Letter to Secretary Shultz on Panama Sanctions, May 3, 1988

Year Published
  • 2013
  • English

May 3, 1988 

The Honorable George C. Shultz
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520 

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

I would like to share with you an important statement of the Panamanian Bishops Conference about the continuing crisis in their country. As General Secretary of the United States Catholic Conference, the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops in this country, I want to highlight aspects of the statement which seem to address elements of U.S. policy toward Panama. 

The Panamanian bishops are obviously concerned that a constitutionally legitimate political process be restored in place of what they call a de facto military government; they seek an end to the existing widespread corruption and the violations of human rights. These objectives, along with the imperative of addressing the flow of illegal drugs from Panama into the United States, are also prominent concerns of present U.S. policy. 

The Panamanian bishops are deeply concerned about the means being employed to pursue these ends. Referring to the U.S. imposed economic sanctions, the bishops say: 

"As Church and as Panamanians we reject these measures which violate national sovereignty. We consider that, given the dependent structure of our economy, these exceed any strategy of political pressure and become a threat to the life of our people. They are, therefore, morally unjust. For that reason, we demand that they be suspended immediately. In the same way we reject all forms of military intervention." 

According to the bishops, the sanctions "have affected the functioning of the government structure and have dealt a strong blow to all the people, especially the most poor and needy." The bishops clearly fear for the long-term viability of the Panamanian economy. It seems that those sanctions seek to protect most -- those in power -- are in fact insulated from their impact and those we seek to help bear the burden most directly.

In sharing this statement, I support the views of the Panamanian bishops and urge that they be given serious consideration in the future direction of U.S. policy. It is my understanding that in the more recent discussions within the Administration, greater emphasis is being placed on diplomatic measures to achieve our legitimate objectives and that consideration is being given to lifting some of the sanctions. I hope that our relations with Panama may be increasingly characterized by diplomatic and especially regional approaches. I urge that our legitimate goals be pursued by means which do not bring additional suffering to the already beleaguered people of Panama. 


Reverend Msgr. Daniel F. Hoye
General Secretary 

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