In Panamá: The Panamá Canal
Of course, Barry and I needed to see the Panamá Canal – that engineering and commercial feat that cost the lives of many but today allows commerce to flow between the Atlantic and Pacific. Most of the workers came from Barbados – but also from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, and Jamaica.
The Spanish, Italians, Greeks, Hindus, Americans, Armenians, Cubans, Costa Ricans, Columbians, and Panamanians came too. On March 30, 1854, the Sea Witch clipper arrived with 705 Chinese to work on the transoceanic railroad project, which was crucial for the construction of the canal.
According to the Miraflores Locks Museum, the labor force peaked in 1884 with 19,243 workers. “They managed to understand each other, started families, made fortunes, and exhausted the country,” says the museum. However, thousands of those who came to work died – mainly of yellow fever or malaria.
On October 10, 1913, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson gave the signal via telegraph to blow up the Gamboa Dike – to join the waters of Gatun Lake and the Culebra Cut, thus creating the Panamá Canal.
In 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian leader General Omar Torrijos signed Torrijos-Carter Treaties that started the process of handing over the canal to the Panamanians by 2000. The U.S. military bases remained and the transfer was to assure that the canal would be kept open for U.S. shipping.
“The US had long-standing relations with General Noriega, who served as a US intelligence asset and paid Central Intelligence Agency informant from 1967, including the period when Bush was head of the CIA (1976–77).”
However, according to a Mother Jones article, “As George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering said about Operation Just Cause: ‘Having used force in Panama… there was a propensity in Washington to think that force could provide a result more rapidly, more effectively, more surgically than diplomacy.’ The easy capture of Noriega meant ‘the notion that the international community had to be engaged… was ignored.’
‘Iraq in 2003 was all of that shortsightedness in spades,’ Pickering said. ‘We were going to do it all ourselves.’ And we did.
The road to Baghdad, in other words, ran through Panama City. It was George H.W. Bush’s invasion of that small, poor country 25 years ago that inaugurated the age of preemptive unilateralism, using ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ as both justifications for war and a branding opportunity. Later, after 9/11, when George W. insisted that the ideal of national sovereignty was a thing of the past, when he said nothing—certainly not the opinion of the international community—could stand in the way of the ‘great mission’ of the United States to ‘extend the benefits of freedom across the globe,’ all he was doing was throwing more fuel on the ‘wildfire’ sparked by his father. A wildfire some in Panama likened to a “little Hiroshima” [because of the destruction of at least 4,000 residences, and according to human-rights organizations, the deaths of thousands of Panamanian civilians].
From: “How Our 1989 Invasion of Panama Explains The Current U.S. Foreign Policy Mess” -The road to Baghdad started in Panama City, 25 years ago, by Greg Grandin http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/our-forgotten-invasion-panama-key-understanding-us-foreign-policy-today
Today, the Panamanians Barry and I talked to have mixed opinions about the removal of Noriega. Major roads are good throughout the country; Panamá City has a terrific metro system, new high rises, construction is everywhere, and many American and European ex-pats are moving to Panamá.
Right now, construction is underway to double the capacity of the Panamá Canal to accommodate even larger vessels. The “Third Set of Locks Project” will create a new lane of traffic with about one and a half times the current maximum width and length – known as Panamax – that carry over twice as much cargo.
I hope you too will be able to see the Panamá Canal.