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Panama Canal



     Ah, to be young again! Tim Brown has been to Panama many times, but only this year did he make a canal crossing. I did it in 1944, climbing up a rope ladder to get to the deck of the ship. Today I would fall and drown, presumably having lost my ability to swim.
     Tim is not convinced by the arguments put forward before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee by Canal authorities. He thinks the Chinese and other threats exist. My impression is that, since it is too late to change the treaty, the government witnesses at the Senate hearings were just acting unconcerned. Tim, who has just written a well-documented piece for the Washington Times, blames President Carter for giving way to rioting students. I agree, having been in Panama at the time of the riots, carried on by rent-a-crowd students under obscure obstructions, much like the rioters at the University of Mexico today. The treaty seemed to me absurd in that the United States promised not to build a canal through any of the other available routes.


     Tim suggests a way the issue could have been solved:
     "On the Panamanian threat to the Canal, it could have readily been disarmed simply by moving the headquarters of the Organization of American States and of the Inter-American Defense Board to the Zone. In one fell swoop, every country in Latin America would have gained a stake in its continued operation as a service and taken on a share of its defense as well, defusing entirely the problem of Latin American solidarity "


     My comment: Decades ago it was proposed to move the Pan American Union, as it was then called, to Panama, following the dream of Simon Bolivar. The United States rejected the proposal abruptly, since it wanted its "colonial office" to stay in Washington. Presumably Panama would have rejected Tim's proposal, using students as a dangerous claque.
     There is talk of a Japan-led consortium building a canal through Nicaragua. The United States could acquire the controlling bloc of shares. There is nothing in the treaty forbidding that.

Ronald Hilton - 10/22/99


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