RESOLUTION Nº 38/79
1. A denunciation
was received in a letter dated October 2, 1977 that Mr. Carlos Ernesto
González de la Lastra, a Panamanian citizen and President of the
Panamanian Association of Business Executives, was in Venezuela as a
political exile, having been obliged to leave Panama on October 2, 1976,
because of threats against his personal safety made by the Minister of
the Interior, Jorge Castro B.
to a public statement by Mr. González, on the afternoon of September
15, 1976, the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Panama City had
told him there was a warrant out for his arrest. Mr. González offered
to turn himself in, provided his physical and mental safety were
guaranteed and provided he were given an impartial trial. When he spoke
a second time to the President of the Chamber of Commerce, he was told
that the Minister of the Interior had called to tell him that he should
tell Mr. González, on behalf of the National Guard, that "they
were not guaranteeing his life."
light of this threat, Mr. González went into hiding until he was able
to leave the country on October 2, 1976.
2. In a note of
December 5, 1977, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of this
denunciation to the Government of Panama, and asked that it provide the
pertinent information on the denunciation and on exhaustion of domestic
3. On December 6,
1977, the penultimate day of the Special Commission's on-site visit to
Panama, it asked the Government to report on 103 people, including Mr.
González de la Lastra, who were supposedly in exile. The Commission
asked to be informed whether these people had been exiled, whether they
had chosen to leave the country, whether they were still abroad, and
whether the Government had authorized some of them to return.
4. In a note dated
January 16, 1978 (OEA 7978), the Government of Panama replied to the
Special Commission's request, providing information on some individuals
who had been "authorized" to return, and on others who, in the
opinion of the Government, had placed themselves in voluntary exile. The
case of Mr. González de la Lastra did not appear in this information.
5. In a note of
January 16, 1978 (OEA 7979), the Government of Panama transmitted to the
IACHR a report from the Minister of the Interior, dated January 12,
1978, in which the Minister replied to the allegation that he had
threatened Mr. González de la Lastra in the following terms:
the doubtful event that Mr. José Chirino, at the time President of the
Chamber of Commerce of Panama, did make the statement referred to in
Case 2509 (Panama), it would have been a wrong interpretation of the
conversation he had with me and he would have been quoting me out of
context. As Minister of the Interior and Justice, I have never made such
a statement about any Panamanian citizen, no matter what his political
persuasion or activity."
added that "as on other occasions, Mr. González de la Lastra left
his homeland of his own free will.
6. During its 43rd
session, held in Caracas, on January 26-February 3, 1978, the Commission
received Mr. González de la Lastra, who said that he was in exile.
7. In a letter of
March 16, 1978, the pertinent parts of the Government's reply were
transmitted to the claimant, and he was invited to make observations on
8. In a letter of
April 11, 1978, the claimant forwarded a certified copy of the minutes
of the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce,
Industry and Agriculture of Panama held on September 17, 1976, at which
the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. José Chirino R., reported
on his conversations with the Minister of the Interior. The pertinent
part of those minutes are quoted below:
wanted to explain to the members present that on the previous day, he
had had telephone conversations with the Minister of the Interior and
Justice Mr. Jorge Castro, because at about three o'clock in the
afternoon, there had been a rumor that a group of people who had been
involved in the January events had been jailed, and that the director,
Carlos E. González was in hiding in the Canal Zone, because Guard Units
were looking for him.
Castro confirmed this. President Chirino had told Minister Castro that
he was very surprised, but the Minister had said that he was being
sought only for investigation.
Chirino had contacted the director, Carlos González, who told him that
in recent months, he had been involved only with his family, his
business and problems of the business, and if necessary, he would give
himself up to the authorities, always provided that they would guarantee
his physical and mental safety.
an exchange of views among the directors of the Executive Committee, it
was decided that it would not be advisable for the director, Carlos González
to give himself up or to return to the city. Minutes later, the Minister
of the Interior and Justice called him to tell him that he should say to
the director Carlos E. González that his life could not be guaranteed,
that he ought to see what he would do about it.
Chirino thus reported that on the previous day, as preparations were
being made for the III Assembly, (it had been agreed that a meeting
should be held, because what was happening with the student
demonstrations over the high cost of living was a different problem), it
was decided to postpone the Assembly because it was not the Chamber's
intention to endanger the lives of its members. Minister Castro had been
called and consulted about the safety of holding this meeting. He had
suggested that it would be preferable not to hold it. He had been asked
what charges had been brought against the Director, Carlos E. González,
but he had given no explanation on this matter."
the same letter, the claimant reported that Mr. Darío Arosemena,
Director of the National Department of Investigations, had called Mr.
González's mother so that she could let her son know that there was a
warrant out for his arrest: Mr. Arosemena said that he should give
himself up or leave the country, that he was offering all guarantees,
that he would even take him in his personal car to the airport, and that
he was giving her his personal telephone number so that Mr. González
added the following statements, which we gave verbatim:
Ernesto González de la Lastra left two weeks after he had gone into
hiding in Panama City because of the pressures put on his family and
himself by the Government.
courageously left immediately after the Government had passed him the
message through a number of emissaries that provided he left the
country, his personal safety would be guaranteed.
9. The pertinent
parts of the claimant's observations were sent to the Government of
Panama in a note dated April 20, 1978.
light of the background information given above, it is found that Mr.
Carlos Ernesto González de la Lastra was obliged to leave his homeland
as a result of pressures by the Government of Panama and because of the
lack of guarantees for his personal safety.
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, RESOLVES:
1. To declare that
the Government of Panama violated Articles I (right to personal
security), VIII (right to residence and movement), and XXVI (right to
due process) of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of
2. To recommend to
the Government of Panama: a. that it order a complete, impartial
investigation to determine responsibility for the events denounced, and
to punish those responsible for such events, in accordance with
Panamanian law, b. if it has not already done so, that it inform Mr.
González de la Lastra that he may return to his country, and c. that it
report to the Commission, within a maximum of 60 days, on the measures
taken to put this recommendation into practice.
3. To communicate
this resolution to the Government of Panama and to the claimant.
4. To include this
Resolution in the Annual Report of the Commission to the General
Assembly of the Organization of American States, pursuant to Article 9
(bis), paragraph c.iii of the Statute of the Commission, without
prejudice to the Commission's being able to reconsider the case at its
next session in light of measures that the Government may have taken.