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House Resolution 369 which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States maintain its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal Zone. This resolution, of which I am a cosponsor, and the many identical resolutions introduced this session by my distinguished colleagues from all parts of our Nation deserve your support.
Considering the recent announcement by our Goverment that negotiations have been renewed between the United States and the Government of Panama toward the achievement of a mutually acceptable accommodation over the future status of the Panama Canal and Cana] Zone, it has again become necessary, as it has countless times in the past, that the many Members of the U.S. Congress who oppose this dangerous and ill-advised action on the part of our Government unite to express our strong determination that no new agreement with Panama shall be accepted which affects a giveaway of the rights of this Nation to absolute sovereignty and jurisdiction over the canal territory.
The facts involved in this volatile issue have been stated time and again, yet it seems that they have gone unheeded by members of this administration and its predecessors. For the record therefore, I should like to state again the major points at issue.
By terms of the 1903 Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty between the United States and Panama, this Ñation obtained the exclusive right, “in perpetuity” and the concurrent power and authority which it would possess and exercise “if it were the soverign of the territory” to a 10-mile strip of land across the Isthmus of Panama for the construction, maintenance, operation, and protection of a lock canal to facilitate international commerce. According to the treaty obligations which this Nation assumed, we built the canal and over the years have continued to operate it, maintain it, improve it, and defend it at highest levels of efficiency, both in peacetime and wartime, to the indispensable benefit of world maritime commerce.
According to the obligations which this Nation assumed, we have continued to pay to Panama an annual annuity for rights obtained, a sum which has been increased through treaty in response to Panamanian demands. Moreover, over the years, this Nation has voluntarily liberalized many provisions of the original treaty to afford Panama what it considered more just arrangements regarding U.S. operation of the canal and occupation of the Canal Zone.
The Panama Canal is of vital importance to the United States commerically, as a lifeline for U.S. trade around the world, as borne out by the fact that at least 70 percent of all canal traffic originates or terminates in our ports.
The Panama Canal is of vital importance to the United States strategically, as a defense and communication center, an indispensable link in the protection of our own national security and that of all the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Continued absolute U.S. control of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone is essential to preserve for world commerce an interoceanic link between the Atlantic and Pacific accessible to ships of all nations at fair rates, efficiently run, and effectively defended.
In harsh reality, Panama does not possess the technical and managerial capacity or the skilled personnel which are required to maintain canal operations at necessary levels of efficiency.
The traditionally mercurial character of Panamanian politics has caused that nation to suffer from chronic governmental instability. In the last 70 years of Panamanian history, the nation has had 48 presidents, only four of whom have completed their terms of office. Moreover, the political history of the nation is peppered with actual and attempted coups and countercoups. In harsh reality, Panama lacks the stability of government essential to the discharge of this responsibility to world commerce. Most important, in such a climate of instability, any U.S. action which results in diluting or repudiating our total control over the canal territory would run the very real risk of permitting the domination of this strategic waterway by potentially hostile powers.
It is for these basic reasons that I as a Congressman representing the vital interests of my constituents, together with many of my colleagues in the House and Senate, numerous groups and organizations of highest national reputation, and labor and commercial interests in this country as well, oppose any action on the part of the U.S. Government which would in any way forfeit, cede, negotiate, or transfer any of our sovereign rights, jurisdiction, territory, or property to the Government of Panama or to any international agency.
We have no need for a new treaty with Panama. We have no need for negotiations concerning issues which have already been resolved and mutually agreed upon in previous treaties and agreements. The facts have been presented. Let them be accepted by our Government, in order that we may safeguard our own national interests, those of Panama, the Western Hemisphere, and the entire world.
STATEMENT OF Hon. L. H. FOUNTAIN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA Mr. Chairman and members of the House Subcommittee on InterAmerican Affairs, I submit this statement in support of my resolution, House Resolution 575, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States maintain its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal Zone, and in support of identical resolutions sponsored by many of my esteemed colleagues to clarify and make definite U.S. rights, power, and authority over the Panama Canal and Canal Zone.
At this time, I feel compelled, both as a citizen and as a representative of the vital interests of my constituents, to take a firm stand against any action which would weaken the extent of control currently exercised by the United States over the Panama Canal and the zone encompassing it.
Through the years, our Government and the Members of Congress have had to grapple with the issue of U.S. sovereignty in the Canal Zone. This problem has been a major source of friction in our relations with Panama for some years, as critics of current U.S. posture there state.
But it is also true that twice since the opening of the canal, through additional treaties in 1936 and 1955, our Government of its own volition has moved to accommodate Panamanian sensitivities by making extensive concessions in almost all of the major areas at issue
between our two nations. There is, however, one aspect of the U.S. posture vis-a-vis the zone which our Government cannot and must not modify—that of retention of absolute sovereignty and total jurisdiction over the Canal Zone territory, which has been legally and rightfully ours since it was sanctioned by bilateral treaty with Panama 68 years ago.
In the past, experts have presented so many cogent arguments against any sort of lessening of U.S. control over the canal and the zone that it amazes me when doubts continue to be raised as to what this Nation's posture in Panama should be. Yet, periodically, the issue is reignited and our Government decides to enter into negotiations, as it has again this year, with a view toward appeasing the ill-conceived demands of the Panamanian Government—often prompted by internal political pressures.
I know you will recall only too well, the outcome of our Government's last decision to participate in canal status negotiations—in 1967. Three new treaties were announced which, taken together, would effect totally insupportable conditions: (1) the surrendering of U.S. sovereignty in the zone to the Panamanian Government, thereby prohibiting our Nation from effectively controlling canal operations or providing satisfactorily for its defense; (2) the placing of a politically explosive, traditionally unstable government in partnership with us in the management and defense of our canal; (3) the institution of new, totally unrealistic and unreasonable increases in tolls, rates, and revenues to Panama. If that were not enough, ultimately these treaties envisioned the handing over of the existing canal, upon which American taxpayers have spent upward of $5 billion and to which our Nation has devoted untold management and scientific and technical expertise and effort, to Panama. Moreover, we would build a new canal there and once it is finished, give them that one, too.
As could be expected, once the facts of the new treaties were made public, they had no chance of passage through any body of Congress nor of receiving any support from the American people. More than 130 Members of the House introduced or cosponsored resolutions expressing opposition and urging a return to rational action on the part of the U.S. Government. Majority public opinion won out and the draft treaties were shelved. The occurrence of a coup in Panama in 1968 seemed to pronounce the final death kneel to this negotiations debacle.
However, only 2 years later, with the appearance of the final report of the President's Atlantic-Pacific Interoceanic Canal Study Commission last December, the issue burst once again upon the national scene. The report recommended, among other things, the construction of a new sea-level canal through Panama, the renunciation of U.S. rights in the Canal Zone to Panama, and the surrender of the canal itself to management and operation by an international organization. Based on these proposals, we are now confronted with a new administration decision to reopen the negotiations, this time with a Panamanian Government which installed itself by virtue of an unconstitutional seizure of power.
The new Panamanian Government is headed by an intensely nationalistic chief who has pledged to his people that this time, his government will accept nothing less than total withdrawal of the U.S. presence from the Canal Zone and Panamanian assertion of total sovereignty and jurisdiction over all territory currently belonging to this Nation.
The issues involved here are perfectly clear, but once again we must underscore the facts for the ultimate protection of our national interests and the security and safety of our people. First, the Panama Canal is of vital strategic importance to this Nation, indispensable to the security of the United States and to hemispheric defense. As an interoceanic link traversing two continents, it is of basic commercial importance, not only to our Nation but as a major artery for international maritime commerce. In order to protect and defend our interests and those of the entire Western Hemisphere, we must insist upon preserving our existing treaty rights, powers and authority over the canal and Canal Zone to enable this vital waterway to continue fulfilling the vital functions it has had for the past 50 years under U.S. management and control.
Second, while I have no firm opinion on the subject, scientific and technical experts of national repute have long refuted the need for a sea-level canal through Panama. It is their contention, and that of many in the Congress, that the existing canal can be effectively modernized to bring about operational improvement and a major increase in its capacity, thereby eliminating the need for a sea-level version. There already exists in law a plan to modify our existing lock canal, and this Nation has already invested over $171 million toward major modernization of the existing canal.
In this session of Congress, the additional implementing legislation necessary to complete the plan has been introduced by two of my esteemed colleagues, Mr. Flood and Mr. Thurmond. It is the feeling of many, both in and outside the Congress, that implementation of modernization plans would be a far more preferable approach at this time, saving our taxpayers the countless millions which would be required for construction of an entirely new canal, and most important, obviating the need for a new treaty with Panama and negotiations between our Government and Panama which can only result in further dangerous, perhaps crucial, concessions to that nation.
Consequently, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my statement today is in support of two basic courses of action which I believe this Congress must take in order to protect the vital security interests of this Nation: We must first, by means of a strong and unified front, impress upon this administration that the American people will never accept any action which in any way jeopardizes our treatybased sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone; and second, I believe we should support modernization of the existing lock canal and according to previously scheduled plans, renouncing at least for the immediate future, any efforts on the part of our Government to draw up a new treaty with Panama for the construction of a sea level canal.
Mr. Chairman, in closing, I would like to invite the attention of this subcommittee and the full Committee on Foreign Affairs to the attached article by Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, retired, U.S. Air Force.
RED HAND SEEN IN PANAMA PERIL
(By Ira C. Eaker) There are alarming and unmistakable signs that the Panama Canal is in imminent danger from attack or sabotage.
There is a striking resemblance between the Red game plan for seizure of the Suez Canal and events now unfolding in Panama. This no doubt flows from the fact that both plans were produced in the same place the Kremlin.
Prominent elements of the Suez seizure plan included establishment of a puppet or friendly government in the area; giving economic and military aid ; training military and guerrilla forces; waging a supporting worldwide propaganda campaign against colonialism and imperialism ; brutally suppressing all opposition; and waiting until protective free world Western powers were heavily preoccupied elsewhere.
In Panama many of the elements of this game plan are now in evidence.
Brig. Gen. Omar Torrijos of the Panama national guard executed a military coup in 1968, and has since exiled a popular and freely elected president, installed a puppet president, canceled the constitution, discharged the congress and appointed to the cabinet and judiciary close friends and fellow-revolutionaries, all members of the Communist Party or dedicated Marxists.
The six daily newspapers, long since intimidated, now obediently print diatribes against "the capitalist running dogs of the imperialist U.S.," demanding immediate return of the canal to the sovereignty and control of Panama.
Torrijos was a friend and admirer of the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. He has been collaborating and consipiring with Castro, and Cuban guerrilla teams have been training native sabotage teams in the Panama jungles adjacent to the canal.
Russian technicians lately have been arriving in Panama no doubt to train Panamanians in the operation of the canal, as they trained Egyptians in the management of the Suez Canal.
Torrijos' plan appears to involve several successive stages. First, an effort will be made diplomatically to induce the United States to release sovereignty over the Canal Zone to Panama by negotiatitng a new treaty to replace that of 1903 which charged the United States with custody and defense of the zone. These negotiations began last month and are now in progress, and a worldwide propaganda campaign supporting this effort is now reaching crescendo.
Appeal also will be made to the Organization of American States and ultimately to the United Nations.
If diplomacy and propaganda do not produce the desired results, an attempt will be made to seize the Canal Zone by military force or to sabotage the canal by a guerrilla effort.
The Reds also are well aware that the United States has been heavily engaged in Vietnam, and that severe cuts are being made in U.S. defense budgets.
They may estimate that the President, not wanting to jeopardize SALT or his pending negotiations with China, would be reluctant or hesitant to act decisively against a military or guerrilla attack on the Canal Zone.
They may recon the time ripe to accomplish the seizure or disruption of the Panama Canal, the most damaging single act against the United States and the free world, economically and militarily, short of a direct nuclear attack.
Our defense forces in the Canal Zone are at the lowest levels ever. Panama's national guard greatly outnumbers our combat strength there.
Several concerned congressmen, notably Daniel J. Flood, Democrat of Pennsylvania, have made a determined effort to warn our leadership and our people of the hazard to the Panama Canal.
The first evidence of concern from the executive branch was the recent and wise decision of the President to disapprove a recommendation to deactivate the Southern Command, with headquarters in the Canal Zone, as an economy measure.
Panama Canal defenses should be heavily reinforced and completely modernized without delay.
(The writer is a lieutenant general, retired, U.S. Air Force.)