Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chargé in Panama (Donnelly)6


Subject: Restrictions on Commissary Purchase Privileges

Participants: Lic. Miguel J. Moreno, Acting First Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Lt. General G. H. Brett, Commanding, Panama Canal Department
Brigadier General F. K. Newcomer, Acting Governor, The Panama Canal
Walter J. Donnelly, Chargé d’Affairs, a.i.

Mr. Moreno telephoned me on June 6 to state that the Foreign Office had received additional complaints from citizens of Panamá on the “gold” payroll of The Panama Canal against the order of The Panama Canal and the Army and Navy restricting commissary privileges to $100 per month for married persons and $50 per month for single persons charging that the order discriminated against Panamanian citizens. I suggested to Mr. Moreno that I would request a clarification of the order and I told him that I would arrange a meeting with General Brett and the Acting Governor in a few days. The meeting took place today.

Both General Brett and the Acting Governor assured Mr. Moreno that the order does not discriminate against Panamanian citizens and that it is intended to (1) assist in suppressing contraband trade in commissary goods which all present agreed had reached alarming figures; (2) respect the undertaking to suppress contraband in commissary goods as provided for in one of the Twelve Points annexed to the Defense Sites Agreement of 19427 and (3), economize on the consumption of foodstuffs in keeping with the announced policy of the United States Government and the United Nations. The Acting Governor said that the restrictions were put into effect only after a very careful survey had been made of purchases by all employees of The Panama Canal; that the order applies to holders of identification cards with numbers from 16,000 to 274,999 inclusive because it has been found that the great majority of the abuses have taken place among the individuals holding cards in these categories. The Acting Governor cited several instances of individuals buying commissary [Page 1272] goods in excess of their salaries and added that a few Americans were also guilty.

Mr. Moreno expressed satisfaction with the Acting Governor’s statement that the order restricting the purchases to $100 and $50 to married and single persons respectively has long since applied to some 5,000 American citizens living in the Canal Zone but who are not employed by the Panama Canal. The Acting Governor also pointed out that The Panama Canal maintains a very careful check over the purchases of their employees and that abuses are corrected at once.

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Walter J. Donnelly
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department in despatch 1862, June 8, 1945, from Panama; received June 12.
  2. For text of the Defense Sites Agreement, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series, No. 359, or 57 Stat. (pt. 2) 1232; for text of the Twelve Points agreement, see Executive Agreement Series No. 452, or 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1289.