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STATEMENT OF HON. LEONOR K. SULLIVAN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI
Mrs. SULLIVAN. I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to thank you for allowing me to present this statement to your committee concerning the current negotiations between our Government and the Government of the Republic of Panama, which are intended to lead to new treaties governing the Canal Zone and defense facilities in Panama and the canal itself. As far as I am concerned, there is not a more crucial matter facing the administration and the Congress in the coming months than the present treaty negotiations concerning Panama.
I served as chairman of the Panama Canal Subcommittee for 14 years, until this year because the new rules of the 92d Congress prohibited the chairing of two subcommittees, and my interest in Panama goes even much further beyond that time. In light of my deep involvement with the affairs of Panama over this extended period and my intense interest in the canal and the surrounding region, I cannot help but be anxious and apprehensive over the new round of treaty negotiations which have begun between the negotiators of our country and the Republic of Panama. It is for these reasons, Mr. Chairman, that I have requested this opportunity to present my views to your committee concerning these critical matters.
Before I get into the substance of my remarks, I would like to ask the committee's permission to submit the following documents as part of the hearing record. These documents are identified as follows:
(a) A report issued in December, 1970, on the “Problems Concerning the Panama Canal.” This comprehensive report was from the Subcommittee on Panama Canal to the full House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. This report has enjoyed wide circulation and favorable comment.
(A copy of this report may be found in the subcommittee files. Also, copies may be obtained from the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries.)
(6) A speech which I made on the floor of the House on April 1, 1971, when word first reached the House concerning the opening of negotiations for a new set of treaties. (Congressional Record, p. E-2656.)
(c) A letter of May 20, 1971, from me to the President of the United States, respectfully urging that the administration not begin these new treaty negotiations. Also attached to this letter are copies of two replies which I have received. (A part of the Congressional Record pages E-7728-E-7731)
(d) A speech to the House dated July 14, 1971 (Congressional Record pages E-77284E-7731), in which I inserted certain news stories related to the speeches and promises of Gen. Omar Torrijos and other officials of the Panamanian Government to the people of Panama.
Mr. FASCELL. Without objection, the documents identified will be included in the record.
(The documents referred to may be found on pp. 41–55.)
Mrs. Sullivan. Mr. Chairman, it is pertinent to note that the pattern of Panamanian behavior which led to the 1964–67 negotiations and treaties is being repeated by the Panamanians. This activist behavior is undoubtedly being undertaken as a lever to force new negotiations and treaties which give every indication of being even more retrograde to the interests of the United States than were the last round of abortive negotiations and treaties.
My basic objection, of course, to the present round of treaty negotiations is that they appear to have as their basic purpose the abrogation of U.S. jurisdiction and sovereignty in the Canal Zone. This is basically objectionable because it is contrary to the best interests of the United States. However, the recent activity of the present Panamanian nonconstitutional provisional military government makes such treaty negotiations all the more inappropriate at this time. It truly seems unwise to negotiate with this nonconstitutional provisional military government at a time when it has terminated cur Rio Hato Military Base lease, continually alleged in the news media of Panama improper U.S. conduct, acted illegally and discriminatorily against Canal Zone residents, and kept up a constant drumfire of anti-American propaganda publicly.
In order to view the present treaty negotiations in proper perspective, I believe it is necessary to examine some of the premises which led to the pricr 1964–67 treaty negotiations and some of the disabilities which were inherent in those treaties. At the time the 1967 treaties were drafted and negotiated, it was thought that the canal was inadequate to meet the requirements of commerce and should be replaced. Subsequent investigation has indicated that there is little in the record to support this conclusion, and General Leber, the former Governor of the Canal Zone Government, testified in 1970 that the existing canal with certain improvements should be able to handle all foreseeable traffic to the end of the century.
At the time the 1967 treaties were drafted and negotiated it was thought that a sea-level canal was economically feasible and could be inexpensively constructed by nuclear excavation. The Atlantic-Pacific Inter-Oceanic Canal Study Commission report of December, 1970, eliminates the possibility of nuclear construction for the foreseeable future. As to the cost of constructing a new sea-level canal by conventional means, it would appear to be in the range of $2 to $3 billion, although the total cost cannot be known because financial arrangements for such construction are inseparably bound to negotiations between the United States and Panama.
It may be concluded, therefore, that treaty negotiations such as those now under way cannot be premised on the assumption that Congress will authorize the construction of a new sea-level canal or enact legislation to transfer the existing canal to any other country.
Aside from the fact that the 1967 draft treaties were based on erroneous premises, they were also unsatisfactory from the standpoint of the United States for a number of reasons.
For example, they would have resulted in the United States relinquishing its sovereignty over the canal and would have operated in such a way that the United States would have been unable to provide for its defense. In addition, those treaties contemplated unrealistic and unreasonable increases in toll rates and revenues, and failed to take into account the constitutional authority of Congress over the disposal of U.S. property. Those treaties would have transferred control of the canal from the Congress to a nine-man governing authority with the five American members being appointed by the President and subject to confirmation by the Senate and responsible to the Executive, not the Congress. Any arrangements such as this would, in itself, be sufficient to make the treaties unacceptable to the Congress.
It is clear that these 1967 treaties were totally unacceptable to us for the reasons I have just mentioned. On the other hand, the nonconstitutional provisional military government of Panama rejected these treaties outright because they did not go far enough. Thus, it seems elementary that any developments in the new treaty, negotiations which would satisfy Panama's predatory and totalitarian demands would be objectionable and unacceptable to the United States.
În addition to the basic objection to any treaty surrendering our sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Canal Zone since it is contrary to the best interests of the United States, I also regard these present negotiations as creating a most unfortunate and dangerous climate in Panama. I say this because General Torrijos and Foreign Minister Tack have made any number of promises to the people of Panama in recent weeks concerning what they intend to get from the United States in these present negotiations. I do not believe the officials of Panama will be able to deliver on these promises to the people of Panama, and when these people are frustrated and disappointed in the results, I fear the outlet for their frustrations and anger will be manifested in riot and anarchy, which will be directed, unfortunately, against the U.S. presence in Panama.
Although I believe I have made my position abundantly clear with respect to the inadvisability of our relinquishing our sovereignty and jurisdiction in the Canal Zone, I do not want you to think that I view this situation in a completely negative fashion. There is a middle ground for consideration and there are concessions which' may be made.
For example, after a trip to Panama in early 1969, and at the urging of certain commercial Panamanian interests, I suggested in a letter to the President that a portion of the Old France Field which is on the Atlantic side of the Canal Zone might be given over to the Panamanians for use in its free zone. The use of this parcel of land in the free zone by the Panamanians would increase Panamanian commerce and employment considerably. We might also allow Panama to bring its own supermarkets within the Canal Zone to compete with our commissaries. Also, I have continually suggested over the years that the President appoint one or two Panamanians to the board of directors of the Panama Canal Co. so that they may see how the funds received from tolls are poured back into the improvements and upkeep of the Panama Canal itself.
These are just a few suggestions of a number of more moderate steps which may be taken and perhaps should have been taken in the past. However, I most strongly urge my colleagues, in both the House and the Senate, to resist any efforts to force us to relinquish our sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Canal Zone which is so vital and necessary to our commercial and national security interests.
In a recent conversation with Ambassador Mundt, he informed me that they are contemplating an arrangement whereby we would surrender our sovereign control over the 10-mile strip of the Canal Zone but retain our authority over the waterway itself. In other words, our control would end at the water's edge of the canal. I hope none of us will fall prey to this type of fuzzy thinking. Obviously, the canal cannot be operated from the water itself without the necessary land appurtenances and facilities.
(The following information was subsequently submitted for inclusion in the record :)
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C., September 28, 1971. Hon. DANTE B. FASCELL, Chairman, Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs, House Committee on For
eign Affairs, 2170 Rayburn Building, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I have today received a letter from John C. Mundt, Special Representative of the United States for Interoceanic Canal Negotiations, who is at present working on Treaty negotiations with representatives of the Republic of Panama, copy of which has been sent to you.
In the statement I made before your Subcommittee on September 22, I said, and I quote:
"In a recent conversation with Ambassador Mundt, he informed me that they are contemplating an arrangement whereby we would surrender our sovereign control over the 10-mile strip of the Canal Zone but retain our authority over the waterway itself. In other words, our control would end at the water's edge of the Canal. I hope none of us will fall prey to this type of fuzzy thinking. Obviously, the Canal cannot be operated from the water itself without the necessary land appurtenances and facilities."
This was my clear understanding of the conversation I had with Ambassador Mundt early this summer. According to the letter to me dated September 24, it seems as if there could have been a play on words so that my interpretation of our conversation reflected a different meaning than the Ambassador intended to convey.
Since we have in writing a clarification of what he meant to convey, I ask that you make his letter to me, correcting my statement, made a part of the record. Respectfully,
LEONOR K. (Mrs. John B.) SULLIVAN,
Member of Congress,
3d District, Missouri. Enclosure.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, D.C., September 24, 1971. Hon. LEONOR K. SULLIVAN, House of Representatives.
DEAR Mrs. SULLIVAN: The statement which you presented on September 22, 1971, to the Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs refers, in the second to last paragraph, to a recent conversation you had with me. You stated that Ambassador Mundt "informed me that they are contemplating an arrangement whereby we would surrender our sovereign control over the 10-mile strip of the Canal Zone but retain our authority over the waterway itself. In other words, our control would end at the water's edge of the Canal.”
The U.S. negotiators have never contemplated such an arrangement, and I . greatly regret that any misunderstanding could have arisen regarding our position or what I said to you on this score. We have made it very clear to the Panamanian negotiators and to the Government of Panama that the U.S. must retain the land and water areas and facilities in the present Canal Zone which are needed to operate and defend the Canal. These areas have not as yet been precisely defined, but they are being negotiated with Panama on the basis of advice from the Department of Defense and they will definitely include a substantial part of the present Canal Zone. Our control of land areas would not "end at the water's edge of the Canal" but would include broad areas on both sides of the waterway needed for the operation and defense of the Canal. Within this area we will retain the legal and other rights needed to ensure the effective operation
and defense of the Canal. We fully agree with your statement that “the Canal cannot be operated from the water itself without the necessary land appurtenances and facilities."
I would greatly appreciate your taking the necessary steps to ensure that the Committee record is clear on this point, as the Panamanians, who had a representative at the hearing, might otherwise doubt the firmness of our position. I am taking the liberty of sending a copy of this letter to Chairman Fascell of the Subcommittee.
I hope to have the chance to talk to you again about the progress of the negotiations with Panama, and I will give you a call in the near future. Sincereiy,
John C. MUNDT,
for Interoceanic Canal Negotiations. Mrs. SULLIVAN. I would like to thank the chairman and the members of this committee for allowing me to present my views to them on this highly important matter, and I am confident that my colleagues in the Congress will not allow the administration to give away an area which is so vital to our interests.
Mr. FASCELL. Thank you, Mrs. Sullivan, for your balanced approach to the subject and for the constructive suggestions which you have enunciated.
You made one statement that I am not sure about. I would like to correct the record on it. I believe you said that Panama rejected the 1967 treaties. As I recall, they were never submitted.
Mrs. SULLIVAN. If my recollection is correct, they were submitted to the president at that time of Panama and to our own President.
Mr. FASCELL. That is as far as they went in either case ?
Mr. FascELL. What you are saying, is that if the Congress retains jurisdiction over tolls, if Congress retains jurisdiction over property necessary for the defense and operation of the canal, and if Congress retains jurisdiction over any decision to improve the present canal or to build a new one, if justified—then we will have preserved the elements essential to any arrangement that may be arrived at.
Mrs. SULLIVAN. Right; I would like to stress again, if we give up the sovereignty rights that we have under the Treaty of 1903, about which Mr. Morse asked, remember, we would have absolutely no authority at all within that 10-mile strip known as the Canal Žone. I think we have only to look at the other countries—Peru, Chile, even the first one, Cuba—where, when they had control, nothing stopped them from taking over the interests of the private industry of citizens of the United States. Nothing will stop Panama except armed force from taking over what they want in the Canal Zone, ever, the canal itself, because this is what they have promised to the people.
I am sure you are sent these information sheets, also, but I have a whole collection of them from the last 2 months. These are the translations from the news columns in the Spanish newspapers. Day after day, these speeches are bieng made all over Panama. Areas where they were never made before, saying "the Panama Government will stop at nothing, and we will have control and sovereignty over the Canal Zone, and we will settle for nothing less." Officials are making daily statements to the people—to the people of Panama—who were never invited to political meetings or discussions before.