Panama Canal: Changing of the Guard

By Carter, Tom | The World and I, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Panama Canal: Changing of the Guard


Carter, Tom, The World and I


Sometime in mid-December, in a ceremony that probably will occur on the back terrace of the elegant and imposing Panama Canal Commission building in Balboa Heights, the American flag will come down.

If past ceremonies are a guide, a white symbolic key will be passed and, for the first time, all of Panama's territory, including the 600- plus square miles of the Panama Canal Zone, will be held by Panamanians.

The ceremony was to have been held December 31, but foreign dignitaries were begging off, saying they had to be in their own countries for the millennium celebrations.

U.S. and Panamanian government offices alike display makeshift wall calendars counting the days. But as many questions as answers remain regarding the future of Panama and its namesake canal.

Almost everyone agrees the United States has been a good--even excellent--steward of the 50-mile-long canal and the 10-mile-wide strip of pristine rain forest slicing through the middle of the Panamanian isthmus. But the canal will be under Panamanian management in just months.

Panama is working overtime to assuage investor and international anxiety. The message to the world is: "Relax. Panama can run the canal, it will be properly maintained, the environment will be cared for, the democracy is stable, and foreign investments are safe."

"The Panama Canal is and always will be important for Panama and for the rest of humanity," Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares said in a speech in Mexico in September.

"On midday December 31, 1999, the canal will be entirely Panamanian. The military bases on our territory will only be a memory. The canal will be neutral, and ... Panama will fulfill its historical responsibility."

LINGERING CONCERNS

But Panama's democracy, while genuine and vibrant, is barely 10 years old. There are concerns, not entirely unfounded, that some brand of personality cult or military dictatorship could reemerge.

Polls indicate that up to 70 percent of Panamanians would like to see some sort of continued U.S. presence.

"Panama is not yet capable of handling the canal," said Dalinda Hernandez, a housewife shopping in the cereal aisle of Reys grocery store. "It is my children's future, and I'm not sure 'the transfer' is to the benefit of Panama. The way the United States has handled it was the best way."

Even some politicians publicly agree, despite a risk of being labeled antinationalist.

"Can we administer and run the canal? Absolutely," said Mayin Correa, the popular mayor of Panama City and vice presidential candidate in the elections earlier this year. "Are we capable of managing the millions of dollars' worth of assets being turned over to Panama? No. There is too much corruption."

Yet Panamanian and U.S. officials both describe the transition from U.S. to Panamanian ownership as "seamless."

For 10 years, the canal has been run by Panamanians. Today, about 93 percent of the 9,000 canal employees are Panamanian, including the top administrators.

"There is no lack of technical or managerial expertise to operate and maintain the canal when Panama takes over," Joseph Cornelison, deputy administrator of the Panama Canal, told businessmen in a recent speech in Washington.

While the canal has been a U.S. government-owned, not-for-profit utility, the Panamanians will run it as a government-owned business, free to borrow capital for expansion and raise tolls as warranted.

There will be some downsizing, and there is considerable concern about the impact that will have on Panama's workforce, which already suffers from an unemployment rate of 13 percent.

Panama is expected to lose about $330 million a year that U.S. military personnel would have spent on maids, gardeners, and drivers and in other areas of the Panamanian economy--totaling an estimated 16,000 jobs.

All the Panamanian employees of the military commissaries, for example, soon will be looking for work. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Panama Canal: Changing of the Guard
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.