Globe and Hemisphere: Latin America's Place in the Postwar Foreign Relations of the United States

By J. Fred Rippy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
THE LEVERAGE OF THE CANAL ZONES

CONTROL of two Canal Zones in Central America, one in Panama and the other in Nicaragua, has cost the government of the United States many millions and seems destined to cost millions more. The original sum paid to Panama for the utilization of the zone across her territory was $10 million, to which was later added $25 million, contributed to Colombia as a sort of appeasement for Theodore Roosevelt's aiding and abetting the secession of Panama shortly before the canal concession was acquired from the latter in 1904. The perpetual option secured from Nicaragua in 1916 occasioned the expenditure of another $3 million, and the agreement with Panama provided for a perpetual annuity of $250,000 a year, payable in gold dollars. These are well-known facts. But the continuous pressures by officials of these Central American governments are not so familiar to the general public in the United States. The utilization of the Panama zone and the retention of the option on the Nicaragua zone provide the two countries with leverages which they wield in times of crisis to pry open the United States Treasury -- or rather with effective self-serving arguments, which they employ as often as favorable opportunities permit.

Panama exacted a heavy toll -- more than a million dollars -- during World War II for the use of airfields outside of the zone by the United States government in the defense of the canal and incidentally of the Republic of Panama itself. Acting on the unfounded assumption that the United States government acquired the zone in Nicaragua for the purpose of building another canal and not with the objective of preventing the construction

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