ANOTHER LOOK AT PANAMA AND THE TREATIES

Created: 11/13/1967

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

CUTHAL 1HTBLLIC BOCK I

OFFICE CF BATICHAL ESTIMATE

7

HE DIFECTCR

SUBJECT: Another Look at Panama ana tha Treatlee

The political maneuver!tig nov underway in Panama in preparation for the presidential election8 latbe chance* of civil disorder and hat virtually eliminated any chance of progreas on the draft Canal treatleaat least untilev Panamanian preeldeot takes office In

President Robles cannot succeed himself, and bis political influence la waning. It is now probable that the fragile coalition of eight pertlea vhloh represents Panama's social and economic elite and vbich haa supported hia vlll not hold together until election time. It may be that tbe four vhich hare declined to baek either of tbe two candidates auggeated by Robles vlll complete the negotlationa they have begun *ith Amulfo Arias and actually align thcmselvea vlth hie Panamenlsta mats movement.

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It may be that tbe elite parties vlXl at ill menace to come up withcompromise candidate snd thus somewhat reduce the ouober cfto the oppoeitioo. Id either case, the lota of strength for the coalition will latprove Araulfo'a position and probably vlll make him the odds-on favorite to winshould tbe eltctlon be free and fair.

3. Six months in advance of election day, no one can be confidant that the election vlll be free in the sens* that the campaigning and voting vill be allowed to proceed without hindrance or intimidation. Even If the election la free in this sense, it is unlikely to be fairthat la, tbe government will try tothe returns to its advantage. That is the established cuatoo of the country, and Panama uses an extraordinarily complicated voting aystarn designed for this purpose. The government could be thwarted in this only if tbe vote for the winning candidate were to be ao large that it could not be overcome by aubtle manipulation*. Only Amulfo Arias haa any chance of winning byandslide. If that were to appear to be tho proapect, the Cuardln Haclonal might act to nullify the election. uardla Kaclonnl, i'snma's only armed force, la led by General Bolivar Vallarloo, who la closely affiliated with the elite, bat presidential ambitions of his own,

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and in tha past has shown determination to keep Arr.ulfo free office.

k. If the government resorts to patent intimidation or manipulation or if the Guardiaforce to negate theresult, serious disorders will occur. Even without such provocation, there will be considerable danger of dlcorders be the campaign proceeds, and scce danger that tbey will spill over into the Canal Zone.

5- Tie chances for approval of the Canal treaties were not Good even before the recent deterioration of the political situation. New the Hobles government cannot afford to press for their acceptance. Indeed, it is more likely to insist that chances be made involving further conceoslons to ranaraa. In short, no progress on the trestles is to be expected in Ponaaa before the elections. Hor is any likely in the lame-duck period between the election and the scheduled inauguration of the new president Such political leverage aa Robles still has will probably be entirely gone in thoee months, and, whoever the new president may be, he is sure to'want his own staop on the treaties before their ratification la considered.

6. The general Panamanian attitude on the issue of the new treaties ia atrongly emotional ond nationalistic, and not

pert!cularly rational. Tho prcsant draft treatiesone and helpful advance for Panama's Interests froa3 Treaty, which, though slightly modified, still prevails. But actual sentiment ia Panama, and tho arguments vehementlyby the Panamanian press and by many Government officials, have strongly opposed the draft trenties. In effect, tho Panamanians now want considerably more from the US than they night have been willing to settle for two or three years ago. And they seen inclined to Keep raising their demands as time posses.

7. What Dost Panamanians have failed to appreciate is that even the present droit treaties constitutear-reachin3 sot of changes in their favor that obtaining the necessary approval of the UG Congress would bo extremely difficult. For one thing, the longtime us employees of the Canal Zoneotent pressure group for maintaining the status quo. For another, some UShave already begun efforts to organize opposition to the draft treaties or any like them. For those reasons, USwould probably have little freedom to consider makingconcessions to satisfy Panama's demands. To put it bluntly.

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there may be room for maneuver In changes which axe essentially cosmetic; there is little or none in changes which aresubstantive.

8i Prospects ore thus far from bright for new Canal treaties, whoever becomes the new president of Panama. an representing the elite elements might not press hard for additional concessions other than cosmetic ones; be might or might not have problem* getting the treaties ratified in the national Assembly, but he would have serious difficulty "Belling" them to the Panamanian public. If the new president le Arnulfo Arias, he will almost certainly be sticky for the US to deal with on this, as on various other matters. On the other hand, he clearly would Hie to be the man who could achieve historic new treaties with the US. It should be noted. In this regard, that he has refrained from identifying himself with specific crlticioma of the draft treaties ortrongly anti-US posture generally. And he would probably have the beat chance of anyone in Panama to get new treaties accepted by most of the populace.

FOR TKB BOARD OF HAXIOSAL KSZDtATES:

i9ii

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