Synopses & Reviews
Soon the Panama Canal and its adjoining U.S. military bases will pass to the Panamanian state -- as stipulated by the Carter-Torrijos treaties ratified some twenty-two years ago. In the intervening period, many Panamanians have had second thoughts about the withdrawal of an American presence from their country. So, indeed, have some Americans. But given the end of the cold war, the competing demands of congressional districts in the United States where bases are being closed, and the unpredictable nature of Panamanian politics, what are the costs and benefits of a residual U.S. presence?
Like all small countries in the circum-Caribbean, Panama has long cultivated a love-hate relationship with the United States. The "nationalism" that frightened the Carter administration into agreeing to surrender the canal is both fragile and artificial, reflecting the inchoate nature of Panamanian society and the enormous gulf between the country's political elites and its people. This gap has become more evident as the date for U.S. departure draws near and raises disturbing questions about the future political viability of the Panamanian state.
Panama's Canal also focuses on Panama's mismanagement of the properties it has already received from the United States and its cavalier disregard of some environmental considerations crucial to the efficient operation of the canal. The author argues that there is no turning back; the Carter-Torrijos treaties have become Panama's destiny -- and our own as well. The book concludes that it would be better to consider alternative transoceanic routes seriously and allow Panamanians to find their own way.