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policy of this Government is a canal under American control. It is the right and duty of the United States to assert and maintain such supervision and authority over any oceanic canal across the Isthmus that connect North and South America as would protect our national interest."
Twenty years later after Panama received her independence from Colombia, President Theodore Roosevelt promulgated a similar dictum:“We have not the slightest intention of establishing an independent colony in the middle of the State of Panama, or of exercising any greater governmental functions than are necessary to enable us conveniently and safely to construct, maintain and operate the canal, under the rights given us by the treaty." These two Presidential proclamations have formed the basis of U.S. policy in the Canal Zone since the canal opened in 1914.
This policy remains unchanged in 1971. Yet, the Nixon administration has recently reopened negotiations with representatives of the Panamanian Government for a new treaty governing the Panama Canal Zone operation. Because of the volatile and unsettled conditions in Panama, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia, I firmly believe that this is an improper time for the United States to negotiate a new treaty with the present Panamanian Government.
We are all aware that the key issue in these present negotiations will be over jurisdiction and sovereignty of the Canal Zone. The question of sovereignty over the Panama Canal has been a constant source of friction and at times open conflict between Panama and the United States since the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903 was signed in which Panama surrendered her sovereignty over the Canal Zone to the United States in perpetuity. Indeed, signing of a new treaty to give Panama jurisdictional control over the Canal Zone has become a current strengthening cry of nationalism in the Republic. It was the major cause of the 1959 anti-American, Communist-inspired riots and demonstrations in Panama; it was the major cause of the flag riots of 1964 which left 24 persons dead in the Canal Zone.
Following the violent demonstrations of 1964, the Johnson administration entered into negotiations over the Canal Zone with President Marco A. Robles. After 2 years, these negotiations resulted in the drafting of three new treaties to replace the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903. One related to the maintenance of U.S. bases in the Canal Zone for defense of the canal; the second related to construction of a sea level canal across Panama ; the third would have created a governing board of five United States and four Panamanian appointees to run the canal until 1999 when it would become Panamanian property:
But this third treaty was only a partial response to Panamanian demands for total control of the Canal Zone. As a result, all three treaties became a target of contending political factions in Panama. Increased antagonism toward these proposed treaties and toward continued American control of the Canal Zone contributed to the National Assembly's ouster of President Robles in March 1968 and a national guard coup d'état 7 months later which brought to power the current military junta, led by General Omar Torrijos.
The new military junta rejected the treaties of 1967 stating that the main source of the conflict-control of the Canal Zone—had still not been resolved. It was obvious that a binational administration over the canal was unworkable. But the Panamanian dictatorship was not alone in its opposition to these treaties. In the U.S. House of Representatives, more than 130 Members introduced or cosponsored resolutions urging that these treaties be rejected, based on the declaration that it was the policy of the House of Representatives that the United States should maintain sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal Zone. Mrs. Leonor Sullivan and other opponents in the House focused their criticism on what they believed to be the danger of loss of the canal through nationalization or blockade or through Communist subversion and takeover. Many Members warned of the danger inherent in the canal's location near Castro's Cuba.
Three years later, the criticisms expressed in this Chamber in 1967 are still valid. I believe that any treaty with a politically unstable, extra-constitutional, military dictatorship which retains its power by resorting to political blackmail, fear, suppression, and anti-American propaganda would not be worth the paper on which it was written. General Torrijos' government is politically insecure in Panama; it can be replaced by a counterrevolutionary government which would discard any treaty made between General Torrijos and the United States. It seems highly unwise for our administration to negotiate a treaty except with a constitutionally elected Panamanian Government.
In its desire to seek jurisdiction over the Canal Zone, the Panama Government is trying to seize control of a waterway which must be used by the whole world. The Panama Canal is a public utility for the ships of all the nations. The United States, under the exclusive rights of sovereignty which was given in the treaty of 1903, is responsible for maintaining and keeping the canal open to the use of all nations on equal terms. Most of the ships, approximately 70 percent, that use the canal are either going to or departing from a U.S. port. While the canal is an interoceanic public utility, it is imperative that the United States continue to maintain and operate it. If the Canal Zone were taken over by the Republic of Panama under the military dicitatorship of General Torrijos, the canal's long history of impartial access for ships of every nation would be destroyed. Nothing could stop the present revolutionary government from nationalizing the canal, a situation which could precipitate an international crisis not unlike the Suez crisis of 1956 when President Nasser of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.
The canal under U.S. management has operated with efficiency and has brought untold benefits to world commerce and to the people of Panama. If the United States were to withdraw from the Canal Zone, the economy as well as the very independence of that country would be in jeopardy. The canal is of immense strategic importance both economically and militarily to the United States and has served to unify the nations of the two American continents. It forms part of the coast line of the United States and its protection is as vital to American national security as is the defense of New York Harbor. It is one of the world's most strategic centers.
We all know that the Communists have been interested in the Panama Canal for some time. Any treaty with the present military government in Panama which might fall below Panamanian expectations—i.e. complete Panamanian control of the Canal Zone and ouster of U.S. troops-might result in revolutionary, Communist-inspired violence in the Republic. Such a situation could parallel the Santa Domingo crisis of 1965.
General Torrijos has adopted a hard-line negotiating position. If his government is unable to deliver in these present negotiations, the stage will be set for counter-revolutionary movements within Panama. Nothing could stop these movements but armed U.S. intervention to protect the canal.
he Caribbean is a potentially volatile area in the world today witnessed by Castro's Cuba, Santa Domingo's political instability and the recent death of Haiti's “Papa Doc.” If any of these areas erupt, the violence could easily spread to the Panama Republic. Also, the Middle East crisis has not been resolved. Negotiations to reopen the Suez Canal have reached a political impasse. This is no time to negotiate a new treaty with an unstable military dictatorship over the only interoceanic waterway that is still open to world commerce.
STATEMENT OF HON. KENNETH ROBINSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
Mr. Chairman, as a co-sponsor of House Resolution 541, one of the resolutions under consideration of the subcommittee, I desire to emphasize that my concern stems from the ferment of world uncertainty which demands a continuing vigilance over the long-term national security interests of the United States.
In many respects, these interests coincide with those of our hemispheric neighbors, in that, despite our differences of view on some matters—and, in particular, the special situations of Cuba and Chile the defensive leadership of the United States still could be expected to have rather general acknowledgment in the event of a major aggression from outside the hemisphere.
It is not my purpose to recite the history of the Canal Zone, or to offer a categorical defense of our policies of the past with reference to Panama. I do not contend for an attitude of intransigence with reference to grievances which may be advanced by the government or people of that country.
The fact remains, however, that our present arrangement in regard to sovereignty and control over the Canal Zone rests on a rather substantial historic base. Reasonable alterations to the structure may be in order to take into account changing requirements, but erosion of the base should not be permitted.
Our purpose here, Mr. Chairman, is to urge that the House be allowed to state its position, as the legislative body nearest the people, in opposition to any new treaty arrangement having the effect of abdi
cating the sovereignty of the United States over the Zone and its waterway.
We must not tolerate the development of a Suez-type situation in which passage is denied to our own and other peaceful commerce, or access barred to our own or friendly naval forces in time of national or hemispheric peril.
It is important that our treaty negotiators be made aware of the position of the House now, lest we find ourselves, through delay, deploring the fait accompli of a peril-fraught giveaway.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN H. ROUSSELOT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Let me first express my appreciation to this Subcommittee on InterAmerican Affairs, and ultimately the entire House Committee on Foreign Affairs as well as the Congress as a whole, for assuming its rightful role in reviewing the very important issue of the sovereign rights of the United States in the American Panama Canal Zone. I also wish to express my appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this discussion by presenting additional testimony which I feel might be helpful.
It is my firm conviction that all of us, the Members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, have taken the solemn oath to uphold and defend the United States Constitution. Article IV, section 3, paragraph 2, of this Constitution clearly delegates the responsibility to Congress as it relates to territory and property belonging to the United States. Too often, in Congress, we have allowed the executive branch of Government--either by preemption or persuasion—to cause us to neglect this specific responsibility delegated to the third branch of Government. I refer to the power of Congress defined in paragraph 2 of article IV, section 3 as follows:
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shaīl be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State. We are now told that the executive branch of our Government is carrying on negotiations with the Government of Panama to give consideration to seceding to that foreign country certain sovereignty held in perpetuity over the Canal Zone under the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903.
Neither the President, his Secretary of State, his ambassadors, nor the U.S. Senate may act singly or in concert to give up U.S. sovereignty in the property of the Panama Canal. The 1903 Treaty is part of “the supreme Law of the Land” as specified in article VI, paragraph 2 of the Constitution as follows:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or
Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. Therefore, the Members of the House of Representatives have the right and the duty to protest the efforts of those who would bypass this House in any attempt to slip through the other body treaty provisions which would lessen U.S. sovereignty over the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone which is so vital to the commerce of the world and our own national defense.
This statement about Panama and its people is in no way intended to be anything but an accurate reflection of true historical facts. Although the Government of Panama may have deep but honest differences with us, I have a high regard for those Latin statesmen who have fought the hard struggle to bring their people up to greater economic stability. I respect the people of this Latin American country who, like their counterparts in North America, work hard to support their families and improve the quality of life in their communities. However, the recording of events shows that Panama has a history of political conflict, internal strife and unstable government.
The Republic of Panama exists because there is a Panama Canal. The people of Panama gained their independence only because this country wanted to build a canal. Let me quote briefly from a document issued on August 31, 1960 by this subcommittee to which I am addressing my statement." After pointing out how the Government of Colombia failed to act favorably on a Colombian-United States treaty negotiated by our Secretary of State John Hay and the Colombian negotiator Tomas Herran which was approved by the U.S. Senate on March 17, 1903 and unanimously rejected by the Colombian Senate on August 12, the subcommittee report recalls the history of the following few days:
"J. PANAMA REVOLTS
“Panamanians had never felt a strong attachment for the rest of the country. Isolated from the capital and centers of population by soaring mountains, the Isthmus of Panama had been left largely to its own resources. In the preceding three-quarters of a century since independence from Spain, Panamanian discontent had erupted on a number of occasions into attempts to establish an independent state.
“Isthmian delegates to the special session of Congress were outspoken in warning that failure to ratify the treaty would mean rebellion on the isthmus.
“While the Colombian Senate debated, prominent Panamanians met to plot a course of action should the treaty be rejected. The conspirators were aided and abetted by agents of the New Panama Canal Company who were intent on securing the promised $40 million from the United States.
1 “Report on United States Relations With Panama," by the Subcommittee on InterAmerican Affairs of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, p. 9, Aug. 31, 1960.