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“ 'For peace and prosperity we are giving up certain intangibles, like freedom of speech and the other political rights,' a Panamanian businessman says. 'How soon we get to the point where the sacrifice of intangibles no longer is equal to the tangibles we have gained is the big question.'"
Gen. Omar Torrijos, the real power behind the Government of Panama, and his Minister of Foreign Affairs Juan Tack, have been holding many meetings and speaking of their demands for the terms of a new treaty.
The Miami Herald, in its issues of July 7, 1971, carried an article under the headline of “Panama's New Dictatorship Often Arbitrary, Repressive” which is as follows:
"PANAMA'S NEW DICTATORSHIP OFTEN ARBITRARY, REPRESSIVE
“(By Don Bohning) "PANAMA.--Among the slogans of Panama's military-controlled government is one that proclaims: 'Revolution Without Dictatorship, Liberty With Order.'
“It might be more accurately read; 'Revolution With Dictatorship, Order Without Liberty.'
"And there is even some questions as to the authenticity of the 'revolution' to which Gen. Omar Torrijos, Panama's unchallenged ruler, and his military colleagues pay repeated lip service.
"Panama today is a military dictatorship; one that can be, and often is, as arbritrary and repressive as any in the hemisphere.
“In fairness, there have been positive actions since the 6,500 man National Guard, Panama's only military force, seized power Oct. 11, 1968.
“Hitherto unknown political stability has been imposed. The country is prospering economically. The government has professed an awareness of, and an interest in, the problem of the underprivileged both in the cities and the countryside. And, what seems to have made the greatest impression on some, the streets are cleaner and the garbage is being picked up regularly.
“Before the guard seized power, Panama had what ranked among the most venal and corrupt political systems in the hemisphere.
“By contrast, government by the guard initially looked almost puritanical. That image is fading, as rumors of corruption, nepotism and immorality grow and are too widespread to be dismissed.
"Where freedom of the press was previously abused, it now is nonexistent. Although there is no formal censorship, newspapers publish only what the government sees fit to print.
“Political activity is banned. And, although Torrijos made vague noises about the beginning of a return to constitutional government late in 1970, there has been no recent indication that he now has any plans to do so.
"Perhaps the most distasteful of all is the atmosphere of fear in which much of the politically aware population finds itself living.
“Recent newspaper advertisements, inviting abuse, called upon the citizenry to protect the 'national security' by reporting suspicious activity or persons and 'important information.'
"It is presumed that telephones are tapped by the government, and conversations are cautious. Once politically active Panamanians are fearful of being seen with foreign newsmen.
“Of the 19 hemisphere countries Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's fact-finding mission for President Nixon visited in the summer of 1969, Panama was the only one where the Secret Service found the mission conference room bugged.
“An extensive system of informants also is said to be active, reporting to the National Guard G2 or intelligence section, headed by Lt. Col. Manuel Noriega, an ambitious officer with a reputation for ruthlessness.
“In some instances it is known that physical pressures have been exerted on prisoners at various 'houses of interrogation' operated by the guard in Panama City and Tocumen International Airport.
“Even American citizens have not been immune from arbitrary arrests by the guard, including Robert Frizell, a Chiriqui province land-owner, who the government apparently thought was implicated in some kind of antigovernment activity although he repeatedly denied it.
"Frizell was held incommunicado for several days last October. He was released Nov. 3 for lack of evidence.
"So that is the National Guard control that Panamanians are cynically disbelieving when the government professes no knowledge of such things as the recent disappearance of Father Hector Gallego, a young Colombian activist priest kidnaped in remote Santa Fe parish in the Panamanian interior.
"Neither has the United States escaped the arbitrary action of the military government, including the expulsion of the Peace Corps contingent from the country early this year.
**The commonly accepted, although unofficial version, is that the Peace Corps departure was ordered by Panama in retaliation for the arrest in the Canal Zone by U.S. authorities of a Panamanian citizen on drug trafficking charges. He was then sent to the United States to stand trial.
“For those Panamanians who hope for a change, the prospect is dim.
"Torrijos and the guard are firmly in control. They have neutralized all possible sources of opposition, including the university.
"Anti-government elements at the university have been purged, and progovernment groups have been created to replace them.
“Political parties are banned, and the commercial class is cowed.
"The only remaining independent institution that could effectively challenge the government is the Roman Catholic Church. It is for that reason that the case of Father Gallego is being followed with more than passing interest."
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is the inherent right of the people of the United States to be informed of what is happening in what could become a volatile situation; that should these negotiations be allowed to continue without the refutation of any of the statements that are being made by Gen. Omar Torrijos and Foreign Minister Tack in the name of the Republic of Panama, we are in danger of being placed in a position of having to defend our right to operate the Panama Canal under the Treaty of 1903.
I urge the Members of Congress and the public to express their opinions to the President and the Senate on the giving away of our rights now being exercised under a legitimate treaty to operate the Panama Canal in the territory known as the Canal Zone.
What will happen to the approximately 5,525 housing units now occupied by American citizens and non-American citizens who are employees of the Panama Canal Company? What will happen to the schools and other buildings located in the Canal Zone? Should the area known as the “Canal Zone” be wiped out under a new treaty, all of this property, including the Panama Canal, would be located in the Republic of Panama, subject wholly to its laws. What would stop the expropriation of the Panama Canal by the present Government of the Republic of Panama should the authority of the United States in the Canal Zone be abdicated ? Only armed force by the United States could stop it. The negotiators representing the United States must be made to understand that such agreements as are now being suggested will not be tolerated by the people of the United States.
Mr. FASCELL. Our next witness today is the Honorable William L. Scott, Representative from the State of Virginia. We are very pleased to have him here today to give us his testimony.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM L. SCOTT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is good of the subcommittee to permit me to come here and present my views.
We receive a considerable amount of correspondence, as I am sure every congressional office does, from people who are concerned with what they term the giveaway of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone. There is a concern that the negotiations being carried on between this Government and the Government of Panama will result in our losing jurisdiction over the canal and its being put under international control.
I would hope that the Government, acting through the State Department, will not do this. I have some reservations as to the validity of the treaty and the ratification by the Senate being sufficient to convey Government land without any House action. I think a resolution of the House expressing the sense of the House that this should not be done is very much in order.
We know and I think every Member of Congress is aware of the strategic importance of the Canal Zone and the use of the canal itself by ourselves and by friendly nations in the event we did have a war. I have some reservations about the strength that the international organization would have in maintaining the canal for the free world in the event of war.
So, I was happy to join with the sponsors of this resolution. I do hope the subcommittee and the full committee of the House will see fit to adopt the resolution and recommend it to the House for favorable consideration.
Mr. Chairman, I ask that my prepared statement be made a part of the record at this point.
Mr. FASCELL. With no objection, we will certainly do that, Mr. Scott. (Mr. Scott's prepared statement follows:)
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM L. SCOTT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM
THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
I appreciate the opportunity afforded me to testify in support of legislation which resolves in substance that the United States maintain and protect its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal and that the United States government in no way forfeit, cede, negotiate, or transfer any of these sovereign rights, jurisdiction, or territory to any other sovereign nation or to any international organization. My own measure is H. Res. 238.
The United States government was obligated by Article I of a Treaty between the United States and Panama in 1903 to maintain the independence of the Republic of Panama in perpetuity. A provision calling for permanent peace and friendship between the two countries was incorporated in Treaties of 1936 and 1955 in lieu of the Article I of the 1903 treaty, however all three treaties allow the United States to defend and fortify the Panama Canal in perpetuity.
The Panama Canal has for almost 57 years played a vital role in the strategic and commercial life of the United States. It has served us well during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban crisis, and during our involvement in Vietnam as a transport route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Approximately 70% of the 12,000 ships transiting the Canal each year for commercial purposes are en route to or from U.S. ports.
We have built, operated, maintained and defended the Canal, not only for ourselves but for the other countries of the world. Since the canal was opened in August 1914, it has been available to ships of all nations at all times on equal terms. It has served to strengthen the security of the United States and of the free world. It has been a stimulus to world trade and provided increased economic opportunity for many nations. To date, we have paid the Republic of Panama nearly $50,000,000 in gratuities and have invested a total of $5,000,000,000 in the waterway.
Ceding sovereignty of the Canal to Panama could have disastrous results. Any hostile regime there could not only arbitrarily deny our naval forces transit from ocean to ocean and thus destroy a vital link on our chain of defenses but could also permit traffic threatening our national security. The curtailment of our commercial shipping through the canal would result in tremendously increased costs to U.S. consumers—for the alternate routes around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope would add thousands of miles to each voyage. Any action at this time which would afford an opportunity for an increase in shipping costs by action of a foreign power, when we are operating under emergency conditions to improve our competitive position in the world market, would certainly not be in the best interest of the United States.
For all the above reasons, I urge the Committee to favorably report one of the measures now under consideration to maintain United States sovereignty over the Panama Canal Zone.
Mr. FASCELL. I would like to ask one question. I do not know of any pending plans concerning international operation of the canal. I can understand your reservations about that if it were to take place, but I do not know that we are entering negotiations or continuing negotiations with that purpose in mind. At least, it is news to me.
Mr. SCOTT. Mr. Chairman, I have here a Department of State letter from the Office of Interoceanic Canal Negotiations, September 1971.
Negotiations between the United States and Panama began on June 29, 1971. Important issues such as duration, jurisdiction, land and water requirements, expansion of Canal capacity, and compensation are now being explored, but no agreements have been reached.
It does use the word “jurisdiction.” Serving, as you do, on the Foreign Affairs Committee, you would be better advised.
Mr. FASCELL. That is the reason why you expressed that reservation?
Mr. Scott. No. I have seen it in other places, but it may have been by people who were not knowledgeable in the field. I have no personal knowledge. It is hearsay on my part.
Mr. MORSE. I have no questions. I am grateful to Mr. Scott for coming here and helping us.
Mr. FASCELL. Thank you very much, Mr. Scott.
That concludes our list of witnesses for today. We had originally scheduled continuation of these hearings for 10 o'clock tomorrow morning, but because the full committee must meet then with respect to a priority matter under the rules, this subcommittee cannot meet at 10 o'clock. The witnesses who are scheduled for that time have been notified, and we will continue our hearings at 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon in this same room.
The subcommittee stands adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 3:30 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned, to reconvene at 2 p.m., Thursday, September 23, 1971.)