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"President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hay knew that a revolt was imminent. Roosevelt, convinced that the Colombian Government was thwarting an enterprise of "universal utility” for "collective humanity” out of pure greed, welcomed the move. Assurances were conveyed to the conspirators that the United States would send war vessels “to protect life and property” on the isthmus.
“When Panamanians raised the standard of independence on November 3, 1903, the railroad was closed to Colombian troop movements and naval forces from the United States were on hand to prevent more Colombian troops from landing. The coup was accomplished with only one casualty, an innocent Chinese who was killed during a brief bombardment.
“The United States recognized the Republic of Panama on November 6.
“K. COLOMBIA IS INDEMNIFIED “Under the Wilson administration an attempt was made toward repairing the damaged relations with Colombia which resulted from the isthmian affair. By the terms of the Thompson-Urrutia convention, signed in April 1914, the U.S. Government expressed sincere regret that anything should have occurred to interrupt or to mar the relations of cordial friendship that had so long subsisted between the two nations.
“Colombia agreed to recognize the Republic of Panama in return for an indemnity of $25 million and special transportation privileges. The Colombian Senate promptly ratified the treaty. The U.S. Senate failed to act, mainly because of spirited denunciations of the agreement by former President Roosevelt whose conduct the treaty obliquely indicted.
“In 1921, after Roosevelt's death, the U.S. Senate ratified an amended form of the treaty which retained the indemnity but omitted the apology.
“The following year Colombia accepted the compromise and the Panamanian incident was closed."
We see then, that while "Panamanian discontent had erupted on a number of occasions into attempts to establish an independent state” during the preceding three-quarters of a century, the inhabitants of the Isthmus of Panama had failed at those attempts. Only North American initiative, under the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt, to undertake the tremendous task of linking the Atlantic with the Pacific by a canal provided favorable circumstances for a successful claim to independence by the Panamanians. It was achieved only by aid from Washington and the presence of the American flag-the same flag which radical Panamanians are desecrating today. At that point in history, there was a mutual need—Teddy Roosevelt needed the Panamanians to get the canal, and they needed Teddy Roosevelt to get their independence. The $25 million indemnity to Colombia in 1921, with or without apology on the part of the United States, simply caps the story.
POLITICAL INSTABILITY OF PANAMA
Under the several constitutions of the Republic of Panama, the term of office of president has always been 4 years. According to a Library of Congress study dated March 2, 1970, by Latin American Affairs Analyst Virginia M. Hagen, only four presidents completed their terms. Panamanian governments have come and gone like seeds blown by the winds since the United States enabled that nation to stand on its own feet-free from Colombia's rule. Let me bring to the attention of my colleagues the long list of presidents of the Republic of Panama. No less than 59 changes of government in 67 years since the first constitutional president took office in February 1904 !
PRESIDENTS OF PANAMA, 1904–71
1904-07 Manuel Amador Guerrero
1960-61 Roberto Francisco Chiari
Source : Chronologia de Los Gobernantes de Panama, by Manuel Maria Alba C., published in Panama in 1967. Updated by Analyst V. M. Hagen, Library of Congress.
Over the same period of time, there have been 12 Presidents of the United States. There have already been two Presidents under the present Panamanian dictator, Omar Torrijos, who took the rank of Brigadier General after the coup by which he deposed Arnulfo Arias on October 11, 1968, just 10 days after the latter's inauguration following a stormy election earlier in May. After his October coup Torrijos dissolved the Panamanian National Assembly, and later, all political parties as of February 22, 1969, thereby suspending all political activity after that date.
Panama has had an unstable political history. What reason is there to think that the immediate future would hold any prospects for stable government? With 11 different Presidents in the last 10 years, I think the answer must be obvious. Reviewing Panama's domestic background, one can see the wisdom of the 1903 Treaty's provision which gave the United States sovereignty in perpetuity over the Canal Zone. Against this background, common sense dictates that there is no lessening of the permanence of that sovereignty.
External factors now make the U.S. position of sovereignty more mandatory. The Treaty was ratified when no foreign power held any great influence over this hemisphere, and the Monroe Doctrine was the guiding principle of American foreign policy. Today, the Monroe Doctrine is in disarray due to the misguided thinking on the part of recent administrations that the United States should be guided in its policies by concern for possible reactions of so-called “world opinion." It should be recognized that the island of Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of the United States, is a bastion of Communist military power, a base of Soviet naval power, and an educational and training base for Communist revolution in every Latin American country. South of Panama lies the nation of Chile which is headed by an avowed Marxist who already has taken steps that show his Marxism is by no means limited to an intellectual fascination.
The proximity of Soviet armed might in Cuba and the Atlantic, and Communist revolutionary agitation, propaganda and guerrilla activity throughout the hemisphere, only emphasize the vital necessity of strengthening our position in the Canal Zone rather than weakening it. It is literally a matter of life and death. American officials have been murdered in Latin America by revolutionaries following the techniques taught by the Leninist Che Guevarra. The challenges of Communist power in and throughout the hemisphere call for a resolute determination to repair in every way any weaknesses which might exist in the defense position of the Americas.
At this point, two basic facts should be considered. First, the very human inclination of the poor to envy those who are better off and, second, the true nature and purpose of Communist agitation and propaganda.
Those who have lived for any length of time in any Latin American country tell us that there will always be a modicum of natural resentment on the part of some—if not most—Latins toward the United States. This is not necessarily antagonistic, but is a mere manifestation of human envy as respect for the United States is begrudgingly admitted. The Latin Americans cannot be criticized for such an attitude as it is understandable. Almost two centuries of nationhood should give us a maturity that enables us to see beneath the surface storms that at times embroil our neighbors and comprehend the deep potential which those countries hold for the betterment of the entire hemisphere, the United States included. Let our resolve be not to weaken in the face of unimportant verbal assaults, loud and long as they may be, but rather to elevate the potential forces for good in those countries by clearcut policies that self-serving anti-American propaganda cannot obscure from the eyes of the sincere citizens of the Latin American nations.
On the other hand, let us thoroughly understand the intent and nature of the agitation and propaganda that is in fact Communist directed and orchestrated. Communist "agitprop” as it is called, in no way seeks the satisfaction of demands. Demands have but one purpose—the stirring up of emotions, tempers and hatred on the part of hearers and readers of Communist denunciations and agitational propaganda. The giving in to such demands only forces the Communist leaders to quickly come up with new demands. Their purpose is not the improvement of the lot of those whom they fire up, but the sheer utilization of those very persons and mobs as instruments to convey themselves to power in order to dominate and enslave those whom their agitation moves to violence.
Misguided, naive diplomats and bureaucrats, unaware of the fact that for the Communists, "agitprop” is as much a weapon of revolution as a rifle or Molotov cocktail, too often tend to seek desperately for some concession that will end the unpleasantness of Communist inspired hostility. They have not yet learned—some seem to insist on refusing to learn—that yielding to Communists' demands only forces them to make even greater demands. Many otherwise great statesmen in too many countries from Cuba to China have learned this truth too late to save themselves or their countries.
The position of this country then should be to ignore the shouts of of the self-seeking non-Communist Latin politicians, and stand firm against the demands of the Communists and their dupes all the while advancing through intelligent, respectful cooperation with real statesmen the best interests of each Latin nation. Let us appreciate that a President of a country in Central or South America who is a sincere statesman and no opportunist may feel forced by the realities of his political situation and that of his country to make demands upon the United States in an effort to appease the always present radicals at home. Our role in his regard must be one of understanding and cooperation that in no way yields advantage to the enemies of this Nation.
Times change and conditions change. But the number one priority of any government, to provide for the defense and well being of its people, never changes. This is not 1903, but the Panama Canal is an even more vital link in our chain of defenses today than it was then.
Implacable enemies face us just a few miles from our Alaskan and Florida shorelines. Agents infiltrate our institutions, pervading our society, ennervating our moral fibre, sapping our will to resist. The recent examples of Soviet agents operating in Britain should serve as stern reminders. Consequently, despite our exposure to a long history of unchanging techniques and proclaimed intentions to overthrow every non-Communist government and establish Communist regimes, we refuse to believe what we have been told and the slow but steady domination of one nation after another by the Communists continues.
Men, yes, women and children too, are dying right now, clambering over the Berlin Wall, or swimming the Shen Wan (Deep Bay) to Hong Kong, or riding fragile rafts across the Caribbean, trying to escape from what we call, but do not yet truly comprehend the horror of, the Iron Curtain, the Bamboo Curtain or the Sugar Cane Curtain.
Our task is clear as this worldwide enemy continues its onslaught, with our own country as its primary target. It is to stand firm on every front, to strengthen our alliances with proven allies, and to defeat the thrusts of the Communists, be they economic, sociological, political-or military.
All of these thrusts have been made in Panama in recent years. Our weakness during the past riots, killings, and guerrilla activities which have occurred in Panama, has only served to foster additional unrest as Communist demands increased, and the United States was made to seem more than ever but a paper tiger.
I believe that past Presidents of the United States have erred in following State Department advice to back down in the face of extremist Panamanian agitation. Such weakness helped to precipitate the outbreaks of violence that led to loss of life when Panamanian radicals confronted our soldiers protecting the Canal Zone in the early 1960's.
This country must stop its vacillation and stand by the clearcut terms of the 1903 treaty which gave the U.S. perpetual sovereignty over the Canal Zone as long as we continue to operate, maintain and protect the Panama Canal.
Misguided bureaucrats in the State Department, who have recommended our giving in on certain terms of that treaty in the face of agitation by certain Panamanian groups and officials, are seemingly unaware that Communist agitation and propaganda would continue to incite Panamanians to unrest even if the United States were to completely relinquish control of the canal and the Canal Zone, and still provide the milsions of dollars to help Panama operate the canal.