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STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES H. GRIFFIN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI Mr. Chairman, I sincerely appreciate this opportunity to comment upon my resolution, and similar resolutions, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States maintain and protect its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal. I urge that the committee favorably consider this subject matter.
Since the signing of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903, the United States has invested more than $6 billion in the canal, the Canal Zone, and in other properties in Panama. Our Government has operated the canal in an honorable manner, employing many natives of Panama, as a trustee for the whole world.
We have lived up to our commitments and obligations under the treaty. As a matter of fact, we have been more generous than anything in the letter or spirit of the treaty. Our management of the canal has been both efficient and beneficient as it has brought many benefits to world commerce, security, and to the Panamanian people.
Needless to say, Mr. Chairman, the canal is of utmost strategic importance. From this standpoint, I believe, all considerations as to any new treaties, new canals, or lessened control over the present canal, should begin.
As all of you know, the present Government of Panama was swept into power on a wave of nationalism and terror. Much of the sympathy which that Government commands from its citizens, as in many Latin American nations, is based on continuing excoriation of the United States. Naturally, the canal is the focal point for such demagoguery in Panama.
Considering the developments of the last few years in certain Latin American countries, as well as in Panama, the long term interests of the United States and the free world would not be served in several respects by our surrendering jurisdiction over the canal.
First, it would very likely be mistaken as weakness on our part and surely encourage further expropriation of American business and further encourage denigration of our diplomatic and security interests. If we prove, by turning over the canal to Panama, that rabid antiAmericanism is a workable and effective policy, few leaders in Latin America could resist the pressure.
Second, and more importantly, the immense strategic worth of the canal must be given proper weight. This is a responsibility we bear, not only for ourselves, but to the entire free world.
I believe that security would be placed in serious jeopardy if we surrender our right, title, and interest in the canal. It would be more subject not only to influences from outside this hemisphere but the uncautious pursuit of domestic political profit by the Panamanian Government might also seriously undermine our national prosperity. Certainly the record of the last few years gives precious little reassurance in this respect. For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, and for others which time
precludes discussion of, I urge that this committee favorably consider House Resolution 369 or some other similar measure which strongly resists our surrender of any portion of control or sovereignty over the Panama Canal.
Again I thank you for this opportunity to make my views known to the committee.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES A. HALEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, today, I would like to express my support for a bill I introduced, House Resolution 345, and other similar bills which express the sense of the House of Representatives that the U.S. Government should not in any way forfeit, cede, negotiate or transfer its rights in the Panama Canal Zone to any other country or to any international organization.
Since the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty of 1903 was ratified, the United States has expended enormous amounts of money, time, effort, and lives into the construction and maintenance of the Panama Canal as a "mandate for civilization.” Many countries of the world have enjoyed the benefits of the canal and should be allowed to continue to
At this crucial time when our negotiators are discussing a new treaty with the Panamanian Government, it is imperative that the administration and the Government of Panama be placed on notice that the House of Representatives is opposed to the relinquishment of U.S. rights in the Canal Zone.
A central issue will undoubtedly be the demand by Panama for a termination date to any new treaty. Unless there is some reasonable alternative to the present canal—which does not seem to be on the horizon at this time we simply cannot afford to give up our rights or we shall surely regret it.
One of the hardest lessons this Nation has hopefully learned is that when we become preoccupied with trying to build a favorable "image" with smaller nations through such give-away actions as relinquishing our rights in Panama would represent, we lose site of the strategic importance of maintaining a position of strength and usually end up worse off from our effort than if we had avoided consideration of the give-away altogether.
Mr. Chairman, I have received numerous letters from my constituents in Florida who, without exception, agree with me and ask that the United States not give away this vital link to the security and economic well-being of the Western Hemisphere.
I strongly urged the members of this subcommittee not to allow a tragic mistake to be made in the name of “image” building. I would hope that forceful, timely action by this subcommittee will head off any possible notions by the administration to cede U.S. rights in the Canal Zone or in the canal itself and at the same time let Panama know that we do not intend to cater to their attempts to put a termination date in a renegotiated treaty on the canal.
STATEMENT OF HON. SEYMOUR HALPERN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. Chairman, I wish to testify in favor of House Resolution 200. This resolution provides that the United States maintain and protect its sovereign rights over the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone.
The negotiations currently underway between the United States and Panama over the future of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone have far-reaching implications for the security of the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere, as well as for the economic wellbeing of our Nation. In 1903, under terms of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, the Republic of Panama granted full sovereign rights, power, and authority in perpetuity to the United States over the Canal Zone. The treaty provided for U.S. operation and protection of the Panama Canal and excluded the Republic of Panama from any sovereign rights, power, or authority. Although substantial funds are paid to Panama each year, it is well known that some Panamanians feel the canal situation represents a foreign power occupying part of their national territory.
The Panamanians, on the other hand, must understand how important the canal is to this Nation which has and will continue to have the responsibilities of world leadership. It is time for realism to overcome the passions which are fanned by idealism and political rhetoric. It is imperative that we consider the Panama Canal question in the context of its vital importance to the United States.
The Panamanians have many demands; some of those which affect U.S. control are: the abrogation of the 1903 treaty and, in particular, the elimination of the perpetuity clause which grants the United States authority over the Canal Zone; Panamanian civil and penal courts of justice to replace North American courts in the Canal Zone; the reversion to Panama of the present canal and all auxiliary works, buildings, and lands within the Canal Zone.
U.S. concession to these demands would severely impair our Nation's responsibilities for the efficient operation of the canal, for the guarantee of the free flow of the world's sea transportation and commerce, and most importantly, for the defense of the United States as well as the entire Western Hemisphere.
Furthermore, concession to these Panamanian demands could pose a serious threat to U.S. interests because of the very nature of Panamanian politics. Throughout the history of the Republic of Panama, politics have been volatile and governments relatively unstable. One speculates as to what might happen to the U.S. interest in the canal if an unfriendly and hostile government came to power in a situation where Panama had the sovereignty it demands. A leftist government, or one under Communist influence seeking closer relations with the Soviet Union, must surely be viewed as a potential threat to U.S. interests. This could afford the Soviet Union another toe-hold in Latin America; one which is even more vital and strategic than Cuba.
The U.S. commercial stake in the Panama Canal is considerable. Practically three quarters of all canal traffic either originates or terminates in the United States. Retention of our sovereignty over this key to the Nation's lifeline is a necessity. In addition, continued U.S. control assures the free passage of world commerce. Since its inception in 1914, the Panama Canal has served as an international utility open to all nations of the world on equal terms.
Furthermore, U.S. investment in the Panama Canal, including the cost of its defense, comes to a figure of $5 billion for the period 1904 through June 30, 1968. This expenditure has been borne by the American taxpayer. Such an extensive investment would never have been made by the United States if the Panamanian Government had not granted full sovereign powers over the canal territory.
A final, most important point is the vital role that the Panama Canal plays in the defense of the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. It provides a route for the rapid deployment of naval forces between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Although aircraft carriers cannot use the canal, our nuclear submarines can. It is inconceivable to think what would happen if during an international crisis or actual war situation our military forces were prevented from using the canal. There is also a defense economy factor involved in the use of the canal. The Vietnam war, for example, which has cost this Nation billions of dollars, would have cost even more if the military had been limited to the alternate routes to Southeast Asia.
Related to our defense needs is the elaborate military school systems in the Canal Zone which brings together top officers of the various Latin American military institutions. The U.S. Army School of the Americas, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, and other smaller centers of instruction serve as excellent training centers, in addition to instilling a spirit of Inter-American cooperation.
House Resolution 200 is the product of a realistic analysis of the Panama Canal question. The United States must maintain and protect its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone, both of which are vital to the security of our Nation and that of the entire Western Hemisphere.
STATEMENT OF Hon. W. R. HULL, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI I appreciate this opportunity to express my support for House Resolution 374 and the several similar measures now before this subcommittee which relate to U.S. control of the Panama Canal.
It is my firm belief that the United States should not surrender its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the canal to the Republic of Panama. Because of the unsettled and volatile conditions around the world, I feel that it would be dangerous for the Nation to consider such action at this time.
Nonetheless, at this time, negotiations are in progress with representatives of the Republic of Panama which could well lead to the loss of U.S. power in the area. These negotiations are being carried on while the public in Panama is being aroused to a high state of emotion over the American presence. Violent demands are being made upon the United States through this agitation. If American representatives do not carry out the negotiations very carefully more severe problems could weil arise.
The report of the Interoceanic Canal Study Commission under Public Law 88–609 recommends the construction of a new canal about 10 miles west of the present canal in Panamanian territory at a cost of approximately $2.88 billion, excluding right of way and related expenses. It is toward this study's recommendation that the negotiations are now directed. In effect, a new treaty authorizing the construction must hinge, in the eyes of both parties, upon the surrender of the United States' present sovereign rights, power, and authority over the existing canaÌ. Such surrender would be very much against the best interests of the United States in my view.
The Constitution, while granting the power to approve treaties to the Senate, vests the power to dispose of territory and other property of the United States in the Congress, both House and Senate. It is important that the House express its position on this matter in clear terms through the approval of one of the pending resolutions to prevent executive branch approval and senatorial ratification of a treaty which would be very adverse to the best interests of the United States.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN E. HUNT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to submit a statement for the record of those resolutions which would express the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States retain its sovereign rights over the Panama Canal Zone. I am a sponsor of such a resolution, House Resolution 251.
The issue of jurisdiction over the Canal Zone is not new. Disagreements in this respect date back to the early 1900's, shortly after the Treaty of 1903— establishing perpetual U.S. sovereignty over the Canal Zone—was ratified by both countries. The politics of confrontation, however, coupled with the hostility of potentially disruptive antiestablishment elements within our own country, make the United States particularly vulnerable to unreasonable concessions in the present Panama Canal Treaty negotiations.
The stated objectives of ranking Panamanian officials and the Panamanian negotiators have been clear and unequivocal—the cancellation of the 1903 Treaty (not just a revision) followed by a new treaty giving Panama jurisdiction over the Canal Zone with the premise that the United States be permitted to operate the canal under Panamanian supervision. So firm is the Panamanian position that if it does not get what it wants, there is implicit the threat of more violence in Panama, and explicit the threat of denouncing the 1903 Treaty, or an appeal to the Organization of American States and to the United Nations. In other words, the premise laid down by Panama as the basis for success of the negotiations is concession on the part of the United States.
It should be readily apparent to even the most casual observer that the primary aims of the United States—control over the traffic through the canal and the bases for the defense of the canal—are fundamentally inconsistent with the only claim of Panama-jurisdiction over the canal—that is of any significant importance.
Nationalism can be an admirable trait; pride in one's country is not to be denied those who demonstrate support for its legitimate aims. However, we should observe the rights which the United States has acquired in the Canal Zone, ascertain the investment pursuant to those rights which underlies the well-being of the Panamanian economy, and recognize the nature of those national interests which are being served because jurisdictional control is held by the United States. In the first instance, the 1903 treaty gave the United States power over the Canal Zone "as if it were the sovereign” such power as would be essential to construct, operate, maintain and defend the Panama