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I repeat, there is no possible way to satisfy the demands of the Communists. Their demands are but the means of agitating and continuing dissatisfaction and unrest among the people they intend to conquer and someday rule with an iron fist.
We have common interests with the Panamanians, and common needs. We have worked together in the past and we must continue to work together in the future. The operation and defense of the canal is our chief common concern.
Once and for all, let the leadership of the United States stand firm on this important issue. We cannot be swayed by any demands regarding the sovereignty terms of the 1903 treaty under which we built, maintained, and protected the canal. However, on the other hand, let our consistent policy affirm that any Panamanian desires to improve the economic and social status of that nation, in accordance with the terms of the 1903 treaty, will always be considered in the most favorable light by the people of the United States and our Government.
STAEMENT OF Hon. WILLIAM J. SCHERLE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IOWA Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee: As cosponsor of legislation urging maintenance and protection of United States sovereignty over the Panama Canal and Canal Zone, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for this oportunity to submit my statement to the subcommittee.
After an uneventful lapse of some 4 years, we seem to be in for another bout of the psychological malady called “Canalera.” Discontent over the current status of the Canal Zone erupted in bloody riots in Panama in 1964 and, after length negotiation, resulted in three new proposals for governing the canal and its surrounding zone. The three draft treaties were never accepted either by the United States or Panama, and the situation has remained more or less static until now. Earlier this year, however, the administration reopened negotiations with Panama to rewrite the original 1903 agreement.
Presumably the negotiators will use the 1967 treaty drafts as the basis for the present discussions. At any rate they will be faced with the same set of conflicting C.S. and Panamanian objectives. Panama will still undoubtedly insist on recognition of its sovereignty over the 10-mile strip of territory within its borders which constitutes the Canal Zone. The United States for its part must maintain its responsibility for defending and governing the canal, not only for our own interests, but to protect this vital link in hemispheric defense as well.
Certainly some of the Panamanian demands are negotiable. Their insistence that wage discrimination on the basis of nationality be ended, and that the canal authorities buy Panamanian goods and services where available instead of importing competition from outside, seem reasonable enough. The request for Panamanian representation on the canal's governing board might also be considered legitimate. Concessions concerning such emotion-charged symbolic issues as the joint flying of national flags might also be made if they would ease nationalistic tensions within Panama.
But on one issue the United States should never yield: and that is the final authority for operating and defending the canal. The canal is essential to U.S. commercial interests: 70 percent of the canal's traffic either originates or terminates in the United States, and we still have an unrecovered investment in the canal of some $300 million. The canal is also essential to the larger requirement of hemispheric security and stability.
Postponing the surrender of U.S. sovereignty over the canal until 1999, as one of the draft treaties does, in no way solves the potential problems that such an abdication of responsibilty would pose. It merely puts them off. No one is competent to predict at this juncture what the political situation in Latin America will be like at the end of the century. Judging from the troubled area's past history, however, no diplomat worth his salt would dare to be too optimistic. Apart from the apparently endemic turmoil of the region in which coup succeeds coup with frightening regularity, there is a very real danger of a Communist takeover, if not in Panama itself, then in neighboring countries. Cuba, for example, is within easy striking distance, and Cuba's Communist demagog would be only too happy to foment trouble in Panama, and even to close the canal to U.S. traffic if possible. In view of the real and present dangers we face today, it would be foolhardy and irresponsible to resign the canal to unknown perils three decades hence. The United States must stand firm on its rights and responsibilities and duties in the Canal Zone. Whatever other concessions we may make in the interests of harmonious relations with Panama, we should not sign away our sovereignty over the canal.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, for your kind consideration of my views on this important subject.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES M. TEAGUE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. Chairman, our historic involvement with the Panama Canal has been a key factor in the U.S. defense strategy for the Western Hemisphere. We were granted full and sovereign rights over the canal by the Republic of Panama in 1904 for the construction and maintenance of the canal. It is to the United States' advantage in the international arena to maintain this control.
In 1967, it was proposed that the United States cede, in part, its authority over the Canal Zone to the Panamanian Government. Under a new joint administration, the United States would increase its annual payments to Panama, and share its defense and police responsibilities. When the text of the treaty was released, public indignation in the United States was so widely expressed that the draft treaty was never sent to the Senate for ratification.
Today, the possibility that such a treaty might yet be made still haunts us. A military junta is now ruling Panama. A new administration is in office in Washington. Pressure from home and abroad is being directed at the American Government to surrender its overseas bases and establishments. The Panamanian Government is again willing to begin negotiations for a new treaty. The Panamanians obtained substantial concessions in previous negotiations with our Government in 1967. The benefits which they might achieve from renewed proposals appear even more lucrative.
That the American people would be forced to write off the vast investment they have made in the Panama Canal by unilaterally surrendering sovereign rights over the Canal Zone, seems highly inequitable. The loss, even partial, of our authority over shipping rights in the canal would drastically weaken the position of the United States in the Western Hemisphere. The importance of the Canal Zone as a strategic bastion of our "southern flank” cannot be overrated. Deprived of our historic authority over the Canal Zone, the possibility of a potentially hostile regime in Panama denying us access of the canal for the transfer of our naval forces from ocean to ocean, ever increases. To lose this flexibility and mobility of our naval forces would destroy a crucial link in our defense chain, an act which would surely be disastrous.
Neither in commercial terms could we ever benefit from surrendering our authority in the Canal Zone. For 70 percent of Panama Canal traffic today either originates or terminates in U.S. ports. Increased shipping rates could only damage this trade. A Communist or hostile goverment would have it in their power to completely shut off the canal to U.S. shipping.
A House resolution has now been introduced by my colleagues, Mr. Flood and Mr. Hall, regarding our sovereignty over the Panama Canal. This resolution would arm the President with the sentiment of the House of Representatives in his effort to maintain American control over the Panama Canal Zone. This resolution states that the United States should in no way forfeit, cede, negotiate, or transfer any of these sovereign rights. This resolution speaks in the higest interests of protection and security for the entire Western Hemisphere, including the Canal Zone and Panama. I urge the full support of my colleagues for this resolution.
STATEMENT ON THE STATUS OF THE PANAMA CANAL
(By Dr. Donald M. Dozer, Ph. D., Department of History, University of
California, Santa Barbara)
The House Subcommittee, if they make a truly thorough and objective study, must surely recommend against any change in the status of the Panama Canal. Under existing treaty arrangements with Britain, Panama, and Colombia, and with the existing Canal facilities the United States has since 1915, satisfactorily discharged its existing responsibilities to the maritime nations of the world in transporting their ships and cargoes across the Isthmus of Panama. The Panama Canal now meets most of the demands made upon it while operating at much less than capacity, and it can be rendered completely responsive to the world shipping needs through modernization of the existing lock system without any change in the Canal route or its treaty status. The United States can, in other words, with a minimum expenditure of money and within a minimum span of time, correct any awkward or absolute features of the existing Canal while remaining completely within its international rights as embodied in the treaties with the above mentioned countries and without the need for any new international agreements.
It is, in my judgment, not only unwise but dangerous for this government in the present posture of world affairs to relinquish any of its treaty rights and sovereign control over the Panama Canal and Canal Zone to enter into any new
compromises with Panama, or by the negotiation of such compromises to open ourselves to claims by both Britain and Colombia for violation of our control treaties with them.
Who is punching the panic button? Why should there be such a rush to give away one of the greatest engineering and transportation works ever built by the hand and brain of man?
I believe firmly that our national interest will be best promoted by terminating all current negotiations with Panama looking toward the surrender of the present canal to that country and the construction of a new canal. If we undertake instead to modernize the present canal within our sufficiently broad treaty rights, we can continue, without involving ourselves in any new diplomatic imbroglios or negotiations of surrender, to meet the needs of world commerce, as well as our own, well within the twenty-first century.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOE D. WAGGONNER, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
Mr. Chairman, as a representative from one of the great Coastal States with extensive maritime interests, I long ago recognized the vast economic importance of the Panama Canal. It is in the truest sense a part of the coastline of the United States and as such its proper operation and protection are just as much the responsibility of our Government as the ports of New Orleans and New York.
The Canal Zone and Panama Canal are territory and property of the United States paid for by our taxpayers. The construction of the canal and subsequent maintenance, operation, sanitation and protection, including defense, from 1904 to June 30, 1968, represent a net total investment of more than $5 billion.
Under the Constitution the power to dispose of territory and other property of the United States is vested in the Congress. Despite this constitutional provision, the negotiators for the discredited 1967 treaties would have ceded United States sovereignty over the Canal Zone to Panama without any compensation whatsoever. In June of this year Panamanian negotiators publicly announced the intention of their government to obtain full sovereignty over the Canal Zone as their objective and in the event of failure to get it, to refuse to sign any treaty.
The United States is not the only country with treaty interests in the Panama Canal. We have the 1901 Hay-Pauncefote Treaty with Great Britain that established the rules for the operation of the Panama Canal on terms of equality for all nations.
We also have the 1914 Thompson-Urrutia Treaty with Colombia which grants to that country essentially the same rights to use the Panama Canal and Railroad as enjoyed by the United States. The problems that would be caused by surrendering our treaty based rights, power and authority would be monumental and plague us into the indefinite future. Moreover, the surrender of the Canal Zone would vastly complicate the difficult problems of modernizing the existing Panama Canal, which can be done under existing treaty provisions.
For these and many other reasons that need not be enumerated, I urge the adoption of the identical measures on Panama Canal sovereignty and jurisdiction so that the entire world would well know that the United States has the vision and will to meet its obligations at Panama.
STATEMENT OF HON. J. IRVING WHALLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
THE UNITED STATES MUST MAINTAIN ITS RIGHTS IN THE PANAMA
Mr. Chairman, I strongly urge members to support House Resolution 239 which resolves that the “United States maintain and project its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over [the Panama Canal] and that the U.S. Government in no way forfeit, cede, negotiate, or transfer any of these sovereign rights or jurisdiction to any other sovereign nation or to any international organization. ”
The canal is our strategic lifeline between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its benefits have proven invaluable in times of crisis to the United States and to its allies, in terms of quick transport of men and military material.
Commercially, the canal is a tremendous asset to this Country. About 70 percent of cargo passing through the Panama Canal originates in or is destined for U.S. ports.
Gen. George R. Mather, U.S. Army, commander in chief, Southern Command, stressed the strategic and economic importance of the canal in his statement of July 10, 1970, before the Subcommittee on InterAmerican Affairs of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:
“The continued operation of the canal is of great economic importance to the United States and to friendly countries throughout the world ***. It also continues to be important to our national defense, even in this age of nuclear weapons, and our separate Atlantic and Pacific fleets. Large carriers cannot transmit the canal, but nuclear submarines do. The canal thus provides a capability for prompt redeployment of this element of our strategic capability.
"More important to our overall defense posture in these times when defense dollars must be so judiciously allocated are the same economic advantages that concern commercial shippers. The millions of tons of cargo that have passed through the canal each year during the Southeast Asia conflict would have added greatly to the financial burden of our operations had some alternate route been forced upon
Granting the Republic of Panama greater control of the canal could have dire consequences for the United States and its allies. Should a hostile government in Panama deny us transit through the canal, a vital link in our chain of defense would be irretrievably broken. The curtailment of our commercial shipping through the canal would result in phenomenally increased costs to U.S.consumers.
The United States has upheld the obligations it has incurred in opening this interoceanic canal route. It has operated, maintained, and protected the canal, not only for its own use, but for the benefit of the other countries of the world. It has paid the Republic of Panama nearly $50 million in gratuities and has invested a total of $5 billion in the waterway.
If the canal is now becoming overcrowded and is not able to accommodate some of the larger ocean going vessels—the answer is not to hand it over to Panama, but to modernize it.