Who Owns the Panama Canal


Explanations under the mouse pointer
At the end of 1999 the Panama Canal was handed over to Panama. It has belonged to the United States since it was completed 85 years ago. They maintained a strategically important military base there. The construction of the canal was the fulfillment of the vision of revolutionary shortening the sea route that led around the tip of South America. The implementation had a lot to do with the economic interests of Europe and North America. Panama became the scene of this story by chance of its geographical location. The canal is only 82 kilometers long but a dream come true: the connection between the Pacific and the Atlantic. The Spanish conqueror Vasco Nunez de Balboa had already crossed the isthmus in 1513 and was the first European to reach the Pacific. In 1534, Emperor Charles V had the possibility of a water connection examined. Great thinkers from Benjamin Franklin to Goethe have studied the fiction of the connection between the two oceans. Alexander von Humboldt discussed this with US President Thomas Jefferson, he found the area too wild and mountainous to carry out such a project.
It was the Americans who sent scouts to Panama in 1835. They also came to the conclusion that it was impossible to build a canal here. But the idea was not given up. Forty years later, the Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps drafted a plan for the construction of the canal. In 1881 the time had come: construction began. The work went slowly, although up to twenty thousand people worked there. The construction was supposed to be financed through bonds, but business didn't go well. The French had to give up. When the Americans sent a warship from the west coast to the Caribbean 10 years later, the canal idea became topical again. The voyage took 67 days, the ships would only need 9 hours through the canal. In 1902 the Senate votes with a narrow majority for the Canal in Panama and against the alternative in Nicaragua.
During the construction phase
In 1903 Panama, with American help, declared its independence from Colombia and granted the USA the most generous terms in a treaty. President Roosevelt bought the ruins, machinery, and rights from the French for $ 40 million, and construction resumed in 1905. Thousands of men from the Caribbean islands found work here. They were used to the humid, tropical climate, and wages were around 20 cents an hour. The health conditions were bad. Hundreds died of yellow fever. Aedis Aegypti is the name of the female mosquito that transmits the deadly disease to humans. American scientists came to Panama and were able to fight the epidemic successfully. The construction of the canal took 7 years and at times fifty thousand people worked there. During the work there were repeated landslides, over 200 million cubic meters of earth were moved. Only black workers were used for the dangerous work.
On August 15, 1914, the canal was ready, the steamer "Ancon" made the first official passage. The world is amazed at the technical marvel.
Now the political history of the Panama Canal begins as the Panamanians allow the Americans to maintain control of the Canal Zone. An American base is created. But the blacks who built the canal with their hands and at the risk of their lives now live in slums, separated from the whites. There are repeated unrest in the American-controlled area. The first attempt by the PanameƱos to break into the canal zone began in November 1959. The insurgents received ideological support from Fidel Castro. In 1961, Cuban rebels land on the coast of Panama. They want to get the people of Panama to attack the canal, but they are unsuccessful. The control and military presence of the Americans during the Cold War is too strong.
In 1977 there was a major turning point in politics. It is agreed that at the end of 1999 the canal should return to Panama. Nevertheless, the USA is continuing to expand its military base, because the Americans see the greatest danger in the Noriegas military dictatorship in Panama. The Panama Canal is closed on December 21, 1989.
Among other things, the Americans justify an intervention in Panama with the protection of this important waterway. There are over twelve thousand American soldiers on the canal, these military bases are the most important American bases in Latin America. On January 3, 1990, Noriega was brought to Miami in chains, ending the military dictatorship for Panama. For the Americans, the crisis has been defused. In the last days of 1999 the US soldiers will leave Panama and a new era will begin on the canal.
(To the sewer system)
Manuel Noriega

The flag of Panama


Version: 11-dec-99 / HBu Rev .: 11-Dec-04/11-Jun-11 / HBu