace still firing into Tivoli Hotel.)

After returning from Presidency, Foreign Minister stated categorically and with considerable emphasis that the President had decided to order National Guard to restore order and that this would be accomplished forthwith.

While not certain, our estimate is that if Guardia Nacional acts with decisiveness and speed, it can probably still regain control of the situation. Further delay could be fatal. A few minutes ago, Vallarino, first commandant of the Nacional Guard, informed General Bogart that he was on way to the Presidency and after his return he expected to request us to supply him with tear gas. (A truck was immediately loaded with tear gas in anticipation of such a request.)

While Foreign Minister’s statement regarding restoration of order was unconditional, we received word through chairman of Peace Committee that Nacional Guard would act only if U.S. military withdrew from Canal Zone boundary, a sufficient distance so as to be invisible from Panama side.

General O’Meara stated that on the Pacific side this condition already exists except when necessary to repel invaders and except for two military police at each Zone entry point stationed there to control entry of legitimate traffic. This has been conveyed to Tejera and condition has been withdrawn, though Chiari has asked and received authority to announce he is acting at request of Chairman, Peace Commission.

3. We informed Panamanians we had had a long and constructive discussion with Peace Committee which had requested us to designate U.S. official who could work with committee./3/ We replied immediately that Martin would represent U.S. Presumably the Peace Commission made the same request of Panamanians. After his return from Presidency, Foreign Minister stated that Ambassador Arango would be representative of GOP before commission.

/3/ At a 4:30 p.m. meeting of the OAS Peace Commission in Panama City on January 11, Mann stated: "One, we cannot negotiate under pressure of violence or threats to break relations; therefore, any demand for structural revisions is not acceptable to the United States. Two, under appropriate circumstances, and after peace has been re-established, we welcome the idea of discussing all problems with our Panamanian friends." (Memorandum for the record prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur S. Moura, January 11; Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964)

Parenthetically, we report that Peace Committee impressed us as being objective and constructive. They correctly stated their first job was to bring an end to disorders. They said that they did not consider themselves to be a fact-finding committee but that their role was rather one of conciliation. In addition to our giving them an oral summary of developments since the beginning of violence, we informed committee of Vance’s decision to fly U.S. and Panamanian flags in front of Zone schools and gave them candid statement of U.S. position on issue of treaty revision. Committee stated that it did not consider itself authorized to get into issue of possible "structural revisions" of treaty but thought committee could be useful in trying to identify issues which could contribute immediately to present crisis and to attempt to conciliate differences between the two governments on these issues. We expressed agreement in principle. In our opinion, commission’s view realistic and constructive. We offered fullest cooperation, including facilities for inspecting Zone and detailed inspection of places in Zone where controversial events have taken place, including inspection of vehicles alleged to be tanks. We contradicted commission’s information machine guns were used by U.S. police and military. We stressed factors of surprise, small size of Zone police, aggressive and violent attitude of Panamanians who invaded Zone, necessity of protecting women and children, and overwhelming superiority of Panamanians as compared with police available in earliest stages of rioting.

4. We next informed Panamanians of U.S. positions as described in numbered paragraphs 3 and 4 of White House message CAP 64016./4/ Essentially same position had been given Chiari night before. Panamanians asked for repetition. We carefully went over this ground twice. Upon their return from presidency, Panamanians stated President Chiari would discuss this and other substantive issues only after they had demonstrated their capability to restore order in Panama. We have unconfirmed reports Panamanians will continue to insist, as Chiari did in his first conversation, that U.S. agree in principle to "structural revisions" of treaty as a condition precedent to GOP agreeing to further discussions of outstanding issues, including resumption of relations. Department should understand clearly this is principal issue and not our willingness to engage in discussions. It is however still possible that Chiari will cave.

/4/ Document 374.

5. We stated to Panamanians we were at a loss to reconcile Chiari’s complaint to me that we had not promptly named an Ambassador to replace Farland with statements of GOP officials over radio and to our charge here that diplomatic relations already severed. We asked for clarification. Upon their return from presidency, Panamanians stated that this was also issue that would be discussed with us after GOP had restored order in Panama City. We expect, but cannot be sure, we will be told tomorrow that relations have been severed. If this proves to be the case, this is obviously irrational maneuver on Chiari’s part to strengthen his pose before Panamanian people as the champion of Panamanian sovereignty and its claims to Canal Zone. As an out, Panama may intend to use Peace Committee as forum for discussions of outstanding issues.

At conclusion of meeting, Foreign Minister requested that we postpone our return to Washington. We said we had intended to return Sunday/5/ but would stay over a while longer./6/

/5/ January 12.

/6/ Rusk informed the President that the delegation planned to leave Panama City following the 3 p.m. meeting with Chiari on January 13, and Johnson approved. (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Rusk, January 13, 12:45 p.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.05, Side A, PNO 5) The President called Bundy to arrange to meet Mann and the delegation upon their arrival in Washington. The President then asked Bundy, "How are we goin’ to leave the impression with the country that we’re not soft on Panama after Rusk tells the AP that we’re goin’ to negotiate." Bundy responded that Rusk swore he didn’t say that. The President replied that the "AP quotes him all morning long. I heard it as sayin’ that as soon as we get quieted down, we’re goin’ start negotiatin’." Bundy agreed to talk to Rusk. The President then stated, "I talked to him so damned much about it that I’m gettin’ embarrassed for mentioning it." Both Bundy and the President agreed that most leaks came from the Department, not Rusk. Bundy suggested Rusk was "a clam presiding over a sieve." The President continued to complain about leaks and suggested that Bundy tell Ball, Harriman, "and the rest of them" that he was "getting damned sensitive about it." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Bundy, January 13, 1:05 p.m.; ibid., Side B, PNO 2)


376. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Panama City, January 13, 1964, 3:15 p.m.

/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US. Confidential. Drafted by Mann on January 14. The meeting was held at the Presidential Palace.



His Excellency Roberto F. Chiari, President
His Excellency Galileo Solís, Foreign Minister

United States
The Hon. Ralph Dungan, The White House
The Hon. Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of the Army
The Hon. Thomas C. Mann, Assistant Secretary of State

Mr. Dungan, Mr. Vance and I called on President Chiari today in the Palace at about 3:15 in the afternoon. Foreign Minister Solis was present. Earlier in the day Solis had himself suggested that it would be appropriate for us to pay a courtesy call on the President.

I began the conversation by expressing our appreciation for the courtesies we had received and said we had come to pay our respects and to ask his leave to return to Washington now that progress had been made in restoring peace and order.

I said that I had already said to the Foreign Minister that there was no hurry in telling us whether Panama would be willing to resume diplomatic relations. Mr. Martin was staying behind to work with the Peace Committee and he could relay to Washington any message on the subject.

President Chiari said he had already decided to withdraw Panamanian diplomatic personnel from Washington and to remove the seal from the Embassy building. He requested that we do the same.

I said that we regretfully accepted his decision but that we wanted to make absolutely certain the President understood that we were ready to resume discussion of all problems, including those concerning the Panama Canal treaties, provided only there was no duress and no pre-condition about a prior agreement to "structurally revise" the treaties.

The President said further discussions about the existing treaties were useless. The condition to resumption of relations was that we agree to make a fresh start, to consider the treaties abrogated and to sit down to negotiate a new one fair to Panama and fair to the United States.

The conversation to this point was largely in Spanish. I asked the President for permission to repeat in English to my colleagues what he had just said. I did this and the President, who speaks English fairly well, confirmed in English that my summary was accurate.

Mr. Dungan then said that he found it difficult to reconcile

this position with the friendly conversations about United States-

Panamanian relations which he and President Kennedy had had in 1962 in Washington./2/ Dungan said that emphasis in these meetings had been on reaching "practical solutions to practical problems."

/2/ A memorandum of this conversation, June 12, 1962, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. XII, Document 405.

President Chiari said that he and President Kennedy had indicated sympathy to a fresh start to discussions about the Zone which did not take into account the existing treaties. A Joint Commission was set up. Since then little had been accomplished, he said, because the Americans said this or that issue was ruled by existing treaties or for other reasons. So the Joint Commission accomplished nothing. It was no use to start this kind of thing again.

President Chiari, continuing to speak in English, then said that United States equipment at the Rio Hato base should be evacuated by sea instead of being taken overland where it would be seen by Panamanians. The evacuation could be done by sea, in landing craft already at the base, and it would be all right if this were done in three or four weeks. Meanwhile the Guardia would protect the base and after its evacuation the Government would use the base buildings as schools to protect them. Neither we nor the President mentioned base personnel or the agreement under which we occupy the base. We made no comment on the statements about the Rio Hato base save to say we would look into this matter.

At this point, I asked if the three of us might speak to the President and the Foreign Minister alone. The Assistant Chief of Protocol, the Chief of Protocol and Captain Boyd of the Guardia (really of the Presidential Guard), who were sitting down the drawing room were then asked to leave, and they did.

I then said that, entirely unrelated to the topics we had discussed, and because we would not soon be talking directly to each other again, I wished him to know that, according to our intelligence:

a) The Castroites, the Communists, have penetrated high positions in his Government and among them were advisors to the President himself./3/

/3/ On January 13 Helms provided the Department of State with information linking Panamanian official Thelma King and the Arias Madrid family, including presidential hopeful Arnulfo Arias, with the Castro regime. (Memorandum from Helms to Hughes; Central Intelligence Agency, Job 78-03041R, DDO/IMS Files, [file name not declassified])

b) Castro would soon be trying to introduce arms into Panama.

c) Most of the persons just arrested for leading the recent riots have been released.

The President only nodded. He made no comment. I said I thought the President should know about our conclusions, based on our intelligence, because, though we were interested in stability in and peace with Panama, communism was even a greater danger to Panama than it was to the United States.

Finally, I asked if I could speak frankly about one final point: Since we would have no relations, I wanted to make absolutely clear that it was up to us to maintain order in the Canal Zone and to prevent invasions from the Zone into Panamanian territory; and equally it was up to the Government of Panama to maintain order in Panamanian territory and prevent invasions of people from Panamanian territory into the Zone. There should be no mistake. We would have to defend ourselves, including the women and children in the Zone, if mobs should again force their way into the Zone. The casualties could be heavy. No one except the Government of Panama could prevent further intrusions into the Zone. The responsibility on both Governments to maintain peace during the break in relations was therefore a heavy one.

The President expressed his agreement and, after observing the amenities, we took our leave.

The conversations were carried out in an atmosphere which was rather solemn and official-like but everyone was polite at all times. There were no recriminations except perhaps that the President’s statements about past failures to reach agreement could be called almost bitter.


377. Memorandum of Conference With the President/1/

Washington, January 13, 1964, 9:45 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of McGeorge Bundy, Miscellaneous Meetings, Vol. I. Secret. Prepared by Bromley Smith.

Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, Director McCone, Under Secretary Ball, Mr. Chayes, Mr. Lansing Collins (State), Mr. Jenkins (part time), Mr. Moyers, Mr. Bundy, Mr. Bromley Smith

There was no formal discussion between 9:45 PM and 10:00 PM when the Mann delegation/2/ arrived in the Cabinet Room. The President informally commented on a State Department draft press statement to be issued at the conclusion of the meeting./3/

/2/ The Mann delegation, which had just returned from Panama were: Mann, Vance, Dungan, and Colonel J.C. King.

/3/ For the statement as released on January 14, see Department of State Bulletin, February 3, 1964, p. 156.

Assistant Secretary Mann reported that there was a possibility of a revolution in Panama tonight. The delegation had learned that Arias might join with the Communists to overthrow Chiari. Several members of the delegation stated that Chiari was in trouble from both the right and the left and agreed that his overthrow was a possibility. Mr. Mann stated his view that the U.S. should not intervene with U.S. troops in a Panamanian coup unless it was clear that the revolutionists would be successful.

The members of the delegation paused to read a CIA report which had been [1 line of source text not declassified]. The report indicated there was some substance to a plan for a coup to be launched tonight./4/

/4/ Not found. Similar reports are in a telegram from Martin and O’Meara to Mann and Vance, received January 13 at 10:10 p.m. (USCINCSO SG1186A, January 13; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23-8 PAN)

Secretary McNamara left the room to telephone General O’Meara,/5/ Commander of the Southern Forces, to instruct him to get to Chiari the report of the coup plans. General O’Meara was to tell Chiari that our informing him of the coup plans was evidence of our support of him against a revolutionary group.

/5/ At 9:45 p.m. in the first of two telephone calls McNamara made during this meeting to O’Meara, McNamara told him to "give the substance of the message that is there to President Chiari." (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) Also see footnote 7 below.

Mr. Mann reported on the delegation’s conversation with Chiari this afternoon./6/ The Panama President returned to the position taken during the first talks, i.e., Panama will not discuss any problem with the U.S. until the U.S. agrees to revise the three existing treaties with Panama.

/6/ See Document 376.

With respect to a possible coup in Panama, Mr. Mann recommended that if Chiari requested our assistance, we should intervene in the Panamanian Republic with U.S. troops. If Chiari appears to be losing to a coup led by Arias and the Communists, we should intervene after a request from Chiari. Mr. Mann’s view was that Chiari appears to have the support of the people, and, therefore, the chances of Arias and the Communists overthrowing him is not great. He admitted that the loyalty of the Panamanian National Guard would be crucial in a revolutionary situation.

The President said that we cannot permit Arias and the Communists to take over Panama. We should immediately inform General O’Meara.

Mr. Mann said that General O’Meara could tell General Vallarino, the Commander of the Panamanian National Guard, that we will not let the Communists take over Panama. In case the Guard was thinking of defecting from Chiari, we could tell them that we would support the existing government against an Arias-Communist coup. Also, General O’Meara could tell General Vallarino that if the Guard needed help in preventing a Communist take-over, we would help the Guard. Chiari would also be told of our intentions.

Secretary Rusk wondered whether we should tell Arias. He was thinking of a pro-American, such as Robles, who may have the loyalty of the National Guard, with whom we could work more easily than Chiari. He thought that perhaps we should tell the Guard and Robles.

The President asked why we should not tell Arias that we have received reports that Communists are trying to take over. We could say that the U.S. will not accept a Communist take-over and anyone who goes with them we will oppose as well.

Secretary McNamara left the room with Secretary Rusk and the President to telephone General O’Meara./7/ The substance of the conversation is contained in a copy of the message attached to these minutes./8/ The President and Secretary Rusk were present and participated in the discussion of each point as it was given by Secretary McNamara to General O’Meara.

/7/ The instructions given O’Meara during the second telephone call at 10:30 p.m. were confirmed by telegram (see footnote 8 below) at the request of President Johnson. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Panama Riots, Vol. II, Part A, January-February 1964)

/8/ Telegram CAP 64020, January 14, 12:37 p.m. (Ibid.)

In response to the President’s request, Mr. Mann gave additional information on his talks with President Chiari, who is probably under heavy pressure from National Guard leaders and Panamanian businessmen because of his hostility toward the U.S. Mr. Mann believes that Chiari will eventually agree to talk with us even though he refuses to do so now. He recommended that we play our cards very carefully until such time as internal pressure in Panama forces him to accept our basis for discussions. In response to the President’s question, Mr. Mann said Chiari advisers, several of whom are left-wing Communists, are telling Chiari to hold out because the U.S. will give in to his demands.

The President asked whether we could prove that arms had reached Panama from outside. He was told that we have considerable substantial evidence but no actual proof that Cuba or any other country has shipped arms to Panama.

Mr. Mann said that Chiari’s actions were irrational and not in the interests of Panama. Secretary Rusk said that he believed Chiari’s advisers could make a rational case in support of Chiari’s refusal to negotiate with us now. Looking at it from the Panamanian side, Chiari’s advisers could say that he should keep pushing against us, thereby building support for Panama’s case among members of the OAS and the UN. Even if Panama did not win full support in these two organizations, the difficulties caused to us would prompt us to come closer to meeting the Panamanian demands. Thus, by refusing to talk now, Panama could expect to create a situation which they might think would force us to be more forthcoming on treaty negotiations.

Mr. Mann said that President Chiari had told us that we would have to leave our base at Rio Hato and remove the equipment now there.

In response to a question from the President as to what we should now do, Mr. Mann said we should play the entire problem in low key during the Presidential elections in Panama. A longer range plan should be developed involving negotiations with Colombia and Nicaragua for permission to build a sea-level canal in their territories. Once these two options were obtained, we could return to the Panamanians and tell them that we were going to build a sea-level canal either in Colombia or in Nicaragua which would greatly reduce the importance of the existing Panama Canal. The Panamanians would then be prepared to make a satisfactory deal with us. Mr. Mann stated that a sea-level canal could be built for approximately $300 million and was already required. Because it would be built at sea level, few people would be required to operate it since it would have no locks. The security problem would also be less.

Under Secretary Ball demurred with respect to the need for a sea-level canal and said it would cost billions and was not required on the basis of existing traffic for the year 2000.

Mr. Mann asked and received the President’s permission to develop a long-range plan which would meet the serious situation in Panama. He said we could not solve the dangerous situation which now exists unless we came up with a long-range plan to satisfy Panamanian demands.

In response to Secretary Rusk’s question, Secretary Vance said we could operate the Panama Canal independent of any help from Panama if we had to. Panamanians residing in the Canal Zone could operate it if necessary. Therefore, we can operate the Canal without Panamanian cooperation. This means that we are not obliged to find an immediate solution to the present problems because we face the prospect of not being able to keep the Canal open.

Secretary McNamara returned to the room following a second conversation with General O’Meara who reported that the coup information contained in the CIA message had been passed to Chiari in a meeting attended by one of Chiari’s advisers who is a known Communist. General O’Meara believed that this Communist would relay our knowledge of the Communist coup to his party members. Therefore, General O’Meara concluded that any coup was stopped for tonight.

The President asked whether we had proof that Castro was involved in the Panama rioting. Mr. Mann said we had received reports of Cuban arms going to Panama, but we had no conclusive proof./9/ Not enough time had elapsed since the riots began for Castro to send armed support to Panama. Secretary Vance said we did, in his opinion, have evidence of Castro’s support.

/9/ [text not declassified] (Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80-B01285A, DCI (McCone) Files, Meetings with the President)

Director McCone said that one of our informants had told us last August that there would be trouble in Panama in January, that Panama was Castro’s number one priority target, and that Castro had agreed to send arms to revolutionary elements in Panama.

The President asked whether there were any more reports of crisis situations in Latin American countries. He expressed his concern that the Administration would be accused of knowing exactly what was going to happen and not doing anything. He did not want to have a Pearl Harbor type situation on his hands. He asked what we had done on the basis of the report Mr. McCone referred to. Mr. Bundy replied that he believed it was fair to say that the intelligence community had not predicted that civil disorder would break out in Panama as it had. He knew of no other crisis situation, with the possible exception of Bolivia, where an effort may be made by the leftists to overthrow La Paz’s government. In response to the question of what we had done, Secretary Rusk said we had exchanged information with the Latin American countries about Castro’s activities.

The President asked Mr. Mann to give a detailed report on his trip to Panama. Mr. Mann began by calling attention to the exemplary way in which our military forces in the Canal Zone had handled a very difficult situation. Mr. Dungan and Secretary Vance fully agreed with this statement. Mr. Mann said that the group’s final meeting with Chiari was as tough as the first and quite different from the friendly attitude which prevailed in meetings with other Panamanian officials between the first and final Chiari meeting. Mr. Mann said the Panamanians had broken relations with us before the delegation had even arrived in Panama and now refused to renew relations. He said it was possible that the OAS peace commission might bring about a restoration of relations. He predicted continuing and growing trouble in Panama in the days ahead.

Secretary Rusk made the following points:

(1) We cannot be pushed out of Panama because we have overwhelming force there. Some 8000 U.S. troops could easily handle the few thousand National Guardsmen in Panama. The President asked whether this was so, and Secretary McNamara said it was.

(2) U.S. presence in the Canal Zone is so beneficial to Panama that responsible Panamanians realize that the Republic’s economic future depends on our remaining in the Zone.

(3) The members of the OAS peace commission have indicated that they are fed up with the Panamanian attitude and are not hostile to us. Their attitude will be reflected in the attitude of several Latin American governments.

(4) We will be supported in our insistence on conditions which permit us to continue operation of the Canal by those countries which are interested in the unhampered use of and in the security of the Canal.

On the other side, Secretary Rusk said that the Panamanians can make things very difficult for us in the OAS and in the UN. Additionally, there are many who will have sympathy for the Panamanians because they believe we have not been fair to the Panamanians. We must acknowledge that the heavy-handed way in which we have handled treaty matters in the past has led some to lose sympathy with us.

Secretary Vance said that while there are many problems, the crucial issue is U.S. sovereignty. If we lose our sovereignty in the Zone, he doubts we can protect the Canal.

Mr. Mann said we must face the fact that the Panamanian aim is full control of the Zone. If we agree to treaty revisions now, the Panamanians will demand more changes before the ink is even dry on the new treaty. The unsatisfactory situation cannot be solved without major changes in the future. He repeated his belief that we must consider building a sea-level canal.

Mr. Ball said one thing we could do promptly would be to reconstitute the Panama Canal Board which is now not attuned to the situation in Panama.

Secretary McNamara said an immediate requirement was the naming of a political chief who would speak for the U.S. Government and be above the Commander-in-Chief, Southern Forces, as well as the Governor of the Canal Zone. Mr. Dungan filled in details of the three sources of power now which exist under present U.S. organization arrangements. Secretary McNamara said in his view the U.S. Ambassador should be the chief and should boss the entire operation. Secretary Rusk had certain doubts that a U.S. Ambassador, based in the Republic of Panama, could operate the Canal, which is a huge business enterprise, employing thousands of people.

The meeting was interrupted while the President and others read a report of Foreign Minister Solis’ press conference. It now appears that the Panamanians are willing to talk without prior commitments and without an agenda. This is our position also.

The remainder of the meeting was spent in redrafting the press statement made at the conclusion of the meeting (copy attached).

(Note: This is only a partial record because of my absence during part of the meeting.)/10/

/10/ Another account of this White House meeting was made by J.C. King whose account records three points not covered by Smith: (1) Mann had indicated that he believed "eventually we should negotiate with the Panamanians, but that there should be no fixed requirements levied upon us before sitting down to discuss demands"; (2) in response to the President’s inquiry, Vance indicated that U.S. troops showed great restraint and did not provoke the Panamanians; and (3) the President said "we must be firm but not inflammatory." He also said "we have done nothing to be ashamed of," and that "in public statements we do not want to give any impression we are willing to consider revision of the Treaty." (Memorandum from King to McCone, January 15; ibid.)

Bromley Smith/11/

/11/ Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


378. Telephone Conversation Among President Johnson, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann), and Ralph Dungan of the National Security Council Staff/1/

Washington, January 14, 1964, 1:03 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation among President Johnson, Thomas Mann, and Ralph Dungan, Tape F64.05, Side B, PNO 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume. According to Mann’s record of this conversation, he called the President to advise him of the latest information he had received from Martin in Panama, and Dungan was in Mann’s office during his telephone conversation with the President. (Ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 4, 1964-April 30, 1965)

[Omitted here is the opening portion of the conversation which was not recorded. According to Mann’s record of the conversation, which covers the opening portion of the discussion, Martin reported that the OAS Peace Committee informed him that Chiari had agreed to three things: (1) "The Panamanians will not withdraw their personnel from Washington and we will not need to withdraw our personnel from Panama"; (2) "All conversations between us and the Panamanians will be conducted through the Committee and the Committee wants it this way. Mr. Mann said he thought this was a good idea"; and (3) "According to Velarde (press secretary) Panamanians are now agreeable to settling the bus strike on reasonable terms. Mr. Mann said this was very important." (Johnson Library, Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 4, 1964-April 30, 1965) Martin’s report of the Peace Commission’s 5:30 p.m. meeting, January 13, 1964, is in USCINCSO telegram SC1188A, January 14. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Panama, Riots, Vol. II, Part A, January-February)]

Mann: Solis said-that’s the Foreign Minister-he has told the Committee that they are now willing to agree that if they have bilateral talks with us-new relations-and if we fail to reach an agreement, Panama will recognize the old treaty-the 1903 treaty and the two amendments still stand. In other words, this means they’re not revoking the treaty, and that is, I think, very important. According to the

Foreign Minister, they estimate the talks will take 2 to 3 years before they’re concluded. That will give us plenty of time, and it will take plenty of time to go into all these things in depth. Takes the heat off immediately, and this is also important./2/

/2/ In his assessment of Martin’s discussions with the Peace Committee on January 13, Bundy told the President that, "in sum, they show a substantial back-off by Solis from the position taken by Chiari with Mann." Bundy informed the President: "There is some evidence that the Panamanians are feeling for a way to get discussion going without sticking firmly to their talk of agreement to discuss revision of the treaties. This is clearly what the Peace Committee wants and is pressing them for. But when directly pressed on this point, Solis did not budge and the formal position is just as it has been-the Panamanians say that relations are broken and will remain broken until we agree to discuss revision of the treaties." (Memorandum from Bundy to the President, January 14; ibid., Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. I, November 1963-February 1964)

Now, the Panamanians, according to the Committee, always-they’ve been shifting so fast you can’t be sure-are now willing to resume relations and begin talks on the whole range of problems between the U.S. and Panama, which would include treaties, and undoubtedly would include their demands for treaty revision. They would agree at the same time to continue law and order in the Zone and avoid violence, which is the main point. There would be no agenda to these talks and no pre-commitments on our part. We would not commit ourselves to anything; just begin to talk-negotiate. The question that the Committee asked Ed Martin is, how soon would he be prepared to begin talking. The Panamanians have said it may take them a couple or three months to get ready. We should answer that we would be ready in a month and sooner, if necessary. Just to keep the record straight on this.

Dungan: After O’Meara has satisfied himself that order has been restored-would be a couple of days.

Mann: Now, the Panamanians were, I think, unreasonably, but nevertheless-I am sure this is an important political factor-disturbed about our references to the soldiers. They don’t know yet about Vance meeting with the press, on the record, which is still going on-or was a couple of minutes ago-and they don’t know about the Secretary’s television conference. I thought I would call Ed about those so he can get word to the Committee beforehand and prepare them on these in case there’s something in there, and if we get this-if we can get this, Mr. President, I think we’ve achieved substantially everything that you asked us to. I think it’s a good deal for us.

President: What do we get out of it besides a lot of talking with them and their raisin’ hell about revisin’ the treaties?

Mann: Well, the first thing you do is-that situation down there is so explosive that we avoid large-scale, major large-scale casualties-prevent it. Give us time to get tempers time to cool down there and sit down and look at the thing, and there may well be things that we can readily agree to, and try to find a basis for agreement between us and the Panamanians. That preserves all our vital interests and, I think this is something we should [unintelligible].

Dungan: You’re not, Mr. President, if you move back exactly to the position that the United States was in prior to the time of this outbreak-and you have gained, it seems to me, for what it’s worth, the approbation of all of Latin America. Position, I think, is much stronger in Latin America because we have stood up strongly, you haven’t been oppressive, and you haven’t lost a bloody thing. You’re no different on the treaty revision part than you were before the outbreak began.

Mann: We’re not conceding anything yet except that we’re ready to talk. That’s all we’re-

President: You don’t think there will be an interpretation placed on setting these conferences that we’re implying that we’re goin’ into ’em with good faith to revise the treaty?

Mann: Well.

Dungan: As a matter of fact, Mr. President, it seems to me after you’ve had an opportunity-now I realize that there’s a distinction between the substantive and political-but after you’ve had a chance to review a lot of these issues and after they’ve been talked through over a couple of years, it probably will be-you will come to the conclusion that you will want some treaty revision without substantially changing our sovereign right or your "as is" sovereign rights in the Canal Zone.

Mann: I agree with you that the way this was phrased is very important.

Dungan: Very.

Mann: What I suggest on that is that we, through the Committee with the Panamanians in both ways we will-discussion will include something like the whole range of U.S.-Panamanian relations. Try to avoid-

President: I sure don’t want to imply that I’m goin’ to sit down and talk to ’em about changes that I’ll make in the treaties and revise the whole thing, and all they got to do is burn the USIS, Embassy, and then we come in-hat in hand-and say come on boys, we’ll let you write your ticket.

Mann: We’ve agreed, as I said earlier, that there are no preconditions. We’re not committing ourselves to any treaty revisions.

President: Well, just make that awfully clear in our statement-all right?

Dungan: And also, they’re very insistent on not giving any of this publicity, is that right, Tom?

Mann: Right. I’m coming to that. The Committee, not the Panamanian Government, is putting the pressure on both us and the

Panamanians to avoid official statements to the press until we can get time to talk and let tempers cool down. In the long run, Mr. President, we’re going to be judged by our deeds and not our words.

President: But you may not be around to judge ’em if they think we’re sittin’ down to revise some treaties, Tom.

Mann: Well, that’s true, and I think we have to go up on the Hill and explain very clearly what-

President: Did you go up there this mornin’?

Mann: Haven’t been up yet, sir, but I’m waiting for Vance to get through.

President: Uh huh.

Dungan: I called Dan Flood this morning.

President: How did Vance get along? Anybody know?

Mann: We don’t know yet.

Dungan: Not finished yet.

Mann: I think I will get up this afternoon and talk to Vance and work out a plan to get in touch with some key people on the Hill.

President: I think that’s very good. Okay. Anything else?

Mann: That’s all, sir, but is it all right to say that we will agree to-

President: I think we can always agree to talk and listen. I don’t want to imply that we’re-by so doin’-that we’re making any commitment of any kind.

Mann: All right, sir.

President: I want to be fair and want to be reasonable and want to be just to these people, and if we’ve got problems with wage scales or arrogant military people or Zonites that cause these troubles, or any improvement or changes we can make, we’re anxious to do it-wage scales, or whatever it is. But if they think that all they gotta do is to burn a USIS and shoot four or five soldiers and then we come runnin’ in and-hat in hand-well, that’s a different proposition.

Mann: No, I think this is clear. We’ve won our point. We’re not going to negotiate under duress-that is, until law and order is restored.

President: What do you mean that they’re upset about what we said about the soldiers? Do you mean about their behavin’ admirably under extreme provocation?

Mann: Yes. [chuckle] They’re the most unreasonable people, Mr. President, you can imagine, but we still have to live with them [unintelligible].

President: Well, you better go on and get started on your other Canal-

Mann: Well, that’s what I think, too.

President: I do, too, and I thought so before you got back here. So, the quicker you get on it, the better off we’ll-

Mann: I’ll tell Ed that we will agree to tell the Committee we will agree to discuss the whole range of U.S.-Panamanian relations.

President: Have you talked to Secretary Rusk and McNamara?

Mann: I talked to Ball-Mr. Rusk is at dinner, but I think I will touch base with him . . .

President: Did you talk to McNamara?

Mann: Not yet.

President: Talk to McNamara and if it’s agreeable to them, it’s okay by me.

Mann: All right sir. Thank you very much.

President: Bye.


379. Editorial Note

On January 15, 1964, the Inter-American Peace Committee issued a communiqué noting its satisfaction with "the re-establishment of peace" between the United States and Panama, "which is an indispensable condition for understanding and negotiation between the parties." The English-language version of the communiqué reported that the parties have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and "have agreed to begin discussions which will be initiated thirty days after diplomatic relations are re-established by means of representatives who will have sufficient powers to discuss without limitations all existing matters of any nature which may affect the relations between the United States and Panama." (Department of State Bulletin, February 3, 1964, page 156)

Initial reaction to the communiqué in Washington indicated that the crisis may have passed. At the January 15 daily White House staff meeting, Bundy commented that "our success in Panama thus far is largely due to the first-rate personal performance of the President." (Memorandum for the record prepared by William Y. Smith, January 15; National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Chairman’s Staff Group)

Following release of the communiqué in Panama, however, a dispute arose between the parties over interpretation of the text whether the Spanish word "negociar" meant "discuss," as it appeared in the English text, or "negotiate," as the Panamanians argued. According to a January 16 memorandum from Bundy to Johnson, President Chiari said in a public statement on January 15: "I promised the nation that diplomatic relations would not be re-established with the United States until that country consented to begin negotiations for the drafting of a new treaty, and this promise has been obtained through the mediation of the Inter-American Peace Committee.’ " (Memorandum to the President from Bundy, January 16; Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. I, November 1963-February 1964) According to a report from Martin in Panama, Foreign Minister Solis had said to him: "Chiari had to say what he did because ‘Communists are still agitating and the university students have not understood IPC communiqué.’ " (Telegram SC12300A from Martin to Mann, January 15; ibid., NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964)

President Johnson told Rusk on January 16: "I think we sit tight on the Peace Committee’s statement. It’s possible that some of the left-wingers will try to force Chiari’s hand but I think we’ve gone about as far as we can go at this point, and I think he’ll find a way to swing around and not cause too much trouble." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Secretary Rusk, January 16, 1:15 p.m.; ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.06, Side A, PNO 4)


380. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Panama/1/

Washington, January 16, 1964, 12:01 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Panama Crisis, 1964. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Mann and cleared by Rusk and the White House. A copy was passed to the White House.

7294. For Martin from Mann. In view of the agreement that all discussions between the United States and Panama should be through the Peace Committee and risk that Chiari will use meeting with you for his own political purposes, suggest that you postpone your meeting with Chiari and convey orally following message to Trucco with request that he orally deliver message to Chiari in our behalf:

1. From the beginning we have made it clear to all concerned that the United States is willing, in language of English text of Peace Committee report, "to discuss without limitation all existing matters of any nature which may affect the relations between the United States and Panama." As the minutes of the Peace Committee show, this clearly means that the Government of Panama would be free to raise any questions it wished.

2. We will not negotiate under pressures whether these pressures be aggressions against the Canal Zone or threats of mob violence or the breaking of diplomatic relations or any other kinds of pressures. Nor will the United States accept Panamanian pre-conditions as Panama’s price for being willing to discuss issues with the United States.

3. Our insistence on the word "discuss" rather than the word "negotiate" in the Peace Committee’s English version of the communiqué was to avoid any possibility that the Government of Panama would interpret the phrase "negotiate without limitations" as any kind of a pre-commitment to replace the existing treaties with a new treaty. In this connection, the United States notes that according to a report appearing in The New York Times of January 16:

"President Chiari, in a ten minute broadcast, stated categorically that Panama regarded Washington’s accord to ‘negotiate without limitations’ as a commitment to replace existing treaties with a new one."

4. The English text of the Peace Committee report therefore uses the word "discuss" instead of "negotiate". The United States acquiesced in translating the word "discuss" as "negociar" in the Spanish text only because the word "discutir" was thought by some to have a connotation of conflict. The minutes of the Peace Committee clearly show however that the consistent United States position was that stated in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this memorandum.

5. The issue therefore was and remains simply this: Is the Government of Panama agreeable to discussions with the United States covering the whole range of issues affecting United States and Panamanian relations? Or does the Government of Panama refuse to enter into discussions with the United States unless the United States first agrees to Panamanian preconditions about replacing or structurally revising existing treaties?



381. Memorandum From the Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense (Vance) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/

Washington, January 22, 1964.

/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD/ISA Files, FRC 330 68 A 4023, Panama, 1964. Top Secret.

It is requested that you develop contingency plans for U.S. military intervention in the Republic of Panama/2/ under the following circumstances:

/2/ An entry in the President’s Daily Diary, dictated by Valenti, indicates that at 8:30 a.m. on January 22 the President "instructed Secretary of Defense McNamara to have plans ready for any contingency in Panama. If a coup is used, let us have detailed plans prepared for it." (Johnson Library)

1. The present Government of Panama requests U.S. military assistance to prevent its overthrow by Communist/Castro oriented political groupings.

2. A Communist/Castro oriented government has seized power in Panama and a decision is made by the U.S. to intervene for the purpose of replacing it with a government friendly to the interests of the U.S.

Under each of the assumptions listed above, planning should envision two separate responses by the Guardia Nacional./3/ These are:

/3/ In a telephone conversation with Mann at 9:30 a.m. on January 22, the President expressed his concern about the capabilities of the Panamanian National Guard and reported that he had asked McNamara "to get ready for the worse if something happened down there." Although Mann told the President that "the relationship between the Army and the Guard is good," the President felt that it might be necessary to seal off the Canal Zone "for security reasons." (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Mann and President Johnson, January 22; ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 14, 1964-April 30, 1965)

1. Guardia opposes the Communist takeover.

2. Guardia supports the Communist takeover, is neutral, or is divided in its loyalties.

The purpose of the military action will be to establish sufficient control over selected territories in the Republic of Panama as to permit a non-Communist government to exercise power in the Republic. Minimum force will be utilized to achieve this objective. Further, the planning should envision the earliest possible withdrawal of U.S. forces after the objective is achieved.

These plans should be developed as a matter of priority./4/

/4/ The JCS informed USCINCSO the night of January 22 that Major General F.T. Unger of the Joint Staff, representing General Taylor, would arrive in Panama January 23 to consult with O’Meara and Martin and assist in the development of contingency plans that would be "for priority consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff." (JCS telegram 4506 to CINCSO, January 22; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, DEF 1-1 PAN) McNamara sent the President a summary of the JCS plan for military intervention in Panama on January 31. The concept of the plan was based on quick reaction, early seizure of centers of power within Panama City, securing the installations and borders of the Canal Zone, and secondarily sealing of Colon because it was a "Communist stronghold." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Panama Riots, Vol. II, Part F, January-February, 1964)

Cyrus R. Vance/5/

/5/ Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


382. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell/1/

Washington, January 22, 1964, 6:55 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Richard Russell, Tape F64.07, Side A, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

[Omitted here is a brief conversation not related to Panama. The President then read Senator Russell a press statement on Panama he planned to make. Johnson subsequently issued the statement on Panama, slightly revised but with no substantive changes from the text as described to Russell, to news correspondents on January 23. (Department of State Bulletin, February 10, 1964, pages 195-196)]

Russell: Well, I guess that’s all right, if you feel like you’ve got to issue a statement.

President: Well, I think we’ve got to get back to-

Russell: [Unintelligible] come in there and march across the Zone [unintelligible] across the Panama Canal Zone.

President: No, we’re not. They’re-

Russell: Come and walk across-go swimmin’ in the locks if he wants to.

President: Yeah, but our people-no, we don’t. We don’t want ’em to leave. They think they can put that Canal out of commission-6 months mighty easy, and we got to be awfully careful about security. And they’re not goin’ to let any mobs come in there, and they’re not goin’ to let Castro set up a new government, although every night they think he’s goin’ to-and we’re tryin’ to get the thing back.

Russell: I wish to hell he’d-Castro’d seize it. Then, maybe, dammit, those people in the State Department and these weepin’ sob sisters all over the country would let us go in there and protect our rights. I wish old Castro would seize it.

President: Well, now, this is pretty-don’t you think this is a pretty good statement? This is not State Department talk.

Russell: I know it.

President: It’s right out of my office here with Jack Valenti and Ted Sorensen.

Russell: [Unintelligible] you feel like you had to issue any statement.

President: Oh, I think I have to try it or do all I can to bring about an adjustment of some kind-

Russell: There’s people who are hurting-we ain’t hurting-we’re not-

President: Yeah, but-yes, we are hurtin’, Dick. We’re hurtin’ in the hemisphere and we’re hurtin’ in the world. That damn propaganda is all against us, and it’s just everywhere, it just looks-

Russell: I read a piece in the Manchester Guardian, and one in this London paper, and they both said that we ought to have learned by one mistake in Cuba not to make another now by surrendering here in Panama.

President: Well, we’re not surrendering. But I think that there are a good many chicken things that we can do and should do, and Vance thinks so, and thinks that we should have done ’em, and-for instance, we think that we’ve got a very archaic Board-Panama Canal-we think our governor is no good, he’s an old ex-military fellow. That Board of Engineers-that’s not up to it. Nobody thinks it is-Vance, General O’Meara.

Russell: Well, we’ve been retiring them off down there for a long time.

President: And we know our Ambassador wasn’t worth a damn. He just sold out to the Panamanians a hundred percent. Came back and denounced everybody, and that’s why he got fired-because he wanted to run for governor of West Virginia on the Republican ticket. But he said that he wanted-he’s one hundred percent Panamanian, and he was just raisin’ hell about what the Zonists were doing. We’ve got a list of things that’s two pages long/2/ that we can do and we ought to do, and that don’t sacrifice anything. But, there is some merit to their side-not in violence, not in shootin’ people, but what I think is-I don’t think I can get by with a press conference without this question comin’ up. I just think it’s as sure as the sea. I’ve got to see the Peace Commission in the mornin.’/3/ I’ve got to follow some kind of a discussion with ’em, and this has been pretty much my line.

/2/ The Department of State plan described 14 specific actions which could be taken in the Canal Zone to improve relations with Panama, 8 potential minor revisions to the Canal Treaty that would have the same effect, and discussed a potential sea level canal. (Attachment to a covering memorandum from Read to Bundy, January 21; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US)

/3/ The President received the Inter-American Peace Committee at the White House at 10:40 a.m.; the meeting lasted no later than 11:05 a.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of the conversation has been found.

Russell: Yeah, you’re not changing your position any. I just thought I’d let him sweat for a while there.

President: Well, I am. I’m lettin’ him sweat.

Russell: Have you withdrawn your aid yet?

President: Yeah, we’re not giving them a damn thing, and furthermore, just confidentially, I’ve moved all of our dependents-I’m movin’ ’em out to South Carolina.

Russell: Well, if you’ve done that, you’ll hear from Chiari before long and he’ll be on his knees. I just wouldn’t be too swift if I were you.

President: I’m not. I’m goin’ to wait until day after tomorrow. I’m goin’ to wait another day or two. But-

Russell: Hold it just as long as you can, Mr. President. You’ve got all the cards-and this damn yappin’ over here about this OAS-it don’t amount to a thing-just because they feel like they’ve got to stick together whenever one-you got to get down and really talk to ’em underneath the bed sheets, they say. Well, I don’t blame you a damn bit.

President: I came back here last night from the Canadian Embassy and Rusk and the whole outfit met with me and I stayed up until 2:00. I was at the desk at 1:00, and I was the only man in the room that said, "No." I didn’t have Vance and McNamara, but I told every one of ’em-

Russell: Rusk belongs to the New York Times, Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

President: I said I am not about-not one goddamned bit-as long as I’m President, which is goin’ to be for 11 months, gentlemen-I’m not about to get on my knees and go crawlin’ to him and say I want to apologize to you for you shootin’ my soldiers; by God I ain’t goin’ to do it. I wasn’t raised in that school, and they hushed up and didn’t say anything. But I’m gettin’ ready to have a press conference and I got to be prepared-and I’m goin’ to be prepared on everything if I can, and this is one of the things to be prepared on. And I just want to check it with you before I-

Russell: Well, if you got to issue a statement, that’s about as good as you can make.

President: All right. Okay. You know anything else?

Russell: I was hoping you might defer it.

President: Well, I’m goin’ to defer it. I’m goin’ to defer it.

Russell: I think you’ve got all the cards, and the little flurry here in the States-Rusk and that crowd, I imagine, Cousin Adlai-I haven’t seen or heard from him, but I imagine Cousin Adlai is-

President: I haven’t heard a word from him. I haven’t heard a word from him.

Russell: But the people of this country are just one million percent back of your position.

President: Well, I don’t know whether they know it or not, but I did get a poll in Pennsylvania today that shows-

Russell: I know it-you ask any Congressman or Senator about his mail.

President: Do you know what Pennsylvania-a fellow running up there for Senate took the most reputable poll in Pennsylvania today and you know it shows I get more Republicans than the Republicans get, and I beat Scranton 79 to 20. I beat Goldwater 82 to 17 in Pennsylvania.

Russell: You just go on and do what is in this country’s interest, and tell Rusk and these other fellows to jump in the lake, and it’ll stay that way. The American people have been crying for somebody that had some of the elements of "Old Hickory" Jackson in him. They thought they had him in old Ike, but Ike had to be a captive of those people because he didn’t know what else to do. You know this government; you know the world. Ike-he was limited in his experience and afraid of himself, so he leaned completely on John Foster Dulles.

President: Well, everybody is when you get-

Russell: I know, but somebody down there just got to take the bull by the horns one of these days and play the part of old Andrew Jackson-say, "well gentlemen, this is it."

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Panama.]


383. Editorial Note

On January 25, 1964, President Johnson telephoned Assistant Secretary Mann to inquire whether the Inter-American Peace Committee was making any progress on a draft agreement on resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Panama. Mann replied that "we do not have a solution," and "we don’t want to agree on anything before checking with the President." Mann said that "he did not think the President should be too optimistic because when he sounded optimistic this encouraged the Panamanians to think that we were willing to agree to what they wanted." He told the President that he, Vance, and Dungan would be working some more on the draft and "thought it best not to bother the President until they had their homework done." Johnson asked Mann to get the draft into shape. (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Mann and President Johnson, January 25, 12:20 p.m.; Johnson Library, Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 14, 1964-April 30, 1965)

The President received a copy of the draft the afternoon of January 25. Asked if he concurred by Acting Secretary of State George Ball, the President stated: "I don’t want to be pinned to it for another 30 minutes." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and George Ball, January 25, 2:05 p.m.; ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.07, Side B, PNO 4) Johnson then called Senator Russell and told him he thought the draft was "all right, but I just didn’t want to wrap it up and get it tied" without getting Russell’s views. The President was concerned that "there’s some sleeper in it" he couldn’t see. He then read the text of the draft agreement:

"The governments of Panama and the United States have accepted the invitation made to them by the Peace Committee with a view to reestablishing diplomatic relations between the two countries as soon as possible, and to seek prompt elimination of the causes of tension between the two countries. The parties have agreed between themselves that 15 days after having reestablished the above mentioned relations, they will appoint special ambassadors with sufficient powers to negotiate-in other words to discuss-a good faith attempt to resolve all the problems without any limitations whatsoever that affect the relations between the countries." The draft concluded: "Each of the governments shall be absolutely free to present for discussion any matter and take any position they deem necessary. All agreements reached will be promptly implemented in accordance with the constitutional processes of each government."

Russell indicated that the draft "sounds all right" but "the State Department will use that as a basis to-just to try to negotiate that treaty away." The President pointed out that Tom Mann was the key official on this matter and "he’s the strongest guy over there." Russell then noted: "I see you’ve got that word ‘negotiate’ in there, and that was what the breach was over before, wasn’t it?" He thought the issue was over "the difference between ‘discuss’ and ‘negotiate’." Johnson said that "one was ‘discuss’ the problems and the other was ‘negotiate’ a treaty. I didn’t want to agree before I sat down to ‘negotiate’ a new treaty. I agreed to sit down and talk and discuss any problems but discussing a problem and negotiating a treaty is a different thing." Johnson continued, "I don’t mind negotiatin’ on the problems-that’s what I’m anxious to do-but I’m not willin’ to negotiate a treaty in advance." Russell then indicated that he thought that was "all right." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Richard Russell, January 25, 2:30 p.m.; ibid., Tape F64.07, Side B, PNO 5) The portion of the conversation printed here was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

The President then called Mann and said that "he did not want the word ‘negotiate’ to appear. He said ‘agree’ or ‘discuss’ are all right. He said it could read ‘with sufficient powers to enter into a good faith agreement to resolve all the problems’ " between the countries. Johnson told Mann he was ready to approve the draft with that modification. Mann said he didn’t think the Panamanians "were going to buy" the modified draft. He said he "thought their whole idea in the wording was to make it appear that we were going to scrap the old treaty and start negotiating a new one." He said he thought "we could live with the draft we had given the President." (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Mann and Johnson, January 25, 3:05 p.m.; ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 14, 1964-April 30, 1965) There is a recording of the Mann-

Johnson conversation which amplified their discussion. In this recording, President Johnson said, "Well, we don’t have to live with anything they give us." He continued, "Now, remember this: I think we’ve got the cards. I don’t give a damn what you say about Latin America-they’re goin’ to have to depend on us and they’re not goin’ to take over there. We’re goin’ to take over if anybody does, and the more they wait, the more they suffer and the more trouble they’re in, and they’ve got to come to us. We don’t have to come to them." He asked Mann if there was anything in the modified draft that indicated the U.S. was "caving," and Mann responded "no," not in the modified draft. (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, January 25, 2:50 p.m.; ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.07, Side B, PNO 7) The portion of the conversation printed here was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

On January 27 Mann called Johnson to inform him that "as we anticipated," the Panamanians had not bought the new draft agreement and that "an impasse had been reached." He also informed the President that the Peace Committee had "read the riot act" to Miguel Moreno, the Panamanian contact with the Peace Committee. (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Mann and President Johnson, January 27, 7:20 p.m.; ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, January 14, 1964-April 30, 1965) Mann also told Johnson that "we don’t like the language" being proposed by the Panamanians, and that they would continue their efforts to work out an acceptable agreement. (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, January 27, 7:20 p.m.; ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.08, Side A, PNO 5)

On January 29 President Johnson discussed the Panamanian revisions with Russell who felt, "this is utterly unreasonable. I thought we’d already gone too far, but when they come in and make us admit-make us agree in advance-to rewrite the treaty in some unknown way that we don’t even know, I just don’t believe any reasonable person would support that." (Recording of telephone conversation between the President and Russell, January 29, 10:30 a.m.; ibid., Side B, PNO 4) In a conversation with Senator Mansfield later that morning Johnson told him that the Peace Committee was about to break off negotiations because the Panamanians insist that the United States "revise these treaties in advance without knowing how they want them revised, and unless we agree to that, they want to take it to the OAS." Johnson stated, "I’m going to tell ’em that we just can’t do that." Mansfield agreed: "That’s right. You can’t do it and you can’t give them a blank check before you sit down." (Recording of telephone conversation between the President and Mansfield, January 29, 11:11 a.m., ibid., Tape 64.09, Side A, PNO 1) The portions of the conversations printed here were prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.


384. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, January 29, 1964.

/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US. Confidential. Drafted by Bunker.

Panamanian Complaints concerning the Canal Zone

Ambassador Tejera Paris, Chairman, Inter-American Peace Committee
Ambassador Miguel J. Moreno, Jr., of Panama
Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker of the United States

/2/ Bunker was confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Representative to the Council of the Organization of American States on January 23.

I suggested to Ambassador Tejera that it might be helpful if he, Ambassador Moreno and I could have an informal talk to see whether we could find any alternative formula which might bring the two sides closer together. Accordingly, we had lunch together, and in the course of our conversation I said to Ambassador Moreno that I thought it might be helpful if he could tell me the major issues with which Panama was concerned.

Ambassador Moreno replied that, in the first place, he wanted to make it clear that the nationalization, security, or demilitarization of the Canal was not an issue. Panama recognized that the security of the Canal was an obligation of the United States which it could not and should not give up.

The points, however, with which Panama was concerned were the following:

1. Perpetuity

The Ambassador said that he did not want to specify what might seem a reasonable period, but that some time limit should be written into the Treaty, and that there was a strong feeling among all Panamanians that the perpetuity clause was outdated and unnecessary today. He doubted that if a treaty were to be negotiated today anywhere, a perpetuity clause would be acceptable.

2. Re-examination of Panama’s Sovereign Rights in the Zone

Flying the flag, he said, is one way of achieving this. There has been a feeling, however, among Panamanians that whenever the question of sovereign rights is raised by Panama, the United States is prone to fall back on Article III of the 1903 Treaty.

3. Larger Benefits from Operation of the Canal

Ambassador Moreno felt that Panama should have a greater share in revenue from the Canal. Panama also felt that it suffered from unfair competition from U.S. commissaries, which sold luxury goods at very low prices.

4. The Position of Panamanian Workers

While the principle of equal pay applied, the fact was that most of the higher-paying jobs are occupied by Americans and the lower-paying ones, by Panamanians. The provision that security positions should be occupied only by Americans had been used to pre-empt positions for U.S. citizens. The number of security positions, he said, had been increased to some 3000 in order, it was felt, to eliminate Panamanians.

Ambassador Moreno went on to say that Panama was not intransigent, that President Roosevelt had agreed to negotiations in 1934, with the result that a treaty had been agreed to in 1936. President Eisenhower had also agreed to negotiate in 1953, and a treaty had been agreed to in 1955. It was difficult for him to understand, therefore, why the United States was so fearful of an agreement to negotiate. I explained to him again that the interpretation which President Chiari had put on the word had made agreement to negotiate a revision a pre-condition for entering negotiations. As I had explained in the meetings of the IAPC, this we could not and would not do. I did not believe that any country would be willing to enter negotiations on the basis of prior conditions.

Ambassador Moreno went on to say that because of past experience in negotiating with the United States, precise language in the communiqué to be issued by the IAPC was important. I asked whether he could suggest language and whether we could attempt to work out language which would be mutually acceptable. He then suggested the following as a substitute for paragraph 3:

"Within the thirty days following the re-establishment of said relations, the parties will designate Special Ambassadors with sufficient powers to reconsider, without limitation, the relations between the two countries, including the review (revisión) of the Treaties and other agreements regarding the Canal, with sufficient powers to enter into new pacts (pactos) which may result from said review."

I said that I would consult my government to see whether some such wording would be acceptable, and that I would meet with him and Ambassador Tejera after a meeting which was scheduled for the White House at 3:45 p.m./3/

/3/ Bunker, Mann, Ball, Vance, and Dungan met with the President at 3:50 p.m., and then they were joined in the Cabinet Room by the Congressional leadership to discuss Panama. This meeting lasted until 5:15 p.m., when the Congressional leadership departed. At 5:25 p.m. the remaining group convened with the President in the Oval Office until 6 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of these meetings has been found.

Ambassador Tejera remarked that he felt it would be unfortunate to have the dispute go to the Council. It would result in stirring up old hatreds and playing into the hands of the communists, who would resort to the demagogic appeal of anti-imperialism. This could be dangerous for his own country as well as for other Latin American nations.

After the White House meeting, I met with Ambassador Tejera and Ambassador Moreno at 6:00 p.m., and informed them that the language proposed by Ambassador Moreno was not acceptable. Ambassador Moreno said that he would have no alternative then but to present his government’s note to the Chairman of the Council, requesting that a meeting be convened. He telephoned me later at 10:00 p.m. to say that this was then being done./4/

/4/ On January 29 Panama broke off talks with the Inter-American Peace Committee and formally requested a meeting of the OAS Council in order to invoke the Rio Treaty on the grounds of United States aggression. The Panamanian request is in OAS doc, OEA/SerG./V/C-d-1189. Bunker’s statement to the OAS Council rejecting all charges of U.S. aggression against Panama, January 31, is in Department of State Bulletin, February 24, 1964, pp. 300-302. In circular telegram 1390 to all ARA posts and CINCSO for Martin, January 30, the Department of State presented the basic U.S. position in the OAS Council, pointing out that "informal soundings" among other COAS representatives indicated "considerable doubt" that the Panamanians could obtain the necessary 11 votes to invoke the Rio Treaty. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US)


385. Memorandum From Senator Mike Mansfield to President Johnson/1/

Washington, January 31, 1964.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Vol. I, December 1963 to January 1964. No classification marking. The memorandum is unsigned.

The Panama Situation

I. In response to your request, this memorandum contains observations and suggestions relative to the Panamanian situation. They are based on limited access to the facts and on history. As such, they are, at best, additional yardsticks which may have some use in weighing the difficult decisions which fall within your heavy responsibilities.

II. The following assumptions underlie the observations and suggestions in this memorandum.

A. We have only one fundamental national interest to protect in the present situation. We have got to insure untroubled and adequate water-passage through Central America. It is desirable to seek to secure this interest at a minimum total cost to this nation and, if possible, by ways which do not undermine our capacity to exercise a constructive influence elsewhere in Latin America.

B. The pressure for social change is just short of violent revolution in Panama and in much of the rest of Latin America. The pressure comes primarily from the inside, from the decay and antiquation of the social structures of various Latin American countries.

Even if we desired to do so, we could not, as a practical matter, stop the pressure for change. But we may have something constructive to contribute to the form and pace of the change if we play our cards carefully and wisely.

C. Change in Panama is part of the whole problem of change in Latin America. Our actions with respect to the part will have a significant effect on our ability to act constructively with respect to the whole.

D. Our actions in Panama will produce respect, rather than fear and suspicious hostility in Latin America, provided that our unquestionable power is used only with restraint and with justice and in accord with the decent opinion of Latin America.

III. If the above assumptions are accurate and are at the heart of our national interest in the present situation, the following general observations on United States policy will be derived from them:

A. Those United States policies (words and actions) which preserve untroubled water-passage through Central America but also tend to permit reasonable and peaceful adjustments in our relationship to the changing situation in that region make sense in terms of our national interests.

B. Conversely, those policies (words and actions) which enable us to preserve the water-passage only by a large increase in the costs of military and police protection and at the price of intensified suspicion and antagonism towards the United States throughout Latin America are to be minimized or avoided entirely if at all possible.

IV. Specific suggestions on policy (words and actions):

In the light of these assumptions and general observations the following specific suggestions may be worth considering:

A. Welcome, wholeheartedly, consideration by the OAS of the difficulties in Panama and urge that body’s help in finding a solution; offer every facility for on-the-spot study in the Zone.

B. Reject firmly but without fanfare the charges of aggression and also make it clear that we will not accept unilateral dictation from any nation, large or small.

C. Make clear that the President of the United States does not quibble over words such as "discussion or negotiations"; that, if changes are desirable, as well they may be, we are prepared at all times to sit down to discuss, to negotiate and to agree on a mutually acceptable basis.

D. Avoid boxing ourselves in at home against change through the fanning of our own emotions by crediting Castro and Communism too heavily for a difficulty which existed long before either had any significance in this Hemisphere and which will undoubtedly continue to plague us after both cease to have much meaning.

E. Stress with our own involved bureaucracy that our national interest is trouble-free water-passage, not the safeguarding of an outdated position of privilege (Zonists, understandably, might have difficulty differentiating between the maintenance of their special interests and the national interests). To this end, at an appropriate time:

1. Act to limit continuous service in the Zone for all U.S. military and civilian personnel to a maximum period of four years and seek a sharp reduction particularly in civilian personnel.

2. Cut the commissaries or so alter and limit their character that they will handle only those few unique items of U.S. merchandise which may not be readily available locally.

3. Fully integrate all schools and colleges in the Zone.

4. Tighten up on all salaries and emoluments to Zone employees to bring them in line with general U.S. personnel practices applicable elsewhere to overseas personnel.

F. Indicate a readiness, at an appropriate time and when not under duress, to consider:

a. Steps to give additional recognition to Panamanian titular sovereignty in the Zone.

b. Revision of the rental agreement.

c. An increase of Panamanian participation in the operation of the Canal up to and including some Panamanian representation on the Board of the Canal Company, always, however, contingent upon the need for a trouble-free operation of the waterway.

G. Begin to give serious consideration in diplomacy to marshalling international support for a Mexican-owned and operated canal through Mexico, with a view to sobering the Panamanians in their demands and, also, in recognition of the growing need for additional water-passage through Central America.

Some or none of the above specifics may have applicability in the light of your understanding of all the facts. They are merely suggestive of the kinds of words and actions which, it would seem, might be helpful in the present difficulty. And to ease those difficulties may be the best that can be hoped for until it is crystal clear that another canal will be built and our dependence on this outdated monopoly will have thereby been reduced.


386. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, February 1, 1964.

/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US. Confidential. A handwritten note on the memorandum reads "Secretary saw."

The Panama Problem

It seems to me that the "line" we take from here on out in our talks with Panamanians and with other Latin Americans is very important.

Chiari decided to put pressure on the United States to force us to agree, in advance of discussions, to negotiate a new treaty to replace, or at least substantially alter, existing treaties. As Moreno has confirmed to Bunker, this means language which can be interpreted as United States pre-commitments to open up the sovereignty and perpetuity issues to re-negotiation.

Breaking of relations was part of the tactic of pressure. The demagogic press, television and radio campaigns by Panamanian media, controlled for a time from the Presidencia itself, was part of the tactic. So was the complicity of Panamanian Government officials in the 36 hours of violence. The demagogic appeals to Latin American governments for support, intransigence in the Peace Committee and the invocation of the Rio Treaty on false charges of United States "aggression" were part of the tactic. Chiari’s "painting himself into a corner" by unnecessary public statements was part of the tactic.

In launching the campaign, Chiari was gambling that the United States would yield. The gamble turned out to be a bad one. We have already gone as far as we can in making concessions. Chiari has not really moved an inch.

All of these facts are, or will be, known to knowledgeable people in Latin America. There are signs that at least some Latin Americans are beginning to realize the dimensions of Panamanian irresponsibility and understand that the validity of their treaties and their interests, as well as ours, are involved./2/

/2/ On January 30 Lansing Collins provided Mann with an analysis of Latin American official opinion on the Panama situation, which indicated that Latin American officials deplored any attempt by Panama to take the issue to the United Nations and "have expressed understanding of our firm position in Panama." (Memorandum from Collins to Mann, January 30; ibid.)

It is doubtful that Chiari can yield. If the impasse continues, it seems equally doubtful that Chiari can "hang on" until the May elections. He may decide voluntarily to turn the office over to someone else. He may be overthrown. Nevertheless, anti-communist political leaders of the country continue their active or tacit support of Chiari because this is "good politics" as long as there is a chance that the United States will yield to Chiari’s pre-conditions.

As long as the anti-communist political leaders continue their support of Chiari’s tactic, only the communists or Arnulfo Arias, perhaps in combination with each other, will have an organization and a plan-in short, the capacity-to fill the vacuum which Chiari’s departure will leave.

If this estimate is correct, then it would make good sense to disabuse all Panamanians, and indeed all Latin Americans, of any ideas that, in the end, we are going to save Chiari by agreeing to his pre-conditions. Only then will anti-communists adjust to reality and begin to organize and plan. When they adjust to reality Chiari will lose support. But we gain by giving anti-communist elements the time and the opportunity to organize an alternative to a communist-infiltrated or communist-controlled government.

By being candid and decisive we would also minimize the risk that other Latin Americans will miscalculate in the current OAS proceedings.


387. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann)/1/

Washington, February 3, 1964, 7:10 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, Tape F64.10, Side A, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Panama.]

Mann: Now, the other thing is more important. On Sunday morning,/2/ I had a long talk with Sanchez Gavito-the Mexican-and he’s worked up an idea which he’s put on paper. It says that in case the Rio Treaty is-the Council votes to invoke the Rio Treaty as Panama has requested and there will be a commission-a five man, five nation commission set up which will act as a mediating body between the U.S. and Panama [unintelligible]. Secondly, that there would be a U.S.-Panama-plus one other-a three man commission to investigate the facts, what happened. Now he sent over this morning to Ralph Dungan a copy of this draft. I’ve suggested several changes, after talking with the Secretary, and most of these have been bought, subject to your approval, by us. I think that this resolution, if it goes through, would be satisfactory from our point of view-just as satisfactory as we can expect at this time in the meeting in the OAS. Tonight this draft will probably be circulated, and I just wanted to be sure you had-or Ralph, or somebody, I haven’t been able to get him this afternoon-had an opportunity to-

/2/ February 2.

President: Ralph’s here now, but he’s talkin’ about appointments. He hadn’t talked about the Mexico draft.

Mann: All right. Well, he’s got the papers, and-

President: Well, he keeps them on deep freeze up there. He never does let me see what he gets-

Mann: And if I could talk to him one minute, I could get him the latest information I have on these drafts.

President: Now, I’ll tell you what I think. I think the Secretary ought to make a full scale speech outlining what happened in Panama, and just saying we’re ready to talk, willing to talk, eager to talk, but we’re not gonna negotiate a treaty in advance. But he ought to say that our flag went up by our kids; they made a mistake; they came in and shot our soldiers; we gave them birdshot; we tried to defend ourselves the best we could, but they burned our USIA office; and just outline what horrible things they did without sayin’ they’re horrible. But let the world know it. John McCone told me that every country he went to-Spain was just up in arms, France couldn’t understand it, Great Britain thought it was terrible; Germany thought-couldn’t understand why we had started shooting in Panama, because we’ve been-

Mann: We’ll start drafting a speech right away.

President: I’ve just been beggin’ you all to do it, and I know damn well my Johnson City instinct tells me that you oughtn’t to sit on your can and do nothin’, and I’ve made one or two statements myself. But the New York Times says that we’ve said nothin’, and I just think it’s awful that we just sit here like a bunch of mummies and run under the ground, and I think you ought to have a full-

Mann: We’ll do a draft and I’ll tell you about the-

President: John McCone talked to the head of every government in Europe, and every one of ’em think we’re terribly wrong, and our side has never been given, and when he explained it to ’em they said, "well where in the hell has your Secretary of State been."/3/

/3/ During a February 6 luncheon meeting with Rusk, McCone restated that "world opinion was thoroughly convinced that the United States actually invaded Panama, killing Panamanians," and that he "could not understand the reluctance on the part of the President and Rusk to admit participation of Castro Communists in the Panama situation." (Memorandum for the record by McCone, February 6; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80-B01285A, Memos for the Record, January 1-April 5, 1964)

Mann: All right, we’ll start drafting away on that and get it out./4/ Now, should I talk to Ralph about these latest changes?

/4/ In a telephone conversation with the President on February 5 Mann reported that Secretary Rusk was planning to make a statement on February 7 that would correct a number of misconceptions in the press on the events in Panama. He also reported that work was continuing on the Gavito plan, and that the meetings in the OAS were proceeding well. "I thought Bunker handled himself extremely well," he said. "The Latins are-nearly all of them expressed, when they voted for the Rio Treaty, said they were not passing on who was guilty and who was innocent. They made that very clear, and I think that was very helpful." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, February 5, 10:35 a.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.10, Side B, PNO 3) Rusk addressed the dispute with Panama at his press conference on February 7; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 24, 1964, pp. 274-275.

President: Yeah.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Panama.]


388. Telegram From the Department of State to the U.S. Southern Command/1/

Washington, February 8, 1964, 1 p.m.

/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Mann and cleared by Bunker.

USCINCSO 17. For Martin from Mann. Re Your SC1666A./2/ Appreciate your helpful analysis of current situation in Panama.

/2/ In telegram SC1666A, February 7, Martin provided Mann with a long analysis of political developments and possibilities. (Ibid.)

I am sure you understand that we would prefer to see Chiari continue in office because of inevitable risks for us inherent in any political upheaval and probability that United States will be blamed for causing Chiari’s downfall. At same time I do not believe we should alienate Arnulfo Arias or any other non-communist political group for the reason that they may come to power no matter what we do or say. If they do we will have to deal with them. It seems to me, therefore, that as between non-communist groups our attitude should be one of strict nonintervention and that we should take special care to avoid the appearance of having intervened against Chiari./3/

/3/ In a meeting between representatives of ARA and CIA on February 5, Mann had inquired what the Communists would do should Chiara fall. He said "if the commies take over we are ready to send in troops, but we want to know in advance." Mann was told that there was no evidence the Communists were working with Arnulfo Arias and that it would not be "the end of the world" if Arias took over, since "Arnulfo was probably the only one that could control the streets." (Memorandum from Carter to Hughes, Denney, and Evans, February 6; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, ARA/CIA Weekly Meetings, 1964-1965)

You are correct in saying that our main concern at moment is to prevent growth of commie influence and especially any commie takeover. In this connection, we will, as you suggest, review all evidence available to us regarding Arnulfo Arias and his group and their connections with leftists and extremists, especially communists. I think it is obviously important for us to have as clear an idea as we can get of the role and influence which the communists would have should Arnulfo Arias take over.

I learned this morning that the General Committee acting under the Rio Treaty has appointed a five man committee consisting of representatives of Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Costa Rica to do both the mediation and the investigation job./4/

/4/ On February 4 Bunker defended the U.S. record in Panama concerning the events of January 9 and 10 before the Organization of American States Council. (Department of State Bulletin, February 24, 1964, pp. 302-304) On February 7 the Council met and adopted a resolution calling upon both sides not to take steps that might endanger the peace and creating a general committee of all members of the Organ of Consultation, except Panama and the United States, to investigate the events of January 9 and 10, to submit a report on efforts of the Governments of Panama and the United States to find a solution, to assist in finding a "just solution," and to create special subcommittees as needed. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 15-0-2 (Chile and Colombia). The text of the resolution is ibid., p. 304.

Sanchez Gavito says the strategy is to go slow on the investigation and to push hard on mediation with the aim of getting relations restored and United States-Panamanian bilateral talks started.

At the same time, Sanchez Gavito stated that there is an OAS consensus that the OAS should have a presence in Panama City and that the plan is for the five man committee to depart for Panama soon. Sanchez Gavito estimated that the five man committee might stay in Panama a week or ten days and then return.

Even though Cottrell is arriving in Balboa today, I think you should stay on in Panama long enough to be sure that the committee is not going to plunge immediately into an investigation of the facts or take other important action during its stay there. When had you planned to return to Washington?



389. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, February 20, 1964, 5:05 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and McGeorge Bundy; Tape F64.13, Side B, PNO 7. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: Adlai has got a new formula that starts us out where we were the first day to negotiate a treaty-a new treaty-with the Panamanians./2/

/2/ During a conversation a few minutes earlier with Johnson, Stevenson suggested that Chiari was interested in the following formula to resolve the impasse with the United States: "the two parties agree to appoint negotiators to discuss and review all aspects of U.S.-Panama relations, including the Canal Zone. The President responded that, "we could’ve agreed on that, Governor, the first day." Johnson stated that this language would give the impression that the United States would re-negotiate the treaty, or at least that is the way the Panamanians would view it. Stevenson suggested that the language did not include a pre-commitment to re-negotiate the treaty, and he asked Johnson to consider it seriously rather than rejecting it immediately. The President was not convinced. (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Adlai Stevenson, February 20, 5 p.m.; ibid., Tape 64.13, Side B, PNO 6)

Bundy: Oh, I don’t believe it.

President: And he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, and if he were Secretary of State and the President both he would negotiate it. And, so I thanked him and told him to put it in the mail and send it down. You watch for it.

Bundy: (Laughter) What am I supposed to do with it, make him burn it, or answer?

President: Oh, he was kind of sniffy. He said that I hope that you won’t reject it out of hand; I hope you’ll carefully consider it.

Bundy: Well, we’ll do that.

President: ’Cause the quicker you settle this one the better off you’ll be, and so forth. And the truth of it is I think Mr. Chiari wants to settle it.

Bundy: Uh huh. Uh huh. Has he had anything from the Panamanians or is this out of his own head?

President: Oh, I think he’s just gettin’ into a field where-he’s been down talking to the State Department about it and they added to it, "without any prior commitments." Now, were you in here the other day when we had the Senators here?

Bundy: No sir, I was still on that short holiday (laughter).

President: I wish you’d been here and heard the hell I caused by just mentioning it.

Bundy: Yeah.

President: And I’m not-well, anyway, we just want to carefully consider it, weigh it and everything, and then do nothing about it.

Bundy: Right.

President: I’m not going to use-the two words I’m not going to use are "negotiate" and "revising the treaty."

Bundy: Yep.

President: I told them that to begin with, and the quicker they find that out, the better off they’ll be.

Bundy: Right.

President: And, if we can get any other language-I think that we say that when we say we’ll talk to ’em about anything, anywhere any time.

Bundy: We’ve got a good sentence in tomorrow’s speech on that. It says we’ll talk about all problems, and we’ll, you know, we can do it any time and any place. There’s no problem. And I think, Mr. President, that there’s a new formula that ought to be looked at, which is that we ought to get some third party to say what they think they want to sit down and talk about, and we say what we think we ought to talk about, and then we just agree to talk about it. We don’t care what Chiari says he’s going to do. He can say, "I’m going in to revise the treaties," and we say "we’re going to discuss." That wouldn’t bother you, would it? He can propose anything he wants.

President: Well, I’d let him cool off for awhile.

Bundy: That’s what I-you know, my honest judgment, I’m sorry to say, is that I think there’s not a five percent chance of settling this before their elections.

President: I think that’s right.

Bundy: I think it’s easier just to play it along. Now, there are some hazards down there, and Panama is not in the best of condition, and there’s some losses in moving this direction, but the losses-we’ve taken an exceedingly clear position-the losses in moving away from that are very much greater. I’ve seen the polls on this subject, and I’m sure you have-the position of the U.S. Government-

President: Well, I just brought over a picture of Ted Sorensen and his girl, and Walter Winchell is on the same column, and he’s got the damnedest diatribe about how we’ve been mistreated you ever saw.

[Omitted here is a brief discussion unrelated to Panama.]


390. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson/1/

Washington, February 25, 1964.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama Riots. Vol. II, Part G, January-February, 1964. Bundy wrote the following note at the top of the page: "P[resident] read but doesn’t really agree."


I want to tell you quite privately that I agree with Dean Rusk that it would be good to get Panama off the stage for the present, if we can do so without retreat./2/ The two basic elements which you have established and defended without a break since January 9 are that we will not agree in advance to revision of the treaties, and that we will not agree to "negotiate." I believe that any form of language which leads to a resumption of relations and a beginning of talks is a victory for the United States and for you, if these two conditions are met.

/2/ Rusk, McNamara, Mann, and Bundy met with the President from 5:45 to 6:05 p.m. on February 25. (Ibid.; President’s Daily Diary) No written record of their conversation has been found, but it was at this meeting that Rusk presumably made this suggestion.

There are rumors of deterioration in Panama, and we could well have trouble of various sorts between now and May. Of course these same rumors are helping to move Chiari-if he is moving. As long as the monkey is clearly on Chiari’s back, we can stand any trouble, but if we should have a chance to get language which meets our essential conditions and let it go, I think we could come under some attack. It is not yet clear that we have such language, and there is one word that I would change in the Costa Rican draft,/3/ the last word "negotiators." But we are getting close.

/3/ The draft language reads: "The parties agree to appoint negotiators with sufficient powers to discuss and reconsider all aspects of United States of America-Panamanian relations, including the canal treaties, to seek the prompt elimination of the causes of the dispute with a view to harmonizing the just interests of both parties and their responsibilities to the Hemisphere and world trade. Both parties agree to discuss the differences existing between them without preconditions as to the positions they may consider necessary to adopt as a final result of the meetings that will take place between the negotiators." (Telegram 3195 from USUN, February 26; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US)

I have always supposed that if we did get into talks with the Panamanians we would find ourselves able to agree to significant changes in our existing relations without giving way on gut issues like the perpetuity clause or our own ultimate responsibility for the security and effectiveness of the Canal. Your choice of Vaughan as your prospective Ambassador shows your own readiness to pick a man who has much more basic sympathy for the Panamanians than for the conservative Americans in the Canal Zone (almost too much so, in my judgment).

The talks can go on for a long time, and there should be a clear understanding on both sides that they will. But I myself think they can lead to a new level of understanding, provided we get past election year emotions on both sides.

We have been right so far, and there is nothing cosmic about this issue yet, but I do think it would be good to take talks with no retreat if we can get them.

McG. B.


391. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell/1/

Washington, February 26, 1964, 12:10 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Richard Russell, Tape F64.14, Side B, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: Dick?

Russell: Yes sir.

President: Getting a lot of power and pressure here on Panama, now, and I’ve got this thing down to about where it says practically what I’ve been saying all the time. I don’t know how I can resist it much longer when the Secretary of State, Defense, and Bundy, and all my advisers, think that we’re going to cause an explosion if we don’t sit down at the table with them. They’ve come in now with a Costa Rican proposal that is two paragraphs, and I want to read it to you. I think if you’ll take one moment I’ll read you what Bundy says to me. It is kind of a summary:

[The President read the text of Document 390.]

Now, he feels rather deeply there because I overrode all of them last night-in fact, this morning with this combined language:

[Omitted here is the language from footnote 3, Document 390.]

Russell: Well, of course, Panamanians are going to accept that as an assurance that we will make some substantial changes in the provisions of the treaty. I know you’re under a bit of pressure down there, Mr. President.

President: Well, I know, but as I see this, I don’t say I’m going to do a damned thing but discuss it, and that is what I’ve said the first moment I talked to him. And now maybe I read it wrong, but I’ve got it down to where that’s about what I say. I’m not going to have any pre-conditions whatever.

Russell: What’s the word after "pre-conditions"?

President: "Without pre-conditions as to the positions they may consider necessary to adopt as a final result of the meetings that will take place between the negotiators."

Russell: The trouble is that this pressure is going to be relentless, and those negotiators will go down there and want to give something and then Bundy and Rusk and New York Times school of thought will put relentless pressure on you.

President: That’s right-there’s no question-they’ve been doin’ that for 2 months.

Russell: And they will not give the American people even a part of their view. It has never been mentioned here that the last time we had to settle with them we gave them about $40 million worth of property down there-just gave it to them out of hand. I don’t know what they’ve done with it. I reckon Chiari and these other Presidents have stolen it. You can steal it and get your hands on it once you’re in there. But we gave them a tremendous amount of property there and they’re going to expect something equally big or bigger out of this, and I don’t know how we’re just gonna get it. Of course, it could get it through a treaty or be taken out of the Alliance for Progress funds, but there’s never going to be a time that that group’s not going to be urging you to give in to Panama [unintelligible].

President: We know that. We know that. Well, I’ll say Bundy has supported me on this all the way through. I’ve just taken it on and Mann has supported me-Tom Mann. Tom thinks it’s brought us a good deal of respect in the Hemisphere. Tom Mann thinks this has helped us. Tom Mann thinks we’re stronger in the Hemisphere today than we were 90 days ago because of what we’ve done in Panama and what we’ve done in Cuba. He thinks we’re in worse shape than we’ve been in 20 years, and that the Hemisphere is in a very dangerous position, but he thinks that these two little insignificant moves have let them know that-"don’t tread on me." And he thought they needed to know that pretty much.

Russell: I can’t help but feel that it has helped us.

[Omitted here is discussion relating to Cuba and other parts of the Hemisphere.]

President: Now, let me go back again. I’ve got to sit down and talk to ’em, and I don’t know how I can get by saying any less.

Russell: There’s just one thing in there that shook me a little bit. Go ahead and read it again.

President: "The parties agree to appoint negotiators"-I named Tom Mann-"with sufficient powers to discuss and reconsider"- they’ve got to say that they’ve got to have the power to discuss-"all aspects of U.S. and Panamanian relations"-I told them that from the first day I’ll discuss anything, anywhere, any time, but I wouldn’t agree on any pre-conditions before I sit down-they didn’t make me do that with the Russians in Berlin-"including the Canal Zone treaties with a view to"-doing what?-"to harmonizing the just interest of both parties"-I assume our men will look after our interests-we’ll just have to fight that-"seeking the prompt elimination of the causes of dispute-"

Russell: We being in there is the cause of it.

President: "and fulfill their responsibilities to the Hemisphere and world trade. Both parties agree to discuss the differences existing between them without pre-conditions as to positions they may consider necessary to adopt as a final result of the meetings that will take place between the negotiators." Now, that adds up in one word-and I may not be-if I can read and understand-now, I’m not a lawyer, and I may not be-but I have not implied or said that I would do anything except discuss any problem they had.

Russell: It is all very clear to me except that word "reconsider." I don’t exactly understand what you’re going to reconsider.

Johnson: Well, the first thing, we’ve got no diplomatic relations. We’ve got to start out-talk. They want so many employees. They say the Canal Zone has got all our people. They’ve got different wage rates. They’ve thought up a good many of these things and our people tell me that maybe we ought to have a civilian governor instead of some retired military man that knows nothing about it, that maybe we-Cy Vance says that he can take a list of 15-20 minor things that could create some of this friction with the workers.

Russell: They don’t know what they want, Mr. President. We pay them almost the same thing now. There’s little difference for the overseas. A Panamanian working for the Canal gets the same thing as a canal worker on a lock on the Savannah River in Augusta.

President: But some of them get a pack of cigarettes for 15 cents in the Zone and 50 cents some other places-got commissaries and all kinds of different cut-rates. Anyway, they think-the Army thinks-Vance thinks-and I think he’s pretty able about it-that we can find a good many things that would improve conditions, if we’d been alert to it. We ought to have a new Board and able Board with good men on it-Gene Black type of man, instead of some just honorary [unintelligible] deal, and they all understand that this is a real problem and we’ve got real interests to protect. Tom Mann thinks we ought to start taking some borings in Nicaragua for a sea-level canal, and he thinks that will put them in place a little bit. We’ve got a good many things that we think we can do that will help, but we’re just refusing to agree on any language now, and I have said I’ll discuss anything, any time.

Russell: Well, I think that’s all right, except when you get together, then the price is going to be-

President: Oh, hell, yes, that’s right. But I can’t fail to get together without hurting myself, can’t I?

Russell: Well, I don’t think you’re hurt up to now.

President: No [unintelligible]. Well, thank you my friend.

Russell: Yes sir.


392. Editorial Note

On February 26, 1964, at 12:31 p.m., President Johnson spoke on the phone with Adlai Stevenson, who was in Washington to testify at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Stevenson urged the President to approve the language of a proposed agreement between the United States and Panama that had been worked out by President Orlich of Costa Rica (see footnote 3, Document 390.) Johnson said to Stevenson: "I think when you say you’re gonna reconsider the treaties that the implication is you’re gonna rewrite the treaties, and that you’re gonna rewrite the substance of ’em, and that you’re gonna get rid of the perpetuity clause, which they’re claiming, and I think that they’ll think that. And then the heat that’s gonna be on me when they-The New York Times-and my negotiator sits down with ’em-they come back in-it’s gonna be something terrific." Johnson then complained about Panama’s actions and expressed his willingness to discuss anything, but reiterated his opposition to having "to say in a written document that I am going to reconsider a treaty." Johnson continued: "I’ve talked to the leading people who would have to consider a treaty and I couldn’t find one vote anywhere. And I think that we’re just toying with somethin’ that we couldn’t have the United States Senate-my honest judgment is I couldn’t get 20 votes for any treaty that substantially rewrote the present one."

Stevenson presented the case for resolving the issue as soon as possible by accepting the current language, which he told Johnson he had drafted in part:

"I do think that it’s awfully important from your point of view to clear away this little mess, because it’s affecting the attitude of Latin Americans way beyond the boundaries of Panama, as you know. I feel as though we’re stuck on this dime, and that this controversy between this miniscule country and the United States is totally avoidable and unnecessary-it’s a diversion of attention from the major problems in Latin America. I just think that from the State Department point of view it’s much better to get this one out of the way with language as good as this, which is so far from where we started, we’d be well advised to do it."

Johnson told Stevenson that he preferred to use the term "representatives" rather than "negotiators." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Adlai Stevenson; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.14, Side B, PNO 2)

The President then spoke to Rusk about the proposed language of the agreement with Panama. "There’s no use in our debating it; we’d better just let it ride for a day or two." The President agreed to allow Rusk to come to the White House to discuss the draft language, but told him: "I’m not going to buy what I got on my desk." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Dean Rusk, February 26, 1:10 p.m.; ibid., Tape F64.15, Side A, PNO 1)

Johnson talked to Senator William Fulbright later that afternoon: "Adlai came down and started a heat wave on Panama. He got into negotiations up there without anybody knowing it and he came up with a proposal that we turned down in the first hour when we talked to the President of Panama, and we have made positive proposals to ’em and we think that in due time they will come around and get them, but I had to see Tom Mann and I had to see Rusk and I had to talk to Adlai for an hour . . ." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and William Fulbright, February 26, 3:06 p.m.; ibid., Tape F64.15, Side A, PNO 2) The portions of the conversations printed here were prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

The afternoon of February 26 Thomas Mann sent the mission at the United Nations a variation on the Orlich text that the President would accept provided that Panama "resumes relations with the United States prior to commencement of discussions." The revised text reads:

"The parties agree to appoint authorized representatives with sufficient powers to discuss and consider all aspects of United States and Panama relations, without any limitation whatever, to seek the prompt elimination of the causes of dispute with a view to harmonizing the just interest of both parties and their responsibilities to the Hemisphere and world trade. Both parties agree to discuss the differences existing between them without preconditions as to the positions they may consider necessary to adopt as a final result of the meetings that will take place between the authorized representatives." (Telegram 2284 to USUN, February 26; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US)

Although there were indications from some Panamanians that the dispute would soon be resolved, by February 29 there was no official response from Panama on the revised text of the proposal set forth by President Orlich. Mann informed the White House he had been told that Sanchez Gavito, the Mexican Ambassador to the OAS, was prepared to put forth a proposal to the OAS Peace Committee that would perhaps break the deadlock between the United States and Panama on the language of an agreement. Mann wrote to Bundy that "this approach has possibilities because it gets us off the hook of being unable to agree on the pre-conditions." (Memorandum from Mann to Mc-George Bundy, February 29; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Panama, Vol. III, March 1964) After consulting with Bundy that afternoon, the President approved the proposal "as a basis for negotiations to be conducted by Ambassador Sanchez Gavito, acting entirely on his own initiative. The fact of prior consultation with the United States Government will not be revealed." (Memorandum for the record by Bundy, March 29; ibid.)


393. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/

Washington, March 2, 1964, 11:35 a.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Dean Rusk, Tape F64.15, Side B, PNO 1. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: What’s the news on your front today?

Rusk: Well, I think that maybe your press conference helped ease things-the tension-a bit on this Panama business./2/ I think we may find a way to get some progress there. Cyprus: we’re expecting word from the Turks about-

/2/ In a press conference on February 29 President Johnson stated he realized that the treaty with Panama had been written in 1903 and modified from time to time, that "problems are involved that need to be dealt with and perhaps would require adjustment in the treaty." He also said that "Just because Panama happens to be a small nation, maybe no larger than the city of St. Louis, is no reason why we shouldn’t try in every way to be equitable and fair and just. We are going to insist on that. But we are going to be equally insistent on no preconditions." (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, Book I, p. 325)

President: On Panama, what are we going to do? Is Tom Mann getting Mexico to say that we are anxious to talk any time, anywhere about anything, period?

Rusk: That is the present ploy. That is the present move so that the two governments would not have to say anything, but the OAS would simply recommend that they establish relations and get to the conference table. But you’ll have a chance to see any text before any agreement is given on it. Have you had any reactions to your press conference from the Hill today?

President: No./3/

/3/ In a telephone conversation with the President that evening, Senator Fulbright, reacting to the President’s press conference statement on Panama, told Johnson: "I thought you put it very well." The President responded: "All right. You just stay with me and we’ll do all right." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and William Fulbright, March 2, 8:50 p.m.; Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Tape F64.16, Side A, PNO 2) Earlier that day George Ball had told the President: "I thought you did splendidly, and I thought you advanced the possibility of working something out." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and George Ball, March 2, 11:50 a.m.; ibid., Tape F64.15, Side B, PNO 2)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Panama.]

President: Now, on Panama I think if the Mexican thing doesn’t work today, we ought to come in some other place, and somebody ought to say tomorrow, we want to talk any time, anywhere, about anything. We’re ready. Let’s press them; let’s shove them a little bit.

Rusk: Right.

President: If we need to call Chiari again, maybe we ought to get in direct communication with him and say, "why don’t we resume diplomatic relations and sit down. We got a number of plans for improving this thing if you’ll do it, and we may not have an agreement for a year or two, but there’s no reason why we ought to stand off and bark. It’s not helping your economy and it’s not helping ours."

Rusk: Right.

President: I’d let them be squeezed a little more down there. I think that before they go Communist, that they’ll go American. That’s my judgment. If you squeeze their nuts just a little bit-I think we’ve been too generous, The New York Times and Washington Post with them-and now we’ve showed we’re a little reluctant. I think that maybe they’re more willing to come along if we shove it up to them.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Panama.]


394. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara/1/


Washington, March 2, 1964.

/1/ Source: Washington National Records Center, FRC 330 69 A 7425, PAN 381, Panama Crisis, January-March, 1964. Secret. A note on the memorandum reads: "Sec Def has seen."

US Policy Toward Panama (U)

1. In consequence of the present difficulties in US-Panamanian relations, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have undertaken an appraisal of US military requirements in Panama for consideration in the development of a national position toward that nation. The salient features of this appraisal, amplified in the Appendix and Annexes hereto,/2/ are summarized below.

/2/ Attached but not printed.

2. Access to a canal remains vital to the economic, political, and military interests of the United States. If denied access to such a canal, the United States could defend its interests in limited or general war, but its ability to do so would be impaired. Without the availability of such a canal, transportation costs would be increased with adverse economic effects on the United States and certain Latin American countries, whose political stability, in consequence, would be adversely affected.

3. As long as the Panama Canal remains the sole water route across Central America, security of these vital interests of the United States dictates the continued employment of a substantial number of US citizens for an indefinite period and a buffer zone for its protection. The former places affluent American communities next to Panamanian slums. The latter results in unused land over which Panama is denied the exercise of sovereignty. Given this situation, it is difficult to devise any arrangement permanently satisfactory to both the United States and Panama.

4. The present Panama Canal is, in some respects, already inadequate and, during the last quarter of this century, will reach the point at which it will not be able to handle the volume of traffic demanding its services. The construction of a wider, deeper, sea-level canal would be advantageous to the military, economic, and political interests of the United States. It would be less vulnerable to sabotage, fewer forces would be required for its protection, and the largest naval ships could be accommodated. Over the long range, its construction would permit modification of the basic factors which are presently the source of continuing US-Panamanian friction. Over the short range, early decision and active manifestation of a US intent to construct such a canal might facilitate US discussion with Panama. Of various plans for a new sea-level canal, one which reduces vulnerability to disruption of the existing and proposed canal by a single military attack, or by the action of a single political group, is preferred militarily.

5. In addition to the protection of the canal, the US military presence in Panama is associated with hemispheric security. The importance of this latter mission is increasing with the growing threat of

Castro-communist subversion. Panama is valuable in this connection because US forces and facilities are already there. The United States could acquire, but only at a substantial price, comparable facilities elsewhere. Nevertheless, no substitute presently exists, and the United States should seek to maintain the military base complex in Panama considered essential for the purpose of hemispheric security.

6. To provide a basis for the determination of a US position and the development of detailed positions necessary to support national policy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the Secretary of Defense:

a. Support:

(1) An early decision for the construction of a sea-level inter-oceanic canal at a location which reduces vulnerability to disruption of both the existing and proposed canals by a single military attack, or by the action of a single political group.

(2) Action which will clearly indicate that the early construction of such a canal is a firm US intention.

(3) The concept that discussion with Panama be premised on the firm US intent to construct such a canal.

(4) The view that the United States should insist on maintaining military areas and facilities related to the operation, maintenance, sanitation, and protection of the Panama Canal and to hemispheric security. However, nonessential areas and facilities in the Canal Zone, including acreage not required for a minimum buffer zone, should be identified by US agencies for possible transfer to Panama in the event further concessions are deemed necessary. In return for any US concessions, the United States should insist on Panamanian recognition that at present, and for the foreseeable future:

(a) The US military presence in Panama is important to and in furtherance of hemispheric security.

(b) The conclusion of an agreement pertaining to base rights and the status of military forces outside the Canal Zone is an important and appropriate contribution Panama can and should make to the inter-American system.

b. In implementation of subparagraph 6 a (4) above, request the Secretary of the Army, in his capacity as personal representative of the President and as the stockholder of the Panama Canal Company, to:

(1) Provide appropriate guidance to the Governor of the Canal Zone/President of the Panama Canal Company for a joint study, with the Commander in Chief, US Southern Command, of areas and facilities which might be transferred to US military jurisdiction.

(2) Determine whether the Canal Zone Government will agree to transfer to US military jurisdiction that part of the Coco Solo complex, with attendant housing, which is presently under Canal Zone Government control.

c. In implementation of subparagraph 6 a (4) (b) above, direct the preparation of a proposed base rights and status of forces agreement for eventual use in discussions with the Republic of Panama.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Maxwell D. Taylor
Joint Chiefs of Staff


395. Telegram From the U.S. Southern Command to the Department of State/1/

Canal Zone, March 5, 1964, 0740Z.

/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL PAN-US. Confidential.

SC2024A. For Mann from Cottrell. Following is the way I add up the situation at the present moment:

1. Heavy pressures on Chiari are increasing daily from business men and publishers to restore relations and arrest the economic decline. Support from this group for standing on principles has vanished in direct proportion to the threat to their pocket books. Their former support is turning rapidly to criticism of Chiari having handled the situation very badly.

2. Workers in Panama are very concerned as notices of layoffs are received, and their former support for the government is vanishing.

3. Arnulfo’s star is rising among the workers as a magician who will restore the situation. Thus, Chiari must see that a continued stalemate is working against his administration and against the chances of Robles in the May elections. The oligarchy’s fear of Arnulfo is providing additional political pressure on Chiari for an early settlement.

4. The forces exerting pressure on Chiari to stand firm are his hard line left advisors, student leaders and Communists, plus possibly Moreno and Boyd with political axes to grind who have nothing to lose and much to gain if they can induce the US to cave on the negotiate point.

5. I believe the National Guard is capable of controlling any violence instigated by the left and would do so if Chiari moved towards accommodation.

6. The formula of rioting to attract US attention and extract concessions is an old ploy used successfully in the past. The killing in the January 9-16 affair was an unexpected result brought about by the trained Communist additive to the old recipe. The killings produced a real shock causing Chiari to over react and paint himself into a corner.

7. I believe Moreno and Boyd were turned loose by Chiari to see how far they could go in pushing the US to accept the Chiari position. This probing ran into a stone wall and I think the realization is now sinking in here that the stalemate can only be broken by a Chiari retreat from his position.

8. The former violent feelings against Americans, the zone and the US armed forces are receding rapidly in my opinion. Visiting Americans, consular officers and Americans living in Panama City now move freely about the city without molestation or evidence of any apparent hostility on the part of the general population.

9. In my opinion the Communists made great headway in promoting the riots and during the present stalemate, particularly in strengthening and broadening the base of their organization. However, in the present climate I do not think they yet have the capability of matching or neutralizing the National Guard.

Conclusion: Despite the hazards of political predictions, in my best judgment at this moment, I think the shifting of the balance of forces here indicates a Chiari accommodation and restoration of relations at any time within this month. I do not believe he will sit tight until the May elections much less October. If he were to make this mistake I think he will be removed. Based on my previous experience in Panama during similar but less serious riots I believe that this last tantrum is nearing its end. There may be a coup if Chiari does not move but I do not believe there will be any further rioting against the zone this year. Amen.


396. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell/1/

Washington, March 9, 1964, 9:45 p.m.

/1/ Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Richard Russell, Tape F64.16, Side B, PNO 3. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

President: I think this is pretty much our formula and I’ve got to let them know in the morning, and it looked all right to me but there might be a catch in it and I just want to check it.

"The governments of the Republic of Panama and the United States of America have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations as soon as possible to seek the prompt elimination of the causes of conflict relative to the Panama Canal and to attempt to resolve other problems existing between them without limitations or any pre-conditions of any kind. As a result, within 30 days following re-establishment of diplomatic relations, both governments will designate special ambassadors with sufficient powers to carry out discussions and negotiations with the objective of reaching a just and fair international agreement which will eliminate the above mentioned causes of conflict and resolve the other problems referred to above. Any agreements that may result would be subject to the constitutional processes of each country."

Russell: [Laughter] Well, that’s one of the most skillfully worded statements I ever read, Mr. President.

President: Well, it’s ours. We’ve had to be negotiatin’ and we’ve had new treaties and everything, and I said I’m willin’ to say I’ll meet ’em any time, anywhere, any place, and do what’s fair and just and right, but I will not agree to negotiate a new treaty unless I think that one is required and I’m not going to agree to any precondition. I’m going to say that I don’t so they don’t get misled.

[Omitted here are several minutes of word-by-word analysis of the statement, discussion of haggling over language, and conversation related to Cuba.]

President: He [Mann] came in the other day and asked me to sign this agreement and said we’re close to it and we need to sign it now, and we attached appendix A and B, your conversation, the press-and Chiari’s, and I said, "No I won’t sign that; I just won’t do it." He had Rusk with him; he had Bundy with him; and he had McNamara with him. All of them had recommended it and I said I’m not going to do that and he said, "Why?" And I said because Chiari says he’s going to have a new treaty and I’m not going to admit to it. I may have one-may agree to it-but I’m not going to say I’m going to have it. I said that from the first day. Now, the second thing I’m not going to say-I am not going to say in your formal statement here, you say "negotiate." I’m not going to say I am going to negotiate a new treaty. Now, that’s in the formal statement, and that’s in Chiari’s statement, so those two things go out. So he said, we’ll do what you say. So I cut it back and sent it back to ’em. Now they’re coming in here tonight at 8

o’clock with this statement. Now Chiari hasn’t approved it but the OAS has urged this be done.

Russell: Well, he’s gettin’ weak.

President: Well, I told them to squeeze his nuts a little more [unintelligible].

Russell: Has got him by the balls and he has to come in a little later ’cause you’ve got his water cut off-he can’t move.

President: Now, I notified Cy Vance 5 o’clock this afternoon. They think they’re going to have a big demonstration if this happens, and that they’re gonna try and take over-the Communists are-and I just said we’re not going to have any Cuba there. They say it will be from the Communists who’ve got a foothold there and they’re going to be raising hell about it and are going to try to have a Communist coup when this takes place./2/

/2/ In that telephone conversation, Vance warned President Johnson that Chiari "is going to recognize us now and therefore we’re tightening up our shoe laces in case there should be any violence associated with that." (Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Cyrus Vance, March 9, 5:05 p.m.; ibid., Tape F64.16, Side B, PNO 2)

Russell: Well, half of the police he’s got there can beat the socks off of ’em.

President: Well, this General O’Meara can. They tell me he’s smart. He’s on the job and I trust him.

Russell: O’Meara’s tough as hell. You give him the reins.

President: I’ve done given him the reins; I’ve done given him the reins. I told Cy Vance at 5 o’clock this afternoon to tell O’Meara that we would not have another Cuba in this hemisphere, if he had enough men; if he didn’t, I’d send him some more.

Russell: Don’t need the men, just a little freedom of movement. O’Meara is a pretty tough fellow.

President: Well, he’s got his orders. Okay, now if you don’t see anything wrong with this I’m going to go on.

Russell: Well, it’s all right, not near as bad as I thought you’d be driven to.

President: No, you didn’t think I’d be driven to it. Now don’t go needlin’ me, Dick. What are you tryin’ to do, I’m still at work. I haven’t even had dinner and you just needle me, my friend-now don’t.

Russell: I wouldn’t be your friend if I didn’t tell you what I thought.

President: Well, now you do think it is wonderful. You didn’t think I’d run, did you?

Russell: No. No, you haven’t.

President: So help me, I’m not runnin’ yet.

Russell: No. You left the door open to get out. You haven’t run a foot yet.

President: Well, we’ve always-you’ve never said you wouldn’t sign a new-you’d do what is fair, don’t you?

Russell: Absolutely.

President: That’s all I’m going to do.

Russell: I hope so.

President: If it’s not fair and just, I’m not going to do it.

[Omitted here is discussion of Vietnam.]


Return to This Volume Home Page

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.