Panama and the USA: 161 Years of History
June 6, 2011
The historical relationship between the United States and Panama is steeped in oppression from the United States. In 1850 the U.S. took the isthmus from Colombia by talking the Panamanian people into seceding from Colombia. With help from the United States the people on the isthmus seceded from Colombia, only to be controlled and occupied by them for the next one hundred and fifty years. Shortly after arriving to run the canal after its completion in 1914 the Panamanian people, and imported West Indians from Barbados started revolting. For the next one hundred years Panamanians and West Indians slowly gained their independence from the North Americans occupying their country. Eventually the United States relinquished control of the Panama Canal to Panama due to an increased possibility of further violence. Now Panama controls The Canal and is expanding it in hopes to maintain their relevance in the world market.
The focus of this study is on the historical relationship between United States and the Republic of Panama in regards to the Panama Canal. This study explores the ramifications of the checkered history between the USA and Panama and how the two countries are addressing their intertwined past. The Republic of Panama has been vital to the United States and the global community since 1914 when the Panama Canal opened (Sullivan, 2011). As a result of building the Panama Canal the Republic of Panama has had to face many changes in culture, politics, and lifestyle. Many of these changes have imposed much hardship on the people of Panama, but have also awarded many benefits (Kovaleski, 2000). The hardships include a difficult beginning during the First World War where the canal had to be closed for a year, many deaths of workers during the construction of the Panama Canal, General Noriega’s term in power where he seized control of the government, and many more (e.g., Conniff, 1990; Jackson, 2011; Major, 1990; Sullivan, 2011). The benefits include protection of the Panama Canal by the United States military, investment from the United States and other countries into the operations of the Panama Canal, guaranteed economic stability, and an improved quality of life for many Panamanian citizens (Sullivan, 2011). From 1914 to December 31, 1999 the United States held control of the Panama Canal and its operations (e.g., Conniff, 1990; Major, 1990). Unfortunately the history of the Panama and the United States is checkered with many local law enforcement, and corruption issues that have deteriorated relations between the two countries (Sullivan, 2011). Banking secrecy, narcotic trafficking, and a murder of a guerrilla fighter named Hugo Spadafora led the United States to reduce assistance to Panama by fifty percent (Sullivan, 2011). These conflicts kept U.S. - Panamanian relations tense during the 1980s (Conniff, 1990). These incidents, combined with the General Noriega incident, led the United States to withdraw many resources from the country. The General Noriega incident occurred after a pair of brother Presidents lost control of their country after some bad decisions they made during World War 2 (e.g., Conniff, 1990; Major, 1990). He seized control of the government, injected his puppet president into office and operated the country with an oppressive fist from 1981 through 1989 (e.g., Conniff, 1990; Major, 1990). In 1989 the United States thought it would be wise to “take out” the general – further involving themselves in Panamanian politics (Major, 1990). Fortunately these incidents did not foreshadow the future of Panamanian – U.S. relations. The Republic of Panama is kind of a “comeback kid” in the global community. The beginnings were very unstable and tenuous, but now Panama has a blossoming economy that is very robust. A new set of locks is being constructed and the future of Panama looks...
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